Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Karl du Fresne: Ghahraman's master-class in media manipulation

It’s safe to assume that lots of politicians are incorrigible attention-seekers – if not at the start of their careers, then certainly once they figure out how the system works and how the oxygen of publicity can be exploited to their advantage.

In this respect, Green MP Golriz Ghahraman is hardly unusual. But what marks her as different is the skill with which she plays the game. Although ostensibly still a political novice, she’s as media-savvy as any veteran.

She has also learned that she can exploit the sympathy of journalists who are drawn to her because she’s young and female (like many press gallery reporters) and also Green and an Iranian asylum-seeker. Looking good on camera helps too, although I shouldn’t mention that because it will be condemned as sexist.

We have seen all these attributes on full display during the past 24 hours with the disclosure that Ghahraman now has a personal security guard because of anonymous online threats against her safety.

Media coverage casts her as a victim of vile white male supremacy, a role she appears almost to relish – and why wouldn’t she, given that it neatly aligns with her portrayal of New Zealand as a country seething with poisonous white nationalism?  

I’m not suggesting the threats against her are not real and alarming, or that Ghahraman has somehow contrived to create the situation for political advantage. But I do suggest that she’s milking her victim status for all it’s worth, and that the media are obligingly dancing to her tune.  

All this might be bearable, at a pinch, but for one thing. Ghahraman laid the blame for the threats against her, subtly but unmistakeably, at the feet of ACT leader David Seymour, who said in a radio interview earlier this week that Ghahraman was “a real menace to freedom in this country”.

Seymour was expressing a legitimate opinion (one that I share) in the context of a debate about freedom of speech, but Ghahraman cleverly twisted his comment to imply that he was somehow inciting violence against her. She sanctimoniously suggested that post-Christchurch, “New Zealand has asked us to be different” – meaning, we can only assume, that people like Seymour should shut up.

Make no mistake, this was a master-class in the dark art of media manipulation. Winston Peters and Shane Jones must have watched with grudging admiration.

Ghahraman even managed to weave the parliamentary bullying report into her comments to reporters, saying attitudes need to change. All this serves her bigger agenda, which is to discourage free and open debate about when legitimate opinion becomes “hate speech”.

Sadly, but predictably, the media appeared to uncritically swallow Ghahraman’s line. She must have been thrilled to see reporters pursuing Seymour down a parliamentary corridor hurling accusatory questions at him.

To his great credit, he stood his ground. Would that other centre-right politicians showed similar spine when the pressure is on.

The bottom line here is that while every civilised person abhors any personal threat against Ghahraman by pathetic cowards hiding in the shadows of cyberspace, there is something deeply distasteful – you could almost say despicable – in her attempts to weaponise that threat politically. 

Karl du Fresne, a freelance journalist, is the former editor of the Dominion-Post. He blogs at


Anonymous said...

David Seymour indeed showed some spine regarding this issue -but the general voting population in the main seem to prefer voting for simpering knee-buckling virtue signalling harpies.

Mervyn said...

This is the modus operandi of the "progressive left" They use victimhood as a power base to bully people. Recently the female bullies at Oxford University had two males' they called them persons "without uterus's" "disinvited" to be in an abortion debate, not because as males they had a damn cheek discussing woman's bodies, but because the poor dears would "feel unsafe" because of their presence. You could have debated the first reason, but against the second your are toast. There is nothing more powerful than victimhood and Ghahraman knows it. This is the new political reality. The only defence I can see is to withdraw. Nether argue with or assist these people. At primary school we chanted " tell tale tit your tongue will split----" and excommunicated these people. Leave the bullies in their victimhood hole along with their supporters. In any case Karl what are you doing reading newspapers and watching TV?That's complete horse and cart old hat. Alt tech, Gab, Bitchute etc is where the action is at.

Graham Cliff said...

You have implied that Ms Ghahraman is a dissembler, and I couldn't agree more: she trades on her appearance of sweet naivety whilst, in fact, she's a shrewd (and perhaps ruthless) operator. She's evidently not above doctoring her background to create a more favourable impression than she deserves, her strategy of wide-eyed innocence being her stock response to challenge.
She's currently riding the crest of a political wave, whereby many of our traditional, conservative values are under threat; buzzwords such 'racism', 'patriarchy', 'fascism' and so on, are enough to carry the day, obviating the need for reasoned debate.
The comforting thought is that this rash of politically correct iconoclasm won't last; the pendulum of public opinion will surely swing back, once people start to grow sick of being lectured to, by those who have adopted the mantle of aggrieved victimhood.

Unknown said...

Iranians are Caucasoid so not a "woman of colour".She is "othered" because her stand is a left-wing -progressive (and class-ist) one which undermines the legitimacy of the central place of the New Zealander in New Zealand.