Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Greenpeace in our time

What Greenpeace wants is for us all to go back and live in
caves and thatched huts and scrub ourselves in the creek
with a rock.

The minute we all understand that Greenpeace doesn't
want progress, they want retarded economies, then the
sooner we can make the giant leap forward to all agreeing
or most of us agreeing that we actually do want to dig up
minerals, we want open-cast mining, we want to drill for
oil off the coast and we hope to damn hell that we
discover it.

—Leighton Smith, Newstalk ZB

They don’t want progress, they don’t want jobs, they don’t
want economic expansion—they want none of the things
the rest of us want, they're out to lunch, they're flakes.
Greenpeace was once the friend of the animals, of the flora
and fauna, but they’ve morphed into this ugly extremist
political machine that is increasingly out of step with the

They have no answers. Not real ones. Oh, they'd come up
with us having, you know, a vege plot and a goat and
wearing hemp (that’s if we weren't smoking it as well) but
none of it's realistic, they're out to lunch, they're against
everything and for nothing.

—Mike Hosking, Newstalk ZB

We want a strong economy. We want more jobs. But even
when you look at [the] draft energy plan, that is all focused
on oil, coal and gas, which are where the big emissions
come from in terms of greenhouse gases and where future
liabilities are going to be huge for this country. We are a
country that has enormous opportunities in terms of
renewable energy. Where are the options? There was no
economic analysis done that looked at all the options.

—Bunny McDiarmid (Greenpeace), Close Up

Friday, April 8, 2011

Shock window

The most disgraceful piece of journalism this past week
remains the New Zealand Herald’s top story of Monday
morning, the one headlined


This was the story that said ‘Criminal assaults by children
of primary school age soared last year… Crime statistics
show the number of children under 9 apprehended for
assaults last year was 64, almost double the 33 recorded
in 2009.’

It was disgraceful first because of the headline, which
branded 64 young children ‘thugs’ without providing a
shred of evidence for the claim. Apart from stating that
44 of the 64 were boys and that four children were
apprehended for serious assaults causing injury and 52
for common assault, the story provided no further
breakdown of the statistics, so Herald readers were left
in the dark as to exactly what sorts of assaults occurred,
in what circumstances, whether each one was an
isolated incident and for that matter whether, following
'apprehension,' any charges were proved.

It’s not even clear whether these assaults were child-on-
child or child-on-adult, or indeed—so lazily are the
statistics presented—whether there’s been a rise in the
number of discrete assaults as well as a rise in the
number of children committing them.

It was disgraceful second because how a rise in recorded
offences on such a small scale could be said to be soaring
(or to warrant a sensationalized front-page headline in
the first place) defies comprehension and insults
common sense. The most recently available figures for
the number of children aged nine or less attending
school show a national roll call of 289,203. Sixty-four is
0.02212% of that, or a fiftieth of one per cent. The
nation’s primary-school playgrounds and classrooms are
clearly not being inundated by a tide of juvenile violence;
the only thing juvenile about the situation is the Herald’s
attempt to beat its chest with moral indignation.

(Further proof of that is the citing of the figure for assaults
in the 10-13 age group: 827 apprehensions last year,
compared with 770 in 2009. That’s a statistically
insignificant increase of 7.4%. Needless to say, the Herald
saw no headline in that.)

And it was disgraceful third because the story made no
attempt to locate the incidence of assaults by children in
the context of the tougher economic times the country has
been going through, other than to quote a psychologist’s
reference to breakdown of parental control. If there really
is a growing problem with children becoming more
physically violent (and despite the latest moral panic
about bullying, no serious evidence of it has yet emerged),
then a responsible newspaper would not be treating
examples of it as if they’d occurred in a parallel universe
stripped of context and meaning.

The use of the word ‘thugs’ comes out of that universe—a
place beyond the real world’s gravitational pull and visited,
if not inhabited, by the headline-makers at the Herald.

As I said in my media comment on Radio New Zealand
National on Tuesday the Herald still publishes a great deal
of quality journalism. A day won't go past that I don't find
something of value in its pages or on its website.
Unfortunately, virtually none of it now appears on the front
page or at the top of the site, where stories about sex, crime
and violence now predominate. It's like entering a
bookshop like Unity, knowing there's good stuff on the
shelves inside, but first having to get past a shop window
that's promoting war games, action toys and soft porn.

It may be argued that it's only one page, and worth putting
up with for the sake of the rest of the paper, but the
contagion has spread to page 3, now often given over to
lurid court cases and gossip about the stars—and if page 3
falls, can pages 4 and 5 be far behind?

The only shred of comfort one can take from Monday's
desperate beat-up in the Herald is that no other major
media, as far as I have been able to tell, thought the story
worth repeating or following up on.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Way to go

Well, when turning one's back on high office and nobly
spurning the temptations of political power, one may
as well do it in as statespersonlike a way as possible.
So when Judith Tizard put out a statement that, after
much self-righteous throat-clearing, declared...

'I have, now, recovered from the hepatitis that has
caused me to be so sick and exhausted. I am sure
there are many rewarding ways I'll be able to use
all my experience, in future, but it won't be as a
Member of Parliament.''s entirely understandable that she would channel the
words of the late great David Lange, who in August 1989,
after a considerable amount of suspense-building at a
media conference, announced that he was walking away
from the top job thus:

'I have taken a great deal of counsel from a variety
of sources. I am looking forward to a very healthy
future. It will not however be as Prime Minister.
I intend to step down.'

It's a wonder she didn't say she could smell the uranium
on Phil Goff's breath while she was at it.