Thursday, April 21, 2016

Media mendacity makes for mistrust

In the James Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies, Agent 007 battles the megalomaniacal media king, Elliot Carver, who is not content with reporting on the news and decides to manufacture it by committing terrorist acts in the hope of starting a war between China and the United States. It seems that the mainstream media, so desperate for ratings or readership in their fight for survival, is now following the Elliot Carver model. Sure, they are not yet sinking British warships in their attempts to make news, but they are committing serious criminal acts to boost their ratings and readership.

Two recent examples are the case of the Australian Channel Nine news team who were involved in the seizing of two children in Lebanon, and the New Zealand TV3 reporter, Heather du Plessis-Allan, who fraudulently purchased a rifle from a gun shop over the Internet.

In the Channel Nine case, the exact facts of the sordid affair are hard to determine but the children were with their father in Lebanon when the Australian mother, Sally Faulkner, decided to have the children snatched on a Beirut street. Channel Nine paid for four 'child recovery experts' from a UK organisation called Child Abduction Recovery International (CARI) to grab the children. The operation was botched and the Channel Nine news crew along with the mother and the CARI team were arrested. Channel Nine has now paid a significant sum of compensation to the father to obtain the release of its new crew and the mother but has left the CARI team it employed to rot in the Beirut jail. The journalists even tweeted a photo of themselves drinking and grinning in an airport bar on the way home.

I don't know where the right or wrong is in the custody dispute between the parents in this case, but the actions of the Channel Nine news crew are contemptible on so many levels. They were foolish in the extreme, insulting to their viewers, and utter cowards in abandoning the men they had employed to carry out the operation.

In the New Zealand gun purchase case, Heather du Plessis-Allan set out to prove that anyone could buy a rifle online from a Christchurch gun shop without having a permit, and all she ended up proving is that you can't do that without committing fraud. She used a fictitious police ID number and signature to purchase the gun, which fooled an otherwise responsible gun shop owner to supply the firearm, and she and TV3 had the gall to present this as a failure of the firearms licensing system and misconduct on the part of the gun shop owner.

We all know the mainstream media have long since abandoned any pretence of neutrality and take sides in any controversial story they cover. They have become propagandists and political agitators for any cause they deem merits their support. In doing so they have utterly destroyed the public's trust in themselves, with a recent survey showing that only 9% of New Zealanders trust them.

The mainstream media have always claimed they deserve special status under the law. The First Amendment to the US Constitution protects the freedom of the press and in most Common Law jurisdictions the press enjoys similar special rights. But the mainstream media risk losing these protections for everyone when they they consider they are completely above the law.

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