Monday, May 25, 2020

Two more reasons why the public have lost faith in the news media

We live in the age of the media sideshow. In Britain, the press is in a state of uproar because Boris Johnson’s closest adviser, Dominic Cummings, broke the lockdown rules to drive 400 kilometres to his parents’ home, apparently so that extended family could care for his four-year-old son.

It doesn’t look good, especially when his wife was showing coronavirus symptoms and Cummings, according to Johnson, was worried that he would contract the virus himself. There were surely other ways of making sure their son was looked after.

But it’s worth noting that the story was broken by The Daily Mirror and The Guardian, two papers aligned with the left. The British left loathe Johnson, deeply resent his popularity, and will use any means they can to damage him.

Cummings makes it easier for them because he’s personally unpopular and appears to revel in his image as a master of the dark political arts. He’s also resented within the Conservative Party because of his perceived influence over the prime minister, which probably explains why some Tory MPs are demanding his head on a platter.

Yes, this is an issue for Johnson, and he’s characteristically tackling it head-on. It’s refreshing to see a political leader standing his ground rather than meekly capitulating to sanctimonious left-wing media bullies, as so many gutless centre-right politicians do.

Does Cummings deserve to be defended? I couldn’t say. But what’s clear is that a frenzied media beat-up has blown the issue out of all proportion. That was apparent from Corin Dann’s interview on Morning Report this morning with an over-excited Vincent McAviney, one of Radio NZ’s British correspondents.

McAviney signalled his bias when he made a snide remark suggesting that because Johnson has had multiple children with various partners, he’s in no position to talk about fatherly instincts. Really? Johnson has spread his seed around, so he’s a hypocrite for sympathising with Cummings’ desire to protect his son? Is that a gigantic non-sequitur, or what?

Warming to his theme, McAviney proceeded to paint Cummings as some sort of sinister Rasputin-type figure exercising “huge” control in Downing Street – more than anyone before him, he reckoned. Perhaps McAviney is too young to remember the egregious Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s all-powerful communications supremo, whose toxic behaviour supposedly inspired the character of Malcolm Tucker in the BBC political satire The Thick of It.

But the British journo well and truly blew any chance of being taken seriously - you could say he jumped the shark - when he cited angry tweets by J K Rowling and - get this - a former winner of The Great British Bake Off as conclusive proof of public outrage. The case rests, m'Lud. 

I wonder, do people like McAviney realise how absurd they sound? And does RNZ expect us to regard him in future as a sober and reliable observer of British politics?

Meanwhile, an equally ludicrous sideshow was playing out right here in New Zealand over the supposedly scandalous MAGA cap that someone spotted on a shelf in the office of new National leader Todd Muller.

In a comically hysterical piece in the New Zealand Herald, Damien Venuto argued that this was no innocent political souvenir brought home (along with a Hillary Clinton badge) by someone with a harmless interest in American politics.  No, it was apparently prima facie evidence of sympathy for white male supremacists.

Even the redoubtable, hard-core leftie Martyn Bradbury drew the line at this, pointing out that Venuto’s column was exactly the type of over-reaction that free-speech advocates seize on as proof of the left’s intolerance of differing views.

He’s right, but for me the greater tragedy is that woke journalists like Venuto – McAviney too, for that matter – are the reason the New Zealand public have almost completely lost faith in the media.


Brendan McNeill said...


Doug Longmire said...

Well you have put it right again Karl.
The TV news media here is a combination of slipshod, poor backgrounding, lightweight, sensational items tossed together in no particular order of priority, combined with shout out loud Left leaning emphasis.

Karl du Fresne said...

Yes, almost. You personally may have lost all faith in the media, but obviously some residual faith persists among the public at large. Otherwise no one would read newspapers or watch the 6pm bulletin.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Karl

No doubt people read newspaper websites and some watch the TV news, but increasingly, as your article points out, these outlets have become little more than echo chambers for the cultural Marxist progressive left. There are a few welcome exceptions of course, yourself included.

What I find particularly galling is the Government's $50M hand out to private news organisations; a sum they have described as an interim payment while they work out how much more they are going to 'donate'. A truely free press would be outraged at this offer, and call the government out for the obvious conflict of interest... but alas...

Either no one is listening to these government announcements, or the public at large really doesn't care, or expect to have an independent media anymore, regardless of whose name is on the masthead. The gradual loss of confidence in our historical institutions, including the media, is a self inflicted wound from which we will struggle to recover. There is little point winning the culture wars if all that remains is a desiccated landscape.

Trev1 said...

The Venuto column plumbed the depths of innuendo. It appeared to be the opening shot in a smear campaign against the new National Party Leader. As to the hat, it's clear the Left were thoroughly deranged by Trump's election in 2016, as well as the Brexit vote and Johnson's success in 2019. What is it about democracy they don't understand? The NZ media parrot this nonsense endlessly and display their contempt for the public's ability to make up their own minds. I'm incensed the media in this country receive taxpayer funding. They are not journalists, they are propagandists.

hughvane said...

As an example of what you state Karl, the BBC online news page displayed eight entries (some were duplicates) on Dominic Cummings and his lengthy car trip during lockdown to support his family. Two hours later those ‘news’ entries had been reduced to six, just to make sure we didn’t forget. A change of editorial guard?

There is no doubt whatsoever that the UK media are out to ‘get’ Mr Cummings, even admitting to a dislike of him (one of the ‘pulled’ items). Since when have personal feelings and blatant bullying tactics been part and parcel of journalism and reporting?

All that compared with the fawning adulation of Ms Adern and her suggested superhuman courage in the face of Monday’s quake shortly after 8 am. I feel an onrush of nausea.

Brendan McNeill said...


I thought the 'resignation' of NYTimes Opinion Editor over the publication of an OpEd from a Republican Senator was too prescient to ignore:

Dreher on the NYT:

When Woke NYTimes Staff are 'hurt' and 'offended' by ideas they don't like, and use this 'offence' to force a resignation, you know that our ability to have any confidence in that publication is over.

Karl du Fresne said...

I agree. I applauded the NYT for publishing Cotton's piece and was appalled, like you, when the management caved in to the precious left-wing bigots on the paper's editorial staff (which is pretty much all of them, as far as I can tell). The one mistake made by James Bennett, who has now walked the plank, is that he didn't read the piece prior to publication. That's inexcusable, but publishing it was not.