I asked the expatriate American journalist Ben Mack for comment about his controversial opinion piece about New Zealand politics the was published in the Washington Post.
“Thanks for your message. I’m not entirely sure what I’d be able to add to the conversation at this point. Seems a pretty firm verdict on the piece has been reached and continuing to argue would only dig a deeper hole. The fallout has been interesting to see, and I think a valuable – albeit painful – lesson has been learnt.”
We knew we were in for problems when Mack said near the start that up till the elections NZ First had been an afterthought in New Zealand politics.
Ben Mack’s opinions about New Zealand politics may not be the most flaky thing ever said in a top-notch American newspaper. But the lack lack of fact checks raises questions about how much the paper that broke Watergate cares about its reputation.
Earlier this week the Washington Post published an article by Mack that claimed that Winston Peters was leading a right-wing poisoning in New Zealand. It was opinion – which is fair enough. But the item was also riddled with misconceptions about New Zealand politics and the role of Winston Peters inside of it. Mack works as associate editor of the Lizzie Marvelly website The Villainesse and writes lifestyle articles. So what was he doing giving very personal view one the state of ideological politics in sovereign country?
“Like American white supremacists in the age of Trump, bigots in New Zealand have also been emboldened by New Zealand First’s success into taking action beyond ranting on Internet message boards and social media. In late October, clashes when white supremacists rallied in front of Parliament. Threatening fliers in public, calling on white people to “unify” in order to “preserve identity.”What’s happened in New Zealand isn’t just horrifying because of the long-term implications of hate-mongers controlling the country, but also because it represents a blueprint that the far right can follow to seize power elsewhere.”
The comments about Jacinda Ardern are somewhat embarrassing for Marvelly, She is great pals with Ardern. who Mack says should break with New Zealand first, a move that would bring down the hallowed new government. Not unexpectedly Marvelly says the story would not have been published in Villainesse.
Appealing to ethnically homogenous, overwhelmingly cisgender male voters with limited education and economic prospects who feel they’re being left behind in a changing world is nothing new for the far right.If she truly wants New Zealand to be a more tolerant place for all and to set a worldwide example that hate is not acceptable, it would be best for Ardern to end her unholy alliance with New Zealand First and the far right, even if it meant she might not return as prime minister. As long as the far right has power, bigotry and hate will continue to fester in Middle-earth.
Leaving aside the errors of fact and the unlikely misconceptions it had to be asked , Washington Post chose to print the views of someone with limited knowledge like Mack the edge of a major diplomatic meeting APEC It appears there was no fact checks as we have come to expect from serious American papers.
Yet as Radio News Tim Watkin points out who he has written stories they are scrupulously fact checked. Maybe it is different for opinion stories. To be honest his columns for the Herald seem to exhibit a nice touch for writing a lifestyle story. He does seem distracted by his interest in transgender issues such as a piece where he rejects the notion that traffic is Auckland is too bad and suggests there are more important things to worry about.
“Like, for instance, pervasive discrimination against fellow immigrants and gender-queer people, discrimination against women, trans-phobia, racism, an ever-growing gap between the rich and poor. And a recent Unicef report has shown, once again, that New Zealand has the highest rate of teen suicide in the developed world. “