Some of Press Council dump on Garner

There’s something a bit funny about this issue, but the rest is of serious concern.

I posted Changing faces and population growth this morning. I thought it seemed familiar to something Duncan Garner had previously said but checked – not well enough – that it said Last updated 05:00, December 23 2017.

It was actually published in October. It was clearly marked as opinion:

OPINION: I went to Kmart on Wednesday to buy some new underpants and socks.

It has been updated with this message.

A majority of the Press Council ruled that this column breached Principle 4, Comment and Fact and 7, Discrimination and Diversity.  The Press Council decision is here.

The decision: ELIZA PRESTIDGE OLDFIELD AGAINST THE DOMINION POST AND STUFF

Overview

1. Stuff ran an opinion piece by Duncan Garner Dear New Zealand, how do we want to look in 20 years? on 7 October. The column was also published inThe Dominion Post. In it Mr Garner discusses his recent visit to Kmart where he observed the long line waiting for the check-out. He used his observations of who was standing in the line to comment on current immigration policy. He considered what the future of New Zealand may be if, he argues, we do not plan better for our future population.

2. The complaint was upheld by a majority of five members with four members dissenting.

What the hell? Good on four members dissenting, but why are five members dumping on Garner’s opinion?

The Complaint

3. Eliza Prestidge Oldfield complains that the article falls short of Principle 7: Discrimination and Diversity. This principle states that “issues of gender, religion, minority groups, sexual orientation, age, race, colour or physical or mental disability are legitimate subjects for discussion where they are relevant and in the public interest, and publications may report and express opinions in these areas. Publications should not, however, place gratuitous emphasis on any such category in their reporting”.

4. She argues that the article refers to a group of immigrants and suggests that immigration is a concern because the migrants are from those countries. She points out that if the article wanted to avoid a racist subtext particular minority groups should not have been singled out.

So specific ‘sub-groups’ should not be talked about? Garner was describing how he saw things in a queue at K-Mart.

5. She also complains that the article falls short of Principle 1: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance, Principle 4 Comment and Fact, in that “a clear distinction should be drawn between factual information and comment or opinion” and Principle 5 that states that columns, blogs, opinion and letters should be labelled as such.

The Response

6. Bernadette Courtney, Editor in Chief Central Region, responds by stating that the column is an opinion piece and clearly labelled as such. She acknowledges that the content may not sit well with some readers but defends the right to present a variety of views. She pointed out that the paper published a right of reply from the Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy and also published a number of letters with a diverse range of views on the article.

It was clearly labelled as Opinion and other opinions were published in response, including one from the Race Relations Commissioner.

The Decision

  • 7. The Press Council in the past has ruled on complaints against opinion pieces. While an opinion piece does not require balance and is entitled to take a strong position on issues that it addresses, it needs to be based on facts that are accurate and to take into account relevant Press Council principles (such as Principles 4 and 7).

(The published decision does have numbered bulleted paragraphs).

  • 8. In relation to principle 7 it should not legitimise gratuitous emphasis on stereotypes or fear-mongering. The Council will not uphold complaints against expressions of opinion simply on the basis that they are extreme, provocative, and/or offensive. However, if the opinion is so extreme in substance or tone as to go beyond what is acceptable as opinion and amount to a breach of Principle 7, a complaint will be upheld.
  • 9. The parts of the article which are relevant to the complaint start with a statement that the visit to the shopping mall “ . . . fast became a nightmarish glimpse into our future if we stuff it up.” The writer then describes “a massive human snake” and continues: “The self-service counter could not cope. It couldn’t cope with the pressures of the people. The dozens of stressed faces making up the human snake were frustrated too. I looked around, it could have been anywhere in South East Asia. I wasn’t shocked – we have reported this for three years – we have targeted immigrants, opened the gates and let in record numbers. This year’s net gain of migrants was 72,000. Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Syrians, and many others. I saw the changing face of New Zealand at the cross roads, otherwise known as Kmart’s self-service counter”.
  • 10. Much of the article consists of legitimate expression of opinion on questions of immigration and population control. It is clearly labelled as opinion and there is no failure to distinguish between opinion and fact (Principles 4 and 5).
  • 11. The main questions before the Press Council relate to the requirements that there be a clear distinction between fact and opinion and that material facts on which an opinion is based should be accurate (Principle 4), and to the discrimination and diversity principle (Principle 7).
  • 12. In relation to principle 4, Mr Garner appears to offer the “fact” that New Zealand’s population is growing because of South East Asian immigration. The actual drivers of population growth are more complex than that. It is only in the last three years that India and China were the top two countries of origin for New Zealand migrants, and in any event, these countries are not generally included in the popular understanding of “South East Asia”. Before that the United Kingdom topped all figures. While the Asian population in New Zealand is the fastest growing (up 33 percent from the 2006 to 2013 census), it still only represents 12 percent of the total population, and not all those of Asian ethnicity are migrants. Population growth can also be driven by New Zealanders returning from overseas or deciding not to migrate. Conflating migration and refugees is also unhelpful.
  • 13. In addition, Mr Garner singles out migrants from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Syria, countries which are the source of relatively few migrants. The immediate juxtaposition of the figure of 72 000 with the singled out groups amounts to misleading the reader on a factual issue. At the very least the line between fact and opinion has become blurred in this case.
  • 14. In presenting the data as he did, Mr Garner has inaccurately targeted a group of migrants in a way that leads the reader to infer that these groups are driving the poor outcomes for all New Zealanders that Mr Garner outlines. Immigration data, however, tells a more complex story. In presenting the data as Mr Garner did, the reader is led to make inferences that the “blame” for New Zealanders’ poor outcomes and standard of living lies with a targeted group of migrants. As such, the complaint under Principle 4 is upheld.
  • 15. With regard to Principle 7, the Press Council acknowledges and agrees that minority groups, race and colour are legitimate subjects for discussion where they are relevant and the discussion is in the public interest. However there should not be gratuitous emphasis on any such category. In this case, the article was directed at immigration and the consequences of uncontrolled population growth. The arguments are not advanced or aided in any way by singling out certain ethnic or national groups. That certain ethnic groups were singled out and some of these are groups do not provide large numbers of migrants is of most concern. Despite the writer’s protestations to the contrary, his approach can only be seen as gratuitous racism, especially when linked with the description of New Zealand’s future as nightmarish. The Council members upholding the complaint paid due consideration to freedom of expression as discussed in previous cases and concluded that this case went beyond what we deemed acceptable.
  • 16. The complaint under Principle 7 is also upheld.

Press Council members upholding this complaint were Liz Brown, Jo Cribb, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, Hank Schouten and Marie Shroff.

Shame on them.

Dissent

17. The chairman, Sir John Hansen, and three members of the Council, Christina Tay, Tim Watkin and John Roughan, disagreed with the decision to uphold the complaint. In their view the column, while unpleasant, did not overstep the boundaries established by the Council’s principles and previous decisions regarding expressions of opinion on subjects involving race.

Good on them.

18. They noted the Council is reluctant to limit freedom of expressions of opinion on any subject and its principles and rulings allow ethnic issues to be debated so long as the references to race are not gratuitous and do not ascribe adverse characteristics or behaviour to an entire racial group. (See cases 2253 and 2260)

19. The columnist in this case was expressing concern about the ethnic diversity of New Zealand’s high immigration over recent years. He singled out several nationalities as those he thought he recognised in a shopping queue. While these groups were not a large component of New Zealand’s immigration, he was using them as an example of “the changing face of New Zealand”. In this context, the references to ethnic groups were not inaccurate or gratuitous in the minority’s view and he was not ascribing any characteristics to them.

20. The columnist did not explain why he was concerned at the ethnic diversity as well as the scale of immigration in recent years, and the clear implication that this did not need to be explained gave the column an unpleasant “dogwhistle” odour. But this sort of opinion is best challenged, in the minority’s view, by open debate rather than objections to its expression.

It was challenged and debated.

21. The Council has long stressed the safe guarding of “freedom of expression” in relation to opinion pieces. We find it impossible to distinguish this case from Toailoa also decided by the Council at this meeting. In that case the Council unanimously declined to uphold a similar complaint against an opinion piece.

The other case decision was discussed here recently in Complaint against David Garrett/Kiwiblog.

 

 

32 Comments

  1. As much as I may disagree with Duncan G, the decision by the 5 (Liz Brown, Jo Cribb, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, Hank Schouten and Marie Shroff.)is, quite frankly, ridiculous and totally unjustified. These 5 appear to be demonstrating their own personal biases and opinions outside of reality.

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  December 23, 2017

    Who cares what the Press Council thinks?

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  December 23, 2017

      You, probably, if someone wrote rubbish like that about you.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  December 23, 2017

        You just did. And I still don’t care. Garner’s piece was innocuous. There is more drivel than that every day in our daily papers. Just look at what they publish and say about Trump for heavens sake. As you do too.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  December 23, 2017

          No, I didn’t, I said nothing about you personally.

          The piece wasn’t innocuous, it was xenophobic.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  December 23, 2017

            Garner said nothing about anyone personally and nothing about anyone racially. You are projecting your own issues onto his column.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  December 24, 2017

              Oh, come on-he mentioned Asians and Syrians and said that the Kmart looked like SE Asia !!!

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  December 25, 2017

              So what? If he said KMart looked like America would Americans get upset? It is your problem not Garner’s.

  3. George

     /  December 23, 2017

    Just another example of snowflakes in positions they’re demonstrably ill suited for

  4. lurcher1948

     /  December 23, 2017

    NATIONAL PARTY LACKEYS, they infest NEW ZEALAND all over,sad really

    • sorethumb

       /  December 23, 2017

      Why National Party lackeys , it was Labour who decided that divesity per se was of immense benefit?

      • PartisanZ

         /  December 23, 2017

        FIIRE economy management lackeys then … Labour, National, NZFirst, Greens, ACT … It makes very little difference what colour they wear …

  5. sorethumb

     /  December 23, 2017

    She’s a fan of toppling statues and decolonisation as well as diversity
    https://theaotearoaproject.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/tariana-turia-a-model-of-values-based-politics-in-action/

    • PartisanZ

       /  December 23, 2017

      ” … a values-driven politics of care and love – and not [to] lose sight of the need for ongoing conversations about decolonisation. For, as Turia herself said: “There is a desperate need for us to get this relationship right. No nations that are divided against themselves can stand.”

      Her saying this certainly warrants your derision, eh sorethumb?

  6. sorethumb

     /  December 23, 2017

    Paul Spoonley Photo: ( RNZ / Liz Brown )
    http://www.radionz.co.nz/programmes/slice-of-heaven/story/201851603/slice-of-heaven-tensions
    Jo Cribb
    develop your organisation and project strategies with a focus on implementation and results
    provide you with solutions to complex policy, research and organisational issues
    support you in achieving your gender and diversity goals
    http://www.jocribb.co.nz/
    Amnesty International New Zealand is a part of the Amnesty International network, … Its current chair is Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, the first Chair of Pacific Island descent in the international movement’s 52-year history.

  7. sorethumb

     /  December 23, 2017

    Jordan Peterson on the Press Council

    • PartisanZ

       /  December 23, 2017

      Peterson certainly has some thought provoking things to say, for anyone who is genuinely open-minded and capable of filtering the few wheat particles from the voluminous chaff.

      “Needless to say, in an economy as desperately short of leadership and ideas as the Alt-Right’s is, Peterson’s stock went through the roof. He currently has legions of fans hanging on his every YouTubed word; he’s now hauling in around USD $50,000 a month through crowdfunding.

      ““Postmodern neo-Marxism” is Peterson’s nemesis, and the best way to explain what postmodern neo-Marxism is, is to explain what it is not … it is entirely distinct from the concept of “cultural Marxism.”

      “Cultural Marxism” is a conspiracy theory holding that an international cabal of Marxist academics, realizing that traditional Marxism is unlikely to triumph any time soon, is out to destroy Western civilization by undermining its cultural values.

      “Postmodern neo-Marxism,” on the other hand, is a conspiracy theory holding that an international cabal of Marxist academics, realizing that traditional Marxism is unlikely to triumph any time soon, is out to destroy Western civilization by undermining its cultural values with “cultural” taken out of the name so it doesn’t sound quite so similar to the literal Nazi conspiracy theory of “cultural Bolshevism.”

      http://www.macleans.ca/opinion/is-jordan-peterson-the-stupid-mans-smart-person/

      • Identity politics has ruined academia, not just in humanities but in most of the social sciences. It is now ingrained within the Western Press and here to stay for the foreseeable. To think that simple universal truths like “only women can bear children” would become subject to interpretation and that people who proclaimed such a “fact” would be subjected to ridicule and be called out as sexist or neo colonialists would have been bizarre even two decades ago.

        Identity politics is about closing down and all dissension from an ever increasingly hysterical “liberal” POV. People who want to “say it like it is” are now Trumpists ( worse than being a Jeffrey Dahmer acolyte). Most now generally do not comment for fear of being closed down. This Press Council finding is exactly post modernist cultural Marxism. Free Speech can FRO.

        The King is in the altogether, the altogether, the altogether as naked as the day that he was born has nothing on Western media who have their collective heads in the sand.

  8. Kitty Catkin

     /  December 23, 2017

    Serve Duncan Garner damned well right. The piece was a total insult to the people he wrote about and showed racist bias. it was ill-thought out, showed racial generalisations and made him sound like a racist prat. Actually, it made him sound like a prat, full stop, I can’t believe that he wrote this and that it was published.

    This doesn’t mean that I don’t find Jo Cribb’s offer to help me reach my ‘gender goals’ patronising and insulting. How does she imagine that people succeed in life without her help, which they obviously are doing ? Gender goals, indeed.

    Who do these two think that they are ?

    • sorethumb

       /  December 23, 2017

      The piece was a total insult to the people he wrote about and showed racist bias.
      ….
      No it shows a desire to live as a nation within a border and to retain (what’s left of) our quality of life. Why do you think Japan, China and Korea have not embraced “diversity”?

      • PartisanZ

         /  December 23, 2017

        Ummmmmmmmmmm ….. They didn’t need to?

        Ummm … All things considered, they are globalisation ‘supply’ countries, we are a globalisation ‘demand’ country?

        What do Japan, China and Korea have in common? So perhaps there was no demand for them to embrace diversity?

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  December 23, 2017

        What is ‘our quality of life’ and how is it affected by having other people here ? It doesn’t affect my quality of life that there are other races living near me-how could it ?

        What Japan et al do is their business, of course, but in today’s world I would be surprised if they indulged in insularity and didn’t accept the rest of the world for business reasons if for no other reason.

        Duncan Garner lumped all the people in K Mart together, which is just stupid. When did anyone ever see a queue there snaking around the shop and the snake made up of ‘

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  December 23, 2017

          South-East Asians-including people whom he identified as Syrians (Syrians from South East Asia ?)

          I was in KMart the other day and it wasn’t like that. Yes, there was a queue, but no, it didn’t snake around the shop and it was made up of all sorts of people. It moved fairly fast because of the number of checkouts and nobody looked as if they were under immense stress because of being in a shop queue for a few minutes.

          • I love nz, I love my Auckland, I embrace diversity and would not change our life here. The greater issue is the CLOSING down of all commentary and observation.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  December 24, 2017

              I love Indian clothes, and there is an Indian shop in a mall here that sells trad Indian clothes…the person always fainting in the doorway is me, they are so gorgeous. Why don’t Western men wear that tunic & trousers outfit ? It looks chic and comfortable. I see Pasifika people sometimes in Pasifika things. Muslim women in Muslim dress, of course, and sometimes Muslim men ditto. Nobody takes any notice of the veiled ladies except a silly old fool who tells them that he thinks that they are a symbol of female slavery, The old fool is gay and would probably have wanted tolerance when gay sex between men was illegal, so you’d think that he’d show it himself (he’s one of these who admires the sound of his own voice and the look of his words in print) In the surgery I go to, the main GP is English, his partner who works there as well is Greek, one other GP is a Nigerian Muslim (tall, dark and handsome, very yummy) and the other an Asian Muslim. One nurse is Scottish, the others Kiwi.

              I also see a specialist, A Rwandan Christian…and when he was away, I saw an Indian one !

  9. Mefrostate

     /  December 23, 2017

    Pete, and others, I’m curious about where your perspective differs from the Press Council members who upheld the debate. Perhaps we can center it on this quote:

    “The arguments are not advanced or aided in any way by singling out certain ethnic or national groups. That certain ethnic groups were singled out and some of these are groups do not provide large numbers of migrants is of most concern. Despite the writer’s protestations to the contrary, his approach can only be seen as gratuitous racism, especially when linked with the description of New Zealand’s future as nightmarish.”

    Given that they’re charged with ensuring no gratuitous emphasis is placed on any one category, and Garner seems to have done so, where does your issue lay?

    • “his approach can only be seen as gratuitous racism”

      I question that. Garner named some ‘races’ in a description of what he saw in the queue at K-Mart. This is the section of his article:
      It couldn’t cope with the pressures of the people. The dozens of stressed faces making up the human snake were frustrated too.

      I looked around, it could have been anywhere in South East Asia.

      I wasn’t shocked – we have reported this for three years – we have targeted immigrants, opened the gates and let in record numbers. This year’s net gain of migrants was 72,000.

      Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Syrians, and many others. I saw the changing face of New Zealand at the crossroads, otherwise known as Kmart’s self-service counter. Every four minutes and 51 seconds New Zealand’s population grows by another person. We are growing faster now than compared to any other time in our history. And faster than most countries in the world.

      New Zealand’s population grew by 100,400 to the June 2017 year.

      Garner mentioned some nationalities, but added “and many others”, and it was simply in relation to population growth. There are other parts of Auckland that are noticeably dominated by other ethnicities, such as Pacific Islanders and Chinese, both of which also indicate influxes of immigrants.

      What should Garner have said instead? Should he have said anything instead, or should he have said what he thought/wanted to say?

  10. sorethumb

     /  December 23, 2017

    Cultural Marxism in Canadian Society:
    At about 14:00 Ricardo Duchesne makes Duncan Garners argument.