Anyone interested in reading some debate on the New Zealand's media's coverage of the Haiti earthquake and subsequent events I refer you to Ethical Cocktail where I have amade a small comtribution in reply to Fair Go's Gordon Harcourt.

Unfortunately Harcourt looks like he has bailed out of the debate, as he does not want to comment on Mike McRoberts journalistic efforts in Haiti. He'll have a go at bloggers like me but it appears that journalists and TV newsreaders within the mainstream media are 'no go' areas.

And so the debate gets closed down...

Anyway here's a small extract from the debate:

Attention Steve Cowan (Steve commented on Gordon’s first post)

Steve Cowan’s response is a masterpiece of naivety. Sorry Steve, but reporting news is about reporting news. Much as you might wish to get a lecture from Robert Fisk about the complexities of the Arab-Israeli conflict as part of every single news story [and] every broadcast, it ain’t gonna happen and frankly that’s not a bad thing in my book. It’s incumbent on broadcasters to give a full and balanced picture – cue outraged spluttering from Steve about “balance” – but it’s completely ludicrous to suggest, as you appear to, that a full account of any history to any conflict can be carried in a news broadcast or newspaper, or even a weekly news magazine. Fisk’s latest tome is 1366 pages. How many of them should I read out on air when I next introduce a story from Jerusalem on the TVNZ7 news at 8pm? Which facts (“facts” – there’s an elastic notion) should I include in my potted history primer?

By the way Steve, I saw a great deal of context and history on Haiti in various media during the coverage of the quake aftermath. In fact, I led a 15 minute discussion of it on Radio NZ, while filling in for Kathryn Ryan. News coverage provokes wider discussion of context. That’s how it works, Steve.

And Steve, obviously the evil US military were solely intent on furthering the ends of the industrial-military complex but, um, maybe they had to go in to deliver aid? Gee, it’s just a thought.

My reply:
Actually I wasn’t interested in Mike McRoberts delivering me a lecture but I was interested in him asking some basic questions like: Why did Haiti society simply collapse after the earthquake? Could it have had anything to do with a century of deliberate economic exploitation, driven by the US?

McRoberts never even approached the question, never mind answer it. Rather he made banal statements like ‘Haiti is a country that takes two steps forward, then one step backward.’ Was he blaming the Haitian people for their poverty – it sounded like it to me.

It certainly didn’t sound like Harcourt’s ‘full and balanced picture’.

It might offend Harcourt’s naive liberal outlook, but there has been a defacto US military coup in Haiti. Why are 20,000 armed troops needed in Haiti – none with humanitarian training. Once again, McRoberts had nothing to say.

Doesn’t sound like ‘full and balanced coverage’ to me.

Perhaps Harcourt is talking about the ‘full and balanced picture’ provided by the BBC’s Matt Frei.

To quote John Pilger in the New Statesman:

”The first TV reports played a critical role, giving the impression of widespread criminal mayhem. Matt Frei, the BBC reporter despatched from Washington, seemed on the point of hyperventilating as he brayed about the “violence” and need for “security”.

In spite of the demonstrable dignity of the earthquake victims, and evidence of citizens’ groups toiling unaided to rescue people, and even a US general’s assessment that the violence in Haiti was considerably less than before the earthquake, Frei claimed that “looting is the only industry” and “the dignity of Haiti’s past is long forgotten”.

Thus, a history of unerring US violence and exploitation in Haiti was consigned to the victims. “There’s no doubt”, reported Frei in the aftermath of America’s bloody invasion of Iraq in 2003, “that the desire to bring good, to bring American values to the rest of the world, and especially now to the Middle East … is now increasingly tied up with military power.”

Pilger is probably someone the smug Harcourt would consign to his ‘naive’ camp.


  1. Hi Steve,
    I just stumbled on your comment. Just by way of “context”, I am an employee of TVNZ News & Current Affairs, and need to seek approval for public comment of this nature. Your raison d’etre is commenting on people like me on your blog. Mine is doing my job and gladly suffering (or, more likely, not being aware of) the slings and arrows you choose to fire. As I said in withdrawing, I prefer to speak directly to Martin’s students, in a forum where I can freely express my views.
    And Steve, quoting John Pilger at me is hardly a slam dunk! I imagine you would laugh off one of your right wing blogging rivals if they quoted Chris Hitchens/Anne Coulter/Fran O’Sullivan etc at you as a way of establishing their case. From my perspective as a member of the vile MSM, Pilger and Coulter et al are opposite poles on a spectrum, and regarded with similar suspicion.
    Regards, Gordon Harcourt

  2. I quoted John Pilger because it was convenient, but that does not invalidate the point I have been making consistently - there has been a US military coup in Haiti and yet New Zealand liberals have chosen to ignore it.

    As I wrote recently, if George Bush had sent 20,000 military troops into Haiti and ordered them to take control, liberals would be screaming 'military invasion' and the like.

    But there has been a deafening silence from the likes of the Greens, Labour blogs like The Standard, etc.

    Why is this? Is it because it would mean admitting that 'their man' Barack Obama isn't that much differennt from Bush? Is that just too an uncomfortable reality to admit to?

    Pilger has spoken out about what s happening in Haiti - you seem content to maintain a silence on the issue. Is this your balanced view from the 'middle'?

    I doubt you will be telling AUT's journalism students that the media's coverage of Haiti has been woefully inadequate.


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