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