Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Hallucinatory moments of optimism

Notwithstanding everything I wrote on this blog site yesterday about contemporary journalism (none of which I resile from), there are days when, in insane moments of giddy optimism, I imagine that the tide might be turning after years of largely sycophantic media coverage of the government.

Take last night’s edition of Newshub’s 6 o’clock news, in which the first item put the heat on the government over the alarming and apparently uncontrollable surge in inflation. Here was a news outlet doing exactly what the media are supposed to do in a liberal democracy: namely, report on issues that affect the community and hold those in power accountable.  

That report was followed by politically damaging coverage of the government’s refusal to ease harsh MIQ requirements, with heartbreaking consequences for the thousands of people affected, even after Ministry of Health officials had advised that it was safe to do so.

Later came an item asking why the government was dragging the chain over the resumption of economically beneficial cruise ship visits when comparable countries, notably Australia, have given them the green light.

All this seemed to represent a striking change in tone from Newshub’s usual political coverage. Admittedly the channel has exposed politically embarrassing issues before – most notably the glaring discrepancies between the government’s glib assurances about the steps it was taking to contain Covid-19 and what was actually happening on the ground, as revealed repeatedly by special issues reporter Michael Morrah.

But otherwise in the four and a half years since Jacinda Ardern became prime minister, it’s been hard to shake the impression that Newshub’s political journalists, along with those in other media organisations, have consistently given the government an easy ride while mercilessly hounding some of Ardern’s opponents (shamefully in the case of Tova O’Brien’s pursuit of the hapless Judith Collins).

Though it may be hallucinatory on my part, there have been other occasions recently when I thought I detected a subtle change in the tone of political coverage overall. I get the impression the media generally are now more actively publishing news that reflects unfavourably on the government (such as the scandal over multimillion-dollar tourism grants that appear to have been handed out selectively to companies that didn’t need them) when previously they were disinclined to do so.

If that’s the case, it could be due to a couple of things. Perhaps media decision-makers have taken note of recent surveys showing a continuing decline in public trust in the media, which has never been high even at the best of times. Alternatively, the sheer weight and volume of anti-media comment online may have reached a level they can no longer ignore. There must come a point, after all, when the self-preservation instinct kicks in.

A caveat to all the above is that the media continue to let the government off the hook over Covid-19 in one very specific respect. In the early stages of the pandemic, a single death was headline news. Now deaths occur daily in double figures and the total figure creeps steadily upward – to 602 at latest count, although we still compare favourably internationally (110 deaths per million compared with 263 in Australia).

Given the country’s continuing fixation with Covid, the media fleetingly pass over the death toll in a strikingly matter-of-fact tone, almost as if it’s no longer of any consequence. We are given no details other than age bands and location by region; nothing to show how many deaths were due to Covid or merely happened to coincide with the presence of the virus, and nothing to indicate whether those who died had pre-existing conditions and if so, what they were.  

I’ve heard it speciously argued that this is a matter of respecting people’s privacy, but privacy rules apply only where individuals might be identified – not an issue in this instance, since no one needs to know the names of those who have died.

It seems nothing changes in politics and the bureaucracy. Just as the Official Information Act is still constantly thwarted after 40 years, so secretive officials continue to use the Privacy Act as an excuse to suppress information of public interest. So much for the open society.

Deaths from Covid are a matter of public importance. Why does the government appear to be drawing a veil over them, and why do the media let them get away with it?





Odysseus said...

"One swallow does not make a Summer." Right now Parliament is preparing to enact a bill that will abolish democracy in New Zealand and replace it with something for which we don't have a name, as I think you yourself have previously put it. Submissions on the Rotorua and Lakes (Representation Arrangements) Bill close today, after just 8 working days. None of the corporate media has commented on the implications of the bill for this country. The bill is being dealt with by the Maori Affairs Committee which is stacked with Labour, Greens and Maori Party representatives, rather than The Government and Administration Committee which is mandated to consider local government matters. It will remove equal suffrage where every elector effectively has the same voting power, and privilege those with Maori ancestry. It breaches New Zealand's obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

And from the media? The sound of crickets. They have been bought lock, stock and barrel.

Anna Mouse said...

Covid is an actual problem for the NZ regime called the Labour Government.

They have told SO many lies.

They have stood upon SO many Human Rights.

They have made is SO obvious that it is not a health but a control issue.

Now of course the last thing that they actually want is a commission of inquiry and if the media can keep on playing it low they probably think they may be able to let it slide.

Either that of as the Acumen poll states 64% of New Zealanders think that the media are purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.

Take your pick IMO both are true.

Brendan McNeill said...

"Deaths from Covid-19 are a matter of public importance. Why does the government appear to be drawing a veil over them, and why do the media let them get away with it?"

Of this you can be certain; if the majority of deaths recorded with/from Covid-19 were among the much maligned and recalcitrant unvaccinated, then we would know the details. In their absence, we can only assume the MOH data is trending in line with the results from Scotland and the UK where nine out of ten deaths with/from covid-19 are amongst the double vaccinated and boosted population. This approximates the 90% vaccination rate in the UK and speaks clearly to the vaccine's lack of effectiveness in preventing hospitalization and death.

Clearly this result does not align easily with the 'safe and effective' narrative, so it's best left unsaid.

However, if we keep in mind that there has never been a successful mRNA vaccine released to the market, and there has never been a successful Covid vaccine released to the market, we should not be surprised at this outcome.

As to why the media let them away with it, one can only imagine....

David McLoughlin said...

A couple of points come to mind on this, Karl, over TV3 and Covid "deaths."

TV3 has been taken over by the US firm Discovery, which itself has been taken over by Warner Bros. The new owners may have suggested a change of emphasis in the news. The departure late last year of political editor Tova O'Brien also seems to have had an effect; Three News doesn't seem as shrill as when Tova was its mainstay (I am not criticising Tova, I really like her and her departure is quite a loss IMO. I think we need some larrikins in our news reporting; TV3 has long had them, eg Bill Ralston, Patrick Gower, Tova...).

Additionally, re Covid deaths. The media all know that the daily death figures issued by the Government are a deliberately high fabrication, because they include everyone who has died from whatever cause, but just happened to have tested positive for Covid. They have been testing everyone who's died for a couple of months now and surprise surprise, many of them have tested postive. It's no surprise, because a huge proportion of the population has been affected, massively more than those who've tested positive in the daily nose tests, according to experts like Michael Baker. So the Covid "death" figures include people who've died in road crashes or suicide or have been murdered or died of cancer or a heart attack, but on testing after their deaths, they show positive for Covid and go into the grossly inflated daily Covid figures.

The media have pointed this out, but just don't bother every day. However, last week when Chris Hipkins at a media conference said while giving the daily figures "...and 12 people have died of Covid..." he was instantly pounced on by the journos there who asked: "Died of or died with?" and of course he had to reply "died with."

I don't know why the Government is gaming the numbers like this. It refuses to give a breakdown of how people actually died, saying that is "for the coroner" which will only cover road crashes etc, not normal deaths from cancer, heart attacks or old age. Is it to make people panic and get vaccinated? But we have very high vaccine rates. The Omicron variant is very mild compared with the earlier Covid variants but is massively more contagious. Hardly anyone who catches it dies, or even ends up in hospital, let alone needs intensive care. Most people seem to have no symtoms at all, meaning the fact they have been infected often only turns up when they die of natural causes or in a car crash.

This propaganda is at its most appalling when say a 21-year-old dies in a car crash and the MoH Covid headlines scream about someone aged 21 leading the Covid death roll.

Gary Peters said...

Could the change at Newshub also be due to the recent departure of said tova o'brien?

Madame Blavatsky said...

It seems fair to suggest that all of the unprecedented, rights-denying and utterly ridiculous measures foisted on us and purportedly related to Covid were directed at preventing or minimising death among New Zealanders (universally coercive action which, I must note, I do not accept comes under the purview of the state – give us the information, and let us decide to act based on our accepted level of personal risk). So what is a "Covid death"? The WHO informs us that:

"A death due to COVID-19 is defined for surveillance purposes as a death resulting from a clinically compatible illness, in a probable or confirmed COVID-19 case, unless there is a clear alternative cause of death that cannot be related to COVID disease (e.g. trauma). There should be no period of complete recovery from COVID-19 between illness and death. A death due to COVID-19 may not be attributed to another disease (e.g. cancer) and should be
counted independently of preexisting conditions that are suspected of triggering a severe course of COVID-19".

Quite remarkable. In essence, anyone who dies – in nearly any context whatsoever – within a certain time of testing positive for Covid is counted as a "Covid death", unless they die of a trauma injury. In other words, dying WITH Covid regardless of any other operative cause of death is (except trauma) is a "Covid death."

This effectively guarantees that the numbers are massively over-counted, in order to justify prior radical "health measures" and to scare people into accepting them, and more, in future. However, even given these cooked numbers, their own statistics give us an absolute mortality rate in NZ of only 0.06%.

Of the 570 New Zealand "Covid deaths" at the time of writing (again, really deaths WITH Covid as opposed to FROM Covid), it is conceivable that none at all of the so-called "Covid deaths" in New Zealand have died where Covid is the sole cause of death. And yet our society and economy have been irrevocably altered on this demonstrably false pretext of a highly lethal illness that we should all be gravely concerned about.

Shadows said...

Actual deaths coded to covid can be found here:

Need to scroll down a lot.

It's only 51!

Andy Espersen said...

You are not hallucinating, Karl. Things are a'changing! Things are becoming more obvious. I am optimistic also.

But it is simply too early to present a final assessment of the world's reaction (and ours) to this pandemic. There exist no valid statistics yet. Such pandemics usually last 3 - 4 years before fizzling out - and there is no reasons why this one will not follow the usual pattern. We can expect yet another couple of mutations to the Covid 19 virus - all of them probably being more infectious but less dangerous. That is what we were told by epidemiologists at the very beginning - and that, so far, seems how it is turning out to be.

This time societies meet with the added, unknown factors of compulsory industrial lockdowns (with hugely varying degrees of strictness and different obedience to government advice in various countries), different vaccines (with different efficiencies and all given at various times), hugely differing ability to cope with such illness in various countries' health services, etc., etc.

It will all come out in the wash - in a couple of years time! My bet is that during our next such pandemic there will be no cruel, unethical, compulsory lockdowns anywhere in the world, even in China.

But alas, being 87 I will not be around to be proved right!

K said...

The people who mask up while cycling and driving must have taken the KoolAid big time...

David McLoughlin said...

Shadows wrote:

Actual deaths coded to covid can be found here: Need to scroll down a lot.
It's only 51!

Well spotted, thank you. Those figures seem to be from February 2020 to today, so to have only 51 deaths caused by Covid compared with the 582 headline figure, even many of the early deaths in age-care facilities must have had other causes. The 51 is less than the 60 or so the media were reporting before the omicron wave. Fascinating. Our rapidly closed borders clearly saved a lot of lives, because places like Italy which were hit early had much higher numbers of deaths before they imposed measures once the scale of the threat was realised.

Gary Peters said...

"Our rapidly closed borders clearly saved a lot of lives,"

Have you ever considered that their media was just as sensationalist as ours and inflated their deaths by other causes so they could scare the populace?

Couple that with "benign" influenza years in 2017 -19 and you have a country primed for a jump in deaths.

The real extent of covid will be revealed when total death rates are known and excess deaths are averaged over the years 2018-23.

I would be very surprised if there was much of an aberration if at all.

Bear in mind that New Zealand annually has around 600 odd influenza deaths and in 2020 and 2021 we had very few. As a coroner I would find it difficult to identify death from covid or death from any other respiratory or "other" present disease although the accepted definition of a positive covid test with 28 days of death or a "feeling" that covid was present would help.

Zoroforever said...

David wrote:
because places like Italy which were hit early had much higher numbers of deaths before they imposed measures once the scale of the threat was realised.

That's because northern Italy had a lot (not sure of the exact figure) of garment workers fly in from Wuhan after the Chinese New Year.

David McLoughlin said...

Gary Peters said:

"Our rapidly closed borders clearly saved a lot of lives," Have you ever considered that their media was just as sensationalist as ours and inflated their deaths by other causes so they could scare the populace?

Yes, that was why I used the Italy example. The first knowledge that Covid had left China and reached Europe was events in Lombardy very early in the pandemic. Lombardy has strong direct links with Wuhan including air travel because of the fabric/fashion trade. Elderly men in Lombardy started dying in large numbers from the virus before any lockdowns, and before any governments or media had the chance to frame the public response. The early variant of Covid was quite a dangerous illness for at-risk people, especially the elderly.

That our confirmed Covid deaths are only 51 is something I suspect hardly anyone knows and was discovered by Shadows (above) buried at the bottom of an avalanche of Health Ministry data. Shadows deserves our gratitude and acclaim for finding that fact. But the fact our Lockdown and border closures have kept our death toll so low is also a major accomplishment, whether you believe in such controls or not (personally I think we should have abandoned restrictions several months ago when it was clear they wee not needed. Keeping them in place appeared to have been Government by Opinion Poll).

The fact the controls also kept flu out for two years is quite a worry as that is two full years of reduced immunity in the entire community. I advise everyone I meet to get a flu vaccine pronto.

James B said...

Just wanted to point out that the Privacy Act (and the GDPR principles) explicitly do not apply to the dead.

Karl du Fresne said...

Thank you James B.

Chris Nisbet said...

Is it good enough that they toss in the occasional decent article without admitting that they've dropped the ball , and apologising to us?
One Danish organisation managed it wrt their Covid coverage, which was a massive surprise to me...

D'Esterre said...

Odysseus: "...something for which we don't have a name..."

Ethno-nationalism, I believe. An aspect of fascism, and definitely not democracy.

Today I read out to a family member Farrar's post on this issue. Said family member - who reads msm news items - had never heard of it. I had, but only because I read blogs. They were wearily unsurprised that, in the contemporary environment, such a bill was working its way through parliament.

Emigration is looking more and more attractive.

Hilary Taylor said...

Hooten on twitter other day showed the two official charts re's that 51 figure that others here have highlighted...omi doesn't kill.
I'm not boosted yet..the political science that closed up the time-frame didn't interest me...I am technically due soon but may not proceed. Anyone paying attention has a 'little bit of scientist' within now. Due to travel abroad in Sept, may have it closer to then. Meanwhile a flu jab. And, as others here have said, those remarks from Swedish epidemiologists have all come to pass re the way this will go.
Media? Sod them with Odysseus.
Our youngest who has lived through all this in NW Italy remains unscathed...her sister here in NZ, but who has also travelled during all this, caught omi in ChCh.

John Hurley said...

Yesterday on the Detail Paul Spoonley was interviewed about immigration. Looking through their list they also covered the new history curriculum in a nothing to see here fashion.
If there is nothing to see here then what are the culture wars about?

In this review Paul Spoonley gives a summary of what it is about

Edward Said’s work in the late 1980s, alongside those of authors such as Gayatri Spivak, Homi Bhabha, Trinh Minh-ha, bell hooks, Stuart Hall and many others, provide a corpus of material which reflects the evolving politics of culture and the implications for post-imperialist, or post-colonial, states. These politics signal the importance of cultural identity, for coloniser and colonised, in negotiating new settlements, as the old order of mass political party, of employment, of work-based identity and representation and of nation-states (which were encompassed in global empires and which reflected the singular interests of a dominant cultural group) have declined in importance. The relationship between centre and periphery has changed in fundamental ways.

Signal to whom?. Paul Spoonley could have fronted for both interviews? My guess is that RNZ and TVNZ (and mosts journalists) are firmly in Spoonley's camp. To them the statistics are theconfirmation.

For most people though you have to take up those ideas via socialisation at university so the arguments don't lend themselves to public scrutiny.

The other thing is that Paul Spoonley (although no longer a Pro-vice Chancellor on a high 6 figure salary?) is perhaps a vested interest due to (among other things the multibillion dollar export education industry)? He puts the blame for high migration on an ageing population but it isn't controversial that this is just a short-term solution.