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‘Fire & Fury’, the journalism lecturer and the sorry state of the New Zealand media

NZ Media Council news

Dr. Greg Treadwell is a senior lecturer in journalism at AUT.

Writing this week in Newsroom, Treadwell was of the opinion that certain principles of the NZ Media Council’s Code of Ethics did not apply to Stuff.co.nz’s much-maligned documentary ‘Fire & Fury’.

In particular Treadwell believed the time-honoured journalistic principle of ‘right of reply’ should not be afforded to those attacked in the state-funded hitpiece, and that as a consequence the NZ Media Council would be right in finding there had been no breach of the Code of Ethics, despite the fact, according to him, such a finding would appear to be illogical.

Here’s how Treadwell justified the exclusion:

‘It [ie. the right of reply] would allow purveyors of disinformation to cast themselves even further as victims of the “mainstream media” and perhaps even force Stuff to provide a platform for their mistruths and conspiracies.

‘It would open the gate wider to proto-fascist movements seeking to pollute our public sphere and thereby wound our democracy.’

He added:

‘After all, the documentary contains regular and substantial repetitions of the views of the disinformation agents as they attempt to cajole New Zealanders to join their uprising on social media platforms.

Fire and Fury is, as journalist Paula Penfold says, itself a right of reply to the untold hours of video and other content published by disinformation agents to tens of thousands of followers in their campaign to seed lies and discord in our communities.’

What Treadwell is in effect saying is that ‘we have rules, but those I, and/or the government, deem to be ‘proto-fascists’ or otherwise undesirable should not have the benefit of them.’

Treadwell’s arguments are alarming and absurd. He wonders why New Zealand society is fracturing, but has no clue that the actions he, and others of his ilk in academia and politics advocate, are the reason why this is happening. They are the ones seeking to dismantle bastions of democratic society, such as the right of reply.

The obvious question which many fail to grasp in this debate is, ‘Who should decide what is disinformation, misinformation, or conspiracy?’

The short answer is that no one should decide, and certainly, it should not be up to half-wit State officials, dubiously funded ‘fact-checkers’, state-subsidized mainstream journalists, or career academics to decide either.

Such a question is like asking a group of people ‘What is the true religion – is it Judaism, Islam, or Christianity?’ All the Jews will answer ‘Judaism’, all the Muslims will answer ‘Islam’, and all the Christians will answer ‘Christianity.’

There are no right answers to such questions, nor wrong ones. Let individuals decide what it is they want to believe. In a contest for ideas, I trust the vast majority of my fellow kiwis to chose which idea is closest to the truth. If we want the ‘cohesive and tolerant’ society Treadwell and everyone else in this country yearns for, then the answer is simple: The government and the legacy media have to stop lying.

We live in the age of the ‘information super highway.’ To remain competitive in this environment of free-flowing mass information, the mainstream media and the government need to be honest and tell the truth, or at least be objective and present both sides of a story. It’s that simple.

The absurdity of Treadwell’s arguments have been highlighted in a brilliantly entertaining piece on resistance.kiwi (see Resistance Kiwi ‘interviews’ AUT lecturer Greg Treadwell’).

He was also roasted, and rightly so, by Sean Plunket on The Platform.

Treadwell’s arguments are representative of the sorry state of mainstream journalism in New Zealand, but also that of many of the so-called ‘academia’. His lack of intellectual rigour is evidenced in his refusal to understand the aggrieved, or their position (he probably really does believe Counterspin are ‘white supremacists’ despite Hannah Spierer stating publicly that they ‘love people of all colours, creeds and races‘), nor does he bother to explore a satisfactory resolution of the ethical issues raised by ‘Fire & Fury’ within the existing framework of the NZ Media Council Code of Ethics. His only answer is to ban the aggrieved from operation of Code, and if that doesn’t work, change the code so the right of reply doesn’t apply in future cases he and/or the government deem to be unworthy of it. This is pure neo-Nazi facism.

Does Treadwell not understand that in New Zealand we are subject to the ‘rule of law’? Rules are rules, and they apply to everyone – for their benefit equally and regardless of their political views, race, gender, class or sexual orientation. This is what separates us from the apes and monkeys. Rules and ethics cannot be abandoned on a Caligula-like whim, or else people will start to wonder why we need any rules and ethics at all – by that stage our society will be half-way down the slippery slope and irredeemable.

If Treadwell is so confident in the righteousness of ‘Fire & Fury’, then let it be subject to the scrutiny of the law and journalistic rules. His arguments reek of the desperation that comes with knowing that ‘Fire & Fury’ simply doesn’t stand up, and therefore, like a spoilt child, he wants to move the goal posts half way through the game.

Treadwell advocates a loss of redress rights for those targetted by journalism funded by the State. This is particularly disturbing. Compared to the average kiwi dissenter, the State’s financial resources are limitless, its communication power and reach through legacy media, big tech and social media unassailable.

This lack of equity reinforces why the right of reply is so fundamental in a liberal, civilised democracy. In Treadwell’s world the only redress some targets of state-funded attack will have is through an action for defamation – a legal process which is notoriously protracted and expensive. Do any of the ‘Fire & Fury’ targets have the financial resources to mount such a case? No. Does Stuff have the resources to defend such a claim? Yes – it’s an organisation which makes around $250 million in revenue each year, on top of the millions it gets in dodgy taxpayer handouts. An action for defamation is therefore theoretical only, and unlikely to be of any practical use. The right of reply allows targets to restore their reputation before it is defamed. It aids the journalistic quest for accuracy and objectivity – principles I assume (or hope) Treadwell supports.

Treadwell’s argument also fails to contextualise the rise of the ‘freedom dissent’ movement. In his world it exists in a vacuum.

The targets of the Stuff hitpiece did not wake up one day and say ‘well, I think I’m going to start hating on the government today.’ The various groups and personalities of the Freedom Movement rose to prominence as a reaction to what they perceived to be government overreach. Their rise can also be attributed in part to the legacy media’s lack of objective and balanced reporting throughout the COVID crisis. In a free and democratic society the mainstream media should be the dissent. Instead, they were paid-off propaganda mouthpieces for the State and Pfizer – a company with one of the worst records of fraud and corruption in the history of Western capitalism.

In particular, the legacy media failed to:

  • Question and investigate the safety and efficacy of the mRNA gene therapy vaccines – basic journalism, especially when these products had never been mass-used in humans before, and their long-term effects are still unknown.
  • Hold Jacinda Ardern to account for reneging on her promise that those who chose not to take the Pfizer mRNA injection would not suffer any adverse consequences for that decision.
  • Give a voice to those who suffered financially, and mentally, from mandates and lockdowns.
  • Give a voice to those who suffered adverse reactions from the mRNA injection.
  • Give a voice to those who believed a friend of family member had died as a result of the mRNA injection.
  • Give a voice to those medical professionals and scientists who opposed the government’s COVID policies.

Instead of providing balance and highlighting the issues above, the legacy media ridiculed and attacked those who disagreed, or voiced opposition to the government’s policy. They suppressed important information on safety and efficacy that was easily accessible elsewhere and therefore dug their own grave. This is the reason why people rose up against the government. It’s why mainstream journalists and outlets are the target of vitriol and hate. It’s why new media platforms like DTNZ exist and are continuing to grow.

It is these actions by government and the legacy media which have created the conditions in which our society is fracturing, and their continuation, through unhelpful and silly hitpieces like ‘Fire & Fury’, will further divide our once cohesive and tolerant society.

The New Zealand Media Council needs to send a clear message to Stuff and the Greg Treadwell’s of this world: Our society is governed by the rule of law. Laws and ethical standards are there for the benefit of all, regardless of who they are, where they come from, what they believe, and what they have said. A failure to recognise this amounts to an erosion of civilised concepts, and will contribute further to the deterioration of New Zealand’s social cohesion.

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  1. With the likes of this clown teaching journalism to the fresh young things of media, no wonder they are a pack of morons and can’t see the wood for the trees. Plainly this pronoun did not learn anything about ethics and morals, nor the Kiwi tradition of a fair go. He is promoting the notion of guilt without due process. He is, in every sense of the word, brainless and stupid. Sorry that’s two words.

    If Treadwell is representative of other teachers of journalism, then New Zealand is now in the backwaters of media integrity and for that matter skill. True investigative journalism is an art when done properly with balance. How else can the reader get to the truth of the matter when what is set before them is half-baked and biased with no accountability. They cannot. Thank God we have decent alternatives who can tell it like it is with no hidden agenda. And on that note I thank DT yet again… ????????

  2. When ‘experts’ and people in power seek to justify why others should be unable to reply to issues of concern, they exhibit some sort of moral bankruptcy. The right to debate, introduce and ponder and express ideas and evidence is a necessity, required even more so today as Governments such as the Ardern crowd, buy the voice & silence of media with cash (million$) to report and present only their views to the public as the ‘font of all knowledg’ and the authorative voice of science. Looks like the days of religious perscution and inqisition in a different guise. Science and the holy grail of climate change. This sort of viewpoint smacks of depotism, desperation and rings alarm bells of a significant magnitiude. When a Govt and Government backed and paid for newspapers and media plus sections of academis seek to control the flow of thought of society and shut down voices they don’t want heard. we are treaading into truely dangerous times and entering a pit of vitriolic vipers, who will work tirelessly to put out your tongue.
    Voiceless people are controlled people. The society they exist in becomes oppressive, stifled, restrained, and outright dangerous and one ruled by authoritarain principles. The oppressors are the only ones whose voices can be heard and all who disssent are punished , vilified and removed. If that is the type of society you wish to live in then by all means leave New Zealand and seek your utopia elsewhere.
    For me, this is not the society I was born into post WW2. My family fought for freedom in WW1 and WW2 to bring about a free, open and just society for all to live in. One based on freedeom of thought and speach and supported by fair and just laws and a functioning legal system and media
    Today I am mortified by the direction the country has headed off in. It’s time to claim back our rights and freedoms for our grandchildren and beyond. It’s time to scutinise and vet all those that seek to lead us, and it’s time to ensure our leadership rrepresents the people’s views and not some far left ditopian ideology that they have decided will be the fate of all New Zealanders. It’s time once again we were able to speak freely as a people and as a nation because we are muzzled currently and few really say what they think for fear of retribution, being further isolated and smeared by the bully boys who bide by the racist, conspiracy theorist, white supremicist, anti vax mantas and play books to shut you up and outcaste you. Fortunately there has been push back against this faction of society and it is slowly losng its power and weaponised position thanks to individuals like Kanye and Owens and their brave ilk who are stepping out onto the world stage and challenging this extreme rhetoric and belief.
    I take off my hat to all those brave New Zealanders’ that continue to fight for the right of moral, religious, ethical, legal, freedoms of speech and thought for all – in this suffocating climate of shut down, shut up cancel culture that is stifling our nation and its people. Thank you Daily Telegraph and the BFD for the freedom of speech and honest viewpoints you bring to our daily lives.

  3. I have been waiting months if not years for this article to be written. I feel vindicated for holding views contrary to main stream media.

  4. Brilliant piece …

    The editor of U.K. Spiked On-line Brendan O’Neil also had a bit to say – “Tyranny has had a makeover. It’s no longer a boot stamping on a human face forever. Authoritarianism is well-dressed now. It’s polite. It has a broad smile and speaks in a soft voice. It is delivered not via a soldier’s boot to the cranium but with a caring liberal head-tilt. And its name is Jacinda Adern.”

    The legacy media are complicit with Jacinda Ardern in crimes against humanity.

  5. Only way to stop the lame stream media is to stop reading the Herald, stop reading Stuff, stop watching TVNZ, TV3 or using any of the other lame stream media outlets whoever they be. Protest them all as misinformation/Disinformation pushers. Send a message to all political parties that their propaganda will not work anymore.

  6. Treadwell is lured by the funding academic propagandists are getting. Even in science, we hold a hypothesis as acceptable until it is disproven. Evidently Treadwell has zero science background, and we have to examine how did in his school science. He knows how to borrow the woke terms such as “proto-fascist”. The most intolerant group in the society are the wokes who resort to smear anyone who disagrees with them. I think this is a mental disorder which disables their discriminatory power of what is vital and trivial. Human rights & choice are vital than mandating experimental therapy. Freedom of expression is the soul of a person than just soulless compliance.

    Stuff and all other NZ media are just propaganda agents when it comes to Ukraine conflict. They blantantly reproduce articles from London, New York, and Kiev, which are largely lies and these have been disproven many times. These media outlets never mention the origins of the conflict and what is happening since 2011. They just use words such as freedom, democracy, civilian deaths etc when the current puppet regime has been undemocratic, no media freedom, and carrying out atrocities on their own people since 2014, documented by UN. All of NZ media was pushing for funding Ukraine and these OpEds were just to create public consent. These media outlets never asked for funding Palestinian or Yemen conflicts where innocent civilians are being killed for years.

    NZ Mass media have become liars and propagandists like their global counterparts. One can beg to make living instead of doing this sort of propaganda and consent manufacturing.

  7. Treadwell worked as a reporter, photographer
    Dr Greg Treadwell worked as a reporter, and photographer largely. A very late starter. Ironiclaly his PhD thesis is on the loss of freedom of information experienced by public-interest journalists in New Zealand.

    There is NO Google scholar profile or any decent international publications. Just a staffer who has zero academic credibility by way of internationally recognised research.

    No wonder he is after funding and hence willing to be a mercenary on freedom of speech and expression.
    There seems to be many poorly qualified experts in NZ Universities.

  8. These woke people (aka Treadwell), just wont see the missile comming. There will be hundred of thousands of us dancing in the street. Jabsinda is seeing the writing on the wall. Have no time for highly paid academics who believe in their own self importance. And I dont like the way they twist young minds. Anyawy what is a proto-fascist? I must check whether as an old kiwi that defines me?
    Maybe treadwell is a proto-fascist?

  9. More death to democracy, justice, fairness and kindness in New Zealand.
    Fire and fury contained so much misinformation, unfounded ‘science’, highly libellous hate speech and cruel lies – and will go down in history as such.

    It’s an unalienable right in a democracy to ask why the government’s preferred media/academics are doing this, when hundreds of thousands of innocent decent people simply want to get on with their lives and not be dictatorially controlled – and for some that includes not receiving a govt-mandated, ineffective, potentially harmful, DNA-altering and untrialled pharmaceutical injection. What’s so wrong with that, begs the question?

    And why is this so threatening? The words ‘fire and fury’ bring this music to mind … and the pointlessness of most conflict. It’s seldom those on the ground’s war, as they suffer the most harm. And who ultimately benefits? Certainly not those doing the fighting.

    Truth, justice and love always eventually triumph over deceit, injustice and hate. Let’s stop fighting – there’s enough of that in the world now – and try to understand each other. Even if we choose not to agree, we can/should maintain our democratic principles and decency to benefit from our shared humanity. If not, not. See painting by R B Kitaj. https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/644/if-not-not

    And: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8viQzKbI4JQ

    These mist covered mountains
    Are a home now for me
    But my home is the lowlands
    And always will be

    Someday, you’ll return to
    Your valleys and your farms
    And you’ll no longer burn
    To be brothers in arms

    Through these fields of destruction
    Baptisms of fire
    I’ve witnessed your suffering
    As the battle raged higher

    And though they did hurt me so bad
    In the fear and alarm
    You did not desert me
    My brothers in arms

    There’s so many different worlds
    So many different suns
    And we have just one world
    But we live in different ones

    Now the sun’s gone to hell
    The moon’s riding high
    Let me bid you farewell
    Every man has to die

    But it’s written in the starlight
    And every line in your palm
    We’re fools to make war
    On our brothers in arms

  10. We’re in deep trouble if journalism lecturers don’t even understand the basic ethics of their own profession. It’s concerning that the next generation of journalists may have been indoctrinated with this unthinking authoritarian mindset.

  11. The government and MSM now simply label any dissent or criticism as ‘misinformation’ or ‘disinformation’, in a somewhat obvious attempt to curtail free speech and to silence any real democratic political opposition.

    History has shown that authoritarians cannot tolerate any opposing viewpoints, it’s highly concerning that some unethical journalists are playing along with this.


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