TWO-THIRDS of all New Zealanders, and three-quarters of all Aucklanders told pollsters that Covid-19 had influenced their Christmas holiday plans. It is difficult to think of a more moving recognition of New Zealand’s citizens’ love and respect for one another. Unquestionably, the Covid-19 Pandemic has brought out the very best in this country.
The greatest tragedy of 2021 is that this astonishing demonstration of collective empathy and public-spiritedness was often overshadowed by the behaviour of the most ignorant and selfish among us. That the worst in New Zealand was amplified and, to a worrying degree, encouraged by the news media must rank as the second greatest tragedy.
In journalism, context is everything. If the actions of individuals and groups are not set properly in the context that gave rise to them, then they are liable to serious misinterpretation. It says a great deal about the quality and the intentions of New Zealand journalists that context was conspicuous by its absence from so many of 2021’s stories.
To hear senior journalists, day after day, question small business owners in the tourism and hospitality sectors about the impact of the Covid regulations on their hopes, dreams and bank-balances, was worse than infuriating: it generated mistrust and suspicion. No intelligent person was unaware of the impact of the Pandemic on businesses large and small. No compassionate person could fail to feel genuine sympathy for the predicament of their owners. But to hear journalists present these folk’s situation as if it was the result of malign and/or maladroit Government actions, couldn’t help but raise serious questions about the media’s intentions.
Only rarely did journalists balance their reporting by offering their readers, listeners and viewers the more obvious counterfactual arguments. One almost never heard them asking business spokespeople if they were promoting the withdrawal of all anti-Covid protections at the border. In the endless media advocacy for a relaxation of the MIQ regime, it was, similarly, extremely rare to hear a journalist remind those complaining that, very early-on in the Pandemic, the Prime Minister had advised travellers that they ventured overseas at their own risk, and that a timely and trouble-free return to New Zealand could in no way be guaranteed by the Government.
That the lines of questioning followed by many leading journalists so often paralleled closely the attack-lines of the Opposition parties did not go unnoticed by their readers, listeners and viewers. Those same Opposition parties would, of course, be quick to reject such claims – pointing to the extremely supportive reporting of the Governing parties’ actions throughout the first year of the Pandemic. The possibility that such positivity was no more than an accurate reflection of New Zealand’s outstanding performance in combatting the Coronavirus never seemed to occur to them.
Clearly, given its conduct over the last 12 months, that possibility never occurred to the mainstream news media either. It seemed at times that, among the upper echelons of the principal media outlets, a consensus had been reached that journalists had been far too easy on the Government in 2020, and that a much tougher approach was required in 2021. Certainly, the simultaneous release, by major media outlets, of the former Prime Minister’s, John Key’s, “smug hermit kingdom” commentary, did little to allay citizens’ fears that the mainstream media was “out to get” Jacinda Ardern’s government.
As New Zealand underwent the inevitable transition from the strategy of Covid elimination to the strategy of mass vaccination, the news media’s newfound hostility towards the Government couldn’t help but augment and intensify the hostility and suspicion of those New Zealanders who, for a whole host of reasons, did not want to be vaccinated. While it is certainly not the case that journalists were “anti-vax”, the often quite truculent scepticism contained in their reporting reinforced the much deeper hostility and suspicion of the anti-vaxxers.
Not that mainstream journalism’s readiness to criticise the Government’s handling of the Pandemic in any way endeared them to the anti-vaccination movement. It remains an article of faith among anti-vaxxers that the Government and the news media are willing co-conspirators, hellbent on aiding the global assault, masterminded by perverted billionaires, on the rights and freedoms of ordinary people.
What can be said, however, is that the media-generated climate of aggressive scepticism, combined with the anti-vaxxers feverish exhibitions of anger and hate, contributed significantly to the febrile atmosphere enveloping New Zealand in 2021. The observation that the nation was fast becoming unrecognisable became a commonplace in conversations across the country. Those old enough to recall the bitter divisions of the Springbok Tour, declared the country’s mood to be much, much worse.
What made it all so much harder to fathom was that the media outlets they trusted to tell them the truth about the world seemed either unable or unwilling to acknowledge what every intelligent New Zealander knew: that their country was doing incredibly well.
The economy was among the best performing in the OECD. Unemployment was at record lows. The nation’s hospitals continued to function. Most importantly, the number of New Zealanders who had died from Covid-19 remained comfortably below one hundred.
In the Age of the Internet, all these facts were available to Kiwis at the touch of a keyboard. And yet, for Opposition politicians, businesses spokespeople, talkback hosts, newspaper columnists, editors and their teams of reporters, it was as though none of these extraordinary achievements were of any consequence.
Had all the country’s politicians and journalists lost their minds?
Sometimes, it almost seemed as though they had. It was as if a vital memorandum had been circulated, detailing a number of profoundly important changes. Specifically: the name of the country was being changed from ‘New Zealand’ to ‘Aotearoa’, and the country’s major cities were undergoing a similar transformation. In spite of the fact that they had all been built by and for the Pakeha settlers of Aotearoa-New Zealand: and named for their homelands, leaders and heroes; henceforth they would bear Māori names. Much more importantly, the nation’s constitutional arrangements were to be fundamentally revised in order to better reflect a democratically unmandated interpretation of te Tiriti o Waitangi.
When, and on whose authority, this memo and its unsettling contents was released, remains a mystery to the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders. The mystery only deepens when those same Kiwis discover that, in spite of the memo obviously being received by politicians, public servants, journalists and business leaders, the rest of the population were not included on the circulation list.
In spite of this glaring sin of democratic omission; the failings of the mainstream news media; and the increasingly toxic behaviour of the anti-vaxxers; the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders – as evidenced by the 90 percent+ of eligible citizens who ensured that they were double-jabbed – did not falter in their solidarity to one another, nor in their collective determination to defeat the Covid-19 virus and its variants.
These past twelve months have confirmed the fundamental decency, resilience, solidarity and compassion of the ordinary New Zealander. Which is why the 2021 prize for: The Most Significant Participant in National Affairs; belongs, unquestionably, to the sorely-tried, long-suffering, but ultimately unbeaten – and unbeatable – People of New Zealand.
An earlier version of this essay was originally posted on the Interest.co.nz website on Monday, 20 December 2021.
I don't know where you were over the past twelve months Chris but here in New Zealand the media have served as enthusiastic propagandists for the Ardern government, and they have launched attacks on the Opposition almost daily. After all, their palms have been well greased by the Orwellian "Public Interest Journalism Fund". The most trenchant critics of the government's maladministration have been Sir Brian Roche and Heather Simpson, whose sensible recommendations on testing for example have been blithely ignored leaving us dependent on shonky vaccine passes and the demonization of the unvaxxed. The signs are things are going to get worse before they get better, but the government after congratulating itself has disappeared on holiday. Oh well, at least we have the wedding to look forward to, a truly globalist glamour event to be hosted on the estate of a New York hedge fund manager. I'm sure the former owners of the more than 27,000 small businesses which went belly up during the lockdowns will quickly get into the festive spirit.
Media have realised their long period of unquestioning support for anti democratic policiew has promoted ( valid) distrust from the public.T The government's two biggest media supporters - RNZ and Stuff - have suffered collapses in audience, while arch critic Newstalk has boomed, Maybe in then last two weeks they have overcompensated for earlier failures in not holding the government to account. Belatedly Chris in the end points to a succession of anti democratic moves by the government that have been avoided by He is right to point t out the media obsession with business, with no interest on the impact of lockdown of working class Aucklanders
Journalists need to be careful with their language about Covid as in talking about people with only one vaccination needing a 'booster' shot. I had read that word 'booster' as referring to the third extra shot that boosted immunity gained after the initial recommended two.
Getting the second to achieve the basic immunity should be called, say, the twin, or pairing - a word that refers to two - perhaps the dual shot. We have to be able to understand the information that is meant to inform, not be confused by mixed meanings.
The Maori name for Auckland is Akarana. Tamaki Makaurau is the land upon which the city stands.
The Maori name for Wellington is Poneke (Port Nicholson). Te Whanganui a Tara is Wellington harbour.
As one Maori friend put it " Towns and cities are Pakeha places, not Maori. They can call them whatever they want".
Towns and cities were most definitely built by British settlers. And Maori were definitely not welcome.
Nui Tireni never had the "hard" apartheid of South Africa or the southern states of the USA. What we did have was the "soft" apartheid common in northern US states.
This soft apartheid arrived with the first boat of settlers and remained unapologetically out in the open well into the 1960s. These days white supremacists are a bit less candid and tend to dress up their anti-Maori bigotry with the language of anti-racism.
Don Brash is a classic example.The late Frank Hayden was given free rein to vent his anti-Maori bigotry by the Sunday Star-Times. And the later part of Lyndsey Perigo's broadcasting career was as resident anti-Maori bigot for Radio Pacific.
I do not use Aotearoa as a name for New Zealand.If others wish to use it,so be it. Plenty of countries have two names: Germany/Deutschland Holland/Netherlands spring to mind.
I'm never quite sure if this sort of thing is simply lazy journalism or malign. Time after time you see or hear journalists just accepting answers and statements from politicians without context or question. I know there are idealistic young reporters out there, but they must be getting corrupted pretty damn quickly.
Even the BBC is not exempt from trivial nonsense. A while ago they led – LED mind you – with a story about a pop singer suing her father. And we were treated to this nonsense for close to 10 minutes. And you'd think that the BBC at least, not being forced to make a profit at all would put its time to better use.
And if that's the BBC, could we expect our journalists to do any better, given that most of them work for companies that need the clicks. So a once over lightly from a minister as opposed to made up scandal about Meagan Markle – no contest I guess.
Oddyseus. Agree, Chris may be focused on the recent flurry of scepticism by media, seeking to balance the books, after a period where they have turned away from the growing list of problems. He and die hard Labour Party people may see a conspiracy off Right wing attacks, Some of us see journalism dominated by people who no longer believe in the craft, who will change editorial policies to suit focus groups or polls
I used to buy a daily newspaper but the emphasis turned from reporting the news to lots of opinion on the evil of white 50 plus males. Why buy a publication that attacks my generation every day.
I don't know where you were over the past twelve months Chris but here in New Zealand the media have served as enthusiastic propagandists for the Ardern government, and they have launched attacks on the Opposition almost daily.
This would be the media that:
- Runs wall-to-wall sob stories about tourism operators and business concerns.
- Runs non-ironic sob stories about anti-vaxxers who have lost their jobs.
- Undermines lockdowns, to the point where senior journalists basically encourage civil disobedience.
- Obsess about the need to "open up to the world." Even when Hipkins caved on the border, that wasn't enough for them.
- Obsess about the need to "live with the virus," and promoting the idea that it's basically only a nasty flu.
- Undermines modellers and health experts, by creating faux controversy.
- Runs John Key's ill-informed nonsense completely uncritically and universally.
- Goes on about how other countries are so much better than we are (let's see... Australia. Sweden. Denmark... anyone else?). And then forgets them once Covid cases blow up in their face.
Heather Du Plessis-Alan, Barry Soper, Mike Hosking, and Kate Hawkesby have done as much to undermine public health as Brian Tamaki and his gang mates ever have. Stuff has been moving in the same direction too, of course - it is very clear that Luke Malpass is another friend of the virus. Basically, you get the impression they want the health measures to fail, just so they and their mates can go on overseas shopping trips.
Reading and listening to the New Zealand news media this year - in a country fighting off a deadly virus - was honestly like drowning in a swamp of Lord Haw Haws and Tokyo Roses. The irony being that aforementioned media was actually completely out of step with a good 70% of the population.
Yes Shane, Akarana (Auckland), Pokene (Port Nicholson) and Nui Tirene (New Zealand) are bastardisations of the European names and a bit deprecating to both languages I've always thought.
I don't like the trend of mixing up languages, if you're writing or speaking English the only good reason to insert Maori is if there is no adequate English word or phrase. Mana is OK for example, well understood and with a particular meaning. Ashley Bloomfield, from the "podium of truth", on the number of new covid cases, said "one hundred and twenty whanau across the motu". Just what that laboured affectation meant is unclear; does he speak like that at home or in his office?
New Zealand means new sea land, quite appropriate as the last major island on earth to be settled by humans.
Chris, you mistake the real characteristic of our beloved media: an enthusiasm for unverified sob stories, always without context. A woman who can't get accommodation (because her boyfriend holds gang parties at her place); a business that can't get staff (because they won't pay a decent wage); a person trapped overseas away from a dying parent (because they went to visit friends in Aussie after being warned not to); someone whose bank won't refund their losses from a romance scam (after bank staff warned them not to send the money) - all of these, and any number more like them, fill column inches and attract clicks.
If are media are relaying the sob stories of small businesses who have been hurt by the Covid response, without any meaningful context, this needs no explanation. There is no nefarious memo to turn people against the Government; it is just the nature of the modern NZ journalist.
"Reading and listening to the New Zealand news media this year - in a country fighting off a deadly virus - was honestly like drowning in a swamp of Lord Haw Haws and Tokyo Roses. The irony being that aforementioned media was actually completely out of step with a good 70% of the population......."
Excellent comment, the media are becoming more political every year to establish some form of unique difference to their audience. Individual commentators with their political bias posing as real reporters, let alone journalists, are everyday common now. The few exceptions that are talented broadcasters, such as Kim Hill, are a continual supply of oxygen though.
Apt assessment, Chris.
I've mostly stopped listening to RNZ's "Checkpoint": the tabloid style it has descended to is off-putting.
And in case I thought it was just me, my partner also no longer listens.
For the first time in decades, I will not lament that "Checkpoint" and it's earlier sibling, "Morning Report", have entered a month long holiday-hiatus. One can only take so much of Michael Barnett, Julie White, et al, complaining bitterly that businesses are losing out and why aren't we opening the borders and covid, what covid?
If I wanted an on-air version of NBR, I'd ask for it.
Hilarious takes on the NZ MSM here from one-eyed Lefties, but think about the following for a moment: if they're as anti-Labour opposed to this government's measures as you claim they are, then why have Right-wingers like me abandoned them in vast numbers?
You'd think we'd be vocal supporters of the MSM if what you claim is true.
No doubt I'm bringing my one-eyed opposite view to bear on them but I after twenty years of ignoring Stuff, The Herald, The Listener, One News, Three News and in the last five years, Radio NZ, I chose to check Newshub(3) each day for Covid numbers - and have been astounded at the number of articles written every day supporting some aspect or other of this government.
BTW, after all the tub-thumping from you and your commentators about Keeping Out The Virus Of Racism., I see that the fixed checkpoints up North have been completely abandoned:
So, what’s changed in those five days? The supposed rationale for the checkpoints was the low rate of vaccinations in the Northland DHB area. Well, on Wednesday when the checkpoints went up 82% of Northlanders were double jabbed. Yesterday when they went down the figure was still 82%. The supposed rationale is revealed as having no clothes and its not a pretty sight.
It's appropriate at this time of year that pantomime is being performed but I never thought that had caught on in the country, although Hone Harawera would be perfect for such a performance.
Anonymous at 17.28
Righteous anger against 'them' which turns out to be anyone with an idea who puts their head above the parapet. That's NZ - likes black and white, without too much nuance. Last time I mentioned parapet someone responded with reminder about Pythons French Taunting. So I suggest you look that up on youtube as today's mood-enhancing giggle.
Perhaps our prevailing mood is being displayed physically in the prosaic residential settlements with no colour - featuring just black roof and beige walls. And of course no consideration for climate change - black roof holding heat, and flat fronts with no shade-giving eaves. A media that is funded by housing and property exchange - we are lucky to have the upshoots of good journalism we have, nurture those green shoots!
Kiwis are now over 94% vaccinated and on track for even higher rates with NZ one of the most highest vaccinated countries in the world against CoVid19. Case numbers are dropping due to vaccination rates, NZ summer, social distancing, mask wearing and vaccination mandates. Hopefully our health measures will hold up against Omicron once it gets into the community. Ramping up vaccine booster jabs and child vaccinations should be done ASAP in preparation for the virulent Omicron variant to allow NZ to maintain more Freedoms in 2022. What we see in the misguided protestors is a poorly attempted ‘tyranny of the tiny minority’ with spurious and ridiculous claims that their Freedoms are being taken away with offensive comparisons with Nazi Germany. Ironically, Hitler did not support smallpox vaccine mandates in Germany as his health metrics showed that more Jews, disabled and poor people would die if unvaccinated so he deliberately opposed vaccine mandates in the 1930s. Disadvantaging a tiny number of zealots in access to gyms, cafes, restaurants and bars and concerts/ festivals due to their own choice is fair and equitable. Antivaxxers are an annoying gnat that most Kiwis are simply ignoring. It must be infuriating to them that they are so marginalised and ignored except to be made fun of. 🤓
No Dave, Akarana, Poneke and Nui Tireni are transliterations, not bastardisations.
Bastardisations are words like "Pram" aka Paraparaumu.
Also the way you, no doubt, pronounce every Maori word are also bastardisations.
Off the top of my head I can think of two Polynesian words that were transliterated into English; tatau became tattoo and tapu became taboo.
Tasman named these islands Staten Landt. New Zealand was the creation of a Dutch cartographer.
This post and your previous posts clearly show you are soul mates with Don Brash, Frank Hayden and Lindsay Perigo.
You really should re-read Chris' brilliant word portrait of "Cousin Simon" as that is exactly what I suspect you look like.
Meri Kirihimeti Grandpa.
David George - the names Akarana, Poneke and Niu Tirene (note the letter order) are NOT 'bastardisations' of European names. They are transliterations, a common practice when rendering proper nouns and words in languages - especially alphabets - different from the words' original. Because the Maori alphabet has different sounds associated with the familiar roman symbols (lettering), transliteration is a perfectly sensible approach to rendering place names - in Maori OR English. Ever heard of this Ihu Karaiti bloke? Quite.
Or in Russian, for that matter. I have seen a Russian atlas, all the place names in the Cyrillic alphabet. My home town is rendered thus: Ouaitara. Still pronounced the same. That is an English language transliteration from the Russian transliteration of the Maori name. A 'bastardisation' it is not.
Shane McDowall. People are \allowqwed too disagree. Its Frank Haden, and he is long dead
Kiwis are now over 94% vaccinated
That's first dose. Second dose is at 87% and has barely budged in days. That's eligible population of course, which is defined differently around the world, hence Worldometer and OurWorldindata do it on total population basis. Looking at us compared to other Western nations shows the same rise and plateau to much the same mid-70% levels, which implies that they must be as high as us in terms of eligible population.
Not that it matters since highly vaxxed nations like Israel and Ireland have had huge case number increases with Delta, as have highly vaxxed US states like Vermont, whereas less-vaxxed Florida has some of the lowest case-rates. It seems to be a seasonal thing but obviously the vaccines have not proven to be as protective on the infection and tranmission fronts, although they are doing their work in reducing sickness and death among the vulnerable and will certainly show the same with Omicron. In any case the latter seems little worse than a cold according to data from South Africa and now other places.
child vaccinations should be done ASAP
Why? Kids aged under twelve have had rates of sickness and death so low that they're statistically zero. That's around the world, and that's across all variants for two years now. Afraid of them spreading it? The last study of such was in 2020 with the Alpha and it showed the transmission was from adult to child, not vice-versa. In any case, if you're fully vaccinated why are you not protected from kids? Much better to let them get it so their immune systems are powered up, as they are for many other such respiratory viruses.
Re Hitler, both his Weimar predecessor and his post-WWII successor also opposed vaccine mandates, the former simply not enforcing what was on the books and the latter not re-introducing them. But comparing anti-mandate people to von Papen or Adenauer doesn't have the same, desired impact.
Lastly, according to MOH, as of today there have been 6,552 unvaccinated cases in this Delta outbreak. Ten have died, which is a Case Fatality Rate of 0.15%, and even then we don't know the comorbities of them but there's no reason to think it's more than 5-6% as Italy and the US have recently revealed.
Thanks Shane, I do try and pronounce words correctly. The current PM's "communidy" annoys me for some reason and disappointed to hear Chris Luxon falling into that as well. Jacinda's "jepradise" is just about unforgivable though.
Merry Christmas to you and all the Bowalley Rd. people.
Chris I have been reading your articles for decades and yet do not know exactly what your ideal New Zealand looks like. It is obviously socialist. Is it something like the Swedish model with a capitalist economy and high social spending funded by high personal tax and GST? Perhaps you could describe it for us?
So, Frank Haden is dead. Wow, I had no idea. Thank you for enlightening me Oh Enlightened One.
While you are handing out the spelling lessons you might want to learn the difference between its and it's and too and to. Pedant.
People can believe whatever they like. I do not give a shit.
I have no doubt you care about the pronunciation of English words.
I have strong doubts that you can or do pronounce Maori words correctly.
You are, judging by your frequent posts on this blog, an obvious elderly white supremacist.
And, once again ...
Meri Kirihimete Grandpa
Best joke of the year -
"In Austria they have reintroduced lockdowns, but only for the unvaccinated, many Austrians have compared it to Nazi Germany, but others didn't like it."
...and even then we don't know the comorbities of them but there's no reason to think it's more than 5-6% as Italy and the US have recently revealed.
Grrr... that should have read
...and even then we don't know the comorbities of them but there's no reason to think it's less than 94-95% of all c-19 deaths, as Italy and the US have recently revealed.
I'd add that this also fits with the medical analysis of C-19 deaths from quite early on where the deaths were overwhelmingly among the old and those with health problems.
Shane McDowall. You sum your self well,. You arte entitled to "not give a shit" Merry Christmas.
Less of the gratuitous insults would be good Shane. I come here to exchange ideas with others, to think and to write, I like and respect our host. It would be a shame to see the site degenerate into vexatious name calling that adds nothing and takes away so much.
Well Tom, if you right wingers have abandoned the mainstream media, how come you keep complaining about it? You shouldn't know anything about it – having abandoned it and all.
To: David George @14:50
I couldn't agree more, David.
I was looking back at some of my earlier postings on this blog and what struck me most forcefully was the quality of the comments. Participants like the much-missed "Victor" and "Olwyn" offered some extraordinary contributions.
So, let the word go forth from this time and place: the moderation of Bowalley Road is going to get a lot tougher in 2022. If readers want to get a comment posted, then here is what they will have to do:
Make an argument - using evidence.
Play the ball - not the man. Abusive, snarky, condescending commentary will not make it through.
Here endeth the lesson. And, if you don't like it - blame David!
I can't really see that in our MSM. Sort of thing every government believes of the media. Stuff has been good in my view, though my cousin in govt looked at me as so I was subscribing to Satanism and recommended Scoop.
Well said about the NZ people and the selfish, ignorant people who oppose science and so democracy. Why is it Boguns know the real truth and not anyone else? What is it about this great people that makes them the chosen ones?
In this strangest of years, I have found myself increasingly agreeing with Shane and enjoying the cynical one-liners.
I would like to note: both Shane and David have been reflective, especially on issues regarding the indigenous. As they say, we are all on a journey. I might not always agree with either of them, but I have often found commonality with both. I hope 2022 will not see a redaction in Shane or David's expressionism.
Anyway, Season's best to all. Thankfully because of Covid restrictions I don't have to ride a donkey for a census to a village I am 41 generations removed from.
People posting here simply have to remember the ancient Chinese proverb:
"If you can't take shit, don't give shit".
To: Shane McDowall.
No, Shane, you have misunderstood me.
The giving of shit is banned.
Disagree by all means - explain why. But ad hominem arguments are a) not arguments, and b) not conducive to a calm and friendly exchange of ideas and opinions.
Leave your shit in the toilet - where it belongs.
I'm not personally offended Shane; I see your epithets for what they are: a cynical attempt to stifle genuine discourse, to cast your ideological opponent as morally deficient, beyond the pale, not worthy of further discussion. You're better than that.
I understood your first notification.
Let me put the intent of my last post less crudely:
If you don't want to be insulted, don't insult me.
This dog only bites after being poked with a stick.
And you are right, ad hominem arguments are not arguments. I have known this to be true since 1980 when I read R.H.Thouless' "Straight and Crooked Thinking".
I look forward to productive commentary on this blog in the New Year
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