- “Thanks for that Angela. Any government or merely NZ government?”
- “P.S. Are you the one to approach regarding your comment guidelines? I request an opportunity to speak (in person or via an email exchange) with your editorial staff regarding limiting comment urls to Stuff and Government links?”
Sunday, 26 March 2017
Ever feel as though the media doesn't like one commenting on their well constructed and carefully tuned news pieces?
This essay outlines my case to the New Zealand Press Council in relation to the Stuff (Fairfax) moderation of two comments I placed on their online articles 21 February and 5 March 2017. I appreciate that Stuff is a money making business, with a responsibility to its shareholders, nevertheless we in the public sphere afford Fairfax and other NZ news media organisations a lot of support through the notion of 'Press Freedom', and the underpinning idea of 'Freedom of Expression.' My complaint seeks ultimately that Stuff's comment guidelines are amended to allow the commenting public a broader source of reference material in order to support their opinions when commenting on Stuff articles.
I placed a comment on this article from Sunday 5th March about President Trump getting cranky with Obama for tapping his gold phone in Trump Tower, :
My comment was offered about midday Sunday 5 March. I took a screen shot of my comment to have evidence that I'd posted the comment. I waited and patiently carried on with other activity occasionally refreshing the target page to see how the moderators were treating my comment this time. About 40 minutes later a few comments appeared and when I was sure mine was missed I screen shot the comments with my computer clock in the screen to establish that comments had appeared posted after mine. It was clear mine was moderated out.
Prior experience of the Fairfax comment guidelines for your interest 21 February 2017
On a previous occasion in February I experienced similar censorship, and emailed the Fairfax editorial team to ascertain the story, the following Chris Trotter piece was the one I placed urls that breeched the sacred guidelines.
I had linked urls in the comment that were disallowed by the Stuff/Fairfax comments guidelines link here:
I want to link to an external site, why won’t you approve it?
We do not allow links to websites, with the exception of Stuff articles or Govt-owned domains. This is as much as to protect our readers from malicious / pornographic websites as it is to protect Fairfax Media NZ’s reputation.
Here's a dropbox link to a pdf. copy of my emailed complaint on that occasion 21 February 2017:
and here is the exchange with Fairfax's Angela Quigan referring me to their comments guidelines. I in my return email raise the issue of which urls might fit the criteria, asking on two occasions;
Back to Trump Obama and spying, and my 5th March comment rejected by Stuff moderators
So being a curious, concerned democrat and free speech advocate I emailed Stuff/Fairfax editorial staff at 1:00pm, to discover my transgression, seeing I had exercised caution and not placed any urls let alone disallowed urls, into the comment. Here's the text of my emailed complaint:
To: Angela Quigan <email@example.com>, Patrick Crewdson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Hi Angela, Patrick, and Stuff,
Re my comment capture below - you've approved more since my was posted - what is the problem with mine please?
US President Donald Trump accuses Barack Obama of 'wire tapping' Trump Tower
My comment above was offered at about 12:02pm Sunday 5 March;
"The irony is delicious!
Next up POTUS Trump will tomorrow sign an Executive Order #666.666 to eliminate the NSA and CIA for illegal spying on himself and all USA citizens and residents!
That way Adrian Leason and friends who protested during the week outside the GCSB over Drone Assassinations have wasted their blood sacrifice.
God bless America – land of dreams and hopes - unfulfilled"
I was referring to the action by Catholic Workers Action, which was to protest Drone Assassination week in Pipitea Street Wellington outside the GCSB building, culminating in their blood sacrifice on Friday 3 March, a story Stuff had run:
I added below the two screen shots the following comment and question.
I just had another look at refreshed article at 12:57pm and two comments Lynners and Agrarian's have gone through. What's wrong with mine?
If you do not want me as a commentator on your offerings, just come out nice and clear and say that "we are banning greg rzesniowiecki" - that would be the truthful thing to do...
Be nice to gain a considered response thank you
Here's a dropbox pdf of the first email with the screenshots embedded:
A Kathrin came back with a response at 13:50
Thanks for your email Greg, I'll take a look at this matter now.
I approached them again at 18:32,
I guess 'now' is an extended moment in space time.
What was the word, I've not seen the comment appear on the news article, so does that mean it was rejected by the moderator? If so what was the particular conflict with the commenting guidelines, do tell please?
I'd like to obtain an answer promptly in order to inform my next act to pursue fair freedom of speech - a principle that the news media promote as a valuable aid to the continuance of democracy. I support your freedom to report, in fact have been active for press freedom for some time, amongst my many political interests - you appear to be unwilling to reciprocate.
Best from greg.
Patrick Crewdson Editor, responded the next day 9:24 6 March:
Your comment was rejected for being off topic. You can see our terms and conditions for comments here: http://www.stuff.co.nz/about-stuff/1513458/Terms-and-Conditions-for-Comments
Then followed an exchange where I outlined my interest in and support for Fairfax to look objectively that my comment was no more off topic than any number of comments that escaped the moderator's scythe. I offered at 11:05 a couple of hours later;
Hello and thanks for getting back Patrick,
I've looked at your commenting guidelines previously as my comments more often than not are rejected by your thought police. Perhaps you might indicate how mine was more off topic than the other several hundred comments on that particular piece?
Your press complaint guidelines require that I explore the matter with you initially prior to addressing the concern to the Press Council.
Also on 22 Feb 2017 I asked your Angela, seeking information about your comment guidelines, "Thanks for that Angela. Any government or merely NZ government?" in respect to the Chris Trotter piece on "the deep state" 21 Feb 2017:
Angela had advised, "Your comment was rejected as it contained links to external sites.
"As per our terms and conditions, we do not allow links to sites other than Government-owned or Fairfax domains. This is as much to protect our readers from dodgy URLs as it is to protect Stuff's reputation.
"Feel free to resubmit your comment without including the links and it will be re-moderated by our editors."
I resubmitted the comment with a couple of stuff links and it was posted on the article.
Angela is obviously stumped how to answer my question, or alternatively didn't realise it was a serious inquiry.
Perhaps Patrick whilst I hold your attention, you are more up with the play and can provide an answer?
Does your comment guidelines limit which of the approximately 200 governments that exist plus the thousands of regional, state, and local governments are acceptable urls to your guidelines for use in comments, or is it merely the NZ government urls that fit your criteria?
I trust you agree it is of import to clarify this point.
Thanking you in advance.
Which gained the following response from Patrick at 13:11 early that afternoon;
Our moderators deemed that your comment was off-topic. We publish thousands of comments every day, so I'm not willing to join you in a comparative analysis of other comments you consider were more off-topic than yours.
However, the fact that you say your comments "more often than not are rejected by your thought police" suggests to me that you're not in tune with our terms and conditions for comments.
If you'd like more of your comments to be approved, I'd suggest re-reading the Ts & Cs - including the frequently asked questions section at the bottom.
Regarding URLs in comments, we will accept links to NZ government sites.
If you're not satisfied with my response, you're welcome to contact the Press Council: email@example.com
However, I think you'll find that - as with letters to the editor - the Press Council considers the decision on whether comments are published to be the sole prerogative of the publisher.
Now I probably was a little provocative with my reference to the moderators as 'thought police' however in the theme of 'fake news' the role of news media as cheerleaders for empire's adventurism I felt I was on reasonable ground. Anyway I followed with this response an hour later 14:15;
Thanks for that Patrick,
My concern is that you create a bubble of reality which is difficult to penetrate with facts sourced from outside the bubble. Thus, if I were to advance a position in response to an assertion in one of your articles and the matter has no previous consideration, or has a bias due to a limited perspective, I am literally denied the opportunity to present referenced material including from my own researches or from NZ or other nation's tertiary and research institutions, say, for instance academic papers on an aspect of climate change.
Another example might be in relation to whether the Democratic National Convention either screwed the scrum, or allowed it to be screwed, in relation to the Democrat primaries. Under your comment guidelines the following study would be disallowed:
Further I hold an informed opinion in respect to matters relating to the deep state, including the collusion of the so-called mainstream media with large power i.e. government to occult and bend truth from the consuming masses.
That is very much the case in relation to the 9/11 event that gave us the war on terror and the chaos that is rampant US hegemony in a very frightened and insecure world today. I continue to press the criminal nature of that event by perpetrators associated with the US deep state, into our government and onto the pages of the news media whether that suits the sponsors' agenda or otherwise. See here for a taste:
One of my papers to the FADT Select Committee's TPP treaty examination, this one entitled, "US - Aotearoa NZ Values - Do These Correlate?" covers US militarism and developments on the road to the 9/11 event:
So to the comment about 'thought police' I offered it aware that it might get your goat, however, I've now offered my informed opinion as to why I feel it justified as far as your 'convenient facts bubble' created as a result of the logical implication and consequence of your comments guidelines.
I'm not an idiot, I know what's at work. In fact my political philosophy is liberal with a strong recognition for good governance. Before the pejorative 'conspiracy theorist' label is employed in the discussion I offer this essay that the 'thought police' at Stuff would deny me the ability to disseminate, Otago Professor of Philosophy, Charles Pigden's paper, "Conspiracy Theories and the Conventional Wisdom Revisited"
From the abstract:
" Conspiracy theories should be neither believed nor investigated - that is the conventional wisdom. I argue that it is sometimes permissible both to investigate and to believe. Hence this is a dispute in the ethics of belief. I defend epistemic ‘oughts’ that apply in the first instance to belief-forming strategies that are partly under our control. I argue that the policy of systematically doubting or disbelieving conspiracy theories would be both a political disaster and the epistemic equivalent of self-mutilation, since it leads to the conclusion that history is bunk and the nightly news unbelievable. In fact (of course) the policy is not employed systematically but is only wheeled on to do down theories that the speaker happens to dislike. I develop a deductive argument from hard-to-deny premises that if you are not a ‘conspiracy theorist’ in my anodyne sense of the word then you are an ‘idiot’ in the Greek sense of the word, that is, someone so politically purblind as to have no opinions about either history or public affairs. The conventional wisdom can only be saved (if at all) if ‘conspiracy theory’ is given a slanted definition. I discuss some slanted definitions apparently presupposed by proponents of the conventional wisdom (including, amongst others, Tony Blair) and conclude that even with these definitions the conventional wisdom comes out as deeply unwise. I finish up with a little harmless fun at the expense of David Aaronvitch whose abilities as a rhetorician and a popular historian are not perhaps matched by a corresponding capacity for logical thought."
The key passage is highlighted for any idiots.
I'm not aware of what you might see your role or the role of the organisation you represent, however, I generally support the idea of a free press that holds power to account.
We might have diverse opinions on how that ought proceed, nevertheless, retaining a thought bubble impenetrable by a contrary or alternative fact because it is not already covered or addressed by your news organisation, or your mates in the NZ Government, is tantamount to blatant censorship - it is definitely the antithesis of a 'free and honest press!' That is my opinion and I've provided my logic in a transparent and upfront fashion, which is more than I sense from you who refuses to discuss the merits of your moderation of the article in question in relation to my simple piece of irony developed in my comment you refused.
Final word on the press and 9/11 is from Tony Rooke in relation to the BBC news reporting of World Trade Centre Tower 7, the BBC broadcast that it fell 30 minutes before it did! Prophetic, lucky or in the know? ;) Deep state what's it all about? And what's your role Patrick and Angela in keeping the lid on the deep state corruption? All fair questions in a democracy, don't you think? Or don't you?
For a look go to Tony Rooke UK Film-maker's 'Incontrovertible 9/11':
This movie is produced by Rooke who got off the charge of not paying his UK TV license fee because the BBC is supposed to report truth! His evidence made an impression on the old Bailey:
But that's not a link on Stuff or the NZ Government's website either - go figure!
With utmost respect and in the spirit of true critique,
There was nought back from Patrick for a day so I attempted another line of logic at 14:41 on Tuesday 7 March:
Dear Patrick and Angela,
hmmm..your silence indicates you accede to my premise or thesis.
A little additional consideration on whether my comment with the word 'ironic' in it was indeed "off topic."
Your friends at the Guardian and Australia's SBS are assisting in outing the role of reporters, news media and government in driving nations of people to war in this case the 2003 Iraq war (complicity to cause Aggression - hate speech - incitement to violence - false reporting is the least of the crimes - breach of journalistic ethics)
...to go and murder people in places far from home, how many millions?
Here's the Aussie Iraq War dossier referenced in both reports, link is to a downloadable pdf:
Have you run this story as yet? Does that mean these 'reputable' sources or the Australian FOIA report would be unacceptable urls under your comment guidelines?
Please respond to my requests for answers, as your guidelines require I satisfy the matter with you before visiting the Press Council.
Cheers again from greg.
Which elicited this final return from Patrick Crewdson at 15:57:
I have answered your initial inquiry about your comment being rejected. I don't believe engaging further will be productive.
The following dropbox provides the full thread of conversation for accuracy's sake:
Why bother critiquing the news media?
I assert it is every person's responsibility to be active and vigilant in the democracy. One significant source and vector in which the democracy informs itself is through the agency of the mainstream news media organisations via their journalism and reporting of the matters, issues and events that impact the state and the planet. To this effect news media organisations have had this to say about themselves and their role in the state apparatus;
The press and others on Freedom of the Press (an outline of the justification)
Fairfax journalism charter:
On media freedom from Australia from the MEAA (Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance):
Nick McKenzie who is the quoted Journalist:
Text from MEAA quote from Laurie Oakes which arose from his acceptance speech at the Walkley awards for journalism, full transcript here:
Laurie Oakes, one of Australia’s foremost political commentators and a Walkley Foundation Trustee, gave these remarks at the Melbourne Press Freedom Dinner on Sept. 25, 2015.
As concern over terrorism grew last year, Tony Abbott told us: “The delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift”. Well, the balance between press freedom and security certainly shifted. Tonight I want to make a number of points about that.
I want to argue that we in the Australian media have been somewhat apathetic on the press freedom front, not vigilant enough or as willing to fight as we should have been. I also want to say something about our new Prime Minister and his attitude. And finally, I want to talk about the need to bring the public along with us in the press freedom cause.
It was Indonesian troops who murdered the Balibo five 40 years ago, but the response of the Australian Government was shameful. It lied and covered up, feigning ignorance about what had happened to them.
Which connects to this RNZ report on World Press Freedom Day:
http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/mediawatch/audio/201799175/the-right-to-know-and-to-find-out a couple of extracts;
1. Across the Tasman, the journalists' union - The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) - published a report into the state of press freedom in Australia.
Criminalising the Truth, Suppressing the Right to Know said Australia now has a raft of national security laws that could criminalise legitimate journalism and prosecute whistleblowers.
Some government agencies could now trawl through journalists’ telecommunications data, and jail journalists for reporting matters deemed to be of national security, the report said.
2. When Fairfax Media political reporter Andrea Vance revealed dozens of New Zealanders were illegally spied upon by the GCSB, an investigation ordered by the prime minister’s office asked for details of her movements around Parliament and her phone calls from her office. Parliamentary Services handed it over.
She’s not the only journalist to have felt the heavy hand of a state agency intrusion, though some journalists pushed back in 2015.
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) reached a settlement with freelance foreign correspondent Jon Stephenson - and apologised to him - after he sued for defamation. A 2011 statement had effectively claimed part of an eye-opening Metro magazine report on what our troops were doing by Mr Stephenson had been made up.
When the case got to court, the NZDF admitted their press statement was wrong. The jury couldn’t agree on a verdict and the defamation trial was abandoned, but the NZDF only settled when another trial was imminent, with the risk of an award of significant damages. ( see Jon Stephenson's 'eyes wide shut': http://www.noted.co.nz/currently/politics/eyes-wide-shut-the-governments-guilty-secrets-in-afghanistan/ )
Which in a sense leads to the latest revelation by Stephenson and Nicky Hager, in their book 'Hit and Run' about alleged war crimes in Afghanistan in 2011 which is what my concerns are about – military adventurism and insufficient, inaccurate and or misleading public information being provided to justify the continuity of criminal militarism:
http://www.pottonandburton.co.nz/store/hit-run From the webpage;
In August 2010, a New Zealand soldier died in a roadside bomb blast in Afghanistan. In retaliation, the New Zealand SAS led a raid on two isolated villages in search of the fighters they suspected were responsible.
They all knew the rules. Prior to firing weapons, their freshly issued orders said, ‘the commander approving the strike must determine that no civilians are present.’ If they could not assess whether civilians were present, firing was prohibited. But it all went horribly wrong.
None of the fighters were found but, by the end of the raid, 21 civilians were dead or wounded. Most were children or women, including a three-year-old girl who was killed. A dozen houses had been burnt or blown up. The operation was personally approved by the prime minister via phone from New Zealand. More missions against the group of fighters and more potential crimes of war followed, including the beating and torture of a prisoner. Afterwards no one took responsibility. The New Zealand military denied the facts and went to great lengths to cover things up.
This book is the story of those events. It is, at heart, about the meaning of honour; about who we want to be and what we believe in as New Zealanders.
I note that Fairfax is assertive in protecting press freedom as demonstrated in this article about Sky TV seeking to impose restrictive conditions on competitor news reporting at the Olympic Games:
Perhaps this piece might assist in illuminating the subject from my perspective. I'm not saying that my rights to freedom of expression have any bearing in the matter, more for the Stuff website to reflect its journalistic charter it must allow discovery of facts from a broad range of sources. Thus 'Press Freedom' is framed with ethical considerations:
From the philosopher's discourse the following extract has bearing in this matter;
Freedom of the press is quite a different kind of thing, since it pertains to a certain group of corporations (mass-media companies), rather than individuals. The key difference is that because corporations are not people their speech can have no intrinsic value (pace Justice Kennedy's majority opinion in Citizens United). Corporations, unlike individuals, are not sophisticated enough agents to have thoughts of their own that they burn to express to others, and so they cannot suffer from censorship as people do. Indeed, because corporations lack moral agency generally, their 'moral' rights can only be justified on utilitarian grounds: recognising corporate personality and property rights is a legal wheeze that makes the capitalist order function more efficiently, rather than a recognition of some underlying intrinsic moral claim. (For corporations to gain real moral rights, they would have to be designed in such a way that they can conduct morally sophisticated reasoning and give themselves a moral law. But that's a subject for another post.)
Instead, the justification for freedom of the press is purely instrumental. First these companies provide the medium through which freedom of speech is realised (outside of books, and nowadays the internet). Second is their political function in a democratic society. They have the capacity to enhance public reasoning by informing the public about the important issues of the day, and to incentivise political office holders to serve the public interest by providing a means for the voting public to observe what they get up to.
These are good reasons to care about the health of the press and to keep it free from government control. After all, they are the very same reasons autocracies censor the press so severely. Yet they only refer to the capacities of the mass media. Simply because a free press can support freedom of speech and democracy, and can threaten dictatorships, does not mean that it necessarily does so. For a mechanistic justification like this to be successful, the machine must be shown to work in practise as well as in theory. And we can see that in the real world media corporations with the power to serve the public interest often don't.
The wikipedia entry on the matter of Press Freedom:
Perhaps the following passage referenced from John Stuart Mill's essay is of most relevance;
John Stuart Mill in 1869 in his book On Liberty approached the problem of authority versus liberty from the viewpoint of a 19th-century utilitarian: The individual has the right of expressing himself so long as he does not harm other individuals. The good society is one in which the greatest number of persons enjoy the greatest possible amount of happiness. Applying these general principles of liberty to freedom of expression, Mill states that if we silence an opinion, we may silence the truth. The individual freedom of expression is therefore essential to the well-being of society. Mill wrote:
If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and one, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. [ On Liberty by John Stuart Mill ]
And this conference in 2007 - the link is to a book which is the record of an international conference; “New Media: The Press Freedom Dimension Challenges and Opportunities of New Media for Press Freedom” - to explore the emerging and rapidly evolving environment of press freedom created by the new electronic media.
It took place at the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris 15-16 February 2007. With speakers from more than 30 countries, the discussions covered a wide range of topics from citizen journalism and freedom of expression, to the looming reality of censorship, as dictators, taking the cue from China, place blocks on the Internet and lock up people for expressing their views in cyberspace.
The conference was sponsored by the World Press Freedom Committee and co-sponsored by UNESCO and the World Association of Newspapers, in partnership with the other member groups of the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations:
Committee to Protect Journalists, Commonwealth Press Union, Inter American Press Association,
International Association of Broadcasting, International Association of the Periodical Press,
International Press Institute, and North American Broadcasters Association.
who's concluding statement says;
To that end, civil society and all those engaged in news flows over the Internet and other new media must continue to be an integral part of the deliberations at every stage. The future of new and evolving forms of communication cannot be left to governments and technocrats alone.
The Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations calls for concerted effort to make preserving and extending the free flow of news and information in cyberspace and elsewhere an ongoing basic concern. News on the Internet and other new forms of communication is the same as news everywhere. New technology does not require any reconsideration of fundamental rights such as freedom of the press.
We call on those involved in deliberations on the future of new forms of communication to:
a) reject any proposal aimed at restricting news content or media operations,
b) work for inclusion of clear statements of unqualified support for press freedom on the Internet and other new forms of communication in any new agreements or declarations of principle on the subject, and
c) stipulate in any text that could be used restrictively a clear statement that the particular provision involved is not intended to limit freedom of expression or press freedom.
There must be press freedom in all the new spaces created for communication.
My conclusions and complaint
I assert that Fairfax's commenting guidelines on the Stuff news site are deliberately limiting:
I want to link to an external site, why won’t you approve it?
We do not allow links to websites, with the exception of Stuff articles or Govt-owned domains. This is as much as to protect our readers from malicious / pornographic websites as it is to protect Fairfax Media NZ’s reputation.
This condition is contrived to limit alternative narratives and in fact constitutes a serious breech of the public's 'right to know' which underpins the philosophy of press freedom.
Surely the press freedom is founded on the public's right to know? Without the public's right to know what is truth or what is being done in it's name by government and powerful interests, i.e. the New Zealand Defence Forces, the notion of Press Freedom is a nonsense.
1. I seek that the comment guidelines are broadened to allow urls other then merely Stuff/Fairfax and NZ Government websites.
2. I seek formal review as to why my comment was moderated and not run on the article; 'US President Donald Trump accuses Barack Obama of 'wire tapping' Trump Tower':
3. I seek that my comment is included in the list where the Press Council finds the comment is no more off topic than any other.
4. That the Stuff moderators act in future with impartiality in respect to all commentators and their comments.
Many thanks for your consideration,