It’s time we fixed the New Zealand news media’s problem with sh*t speech.
First, let’s put together a working definition. Sh*t speech is the stuff that might not necessarily be described as hate speech, but it occupies much of the same spectrum. It’s speech that presses the buttons of prejudice, bigotry and outrage, but isn’t necessarily hateful per se; that isn’t (always) lies, but is most often inaccurate, skewed, or otherwise misleading. It’s the floating turd in gutter journalism.
In other words, it’s the stuff the nutcases are happy to call “hate speech”. The problem is, if you do that you lose normal people. So that’s really the problem being addressed here – “how to shut down people who say things I dislike, without getting the average joe offside”.
To paraphrase the Broadcasting Standards Authority decision on Heather du Plessis-Allan’s foul commentary about Pasifika nations, it’s speech that is “inflammatory …and [has] the potential to cause widespread harm.” It’s the foundation the Pyramid of Hate is built on.
I recommend clicking on the “Pyramid of Hate”. What’s this so-called “Foundation”?
So we’re talking seriously trivial stuff, things that are to the average person actually praiseworthy. For example, this guide includes “there is only one race, the human race” as a “microaggression” because “a White person does not want to acknowledge race”.
In other words, the writer is basing his views on an incredibly extreme left wing puritanical view which literally sees anyone committing even the most trivial offense (even a common anti-racist phrase) as being the foundation for genocide.
That’s as extreme an anti-freedom position as it’s possible to get, without literally rounding people at gunpoint for disagreeing with you.
Then we have this tweet. It’s from Russel Brown and talks about this article by Mike Hosking.
Brown describes the article as
- factually hopeless, – he can’t say it’s devoid of facts, because it’s actually stuffed with ’em. If you know what “factually hopeless” means, let me know.
- devoid of empathy – as if “empathy” is a primary consideration here, and not something that can cause seriously misguided policy decisions.
- and encouraging contempt of ordinary people – well, it doesn’t. Ordinary people go out and work. Mike is defending ordinary people against those who would take advantage.
- is socially corrosive – as if calling a spade a spade is more corrosive than shaming people into calling a spade a “tractor with insufficient development opportunities”. Lying is corrosive. Shaming the truth is corrosive. Pointing out that people are lazy and full of excuses is not corrosive.
In other words, this “sh*t speech” used real facts to defend taxpayers and suggest that public policy should recognise a well-known and easily-observable fact.
In New Zealand, common topics that sh*t speech explores include, but are not limited to, immigrants and refugees,
Encouraged by 2 out of 3 parties currently in government. Yet somehow I don’t think we’re going to be exploring the racism that Labour encouraged and exploited during the election.
the “entitlement” of Maori, LGBTQI issues, the “Treaty grievance industry,” and the full spectrum of climate change denial. (Anti-Islam rhetoric usually features prominently, but for some reason, it hasn’t much lately. I wonder why.)
Got that? You can’t critisise any aspect of the treatment of Maori, Gay rights (bake that cake!), the Waitangi Tribunal, Islam, or climate change. To do so is verboten.
Never mind that these are all issues that affect everyone in our society. Never mind that these are the issues that we all vote on in elections.
Notably, sh*t speech is often almost completely devoid of style, substance, wit, or even basic legibility. Mike Hosking’s blithe strawmen frequently contain so little substance that they barely qualify as brain-farts.
I actually find Mike pretty entertaining. But this guy doesn’t, so out with the pitchforks!
Leighton Smith is a frequent climate change denier whose only saving grace is writing so inane it’s indistinguishable from the output of an AI trained to generate meaningless text.
Just in case you missed the fact that climate change denial is verboten. M’kay? Also, Leighton Smith smells like farts.
But to take a step back, I’ve always found that people love to make ad-hominem attacks on writing style. In my experience, it’s a sure sign that the replying writer has no real case.
Oh, and later he actually admits that these people are gifted communicators.
So who’s talking sh*t? As well as the names already checked, and an array of occasional op-ed contributors, it’s Duncan Garner with racist takes on immigrants. It’s Sean Plunket with misogynist references to “feminazis.”
Weird, I remember racism from Jacinda Ardern too. I guess that’s not worth remembering. Garner certainly received plenty of harsh criticism for his words.
I encourage people to click on the Sean Plunket link. I’ve fixed it to point to the actual article. Amusingly, he is pointing out exactly the sort of attitudes this writer is extolling, and how this will probably result in feminist pushing to ban rugby. Yet somehow this perfectly reasonable future prediction is “sh*t speech”?
Or, maybe it’s that feminism is also one of those verboten topics? Certainly the author here seems to think that any criticism or observation of feminism is a sign of hatred of all women. As if women aren’t repelled by feminism these days, for exactly the attitudes Plunket points out.
But do remember to add it to that list of forbidden topics.
Those are just the ones that come immediately to my mind, but there are plenty more, and not all of them are on the right of politics. I’d also count Chris Trotter and Bomber Bradbury among our stable of sh*t-talkers, as well as other voices on the Left who seem to glory in stoking conflict. If I’m being honest, I should sometimes include myself among those, from back when I had a regular-ish column.
Burn the Witch! Oh wait, I’m a witch too… never mind, burn them anyway!
But the voices on the left don’t tend to have the platform the others do. Not at all coincidentally, many of these personalities overlap with the talk radio and TV broadcasting stable. They are powerful media personalities, with their own shows, who occupy very special safe spaces in New Zealand’s news infrastructure.
Yes, it’s rare for people on the left to have media platforms.
I swear, I didn’t make that up. He literally is claiming that. Even though he goes on to mention any number of commentators that don’t lean right.
This is because these personalities are engineered to generate attention through outrage. Which is ironic,
…because this column is stuffed full of outrage. Positively overflowing with it.
seeing as they’re often accusing othersof being outraged snowflakes or virtue-signallers (and I think it’s telling how quickly and enthusiastically some people adopted the creepy, hateful language of Gamergate and the alt-right)
People who love this behaviour signal-boost. So do people who hate it. The behaviour exists because we enable it – and the media personalities’ bosses love them for the attention that we all give out. The feedback loop looks like this:
Get people to talk sh*t
Sh*t gets engagement
Profit! (Sort of, as we’ll see.)
Go to 1
And legitimately, what I’m doing is (2). I’m engaging with this sh*t.
NZME has just implemented a paywall, where they’ll hide their premium content – presumably the excellent work done by the likes of David Fisher, Keith Ng, Kirsty Johnston, Matt Nippert and many more – behind a $5 a week subscription. When this was first announced, the words “Mike Hosking” started trending on Twitter – spurred mostly by people begging the Herald to install him behind the paywall, so they didn’t have to hear from him any more.
The author things this was a good thing fyi. Because Mike Hosking’s bad.
Let’s skip down a bit.
Making news, instead of reporting it
There’s another feedback loop in the sh*t-speech ecosystem: the news media having their cake and eating it too. Or, rather, making the news and reporting it too. Here’s a working example: Mike Hosking hates bikes. He hates cyclists. He hates cycleways, and he’s not shy about expressing it in many, many radio rants and (loosely transcribed from radio) columns in the Herald. But the Herald has other columnists and writers, like the excellent Simon Wilson, who use the garbage Hosking produces as fuel for far more considered pieces that politely present the hard evidence for why bikes are actually a bloody good thing in cities.
So we have debate that covers the issue. This is a good thing. For the record, I think Hosking’s position on biking is idiotic.
Now, Simon Wilson’s sort of writing is a good thing, and we need more of it. But it’d be better if he didn’t need to use Mike’s sh*t, in the same publication, as the launchpad.
Debates should be one-sided, got it?
(Another, more recent example of this cynical content factory in action: Sean Plunket, speaking on Mediaworks’ Magic Talk, on how “woke feminazis” are going to ban rugby. His words are repeated verbatim, with no counter-speech, as clickbait news on Mediaworks’ Newshub website. This then is counterproductively signal boosted – often by people who oppose or seek to mock this sort of misogynistic, paranoid bullsh*t but just end up smearing it around. When I saw it, it was because some leftie had angrily retweeted it.)
Yes, one side says stuff, which gets distributed. Then, the other side has their say and that gets distributed. That’s sort of how conversations happen – one side talks, then the other.
But again, this is a really weird example to point to. This guy is literally connecting microaggressions to genocide and thinks it’s outrageous to suggest that feminists (who want to police trivially [non]offensive speech) might want to ban an ultra-manly game which involves actual violence. I just can’t get my head around the cognitive dissonance involved there.
In the Hosking example above, I’ve used cycling as an example, but it if you substitute “cycling” for “climate change” it all gets a bit more fraught. Much of the news media is constantly trying to have it both ways on this, and other important topics; keeping the deniers and cranks onside, but also presenting the science.
And if both sides are presented, thinking people can quickly see who is a denier, who is a crank, who is presenting science, and who is pushing a political agenda that’s not supported by that science. This is what public debate is all about.
The result is not any kind of balance; it’s a net loss for audiences. The NZME ecosystem is particularly awful for this. The could easily create an editorial line on climate change, as Stuff has laudably done, but instead they allow at least two of their headline columnists to deny and cast doubt on this vitally important matter at every opportunity.
So out of the big two media outlets, a grand total of two (2) columnists occasionally write an opposing view.
And this is a Bad Thing. Climate change is important, so we must have only agreement!
Here’s the thing. A lot of people think migrants have purchased all the housing in New Zealand. Not having a house seems important, should we allow people to write “sh*t” supporting immigration?
The biggest of all these problems is that s*it speech is cheap and it sells. As a product, it’s a no-brainer. For the people trained in producing sh*t speech, it comes as naturally as pooing. Why spend money on expensive investigative journalism when you could get 10 times the engagement and attention by just throwing a few fresh turds on Facebook?
But the left (excluding the previously mentioned persona non-grata) are all good people who would never be evil. Or at least, we can overlook their micro-aggressions… most of the time.
How we can get rid of sh*t speech
Many of the views espoused by the sh*t-talkers shouldn’t be on the air. They shouldn’t be in our nationally-syndicated newspaper columns. They are poisoning the well of our discourse, and our society is about ready to die of dysentery. This isn’t a bug; it’s a feature. To cause conflict is what sh*t speech is for. It’s a disgrace.
I’m speechless. This has become so openly fascistic it’s bizarre.
And it’s not even the sh*t-talkers’ fault.
This isn’t so much about media personalities or even their politics as much it is about perverse incentives. Most of the people I’ve mentioned are gifted communicators who could do so much better if they tried, or if the incentives supported them to.
In other words, these people aren’t bad writers. They’re actually very good writers, who are writing what the general public want to read. It’s just that the author here thinks that the topics they write on are bad, because he disagrees with them.
The blame for sh*t speech sits entirely with the people who publish it.
I’ll say it as plainly as I can: if media publishers and editors gave the merest f**k about ethics, we’d wouldn’t have this issue.
A guy who uses an f-bomb in a sentence about people who don’t care about ethics.
Let that sink in.
Then look back and consider that this entire thing has been about censoring people who disagree on climate change, feminism, and immigration. And now he’s trying to complain about ethics!
Look, I agree that media ethics is sorely lacking. But demanding that media outlets print only one view is not the solution, quite the opposite!
But we do, and audiences are dealing with it in the wrong way. Every time some new, horrible reckon arrives, instead of ignoring it, we draw attention to it.
AKA we discuss it in public forum. That’s necessary for a functioning democracy.
We may not always like the result, but traditionally we’ve recognised that respectful disagreement is better than censorship and conflict.
I fear that will not last much longer.
Well, that’s exactly what publishers want us to do. We won’t rein in Mike Hosking et al’s claim to the sh*t-speech throne by furiously tweeting their columns everytime they say something offensively stupid.
This is called maturity. I realised years ago that this was Chris Trotter’s thing – he swings between center and extreme left constantly, to maximise his readership. I’ve ignored him as a result. Because you know, I’m an adult.
Remember the Boobs on Bikes parade? Family First stirred up against them for years. Then they ignored them and they went away so quickly it wasn’t funny. Turns out, FF was their biggest publicity and the attention was counter-productive.
Instead, sh*t speech needs to be deplatformed and ignored. Here’s how that can be done.
As I just said, I’m all for ignoring people who are stirring the pot. But that’s me using my freedom. Deplatforming is trying to restrict the freedom of others, that’s a totally different thing.
1. Instead of angry-tweeting or rage-posting on Reddit about the latest debacle (including, of course, a link to the offending screed), use your energy to complain to the relevant authorities…
Because the BSA is totally going to sanction someone for questioning climate change.
2. More effective still is to express your displeasure to the people who sponsor or advertise on the content in question. This is publishing’s Achilles heel. Sure, complain to the harried marketing coordinators running corporate Twitter accounts if you feel like it, but it’s always best to vote with your wallet. You know how many departing customers it would take to make BNZ’s sponsorship of the Mike Hosking Breakfast profoundly unprofitable? Not bloody many….
This sort of campaign relies on advertisers being adverse publicity-shy. It’s got nothing to do with ethics of any sort.
Which means that it works both ways.
3. Hold publishers and editors accountable. Don’t ever complain to the news personalities who generate the awful opinions you hate so much, because that’s what they’re paid to do. Ignore them. Go straight to the publishers. Complain to the editor. Tweet at the publishers. Make sure you’re letting them know that you know what they’re up to, and that it’s not good enough. Inform them that you’re talking to their sponsors, that you’re calling advertisers.
That way, editors will spend their days being bombarded with people demanding this or that is included or excluded.
For some reason, a lot of people who set themselves up as free speech defenders for foreign fascists…
Not to be confused with domestic fascists, who write columns about how people should not be allowed in the media if they deny climate change!
…hate this sort of behaviour, but sadly for them, this is free speech and freedom of choice in action, and you should wield this powerful weapon as best you can.
Because it’s not free speech, it’s the heckler’s veto. But of course, every anti-free speech campaign always makes use of the very mechanism they oppose.
Oh, and if you absolutely must link to examples of sh*t speech to make a point, don’t reward the sites hosting it with a direct link. Take a screenshot, or use a service like Pastebin instead.
Because we wouldn’t want to give a link to the people we’re trying to run out of town, would we, that wouldn’t be ethical.
And here’s my final suggestion for defeating sh*t speech: pay for news. If you can afford it, sign up for the Herald’s new paywall. Donate to the Guardian. Click the Press Patron button on The Spinoff and Public Address.
Unlike many on the right, I don’t have a particular beef with the Herald. They seem to get criticism from both sides, and I remember they did good reporting back when Helen Clark was revealed to have stolen almost a million dollars off the taxpayer.
But the Guardian? Lol!
But yes, put your money where your mouth is. Because screaming banshees aren’t going to work for very long.
I discovered this article through twitter. Here’s some tweets from the thread:
I thought this was funny. He honestly thinks the HRC is respected!
Dane made a great point about Lizzy Marvelly… but it seems it wasn’t appreciated.