Media Link: Disinformation at RNZ.

I was fighting a head cold when I did this interview so was not as lucid as I would have liked to be, but credit to RNZ for giving me the airtime. It has to do with the placing of Russian disinformation talking points in stories on Radio New Zealand’s digital platform. Knowing about Russian disinformation campaigns in the US dating back to at least 2016 as well as similar campaigns in various European states since that time, and watching the spread of foreign sourced disinformation during the pandemic and afterwards here in NZ, I have been trying to call attention to the insidious nature of these types of psychological warfare. After all, if you can subversively undermine trust and confidence in liberal democratic governance from within, then there is no need to confront it from without. The Russians are not the only ones who play this game.

The good news is that Western intelligence agencies, including those in NZ, are belatedly focused on countering the phenomenon.

16 thoughts on “Media Link: Disinformation at RNZ.

  1. I heard your interview, Pablo, and thought it was a very good one, with a timely reminder of where and how this sort of disinformation is being disseminated from.

    With an election looming, all of us need to be on our guard about what is happening (right under our noses in this instance). I’m hopeful all mainstream media companies will be looking closely at their editorial practices from now on, f they don’t already do this.

    Hope you’re feeling much better now. You sounded perfectly lucid in the interview and it was good that you were given enough time to help us understand more about this appalling situation.

  2. Thanks Di,

    I am pleased that you thought the IV was worthwhile and appreciate your kind words. My wife thought that it was a bit of a rant, though, which resonates because she pretty much has to listen to my rants every day. I detected a bit of defensiveness in Corin’s tone but I also felt a bit fuzzy from the cold so I cold have been imagining that. Cheers!

  3. :)

    My impression was that I thought Corin was trying to get as much question & answer in as the timeslot allowed for. It seemed to me to be a longer interview slot than is often allowed.

    I’m pleased the matter is being so thoroughly interrogated on our state broadcaster and that the person responsible is not being allowed to hide – which is good, as it was casting aspersions on all of the others in the digital journalism team.

  4. Surely it is only disinformation if the “uncontrolled” narrative from RNZ prior to alteration was perfectly balanced and 50:50?
    If it were say balanced 60:40 or further to the Ukrainian side (and I’m still waiting for the Russians to run out of missiles, like they were going to in April 2022, and still working out how Wagner took Bakhmut with shovels, and also can’t for the life of me work out how big brave Western Leopard 2s somehow got destroyed by pitiful Russian Vikhrs) then the alteration might have returned it closer to balance.

    There is no doubt that the current Western media narrative is pro-Ukraine. Now, it’s possible these alterations made it pro-Russian. It’s also possible they achieved the nirvana of the press: perfect balance.

  5. Pavel,

    The main problem is not so much the slant of the inserted sentences but the grossly unethical fact of taking someone else’s work (in the trigger case that being Reuters) and altering it after the fact and publishing it without disclosing the alterations to Reuters or the public. It turns out that article was just the tip of the iceberg. That is journalistic malpractice 101 and should have been caught with better editorial oversight.

  6. But isn’t that a separate issue?
    Altering Reuters copy (and I had always thought Reuters copy was regarded like a bread starter, i.e. you can modify it – but if not, I’m wrong) is about journalistic ethics. And on that, yes, you’re right.
    Disinformation implies taking something further away from perfect truth i.e. mathematically if we say 1 is perfect truth, if it takes it from 0.7 to 0.6 it’s disinformation.
    I’m not sure that’s accurate here. Let’s say the Reuters copy said “Leopard 2 tanks are proof against most Russian ATGMs over the frontal arc” and this Newshub journo changed that to “Vikhr says hi” – that would actually be whatever the opposite of disinformation is. Same about the circuits from washing machines or Wagner with shovels. Western media is full of anti-Russian bias about their total military incompetence (almost like none of them have read about my namesake, or Bagramyan, or Chernyakhovskii etc). The Western media has been calling Leopard Is “gamechangers” despite them being less heavily armoured than a Tiger I on certain arcs. It is thus possible that changing it makes it more truthful.

  7. Firstly, your interview sounded OK to me.
    The RNZ bashing is now becoming a bit tedious and repetitive and there’ll be other media organisations thinking there but for the grace of God……..

    “The main problem is not so much the slant of the inserted sentences but the grossly unethical fact of taking someone else’s work (in the trigger case that being Reuters) and altering it after the fact and publishing it without disclosing the alterations to Reuters or the public.”. That’s exactly the main point.
    Hall’s editing in the manner he has been doing is not just unethical, but it’s arrogant and dishonest. A form of plagiarism.
    I doubt RNZ, Reuters or Aunty BBC would have been too concerned if Hall had published their feeds AS IS, and then provided some sort of commentary providing a different perspective (also with attributions)

    Disappointingly we’ve had the likes of Martyn Bradbury and various other contributors at the Daily Blog continuing the pile on, and it continues to this day.

    I tried 2 or 3 times to ask the cartoonist Malcolm Evans if he’d be happy if I republished his cartoons with his signature, but with captions changed to reflect an alternate view. Other commenters in the bubble refuse to engage in a discussion over Hall’s ethics or dishonesty.
    Evans doubled down quoting former Australian diplomat Tony Kevin who maintains the ABC has been doing it for years – apparently meaning in the same manner Hall has been doing. Not so! that I can see so far, but I’m waiting for a reply from the ABC.
    It’s all a bit tragic really that so many on his blog think plagiarism and outright dishonesty is OK – just so long as it suits their worldview.

  8. Thanks Paul,

    The tribalism (both ideological and professional) is sad to witness but not surprising in these times. Standards have eroded and zero-sum polarisation has taken hold in some quarters (not just on the Left), so the blinkered interpretations of the RNZ affair is unwelcome but to be expected.

    In this weeks “A View from Afar” podcast on Thursday June 22 Selwyn Manning and I will start the show with a brief discussion of this issue. Selwyn is a professional journalist, editor, publisher and platform host dating back to the 90s so is “old school” in his interpretation of journalistic ethics. I have asked him to give his views on the matter before we go onto broader issues of media bias and balance and why the Global South’s perspective on the Ruso-Ukrainian war differs from that of the West. Please tune in!

  9. Yep, I’ll be watching @ Pablo, as usual.
    But “WAIT! WHAT?! I sometimes wonder (as much as I appreciate Bomber Bradbury’s contributions) whether he’s doing more damage to the left than good.
    I put his bromance with Damien Grant down to a mid-life crisis (mine wasn’t that great either) and hopefully it’ll die a natural death. It probably has to just play out because there is no way they’ll be proven – or at least, be seen to be wrong.
    I think your comments on a previous thread: The Zero-Sum Logic of Right Wing Culture Wars” of April 11th 2023, and in the context of the comments section is about right (correct). Especially when it comes to the people Bomber seems to be ‘hanging with’ these days.
    Others have been through the whole Damien Grant dynamic, and come out less egotistical, with a lot more humility, and with a mission to do some societal good.

    (I’m thinking Greg Newbold – even though he always had his right leg every-so-slightly shorter than the left, and Dr Paul Wood)

  10. Paul,

    Just a brief note on Bomber and co. Bomber has a strong class line in his ideological perspective, one that I share. He is also more aligned with Chris Trotter in that regard. But his attacks on wokeness and identity politics are over the top and dovetail with the like of Grant, Sean Plunket, Michael Laws, Hoskings, Williams etc. Which makes him a bit of what Lenin called a useful fool of the Right because, as you suggest, he gives Left cover to their bigotry and prejudice. I wish that he would not but to each his own I guess.

    Although I have regard for Bomber I told him that I would not participate on his show while Grant was on it. Since then the show has gotten worse, IMO, when it comes to who it features. I also declined appearing on Plunket’s platform because he is an a-hole who caters to a-holes. I may be a lot of things but THAT type of a-hole I am not.

  11. “Just a brief note on Bomber and co. Bomber has a strong class line in his ideological perspective, one that I share”
    I share it too.
    And it wasn’t that long ago that I missed one of Trotter’s idol’s passing (who I happened to grow up with).
    If Bomber continues to hang around the barber shop, especially as he goes through his mid life crisis, he’s more than likely to get his hair clipped. And so far, the hair clippers seem to be winning Him over

  12. Hola Pablo

    As usual a very interesting post with good contributions from readers

    The point that interests me is how misinformation and disinformation
    are strategies used by groups to influence and / or control the narrative.

    Accordingly, we the populace need to be more vigilant than ever.
    Read, listen, contemplate and question more.

    For everything that is said goes something unsaid.
    There will be times that what is unspoken is more important
    than what is spoken

  13. Hola Pablo

    Karl du Fresne posted an article about disinformation on his website yesterday.

    Worth a read

  14. Sorry Edward, but du Fresne is a fool and a bigot. I have no time for him and his reactionary vomit. I guess that makes me another imported elitist Leftist propagandist with an American accent.

  15. Each to their own Pablo!

    I will continue to read articles across the political spectrum irrespective of the issue.
    Sometimes I find contributor’s responses resonate more with me than the article itself.

    Perhaps New Zealand’s oulook is reflected in the lyrics of Peter Gabriel’s song
    ” Big time ”
    The place where I come from
    Is a small town
    They think so small
    They use small words

  16. Thanks Edward,

    I love that song. One of my favourites from the 80s. I just think that ole Karl is a reactionary blowhard who makes silly arguments without intellectual merit. Such as saying anything about speech in a “free country” and other such nonsense. it is just a cover for he and other reactionaries to incite contempt and hatred for others, which is where it deviates from protected offensive speech into hate speed. The fact that he goes on Plunket’s platform stays it all.

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