Friday, March 29, 2013

Here's how low Croz has sunk

There's a fine line sometimes between misinformation and disinformation, but the basic rule of thumb is that while the former could be mistaken, the latter is something you know to be false. It's the difference between making a mistake of fact and deliberately spreading a lie. "For this reason," according to the great arbiter of truth, Wikipedia, disinformation "is synonymous with and sometimes called black propaganda. It is an act of deception and false statements to convince someone of untruth."
Unlike traditional propaganda techniques designed to engage emotional support, disinformation is designed to manipulate the audience at the rational level by either discrediting conflicting information or supporting false conclusions. A common disinformation tactic is to mix some truth and observation with false conclusions and lies, or to reveal part of the truth while presenting it as the whole.
Which makes Crosbie Walsh of New Zealand a purveyor of black propaganda. The retired political science professor, who played a major role in the propaganda campaign that ran me out of Fiji last year, knew or ought to have known that information he posted on his blog today is false. Yet he posted it anyway, and judging by the last line of the post, it is obviously designed to influence his country's foreign policy toward Fiji. Some may be fooled, but I wish to cry foul. There are several problems with the blog post. First, he didn't write it, and he does not identify the author. Second, it was written two months ago and much muddy water has gurgled beneath the bridge since then. It is one of the worst pieces of media criticism I have ever read, but I was too tied up fighting other battles to get around to deconstructing it two months ago.

The blog post was authored on 30 January by Cameron "Whaleoil" Slater, a Kiwi blogger. It was enthusiastically reprinted by the regime cheerleader Fiji Sun the next day. For some reason, old Croz waited two months to reprise it. Perhaps he felt it might improve with time. Instead, time has had the opposite effect on it. Slater took Fairfax NZ reporter Michael Field, one of the top journalists covering the Pacific, to task for a couple of his stories on the regime's increasingly bizarre antics in January. The first mentioned what Slater called the "alleged" burning of copies of the Ghai draft constitution by Fiji Police, while the second was a scoop of some proportions about the ordered deportation of "troublesome" priest Father Kevin Barr. Slater didn't seem to see how Field could report accurately from Auckland on anything going on in Fiji.
Michael Field is banned from traveling to Fiji. It is likely that he sourced both of his stories from the anti-government blog Coup 4.5, who are almost all exclusively Auckland based. What is particularly galling is that the major media and gullible bloggers simply repeat what Michael Field and the anonymous bloggers at Coup 4.5 have to say. They invariably do not read more widely and find out the exact details of what precisely happened and when in Fiji.
This ignores the fact that Field's story actually quoted Father Barr from a telephone interview he managed to score with the harried priest in Suva, which was a bit of a journalistic coup (no pun intended) because of the sketchy information available at the time. "Our worst fears have eventuated," Father Barr told Field. "I am in an awkward position." So it is obviously not true that Field sourced his story through Coup 4.5. His source was instead the most solid possible the subject of the story. Field may have first seen the story reported on Coup 4.5, but a good reporter would not rely on any blog as the source for a story. Instead he did what a good reporter should do. He tracked down the subject of the story and confirmed it with him first-hand. Field might be persona non grata in Fiji because of his critical reporting on the regime, but that doesn't mean he isn't able to get a story and get it right. But instead of a solid piece of journalism, according to Slater, this was “a manufactured story” by Field. And how did he know this? Because an anonymous source in the regime told him so.
The story concerned me and so I made a few calls. What I found out about the situation is in stark contrast with what was reported by Michael Field. My government contacts refused to comment on the record and their off the record comments were that this was a storm in a tea cup unhelpfully stirred up by journalists with agendas.
Of course, the deportation order against Father Barr was later rescinded, which raises the question of why Croz would reprint a piece of media criticism that is both so old and so lame. But wait, it gets better. . . er, worse. The other bee in Whale Boy’s bonnet was Field’s story on the regime’s repudiation of the Ghai Commission's draft constitution three weeks earlier, in which he mentioned that “after it was presented last month, police seized copies of it and burnt printer's proofs.” This is apparently exactly what happened, according to Ghai’s exclusive interview with Bruce Hill of Radio Australia, which cleared up much confusion about just what went up in flames, if anything. There were even photographs to illustrate the incineration, but according to Slater this was still an "alleged" burning. Apparently the offered documentation was insufficient for Whale Blubber, or whatever his handle is. You’ll never guess whose version he preferred.
With regards to the alleged burning of the new constitution you can’t really go past getting the true story from Graham Davis. . . . Compare and contrast the reporting from Michael Field and wonder how he manages to keep his job.
The words "true story" seem somehow out of place in a sentence that mentions Grubby Blogger. The fact that Slater would link to the hit job Davis did on Ghai, which was also based on one anonymous source, leads to the inevitable conclusion that they share the same Bizarro World definition of quality journalism. Of course, it was also reprinted the next day by the Fiji Sun, but we are not surprised that it would join in this brand of gutter attack. Whalegrease, whose subsequent bloggings on Fiji are as ill-informed and pro-regime as the one reprinted today, leaves little doubt that he is as deep in the junta’s pocket as Grubby and Croz.

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