Monday, September 12, 2022

Guest post: Stuff's 'Fire and Fury' documentary forsakes truth-seeking journalism for the predetermined story


All our arguments are about the Story.  What story do we believe? Who is doing right, and who is doing wrong? Where is the story going, and what should we do as participants in the story?

Stuff's Fire and Fury tells a story: some people in New Zealand have become sucked into dangerous right-wing political extremism, and the anti-Covid-vax and anti-mandate movements have really just been portals into far-Right darkness. Once we have had an anti-mandate protest, the story goes, we will have Trump-crazed rioters storming Parliament and killing politicians (cut to scenes of the January 6 Capitol riots).

It seems that Covid-19 and vaccination has now become a signifier for “what side are you on?” – that is, “What story do you believe?” If you don't trust Pfizer, that means you don't trust the government, so that means you must be extreme Right. Right? And vice-versa. This is a dangerous oversimplification.

I have watched the Covid phenomenon unfold and seen the unprecedented and outrageous clampdown on freedom of thought and belief.  When I see doctors, scientists and ordinary lay people with reasonably derived questions and opinions censored, de-platformed and suspended on social media, I can see there is something terribly wrong.

I would have thought Fire and Fury “journalist” Paula Penfold would be curious about the unfolding Covid story as the data emerges (for example, reports of adverse reactions, rising excess death rates, declining birth rates) rather than simply taking sides and describing any Pfizer injection sceptics merely as victims of misinformation and pawns of the far Right.  There are so many doctors now speaking out.  Dr Dave Cartland, a British GP, is just one example: He tells his story of going from accepting what he was told, getting vaccinated, then seeing a sharp rise in “unexplained” and unusual health conditions in his work; complete denial that vaccination could possibly be linked; censorship of free medical discussion; fear among colleagues; and eventually his decision to speak up, questioning the vaccine narrative (and losing his job). But rather than consider what he has to say, according to the logic of the story: if he is sceptical of the official Covid-19 vaccine strategy, he must be lumped in with the far-Right league of miscreants. Almost every day there are more doctors and public figures trying to “walk back” their initial support for the vaccines and lockdowns. Are they joining the far Right? No!

Yes, there are far-Right bad actors out there, fomenting hatred and violence, and they should be diminished.  I guess the question is: what is the best way to do that?

Perhaps we need to consider the question, what is their story? It is clear at this point in the global technological society that corporate media giants and other “powers that be” undeniably can and do exert social manipulation and control. (I guess the question is: just how much are we manipulated and controlled? The work of the eminent psychologist Dr Robert Epstein is very disturbing.) 

Most likely, politicians must co-operate, or they won’t be politicians for very long.  The way I’m hearing the “far-Right” ranting, it seems they are aware of manipulation and control and want to fight it.  Obviously, some of their theories about the “deep state” really go off the deep end (adrenochrome, anyone?), but their basic intuition is right: people are being manipulated and controlled.  Unfortunately, their response and tactics (take down the government) are completely wrong. 

Of course, the mainstream media are implicated in this story of manipulation and control.  I had family and friends at the mandate protest and closely watched the reporting which was so biased against it (with a few notable exceptions, like the political scientist Dr Bryce Edwards, who, after he gave sympathetic reportage, had to weather a social media pile-on).  I watched Chantelle Baker’s livestream of the police-induced riot and listened to RNZ at the same time. It was clear which one was most truthful (Chantelle’s). The MSM have their story to tell and will tell it, selecting “facts” and incidents to support it. That is why the people at the protest didn’t welcome MSM reporters.

Out of the thousands of people present at the protest, two were chosen for the so-called documentary who looked/sounded like gullible Kiwis who had swallowed Counterspin hype. They were chosen to fit the “story”.

At one point in Fire and Fury, the three Voices for Freedom (VFF) women leaders were equated with women of the “Nazi programme” because they were “wholesome” (gasp!). This would be laughable if it wasn’t so provocatively offensive and plainly wrong.  Would the VFF three have more credibility (i.e. be less like Nazis) if they were less wholesome? It seems they can't win either way. Too wholesome? Nazis! Unwholesome? Well, say no more... 

While on the topic of Nazis, let’s remember that the Nazis used “'modern medical science” to justify the separating out of Jews, putting them behind a wall in the early days of the Warsaw Ghetto. This was justified by the “scientific” belief (story) that Jews carried typhus, and the best way to protect the “innocent public” was through segregation. Just like the vaccine mandates, which decreed that our teenage daughters could not attend dance class because that would put everyone at risk (justified by modern medical science).  It is only a short step then to scapegoating and hating a group of people you have “blamed” and ostracised.  Sound familiar? This is what the mandate protest was about: division and hatred caused by a government policy.  Not far-Right nonsense (although I agree there were far-Right activists trying to capitalise on the collective disgust at government policy).

And if the “Nazi” accusations aren't convincing in a “documentary”, add a bit of spooky atmospheric music and high production values to sway the audience.  Just like ... oh yes, it was the Nazis who pioneered “state of the art” media and propaganda films to great effect (see Leni Riefenstahl). What else reminds us of Nazi tactics?  Monopolising and controlling all sources of information, quarantining'/segregating/scapegoating, denouncing and firing critics, government and big business working together, etc.  Unfortunately, accusations of being “Nazi” have a dangerous tendency to boomerang back.

A couple of last points: “personal anecdotes” (such as: “my uncle got sick after the injection”) were dismissed as just another kind of “fake information” designed to con people into the wrong beliefs. Which prompts the question: how can journalism proceed if anecdotes are now off-limits? Or how, indeed, can we make sense of the world without listening to anecdotes? 

A number of years ago, Fire and Fury presenter Paula Penfold was curious about anecdotes and investigated possible adverse reactions to Gardasil (a mass vaccination programme for teenage girls intended to reduce HPV and cervical cancer). But in this current climate, she would not be able to run a story on Covid vaccines as she did on Gardasil without becoming a victim of the “Covid vaccine sceptics are actually Right-wing puppets” story. Truth-seeking journalism has been sacrificed to the predetermined story.

It would take a truly courageous journalist to go beyond the “received and approved” story.  But they seem to be very rare birds these days. 

*Forrest Chambers is a prison chaplain who lives in Levin.


The Redbaiter said...

"Yes, there are far-Right bad actors out there, fomenting hatred and violence, and they should be diminished."

Even if we accept this claim as true, such "bad actors" are extremely small in number and hold virtually no political power. We should be far more worried about the many thousands of closet Marxists or neo-communists who infect and control our govt, media, academia and so many other cultural institutions. Especially our media.

TV One and Radio NZ for example have slyly included guest commentary from ex-Communist Party members and other radical left wing actors where they were deceitfully presented as objective observers of the "far right". How ridiculous.

Of course when you're a communist, everyone appears to be far right.

We should be very concerned with such deliberate deception from these heritage media organisations, who have far more financial resources, far more reach and therefore far more political influence than any of the small and/or obscure groups they are targeting. Apparently though, its all good. Nothing to see here!

It is worse. Our so called security organisations are also fully infiltrated with actors we know from their past public history are heavily invested in far left political movements/ viewpoints. The so called "Disinformation Project" is over loaded with these types, (job title "investigators") yet we're apparently meant to trust this organisation as an objective source of political truth? What a ridiculous farce.

Odysseus said...

Great commentary. COVID and the fear it induced were Labour's ticket to unbridled power. Challenging Labour's pandemic regulations including the mandates is tantamount to disputing their right to be in government. They will do everything and anything to remain in power, including funding the media to vilify those ordinary New Zealanders and medical professionals who question the vaccine. They have obviously put a lot of thought into this campaign, and they have allocated the (taxpayer) resources to prosecute it. And yet, as you suggest, who are the "Nazis" here? The "river of filth" could be a soundbite straight out of Julius Streicher's phrase-book.

Letting go of COVID will be difficult for Labour, but they will be forced to do so as the public in increasing numbers gives up complying with symbols such as compulsory masking. The pandemic and all its baggage are nevertheless a bogeyman that has served Labour well, leaving behind deep divisions in their wake that are ripe for exploitation. What will be next? Smearing those who oppose 3 Waters and co-governance as "Far Right white supremacists"? It's already happening.

Madame Blavatsky said...

Are we really supposed to believe that a collective of "shadowy" and/or "Right wing" and/or "bad actors" in some way stand to gain from the people of the world being free to exercise their rights to bodily sovereignty? What a ludicrous assertion and inversion of reality. I fail to see how advocating for freedom of choice and personal agency would benefit any of these postulated menacing and nefarious cabals, these subversives on the payroll of "Big Freedom." Laughable.

Quite the contrary, it is the authorities themselves and their public relations agents in the legacy media who consistently make these accusations on their behalf who stand to gain the most from limiting peoples' rights, thereby creasing control over public behaviour, not to mention the giant multinationals who stand to gain billions in profits from full compliance. I think we can safely say who the pernicious and sinister actors really are, and it certainly isn't those who are offering resistance to the establishment: it is the establishment itself.

Kiwiwit said...

The political left has been very good at redefining the term "right" to mean fascist, but, of course, the Fascist movement was of the left. Mussolini split from the Italian Socialist Party to establish the Fascist Party and Hitler called his party the National Socialists to distinguish it from the International Socialism of the Soviets. Today it is still the left that shows all the attributes that they ascribe to the "far right", i.e. all-powerful government, intolerance for those it considers "deplorable", tolerance of a private sector only to the extent it support their own ideology, disregard for individual rights, maximum use of propaganda counter dissent, banning of free speech, etc. The fascists have always been left-wing, today is no different.

Phil said...

It was interesting a couple of years ago to see the NZ media demonise the Astra Zenica vaccine but attack anyone who raised similar concerns about Pfizer vaccine. Easy to get the impression that because AZ came from the UK and the UK led by a man despised by Liberal elites that this wasn't just about the vaccine.

Anonymous said...

Ho -hum.

hughvane said...

My neighbour is a 'scientific activist', well-qualified in his chosen discipline, and he has appeared in print to debunk the climate change hysteria.

He leaves me floundering with his rationale but I put it to him some time ago ... "whose truth do we believe?"

The NZ media in particular operate on predetermined and orchestrated agendas that have tenuous attachments to reality - and truth!

One year to go, 'keep the faith'(a movie line), and remain hopeful.

rivoniaboy said...

@ Kiwiwit
"The fascists have always been left-wing, today is no different."

The Black Panther movement were not fooled by the left, hence their slogan:
"Scratch a liberal and you will find a fascist."

ZTS said...

its funny you mention that word of mouth and anecdotal evidence around vaccine harm being denounced as disinformation. Most Maori history is anecdotal and passed down by word of mouth. Not only is this considered relevant information that must be shared but the recording of these histories is feted.

However, talk about something in the realm of science and readily provable (or disprovable) in large part should the will be there and you're peddling misinformation.

All current narratives in the MSM are about ideology or propoganda where the truth doesnt matter, only right or 'correct' thinking.