Friday, July 15, 2016

Stephen Franks: Politicians lying?

Andrea Vance and others in RNZ’s MediaWatch this weekend have been bewailing the absence of public concern about their allegations (or disclosure) of politician lying.

They are right to be anxious that democracy may not be safe if lies have no cost. The questioning in the programme tested the concern.

But most revealing was an incredible lack of elite awareness of their own intellectual limitations (or blinkers). Some journalists are intelligent enough to understand that ordinary citizens will not care what is thought by journalists who despise them and their values. But few political journalists know why ordinary people think as they do.

When they find out they despise them. A remarkable demonstration last week of elite arrogance from a Treasury pet intellectual reminded me of my experience with political journalists. Bernard Cadogan has been paid to advise Treasury on Brexit, from his English academic perch. In an extraordinary hour he sneered and preened in a revealing display of why ordinary English voters would have ceased to listen to his class. Toward the end he purported to illustrate how stupid were the Leave advocates and popular referenda generally with a comparison to the  NZ “Law and Order referendum” of 1999. According to him it “rabbited on and rabbited on and rabbited on…” and was “impossible for a judge to apply”.

It read “Should there be a reform of our Justice system placing greater emphasis on the needs of victims, providing restitution and compensation for them and imposing minimum sentences and hard labour for all serious violent offences?”. This measure passed by 91.78%.

In fact that vote reverberated in Parliament, and helped overcome the status quo defense of the Justice establishment. It played a significant role in the toughening up that may have belatedly helped reverse our climbing serious violent crime rates.

I spent my years in Parliament with virtually no media interest whatsoever in criminal justice facts, research or policy analysis. As a typical swot, I fondly thought when I entered Parliament that they would be important. Instead all the work I put into criminal justice policy was repaid by constant repetition of the media’s brand of me and ACT as “far right”. In fact most of the policy innovations I advanced were drawn from Bill Clinton’s 1996 reforms, and much of the political language from the UK Labour Party website.

None of that stopped routine reports as if of fact that our policy was cynical populism we could not possibly believe (because we were perceived as intelligent) . I recall not one attempt over 6 years to investigate the policy details or the material my digging got out of official statistics.

The journalists who are realising that most voters no longer care what the media and elite say to each other, will not find a route back to public respect. They despise the public who voted for the Norm Withers referendum too much to apply open minds and sympathy to ordinary values, beliefs and fears.

The media bubble is oblivious to how thoroughly it has suppressed the expression of ordinary people’s real opinions, even by their Members of Parliament. Only Winston Peters can defend  many common sense expressions without a collective media swoon then hysterical screeching. Even within families ordinary people often keep their thoughts to themselves to avoid derision from the bien pensant family members.

In consequence politicians and media can lie to each other without the rest of us caring much at all.

Stephen Franks is a principal of Wellington law firm Franks & Ogilvie and a former MP. He blogs at


paul scott said...

Tribal positioning.
Stephen refers to the Media tribe, and its arrogance. Media mainstream formal is increasingly inconsequential, and because it is stupid.
See, already I am a tribal internet superior, and I don't even know how it happened..
We expect our politicians to lie. Our leader tells us that statistics are good for having fun with in the house.
Migrating to internet for reality, did not help me Tribalism and superiority positioning here is rife, and it is emotional, and as Stephen points out, the dominating culture, specific to the blog, has little reverence for factual argument.

Brexit affected New Zealanders as though we lived in the Midlands .
Try a pro Euro Empire, I love the establishment bureaucracy on Farrar's kiwiblog , and see how you get on.
You will be buried with full dishonour, guffaws,sneering and condescension.
You will receive the downticks, and eventually have your post hidden in ignominy.
Opinion must be correct, and supporting facts are of some use, but facts against the truthist opinion are invalid .
Where is George Orwell now when we need him.

So facing the truther, we can revert to Godwin's law, and begin talking about fascists, Green poison, and eating babies.
I like to write the words Social Conservative but that is a good way to get down ticks.
Social Conservatives is a disgusting syntax. The word we like is Liberal
Whale Oil banned me within 24 hours of my fabulous appearance over there and lost all access to my stand alone superior regressive bashing, I mean progressive bashing.
In fact tribal positioning leads to a kind of written violence so addictive that the socialists pour in to a centre right blog each morning for their ritual virtual whipping.

In an attempt at consideration of Remaining, and not Exiting the unelected Euro Empire, we can go over to a blog from a high level Health management operative.
Yes, there it is. Trump caused the Syria war, he caused the military uprising in Turkey, he is to blame for bad things. Nationalism is bad .
And Brexiters are stupid / old / uneducated / ugly /racist / Islamophobic/ can not read English / we need another referendum and so on.
A quote from a New Zealander, living in NZ, which I found in a few minutes this morning about Brexiters.
"People are idiots. and we can only be only protected by the systems. If we attack the systems we are left with the idiots ... just saying"

Stephen is to be commended on the way he stands up for the elitist arrogant within the legal community.
In this essay he refers also to the fact that Correct Opinion truth can exist within families. Teenagers ashamed of their parents.

Muriel's blog here is a sane quiet place comparatively, but look at us, we are secluded from the mob. Lacking emotional violence, a bunch of old white people, nearly ready for Seymour's law, and shouldn't be allowed to vote.

paul scott said...

I mean/ correction to above. Stephen is to be commended on the way he stands up
to, and against elitist arrogance within the legal community.

jh said...

Andrea Vance says: "If the job of political reporters to help people make sense of the chaos and spin and complexity of policy - rather than add to it - it's fair to say many times we fail. The media are under real financial pressure, and political reporting can tend to fall into a 'he said, she said' style."
I was agog when I first heard that and then I thought perhaps I was making too much of it but the job of a political reporter is to be impartial and present all sides. I don't think Vance is impartial e.g

"But Peters was wrong. Figures show that in the last 10 years (only those from 2003 would be entitled) just over 43,000 have arrived under that category. Of those a number would have died, gone home, or have pension portability.

Peters' ill-founded hysteria and anti-Asian agenda, are a regular feature of election campaigns.

However, our poll suggests voters aren't blaming migrants for the current housing crisis. They also have a strong handle on the true picture - with most able to correctly pick how many migrants make up the population.

Even Peters own voters aren't convinced by this old trick - 92 per cent of his supporters don't rate immigration as a problem."

paul scott said...

If Andrea Vance wants to know what NZF people say about Immigration, she need not disturb her brain. She can read the NZF facebook site or attend a meeting. I never get to hear the garbage which people like her spout, but I think this is what Stephen was partly referring to. Politicians tell porkies, so why not, and it doesn't seem to matter what we Media do or say, it doesn't have an effect.