CURRENT AFFAIRS SHOW TO BE CHOPPED? STOP
BECAUSE “ZONED-OUT” TV AUDIENCES, SAYS PRIME
MINISTER STOP “PLANNED SYSTEMIC APATHY” SAY
INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISTS BIGG-STORM AND
By Sophia Bigg-Storm and Snoopman
In this editorial, Sophia Bigg-Storm and Snoopman track the commentary on the possible canning of a current affairs program, Campbell Live, in ‘the New Zealand economy’. They argue that because capitalism is a private political system that uses economic means to control society, and since Campbell Live airs within a media market dominated by five media cartels, the proposal to replace John Campbell with a home-made soap opera is inherently political. New Zealand’s pro-corporate media is dominated by the ‘free market’ sect’s conformity with a framework that spreads systemic political apathy. By exploiting propagandist public relations techniques, including dirty attack politics, systemic political apathy is used as a mechanism of disenfranchisement from democratic processes. In this conspiracy to subvert democracy, Prime Minister John Key is a conscious, leading protagonist. As such, we have cast Key as a zombie to highlight the danger of becoming infected with a conformist ‘silent majority’ ethos.
Part I: An Extinction Warning Concerning the Dying Breed Among Masses of Media Missionaries Working for Unseen Puppet Masters
Too Many ‘People Zoning Out’
The April 9 announcement of the potential canning of Campbell Live, a New Zealand-made current affairs programme fronted by popular John Campbell on TV3, shocked many who appreciate his (and the show’s) compassionate, critical and moderately courageous journalism.[i]
Falling ratings have been cited as the reason for the review, although AGB Neilson, which manages the television rating system has only 900 people meters to estimate what the New Zealand population of 4.365 million muggles are watching (if at all).[ii]
One option that TV3’s owner MediaWorks is considering is to replace the current affairs show with a soap, in an attempt to draw ‘zoned-out’ viewers away from free-to-air TV2, which broadcasts a tedious long-running soap Shortland Street that is set in a private hospital, where it has never been explained how its muggle patients afford such healthcare.
The programme’s review by MediaWorks, one of five major media cartels located in the South Pacific British realm of New Zealand, has triggered a surge in ratings, a passionately worded petition and a flurry of articles by an assortment of commentators resembling a damaged bag of sweeties (that provoked more thinking out-loud on social media forums).[iii]
Within hours, social media first responders started a Twitter hashtag #SaveCampbellLive, in an attempt to stave off this extinction event. One of the most hilarious tweets by blogger Keith Ng read, “If you truly care about Campbell Live, steal a ratings box.” Poignantly, another first responder, politician-turned restaurant owner Laila Harré tweeted a quote from MediaWorks chairman Rob McGeoch, “We put news on, but only because it rates. And we sell advertising around news. This is what this is all about.” But, perhaps it was Cheryl Burnstein’s tweet that best captured the situation: “This week in NZ media has made it obvious that what’s being fought is not [so] much a battle but a full scale culture war.”
The alleged impending demise of Campbell Live even prompted a debate that attracted “the cream of the Auckland left (plus [corporate media missionaries] Bill Ralston and Fran O’Sullivan!)“, as lefty political commentator Chris Trotter noted. The location was truly ironic, a restaurant co-owned by Laila Harré, that was formerly the chapel of W.H. Tongue & Sons, the undertakers, which was once run by a necrophiliac elderly man just up the road from TV3. (When the old man of the business died in the mid-1990s, it was discovered that he had been having sex with the cadavers in his care. But, the story of an undertaker ‘working late’ was killed because TVNZ, for one, deemed that the story would be too painful for many of Auckland’s wealthy elite families. Evidently, news must be palatable to your primary audience, your sponsors, since in free-to-air television, the mass audience only pay indirectly through shopping).
The possible axing of Campbell Live after rival TV One canned Close-up in 2013 would ironically leave only one current affairs show to hold the white patriarchy to account, the indigenous broadcaster Maori TV and its Native Affairs program, with its all-female cast.[iv] The reasons for Campbell Live’s possible demise have been framed as the “cold-commercial reality”and for failing ‘to get with the program’, that is to say, the “silent majority” like the government (as the Manawatu Standard claimed), as their passive conformity is demonstrated via their remotes. [v]
An Australian private equity firm, Ironbridge, bought the media cartel for a ridiculous sum of $700 million just before the predictable global financial crisis. MediaWorks has staved off death by bankruptcy by getting five financial institutions to take stock, so that now the media conglomerate owes $90 million and has an obligation to make the stock’s value travel to a secular market heaven (a place where wealthy investors and financiers believe the illusion that their outsized financial wealth will actually make them happy, as propagandized by the ‘free market’ sect).
So, you’d think with that commercial pressure, MediaWorks would sign on Campbell Lives‘ mainstay sponsor, the Mazda car production cartel for another year, as usual. But, no. In February, MediaWorks made a three-month sponsorship deal with Mazda. News of this shortened deal led The DailyBlog‘s editor Martyn Bradbury to express the suspicion that MediaWorks’ review method is flawed, since it appears that the supply of financial ‘life-blood’ for the current affairs show is of a shorter shelf-life, suggesting something terminal is going to happen at the end of May.
There has been much said about possible political interference in TV3 to axe Campbell Live[vi], since John Campbell’s so-called advocacy journalism, has often meant he has confronted ‘the government’.[vii] (‘Advocacy journalism’ in the mainstream media often falls short of bona fide muck-raking, like its on an enforced diet). The headline “Valiant Campbell may have provoked political antagonists too often” from media missionary Fran O’Sullivan is revealing not so much for what it contains. O’Sullivan’s spin that MediaWorks’ new CEO Mark Weldon showed he was a “public-spirited” person for his “chairing an economic summit after the GFC [Global Financial Crisis] to help build credibility for a role in a sector in which he had no prior experience”, while he was chief executive of the stock exchange, says much about how she pulls her punches in regard to conflicts of interest. O’Sullivan has kept her mittens carefully tucked away since she wrote an article in the early 1990s revealing the who’s who of the ‘new right’ and how tightly networked they were. (Many of the named were members of the ‘free market’ sect’s Business Roundtable and The Mont Pelerin Society). Fran O’Sullivan got a stiff telling off for her efforts.
The background of Mark Weldon, who allegedly has an ego larger than MediaWorks sqawkback radio rant-jays Willie Jackson, Sean Plunket and Duncan Garner, has also been sifted over recalling that the prime minister John Key has made the former chief executive of the stock exchange his point-man for various crisis-management roles.
Typically, Key was asked on sqawk-back radio network NewsTalk ZB if it would be harmful for democracy should it came to pass that there be less current affairs programmes in the commercial arena to challenge the government. The current title-holder of prime minister said in response:
“Its role in life isn’t the hold the Government to account, it is to entertain its viewers and follow news stories. A great many of those don’t involve the Government, some do.”
Campbell Live has already given plenty of current affairs ‘ground’ to air allegedly entertaining human interest stories, which are not current affairs, but are designed to attract and keep viewers because, as we find in Part II, news audiences have been systematically subjected to sophisticated propaganda techniques to make them gradually become politically apathetic. Therefore, we find the zombie contagion metaphor appropriate.
Journalist Toby Manhire said Key’s answer was “bloody strange”[viii]. But it wasn’t so strange if one submits their head-thing for brainwashing. John Key the go-to-guy is a consummate propagandist, and is well-versed at deploying Orwellian Newspeak, or the redefining of the Old English words and phrases, so that eventually the meanings of words change to suit key insiders of the transnational capitalist class, AKA the financial-political oligarchy, or the Superclass. (The core of the ruling class that have dominated the North Atlantic powers for more than a century have been variously described as the Fraternity, the Committee of 300, the Grid, the Syndicate, or the Illuminati, who adhere to the Cult of World Domination).[ix]
Many-hatted Key continued, “What you see is people zoning out. That’s the challenge those programmes are up against. That’s why [TVNZ] went away from Holmes and Close Up to Seven Sharp [Editor’s note: Seven Sharp is the shit progeny of Holmes and Close Up and is, therefore, far, far along the sewer pipe in Television Land where shows are marketed as ‘current affairs’ in an unhappy place called Topical Programming Oxidation Ponds.].
According to one expert, a great grandmother with half a century of television-viewing experience and moderate dementia, Seven Sharp is so “boring” it makes elderly people in one rest-home exercise what little mobility and freedom they still have, to leave the lounge, thereby choosing loneliness over boredom.
Speaking about Seven Sharp, the Minister in charge of spying and who is seldom short of a vacuous sound-bite, thanks to his party’s PR firm, Crosby Textor, the Anglo-Saxon staple of spin, Mr Nice Guy Key said: “It’s [a] more more breezy, magaziney show because people want light entertainment.”
Two words. Pure Spin.
If it were the sequel title to Lorde’s first album, Pure Heroine, it wouldn’t really matter. But, unfortunately Key’s tele-portable Game of Charades is wall-to-wall, five times in a news bulletin commenting on Everything (even in the sport), and disclosing Next to Nothing of Substance.
Too Much Brand Key
Brand Key is as in-your-face as ‘flavor of the unending months’ media missionaries Paul Henry and Mike Hosking, who appear billboard-to-billboard around ‘the economy’. It’s as though a new creepy sort of autism has overtaken the ‘news’ media, on top of the old creepy autism that drives advertising: profit.
Key wants people to think everything is DoublePlusGood, like in George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-four, set in Oceania, one of three brainwashing totalitarian super-states. In Orwell’s novel, Newspeak is a language under construction by Oceania that is designed to limit freedom of thought by reducing the vocabulary and ideas, with the aim of cementing the control of an unseen oligarchy (or super-rich people). Thus, words that suggest a positive quality are simplified, so “better” becomes “gooder”, and “best” becomes “goodest”, and “great” becomes “plusgood”, and “excellent” and “splendid” becomes “doubleplusgood”.
The many-hatted current title holder of prime minister performs Wizard of Oz theatrics to keep muggles scared but thankful for his services, a reportoire of crowd control duties while New Zealand is being integrated into a fast transforming configuration of larger political and economic units.
But, what everyone has missed about Key’s “people [are] zoning out” statement is this matter-of-factly commentary came from the same talking-hole that admitted in a pre-recorded interview on Campbell Live that dirty attack politics benefits right wing parties such as National’s, while it hurts left-wing ones more. This admission, made on Campbell Live, a mere two days after his navy-blue National Party re-won power, meant that the current title holder of prime minister fully understood the implications of the Dirty Politics scandal for the not-so free, not-so fair and not-so open society of New Zealand.
John Phillip Key, the ex-London and Wall Street banker, who was first head-hunted to lead the National Party in 1998 by then-National Party president John Slater (father of Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater), showed that he understood “people are zoning out”, in part, because the National Party had pursued a dirty attack politics policy since 2006, which they knew turned off left-wing muggles from voting. Indeed, the National Party’s dirty politics policy included a ‘two-track’ communications strategy to quite literally undermine ‘democracy’.
The key to their hidden agenda was to outsource dirty political attacks of the kind that journalist Nicky Hager exposed in his book Dirty Politics, to right-wing blog-sites, such as Whale Oil and Kiwiblog. Meanwhile, Key was cast as ‘Mr Nice Guy’ so that slucker-lucker muggles wouldn’t think for a moment that the minor scandals, embarrassing smears, and gaffs that were blown out of proportion by a compliant propagandist news media system, had anything to do with Brand Key.
With his meek one word answer “Yes”, Key admitted to John Campbell that such attacks benefited his party. And yet, Key had stuck to his slanderous, logically flawed counter-attack argument that the author of the Dirty Politics book was a ‘left wing conspiracy theorist’ all the way through the election campaign.
In other words, Key accepted the thrust of Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics book that the dirty political attacks had been occurring by the hand of one of his senior advisors and top P.R. man Jason Ede, in cahoots with other dark political creatures such as: Cameron Slater and David Farrar of Kiwiblog fame (Est. 2003) who, essentially, lived a double-life as National’s chief political surveyor since 2004. Farrar was well-placed to write ‘attack dog’ articles on his popular right-wing blog-site, Kiwiblog, utilizing insider information about issues that National and their opponents were either strong or weak on, according to population demographics across the country, tracked over time.
In short, John Phillip Key admitted to being party to a conspiracy to ‘murder’ the shelled-out democracy that New Zealand has still left.
Key was vulnerable, but unfortunately John Campbell succumbed to that annoying ‘First 100 Days’ media ritual, whereby the news media ‘go softly-softly’ on newly formed governments the way grandmothers dote over freshly-hatched humans.
Meanwhile, former head of news and current affairs at TVNZ Bill Ralston claimed that the New Zealand realm is “news poor” because “[t]here are relatively few genuine news stories” to fill the daily news-hole (that is, the space all news outlets have to stuff with material in the packaging of a bulletin or publication).
If Ralston didn’t waste so much time chatting in cafes and had have instead read Global Research.ca, the Voltaire Network and watched RT.com, he might realise there’s plenty of issues to explore such as: ‘deep-state’ power crimes, bail-ins, anti-competitive corporate cartels, the systemic fraud of ‘money as debt’, New Zealand’s oligarchy (aka the rich-listers), tax-havenry, fracking, geo-engineering, nano-technology, genetic engineering, the automation of warfare, erosion, the militarization of the planet, technocracy and the construction of totalitarian superstates. In essence, Ralston is ‘arguing from ignorance’ wherein he is “[a]rguing for the truth (or falsity) of a claim because there is no evidence or proof to the contrary or because of the inability or refusal of an opponent to present convincing evidence to the contrary.”[x] In other words, because the mainstream media refuse to supply critical counterpoints to sanitized official histories and narratives that they reproduce like perennial weeds, mass media audiences find it difficult to mount arguments against such relentless ‘news-weeds’.
That refusal has to do with the concentrated ownership of New Zealand’s mainstream media. An inconvenient truth kept in the dark is that New Zealand’s mediascape is dominated by just five media corporations, or anti-competitive, yet rivalrous cartels. These are: Fairfax Media, Sky TV & Prime, MediaWorks, APN News and Media, while TVNZ dominates on the state-owned side, and is also funded by big corporate advertisers.
Others weighing in on the Campbell Live ‘review’ have pointed out that TV3’s programming has already been brutalized by the likes of reality TV ‘queen’ Julie Christie, amid a wider national and international media-scape where trashier free-to-air TV is up against high-calibre subscription-sucking broadcasting, and a galaxy of instant, free or pirate-prone online content, where the message is “What they won’t show you on television”.
The problem is really to do with the Cult of Savviness, wherein the Savvy Political Press that comprise the Parliamentary Press Corp position the audience along with them, as detached ‘neutral’ insiders. It is a political technique to undermine the news audiences’ solidarity with one another (and works even better if the reporters don’t understand the impact). The persistence of this Cult of Savviness has meant that journalists lack the drive to develop their investigative skills, to reign-in their egos and find the resolve to reveal manipulative public relations techniques, as described in chapter 10 of Nicky Hager’s book The Hollow Men (that the media themselves use).[x]
But, this Cult of Savviness failed the Parliamentary Press Corp at 35,000 feet en route to China. The dark magic that occurred up there in the sky over the Pacific Ocean is the real reason why New Zealand’s Parliamentary Press Corp won’t fully go for Mr Nice Key’s jugular. They all feel weird when they brush their teeth because, in the absence of an audience to be egotistically savvy to, they all fell under Nice Guy Key’s spell on the flight to China for trade talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in April 2013.
New Zealand’s prime minister surprised the journalists aboard a Royal New Zealand Air Force Orion when he walked around with a cake he claimed he had made. New Zealand’s parliamentary press gallery reporters behaved like children at a birthday party. They were excited like their best friend’s dad was treating them to star service. It was at this moment that the New Zealand news media’s Parliamentary Press Corp contracted a kind of Stockholm Syndrome, that we call Orion Disorder.
The memory traumatises New Zealand’s Parliamentary Press Corp.
This lingering psychological impairment among the Parliamentary Press Corp has left Campbell Live exposed to a Zombie infection and makes the television genre of current affairs an endangered breed.
Because Key is still an at-large Zombie entity, he is more difficult to kill off than a current affairs show, especially as the ‘free market’ Zombie infection spreads through the host population. Difficult, but not impossible. As a group of mathematical and computer science students found in their study of zombie outbreaks, “When zombies attack! Mathematical modeling of an outbreak of zombie infection”, the best way to kill off zombies is to hit them hard and often.[xii]
But, rich-lister Key, with a greed-wealth of $55 million is but one of a breed of oligarchic families and individuals that oversee ‘the New Zealand economy‘ on behalf of a transnational capitalist class. Many of them are primarily responsible for the gutting of newsrooms, the rise of public relations and an enlarged wealth gap in the ‘free market’ era, since it is through their enormous wealth that they steer the political and economic trajectory of Nu Zillun Inc., as the author of the book Oligarchy, Jeffrey Winters, has argued more generally.
Because the foregoing viewpoints from ‘the assortment of commentators resembling a damaged bag of sweeties’ missed the essential nexus of power relations at work here, the bigger picture is explored in Part II. A new newsroom model is suggested, along with the need for mutiny in our institutions as part of a global countermovement to dismantle monopoly capitalism, if we are to survive and avoid a fully-blown ‘free market’ Zombie Apocalypse.
[i] “John Campbell enlists lawyer as replacement rumours swirl” at: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11430950
[ii] “Nielsen Television Audience Measurement” at: http://www.agbnielsen.co.nz/tamoverview.aspx
[iii] “Save Campbell Live”. Action Station. http://www.actionstation.org.nz/savecampbelllive; Why did MediaWorks strangle Campbell Live advertisers? – See more at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2015/04/19/why-did-mediaworks-strangle-campbell-live-advertisers/#sthash.vBhjaDrn.dpuf
[iv] “Not so marvellous any more?” at: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11430918
[v] “John Campbell thanks his fans” at: http://www.nbr.co.nz/opinion/nz-politics-daily-politics-axing-campbell-live
[vi] “Valiant Campbell may have provoked political antagonists too often” at: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11430860
[vii] “The Campbell Live Debate – A Considered View” at: http://brianedwardsmedia.co.nz/2015/04/the-campbell-live-debate-a-considered-view/
[viii] “Toby Manhire: Behind the scenes at the museum” at: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11433825
[ix] John Coleman (1992). Conspirators’ Hierarchy: The Story of the Committee of 300. America West Publishers. Engdahl, W. (2004). A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order (Rev. ed.). London, England: Pluto Press; Engdahl, F. W. (2009). Gods of Money: Wall Street and the Death of the American Century. Wiesbaden, Germany: edition.engdahl; Nicholas Hagger (2004). The Syndicate: The Story of the Coming World Governmnet. Winchester, UK: O Books; Charles Higham (1983). Trading with the Enemy: The Nazi-American Money Plot 1933-1949 (1983). Delacorte Press; Dean Henderson (2011). Big Oil & Their Bankers in the Persian Gulf: Four Horsemen, Eight Families & Their Global Intelligence, Narcotics & Terror Network. Bridger Hosue Publishing; Preparata, Guido Giacomo. (2005). Conjuring Hitler: How Britain and America Made the Third Reich. London: Pluto Press; David Allen Rivera (2010). Final Warning: A History of the New World Order. USA: Progressive Press; Estulin, D. (2009). The True Story of the Bilderberg Group, 183-184. (North American Union ed.); Perloff, J. (2008). The Shadows of Power: The Council on Foreign Relations and the American Decline. Appleton, WI: Western Islands. Originally published in 1988; Pilger, J. (2002). The New Rulers of the World. London: Verso; Pilger, J. & Lowry, A. (2001). The New Rulers of the World. Carlton Television; Whitecross, M & Winterbottom, A. (Directors) & Eaton, A. (Producer). (2009). The Shock Doctrine. [Motion picture]. A Renegade Pictures/Revolution Films Production. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iW1SHPgUAQ; Wintonick, P. (Director/Producer) & Achbar, M. (Director/Producer). (1992). Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media [Motion picture]. Canada: Necessary Illusions.
[x] Damer, T. E. (2009). Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to
Fallacy-free Arguments (6th ed.), p.165. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
[xi] Jay Rosen’s Cult of Savviness argument “Why Political Coverage is Broken” at: http://pressthink.org/2011/08/why-political-coverage-is-broken/; “Sunlight Resistance” Keith Ng at: http://publicaddress.net/onpoint/
[xii] Munz, P., Hudea, I., Imad, J., & Smith, R. J. (2009). When zombies attack! Mathematical modeling of an outbreak of zombie infection. In J. M. Tchuenche & C. Chiyaka (Eds.), Infectious disease modeling research progress (pp. 133-150). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.