John Armstrong: if at first the mud doesn’t stick, try lobbing softly.

by cemeteryjones

I have no doubt that it was with the heaviest of hearts that John Amstrong reluctantly penned today’s opinion piece ‘Labour avoids fallout in Taurima case’. His aim, as my own title suggests, was no doubt to try and correct that course of events, by subtly directing the public towards the connection; a subtle insinuation emanating a foul stench of bullshit. There’s comedy in the palpable desperation of ‘stretch the truth’ Armstrong as he goes grasping at straws;

There was a high risk that the surreptitious use of TVNZ resources by Taurima and other Labour activists working in the state broadcaster’s Maori and Pacific unit would rebound on Labour and prove to be extremely embarrassing for the party.

There was a danger that their behaviour would leave the impression Labour had no regard for impartiality in news coverage and current affairs programming.

That potential prospect had Labour’s leader putting as much distance as possible between the party and Taurima despite him having been a serious proposition for the party’s candidacy in Tamaki-Makaurau, one of the seven Maori seats.

The intention of today’s column is obvious; if at first the mud doesn’t stick, try lobbing softly. He pitched a bit harder yesterday, both talking up the Tuarima – Labour connection, and anticipating (and attempting to deflate) comparisons with right wing media personalities and their National party affiliations by offering the straw man comparison with Paul Henry, who openly wears his right wing political identity with pride. The difference, according to Armstrong, is that Henry’s affiliations don’t count, because he has accepted that he isn’t actually that electable. The sleight of hand upon which Armstrong’s argument relies, then, is that ‘political affiliations’ are only grounds for a confilct of interest if you are actively seeking to become an MP;

TVNZ was aware, however, that Taurima was considering standing in another Maori seat at this year’s election. At that point, Taurima should have been confronted with two choices: either sever your political affiliations or quit TVNZ.

This is where we really find the shit stain of insincerity smearing across the toilet bowl of Armstrong’s straw comparison; his argument relies on this point that ‘political affiliations’ only present a conflict of interest if it means you are seeking to stand. Ultimately, he claims, Henry is in the clear because ‘Henry has not been using the back rooms at TV3 to set up a clandestine branch of the National Party.’ Oh right, see that? Henry just openly sits there reminding his audience that he’d never vote for David Cunliffe, does everything he can to give John Key a smooth ride towards the elections, but all that’s ok – he doesn’t have National meetings in his office! Whether ‘clandestine’ is meaningful or not is another thing here – this matter is under an internal investigation right now, so whether the meetings were ‘clandestine’ or not remains to be seen (does it make a difference? If you aren’t a Labour or National member, you can’t attend a party meeting anyway, they’re restricted by nature. I think Amstrong is dogwhistling there).

Anyhow, the meaning of what at first glance might seem to be Armstrong’s use of arbitrary criteria for defining ‘political affiliations’ soon takes shape as the self-serving confection that it is. The ‘tell’ can be found in the deliberate choice of Henry as the straw figure of comparison, rather than Taurima’s fellow TVNZ employee, talking head [LOL] Mike Hosking. Because if Hosking had been the basis for comparison, then Armstrong’s hastily erected concept of ‘political affiliations’ would seem even flimsier that the paper-thin justification he presented yesterday. Armstrong’s sleight of hand only works if we accept his definition of ‘political affiliations’, which he has hastily corralled within his self-serving framework of those journalists currently or soon to be seeking election to parliament. Presumably, these are the only forms of affiliation which count as being grounds for a conflict of interest.

Mike Hosking’s ‘political affiliations’ give the lie to this facile and self-serving confection. Apparently you can MC John Key’s State of the Nation speech, but thats’s ok by Armstrong, because it’s fine to openly MC a political party meeting without damaging your independence with ‘political affiliations’, hell, you can probably even make money doing it – but you’d better not organise a political party meeting in your office! Armstrong’s colleague John Drinnan covered the issue in detail at the time, noting that Hosking’s boss at Newstalk ZB, Dallas Gurney, responded to questions about Hosking’s potential conflict of interest – bundled up with Hosking’s Lexus sponsorship and affiliation with Sky City Casino with a frank “So what?” No such luck for Shane Taurima!

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Not pictured: a cosy political relationship left-wing enought to meet John Armstrong’s definition of ‘political affiliations’

This, of course, is where the fish really starts to stink. At TVNZ, ‘a percieved conflict of interest’ was cited as a reason that Hosking would not be allowed to cover stories relating to Sky City during his time filling in when Mark Sainsbury was unavailable. This relates to his affiliation with the casino company, said in 2012 to be worth $48,000 in cash and perks (Paul Henry had a similar deal going, believed to be slightly more lucrative at $54,000). The Herald article covering this issue noted at the time, that when asked to comment on the nature of his casino deal, Hosking ‘said it was a “non-story” and he wouldn’t be commenting on it as the newspaper’s staff were “pond scum” and “reprobates”.’ The same article also notes that Hosking received the hospitality of Sky City Casino boss Nigel Morrison in Sky City’s Eden Park corporate box. The same Nigel Morrison who seems to have been caught up in John Banks’ donation rainmaking saga around the same time? The same time as Sky City won what was virtually a no-bid contract for a convention centre from Key’s government – two organisations which both Hosking and Henry shill for, with the two Johns at the centre of it all. But, of course, this doesn’t meet Armstrong’s criteria for ‘political affiliation’, because these guys are just engaged in openly biased work representing political interests in the media, not seeking to become MPs to represent ordinary voters in parliament.

This, of course, is why Armstrong had to use TV3’s Paul Henry as his straw comparison, and not Shane Taurima’s fellow TVNZ presenter Mike Hosking – it’s just too hard to keep splitting that hair. With Henry, it’s cheap and safe. All that remains is to try and fling the shit at David Cunliffe by proxy, and make it stick. Armstrong found that a hard fling didn’t do it, so he’s taking a leaf out of the Australian cricket team’s book, and trying to win the game with a soft underarm instead.

Finally, a word on Hosking’s support for John Key; in 2002-3, Hosking and his now ex-wife had a benny about the ‘invasion of privacy’ which they experienced when their children were photographed by paparazzi, and took the matter to court. He also supported John Key and John Banks’ entitlement to ‘privacy’ at their staged cup of tea in Epsom at the 2011 election. But he supports the continuation of John Key’s government, which has made it easier for the state intelligence agencies to spy on New Zealanders. The political right have nailed it, with their double standards happily hiding in plain sight.

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Oh yeah? Well we’ve got a lol detector, and this ad just triggered it.

Getting double standards past the public: the lie dream of John Armstrong’s casino soul

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