Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Research?! Who needs it?

The Broadcasting Standards Authority has found Television New Zealand's Breakfast Show guilty of the unbalanced presentation of an important issue, after hosts Paul Henry and Alson Mau gave the Sensible Sentencing Trust's Garth McVicar freedom to expound his 'right-wing populist' views about crime and justice without any opposition. In the complaint which prompted the BSA's judgement, Roger Brooking pointed out that 'no attempt was made to present the other side of the argument on sentencing and law and order issues.' No academic expert or lawyer was invited onto the Breakfast Show to reply to McVicar's claims that the justice system was 'soft' on criminals, and Henry and Mau openly supported McVicar's hardline stance on sentencing.

Over at the yahoonews forum, there was little sympathy for the BSA's decision. This comment is probably representative:

It never ceases to amaze me how some people (the minority thank goodness) always seem to side with the criminals. No wonder our prisons are overflowing. It is high time that our judiciary get tough with those who break the law "willy nilly".

Comments like this one reflect a misunderstanding of the BSA's decision. The BSA was not passing judgement upon the rightness or wrongness of McVicar's views - it was objecting to the context in which these views were presented. The Breakfast Show's failure to get the opinion of an expert and to balance McVicar's hardline views on sentencing meant that it was in danger of misrepresenting an important and complex issue, and stifling rather than stimulating public debate of this issue. As the example of Fox News should have shown us all by now, the presentation of highly partisan opinions about inflammatory issues by unqualified or underqualified individuals is not good for democracy.

I didn't see McVicar on the Breakfast Show, but back in April I did have the misfortune to witness the appearance on the show by Lloyd Pye, the anti-evolution conspiracy theorist. Pye, who believes that human beings are related to aliens rather apes, was in New Zealand to attend the symposium organised by the circle of anti-semitic conspiracy theorists that publishes Uncensored magazine. Pye rests his bizarre theories on the strangely-shaped 'starchild skull', which he claims belonged to an alien-human hybrid, but which in fact belonged to a deformed native American child.

Henry and Mau gave Pye a friendly welcome, and were deeply impressed by the replica of the starchild skull which Pye showed them. Pye was allowed to present himself as an expert on craniology, and to assert that a series of scientific tests had failed to prove the inauthenticity of the starchild skull. In fact, Pye has no academic qualifications, and a 1999 DNA test at a credentialed Vancouver lab found that the 'starchild' skull was fully human. Pye used his appearance on the Breakfast Show to repeatedly advertise the Uncensored seminar, and to give out the magazine's web address.

Anyone who logged on to the Uncensored site in the days after Pye's appearance would have found articles dismissing the swine flu as a conspiracy by 'occultists' of the 'New World Order'. According to long-time Uncensored contributor Clare Swinney, the numbers associated with the arrival of swine flu in New Zealand have an eerie significance:

On the 28th of April, the TV3 news mentioned there were 66 suspected cases of swine flu and that New Zealand was the 6th country in the world to officially declare it has the virus. The following day news in the US included a reference to: “66 confirmed cases across 6 states.” Time to pay attention? Is the writing on the wall, or was this use of 66 and 6 in relation to what some believe is the elites’ Endgame, a mere coincidence?

While it could be a coincidence, bear in mind that the psychopaths in control like giving a sign before they strike and as bizarre as it may sound, those who are in the process of implementing a One World Government and reducing the world population, are Satanists, and obsessed with the occult.

Older posts on the Uncensored website charge Jews with responsibility for 9/11, and defend the reputation of a 'highly talented British historian' named David Irving.

Why, we might ask, did a publicly-owned television channel with a mass audience give free publicity to a site like Uncensored, and to a man like Lloyd Pye? I don't believe that either Henry or Mau is stupid enough to believe in Pye's absurd ideas. Nor do I believe that either wanted to promote the crazed conspiracy theories that are the stock in trade of Uncensored. I think that Henry and his sidekick are bad journalists, rather than bigots. A five minute google search ought to have shown Mau and Henry the truth about Pye, and about Uncensored, but both of them seem to spend more time on their make up than on research.


Blogger Richard said...

Journalists - to use the very bad cliche used by the bigot - "never cease to amaze [or not amaze] me" by their ingnorance of science and basic general knowledge.

I've seen so many news items breathlessly presented about things that were proven (or disproven) 60 or more years ago.

Journalists don't seem - or many don't seem - to care about truth.

Many of course are simply cynical journalists who want to get through - anything at all will do -the more bizzare, the more drivel filled, the better. Considering how sloppy at investigation and how ignorant most of them are: they are vastly, even obscenely, overpaid.

7:49 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do 'we' need egghead experts teling us what to THINK? DEMOCRACY means LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE. The average adult is capable of making their mind up about matters without having decision made by a liberal elite of 'experts'. There are too many of these 'experts'.

9:51 am  
Anonymous alison said...

Excellent post.

I didn't see the Pye program, but some of my students did. Their puzzled questions spurred me to do a bit of investigation & I subsequently blogged about the 'starchild' skull myself ( Wasn't aware of some of Pye's wilder ideas, though! I was appalled that TV3 would give this sort of thing such uncritical coverage, but also not particularly surprised given the way in which so much pseudoscience is aired these days.

11:32 am  
Anonymous alison said...

Anonymous: 'let the people decide' - well, OK, but surely you'd be in favour of them making an informed decision? In which case, you do have to rely on people with expert knowledge to provide some of the information on which that decision's to be based.

11:34 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Alison - you are right.

You cant let the people decide (without good knowledge)that happened in Germany in the 30s -people forget that Hitler came into power under a democratic system. It, or a parallel to it, can happen again.

Of course you have to have an informed decision.

In this sense of becoming informed - Maps is doing a servive to us all by constantly combatting untruths here on his Blog, the radio etc

This doesn't mean that he is not interested in mystery or whatever -I know he is - but.

A scientist doesn't need to be "inhuman" - true some are rather caught up in the system - but we can't blame science; we have a choice; a moral choice - as T S Eliot's writes in his poem "Prufock" [that] we have hands that can:

"Murder or create..."

3:51 pm  
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11:52 pm  

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