Freelance journalist Jock Anderson calls for reasoned thinking when considering two media-driven issues.
No two topics have consumed the New Zealand media as much in recent times as the so-called flag “conversation” and the push to take more refugees.
Reporting on both topics has been at fever pitch as hand-wringing reporters and presenters do their damnedest to foist on the country things many folk are uncomfortable accepting and won’t accept.
In the case of the flag debate, or conversation, as it is called, this multi-million dollar exercise in giving aging academics, past sports heroes and tired “celebrities” from the marketing world something to do has completely missed the point of changing the flag.
The chosen examples on which the nation will be asked to rate by preference are nothing more than marketing logos, which would be more at home on packs of butter or footy shorts.
None of them are examples of what could be truly called a national flag.
Now the rugby union has farcically warned the government against pinching “its” silver fern logo.
The flag debate has been misconstrued from day one, initiated – it seems – by Prime Minister John Key’s irritation at ours being confused with Australia’s.
New Zealanders fought and died under our flag and the Returned Services Association, for one, is rightly opposed to any change to it.
The flag also represents New Zealand’s place in the British Commonwealth, so before any flag change is contemplated New Zealand should first decide if it wants to remain in the Commonwealth or pull out.
That’s a major serious constitutional “conversation” that has yet to take place.
Which brings me to refugees.
It seems New Zealand could double its refugee intake from 750 to 1,500 without too much trouble. Kiwis are apparently coming out of the woodwork to billet them.
Again, some caution is required.
The refugee story is driven by a frenetic media obsessed with images of thousands of folk running about Europe looking for new safe homes.
Film of a dead toddler lying in the surf is a newsroom bonus and is milked for every tear-jerking second.
Does the media “care” about refugees or changing the flag? No.
These are simply the hot stories of the day, beaten up to rally misplaced nationalism and trigger outpourings of compassion.
Nationalism and compassion have their place but people need to be wary of being rail-roaded by a cynical media interested more in cheap thrills than rational, informed discussion.
Prediction: If New Zealand does take more refugees wait for the media to talk up how wonderful we are as a caring nation. And wait for the same media to pounce on any unfortunates who can’t or won’t fit in.
That’s tomorrow’s news…
Jock Anderson has been a journalist for a long time, observing matters from what he describes as a sensible centre-right perspective. He can be contacted at email@example.com