by Nicky Hager, Craig Potton Publishing, Nelson, 2014
- Jeremy Agar
If you were around during the election campaign in August and September 2014 you’ll have heard of this book, Nicky Hager’s sixth. “Dirty Politics” is based on piles of hacked e-mails between influential bloggers and the leaders of the National government between 2008 and 2014. The facts aren’t in dispute, and they are appalling. It should have led to defeat for Brand Key but of course it did not. Why not?
Sequel To “The Hollow Men”
Hager has said that during the months leading up to the election he expected National to win. Unlike Kim Dotcom, he didn’t think that lobbing a late grenade would blow up the Government. This is doubtless an honest admission. “Dirty Politics” might not have had the immediate effect some expected, but longer term it just might. Hager writes that it’s a sequel to “The Hollow Men”, an earlier devastating account of National Party manipulation and extremism (which I reviewed in Watchdog 114, May 2007, http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/14/03.htm).
“The Hollow Men” was published in 2006 and not, as the inside cover says, in 2008, the year when the Key government was first elected. Unlike the present book, “The Hollow Men”, an exposé of National Party wrongdoing while in Opposition, was not issued immediately before an election, but as far as its author is concerned, the timing is not the point. Both books seek to explain the culture of the dominant political party, and cultural shifts don’t happen within a week or a month.
There is, though, at least one precise parallel between the two books. Publication of “The Hollow Men” forced Don Brash to be dumped as National Leader in favour of John Key, and “Dirty Politics” led to the resignations of Judith Collins from the Cabinet and of Jason Ede from Key’s office staff. All sorts of people blog for all sorts of reasons, and the expression generally suggests it’s something you do as a casual hobby, keeping friends and family up to date or chatting with distant colleagues. The bloggers on display here are full-time propagandists, slick, fast and quite despicable.
Much of the book details the offerings of the man called Whale Oil, whose blogs are so persistent and so topical that he’s known as a public figure. Whale Oil understood early that blogging could be the fastest way to spread disinformation and rumour and he saw that electronic communication was not confined by the rules and conventions of traditional media. National’s bloggers have been a jump ahead in adapting to the 21st Century. Hager doesn’t speculate about whether Cameron Slater was why Key won his election, but he was certainly a help.
In contrast to Kim Dotcom’s Moment of Truth in Auckland days before the vote, the bloggers apprehend that death by a thousand cuts – a cliché they repeatedly use – is the more effective way to go. Whale Oil would seize on a topic on a daily, even hourly basis. The content was trivial, irrelevant or false, and it was always malevolent, but in a society inured to the trivialisation of public discourse it kept National’s opponents on the back foot. The Labour Party presently seems to be always batting away misunderstandings and confusions. One of the rules of winning, say the National bloggers, is to never explain. Explaining means you’re losing. Brand Key is comfortable and relaxed. Brand Key’s favourite (printable) putdown is the adolescent “loser”.
Bloggers Are True Face Of National Party
So Brand Key doesn’t talk about policy, and not just because its policies are so bad. Brand Key deals in personalities and innuendo, and from the evidence on display here, Slater deals with policy not at all. Of 40,000 comments made on the Whale Oil site, references to political issues are made only with immediate tactical motives in play. The idea is to target opponents with insult and ridicule. A Hager footnote lists the most frequent epithets “in diminishing order of occurrence: fuck (about 20,000 times), idiot, bullshit, corrupt, homo, prick, cock, hypocrite, liar, cunt, scum, bitch, bludger, wanker, vile and commie”.
This is the language of the National Party at work. The strategy has been for the Leader to be relaxed and comfortable, while his office plays the tunes that Whale Oil conducts. Crusher Collins had to go because, as the bloggers’ main contact in the Government, her name was mentioned online and her personality was shown to be vindictively petty. Ede had to go because he was outed as the Prime Minister’s link to all the filth. Slater liked Collins because he saw her as the most Rightwing of the leading politicians, his purpose in life being to drive NZ further into neo-liberalism. His other campaigns, as evidenced here, have been trapping the Mayor of Auckland in an extra-marital affair, opposing MMP – as, longer term, National has no obvious allies – and supporting the tobacco and liquor industries.
Slater might like helping out boozers and smokers but everything else is abusive and violent. Why spend your life this way? Money is probably just one rewarding part of it, his powerful clients having deep pockets, but the blogging, you feel, fulfils some need. On the evidence here, we learn that Slater’s father was a former National Party President and that he is a Seventh Day Adventist. The blogging circle around Whale Oil present themselves as sharing a habit of hatred and a delight in upsetting people they don’t like. A favourite sign off is Chaos and Mayhem, deployed frequently after a blog about the Labour Party. The undermining of David Cunliffe during the last term of Parliament was given its momentum by Slater, and has been successful to an extent that is, to an outsider, baffling in its ferocity, as all and sundry, including the Labour caucus, joined the attack.
The bloggers are contemptuous of ordinary people, especially if they’re Labour voters from the east of Christchurch with earthquake-wrecked houses. What a bunch of losers. Christian morality apparently demands that the less you are advantaged, the more you are despicable. There’s a sort of good-cop-bad-cop routine going on, as David Farrar, the other well known Nationalist blogger, expresses himself in a more measured tone. This allows him to present himself as a commentator – and allows Slater to despise him as a whimp.
After the election – after every election – two things were said about the two bigger parties: that there is no difference between them, and that Labour is extremely Leftwing. These opposite pieces of folklore can’t both be true, and in fact neither is. Labour was offering policies that were somewhat different from National’s. These lazy formulations allow those who aren’t interested in politics to excuse their apathy. They’re sentiments that the Slaters of the world exploit. An uninformed cynicism, the view that “politician” is a dirty word, suits the interests of the powerful, especially when they’re incumbents.
Key is also very skilled at encouraging us to be bored by it all. He likes to suggest that to offer alternatives to his Government’s policies is to be negative. Never mind that the operation of his dirty politics is nothing but negativity. Media personalities, presented to us as experts, ignore the damning evidence, preferring to tell us that Key’s the sort of bloke with whom you’d want to have a beer. They tell us that Cunliffe, uniquely among parliamentarians, is two-faced, inauthentic. They ignore the evidence that smiling John Key is the person whose office schemes with mates whose view of people who aren’t bending to his will is expressed by all those four letter words. It’s less than statesmanlike.
Key’s Plausible Deniability
Key himself probably doesn’t bother with the details of what his team is doing, just as he usually doesn’t ask about whom the Five Eyes are watching. If he doesn’t know, he doesn’t have to lie. This “deniability” adds another layer of dishonesty and irresponsibility to proceedings. Hager says that while the media as an industry have been dreadful, he doesn’t blame journalists because in a commercially motivated environment they have little choice but to drop their standards. He’s too kind. There’s been almost a total surrender to the filth. One of the worst aspects has been that newspapers have connived with Whale Oil.
The title “Dirty Politics” might be a mistake, inviting as it does the response that they’re all a bunch of rogues, so why bother? It’s always been like that. But it hasn’t. The 1975-84 Muldoon era - the comparison that’s often cited - was based on the personality of a bully, but the abuse wasn’t systemic and the unpleasantness wouldn’t have survived a fall in the polls – or the existence of an investigator of Hager’s stature. The dirt dished these days is different in kind: aimed at entrenching a privileged class, it’s corrupting society itself. Muldoon bluffed and drank; the Key regime is subverting democracy. And now, with Slater’s job done, he gets the Police to raid Hager’s house while he’s out, and remove equipment. The principled and brave defender of decency is the criminal; the creep whose life is based on hacking New Zealand poses as the outraged citizen. The times are sick.
See also Dennis Small’s article “Subverting Democracy: The Dirty Politics Of Media Machinations”, elsewhere in this issue. It quotes extensively from “Dirty Politics”. Ed.
a film by Alister Barry and Abi King-Jones, 2014
- Jeremy Agar
Alister Barry and Abi King-Jones have each made important films, so their collaboration on this project, a look at official New Zealand’s response to climate change, is welcome. They don’t disappoint.
The film starts with the 1990s’ Bolger government, in which Simon Upton was the responsible Minister. Upton is now in Europe, where he is Environmental Director for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, managing what the OECD calls a Green Growth strategy. In other words he’s a sort of poster child for the people who used to be called Blue Greens, Tories who sought to simultaneously promote both environmental and economic goals. The Uptons of the world said we could get richer and cleaner. A nice idea, and in Geneva there are no doubt bureaucrats who still believe it. But in NZ? In the National Party? These are now places where the word “green” has become the prelude to unremitting insult. How near and far is the blue-green vision.
“Hot Air” traces these last 20 years. In common with most of his counterparts around the world Upton wanted to put a price on carbon and, in 1997, when the Kyoto Treaty negotiations began, the Cabinet agreed. A characteristic example of the style was that in the consents for a new power plant in Stratford, trees were to be planted over the years to mop up increased carbon. This was the ethic in the days of “win-win”.
After ten years of haggling Kyoto was signed off, setting a target of a 5% reduction in emissions worldwide. That, a mere wave of a fan at a furnace of greenhouse gases, was never going to be anything like enough, but it was readily achievable. A poll found that 47% of New Zealanders agreed with Kyoto, and 6% opposed it.
No problem then, you’d think. It wasn’t much, but it was at least something to build on, the case for action against a hotter planet being both urgent and essential. For the polluters that was the problem. Only 6% of the population might accept their protestations that without business as usual we’d be reduced to a grovelling poverty but, if the poll was correct, then the number of people who weren’t sure what to think about climate change (42%) almost equalled the number who supported Kyoto. For the climate deniers that was something with which to work.
Kiwi culture has habitually favoured compromise. We’ve inherited a British distaste for making a fuss. Who knows the truth, we ask ourselves. It’s complex. Certainly it’s hot today and we’ve seen a lot more tornadoes than usual but maybe it’s not the climate that’s changing. Maybe it’s just the weather this week.
In the USA, which never accepted Kyoto, the style is often over the top. One example in the film shows a billboard with the Unabomber, a mad killer, saying he agreed that climate change was happening. In NZ, when major corporations like Carter Holt Harvey (CHH) and Fonterra wanted to stymie action against greenhouse gases, the tactic was less overt. They were said to accept the basic science but plead impotence. Don’t pick on us. Let’s wait and see. Not the Yanks. There polluting interests began venting outrageous lies about climate.
We see some of their propagandists, wheeled out to plead delay or denial. Claiming to be “sceptics” – as that sounds they’re motivated by careful doubt – they are in reality prostitutes for the polluters, often lacking even nominal scientific credentials. When they’re not flatly lying, they claim the “evidence” (which is not in doubt with real scientists) is ambiguous; or they propose that “voluntary” actions are to be preferred to any dreaded regulations.
It goes down with the public, who are excused from worrying about distant possibilities, and it’s manna for politicians who don’t want to stick their necks out. John Key, who’s always been a weathervane, changed his mind as the consensus crumbled. National came to propose an indefinite delay in implementing Kyoto and a moratorium on coal extraction (negotiated by the 1999-2008 Clark government) was abandoned. And no trees have yet been planted at the Stratford plant.
The 6% were represented in NZ by former Act Leader Rodney Hide. Always ready to pastiche the paranoid American style, Rodney is seen here in Parliament, giving his considered verdict that talk of a warmer planet is a “hoax”, a “scam”, a “swindle”. Nigel Lawson, Chancellor of the Exchequer for Thatcher in the UK, was brought out to tell NZ that climate change simply wasn’t happening. Of course their mutual mate, former National (and Act) Leader Don Brash, got into the act, but unwisely told Guy Salmon, a blue-green, that his only information came from three professional deniers.
(Big) Business As Usual
The corporate need for retreat - from taking symbolic little steps to marching backwards – was, we’re told, why Jenny Shipley was put up to replace Bolger as National Leader in the 90s. She was apparently seen as more readily biddable by the corporates. This intriguing suggestion might have been elaborated.
CHH declared that taking action along Kyoto lines would lead to a fall in land values, a problem they resolved by selling forests to Graeme Hart, who converted them to dairying. And – even less surprising - Xiaoling Lu, boss of the smelter at Tiwai point, warned that if NZ reduced carbon emissions, Rio Tinto would .., can you guess?... yes, they’d go. Please do it for once.
Not all the politicians come across as deranged. Upton and former Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons seem normal enough, as do the two Labour politicians who feature, Pete Hodgson and David Parker. Hodgson was the Minister in the Clark government when Labour’s rhetoric, emanating from senior minsters, was deceptively soothing, all about how there needed to be a “partnership with business” and a “relationship” with business. Business was happy enough to murmur along with the platitudes, so long as it was just talk.
As eventually it was. The corporate pressure and all the big money wore down the Government. Hodgson says here that trying to do something responsible in his portfolio was the “hardest” thing in his political life. He admits to having failed. It’s hard to see how it could have been otherwise.
One interesting detail, indicative of how few potent allies were available, is Hodgson’s obvious frustration at the failure of environmentalists – let’s call them red-greens - to ally strategically. He says he pleaded with Greenpeace to “cane me harder… leave the bloody whales out of it, beat up on me” for not doing enough. It’s a revealing snippet.
After hysterical opposition from Federated Farmers, Labour’s new approach, the Emissions Trading Scheme, was passed in September 2008. Fitzsimons said the Greens were in a quandary. The Bill was inadequate but it was more than nothing, so they went along. As did John Key, a month out from his election as Prime Minister. That was then.
Prize for the most blatant of all the stupidities on display could go to Don Elder, former Chief Executive Officer of the egregious Solid Energy. When coal was pushing for more and more dirty skies, Elder drew an analogy. Coal is not renewable, he pointed out, so “what is the point”, he asked, “of dying with money in the bank?” Well, yes, of course, if you’re rich and have no obligations, this non sequitur makes sense. Spend up. Dig, baby, dig. But Elder followed with the observation that he was making the case for his fossil fuel as a “sustainable resource”!
In 1990, with the film’s introduction, a National government had committed itself to reducing emissions by 20% over ten years. A generation on, by 2013, after all the hot air over the land and in Parliament, emissions had tripled. It’s a great doco, outlining the problems, showing why policy in NZ is so ill-advised. The link between neo-liberal ideology and a degraded planet is the one big issue of our era, and no-one has demonstrated that more clearly than Alister Barry. He’s a national [small ‘n’] treasure.
Beyond The Free Market
Rebuilding A Just Society In New Zealand
edited by David Cooke, Claire Hill, Pat Baskett & Ruth Irwin, Dunmore Publishing Ltd., Auckland, 2014
- Jeremy Agar
This book is not ideal, possibly because there are 24 contributors, which is a lot. There’s nothing wrong with their expertise or their passion, and they’re all singing from the same song sheet, but the conductor needed a firmer hand. There are four sections. They cover the origins of neo-liberalism, its beliefs, its outcome, and, finally, we’re given a “wider view”. This plan is fine but its execution is uneven.
The introductory essays tend to be repetitive, with several contributors making the same point. Including 25 separate pieces means they tend to be short, a series of introductions; longer on passion than exposition. It might have been better for each writer to stick to his or her area of expertise. Then there would have been fewer adjectives and more analysis.
Neo-liberalism is essentially an economic term, and to appreciate why we’re saddled with it we needed a sharper focus. Thirty years after the Rogernomic shock therapy, most of the targeted readers are aware of its basic tenets, but here we’re given a glimpse of when and how the 1984-90 Labour government behaved, and not why. At this distance the big picture needs to be drawn. If readers aren’t aware of the global crisis within Keynesian* capitalism, and why the Labour Party was captured by corporatocracy, it’s all too easy to think that the betrayals were arbitrary, a lifestyle choice. That makes us mad as hell, but it doesn’t allow us to get even. *John Maynard Keynes (1863 –1946) advocated government spending on public works to stimulate the economy and provide employment. He was the most influential Western economist for several decades after World War 2, until he was supplanted by the neo-liberal monetarists. Ed.
More Analysis Needed
John Minto’s summary of “A History of Our Times” and Nesta Devine’s look at “public choice” ideology serve their purpose, but each is just a three page sketching in of familiar generalities. The contemporary Thatcher and Reagan governments of course get a mention, but the common global forces that were in play aren’t discussed. What is missing, in short, is discussion of how much of the neo-liberal attack on citizens has been arbitrary and how much has been systemic.
That, in turn, would have allowed the last section, the one that matters, about what’s going on now and how to resist and then kill the beast, to offer specifics, helping us to think globally and act locally. As it is, the book stops with two well-chosen topics: climate change and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), the biggest immediate manifestations of neo-liberalism’s threats to wellbeing. Nicky Hager’s introductory chapter offers practical suggestions about how to fight back, but it’s at the start, not the end.
A related difficulty is that in a passage on inequality – a subject that merited a scrutiny that’s missing here – the contributors find it easy to knock over a few superficial arguments that apologists make for the widening gap between rich and poor, but the moralistic tone on display is just the style that smirking Brand Key delights in mocking. From the start of NZ’s colonial history, capitalists have told us that inequality was necessary and good because it allowed sufficient sums to accumulate to allow investment. From the 19th Century Wakefield schemes to the TPPA, it’s been said that small NZ depends on foreign owners just because they’re rich. After two centuries of this, progressive observers need to meet this argument. Neo-liberalism is nasty, yes, we all agree, but it’s more important to say that it’s based on a lie and that it doesn’t work. To be fair, we are shown the lies, but bewailing their effects won’t make them go away.
The summaries of policies are mostly allowed a single chapter, and within the necessarily brief allowances, the topics are explained clearly by people who merit our attention. But here, too, there’s an imbalance, with charter schools being awarded three chapters. This, it seems, is based more on the fact that likely writers came from education than from the needs of a balanced analysis - although it could be said that education deserves a special emphasis because it is a public function where several of the main needs of the neo-liberal revolution intersect, as the contributors do show.
One Serious Misjudgement
Anne-Marie O’Neill, an academic, gives the impression that the attack on public education in NZ has been all at the hands of National governments, while Labour governments have only the welfare of children in mind. During the Lange government’s tenure educationalists would often be seduced by Labour’s practised rhetoric of diversity and choice, but that should not still be the case. In the Lange government education was as Rogernomic an enterprise as any of the overtly financial measures (and in the 1999-2008 Clark era, nothing was reversed. OK, bulk funding was rejected, and class sizes didn’t become huge, but none of the neo-liberal caterwauling was silenced).
As an introduction this book serves well. There are some useful chapters, especially those with a discrete area to investigate, such as Mike Joy’s look at the filthy rivers of NZ and Bill Rosenberg’s take on media (Bill’s book chapter is published elsewhere in this issue. See “News Before Profits”. Ed.). But more experienced readers might feel they’ve heard it all before.
Capital in the 21st Century
by Thomas Piketty, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, 2014
- Jeremy Agar
In Watchdog 136 (“Capitalism Produces Greater & Greater Inequality: Ever Increasing Concentration Of Wealth Among Owners Of Capital”, September 2014, http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/36/06.html) Bryan Gould alerted us to Thomas Piketty’s masterful dissection of the global economy, so I’m not about to give you a repeat. I agree with everything he said, and couldn’t improve on it.
This is just a brief reminder. “Capital” has achieved unprecedented sales for a book of its kind, a pointer to the influence it’s having, both on general readers and policy makers. Because it critiques central tenets of the neo-liberal exercise it’s come under severe scrutiny from the conventional (un)wisdom, but its essential arguments are unscathed. Piketty is important for two other main reasons: because his research has been the most detailed of any that’s available, and because, unlike those of us who come from a clearly Leftist bias, as a pragmatic centrist he can’t be ignored or dismissed with personal abuse.
News Flash! The Rich Get Richer
The key point backs up what Watchdog readers have long known - that the richer you are, the richer you’re going to be. Inequality will inevitably increase. There are lots of reasons why this happens, and Piketty isn’t claiming to be reinventing the wheel. The significance of his work is to show in persuasive detail that this trend will happen without further help from governments. That’s because returns on existing capital will always be greater than increased production in the real economy. If you want to get rich, lucking into unearned assets and inherited wealth will do the trick. Piketty calculates that, long term, what he calls patrimonial capitalists will average about 4% real (i.e. after inflation) annual increases, while inventors, entrepreneurs and – if they’re lucky – workers might get about 1% better off.
The second half of the 20th Century saw a narrowing of the gap between the very rich and everyone else, and it’s been generally supposed that this will (post-Key, post-Abbott, post-Cameron, post-Harper, post-Obama) carry on, trickling down manna from the 1% to the 99%. Piketty finds that, rather than being the start of a benevolent New World Order, the trend to decreased inequality has been an historical aberration, caused by depredations on the mega-rich resulting from two world wars. What we’re seeing now, particularly in all the Anglo-Saxon Five Eyes countries, which seek to accelerate this natural process, is a return to the extremes that marked Europe and America up until 1914.
Policies designed to favour existing asset holders are demonstrably wrong, not really because they’re unfair – always a debatable proposition - but because they’re inefficient. Given the power of the big asset holders, Piketty can’t see an end to the situation. To ease the trend against inequality would take a massive taxation of capital (that would leave the elites still hugely rich) but that is politically unimaginable. As an aim in a nearish future he suggests we could push for a global tax on capital kicking in perhaps at 1% on wealth over $US1.5 million. That would allow the start of a recovery to social and economic health, but even that modest intervention is highly unlikely to be accepted by the elites who control policy.
Don't Spoil My Beautiful Face
Media, Mayhem & Human Rights In The South Pacific
by David Robie, Little Island Press, 2014
- Murray Horton
David Robie was New Zealand’s pre-eminent foreign correspondent for decades, specialising in the South Pacific. His work used to very regularly appear in mainstream papers and magazines (I first became a fan of his by reading his articles in the Press and the Listener). When I first met him he was very much in his foreign correspondent mode, travelling with a New Zealand peace movement delegation to the Philippines to cover a month-long series of conferences and protest activities at the former US bases in that country. His articles on the Philippines subsequently featured prominently in the NZ mainstream media (incidentally, that highly memorable 1988/89 Philippine trip was also the one on which both David and I met our respective wives. Both Del and Becky were involved in the Philippine groups which hosted the New Zealand and Australian peace activists).
Although David had started his journalistic career working for various newspapers in New Zealand and several other countries, at the height of his foreign correspondent fame he was a freelancer. And the ability to earn a living that way all came to a graunching halt with the notorious 1991 Employment Contracts Act, which cut a swathe through the ranks of print journalists (as it did through so many other industries). So, David went overseas for a decade, to teach at universities in Papua New Guinea and Fiji, and reinvented himself as a media academic, still specialising in the South Pacific. He came back to NZ in the early 2000s to work at the Auckland University of Technology’s School of Communication Studies. In his own time he upskilled himself (he’s a workaholic), gaining a PhD and becoming a Professor. He founded and heads AUT’s Pacific Media Centre, which is unique in the country.
Writing Books Since 1980s
And throughout his decades as a journalist and media academic, he has been regularly writing books (as I said, he’s a workaholic). His most famous was “Eyes Of Fire: The Last Voyage Of The Rainbow Warrior”. He was on that Greenpeace ship on its high profile trip around various Pacific nuclear testing-contaminated sites in 1985 and he had left it in Auckland just before French State terrorists bombed it, killing one crew member. Originally published in 1986, that book was reissued as a Memorial Edition in 2005, to mark the 20th anniversary of that State terrorist crime (it was reviewed by Jeremy Agar in Peace Researcher 32, March 2006, http://www.converge.org.nz/abc/pr32-120b.html). Other books either written or edited by David have included “Blood On Their Banner: Nationalist Struggles In The South Pacific (1989; reviewed by me in Foreign Control Watchdog 64, August 1990, http://www.historicalwatchdog.blogspot.co.nz/2009/12/foreign-control-watchdog-august-1990.html); “Tu Galala: Social Change In The Pacific” (1992; reviewed by me in Watchdog 70, August 1992, http://www.historicalwatchdog.blogspot.co.nz/2009/12/foreign-control-watchdog-august-1992.html); and “Nius Bilong Pasifik: Mass Media In The Pacific” (1995; reviewed by me in Watchdog 78, May 1995, http://www.historicalwatchdog.blogspot.co.nz/2009/12/foreign-control-watchdog-may-1995.html). It surprised me to realise that this is the first review of a book by David to appear in Watchdog for nearly 20 years.
“Don’t Spoil My Beautiful Face” (the title comes from a placard, featured on the book’s cover, that David photographed at an anti-nuclear rally in Port Vila, Vanuatu, in 1983) is the written equivalent of a greatest hits album. David describes it as a sequel to both “Blood On Their Banner” and “Tu Galala”. He writes, in his Introduction: “The present book introduces some of the key inspirational ideas and the people who have influenced my journalism, publication and media education directions – from my trans-continental ‘out of Africa’ into Paris-based global news agency journalism and then the Pacific. They involved colonial legacy conflicts, environmental and indigenous struggles, ‘forgotten wars, elusive peace’, ‘Moruroa, mon amour’, and conclude with changing paradigms and contemporary challenges such as conflict-sensitive journalism and inclusive journalism education”.
The book tells an incredible life story (his trans-African journey alone would be enough adventure for most people) and chronicles David’s reporting from neighbouring countries about which the mainstream New Zealand media remain wilfully and shamefully ignorant – countries such as Kanaky, Tahiti, Fiji, Tonga, the Philippines, Bougainville and Timor-Leste, to name a few. Reading it brought back many memories and reminded me just what a turbulent part of the world we live in, one which makes the word “pacific” very ironic indeed. These countries and their peoples struggle with past or present imperialism (very present in the case of France’s Pacific colonies), the aftermath of being used for American and French nuclear testing, war, militarisation, coups, repression, corruption, and are the first in the world to experience the negative effects of manmade climate change.
Journalists Need To Be Part Of The Solution
David concludes the book thus: “Critical deliberative journalism also means a tougher scrutiny of the region’s institutions and dynamics of governance. Answers are needed for the questions: Why, how and what now? Journalists need to become part of the solution rather than part of the problem”?” Exactly. And David Robie has always been the epitome of the critical deliberative journalist (for example, see his “The Invasion Of Iraq - And How The Media War Was Won And Lost. Half Truths And Media Spin: Whom Do You Believe?” in Peace Researcher 27, August 2003, http://www.converge.org.nz/abc/pr27-77.htm). For decades he has been an active supporter of the work of both CAFCA and the Anti-Bases Campaign (ABC) – he and Del came on ABC’s 1990 Touching The Bases Tour through both the North and South Islands; much more recently he has invited CAFCA’s Bill Rosenberg to speak to his Auckland students about who owns NZ’s media; and he has invited me to speak to them on several occasions. Most recently I was there in May 2014 as part of my national speaking tour (my report on that tour is elsewhere in this issue). Whenever I’m in our biggest city I stay with David and Del, their Grey Lynn house is my Auckland home away from home. David is both a colleague and a very good friend. As a journalist and media academic he has no equal in his field, one in which he has excelled for many decades. His latest book is a timely reminder of that. He is definitely part of the solution.