Stuff Article Ruled ‘Unfair’

I am glad to see that Stuff did not get away with telling porkies about so-called right-wing extremism. The Media Council has given Stuff a slap over the wrist for their smear of a man and a group that he belongs to. Personally, I think “unfair” is a very euphemistic way of describing the article.

Since the terror attack in Christchurch, our media have been looking under every rock in a hunt for someone to blame. Patrick Gower has gone on a mad jihad looking for far-right Nazi white supremacists and seems to think that he has found some and this article was cut from the same cloth.

My guess is that the storyline was predetermined. They just needed some poor sap to be foolish enough to let Andrea Vance interview him. It was never going to end well as they were looking for a scapegoat and he and his group were it.

Cameron Mottus demonstrates Viking martial arts in Christchurch’s Hagley Park.

The Media Council has ruled that Stuff’s linking of a Thor-worshipping group with the Christchurch Mosque shootings was unfair, particularly to Cameron Mottus.

The Media Council said that while Stuff had accurately identified some philosophies and symbols that the local group shared with the AFA internationally, it was not satisfied that these were sufficient to support the claim that Mr Mottus and his organisation are “linked to the Christchurch mosque shootings”.


[…] a reader of the Stuff article, especially the headlines, could reasonably take away the message that Mr Mottus or members of his New Zealand group were more closely involved by contact with the shooter or by condoning the violence or in similar ways. Given the likelihood of a strong public reaction, any publication would need to be very sure of its ground before making such a claim, and the Media Council was not satisfied that on the material before it Stuff could fairly make the claim

Stuff


Here are the pertinent parts from the ruling on the media website.

Background

3. On March 30, 2019, Stuff published a feature article by Andrea Vance headed “How a strange Thor-worshipping religion is linked to the Christchurch mosque shootings”. The article appeared online and in The Dominion Post and The Press. The section headline for the online version was “The ‘religion’ of supremacy” and was followed by an introduction “A leader insists it’s peaceful. Experts say it’s hateful and dehumanising. The Christchurch gunman seems to have been a sympathiser.” Both print articles were headed “The ‘religion’ of supremacy”. The second page heading was “Thor-worship’s link to killings”.

This is not the first time I have written about this kind of smear journalism. There are a number of other articles out there that smear individuals and groups who have stated quite clearly that they are peaceful and non-violent and who have no history of violence, yet the article insists that experts or the journalist know better and that they are violent, because that is the snakeoil that the journalist is selling.

4. The main theme of the article is that there are similarities between the philosophies of Ásatrú Folk Assembly (AFA), an offshoot of which has been established in New Zealand by Mr Mottus under the name of the Fensalir Kindred, and those expressed by the man accused of the Christchurch mosque shootings. The article also mentions shared symbolism and connections with far right, white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.

The Complaint


7. In general, the complainants say that their organisation has been inaccurately and unfairly represented as a racist, white supremacist body with links to, and shared philosophies with, extremist groups overseas. In particular, they complain that it is unfair and inaccurate to link them with the man accused of the Christchurch mosque shootings.

8. In addition they complain that:

  • the references to their ethnicity and religion, along with the descriptions of their religious practices (such as describing them as “whimsical” and “batty”), amount to disrespect and unfair discrimination
  • there has been a disclosure of personal information about Mr Mottus, amounting to a breach of privacy
  • it was not necessary to refer to Mr Mottus’ young children and against their interests to do so
  • the article presents the author’s opinion as fact
  • the headline is inaccurate in linking the group to the Christchurch mosque shootings.

mediacouncil.org.nz
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