In its uncritical adoption of identity or woke politics the mainstream media has encouraged the growth of a media that isn't woke. But is it progressive? 

PUBLIC TRUST in the mainstream media has been on the decline for some time. In 2021 a report from the Auckland University of Technology revealed that less than half the population trusted the news. Horizon Research polled some 1200 adults in March 2021 for the AUT study and found the proportion of people who said they trusted 'most news, most of the time', had fallen by five percentage points from a year prior, to 48 per cent. The media, for its all self-aggrandisement and boasting, is viewed with suspicion by over half the population. 

It is not a coincidence that the continuing decline in trust of the media has come at a time when there has been a rise of a specific set of values on the liberal left and which have largely swept through the media unimpeded. These days it seems that a prerequisite to being employed as a journalist in the news rooms of media organisations like Stuff and RNZ is also agreeing to their cultural and political propositions.

They all fit under the umbrella category of identity politics or woke politics. While these are terms that are usually tossed around by the chattering class, they are more commonly understood by the general populace as push by the Labour Government on issues such as 'decolonisation', co-governance, hate speech legislation and gender politics.

They are the concerns of a middle-class elite who have largely abandoned the economic issues that press on the lives of the working class. But its more than that. The liberal left hasn’t just abandoned the working class – it has actively turned against it, too. More often than not, in elite liberal circles, ordinary working people are looked down upon with disdain, as having the wrong political views and the wrong cultural tastes.

Professor Catherine Liu, in her book Virtue Hoarders: The Case Against the Professional Managerial Class, suggests that at the heart of the liberal elite lies a secret contempt for working people. She also writes that while the liberal elite might like to posture as progressive, it uses the language of social justice to mystify class relations. She says that the liberal elite, the professional managerial class (PMC), is fighting a class war, not against capitalism or capitalists, but against the working class: 'As a class the PMC loves to talk about bias rather than inequality, racism rather than capitalism, visibility rather than explanation.'

We witnessed that class war during the Wellington occupation when folk, many protesting an unjust economic system that has done them no favours, found themselves being labelled 'extremists' 'alt right' and even 'neo-fascists'. The response of the liberal left, the same liberal left that has embraced 'decolonisation' and 'co-governance', is the same liberal left that, from day one, urged the police to go in hard against the occupants of Parliament grounds and let the batons rain down. Even after the occupation was violently ended by the police, a woke politician like Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson was encouraging the police to pursue the protesters into their local communities and arrest them. 

While they might get up in arms about evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins who has had the temerity to object to te matauranga (ways of knowing) being given the same status as legitimate science and introduced into the school science curriculum, the liberal elite has remained silent while New Zealand's level of poverty and inequality has continued to increase. Indeed, they support a government and its institutions that maintain and defend the economic status quo - a status quo that the liberal elite have been the beneficiaries of. As the American journalist and socialist Batya Ungar-Sargon observes in her book Bad News: How Woke Media is Undermining Democracy: 'Wokeness perpetuates the economic interests of affluent white liberals'. But, at the same time, woke politics allows white liberals to still feel superior to the conservative right. 

And, more than ever, the mainstream media has become the courtier of the political establishment. It has compromised its role as the independent fourth estate in order to promote government narratives. While it might claim it is simply elevating voices that had been traditionally underrepresented in the media, the working class still doesn't get a look in. The mainstream media has fuelled a culture war in order to divert attention from the class war. 

The media has become increasingly dogmatic about what ideas are acceptable and certainly any competing ideas to those of the liberal left are not acceptable. Richard Dawkins was a victim of such media dogmatism recently. His recent visit to the country and his opinion column in The Spectator were the subject of critical pieces in the NZ Herald and on the Stuff website. Radio New Zealand ignored Dawkins altogether.  

The mainstream media's zeal in pushing government-approved narratives has spurred the appearance of media outlets with counter-narratives. 

The Platform was launched in May last year. The online radio station has been characterised as 'right wing' by the mainstream media. Its real crime though has been to reject the orthodoxies of woke politics that are on display in the mainstream media every day.

While it does promote some conservative views on issues such as climate change - largely the hobbyhorse of The Platform founder Sean Plunket- the mainstream media's characterisation of it as right wing doesn't explain the regular appearance of pundits on the show who aren't right wing. That has included commentators such as Chris Trotter, Martyn Bradbury of The Daily Blog and Bryce Edwards of the Democracy Project. It is perhaps more accurate to describe The Platform as providing alternative views to the conventional and establishment narratives of a mainstream media that has become staggeringly uniform in its opinions. 

And soon to launch is Reality Check Radio. It is being backed by the anti-covid vaccination group Voices for Freedom. Its hosts have been plucked out of mainstream politics and media including former ACT leader Rodney Hide, former TVNZ newsreader Peter Williams and former Radio New Zealand journalist Paul Brennan. The station promises 'rational discussion, common sense, and open debate.' Whether it fulfils that promise remains to be seen.

The politics of the woke media, because it is devoid of an agenda that fights the oppressor on behalf of the oppressed, is largely window dressing. It is about incorporating a tiny segment of those marginalised by society into unjust structures in order to perpetuate them. But an anti-woke media that isn't anti-capitalist as well, is also no alternative. In the absence of a significant left wing media outlet that isn't beholden to the Labour Party, the best that those of a more left wing bent can do is act as citizen journalists and promote left wing views via means of blogs, podcasts and Youtube channels. 


  1. Good article that made some things clear for me. I don't get it though how Trotter and Bradbury can claim not to be woke but still support Labour. No consistency here.

  2. One of the best examples to me has been the PMC claiming Ardern was 'destroyed' by criticism.

    I'd be only too happy to show them what the destruction of a human being really looks like. It's not freaking embarrassment.

    it is telling that this is the greatest fear for the comfortable and insulated members of the PMC. It is the worst such people can imagine within their gated and gilded communities.

    The people the PMC and Ardern's government were actually destroying were those they never saw as human.

    And this is how they operate: dehumanise, remove resources needed to be part of the community; all those 'frivolous' luxuries like health care. But keep them alive. Only just. And get the boot in over and over and over. Blame, shame, disgrace, humiliation, no future or hope for anything better.

    Deprive, injure, humiliate and blame. Nowhere to live, no work, no care.

    And the PMC screams blue murder about a politician being 'destroyed' by criticism.

    Bring in the Ministry of Truth. This is serious now.

  3. Trotter and, to a degree, Bradbury are old Labour and abhor the current wokeness.


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