Tuesday 18 May 2021

The TV3 Poll: Journalism or Propaganda?

Predictable “News”: Expecting the mainstream media to acknowledge its own deficiencies as the supposed protector and facilitator of democratic discussion and debate has become unrealistic. It no longer sees its role in such terms. Its responsibility, now, is to impart the truth – as officially defined – to the population, while doing everything within its power to ensure that this official version of reality is not effectively challenged by anyone – up to and including the Leader of the Opposition.

TV3’s PRESENTATION of the poll results delivered to them by Reid Research Ltd tells us a lot. The most important message to draw from the way it handled this “news” is how rapidly propaganda is replacing journalism in the mainstream news media. The data supplied by the pollsters confirms that there has been no major shift in political opinion since the general election of 17 October 2020. Given the decisiveness of the 2020 result, and the want of any developments of sufficient magnitude to cause Labour voters to change their minds, this stand-steady result should have come as no surprise. “Voters still happy with Jacinda” is not, however, a headline likely to stop viewers in their tracks. “Support for Judith Collins plummets”, on the other hand, just might.

Had TV3 been polling regularly since the election, with five or six sets of results accurately tracking the public’s feelings about the Leader of the Opposition; and had the latest results confirmed or confounded a rising or falling trendline; then such a headline might have been justified. But, TV3 has not been polling regularly. Indeed, the last poll it conducted was back in October 2020. Yes, that’s right, in the middle of last year’s election campaign. Naturally, the Leader of the Opposition was then polling around 18 percent. More than six months after losing the election by an historic margin, she is polling around 6 percent as New Zealand’s preferred prime minister. Well, gosh! What a surprise! Clearly, Collins’ days are numbered.

But wait, there’s more. Tova O’Brien, TV3’s political editor, would have known that Collins’ numbers were bound to drop back over a period of six months. The temptation would have been strong, therefore, to attach her predictably “plummeting” numbers to her recent campaign to elicit a coherent government response to the He Puapua Report, and whether or not it is guiding government policy.

Any failure to reproduce the extraordinary 17 percentage point surge in National’s numbers generated by Collins’ predecessor’s, Don Brash’s, in/famous “Orewa Speech”, would allow O’Brien and her colleagues to paint Collins’ He Puapua campaign as a flop. Even better, it would allow them to present the poll data as proof that New Zealanders have grown up and grown out of racial politics.

Just to be sure, however, O’Brien inserted a couple of questions to drive that message home. Were the Government’s policies separatist? she had Reid Research ask. And: Were the Opposition’s criticisms divisive? Entirely unsurprisingly, between 40 percent and half of respondents thought the government wasn’t being separatist, and that the Opposition was being divisive. For good measure, the viewers were further informed that roughly a quarter of National voters thought their party was being divisive and about the same number of Labour voters saw their party as separatist. All of which added up to? Almost nothing at all that was helpful.

Of much more use to TV3’s viewers would have been a carefully worded series of questions aimed at discovering just how much people knew about the He Puapua Report, and seeking their reaction to some of its recommendations. Ah, yes, but that would have cost TV3 an arm and a leg. It would also, almost certainly, have shown that most Kiwis know next-to-nothing about He Puapua, or its recommendations; and that, when appraised of some of the report’s more radical proposals, their responses tend to be less than favourable.

Of course, the responsibility for the public’s general ignorance about He Puapua, and the general direction of travel favoured by its authors, rests squarely with the likes of Ms O’Brien. Realistically-speaking, however, expecting the mainstream media to acknowledge its own deficiencies as the supposed protector and facilitator of democratic discussion and debate would be foolish. The mainstream media no longer sees its role in such terms. Its responsibility, now, is to impart the truth – as officially defined – to the population, while doing everything within its power to ensure that this official version of reality is not effectively challenged by anyone – up to and including the Leader of the Opposition.

This is how it works now. If a potentially damaging report like He Puapua makes it into the public arena, do not under any circumstances attempt to inform the public accurately and dispassionately about its contents. Instead, brand any publicly voiced misgivings about the report’s recommendations as “racist”. Give maximum coverage to accusations and recriminations arising from politicians’ responses to the report, and highlight the alleged divisiveness of their attempts to question or challenge its findings. Then, commission a poll, the entirely predictable results of which can be used to discredit the report’s critics: most particularly the leader of the political party most heavily invested in challenging its officially sanctioned version of reality.

It’s a game played out every day in Moscow and Beijing. The only serious distinction between the players there, and the players here, being that ‘there’ they know that the name of the game is “Propaganda”; while ‘here’ they still think it’s called “Journalism”.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 18 May 2021.


Odysseus said...

Brilliant commentary Chris. I had thought I must be going mad. I am very worried for the future of this country. The media's campaign to shut down debate on issues of profound importance to all New Zealanders - Left or Right, Maori or non-Maori - and to demonize anyone who dares to question where the government is going is utterly shocking. Thank you for calling them out.

Anne said...

Thankyou for honouring democracy and for being honest about the corrupted media. We need more of this.
All governmental actions and policy - especially He Pua Pua as it contrives to manipulate our constitutional arrangements - must be debated openly and with fairness. If the media cannot act in good democratic faith, the county is in big trouble.

Rob said...

Yes its concerning. I may have missed it but I'm yet to see any mainstream media outlining He Puapua in any detail whatsoever, yet the mainstream media feel they're in a position to say Collin's campaign is a flop.

Antipodean Collections said...

Doesnt the huge amount Ardern paid NZ Media " to support them in covid" have something major to do with this situation?

AB said...

Agree that TV3 is rubbish and Tova's continual editorialising is immature and dumb. Also agree that one poll doesn't prove a lot. However you can't escape the fact that for months you have been predicting that there would be a huge groundswell of outrage over 'separatism' and threats to 'free speech'- and that support would swing in behind National/Collins. That it shows no sign of happening yet cannot be denied by blaming the media presentation of the fact. You have painted yourself into a corner and so far you are wrong. And frankly, the gaggle of rather weird commenters who populate this site seems like confirmation that you are wandering down some odd byways and backroads - disappointing in someone whose work I admired for a long time.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Preferred Prime Minister" is the stupidest metric in politics. It always goes to the incumbent, so much so that if the incumbent wasn't the preferred Prime Minister it would definitely be news. Not that I'm particularly sad that that awful Judith Collins is "plummeting". Although maybe I should be given her general lack of leadership and appeal.

Mobfiz said...

Interesting and very worrying. It seems that the tactics as you describe are used by many western media outlets.

John Hurley said...

The attitudes here are interesting
Especially "NZ is browning" "is no longer old white people...."
Society needs some unifying idea - what exactly is it?

What I'm seeing is a country moving from stability to instability (cue Christchurch Call and cancelling of ideas threatening post-ethnic cosmopolitanism). Virtue signalers like Jim Bolger don't understand something - justice is subjective. There are people with Ngai tahu ancestry whose neuronal paths are becoming strengthened to the idea that the South Island is theirs and if this isn't what dummies like Bolger want they had better not let them get the idea in the first place.

I had a Ngai tahu rep on a tour with "my ancestor". She treated the passengers with what "the tribe" had done with treaty settlements and said that she heard Solomon say this was a "down payment".

I was called racist for complaining about the fact that Christchurch's new buildings were focusing almost entirely on Maori when they represented less that 2% of the population 121 years post settlement. On Neighbourly comments were bouncing between parties: "isn't their a lot of racism about?"

Corporates like Vodafone's Jason Paris are parasites with no allegiance to any people but themselves. This attitude can be seen in Christchuch NZ's slogan "we are proud to be a city of love and social change". As love involves either kinship, familiarity or sex, it only leaves universal love (and fat salary). Love has to be specific or it isn't love.

Scott said...

Great comments Chris. It appears to be the case all over the world that the mainstream media has a narrative that they push and facts have to fit into the narrative.
Jacinda is a wonderful person. Judith is a divisive person whose days are numbered. Donald Trump is a horrible person and an agent of Russia! Joe Biden is a welcome return to moderate normality and a wonderful decent fellow.
We don't get objective news any more.

Chris Trotter said...

To: AB.

What I said, AB, quoting the inimitable Rachel Hunter, is that: "It won't happen overnight, but it will happen."

There's a lot of ruin in a dominant ideology.

Doug Longmire said...

Excellent article Chris,
You have highlighted the situation with our extremely biased media who simply will not investigate and report on these extremely serious and destructive racist proposals that are taking place right now which spell out the end of democracy in New Zealand.
The apparent shutdown of any detailed look at the He Puapua document in particular.

(as an aside - I can recall that I voted Labour, many years ago, because it was a party for the workers of New Zealand. How that has changed !!)

Ricardo said...

Well said (again).

Anonymous said...

Our government, media, philanthropic sector, and activist groups have been captured by Silicon Valley.

It's very hard to see how truth will have the same purchase in an environment where news organizations, and the hedge funds that now control the tech sector, all stand to benefit from the changes that are being implemented, which the government does not talk about other than as "obligations" under this or that treaty that the public had no input into.

Worse, all activist groups in NZ are now dependent in some way on one major one, also funded by Silicon Valley. The group that maintained the Ihumātao sit-in in the background; that arranged and paid for the travel, catering, and accommodation. ActionStation.

Ihumātao became an important event around which we could discuss private property rights and indigenous self-determination. It also frightened a lot of people, concerned that their private property might end up subject to a claim. Whatever your opinion on Ihumātao, we should think long and hard about allowing these interests to have their mitts on that red hot button.

People in Ukraine and the Middle East are familiar with the colour revolution toolkit. Some commentators in Ukraine went as far as to suggest that Ukraine's failure to sign up to certain Western-led global compacts led USAID and its funding partners - the very same funders alluded to above - to fund far right ethnic sectarian groups, which led to the nationalist uprising of 2014, in order to ensure compliance and of course cock-block Russia.

That the USAID-connected funders behind far right separatists in Ukraine have positioned themselves behind Maori self-determination activists in Auckland should bother the thinking man and woman greatly. Even if the whole effort is also about cock-blocking China and ensuring US dominance of tech infrastructure.

And you thought Enspiral was just a bunch of hippies.

John Connor said...

Kiwis don't understand.

The Daemon descends. The bounds of truth are lies. We are at the point in the implementation of the Matrix where its advances are now undetectable and indecipherable to the ordinary citizen.

Give this a watch, please:


Anonymous said...

An excellent article...lets hope O'Brien reads it.

The Maorification putsch is well underway at various ADHB's too !

As an elderly,"white " surgeon nearing retirement, I will REFUSE to prioritise treatment on ethnic basis over clinical need, as is openly proposed by several DHBs . The public have their heads in the sand I'm afraid.

Tom Hunter said...

You're only noticing this about the MSM now?

Well of course, because this is an issue you care about, have been hammering away on, and which you now find yourself on the opposite side of from the Labour-supporting MSM.

Welcome to the club, but it's a bit late to be making these complaints now, and in any case stuff like this - suppressing or minimising coverage of news that's bad for Labour/Greens/Maori Party and amplifying news that's good for them, as well as the casual and endless demonisation of government opponents - is what will see Labour re-elected in 2023, something you will surely celebrate.

Shane McDowall said...

Unless an election is imminent there is no point in political polls.

You know that TVNZ, TV-3 and Prime have no news when they start their early evening news broadcast with the results of some political poll. And they have perfected the art of stretching a 90 second story over 10 to 15 minutes.

The truth is there is f**k all real news in New Zealand. That the OJ Simpson and Tonya Harding sagas even made it onto our screens is proof that New Zealand is a news desert.

The print media are no better, I am sick to the back teeth of the New Zealand Herald breathlessly reporting Auckland's infrastructure woes as "news". My local rag has only four themes for the front page: the homeless, house prices, some local notary has died, or a hideous crime.

Thank God for Time magazine, North and South, and the Listener.

Shane McDowall said...

Five of your last six columns have featured He Pupua.

He Pupua has become very stale Chris.

There are week old loaves less stale.

Connect-Ed CTA said...

What Tom Hunter said.

Risible is it not, when this has been going on for so long but only now is it an issue:

"first they came for the unions" and such eh?

I suspect, given the constant demonisation of the 'pale, stale' Nats (who incidentally were villified when they had both a Leader and Deputy of Maori descent by the same people now suggesting they aren't 'diverse enough'), that some people, were they to wake up in a single Party state would think it was a blessing, and go on facebook to esxhult in their good fortune!.

Tova O'Brian now setting her sights on running another campaign of vitriol on yet another Leader of The Opposition, is an insidious affront to the public's 'right' to be served by independent media, which apparently is governed by certain principles, - yet appears oblivious to them. Have a read of 'Priciples' here. All that is missing is canned laughter: https://www.mediacouncil.org.nz/principles

This casual, and infantilised fairy-tale narrative about our political system which these so-called 'journalists' peddle is damaging, self-serving and corrupted.

We've got a system which is now dominated by our very own Celebrity Kardashian-couple and served by sychophantic cheerleaders, who clearly view themselves as part of the same celebrity elite.

Meanwhile, when certain people are caught breaking the law it's suggested the 'Law' is wrong, or when policy is made up on the hoof without mandate its called 'Captain's Calls', and we're all supposed to 'heart' it...

Such is the dumbed-down level of political critique we are routinely served-up.

It's trash.

Anonymous said...

As a man of the left it must break your heart to realise that the foundational western ideals of liberté, égalité, fraternité are now defended only by the right, and that journalists have morphed from anti establishment 4th estate into anti democratic 5th column. Such a sad sight to see a willfully blind population marching themselves into the arms of oppression.

Mike P said...

Well said Chris and thank you for your objectiveness. I am intrigued that no-one seems to have picked up on the fact that the race to separatism is advancing so quickly. We have been told that the target date for so much of the reshaping of this country is 2040. I don't believe it. That date is to remove the immediacy and allow us to not worry as there is time and there are more elections where we can reverse and resolve the problems. Not so. I believe that the next election, if we are allowed to have it, will be our last chance to get back on track and retain our democracy.

Guerilla Surgeon said...


Well well, is this journalism?

David George said...

This is what we need, no propaganda, no agenda, just two wise people searching for the truth.
An Atheist in the Realm of Myth | Stephen Fry - Jordan B Peterson

Anonymous said...

Very refreshing to see any critique of the media, and in particular, one that appears to have no barrow to push. Here on the other side of the ditch but as an expat kiwi, I've watched with dismay as reporting about Covid in NZ has become political rather than based on public health. The media in NZ appear to want to spend all their time portraying JA as a saviour. My first inkling that all was not as it was being portrayed was the announcement last year that NZ had eliminated covid. Easy to work out that this couldn't be correct, as Australia's cases at the time were only returnees. NZ was also having returnees, therefore more than likely that there were covid cases too. No media questioning and little critique about the whether this was propaganda rather than facts.

sumsuch said...

So your comments are about the 'style' of the mainstream media. Cos it has been terrible about we 35-ists since the 80/90s.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"As a man of the left it must break your heart to realise that the foundational western ideals of liberté, égalité, fraternité are now defended only by the right,"


The right only defends its own freedoms, the rest of the time it's busy trying to take everyone else's away. Right-wing parties all over the developed world and through much of the rest of the world are denying people their rights – to vote as in the US, to religious freedom, as in India, to their sexuality as in Poland, to education and academic freedom, as in Hungary. I think Chris's heart should probably be safe.

Anonymous said...

You are all clearly confused about the proper role of media, which is to ensure private individuals lose their jobs for acts of incidental racism.

greywarbler said...

Presenter slim, fitting skirt, very high heels. Have we moved at all since late 1970's in women's aspirations to live full lives without the cloying regime of perfection to a conforming image?

greywarbler said...

John Hurley at 11.04 - I think there are some important points in there that illustrate what is startling thinking NZ, and upsetting it. The trouble with democracy is that for it to be effective, people have to understand other people, and what will work and not expect too much. If we ran our democracy with simple rules, like the road rules, what would happen? Everyone gets to have a turn - there is a set priority no matter who you are, and people manage to move around in very complex fashion, usually successfully. The only change to procedure is on high days and holidays an festivals and visits from VIPs.

Jens Meder said...

Yes Guerilla Surgeon the liberty to live "happy-go-lucky" hand-to-mouth has resulted in the inequality of Haves and Have-Nots.

Therefore the healthy survival of liberty, equality and brotherhood - additionally to suppressing the freedom for criminal activities and the commitment for help in need -

needs also a regulation that no one can evade participation in the efforts, responsibilities and risks for at least some meaningful personal wealth creation and ownership, so as not to remain or become a Have-not.

If there is agreement on that in principle, then a debate can be started about the best ways to operate on the efforts and results achieved.

Jenny Purchase said...

Media is regularly propped up by government/tax payer money, no matter who us in power. Some are dependent on it (RNZ National and TV1). Last time it was the Nat govt 'buying' allegiance. Personally I still find the media majorly and predominantly Nat biased. Would love to know what you're listening to/viewing because all I hear/see is relentless government bashing, underreporting of positive news (eg PM in Fortune 100), and deliberate spin and obfuscation.

CXH said...

The right does defend its own freedoms and tries to impose them on others.

Do you really think the left doesn't do exactly the same? The real problem is that neither side is willing to listen or compromise anymore. The extremes of both sides are screaming at each other while a growing number are sitting in the middle, watching with bemusement, as they tear each other apart taking our country with them.

Anonymous said...

Not sure what happened to you Chris. Besides, of course, a slow decline into irrelevance that in desperation to halt you throw out some spurious raw meat for the frightened white crowd, who dutifully turn up in droves to praise you in the comments section. Very Judith Collins-esque in that regard - in intent, in implementation and most likely in outcome. But hey, nobody seems to lose out by having a crack at Tova O'Brien, so I'm sure you'll get some internet points out of it, if nothing else.

greywarbler said...

CXH You have a lofty overview of politics as being an arena where gladiators fight over matters that may affect your life. But for others, who don't join you in bemusement, it is our very life and the way that we humans are allowed or enabled to live that we are fighting for. So are you taking bets while you 'wile' your time away?

CXH said...

I have no lofty view of politics, just wanted to point out that those on the left are just as bad at trying to push their beliefs on others as those on the right. Neither side being prepared to listen to what the others are saying, just shout them own and use the insult of the day. From my experience there is a growing group in the middle, those who can see positives from both, that are bemused by the extremes being exhibited by both camps. This behaviour is tending to leave them with no real party that represents them.

Anonymous said...

You are an old school leftie, Chris, thank you. A bloke to have a beer with and chew the over in lovely old pub. No bs, no wokeness, not too much bias, a clear and centered view. A rare beast in this day and age of wokeism and cancel culture, govt purchased media, the left or nothing, politics. Brilliant piece, and very honest. Refreshing. Shame the Gables in Ponsonby is long gone!


Anonymous said...

No in NZ it is not really the media, which is very insignificant here (TV1 and Newstalk stars are entertainment) and the Print Media has almost vanished other than the old scribes propped up by the China dollar. Although even there it's foreign, the local Chinese live in their own HK enclave, many half kiwi encultured and maybe less enthusiastic than reengagement with the XI than any White or Maori National member in Remmers or St Helliers.
The PC, Pro China, Maori First, Utopian equalism and we are not capitalist, anti americanism is the universal narrative of the political classes. And there are only a few significant dissidents, in Parliament, Academia, Civil Service. Noting that half the MPs don't know which Party their in. I mean watch the Fri 21/5 Morning Parliament post budget speech of the MP of Invercargill and the facial reaction of the MP Hellensville ( a former RNZN Lt and Barrister) and the North Shore Nat next to her, let alone the follow on Opposition speech by Christchurch- Central MP Duncan Webb ( a Basset like horror out of the Canterbury Law School, a chip on the shoulder, poor boy from Linwood High like David Round. Webb is arrogant beyond belief and I have had the misfortune to encounter him at the Law School in 2001 and like Megan should have been the last Faculty member to graduate to Parliament.

Anonymous said...

Collins is the last person who would be leading a HR or liberal party.She is is a bitter twisted mediocre lawyer, who can only be styled as the leader of the proles, peasant or police party. A reborn People's Party leader of the sort the National Party embittered like Hooton and Banks dream of.
While Tova is on the verge of being a fading 45 year old star, she wears it well with the eyeliner, on this issue, she is genuine and it requires real courage to show the necessary contempt and facts about Collins.
Only Ardens mediocrity, zero economic grasp, saves Collins from oblivion in the Polls and exposure as being a Country Party Fundamentalist. On the Christchurch- calls Ardens even more a ridiculous lightweight, her inadequacy masked only by newsreader skills, good looks and empathy. Collins polls have always been in freefall. She is far worse than Clark or Arden, so there is nothing manipulated about her poor appearance and failure to get to grips with the issues.Any real insight or respect for the real 1960s to 1989a National values liberal, women friendly would finish her with her voters and supporters.