ROWSED BY THE BROUHAHA brewed up by “the Herald's chief political commentator” John Armstrong when he launched an attack last week on bloggers—“why do they whinge about us real journalists when we’re so much better than they are” was his refrain—“this stuff is hard; don’t try it at home” was the undercurrent—I thought I’d take a look at recent work by him and his Herald colleagues to see just what standards they live up to these days.
ARMSTRONG—SO SYCOPHANTIC ABOUT the PM I once accused him of auditioning to be John Key’s catamite—has a piece this week high on brevity, and overflowing with the bleeding obvious: “The Prime Minister's defence of John Banks looks more ridiculous by the day,” says Armstrong before letting his hero off the hook. “Key's test of whether Banks stays or is sacked [reveals the professional journalist] has always been stacked in Banks' favour” because “this saga has always been about power - more exactly, the retention of power.”
Really? You think? Is that truly what’s behind the PM defending the indefensible.
Phew, thank goodness we’ve got Armstrong to clue us in, eh.
This is why Armstrong gets the big bread. For” insights” like this mixed together with a few quotes from Hansard to pretend he was paying attention during parliamentary question time.
His attack on bloggers, by the way, ends with a threat his employers should start charging for the use by online commentators of his and his colleagues’ material. The quality of his and his colleagues’ work illustrates one reason no mainstream media outlet yet has managed to make money out of this. (Compare, for example, Imperator Fish’s post on the same topic as Armstrong’s short column, and judge for yourself which one you’d be more likely to shell out for.)
BRIAN RUDMAN CAN ALWAYS be relied upon to layer bland on bland. Like Armstrong’s, his latest is at least blessedly short—a put down of Southern mayors who complain “more than its fair share” government largesse goes Auckland’s way. “If only that was [sic] true,” sighs Rudman.
PART-TIME PUNDIT AND (these days) full-time cheerleader for a return to Muldoonism Bernard Hickey takes a break from his now-regular plea, in column after column, for the firehose of government largesse to be directed towards his favourite charities (mostly stock brokers and mortgage brokers one suspects, given his regular pleas for abundant money printing), before praising outgoing central banker Alan Bollard for not noticing his inflation of the money supply in the early- to mid-2000s had inflated the country’s biggest housing bubble, allowed finance companies led by local Bernie Madoffs to think the laws of economics had been repealed, and violently misallocated resources in the economy. Actually, that’s what Hickey should have said; instead he pulled out all stops on his keyboard to praise the banker to the sky for his subsequent work mopping up—“the last four years has cemented Dr Bollard's reputation as one of New Zealand's finest public servants” reckons St Bernard—while allowing only parenthetically that, well, “many argue” Bollard missed the biggest build up in foreign and housing debt in New Zealand's history (oops!) and, well yes, “some believe” he helped cause it.
Nice going Bernard. Not.
AFTER THESE LACK-LUSTRE examples giving at least a few clues as to why professional journalists are being run down so easily by the amateur online commentariat—leaving mainstream hacks moaning about bloggers looking increasingly (in the words of part-time blogger and occasional pundit Damian Christie) like dinosaurs sitting in a swamp whinging about the oncoming meteorite --it was almost with relief I turned to Fran O’Sullivan, once herself accused (by Helen Clark no less) of being “a right-wing blogger.”
Sadly, however, O’Sullivan these days is now neither a blogger nor right wing—if by that position on the political spectrum is meant someone who upholds property rights—because her latest piece is a plea for the Prime Minister to nationalise the entire resource base of the country: “for the avoidance of doubt” ( a phrase she uses twice) she means “all natural resources - water, geothermal steam, airwaves, aquifers and, for the avoidance of doubt, all minerals, ironsands, magma, rare earth deposits, coal, lignite, methane and uranium in this country … the exclusive economic zone that surrounds our shores… [and] commercial use of solar power, the wind, the tides, the navigational properties of the stars and the moon. This will also include the magma and lava flows which have enriched our soils over the centuries and will do so again in coming volcanic explosions.”
Some will say [she says] this is a step towards the nationalisation of [resources]. And indeed this is something I am giving serious consideration to, along with the wind, the stars, the moon, magma, sunlight and even the internet.
Indeed, on her Facebook page, she confirmed that is precisely what she intends by her suggestion—a hope, indeed a suspicion, the Prime Minister will be tempted to nationalise.
These people are professional journalists.
NB: Now, like Armstrong I could have refrained altogether from providing links to those I criticise. But to a blogger, that would be considered unprofessional.