Monday, January 4, 2010

ZenTiger I read the news today, oh boy

Danyl, at The DimPost offers an enticing conspiracy theory for us this holiday season: On the matter of the Sunday Star Times uncovering a story about a beneficiary taking the government to court because his benefit was not enough to purchase a particular pair of new shoes ($140) and a nice jersey ($49.95):

I’m not sure, but I suspect this story was bought to the attention of the SST by Paula Bennett’s office as part of the Ministers ongoing propaganda war against the welfare system. More overt was this pre-Christmas story by Colin Espiner about the extensive benefits received by a Christchurch family.

Update: And a third story emerges. Is Paula Bennett's office doing overtime or are assistant editors staging a revolution whilst their bosses are on holiday?

Danyl notes: The other big problem with the welfare-bludger stories is the lack of balance. and on this I agree, and perhaps as much for the principle as the detail. I said on his blog:

Gee, if only journalists could think for themselves and come up with balanced, impartial stories or perspectives within the story instead of being played for the fools you implicitly suggest they are…

It seems to me that the newspapers are geared to take and reprint stories without necessarily spending the time and effort (cost) to dig deeper and find more balance. So it becomes easier to prime the media with stories that support a particular point of view if the media are predisposed to that point of view in the first place. So where Danyl sees the hand of Bennett in this story, others will notice other connections in other stories, and they are easy to find.

Stories on Climate Change overwhelmingly favour the environmentalists spin, and individual stories often lack balance. I recall a few stories on "rising sea levels" that can be explained more rationally as sediment pile up, or coral reef destruction causing subsidence.

Is liberal morality is another of the media's pet themes? Looking in the paper today, I see a story on why unfaithful marriages are good, and recall a few days ago some researcher said casual sex was great.

Are these examples of a biased media? I think so, in that the articles themselves are pretty one dimensional and do little to explore alternative view points. The "casual sex is great" story for example was presented as conclusions that reflected perspective: 8% of the people they asked said they engage in casual sex and it has no negative side effects. Conclusion: 100% of the people would be better off adopting the same behaviour. How stupid. Surely, it at most indicates that if 8% of the population engage in casual sex, it might be because it suits their particular mental profile. The 55% reporting a monogamous relationship might actually be happier in that relationship, according to their mental profile and values. Also, the researcher airily brushed off a question about why men reported far more casual sex than women in the survey - because they are prone to lying and exaggeration! So we are told to trust the 8% finding, but assume men lie and discount the data when the question turns the other way?

Back to Beneficiary Bashing: Maybe Paula Bennett released this information, maybe she didn't need to. Is it strictly about beneficiary bashing though? There is a mood in the population that they are sick of unethical behaviour - the expense accounts of MP's have been under scrutiny, then the accommodation allowances. There are cases of beneficiaries ripping off the tax payer, and there are stories running of high rolling financiers, such as Hanover Finance who are rich enough to pay lawyers to sue Hells Pizza, but too poor to pay investors more than a few cents in the dollar. All of these stories might be reflecting a perspective in the media that some-one ha to pay for all this financial insecurity they have been reporting on over the last year. As they move their rifle scope over each new target, the public reacts. The outrage is palpable, and some of us wonder if the final target is actually going to be the ones most responsible for our anger.

In other news, Helen Clark received a merit award for the nine years of guiding New Zealand further down the OECD; Obama received a Nobel Prize and AIG received a 200 billion dollar bailout from the Democrats. True, I read the news today, oh boy.

(Beatles - A day in the life)

4 comment(s):

Andrei said...

I think Danyl is right - its not a conspiracy theory.

Indeed the lead up to Christmas has seen open season on beneficiaries - there are some, probably the vast majority who are in dire circumstances - I know for example of a woman in her fifties who has breast cancer and has been undergoing the most unpleasant treatment for the past year - and she has nothing diddly. Her life savings eroded after a series of misfortunes culminating in Cancer.

And at the end of it all if she recovers who will employ her?

These stories provide red meat for those who lack Christian Charity and compassion in my view.

In a better world, we wouldn't have a welfare system at all but since we need to have one it would be better handled by the Church locally than a centralized bureaucracy and where requirements could be met on the basis of need rather than a "artificial intelligence" style check list.

Life in a fallen world sigh

ZenTiger said...

I'm not sure it is Paula Bennett leaking the story - that is the bit I refer to as a conspiracy theory, one that could easily be true.

I agree with you and Danyl regarding the imbalance in reporting of stories where benefits are well deserved:

Danyl notes: The other big problem with the welfare-bludger stories is the lack of balance. and on this I agree, and perhaps as much for the principle as the detail.

There is a chance though that some people, like myself, do not begrudge the benefit to people that need the help. That still allows us to be annoyed at obvious cases of welfare abuse.

Probably deviating from the point of my post - that the media will publish most stories without attempting to put in a balancing perspective, providing it suits their pre-disposition.

Perhaps even now, Tapu Misa is writing the counter articles to these stories and we will see the media claiming that a dramatic over-swing in the other direction makes for balance?

Psycho Milt said...

I'm certainly not chalking up the third instance to Paula Bennett - the enormous billboard was probably enough of a tip-off...

ZenTiger said...

But who inserted the mind control drugs and the hypnotic suggestion to put up the billboard? Answer me that then, smartypants.

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