Winston, Meteria and the Missing Story

In these two examples the media has served their societal function with aplomb – hide the real story, the one that would make us awake and angry at the right things, and work overtime to promote a different one – one that focuses on personal culpability and character assassination. 



With the revelation that Winston Peters was overpaid superannuation we have another ‘scandal’ for the media to completely distort. Predictably, they have done a very fine job.

What is the function of the the mainstream media in society? It is to follow the dictates of the Establishment – indeed it is really just one of the more powerful and influential arms of the Establishment. Crucially, it’s job is to shield the systemic inequalities from our criticism, to re-direct our frustrations to shadows, and to inoculate our protest.

Over the last few months we have two excellent examples of it doing just that.

Meteria Turei lied about her circumstances to get the benefit. Instead of the story being why one would need to do that, it became how dare one do that. It did not lose it’s moral aspect, it simply changed the target. Instead of helping us reflect on the deficiencies of a society that would push someone into such a situation, we were directed to reflect on the deficiencies of Meteria herself. This was a very deliberate, constructed narrative, with the express intention of both discrediting Meteria and distracting us from where our anger really belongs.

If you were caught up in the finger-wagging against Meteria don’t feel too bad. These are institutions that spend a great deal of money and energy to create opinion and false outrage. They should not be underestimated.

Turning to Winston, well, they’ve done it again. The story here is not that Winston was overpaid, nor is it that someone must have breached his privacy. They are just part of the event. The most important story is actually the fact that he didn’t even know he was being overpaid.

Because what does that tell us? It tells us that relatively wealthy people, such as himself, are receiving a universal benefit in superannuation, that is paid for by you and me, which they don’t need, and indeed sometimes, don’t even notice.  

The story is that in a nation of escalating income and wealth inequality, of worsening poverty and a housing crisis out of control, we are for some reason content to shell out the same amount of money to every person over the age of 65, whether they’re a millionaire couple in the city, or an isolated grandfather barely staying above the poverty line.

Why are we content to do this? Because our Establishment politicians are too gutless to tackle the problem, and because our media keep us from seeing the problem even when we have real-world examples of its terrible logic.

In these two examples the media has served their societal function with aplomb – hide the real story, the one that would make us awake and angry at the right things, and work overtime to promote a different one – one that focuses on personal culpability and character assassination.

Like the magician’s assistant, the media’s job is to draw our eyes to the flashy distraction. We then miss the way that the trick is really done.



Author: Todd

Hello, thanks for reading. My name is Todd and I'm a 30 year old NZ Maori trainee doctor in Psychiatry. I have a passion for Mental Health, particularly in low-resource settings, and the existential and humanist schools are what provide me with the organising principles to help understand my patients - their hopes, their fears, their dreams and the inner tyrannies under which they often suffer. I have a background in advocating for evidence-based policy solutions and have always maintained an active interest in NZ and international politics - in particular the dynamics between psychology, politics and dominant power systems. Central to my belief is the sanctity and inherent mana of all people and the need be eternally wary of ideologies that reduce them to simple nodes within enormous and fundamentally dehumanising systems. I feel that the history of modern politics and individual and social psychology is the constant tension of this dialectic. We are "human, all too human" and the affirmation of our essential humanness is the common thread in my work. When I was once overwhelmed by the terrible things people can do to one another, someone important to me said, "don't scream at the darkness, light a candle." I hope these pieces are each a candle - all part of the many I hope to light on this wonderful journey. Many thanks and happy reading Todd

One thought on “Winston, Meteria and the Missing Story”

  1. I seriously love your writing! I’m studying Sociology this year, and everything you have discussed rings so true to me. The media has such a power over our society, and really contributes to “common sense understandings” and directing people away from looking further into a situation. It is ironic that people always say, “Don’t believe everything you hear”, but it comes to election time and they will bow down to the Establishment parties and believe that their policies will work because they said it would. I truly think the media has contributed to the fact that people are now unable (or maybe just too lazy), to look into the policies and challenge them! Everything you’ve said is so true, and it is such a big problem in our society. I just wish I knew a way to send a message to those who are still blinded by our corrupt system.


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