'Fire And Fury', The Journalism Lecturer And The Sorry State Of NZ Media

‘Fire And Fury’, The Journalism Lecturer And The Sorry State Of NZ Media

Published On: 10 October 2022| Categories: Editorial| 7.8 min read|


Writing this week in Newsroom, Treadwell was of the opinion that certain principles of the NZ Media Council’s Code of Ethics did not apply to Stuff.co.nz’s much-maligned documentary ‘Fire & Fury’.

In particular Treadwell believed the time-honoured journalistic principle of ‘right of reply’ should not be afforded to those attacked in the state-funded hitpiece, and that as a consequence the NZ Media Council would be right in finding there had been no breach of the Code of Ethics, despite the fact, according to him, such a finding would appear to be illogical.

Here’s how Treadwell justified the exclusion:

‘It [ie. the right of reply] would allow purveyors of disinformation to cast themselves even further as victims of the “mainstream media” and perhaps even force Stuff to provide a platform for their mistruths and conspiracies.

‘It would open the gate wider to proto-fascist movements seeking to pollute our public sphere and thereby wound our democracy.’

He added:

‘After all, the documentary contains regular and substantial repetitions of the views of the disinformation agents as they attempt to cajole New Zealanders to join their uprising on social media platforms.

Fire and Fury is, as journalist Paula Penfold says, itself a right of reply to the untold hours of video and other content published by disinformation agents to tens of thousands of followers in their campaign to seed lies and discord in our communities.’

What Treadwell is in effect saying is that ‘we have rules, but those I, and/or the government, deem to be ‘proto-fascists’ or otherwise undesirable should not have the benefit of them.’

Treadwell’s arguments are alarming and absurd. He wonders why New Zealand society is fracturing, but has no clue that the actions he, and others of his ilk in academia and politics advocate, are the reason why this is happening. They are the ones seeking to dismantle bastions of democratic society, such as the right of reply.

The obvious question which many fail to grasp in this debate is, ‘Who should decide what is disinformation, misinformation, or conspiracy?’

The short answer is that no one should decide, and certainly, it should not be up to half-wit State officials, dubiously funded ‘fact-checkers’, state-subsidized mainstream journalists, or career academics to decide either.

Such a question is like asking a group of people ‘What is the true religion – is it Judaism, Islam, or Christianity?’ All the Jews will answer ‘Judaism’, all the Muslims will answer ‘Islam’, and all the Christians will answer ‘Christianity.’

There are no right answers to such questions, nor wrong ones. Let individuals decide what it is they want to believe. In a contest for ideas, I trust the vast majority of my fellow kiwis to chose which idea is closest to the truth. If we want the ‘cohesive and tolerant’ society Treadwell and everyone else in this country yearns for, then the answer is simple: The government and the legacy media have to stop lying.

We live in the age of the ‘information super highway.’ To remain competitive in this environment of free-flowing mass information, the mainstream media and the government need to be honest and tell the truth, or at least be objective and present both sides of a story. It’s that simple.

The absurdity of Treadwell’s arguments have been highlighted in a brilliantly entertaining piece on resistance.kiwi (see Resistance Kiwi ‘interviews’ AUT lecturer Greg Treadwell).

He was also roasted, and rightly so, by Sean Plunket on The Platform.

Treadwell’s arguments are representative of the sorry state of mainstream journalism in New Zealand, but also that of many of the so-called ‘academia’. His lack of intellectual rigour is evidenced in his refusal to understand the aggrieved, or their position (he probably really does believe Counterspin are ‘white supremacists’ despite Hannah Spierer stating publicly that they ‘love people of all colours, creeds and races‘), nor does he bother to explore a satisfactory resolution of the ethical issues raised by ‘Fire & Fury’ within the existing framework of the NZ Media Council Code of Ethics. His only answer is to ban the aggrieved from operation of Code, and if that doesn’t work, change the code so the right of reply doesn’t apply in future cases he and/or the government deem to be unworthy of it. This is pure neo-Nazi facism.

Does Treadwell not understand that in New Zealand we are subject to the ‘rule of law’? Rules are rules, and they apply to everyone – for their benefit equally and regardless of their political views, race, gender, class or sexual orientation. This is what separates us from the apes and monkeys. Rules and ethics cannot be abandoned on a Caligula-like whim, or else people will start to wonder why we need any rules and ethics at all – by that stage our society will be half-way down the slippery slope and irredeemable.

If Treadwell is so confident in the righteousness of ‘Fire & Fury’, then let it be subject to the scrutiny of the law and journalistic rules. His arguments reek of the desperation that comes with knowing that ‘Fire & Fury’ simply doesn’t stand up, and therefore, like a spoilt child, he wants to move the goal posts half way through the game.

Treadwell advocates a loss of redress rights for those targetted by journalism funded by the State. This is particularly disturbing. Compared to the average kiwi dissenter, the State’s financial resources are limitless, its communication power and reach through legacy media, big tech and social media unassailable.

This lack of equity reinforces why the right of reply is so fundamental in a liberal, civilised democracy. In Treadwell’s world the only redress some targets of state-funded attack will have is through an action for defamation – a legal process which is notoriously protracted and expensive. Do any of the ‘Fire & Fury’ targets have the financial resources to mount such a case? No. Does Stuff have the resources to defend such a claim? Yes – it’s an organisation which makes around $250 million in revenue each year, on top of the millions it gets in dodgy taxpayer handouts. An action for defamation is therefore theoretical only, and unlikely to be of any practical use. The right of reply allows targets to restore their reputation before it is defamed. It aids the journalistic quest for accuracy and objectivity – principles I assume (or hope) Treadwell supports.

Treadwell’s argument also fails to contextualise the rise of the ‘freedom dissent’ movement. In his world it exists in a vacuum.

The targets of the Stuff hitpiece did not wake up one day and say ‘well, I think I’m going to start hating on the government today.’ The various groups and personalities of the Freedom Movement rose to prominence as a reaction to what they perceived to be government overreach. Their rise can also be attributed in part to the legacy media’s lack of objective and balanced reporting throughout the COVID crisis. In a free and democratic society the mainstream media should be the dissent. Instead, they were paid-off propaganda mouthpieces for the State and Pfizer – a company with one of the worst records of fraud and corruption in the history of Western capitalism.

In particular, the legacy media failed to:

  • Question and investigate the safety and efficacy of the mRNA gene therapy vaccines – basic journalism, especially when these products had never been mass-used in humans before, and their long-term effects are still unknown.
  • Hold Jacinda Ardern to account for reneging on her promise that those who chose not to take the Pfizer mRNA injection would not suffer any adverse consequences for that decision.
  • Give a voice to those who suffered financially, and mentally, from mandates and lockdowns.
  • Give a voice to those who suffered adverse reactions from the mRNA injection. Give a voice to those who believed a friend of family member had died as a result of the mRNA injection. Give a voice to those medical professionals and scientists who opposed the government’s COVID policies.

Instead of providing balance and highlighting the issues above, the legacy media ridiculed and attacked those who disagreed, or voiced opposition to the government’s policy. They suppressed important information on safety and efficacy that was easily accessible elsewhere and therefore dug their own grave. This is the reason why people rose up against the government. It’s why mainstream journalists and outlets are the target of vitriol and hate. It’s why new media platforms like DTNZ exist and are continuing to grow.

It is these actions by government and the legacy media which have created the conditions in which our society is fracturing, and their continuation, through unhelpful and silly hitpieces like ‘Fire & Fury’, will further divide our once cohesive and tolerant society.

The New Zealand Media Council needs to send a clear message to Stuff and the Greg Treadwell’s of this world: Our society is governed by the rule of law. Laws and ethical standards are there for the benefit of all, regardless of who they are, where they come from, what they believe, and what they have said. A failure to recognise this amounts to an erosion of civilised concepts, and will contribute further to the deterioration of New Zealand’s social cohesion.

Read the article HERE

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