Hiding In Your Cupboard

Hiding In Your Cupboard
Banksy's desecration of the Palestinian wall

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

One step for mankind and oh bugger a step backwards

Click the title above for the Timesonline story.

One overlooked story from the US election is California's decision to ban gay marriage. Proposition 8, which stated that marriage is the union only of a man and a woman, was voted on at the same time as the presidential election. Anti-gay marriage supporters won the vote 52.1 - 47.9. It is the first time gay marriage has been banned retro-actively.

It is shameful that on a day when discrimination and those who wish to discriminate took a slap in the face, this backwards step has been taken. What right do those people who voted "no" have to impinge on a person's life in such a manner.

The discrimination of homosexuals is no different to discrimination of any other groups. Opponents may argue dubiously that being gay is a choice. Whether it is a choice or not, a person should not be discriminated against because of any choice they make - provided they are harming no one directly.

Offending narrow-minded people's sensibilities is not reason enough.

Barack Obama - a leader to believe in?

So America now has that rare thing. A leader that inspires people to be better, a phenomenom that draws huge crowds of supporters eager to make good in the world. The last time America had a president like that he was assasinated. Lets hope the same fate does not befall Obama. Footage of McCain supporters calling Obama a terrorist is easy to find and the new president may be considered a target by the far right.

It is also important not to get carried away. The World's problems are not insolvable but they are large and increasing. When Obama talks about change he is addressing the whole world not just American citizens. Across the world people hope that a changed America will solve all our problems.

It won't, it will help, but one man and one concept will not make fundemental change overnight. If there is one lesson to be learnt from the last one hundred years, it is that the World should take responsibility for its own problems and not rely on the shepherding of Superpowers.

The USA's power is waning in the bright sunlight of China and India's economic growth. The USA can no longer hope to provide a moral compass for such powerful nations, they must do this themselves. Human rights abuses in China and the Middle East and abject poverty in many areas of India are things that also must be changed.

Barack Obama cannot be expected to bring about change in these sovereign countries, but we can hope that a new spirit of governance from the USA may seep into the conscience of others and make the planet a better place to live in.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

A key moment

John Key was in relaxed mood after this Sunday's episode of Campaign 08. He took off his tie and enjoyed a couple of beers with the show's panel journalists, even though he has a strictly enforced 11pm curfew.

He was a different man, in this media-centric situation, to the man I met briefly over a year ago. He has either been well trained or learnt to relax. There were even a few jokes that people laughed at. Although, I wonder how much of this was to do with journalists wanting to be on the right side of a man who may be the next Prime Minister.

As he drank his bottle of Corona someone asked why he wasn't drinking a New Zealand beer. Fortunately for John there was only Steinlager in the fridge. Even politicians shouldn't have to drink Steinlager.

On the wide-screen, and we are at Sky TV so it's a mammoth widescreen, Barack Obama's waving and grinning face hogs the corner of our eyes. Key notices the placards that Obama supporters wave no longer read "a change you can believe in" but "the change we need". He points his PR guy, Kevin, towards this and says "maybe we should change ours"...

It's hard to tell whether his tongue is in his cheek.

Key left in good time for his 11pm bed-time.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Alternative Maps of the World

Click on the title for a fascinating way of analysing the planet. These maps have been made in proportion to certain criteria. For instance the first map you see shows the world through the lens of the amount of books published. Consequently the UK looks like it is suffering from a rare form of giganticism - its nearly bigger than the USA and Canada.

The image above shows the most popular destinations for refugees. It clearly expounds the myth that countries like the UK are being overrun by asylum seekers. Most refugees, according to this map, cross national borders - not continents.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Debate over Sharia Courts in Britain shows internet's ability to spread hate

Click on the above title to read a story from the UK's Times newspaper about the use of Muslim Sharia law in the UK. Then read the comments; largely from denizens of the USA, but also, to my shame, from citizens of the UK.

I will copy a few examples:

Unbelievable! When do we get the first beheadings of Christians daring to hold a service in Bradford or any of those other Islamic areas Its time the politicians started looking at what is happening in this country, sorry they are too busy wallowing at their expenses trough in Westminster.

John Dykes, Pontypool, Wales UK

Insanity and disgusting. Are we going to see woman stoned to death in the street for having an affair like they do in Iran? In Iran they hanged to 19 year old lads because they were gay. There was a picture of it on the internet, they were hanged off two JCB diggers! Considering joining BNP!
Peter Duffy, Glasgow, Scotland

The only good thing that will come out of this, apart from the amputation of the limbs of proven thieves and the death sentence for murderers and traitors, will be the rise in support for the BNP. Out of bad comes good my mummy used to say.
Peter C. Lucas, Torquay, England

The crusades lasted 20 some years and where the desperate response after more rthat 400 years of aggressions by the Muslims, we need another crusade.
juan, Brownsvile, USA

Islam is not a "Religion of Peace" -- nor is it even a Religion -- it is a POLITICAL SYSTEM! This is a start of a Very Slippery Slope..... Adios, amigos.
Abigail, Tampa, FL, U.S.A

The people who have left these comments clearly have an inability to read. The story refers to a part of UK law which allows alternative arbitration for disputes if both parties are in agreement, the results are legally binding. They do not apply to criminal law, only civil law, and Jewish Beth Din courts have operated in a similar fashion in the UK for more than a 100 years. I don't see the UK being overrun by hordes of barbaric Rabbi.

The comments here, and of course there is no way for me to know their true origin, have a flavour of what I imagine hatred of the Jews was like in the first half of this century (or throughout history).

Ill-informed and exaggerated stupidity and hatred coupled with threats to vote for a racist, violent party (the BNP) are a sign the love of different cultures that many in the UK hold dear is being threatened. These comments are from an ignorant bunch of reactionaries too lazy to get out of their IKEA-clad box flats and walk down the street to talk with neighbours who are just that bit different..

Don't be appalled by their difference - be interested, it's what makes the world go round.

This is not to say the idea and concept should be without debate. I am against courts set up in the name of religion - religion should be a personal value not an arm of the state. However, I am prepared to argue the point without the use of such racist, ignorant language - instead using the time honoured tradition of logical argument and debate.

I also find it strange that, although these courts are for civil disputes, cases of domestic abuse have been heard. I thought this was a criminal offence and should therefore be heard before a criminal court. I am also concerned about the treatment of women in such a court - we cannot allow inequality between the sexes in our legal system.

So - I am fine with these courts with two recommendations. Firstly that they are not used for criminal cases only for dispute arbitration and secondly that the UK's equality laws hold sway over decisions.

There, I managed to say it without calling a single muslim a barbarian or calling for a new crusade - how clever of me.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Read all about it! What can be done to make the internet trustworthy...

Click on the title for a BBC news story about Tim Berners-Lee's ideas for making the internet more trustworthy.

His proposal for a foundation to vet internet sites is a good idea but I wonder about the sheer volume of sites and the amount of work this would create. I fear the creation of a bureaucratic monolith that slows down innovation on the web.

Important questions about who would control such a foundation and how it should be funded need to be answered. Would the process be thorough? Or would the sheer volume of internet sites mean that those setting up a website would have to jump through a few hoops to gain creditation? Who monitors a site's ongoing work - would a site need to be checked on a yearly basis and what could a divisive, race-hate site get away with inbetween being checked?

Berners-Lee is absolutely right in his assertion that the internet needs to be verifiable for it to succeed in the longer run as a reliable resource. However, I imagine that at some point newspapers would have been thought of with a similar level of distrust. On the whole, we trust our Western newspapers these days, despite the quality of some of their coverage of events in the Middle East and other controversial issues, and this is because their brand has been built up over a long period of time and is now considered trustworthy.

This trust is not based on any code of ethics that journalists share, or legislation that punishes journalists who lie or attack maliciously, it is branding pure and simple. No one buys The Sunday Times in the UK and trusts it because of the good work of the Press Council. They trust it because it is the Sunday Times and has been around for years.

Established newspapers know that it is suicide to break that trust and go to huge lengths to make sure they appear consistent (anyone who has spent any time designing a newspaper will know how painstaking the process can be to ensure that pages and copy are accurate and consistent). There is also a culture within most professional journalists that promotes honesty, bad apples are usually syphoned out (I accept that there are instances of unethical journalists though).

For the internet, I see the branding as being a cinch. It has only been in widespread use for ten to twelve years yet we already have sites such as Google that we, wrongly or rightly, trust. Websites are cottoning on that trust is essential for them to survive - the moment, and a moment is a long time in cyberworld, people start to distrust the Google search engine is the moment Google the company hits economic decline. What is needed now is a culture of professionalism amongst bloggers and the like to ensure that trust isn't broken.

At the moment this is where the internet fails, not enough people take it seriously. It's ok to break the rules on the internet because it is only the internet. New frontiers are often lawless and it's because the ethics for these frontiers are not understood yet - no one knows the consequences of cheating or no one thinks they will get found out. How many rogue cowboys were arrested and tried in Wild West?

The internet may develop in an instant but the ethical constructs of mankind evolve at a much slower rate.

You only have to look at the attitude of Auckland City councillor Aaron Bhatnagar, who has admitted writing detrimentally about other candidates on their Wikipedia sites, to see this problem in a real life situation. He claims what he wrote was true but by using the pseudonym "Barzini" (a psycopath from the Godfather novel) he was clearly trying to hide his identity and in doing so he must have known that what he was doing was not really top of the ethical billboard.

He was quoted in the New Zealand Herald as saying:

"Anyone can make a comment on Wikipedia and if someone doesn't like something that they see it is very easy to change it. I think it is all a bit of a storm in a tea cup."

Mr Bhatnagar, that is a very arrogant statement. What you have done is tantamount to electoral fraud in my opinion, it is certainly not in the spirit of fair play. I wonder if the people of Hobson would have voted for you had they known of your underhand tactics?

I imagine that Bhatnagar would shy away from such electioneering in more tangible form, his actions are borne of a misunderstanding of the internet's power and the ethics that surround it.

Once the ethics are more understood, more ingrained into our society, I think the internet will become a more trustworthy resource of its own accord.

Click on link below for Bhatnagar's story.


Saturday, 13 September 2008

Creationism vs Evolution

I was going to write a post about, what I consider, the blinkered, head in the sand concept of creationism and then stumbled upon this article in the Sunday Times which pretty much says it all..

Click on the blog title.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

A criticism of Fisk

Fisk's suspicion of the internet is perhaps understandable; he is an old school journalist that has been much maligned by cyber critics.

However, there is a generation of young journalists who do not all share the same distrust. Fisk may be right that newspapers still have the only authority, but this ignores a growing wave of online media that although in its infancy will some day command the same respect.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

More on Robert Fisk


More Robert Fisk video footage can be found by clicking on the title of this blog entry.

Some thoughts on Robert Fisk's talk:

The man holds a remarkable amount of history and information about the middle east in his head. When the US or UK government attempt to hoodwink their citizens into condoning war in Iraq, they often do this on spurious grounds. This does not get past Fisk because of his immense knowledge of the area; unfortunately this does not hold true for most people.

I wonder how many people know that invading Iraq has been a favourite pastime of the West since the time of the crusades? Or that many of today's problems in the Middle East are due to way this area was carved up after the First and Second World Wars?

Fisk brought up two interesting analogies. The first came from Colin Powell's, now infamous, speech about weapons of mass destruction to the UN Security Council. What the cameras didn't show was the graphic behind Powell, an image of an Iraqi making chemical weapons in a train.

Fisk argues the Iraqi rail system is so shonky, as a result of economic sanctions, and trains are so liable to come off the tracks, that the last place anyone would make volatile chemical weapons is on a train.

He asked the US authorities, who had control of the rail system, whether they found any weapons of mass destruction.

"No," they replied, but they thought that prior to invasion the chemical weapons had been rushed over the border to Syria or Jordan (memory fails me here).

It took Fisk to point out that there was no train line from Iraq to Syria or Jordan.

Again, knowledge that the average person does not have and will not know if the mainstream media continues to be lazy in reporting this conflict.

The second analogy that interested me was a comparison between ancient crusader castles and US army bases.

Apparently, Crusader castles were built one days march from each other so that the crusaders were not left exposed to attacks from Arab assassins.

American military bases are spaced exactly one hours cherokee ride from each other so they can avoid being attacked by suicide bombers.

The comparison is chilling; especially when you take a look at a photo of the US's imposing Baghdad embassy.
Not too disimilar to an imposing castle?
I wonder how much contact the US army gets with the Iraqi citizens sitting in this monolith.
Facts about this embassy are available at:
Apply for a job in Baghdad at the US embassy here:

John Key spins out of control with Barack Obama comment

Excessive spinning leads to dizziness, and John Key certainly placed himself at a dizzy height this week when comparing himself to Barack Obama.

Was his comment published in a Financial Times profile the work of the National Party’s spin machine Crosby-Textor, or a slip of the tongue by an inexperienced politician?

The Labour Party nearly choked on their tongues in mirth, but it was a mirth misplaced. John Key wasn’t directly comparing himself to Obama.

He was clumsily trying to explain away the Financial Times suggestion that he would be the most inexperienced politician to lead New Zealand in more than 100 years.

Any party leader would like a slice of Obama pie at the moment; the US democratic candidate is riding high on the back of his policy of change and commands a stadium-sized audience of devotees.

He is the new rock star of politics. John Key is just new.

The question we have to ask about this fiasco is whether John Key is a puppet of his public relations company, or just green. To be fair to Key, he is right in saying Wellington hasn’t jaded him yet.

Like Obama, his career has been largely outside politics and like Obama he is offering change to the people of New Zealand. But what sort of change?

Crosby-Textor has done an excellent job with brand Key, but at some point we need to see some concrete policies.

Labour has tried various attacks on Key. First he was slippery, a politician who would go back on his word given the slightest opportunity.

But then it emerged that Key was far too wooden to be slippery. Now Key has a secret agenda.

According to the media he is going to turn into an evil dictator as soon as he gets into power and sit laughing at us from his pedestal in the Beehive.

“Mwah, hah, hah, there goes your precious KiwiBank!” he’ll mock.

Either that or senior National politicians love to talk more than gossiping grandmas in a tea room.

Spin is no laughing matter though. It has real effects on a nation’s politics and is very expensive to do properly. Companies like Crosby-Textor do not come cheap.

The advent of spin has seen a system of politics, in the Western world at least, that relies too heavily on image.

Policies are the last thing on a politician’s mind these days; a killer sound-bite and a witty one-liner to put down your opponent are more important.

Spin has turned parts of the media from an independent communicator to a ventriloquist’s dummy.

A political campaign dies its death or thrives on the pages of the newspapers and the screens of televisions.

Much better to see elections fought on the streets with well informed citizens able to hold their leaders to account on tangible matters rather than the ephemeral whirr of the spin machine.
Illustration: Sally Connor

Robert Fisk at AUT

A video of Robert Fisk, one of the World's leading journalists and middle east correspondent for the Independent newspaper.

Fisk is known for his outspoken views on the state of journalism, which he believes supports oppression and is a strong critic of American foreign policy in the Middle East.

Click on the title for Fisk's writing.

Katie Llanos-Small wrote this article for the Pacific Media Centre at AUT University:


More on Fisk later.

Low Alcohol Beer

Low alcohol beer is becoming worryingly popular. For christ's sake if you don't want to get drunk drink water or a juice.

I wonder whether low alcohol beer can be considered a gateway beer for other stronger beers such as Heineken Cold Filter at 3.3%.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Published in Singapore!

I have been published in Singapore - how novel!

Click on the link to see the story...

Sunday, 31 August 2008

UK's International Shame

The International Express (alongside the International Guardian) is one of the few UK newspapers readily available in New Zealand and should be a source of shame for expats living here.

Published weekly with a selection of the Express and Sunday Express's 'best' stories, the paper is aimed squarely at expats. Some strange breed of jingoistic expat that left the UK because it was getting too full of darkies - if the front page is to believed.

Not a week goes by without the International Express making us English out to be a bunch of racist twats. This week the front page headline reads something like "1,650 immigrants move to the UK each day as more real British people leave'. Never have I seen a newspaper so fond of using arbitrary statistics to beat up news stories.

So... to the International Express - bugger off home where you belong.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Ethnicity - It don't matter if you're white or black

AUT University recently hosted a media diversity forum hosting talkers from programmes such as Tagata Pasifika and Asia Downunder among others.

The event was interesting and there was some positive outlooks for the future of minority culture programming as well as some more gloomy moments.

It seems that budgets are being slashed just as attitudes are changing. Taualeo'o Stephen Stehlin, of Tagata Pasifika, said there had been a "marketing change" at TVNZ and suddenly Pacific Island faces are everywhere.

In the real world though these programmes struggle on very tight budgets in very poor time slots. Tagata Pasifika is broadcast when the majority of its audience are asleep or at church and Asia Downunder gets shunted to tomorrow if there is a rugby match worth watching (or even not worth watching) on.

The producers of both programmes spoke of being under pressure from TVNZ to increase viewers, to run less positive stories and bizarrely to make sure their content wasn't "too worthy".

Programmes such as these need more support and more editorial control. Journalists are supposed to tell the stories of people who do not have a voice and the stories of the Asian and Pacific Island community are rarely told in mainstream media unless one has robbed and murdered the other.

This is akin to reporting on a general election but only writing stories about Labour's successes or National's failings. It is cock-eyed and short-sighted and ignores the needs of the viewing public.


A second point to make. Stop using the word 'ethnic'. It drives me nuts.

'We were eating out at an ethnic restaurant.'

'He wore ethnic clothes.'

To some people that food isn't ethnic it is just food. And the clothes... well a pair of trousers is always a pair of trousers.

Just because something is different to your culture doesn't mean it should attain the alien status of 'ethnic'.

The word is divisive - we should all stop being so astounded at our differences and instead take a convivial interest in them.

From paper to pixels

By James Murray August 22, 2008

As news moves online, print is forced to evolve. Jamie Melbourne-Hayward and James Murray investigate how this will affect the industry and the way we use news. Illustration by Jamie Melbourne-Hayward, additional reporting by Carly Tawhiao.

“Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

-Dylan Thomas

The newspaper is under threat. The newsprint has been on the wall since the spread of high-speed broadband and the decision by several UK papers to break news on their websites first in 2006. The media industry is at a tipping point and must evolve to survive.

Just recently APN, which owns the New Zealand Herald, announced an annual drop in advertising revenue of about eight to 10 per cent. A result of the recent credit crunch, perhaps, but across the pond in the USA, where new media is far more prevalent, newspapers are losing money hand over fist. For example, the Capital Times in Wisconsin is no longer a hard copy paper at all. In April this year the presses stopped and now the paper publishes exclusively online.

The only places where newspaper advertising revenue is increasing are emerging economies such as India and China. Advertising revenue on the internet is rapidly increasing. In the UK, internet advertising is poised to overtake TV advertising and will make up one fifth of the total revenue from advertising by the end of the year.

It’s ironic that a medium which was used to advertise hard copy newspapers is now replacing it. The Wisconsin Capital Times now issues a free-sheet twice a week that acts as an advert for the website.

So should the newspaper ‘rage’ against this death or are we actually seeing a reincarnation? Should newspapers go ‘gentle into that good night’ or bite back and move with the times?

Democracy is about knowledgeable citizens making informed decisions for the greater good of mankind. Power within democracies is supposed to be watched over by the fourth estate: the media. However, citizens can start to lose faith in the integrity of their media if they perceive it becoming the fourth branch of government or a vehicle of business interests.

In countries where human rights are in question, information is often biased by a polarised media. State run papers such as the the China Daily, which faces daily censorship are a good example.
People are increasingly turning to the internet to find what is seen as unfiltered information.

Newspapers have previously been complacent about the digital revolution, with an over reliance on reader loyalty to their brands. But recently the internet is proving a catalyst for the reinvigoration of newsprint.
Many UK newspapers have changed their format to a tabloid, and moved to a magazine look.

News was once dispensed in a ‘top-down’ format, where Murdoch-style management and editors decided upon content and direction. Now citizen journalism, blogging and discussion boards have become popular avenues for a population disconnected from the “national debate”.People can dictate which content they are interested in, and are able to access varying viewpoints and “twitter” to their hearts delight.

The Independent in London has picked up on this trend and is now unafraid to break the taboo of printing opinion on its front page. It has successfully rebranded itself as a ‘viewspaper’ with its most popular content coming from columnists such as Robert Fisk. But the digital revolution has not improved the content of newspapers entirely for the good.

Newspapers are being drawn into television sensationalism, and dependence upon flashy news cycles to sell copies. The 24-hour news cycle has also been duplicated online, with stories breaking as they would on television, but with more immediacy. This could have an affect on the accuracy and depth of stories.

So, should newspapers die? On the one hand, the increase of “an open market place of ideas”, which the internet provides, is liberating to democracy. But does that freedom come at a cost?
Journalists are no longer just answerable to the letters page and there is a value in having a wider dialogue between the public and the media.

However, the freedom of the internet also allows the spread of bigotry and hatred: blogs and comment should be taken with a grain of salt – along with everything else for that matter.

While western newspapers service a wide-enough spectrum of views, the same cannot be said for Latin America, Africa and Asia. Citizen journalism in these parts is sometimes the only available balanced coverage - and investigative journalism occurs only online.

As more funds enter the internet-news market, a flow on to investigative journalism is needed. Furthermore, journalists are trained to be fair and balanced. As objectivity is only an ideal, the internet’s draw card is its ability to bring together opposing views from around the world, and allow them to be debated in the electronic halls of democracy.

What are the consequences for the world if newspapers disappear altogether or, at the very least, can only survive if targeting a niche market?
Leading US journalist John S Carroll believes the national conversation has already changed.

“Millions of people who previously had been excluded have now been allowed to join in. Whoever saw it coming? This is a First Amendment miracle,” he said in a lecture at the University of Kentucky this April.

He is referring to bloggers and the proliferation of opinion on the internet. But the gathering and dissemination of news is still largely done by traditional reporters who either work for newspapers or websites that are affiliated to newspapers.

According to professor of journalism Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine, a blog which analyses the progress and role of new media, traditional media networks such as newspapers or television stations now have to operate differently to survive.

“Networks were defined by control of content or distribution. But now, you can’t own all distribution and content is controlled where it’s created. So, I wonder, where’s the value and where’s the money in the fully networked world?”

Jarvis suggests that the way ahead is for media companies to aggregate content. A good example of this would be Yahoo Xtra.
Yahoo Xtra makes very little content itself. Instead it bundles news and entertainment sourced from other content providers in a way that is attractive to advertisers.
John Hagel, a US expert on the internet’s effect on business, agrees:

“The most powerful brands in the media business will be held by successful intermediaries that help to consistently improve return on attention for audiences.”

If there is more money to be made from simply aggregating news, the incentive to gather it decreases. The Catch 22 occurs when news aggregators realise profit depends on poorly paid content providers. For this system to work, an effective way of sharing advertising revenue through link networks needs to be devised – if news aggregators are too greedy their content supply will dry up.

If the media’s future lies in aggregating the most popular blogs and websites in attractive bundles the balanced viewpoint is going to struggle to be heard. The controversial will always get more hits than the accurate.

The danger to our ‘national conversation’ is our own thirst for sensationalism. Our national commentators will effectively be those we vote for with our mouse.

Barack Obama is all style and no substance. As are the Beijing Olympics.

Click on the story title to go to Te Waha Nui website - AUT students

By James Murray August 22, 2008 Post a comment

On your mark get set.

On your mark...get set... (Illustration: Sally Conor)

Winning is at the top of everyone’s agenda these days – winning with style and not necessarily substance.

The opening ceremony at the Olympics celebrated style over substance when event organisers chose aesthetics over reality. A little girl who couldn’t sing became an overnight superstar, miming in the place of another little girl who could sing delightfully but didn’t match up in the beauty stakes.

And superstars are the theme of this year’s ‘presidential’ elections. In the US the front runner is Barack Obama, a man who says little more than “America is ready for change” to a country passionate for change of any kind.
Obama may well bring change in America and it may well be change for the good, but it is the style of US election campaigns that grates: all fist-pumping razzamatazz and very little in the way of policy.

In New Zealand you could be forgiven for thinking we are going to elect a figurehead rather than a political party to run this country, especially if you are a member of our supposedly ignorant and apathetic youth.
According to the Electoral Commission, 107,500 of 18 to 24-year-olds are not enrolled to vote in this year’s election. It is clear young people are turned off by this cult of personality.

Clark, Key and Peters dominate the political hurdles, falling over each other in their Olympian efforts to get the media high-ground in the run-up to the election.
Where are the rest of our politicians and why are the issues being discussed so narrow? An outsider might mistakenly believe that the only things New Zealanders care about are taxes and the cost of living.
This presidential style of campaigning lets the electorate down. It is the fault of a lazy media and political spin machines that prefer to focus on personalities rather than issues such as domestic violence and a lack of affordable housing.

The focus must be less on personality and more on character; a politician of good character should never put their ego before their country.

The opportunity to improve China’s human rights record has been lost at the Olympic games.
Several athletes, such as the UK basketball player and Olympic ambassador for Amnesty International John Amaechi, spoke out before the games about the possibility of protests in light of China’s human rights record.

Amnesty International proudly announced that 40 competing athletes had signed a letter condemning China’s human rights record. Fair play to those athletes and take note that they have been able to compete at these games without hindrance.

However, there are 10,700 athletes at these games so 40 dissenters is a disappointing number.
It is a shame that many athletes are now toeing the party line that the Olympics is not the right arena for political protest or that politics and sport do not mix.

These statements are simply not true – sporting sanctions against South Africa’s apartheid system, notably anti-Springbok tour protesters in New Zealand, ably assisted the downfall of that cruel regime.

The brave actions of senior members of the Zimbabwe cricket squad, who wore black armbands mourning the death of democracy during the 2003 World Cup held in Africa, alerted a whole nation to the villainy of Robert Mugabe.

It is foolish to tar all of China with the same brush and short-sighted not to acknowledge the way in which it is slowly giving its citizens the rights they deserve.

But as long as human rights are not being satisfactorily met in China there is room for protest and this protest should have been visible on the biggest stage of all.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Romeo And Juliet and Showgirls - every English rugby players favourite haunt

Click on title for related story.

It’s not every day the missus suggests ogling Oceania’s finest from a shadowy corner of Showgirls. But then again it’s not every day that I take her to the ballet. It seemed a fair exchange.

Strip clubs usually fill me with a clammy fear. As if my mother and a whole procession of former teachers will see me enter and reveal me to be drunken pervert.

Walking in with your girlfriend though alleviates that problem; suddenly having some platinum blonde’s derriere waft in front of my face is pretty cool. Hell, it may even be socially acceptable, it’s probably something I can mention to my grandmother at Christmas nowadays.

I am here for the dancing I remind myself. A purely cerebral affair I note, as a leering buffoon steps drunkenly on my foot.

The cheering, star-crossed, morons inside Showgirls resembled Shakespeare’s ‘groundlings’ (Elizabethan peasants in the cheap-seats who came for Shakespeare’s more comic moments), especially self-confessed regular, city boy Dave who urged the crowd to “big it up for Showgirls”.

It was quite a different crowd at the New Zealand Ballet’s production of Romeo and Juliet at the EDGE Theatre, though in some ways no more engaging. A well-spoken lady unfairly berated the usher for letting in a couple of latecomers during the opening fight scene. Really madam, was your view that impinged?

The first act was nearly as exciting as Oceania contender Nicki’s flaming shaving foam trick. A pint-sized Mercutio snaps, crackles and pops his way across the stage, an engaging mix of arrogance, coquetry and tragic fool. Romeo is a wistful, hormone-filled, flirt – primed to fall passionately in love with the first girl that grabs his attention.

Romeo and Juliet is about doom and pre-destined fate. Tracy Grant Lord’s set portrays this excellently. Dark greys and blood reds are lit by a portentous moon which looms like the sword of Damocles over the stage.

Meanwhile back at Showgirls, Kylie takes the stage. Her dance is a homage to Baywatch, complete with shower scene. Despite struggling with her life saving ring and banging into her surfboard she is so far the hot favourite for the opportunity to represent New Zealand in the finals in Australia.

And then there is a break. The showgirls break sees two of the clubs exotic dancers take the stage offering gartered legs to money waving blokes. Incidentally, my lemonade cost four bucks and my change came in the form of a dollar note only to be used for tipping strippers.

The interval at the Edge is a more sophisticated affair, if of course you like the theatre tradition of queuing fifteen minutes for a drink that you then have to consume in two minutes. I can’t stress my dislike of intervals enough – they break the magic.

A disgruntled boyfriend sneaks outside for a cigarette telling a mate on his cell phone that it’s “not his cup of tea.” A woman in the toilet queue complains that the beginning was too “fighty”.
There are several scenes that really work in this production of Romeo and Juliet. The ‘fight’ scenes are excellent as is the dance where Romeo first meets Juliet – the high point of Prokofiev’s foreboding score.

Mercutio is portrayed with just the right measures of loyal friend and pompous fool. His dancing duels with the bullying Tybalt are full of Baz Luhrmann and the fights of martial arts legends.
Other scenes are slightly awkward. When Romeo and Juliet are married in secret the priest joins in their dance in a disturbing triumvirate that just looks and feels plain wrong.

The tragic ending is rushed and consequently the pathos is not sufficiently eeked out. I want to be an emotional wreck at the end of Romeo and Juliet – instead I went to the supermarket.

There was no such problem with the ending of Showgirls. Malaina, who had rushed from a job as a naked human platter to be the night’s final contestant, paraded down the stage as a sexy secretary. She actually had a sense of eroticism and won hands down, or knickers down as they say round here.

Romeo and Juliet is about passion over-riding the brain and Miss Oceania is about lust doing the same thing – it really just depends which is your cup of tea.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Tsvangirai's actions are humane not cowardly

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been criticised in some quarters for not having the guts to carry on in the struggle for power in Zimbabwe.

It is exactly this decision that contrasts him from despots such as Mugabe. His respect for humanity and human life distinguishes him from leaders for whom power is everything.

He may not be fighting fire with fire but he is fighting fire with compassion and diplomacy.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Political Shennanigans etc

The news story I am waffling on about here can be seen by clicking on the title.

I am not sure whether it is reason to be happy or reason to be deeply depressed that we live in a world where a politician will appear as a breakdancing dwarf to curry favour.

Rodney Hide, the leader of ACT: a relatively small right of centre NZ political party, has apparently appeared on a celebrity "who can dance" style show. It clearly hadn't helped as he swivelled awkwardly, flapping his arms like a horny amphibian.

He danced with the social grace and timing of your mother-in-law at a wedding.

I'm genuinely torn. On the one hand it's good to see a politician actually involving himself with something. Better that than churning out politspeak at a rate of knots.

But on the other, the cause he was fighting for was just naff.

Hide was trying to make the point that education funding should go to the child rather than to schools. That way all our children can go to drama school and rehearse pantomimes while they dream of becoming the next Britney "too many beers' Spears.

Is this everyone's dream Hide.

I hope not.

Perhaps other politicians could take a leaf out of Hide's unorthodox book though...

Mugabe could promote his party by appearing in a stage version of the Last King Of Scotland

Gordon Brown could tour the UK in a campervan hoping nobody will notice he isn't at work.

John Key could do a sponsored stint in the history section at Auckland library

That Green party guy with dreads could (and perhaps should) have a televised haircut

Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton could see how much money they can possibly spend promoting themselves when they could have stayed at home farting into tea cups for free.

McCain could do a documentary on a chip factory.

Any other offers are welcome..


WEST PAPUA: Media confusion reigns over ‘non military strikes’

Asia-Pacific Journalism, 12 June 2008

Disputed reports of military sweeps in West Papua have cast a spotlight on the Indonesian government’s restrictions on media in the area, reports James Murray.

A month-long military sweep of villages in the Jayawijaya region of West Papua may have targeted civilians in its search for “separatist symbols” according to the Cenderawasih Post in Jayapura.

However, confusion about the sweep – which apparently never happened - has highlighted the need for greater media access in the Indonesian-ruled province.

Maire Leadbeater, of the Indonesian Human Rights Committee, says there is doubt surrounding the accuracy of the story.

She cites a report from Catholic Justice and Peace (SKP) that suggests Suara Papua Merdeka (SPM), a Papuan media outlet that translates as the Voice of Papuan Independence, got the story wrong.

According to SKP, the police and military became involved due to a village conflict over a stolen pig.

Although there was a military raid on the thief’s family and extended family it seems nobody was killed.

Misleading stories like this only serve to highlight the Indonesian government’s media restrictions in West Papua, says Leadbeater.

“If they would open up West Papua and it was easier for people to communicate freely we perhaps would not get these misleading stories,” she says.

The executive secretary of the umbrella human rights group FOKER, Septer Manufandu, echoed these sentiments.

He said journalists “must clarify the truth” when writing stories about West Papua as much “news” from the province was propaganda.

He said the Cenderawasih Post was government-backed. The report seemed surprising considering that many people would regard such a military strike as poor public relations for the Indonesian government.

Manufandu, who recently visited New Zealand, regards Pax Christi and local news agencies such as Jubi as reliable sources.

FOKER is an umbrella organisation that co-ordinates 64 non-governmental organisations in West Papua and campaigns for human rights and development strategies that involve the indigenous population.

The confusion does not lie only with those fighting for West Papuan rights and independence. Even the Indonesian Embassy seemed confused by events.

When asked about the “military sweeps”, Tri Purnajaya, First Secretary of the Indonesian Embassy, said he did not know how extensive they were but assumed they were quite moderate.

He added there had been “some arrests” and those who been arrested were awaiting sentence.
He said “Indonesia adopts a liberal press. In fact – the most liberal in the region. The government guarantees freedom of expression throughout Indonesia including Papua.”
However, in a commentary published in the latest Pacific Journalism Review, Leadbeater disputed this claim.

“While Indonesia keeps this troubled province off limits to foreign journalists and human rights investigators, Indonesia’s human rights credibility should be critically examined,” wrote Leadbeater.

This is despite Indonesia being re-elected in 2007 to the United Nations Human Rights Council for a three-year term.

According to Leadbeater, only a handful of journalists have been allowed access to West Papua.
In 2007, two United Nations rapporteurs, Hina Jilani and Manfred Nowak, were granted access.
Both rapporteurs raised concerns regarding military and police harassment, arbitrary detention, torture and persecution of those who sought to investigate human rights investigations.

In the same year, BBC correspondent Lucy Williamson reported on extreme poverty and allegations of human rights abuses after being granted a permit to report on the opening of an independent radio network in the Papuan central highlands.

According to Leadbeater, the only stories that seemed to gain government support were small human interest stories. The United Nations and BBC journalists had inadvertently caused a tightening of media control:

“Some Papuans believe that access may have tightened up since the BBC visit.”

Lindsay Murdoch, of the Melbourne Age, also believes Indonesia’s record on media freedom is below par.

When asked about the amount of media coverage of immigration issues in West Papua, Murdoch replied:

“Disgraceful, virtually non-existent. Jakarta's refusal to allow journalists free access to Papa is one of the main reasons. Also, Jakarta comes down hard on any foreign NGOs which expose human rights abuses or issues like the Islamisation of Papua.”

Media coverage of West Papua is also scant in neighbouring Papua New Guinea’s press.
Patrick Matbob wrote in Pacific Journalism Review that “there had been a dramatic decline in the Papua New Guinea press coverage of West Papua over the past 20 years”.

This lack of coverage is linked to a general decline in the PNG media, specifically now that the PNG media now relies heavily on official sources.

Matbob’s news content analysis of the Times of PNG and the Post-Courier revealed that in 1984 there were 133 news stories published on West Papua. By 2006 this number had declined to 70, with many of the stories included in the “briefs” sections.

PNG media coverage is especially relevant to West Papua as more than 10,000 Papuan refugees live there.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

West Papuans Forge Alliance To Push For Independence

Click on title for link!

Asia Pacific Journalism, 8 May 2008

Groups seeking independence for West Papua have in the past been divided. Now, reports James Murray, unity is the buzzword and activists have joined forces.

West Papuans hoping for wrest independence have taken an important step with the formation of a coalition designed to unify the country’s resistance to Indonesian rule.

The West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL) was set up after a meeting held in Port Vila, Vanuatu, last month.

Richard Yoweni of the National Liberation Army of West Papua was elected as chairman.

The coalition allows the West Papuan people to protect and reclaim its resources and culture said coalition spokesperson Clemens Runawery.

“Indonesian government control over West Papua for the past 45 years and the implementation of its so-called ‘special autonomy’ package in the past five years has grossly failed the West Papuan people,” he said.

Runawery is a West Papuan politician who has lived in exile since the so-called Act of Free Choice handed control of West Papua to Indonesia in 1969.

He said that under the Indonesian administration there has been a “rapid deterioration of health and education, an ever increasing wave of the HIV/AIDS disease and huge profiteering from the West Papuan natural resources and rainforests”.

The WPNCL will be based at the West Papuan People’s Representative office in Port Vila.
Maire Leadbeater, spokesperson for New Zealand’s Indonesian Human Rights Committee, said Vanuatu’s support was vital as it was hard for the coalition to meet freely in West Papua.

Leadbeater was not surprised at Vanuatu’s stance.

“They had to struggle to achieve their own freedom so it’s not just the government, it’s the people as well – they pray for it [West Papuan independence] in their churches. If the Vanuatu government backslides it faces a lot of domestic pressure,” she said.

This view was shared by Pacific-based photojournalist Ben Bohane.

“Vanuatu was the only Pacific nation to join the non-aligned movement during the Cold War and has maintained an independent foreign policy since then,” he said.

Vanuatu’s support for West Papua and the formation of the WPNCL is the first step in presenting a strong, unified Melanesian position to Pacific Island regional bodies.

Bohane says it is important for West Papua to gain the support of regional bodies for the issue to be dealt with by the United Nations.

Runawery says: “WPNCL is now seeking observer status with the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Pacific Islands Forum as a platform for the people of West Papua within the UN and other international forums.”

Groups such as the Melanesian Spearhead Group will benefit from this unity when the West Papua issue is brought up at the Pacific Island Forum. The forum does not necessarily support West Papuan independence.

“Since the issue has been ‘swept under the tapa mat’ by the forum for so long, we have to say that the forum is not neutral but anti-West Papua. This has been because of pressure from Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea to keep it off the agenda,” says Bohane.
The WPNCL also protests against the international investment of companies with extensive interests in the resource rich area such as BP in Tangguh and Freeport, which operates the Grasberg copper mine.

Bohane says “having considerable resources has been a curse, not a blessing for the West Papuans”.

“BP, like every other mining company, is exploiting the situation there, particularly if they are relying on Indonesian military for security,” he says.

BP’s liquefied natural gas project in Tangguh may eventually be worth $100 billion dollars and the Grasberg copper mine is one of the world’s largest sources of precious metals contributing heavily to Freeport’s estimated worth of $26 billion.

Guardian journalist John Vidal writes that Papuan leaders were pleased with BP’s initial humanitarian efforts. The company was keen to avoid the experiences of extraction companies in Africa and South America where they have been accused of exploiting local communities.

“BP completely rebuilt one fishing village, poured money into the nearby communities, and employed leading environment, human rights and health groups to advise them on how to avoid conflict and bring prosperity to the villages,” wrote Vidal.

However, relations have started to turn sour with indigenous Papuans becoming frustrated at the number of Indonesian immigrants taking jobs in the area - jobs that have not been offered to West Papuans. They also accuse BP of taking sides with the Indonesian government to ensure that they have access to the Tangguh resources.

Protests by the Free West Papua (UK) group have been lodged at BP’s Tangguh Independent Advisory Panel (TIAP) meeting. They claim that BP has ignored abuses of human rights including the long-term imprisonment of West Papuans accused of raising the indigenous Morning Star flag.

They say Indonesian soldiers had threatened to shoot a Papuan who had erected a banner saying “Welcome Prince Andrew to the land of Papua – the Land of Genocide” during the prince’s recent visit as the UK business envoy.

Tapol, the Indonesian Human Rights Campaign, has written to BP to warn that they have caused instability in the region. They say Papuans “see them as a collaborator with Jakarta’s exploitation of West Papua’s natural resources”.

Runawery said the role of companies such as BP had been “disastrous” and was causing Papuans to become a minority in their own country. The investment of BP and Freeport had “effectively underwritten the occupation of West Papua by the Indonesian security forces”.

“The expansion of Indonesian government backed businesses and economic interests is at the expense of the people of West Papua,” said Runawery, in a reference to tight military controls, a lack of political freedom and the abuse of human rights.

Considering the large financial incentive that the Indonesian government has to keep control of West Papua it may be some time before their dream of independence is realised.

Bohane believes West Papua will be independent at some point but that it will take time.
The formation of the WPNCL was certainly a step in the right direction though.

“It is hard to be optimistic. However, it is a significant development to have the realisation of a unified command and leadership under WPNCL which will give the independence movement a better chance of success in its international diplomacy,” he said.

The first moves of this unified command will be to get West Papua on the UN Decolonisation Committee and to seek to repeal the Act of Free Choice.

James Murray is a Graduate Diploma in Journalism student at AUT University and this is an Asia-Pacific Journalism assignment.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Auckland graffiti artists operate in legal grey area

Auckland graffiti artists are operating in a legal grey area as there is a lack of legal places to practice their craft.

“There are nowhere near enough!” said graffiti artist Pest5 of TMD crew.

TMD crew are one of Auckland’s most successful graffiti art groups. Artists come from as far away as Germany and members such as Askew have exhibited work in Europe, Australia and Japan.

“Usually a particular artist or artists will have acquired permission from the property owner,” said Pest5.

In Auckland legal street art is actually an oxymoron as there are no officially designated sites.

However, police in Wellington have taken a different approach to dealing with taggers.

Sara Tamati, aka Spexone, is a member of the Triple S crew in Wellington.

She said that the police there often refer young people, who have been caught tagging, to the Triple S crew to learn more about the writing culture.

In Auckland, suitable sites are few and far between and artists have to queue up to use them.

Pieces can only be painted over once they have been defaced by “a stupid young tagger”.

In other situations graffiti artists will use a site that has been tagged several times. A site is deemed safe to paint over once it has been covered in tags.

This practice is still technically illegal as permission has not been granted but police can turn a blind eye to graffiti artists when they are painting over a heavily tagged wall.

“It depends on the moods of the cops that day. If you’re doing a proper piece over existing graffiti they can see that you’re not causing any trouble and let you get on with it,” said Pest5.

Graffiti Enforcement Officer for Auckland City Police, Reginald Alofa, said that he was aware that “’proper graffiti artists’” were different to taggers.

“They see it as a real art form and that they do in fact commit quite a bit of resources into it in terms of their time, the purchases of paint and brush not to mention spray cans and all other neccessary 'tools of the trade'. They are quite passionate about it and seem to draw a lot of enjoyment from it,” he said.

He did not know of any cases where officers had been “blasé” towards people causing wilful damage though.

“It's always important to charge taggers (and I do) to send a clear message out to them that we do not tolerate wilful damage, in line with the Government's renewed commitment to combating graffiti,” he said.

Tamati does not believe that taggers should always be viewed negatively and said that the distinction between ‘real’ graffiti artists and taggers is often a misconception.

There is a hierarchy in the writing element and taggers are at the bottom of this, learning the basics.

“There is no school to go and do this, you start off as a tagger and try and enhance yourself,” she said.

Writing (graffiti) is an integral part of hip-hop culture, which also includes b-boying (breakdancing), djing and rapping.

“Within our writing culture we find young people with the potential to grow within the culture and mentor them in the process that we know.

“Most of the young people we work with end up doing some good work,” she said.

This attitude has proved successful for the Triple S Crew who between them run three successful businesses including Top Shelf Creative, a clothing and design venture.

The crew have also been commissioned by Save the Children to create murals which pass on knowledge in a way that is accessible and understood by young people.

The mural at Cannons Creek Primary School in Cannons Creek, Porirua reads “Passing on the Knowledge” and Tamati says it reflects the crew’s aims in “passing on our hip hop knowledge artistically through to young people”.

Creative New Zealand was unaware of any similar schemes in the Auckland area.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Browning it

It all looks a bit tits up for Gordon Brown as he continues to obfuscate his way from one problem to the next. Even Peter Mandelson is having a go at him with the fervour of the bullied child for once getting his own back.

UK politics has become increasingly bizarre over the past few weeks. Prescott is the world's least successful bulemic, Blair is accused of over long massages with Carole Caplin, Peter Mandelson is calling for a return to core policies. Have they all gone senile?

David Cameron of course continues to be a shining example of complete buffoonery as he divides his time between changing nappies on his webcam and out running limousines on his BMX. He has now invited ITN to film him and his family at home. Yes we get it David, you are family friendly, so family friendly that every family can only hope for a Cameron of our own. So we can be all traditional and modern at once.

In fact I think I might make that the point of this rather rambling blog entry.

Politicians are caught, like Borodin's mule between the modern and the traditional. The advantages of being seen to be either are so great that they want both and will literally rip themselves in two to achieve this.

Poor little David - on the one hand he wants to be traditional but by god does he want to be traditional in a hip and modern way. If we lived three million years into the future Cameron would simply turn himself into Jamie Oliver and have done with it. That would be Cameron's wet dream.

Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone face much the same problem. Boris wanders around like an old, drunken fart insulting all who cross his path - but doesn't he do it in such a charmingly new way. Its almost as if Boris comes from a future where feelings have been eradicated and replaced with befuddled wit.

Livingstone with his five children by three women lurches around the inner-city like an uneducated, teenage, council estate sperm machine but appears to not give a hoot. Five kids by three women is quite the modern way - in the most traditional of senses of course.

Blair combined wooly headed, ex head boy, now minor university guitar strumming rebel fantasist, with charming statesman of the world who is unafraid to get an 'overly long' massage from his power-wifes crystal ball weilding faith healer with such success that we voted for him over and over again. He combined modern with traditional superbly - he knew exactly what a blackberry was but had no idea how to use it. He knew exactly where the Middle East was but had no idea what to do with it - a very contemporary idea indeed.

Margaret Beckett combined the look of the modern career woman with seventeenth century dentistry.

Peter Mandelson was gay but suitably embarassed about it - once again the modern and the traditional in perfect harmony.

Helen Clark is both a lesbian and not a lesbian at the same time. As is her husband.

Which brings us back to Brown whose basic failing is he wants us to think of him as New Labour when he is really old labour wishing he was New Labour, so he can stop all the lying. He wants to bring back union power so he can diminsh it once more so he can feel guilty about it and then get that eating disorder that he is so jealous of - if only he had thought of it first.

Apologies for the rambly stupid nature of this post - am trying to get over writers block.


Thursday, 10 April 2008

The Man Who Sold The War

An interesting article that Jon Stephenson of TV3 suggested as good reading material for those interested in the media operation behind the war in Iraq. Click on the title.

Also found a strange tit bit of Iraqi war news that may not have come to people's attention.

At some point during the war the the US provided their soldiers with a deck of cards that had the 55 most wanted Iraqi dissedents as pictures on it.

Quite apart from this being a very surreal way of managing a war it is also fairly convenient (and perhaps the basis of a very good conspiracy theory) that the number of dissidents exactly matched the amount of cards in a deck.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Prince Harry In Helmland Hoo-ha

On January 7 the Australian women’s magazine New Idea blew the lid off a press agreement that had allowed Prince Harry to tour Afghanistan as a working soldier. The entire UK media had agreed to a Prince Harry moratorium in exchange for unprecedented access to the prince once his tour had finished.

The press moratorium on Prince Harry’s posting in Afghanistan was not unusual. These arrangements are not uncommon and not necessarily unethical. There are many situations in which it is necessary for the press to remain silent to preserve peoples’ safety.

For instance, the travels of politicians are routinely reported after the journey has been undertaken and specific bomb scares are never reported.

What is unethical about the situation is the very nature of the deal and the style of the reporting. It was disappointing that the leading lights of the UK media were so eager to get their hands on a blatant PR exercise in return for their silence and even more disappointing to see them happily regurgitate spoon-fed, government-friendly journalism.

Max Clifford, a man who really should know about PR exercises, described the tour as a “very calculated PR exercise.”

One Press Association journalist was allowed access to the soldier prince and once the story was leaked by the Drudge Report no time was wasted in releasing the prized coverage as 10,490 words of copy and over 200 pictures hit the desks of editors across the UK.

The story dominated the press. There were eleven pages devoted to Harry in the Daily Mail and Daily Express, nine in The Sun and six in the Daily Telegraph. We learnt about Harry’s breakfast routine, his baseball cap and even his toilet arrangements.

The picture spreads were heavily stylised. We had Harry posing in various military guises; striding purposefully towards us like Tom Cruise in Top Gun. As the Independent wrote, Helmland was receiving the “Hello! Treatment”.

The same editors then rushed to wildly praise Harry for his heroism and his change in character.
“Here’s To You Harry The Brave” toasted the Daily Mirror – a paper that usually relishes the sight of Harry dressed as a Nazi or stumbling out of an over-priced West End meat market.

It was journalistic fodder – the bad boy turned good story that they were all hoping for so they could eventually write the bad boy turned good then went bad again reprise.

A self-congratulatory pat on the back could be heard echoing down Fleet Street as the papers applauded their morality in keeping the prince’s whereabouts a secret.

There are three main areas in which this moratorium could be considered unethical.

Firstly, the moratorium would undermine public trust in the press. As Jon Snow said, “one wonders whether viewers, readers and listeners will ever want to trust the media again.”
This argument seems a hard one to fully support though.

The Independent, which has been critical of the press coverage of Harry in Helmland, said:

“In the case of Prince Harry, the alternative to agreeing to play ball was to break the story in advance, thus preventing Harry's deployment, or break it when he was there, so adding to the risk he was already taking. It requires a considerable egotism to place one's tuppenny scruples as a journalist ahead of the safety of British troops.”

A decent enough sentiment but as Joyce McMillan of The Scotsman writes this leaves the press open to accusations of hypocrisy.

“I am seeking to demonstrate that once we start suppressing news stories for any reason, however apparently sensible or compassionate, we stand at the top of a very slippery slope, and that a media industry which, in recent years, has rarely hesitated to wreck the lives of hapless ordinary people or vulnerable celebrities whose stories interest the public, can hardly expect to win many brownie points for keeping quiet in the case of a young prince desperate to prove his manhood on active service.”

It is also interesting to note that the continuing war in Afghanistan has been under-reported. It takes the arrival of Prince Harry and a PR exercise designed to legitimise our presence there to get it in the newspapers at all.

Secondly, as Afghanistan veteran Leo Doherty writes, the gung-ho reporting on Harry’s tour serves to perpetuate a myth that the war in Helmland is a “just war fit for heroes”.

Doherty believes that the army depends on such images of heroism and sacrifice to legitimise its operations. When a soldier dies in action it is insensitive to belittle the very cause of his death:

“This graveside reasoning goes roughly like this: ‘He loved his job and the Army; he was an honourable man; therefore his death can only be honourable and worthwhile.’”

This psychology allows soldiers to “come to terms with the deaths of their colleagues without calling into question the fundamental reason for such deaths.”

The fresh faces keep on turning up at Sandhurst for officer training.

If the media is all too happy to jump on the vainglorious bandwagon of war with the triumphant imagery of Harry the hero this myth can only be perpetuated. Only a rigorous media, unwilling to compromise with the state, can point out what Doherty describes as “the unpleasant truth”.
The willingness of the media to be used as a tool for propaganda is the final way in which the reporting on Prince Harry was unethical.

Ever since the original Gulf War in 2003, war has become a television spectacle. Journalists were embedded with coalition forces and were able to provide captivating images for their audiences.
The imagery may have been spectacular but the scope of the journalism was narrow. There was plenty of action but little insight.

As Anup Shah at http://www.globalissues.org/ writes, embedded journalists were only granted this access in return for sympathetic reporting towards the war.

“For the military however, it (embedded journalists) provided a means to control what large audiences would see, to some extent. Independent journalists would be looked upon more suspiciously. In a way embedded journalists were unwittingly making a decision to be biased in their reporting, in favour of the Coalition troops. If an embedded journalist was to report unfavourably on coalition forces they were accompanying they would not get any co-operation.”

The access granted to a single Press Association journalist by the Ministry of Defence was a particularly obvious example of this. The bargain went as such; you trade in your journalistic ethics to expose “the unpleasant truth” in return for some really cracking pictures that will sell lots of your papers. Anyone who didn’t want to join in would miss out, a terrifying prospect for editors operating in the oligopolistic UK media market.

Consequently, the majority of the UK press did just that and we were presented with what amounted to a massive advert for the war in Afghanistan.

Ironically, Prince Harry didn’t seem that enamoured with the efforts of the Ministry of Defence and the UK press to bolster his image when he said "I generally don't like England that much... it's nice to be away from all the press and the papers and all the general shite that they write."

No propaganda machine can counter foot-in-mouth expertise like that.

Max Clifford Quote: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/harrys-war-the-ugly-truth-790316.html

“Hello! From Helmland quote”, information on the Press Associations copy and pictures, Jon Snow Quote and Harry’s “shite” quote: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/the-peoples-prince-with-harry-in-afghanistan-dog-of-war-or-pr-pawn-790323.html
The Daily Mirror
Joyce McMillan:
Leo Doherty:http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/harrys-war-the-ugly-truth-790316.html
Anup Shah – http://www.globalissues.org/

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Journalists in bunfight

So this is the next piece of work I have had published. On the PAcific Media Centre's Global Watch website...

Some of the defamatory comments that I wanted to add were edited out by my tutor David Robie.

Click the title ay.


Wednesday, 19 March 2008

An interesting story about Spitzer - click here

Greg Palast is a great journalist and this is quite an interesting story.

It's intriguing how the media are used to create stories like this. Is it our fault we are obsessed with illicit sex rings (or for that matter Britney's cunt, Prince Charles's desire to be a tampon or Janet Jackson's slippery nipples), something to do with human nature or are media organisations being manipulated in other ways?

Has the media become so obsessed with sex that governments can routinely cover up real atrocities with sexual ones?

I wonder if their is a sexual saturation point at which every story in the newspaper is about sex in some way. Even the sports pages just showing pictures of footballers kissing eachother. And if that happens will governments be able to run riot. Will Rupoert Murdoch be forced to wander around in nothing but a corporate condom (there must be some good side to all of this)?


Monday, 17 March 2008

Strange editorial from the BBC

Click on the title above to see the story.

Normally when the BBC do these Vox pops they publish a few different opinions. Here we have three identical opinions on the independence struggles in Tibet.

I can't decide whether the BBC is trying to paint China as a monolithic, mono-idea brainwasher (which i suppose you could argue it is... if you had a very simplistic view of the world), doesn't like Tibet or is trying to flog the Chinese Fawlty Towers.

Selling Fawlty Towers to the Chinese could in theory raise enough money to abolish the licence fee. So there is an incentive.

This story is also the fourth most viewed page on the site.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

My site is being overrun by perverts and Boyzone fans

I just added some software that tells me what people typed in to search engines to find my blog.

So far - Ronan Keating is in the lead

Next is - crotch grabbing photos (???)

and then countless searches along the lines of Thai prostitute, thai massage parlour and so on.

What a revolutionary tool the internet is! You spend ages writing a blog hoping that people enjoy your writing and they are only reading it in the hope that I will divulge the best place to get sucked off in Bangkok or whether Ronan really is an arse-faced tosser with a voice like a hoover thats sucked up a choir boy.

Good night


Monday, 10 March 2008

Catholic Church Raises the bar

So the Catholic Church has revamped the Seven Deadly sins - to fit in with a modern world. They are now:

Environmental pollution
Genetic manipulation
Accumulating excessive wealth
Inflicting poverty
Drug trafficking and consumption
Morally debatable experiments
Violation of fundamental rights of human nature

Great. I will no longer burn in the fires of hell once I die. These mortal sins are surely harder to acheive than the previous set....


which were worryingly easy to fall for. Unless of course they are running side by side and greed is somehow equated with a "violation of the fundemental rights of human nature". Kids who have eaten one too many bowls of ice cream will be next in the queue to Pol Pot and the like under this system.

Its also nice to see the Catholic Church conecerned about Human Rights and the obscenely wealthy. Black pot looking for similarly shaded kettle springs to mind.


A few thoughts...


Cracking Iannucci story about the difference in rhetoric between US and UK politicians. Its seems he shares my view that Obama has become the pied piper of politics and that no woman with a haircut like Clinton's should be allowed control of a can of hairspray let alone the United States of America.

Also noticed that the Mirror is running a campaign to stop underage drinking. Someting like help the Mirror "'Can' Underage boozing". Made me wonder whether you could consider the newspaper crusade as a news value in itself. Other examples include the Daily Mail's "what is the world coming to" campaign which attempted to whip the nation into a fervour of jingoistic wooly-headedness with stories, ney lies, about immigrants being given Rolls Royces and handjobs from the Royal Family once they had rowed up the channel tunnel cunningly disguised in coats made of Euros.

At any rate it pisses me off when newspapers take on these campaigns. They are either making a general assumption that everyone in the country is thinking much the same thing and then having the arrogance to believe that their extravagant headline will actually make a difference. Or they are cynically trying to sell newspapers with cheap issues rather than making the effort to actually go out and investigate news.

"Slow news day - lets try and get everyone to bash a Paki. Or swear at a granny."

The other silly UK news trend, which to be fair has been going on for quite a while now, is to have small bits of editorial appear in speech bubbles launched like vacuous crack pipes from the chemically swollen lips of page three girls. Things such as "Tricia thinks its great London has got the Olympics but worries about where the dosh is coming from"... or "Jamie Oliver may be cute to look at on the telly box but Michelle just can't help but have her heart melt like a gooey chocolate fondant when she see him slobbering all over those fat kids"... they go a bit like that anyway.

Whats the point of this? Well... its just a basic insult to everyone involved's intelligence.

Good night


Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Te Waha Nui Online - AUT

Te Waha Nui Online - AUT

Te Waha Nui is the student paper we write at AUT. It's literal translation is "Big Mouth" and isn't a reference to the hardcore pornography on page three.

If you click on the title above (which through the magic of the internet is also a hyperlink) you will go to my first New Zealand published story. As you will see I have been studying to become a journalist for about a fortnight and I am already writing stories that are slightly biased towards Rupert Murdoch.


Monday, 3 March 2008


A new piece of software known as Wikiscanner, developed by the California Institute of Technology, has revealed the site to be “the province of the covert lobby” according to Sunday Times columnist Oliver Kamm.

The big bad boys of the corporate underworld, Dow Chemicals, AstraZeneca and Exxon Mobil to name but a few, may have been editing their own entries to show themselves in a more flattering light.

AstraZeneca have deleted references to the suicidal side-effects of its anti-depressant Seroquel, Exxon Mobil has altered passages explaining their failure to pay more than $5 billion dollars (US) in compensation to Alaskan fishermen affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill and Dow Chemicals have mysteriously deleted a paragraph referring to the Bohpal chemical disaster of 1984.

Perhaps more worryingly the CIA has also been at it - reportedly guilty of inserting “Wyaaaah!” after every mention of the Iranian President.

The cynicism is astounding; it’s akin to scribbling on the Dead Sea Scrolls and changing Jesus’s name to Kevin.

Have columnists such as Kamm who believes we should “jeer at its (Wikipedia’s) pretensions“, in their haste to condemn Wikipedia, somewhat missed the point of the website itself.

What’s your view on the Wikipedia issue? An unbiased opinion based on a careful summation of both sides of the story no doubt. A considered viewpoint that takes into account all available information and concludes with an original insight. Honestly?

Or have you been spouting something you read elsewhere? Perhaps even from Wikipedia itself. Jimmy Wales, a founder of Wikipedia, claims to love Wikiscanner saying it “brings an additional level of transparency to what’s going on at Wikipedia”. This despite the fact that it has brought to the fore Wikipedia’s main frailty - namely that is completely unchecked and can be edited by anybody. Wales, though, has been quoted as saying that it is only through transparency that Wikipedia will achieve quality.

Recent moves by Wikipedia have served to improve the reliability of information on the site. Although it is only in a trial format, the new software that only allows trusted editors to immediately edit Wikipedia pages will certainly help matters. A user can become a trusted editor by submitting suggestions for changes to articles to other trusted editors. Once a user has posted enough reliable entries they will gain the status of trusted editor. If too many of their entries from here on in are disputed they lose their status. This system is tied closely to the ethics of traditional journalism and should quieten the doubters.

The success of Wikipedia seems bound up with a very modern definition of truth; an epistemology of consensus rather than hard facts. The pursuit of knowledge has never taken a straight path, its history is littered with avenues of thought that led nowhere, wrong turns and journeys no doubt of ingenious imbecility. We remember the path that went forward, the Galileo’s and the Einstein’s but we forget those who for one reason or another decided to postulate that the Earth was a cube or that light travelled on wheels. Wikipedia works on this principle, if enough people edit an article it will eventually become accurate. Until now the process has been vulnerable to information sharks such as Exxon but those corporations that have been caught with their online pants down this week will certainly think twice about doctoring their entries from now on.

Kamm’s and the rest of the traditional media’s criticisms of Wikipedia seem to harbour a certain paranoia. They seem to dislike the public’s trust of this young pretender, who is potentially ousting them from their seat of arbiters of all relevant information. The criticism they lay at the feet of Wikipedia, that it is nothing more than a bunch of amateurish opinions, is rather ironic as it is an accusation that could be leveled at many newspapers or television stations in the world. Across the board it seems that comment and opinion is taking the place of good honest reportage.

From bolshy, one-sided television journalists, the rants of tabloid newspapers and the increasingly large comments sections of the broadsheets to the rampant parturition of websites such as You Tube that allow even those of us who don’t have a column in the Herald to voice our opinion, unbiased news coverage is a Sleeping Beauty awaiting its kiss.

Whatever happened to surveying the facts and coming up with our own thoughts? It seems certain that there is a complete distrust of statistics et al and this is not surprising seeing as our governments and some sections of our media couldn’t be trusted with a plastic spoon let alone a dossier of war secrets or a DNA database. One almost had pity on Tony Blair when he childishly cried out about the media being a feral beast. The Prime Minister should be big and ugly enough to take the criticism, the satire and the downright dumb spat at him from various media sources, but he does have a point when it comes to the sensationalization of the media.

No longer can we have the story “Cat Rescued By Fireman From Tree” it must be “Terrorist Cat in Daring Rescue Mission By Underpaid Fireman in Tree Funded By The National Lottery - Where Will It End!”

Perhaps journalists are bored. The less discriminate of us seem to fire off ill informed opinions like a senile major with a blunderbuss. Maybe we just can’t face the mundanity of the world we live in and try to exaggerate. This doesn’t seem to add up though - the current world, whether
you like it or not is a very exciting place to live, as long as you don’t necessarily combine exciting with pleasurable. It seems more likely to be the product of our beloved market forces pushing their noses in where they are not needed. What sells newspapers or advertising space? Scandal and gossip. With a media that is all outraged bark and corporate muzzle this won’t change unless we stop falling for it.

The irony of the traditional media sneering at Wikipedia’s shortcomings is blindingly evident. However, Wikipedia must embrace the ethics of traditional journalism if it is to achieve its aim of becoming a reliable source of information. Using the trusted editors system is a good step in the right direction.

Rather than jeering at Wikipedia’s pretensions - I shall be sticking my tongue out at the pretensions of Kamm and his cronies. A brief trawl through Wikipedia reveals the slightly anal nature of the average poster and the lengths that most posters go to reference their articles, lengths that reveal a passion for honesty that escapes companies such as Exxon. Wikipedia must aspire to a higher set of ethics than corporations; at the same time though, as a uniquely democratic arbiter of information it must be allowed to thrive.


Song and dance making has long been a core subject for the average MP but a whole Opera seems to have been composed in relation to Hone Harawira’s unscheduled trip to the Northern Territories. NZ First MP, Ron Marks, has led the criticisms accusing Mr. Harawira of “going AWOL” and questioning his actions in Parliament.

If only more politicians were like Hone. The trip to Victoria to discuss election finance law and victim’s rights seemed to be something of a junket; the National Party certainly thought so and pulled out. This was more an opportunity for cocktail sipping and ego stroking, especially for members of opposition parties who have very little say at these Committees. This is patently not an arena that Hone, to use his own vernacular, is stuffed about and unlike many politicians before him he actually went to the heart of the matter.

How much can politicians learn about victim’s rights in a conference room staring at a biscuit?

Isn’t Mr Harawira correct in going to the victims themselves? With his visit to the Aboriginal communities he has increased awareness and understanding of a group of victims and a social issue more used to being swept under the carpet than receiving national media coverage.

Harawira’s forthright style has the media sitting up and begging for a story or a sound-bite. The media loves it when a politician speaks his mind; Harawira knows this and plays it to his advantage. Ably protected in Parliament by the shrewd Dr Sharples - Harawira has made a name for himself, bought an issue close to his heart a huge amount of press and made some other Mps look a little less macho in comparison.

This story is really a microcosm of what is wrong with a lot of the developed world’s politics. Hone Harawira only stands out because he is a rarity - a politician who speaks his mind and follows up his words with actions. The public are surely tiring of the hamstrung politician too scared to say what he thinks in case he gets told off by his party. The World needs politicians that aren’t afraid of actually doing something rather than hiding behind a veil of statistics, committees and damned obfuscation.

This isn’t to say that Hone has it plain-sailing from now on. Calling Howard a “racist bastard” perhaps smacked a little of naivete. It’s quite possible that this would actually help Howard’s case for re-election as conservative elements of Australian society may feel stung and react defensively by casting their vote in his favour.

Hone Harawira shouldn’t let these concerns hold him back though, he’s currently a breath of fresh air. It is important that his party, especially Pita Sharples, protects him and ensures that his efforts and skill are focused in the correct areas. If Hone sounds off about every issue under the sun, his effect will be diluted and his style of politics relies very heavily on impact. Hone will ultimately be judged on how he approaches social issues in his own backyard; so watch this space.


(The guy that this is about, the hoaxer not my friend, scares the bejesus out of me!)

For many immigrants a period of time working in New Zealand offers the ideal opportunity to gain valuable experience, earn better than your home countries wages and a step up the career ladder. Unemployment is extremely low in comparison to many other countries and consequently employers are often prepared to take a chance on a candidate’s personality and enthusiasm rather than a CV bursting with experience.

Considering the skill shortages that New Zealand has, it is unsurprising that the government makes a considerable effort to promote immigration. For instance in my own country, the UK, every year there are several government funded exhibitions extolling the virtues of a new life in the World’s youngest country. With English as my first language adapting to the working environment here has been relatively-simple, a breath of fresh air in comparison to the stifling, micro-management favoured by so many uninspired middle managers in the UK.

For the many immigrants who come here without English as their first language there are some understandable barriers to employment. That said, the majority of these people that I have met have, at the very least, a good standard of conversational English. It is only when the more esoteric language used in the workplace comes into play that they struggle.

Carlos Muniaz arrived in New Zealand from Chile about three months ago. He has good conversational English, is a qualified safety engineer in the gas industry and is looking for work in this industry. After searching the internet he found a Neil Parker, Managing Director of a company called SafeSystems Ltd. Neil claimed that he would be able to find work for Carlos working for contractors such as Northpower, that are used by the utility firm Vector who outsource maintenance and building work on the North Island’s electricity and gas infrastructure.

At first, things went well. Carlos received training at Utilitech and attained a warrant allowing him to work in this environment. He was even given some English tuition. Soon he was given a weeks work in Whangarei working for Northpower.

Things started to wrong however when Mr. Parker became reluctant to pay his wages. Eventually Carlos received a sum of money equivalent to about half the work he had carried out. Without a good enough knowledge of English he felt unsure as to how to defend himself in this situation.

Mr. Parker offered further work but this time, on the morning that he was due to start, Carlos received a phone call from Safesystems demanding that he paid them $500 “insurance” before he was allowed to start work. Fortunately, Carlos turned the work down. Since then however, Mr. Parker has acted in an intimidating manner to Carlos and has threatened to go to immigration to “make his life difficult”.

Although Carlos is here legally this is a worrying prospect for any immigrant and without fully knowing the procedures and laws that New Zealand has to protect people in these situations was unsure as to where he stood.

I asked an insider at Vector whether anyone had heard of Mr. Parker or SafeSystems. Nobody had but it was impossible for them to know whether he may have an informal employment arrangement with any of their contractors.

On phoning Utilitech, who carry out training for Electricity and Gas contractors, I was told that Mr. Parker had worked for Northpower several years ago but had left. They seemed to think it was highly unlikely that he now worked for, or had relationships with, any other contractors and hinted that there were currently rumours circulating around the industry concerning Mr. Parker’s fidelity.

Both Vector and Utilitech believed a $500 insurance fee to be highly unusual and morally dubious. It was certainly not industry practice to charge this fee.

Suspicions were confirmed on contacting the police. Mr. Parker has a criminal record for, among other things, credit card fraud and extortion. The police told Carlos that if Mr. Parker threatened him again he should phone 111; without any real evidence though it would be impossible for them to prosecute.

Understandably the thought that other immigrants may have already been fooled by Mr. Parker is rather distressing. It seems to me that there is not clear enough information for non-English speaking immigrants as to what they should expect from an employer or the labour market and their rights and avenues of reply if they find themselves in a situation like this.

Arguments in the UK and Australia surrounding immigration often centre on whether immigrants can adapt to a culture without speaking English. Socially, this may well be true. At work this is also true but it should also be our duty to protect those who are vulnerable at the beginning of their time in New Zealand. Who would want to immerse themselves in a culture that is unable to protect them when they are most likely to fall prey to a scam such as this?
New Zealand needs immigrants to fill the gap left by those leaving to find work in Australia, the UK and the USA. The rights and wrongs of this are not for this article to debate but it is a reality that the government needs to face. Consequently, as much should be done to help new arrivals settle and this includes giving them the information they need to find secure employment, housing and so on in a way that they can fully understand. Learning English at its highest levels will come with time but scam merchants strike while the iron is hot.

(Names and details changed to protect the identities of persons involved).