Gordon Campbell and Bryce Edwards have now both responded to Armstrong’s comments, in far more mature tones than I managed, but if anything that just illustrates how ridiculous it was for Armstrong to rant about “bloggers” and “parasites” while attacking well-respected real-name columnists.
Between the lines in Armstrong’s column, a morality play is being presented. It is a pageant in which he, the humble scribe from the mainstream media, is heroically doing the hard yards under deadline and dutifully observing the rules of good journalism – while Bryce Edwards and I are being cast as the Flash Harrys from the blogosphere who allegedly (a) reek of bias (b) feed parasitically on the fruits of his honest graft and (c) pay scant heed to the facts and to the truth. What a pair of arrant bounders we are!
I believe I have given Armstrong’s political commentary the prominence it is due since my daily roundup began. No doubt our interpretation and view of politics differs at times, but the reference to ‘bile and invective’ leaves me at a loss to explain.
More posts on the topic have been from Russell Brown and Bomber (yes they’re up front because they linked to me, deal), Damian Christie, and Zetetic at The Standard. In a wonderfully ironic way it’s kind of proving Armstrong’s point, buried beneath all his self-pity, but what kind of parasites would we be if we weren’t talking about this?
Everyone on Twitter’s been savaging poor innocent John Armstrong enough already, but … well, I had nothing else to sharpen my claws on, so here goes.
John Armstrong’s complaint, basically, is that the “blog-a-tariat” (spot the person who is seriously not comfortable with 21st century netspeak) are mean about him, and don’t understand just how difficult it is having to travel overseas, hob-nob with international hob-nobs, and get to come back to throw your toys out of the cot on a major media website for pay.
I mean, have you pathetic wastrels ever tried to write insightful analysis of what Bronagh Key wore to meet the First Lady when you can’t charge your BlackBerry? It’s a fucking hard-knock life, that one.
But it’s all just a little ridiculous, for one key reason: John Armstrong is not having a go at bloggers. He’s having a go at Gordon Campbell and Bryce Edwards, two well-regarded real-name-using also-doing-it-for-pay (one assumes) major-media-published writers, who happen to kinda blog, if only because Scoop is an online-only publication and all Edwards’ Politics Daily columns get reprinted at Liberation.
John, basically, has jumped on the Josie Pagani/Fran O’Sullivan bandwagon of having a whinge about the evil online commentariat who hate your freedoms … but not quite figured out that that line works a hell of a lot better when you can snark about our silly pseudonyms than when you’re attacking a well-regarded columnist and a politics lecturer.
He compounds the whole thing by doing that absolutely classic mainstream-media-trying-to-work-interwebs thing: attacking “bloggers” for “not letting the facts get in the way” at the same time as not linking to the posts he is responding to. Sure, this column was likely originally intended for the print version of the Herald (clearly where its largest audience is … wat?) but it’s just common internet sense to include links – if only to reassure your readers that your whinging has a basis in fact.
Of course, this might lead people to read Gordon Campbell’s post which has so incited John’s ire by saying:
BTW, the informed critical analysis of APEC and its bearing on the TPP process provided by the Canadian media was noticeably absent from the New Zealand coverage.
Then John’s readers might think, “Hmm. Maybe I’ll look at John’s own reporting from APEC.” And then they might find this article, which I’m almost tempted to copy-paste in its entirety for humour value. I won’t, because I’m not Bob McCoskrie, so here’s the piercing, engaged-with-the-big-issues-of-the-day opener:
A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs official locked in her room for 45 minutes; a posse of Kiwi journalists stuck in a lift at the International Press Centre … it must be the Curse of Russky Island.
Wait, now, let’s give John his due, he’s probably just trying to get in an interesting hook to keep the reader’s interest through some dry, in-depth coverage of global political discussions. Like this:
Strangely, borscht – Russia’s national dish – is off the menu. Authorities were worried visitors would take exception to one of the ingredients, beets, because they are only fed to animals in some countries.
Oh, okay, I’m being mean, clearly this is just a light-hearted wrap-up of events. Earlier in the scene, John was far more informative. In his first report, he talked about how Russia doesn’t really give a shit about APEC, or at least I think that’s what he got on to after rambling on about how cool it was that Jenny Shipley totes met Vladimir Putin before he was cool. In his second, he brings us cutting-edge news about the infrastructural development of Vladivostok.
Hold me the fuck back.
What did APEC achieve? What were they even meant to talk about? For the kiddies forced at gunpoint to read the Herald for social studies, what the fuck IS APEC? John does not tell us. He was probably too busy being stuck in the awful traffic of Tokyo and trying to find a compatible cellphone charger.
Anyway, it’s not John’s fault that he had nothing of depth to report on (even though he’s just spent half his column saying he totally has reported on issues of depth) because after all:
Adding to journalists’ problems is that Apec meetings are closed. Discovering what really happens requires talking to more than one delegation as every delegation has motives for saying what it is saying to its media contingent,
Which can only make me wonder why the fuck the Herald bothers to send John on these terrible paid overseas trips. Surely he can copy-paste governmental press releases from NZ?
(Yes, the original does end with a comma. I don’t know either.)
And if Armstrong had linked to Bryce Edwards’ post on the subject, they might have read this line:
There was a lot build-up and reporting from the APEC meeting in Vladivostok, but nothing much actually seemed to happen. There are only so many ways you can work ‘Pussy Riot’ into a story about trade negotiations
And then they might find this article by John Armstrong, curiously not published on the helpful APEC page, which manages to mention the band’s name twice without actually addressing why John Key would even be discussing an all-girl punk band with the President of Russia. Oh, context. You’re delicious but so fattening, we can’t have any or it’ll go straight to our hips.
But the ultimate punchline has to go to some smart cookie on the Herald’s web team. They filed John’s little cryfest under “Best of Political Analysis.”
The TL;DR version? John Armstrong basically tries to denigrate Gordon Campbell and Bryce Edwards by referring to them as mere bloggers, throws his toys out of the cot and demands we tell him he’s a good little journalist. He’s not. He has the immense privilege of getting his opinion published for money in one of the major newspapers of our country, he gets paid to hang out with our elected leaders, and for all that he can’t fucking hack a little statement-of-the-obvious about how NZ media in general report on international politics.
Boo fucking hoo.
H/T Jackal for id’ing and linking to the two key posts by Campbell and Edwards
ETA: For more commentary, rather more sympathetic to Armstrong, see Dim Post
Gordon Campbell on the retrospective (someone wake big bruv over at The Standard) surveillance bill.
One can only conclude that neither the SIS nor the Police have much respect for the law. There seems to be no accountability when they break the law in such cases, or misinterpret it, or screw up. Perhaps this is because they know they can hold the politicians hostage, and get the law changed after the fact.
Once you’ve read it y’all are welcome to join me in my bunker. First week’s homework, chapters 1-6 of 1984. There may be a quiz.*
*On typing this I realise I don’t have a household copy of 1984. Thankfully going out to buy one won’t have disturbing consequences. Yet.
The message of welfare reform is not being aimed at beneficiaries – who are merely collateral damage in this process – but at low and middle income workers. In election year, there are electoral gains to be made from targeting people on benefits, even if only to divert criticism of the government’s own failure to manage the economy.
After explaining that his “comments policy” boils down to “I don’t have to engage with my audience, now I’ve made my declarations from on high you are permitted to talk amongst yourselves”, Campbell has a go at me. Without being so open as to just name names, then people might actually look me up and see both sides of the story, which I understand is the most important thing in the world to him under other circumstances.
But since there’s still some apparent confusion, let me explain why Gordon Campbell is, indeed, a rape apologist.
From the most recent post:
I do not, and have not, absolved or condemned Assange’s personal conduct.
Gordon, you’re a rape apologist because you equate “accurately stating what the charges against Assange are” with “believing the charges against Assange”. You’re a rape apologist because you are contributing to the narrative that says people who say they want Assange held to account in a court of law must actually be “assuming” he’s guilty – and therefore, obviously, are not worth listening to.
You’re also a rape apologist because you refuse to address the fact that his personal conduct involves not simply denying the charges and waiting for trial, but employing lawyers who have outright lied about the charges and allegations and continually fed into rape culture with their statements about the accusers.
In the second Wikileaks article, I repeated the gist of the accusations against Assange, and put them alongside the gist of his initial response in court to them. It was an attempt at balance, not to absolve the left’s golden boy of the hour.
You’re a rape apologist because you continue to pretend that the answer to “you have printed misinformation about the case” is “okay that bit was maybe kinda wrong but here’s their side of the story!”
You’re a rape apologist because you’re acting like accurate reporting of the accusers’ statements – not agreeing, not supporting, just stating what they have said and what the charges are – needs to be “balanced” by Assange’s [lying] lawyers’ statement.
Guess what, Gordon. If the Herald prints that Remmers McFlorist won the Ellerslie Flower Show, and someone points out that actually, Flowers McArrangement won the Ellerslie Flower Show, it would be a bit fucking douchey if the Herald then printed, “Okay, okay, so we printed the wrong name, but here’s 500 words from Remmers McFlorist on why she SHOULD have won!”
That’s not balance, Gordon. And Assange’s rebuttal is not actually relevant to you correcting and apologising for your misinformation – misinformation which was weeks out of date. You’re a rape apologist because you have taken the lies of a “golden boy’s” lawyers at absolute face value over the statements of women. You’re a rape apologist because you instantly believed that unprotected sex is a crime in Sweden (those silly liberals, eh?) and thus the charges must just be nothing that Real Countries would prosecute.*
From the second post:
It is widely known that the complainants first approached the police because they wanted assistance in securing an STD test. Initially, there was no mention of pressing charges of rape, coercion or molestation. How did this escalate from a request for a test to an investigation of a criminal nature? Who made this decision? After considering the evidence, Eva Finne, a female Chief Prosecutor chose to dismiss the charges. The case was then taken up by a politician who was facing re-election and whose motive may be questionable. The matter was taken to a prosecutor in a different city where none of the events had taken place. Why was this done? Was any pressure brought to bear? These are the questions a truly committed investigative journalist should be asking.
Gordon, you’re a rape apologist because you uncritically post comments which criticise rape victims for not behaving the way they “should”. You’re a rape apologist for posting comments which imply that the cases must be silly if a women lawyer dropped the charges initially.
Below that, you’re a rape apologist for posting the “gist” of the charges against Assange … a “gist” which just happens to omit that whole “tearing off somebody’s clothes”, “holding somebody down” aspect. Funny how the charges, which you misreported, get given the “gist” treatment while the lying lawyers’ statement bullet points get the full “can I hold your coat while you take the stage, sir” rub-down.
Back to the latest post.
What I’ve said all along is that Assange’s personal conduct shouldn’t determine, one way or the other, how the revelations by Wikileaks are judged.
Gordon, you’re a rape apologist because you’re the one who keeps bringing up Wikileaks. You’re the one who keeps waving the Wikileaks flag and you’re certainly fucking smart enough to know that waving that flag just keeps everyone conscious of the fact that Julian Assange is linked to Wikileaks, and Wikileaks is awesome, and the Powers That Be hate Wikileaks, and so we have to take accusations of rape with a grain of progressive dudebro-brand salt because HEY, WIKILEAKS! DID I MENTION WIKILEAKS YET?
If you want the charges against Assange and the work of Wikileaks to be treated separately, maybe you could stop fucking playing the Wikileaks Is Important card every fucking time you are asked to report ethically on the charges against Assange.
You know what would be awesome and bold and courageous, Gordon? If you had stood by your premise from the start:
Assange’s alleged sexual misconduct has managed to divert some media attention away from the content of the cables. The two things are – or should be – unconnected.
Who keeps connecting them, Gordon? I’ll give you a clue: it’s not the feminists who want rape charges treated seriously. It could, you know, be Assange himself who wants to constantly remind us (when not playing the I Can’t Help It If I’m A Rocking Stud line) that there are powerful forces against him and that “CIA honeypot” is a real conspiracy-theory-tickler of a line.
But don’t think he’s done, people.
Yet at this point, Assange has to be presumed innocent until proven guilty of the charges against him.
Gordon, you’re a rape apologist because you have just busted out Rape Apologism Maxim the First. Guess fucking what? That’s a principle applicable to justice systems. Is my blog a justice system? Is media reporting a subset of the justice system? And hang on, at what fucking point is accurate reporting of the nature of the charges tantamount to assuming guilt? At what fucking point have I said “you have to assume he’s guilty”? OH THAT’S RIGHT, NEVER.
We claim to want the same thing here, Gordon. We claim to want to see these charges answered in court. But because you’re a fucking rape apologist you aren’t waiting until the charges are answered in court, you are making statements right now that the charges are silly, the women didn’t act the way they should have, HAVE I MENTIONED WIKILEAKS IS IMPORTANT AND IMPLIED THAT THIS IS A CIA HONEYTRAP YET???
The Guardian’s actions in releasing part of the Swedish prosecutor’s file against him was – I thought – an injustice.
You’re a rape apologist, Gordon, because you think an “injustice” is having the facts of the case published AFTER Assange’s lawyers have lied about them, AFTER Assange’s lawyers have lied about the entire Swedish legal system, AFTER the accusers have been not only named but had their photos and addresses publicised and been FORCED INTO HIDING.
But sure, what the Guardian did was the “injustice” here (now you’ve gotten around to reading it).
I found it interesting that one commenter portrayed me as part of a gendered tendency to minimize women’s experience and testimony in sexual complaints, while also denigrating me for linking to Bianca Jagger
Don’t worry, Gordon, this one isn’t about you being a rape apologist. This is about how you’re a misogynist douchebag for acting like quoting Bianca Jagger magically absolves you of your significant contributions to rape apologism. You’re a misogynist douchebag for going on to say naming the accusers mustn’t be that bad because hey, these Famous Feminists totally did it – failing to mention that one had retracted those names until after the quote, which was even better for your argument what with it boiling down to “everyone else did it so I did it too”. But as a bonus, you and Bianca Jagger are both rape apologists for pretending that criminal cases can never be re-opened unless Dark Forces Are At Work.
Then it’s a fine finish with a lather/rinse/repeat of “we can’t assume his guilt” [CITATION NEEDED] and a wonderfully oblivious expression of male privilege:
Personally, I do find it depressing that so much energy has been spent on Assange’s actions in bed and so relatively little on the morality exposed in the Wikileaks cable
WHY AREN’T THE WIMMINZ INTERESTED IN REEEEEEEAL ISSUES?? Oh, and Gordon? You’re a rape apologist for spending so much time pretending to care, so much time claiming it was about balance and fairness and did you mention Wikileaks … and then you fucking write off rape allegations as “Assange’s actions in bed”.
Gordon, you’re a rape apologist because you continue to make excuses for the fact that you spread misinformation. You’re a rape apologist because you pretend that factual reporting of charges requires a critique-free rebuttal. You’re a rape apologist because you have continued to downplay the charges and continued to privilege Assange’s side of the story. You’re a rape apologist because you have on multiple occasions, contributed to a culture which denigrates rape victims and treats rape as far less serious than other crimes.
You’re a rape apologist because every single thing you have said over three columns is straight out of the rape apologism playbook.
I can’t think why Polanski-defenders came to mind in light of all that.
*Protip, Gordon: most countries are pretty shit at even prosecuting “real” rape cases.
Many links sourced from megpie’s excellent round-up.
On 6 January Gordon Campbell posted an article to Scoop entitled Gordon Campbell Reviews the General Response to Wikileaks.
In the other incident, consent is reportedly not the issue – it is whether the act involved unprotected sex, which is a (minor) offence under Swedish law.
FUCKING GOOGLE, GORDON, HOW DOES IT WORK?
Detracting comments were made. Detracting comments were mysteriously not published. Ms Enid Tak-Entity commented on Maia’s post on the issue:
I wrote to Gordon providing the same information and he replied saying that he would be addressing this issue (though I’m not sure in what fashion).
Well, now we know. Campbell has a new post up today which … well … I guess it clears things up, at least.
Many thanks to Tze Ming Mok for correcting my original précis … I’ve held off replying to Tze Ming until seeing the gist of Assange’s defence.
“Thanks everyone, I published outdated debunked information which feeds into a narrative of women as lying liars who lie and are also sluts, and that was bad, mmkay, but I just, like, wanted to tell both sides of the story.” Which would be a noble journalistic gesture if the story weren’t Gordon Campbell published fucking lies. Which is only relevant to Assange’s defence in that they’re the ones who started those lies off in the first place.
Then he quotes Bianca Jagger, noted Swedish law expert or something, whose comment boils down to “these women are lying liars and I know because they didn’t act the way I think rape victims are obliged to act” which is of course not in any way Rape Culture 101. It can’t be rape, she wasn’t screaming and crying. It can’t be rape, she’s screaming and crying too much to know what she’s saying. It can’t be rape, she didn’t leave him. It can’t be rape, she’d had sex with him before. It can’t be rape, because rape culture insists that rape does not actually ever happen.
Bianca Jagger was also one of the people who tweeted about the accusers’ “CIA ties”, which definitely establishes her as a source of good, balanced information on this case, if your definition of “balanced” includes using phrases like “honeypot trap”.
Then there’s a nice big chunk of Assange’s lawyers’ statement, all reproduced without comment (because obviously there’s no journalistic imperative to question such fine upstanding people with no evident vested interest in spinning this case in any particular direction) and then … boom, suddenly we’re into “Wikileaks is awesome and I love Wikileaks and they are, like, so totes important!”
And apparently, again, Campbell doesn’t seem to have the first fucking clue that maybe juxtaposing “Assange’s lawyers say these charges are totes wrong” with “Wikileaks is important and vital and awesome” might have some pretty fucking clear implications about Assange being key to Wikileaks’ work, Wikileak’s work being so important and Assange thus being so important that we need to focus on the real story, and of course the “these charges are only getting laid now because of Wikileaks”.
And you know, that last one I might have some sympathy with, if I’d seen anyone manage to bring it up without simultaneously saying “anyway the women were CIA honeytraps and didn’t act the right way and Assange couldn’t rape anyone he’s so hot right now”, or seen anyone bring it up without implying that we should just ignore the charges because a political motivation must mean they’re false, no further investigation required.
Yes, it is possible these charges are politically motivated. It’s also possible that Assange is a fucking rapist. It’s also certain that he’s got lawyers who have outright lied about the case, about the accusers, and about Swedish law (I guess I should be thankful Campbell hasn’t repeated the old “sex-by-surprise” “$715 fine” bullshit).
So maybe a credible NZ journalist could do us all the fucking favour of not just spreading their side of the story without comment.
Here’s the comment I’ve made in response at Scoop, which stunningly seemed to get published straight away:**
I am baffled by this, Gordon. In the first place, when you have been responsible for publishing false information about the charges against Assange, it is really, really interesting that you decided to not correct that false information “until you saw the gist of Assange’s defence”. Why? What does Assange’s defence actually have to do with you as a journalist correcting misinformation?
Further, you’re still downplaying the nature of the charges by using references which put scare quotes around things like “”express wish”" and which do not spell out in full what the allegations are – which directly buys into a narrative about women being fickle, women being demanding, it not being “real” rape if a man just pressures, persists, and ignores a woman’s wishes.
The fact that you spend the bulk of this column on the defence, not the charges, and that you’re quoting Bianca Jagger, who happily publicised the names of the accusers, and that you continue to link this to the work of Wikileaks after arguing in your first column that the charges against Assange should not reflect on Wikileaks, all makes it fairly clear where your priorities are: defending everyone’s favourite progressive hero of the hour because his work is so much more important than silly women’s desire to have their wishes and consent taken seriously.
Why not just go sign a Roman Polanski petition while you’re at it?
Gordon Campbell, I am disappoint.
Bonus demerit points: publishing the detracting comments on the first post after making your new “see see I’m a good journo but here’s his defence in glorious Technicolor!” post? How courageous.
Related reading: Maia’s post at The Hand Mirror
*Thanks to Maia and Tze Ming Mok for links in the comments of Campbell’s first post.
**I assume their filter auto-mods anything with links, which is of course wonderfully convenient when people are trying to provide evidence of your misinformation, and totally doesn’t in any way open up detractors to accusations of just being hysterical feeeeeemales with no proof threatening another Great White Male.