Sunday, October 16, 2011

News for yahoos

I don’t use Yahoo! New Zealand, so I don’t ever see their front page. However someone who does tipped me off to today’s version because it’s something I’d have a strong opinion about, and I do: In New Zealand, apparently, it’s News for yahoos.

This morning the fifth listed story under “Latest new headlines” was one entitled, “Electorate’s right to know ‘denied’”. It turns out it was a press release put out by Ken Orr of an anti-abortion group called “Right To Life New Zealand Inc.”, which Yahoo! NZ shortened to “Right to Life”. What the hell was this doing under news?

The press release talked about how the leaders of three parties supposedly “refused” to answer a election questionnaire from the radical rightwing NZ “Christian” group, “Family” First, although it provides absolutely no evidence to suggest a refusal, let alone any proof. In the absence of any proof, one must suspect that these counterfeit Christians were being economical with the truth.

And again, what the hell was this doing under news?

The yahoos in RTLNZ have every bit as much right to the their opinions as anybody else does—that isn’t the issue. The sole issue here is Yahoo! posting a propaganda press release as if it was news when it clearly is not even remotely genuine news. Had they posted under opinion, I wouldn’t be writing this post.

As for the questionnaire, I actually agree with the counterfeit Christians at “Family” First: their election guide is useful, but only so mainstream voters can look at the candidates who voted “not family [sic] friendly” because those are the ones who are, almost without exception, the ones who are the most sane and rational.

For example, Labour Leader Phil Goff was given 28% “family [sic] friendly”, as was Metiria Turei of the Greens. Among rightwingers, Winston Peters got 83%, Don Brash got 60% and Peter Dunne got 56%. Even John Key got 46%. I’d never vote for those rightwing guys nor their parties, so it would seem the FF score is pretty good for mainstream voters to use to vote the opposite.

Okay, I admit, I’m taking the piss out of the counterfeit Christians’ survey, but only because it’s so stupid. The stupidity begins with them using several different ways to indicate their preferred votes—not user friendly to find out who’s supposedly “family” friendly. They also count votes differently on their scorecard and on their website, apparently sometimes counting First Reading votes, sometimes final votes. I’m not being harsh about this: In my activist years, I created many legislator scorecards, so I know how easy it is to make one that’s clear and simple to follow.

The things they consider to be “family” issues include permanently banning marriage equality and adoption by gay couples, as would be expected, but it also talks about “G-rated billboards”, whatever that means, and “Binding citizens’ initiated referenda” which is a reference to their failed pro-smacking vanity referendum. Interestingly, the far-right “Christian” who bankrolled that silly protest march after their failed vanity referendum, has started a new rightwing party and got a 90% approval rating from the radicals at FF. The closest to him was Winnie Peters at 83%.

Obviously these rightwing nutjobs and religious extremists are entitled to their opinions, and of course they’re entitled to try to reach out to wingnut voters. That’s what living in a democracy means. But it also means they can expect to be ignored by the mainstream precisely because of their extremism. So, while they have the absolute right to express their opinions, they don’t have the right to be taken seriously.

They also don’t have a right to have their propaganda treated as if it’s real news. Yahoo! New Zealand failed badly on that score. From now on, they should leave real news to real journalists and press releases to scoop.co.nz.

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