Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Front page fun

Last Monday I wrote about the lack of Herald coverage on what seemed to me was rather an important issue - transparency in Parliament in the wake of the British parliamentary scandals of the past few weeks. Here's an excerpt:
So here's a free tip for the Herald editorial team: your readers overwhelmingly want the parliamentary expense system reviewed. Readers buy papers. How about you write a front page article about how the man who decides whether MP expenses are reviewed is an MP, and that there is possibly a conflict of interest here? You could even say 'Hey look, MPs in Britain were claiming money to build duck houses and clean their moats - maybe something is going on here too?' Remember Tuku Morgan and his $89 undies? How many papers did you sell then?
Well look here - today's lead front page article is "MPs face public eye on expense accounts":
MPs' expense accounts are likely to be opened to public scrutiny after a face-saving move by Prime Minister John Key led to an urgent cross-party meeting being called.
Another scoop for EtH? You decide.


Another front page story claims that "New Zealand has been judged the most peaceful nation in the world". According to the Institute for Economics and Peace, an Australian 'thinktank' (sigh), our "stable political situation, relatively low rate of violence and decrease in military spending" has seen us pass Iceland, where the complete collapse of the economy has seen roving gangs of thugs engaging in major street battles. As such, they have dropped to fourth.

But something intrigues me: how does this square with what I read in the Herald every other day? I thought we were in the middle of a 'War on P'? That doesn't sound very peaceful! I've also heard that we were in the midst of a wave of violent crime where we led the world, where it wasn't safe to leave our homes? Well, according to the report:
Most aspects of safety and security in [New Zealand] society, including the likelihood of violent demonstrations, the homicide rate and the level of respect for human rights receive the lowest possible scores (unchanged from last year)
Wow, that's confusing. Now I don't know what to believe. Could it be that - you may want to sit down for this - that the constant focus on violent crime is partly a media beat-up?

One more interesting part of the Herald article is this statement:

The report, which surveyed 144 countries, says New Zealand's rise to first is partly explained by the election of a National-Act coalition last year.

"The centre-right National Party has a strong popular mandate and a robust parliamentary majority by New Zealand's standards, putting the new Prime Minister, John Key, in a good position to push through his agenda."

That quote is indeed from the report. But anyone who had actually read even the summary of the report - and, to be fair, the journalist in question probably just didn't have the time - would know that what the report is getting at is that the government seems stable and popular, unlike some of the less steady coalitions of past years. In that sense, our first place isn't "explained by the election of a National-Act coalition"; we would have been equally ranked if a Greens-Legalise Marijuana Party coalition had been elected in a landslide. In fact, with everyone smoking marijuana, I can only imagine New Zealand being a peaceful, if less productive, place than it already apparently is.


  1. That's outrageous, how can NZ be so peaceful. I demand a 'Your Views' poll to show the true level of peacefulness, or maybe a survey of pig farmers.

  2. A minor non sequitur here James, regarding the "War on P" stuff.

    The magazine I edit has a column written by Community Alcohol and Drug Services, and our correspondent rang me this morning to tell me about an interesting piece that written for the herald by a number of frontline addiction services. I thought I'd draw your attention to it:

    The piece was completely buried by NZH, which is unsurprising, given the inference that a "war on drugs" demonises the addicts (not the manufacturers), and that frontline service seekers are seven times more likely to be there on account of alcohol abuse. Maybe we should add "cheerfully liquored up" to the reasons why we're such a peaceful nation?

  3. yeah sure, the media makes up all this stuff about violent crime. it doesn't happen. all those court cases, all those police appeals - they just make all that shit up.


  4. lol @ anonymous.

    James I love you. You make me giggle.

    Long may you reign!

  5. sick of people who can't readJune 3, 2009 at 7:58 PM

    But Anonymous, let me 'quote' from James' article:

    'Violent crime and shit doesn't happen in NZ'

    ..oh wait.. go back to Your Views

  6. The "most peaceful" ranking is a disaster. We need to be more aggressive, dammit! Iceland used to be ranked the most peaceful country in the world, and look at the mess they're in now.

    Let's launch a pre-emptive strike on one of our neighbours. Then we'll see who the peacemongers are.

    And let's start work on a nuclear bomb.

  7. 'Violent crime and shit doesn't happen in NZ'

    oh really? well!

  8. "...we were in the midst of a wave of violent crime where we led the world..."


  9. Far too obtuse an argument, even for you.

    This is an international comparison which assessed a number of factors - including war records, military spending, government stability and crime levels - to determine the 'most peaceful' nation.

    It did say that, on balance, New Zealand topped the list. It did not say that New Zealand is a crime-free nirvana full of selfless pacifists.

    New Zealand does have crime problems, as does any nation. It does have a serious issue with meth abuse, like many nations. It would be folly to suggest otherwise.

    To beat up a newspaper for reporting the crime that does happen, and the problems the country faces, is myopic.

    To state that the same newspaper claims New Zealand leads the world in crime is an absudity uttered in an attempt to further a flimsy argument.

    And to conclude that because a newspaper runs a peace survey story while also running crime stories is proof positive that it overplays and is obsessed with crime, is just total stupidity.

    Different anon.

  10. Different anon, the Herald doesn't just report crime. It positively revels in it, giving readers the impression that we are a lawless society on the brink of anarchy.

    Of course, other media outlets do the same. But this is a blog about the Herald.

  11. To 'Anonymous' above (the one accusing James of '[f]ar too obtuse an argument'):

    I quote James --

    'the constant focus on violent crime is partly a media beat-up'

    And then I point out the words 'constant' and 'partly'.

    Think before you type.

  12. Personally, I am quite happy with the level of reporting that our rare occrences of violent crime get in this country, and the disproportionate levels of outcry that they cause. The opposite is far, far worse. Rather than showing how lawless a society we are becoming, I think it shows how very isolated these cases of horrific violent crime really are. Where else in the world would a convinience store robberies that occurred without a shot being fired become national news? I'm not saying that everything is peachy keen and terriffic, but christ, things could be a whole lot worse. Just ask any of the thousands of South Africans that walk among us.

    Allah be praised for giving us the freedom to worry about ice cream bandits and boy racers.