Cynical Photo Ops

May 28th, 2008 at 2:12 pm by David Farrar

Karl du Fresne has a very good blog post on the photo of the aunt of the dead Kahui Twins kissing their headstone.

My third thought had less to do with Mona Kahui and Stuart King than with the ’s role. The photo at the cemetery was taken by John Selkirk, the Dom Post’s veteran Auckland photographer. I don’t think John just happened by chance to be at Mangere cemetery with his camera gear when the couple turned up. The paper had obviously been tipped off in advance. In fact the couple’s attendance at the cemetery may well have been dependent on the Dom Post turning up too.

Would Mona Kahui and Stuart King have gone to the cemetery and kissed the twins’ headstone if there was no newspaper photographer there to record the occasion? Of course I can’t say. But instinct and experience makes me sceptical.

If the couple were merely intent on expressing sincere grief and affection for the dead twins, there was no reason for a newspaper to be present. So the event was at least to some extent contaminated by a PR motive. I suspect the Dom Post was enlisted as an accomplice in the couple’s plan to get their child back.

I doubt Karl is wrong.

If this was the case, Kahui and King were only doing what politicians, pressure groups and PR firms do all the time – staging what the British journalist Nick Davies calls “pseudo events”, manufactured to generate publicity and therefore advance an underlying agenda.

These are not genuine news events which happen spontaneously. They are publicity stunts, orchestrated to attract media attention.

is an acknowledged master in this field, scoring prime newspaper and TV coverage every time its activists unfurl a protest banner on a nuclear power station or abseil on to an oil rig. Would they do it if the media paid no attention? Of course not.

are to Greenpeace what sex is to Paris Hilton!

UPDATE: Karl blogs that the have stated that there was no arrangement with the family. They just sent a photographer there as they figured there was a reasonable chance family members would go there. Big ups to the Dom Post for doing it the right way.

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13 Responses to “Cynical Photo Ops”

  1. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    Photo opportunities are to Greenpeace what sex is to Paris Hilton!

    A chance to spread STDs?! Actually, that’s quite a cunning plan, come to think of it…imagine how many whales would be saved if all the Japanese whalers were confined to shore with the pox. I hear Paris is looking to improve her PR with some charity work, and I’m sure ministering to the entire Japanese whaling fleet is no more taxing than one of her typical nights out in LA.

    Anyhow, congratulations to Karl du Fresne for pointing this out. One aspect that bothers me is that most people who picked up the paper and saw that photo would have had the same thought – that it was a staged event, played out purely for the publicity – and simply accepted that this is now the way news is managed now, by everyone from politicians to the Kahuis.

    How are people not disgusted by the use of anything – in this case the deaths of two children – for publicity? In a similar vein I was watching a clip from TVNZ’s breakfast the other day and noticed the news ticker promising that Michael Laws would shortly “reveal his family’s anguish”. This too exploits the fate of a child – a desperately ill one, in this case – to bring publicity to adults.

    That media and readers / viewers alike have been lulled into seeing this as “business as usual” is appalling.

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  2. virtualmark (1,535 comments) says:

    I’d have thought that photo opportunities are to Greenpeace what photo opportunities are to Paris Hilton.

    Both are shameless attention whores.

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  3. berend (1,715 comments) says:

    But also read the update. Best to update the post I think, DPF.

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  4. Bryan Spondre (556 comments) says:

    On the off chance that family members might be there ? Sounds suspicious to me.

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  5. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    Would terrorists do what they do if they weren’t assured of receiving media coverage.? Take the war in Iraq. The murdering totalitarians exploding bombs in markets and other public places are assured of maximum coverage for these actions by a sycophantic devoid of principle mainstream media. Coverage that has been so enthusiastic (especially in respect of the Iraq war) that one could perhaps almost judge them as sympathetic to the cause of the terrorists.

    Of course they were actually partners in crime while Saddam was running the country, with CNN entering into an agreement to limit criticism of Hussein’s government in return for being permitted to broadcast news that suited Saddam. So here were CNN, claiming to be providing the truth about what was happening in Iraq, when it was in reality broadcasting worthless crap.

    The media is held in contempt for a lot of reasons these days. Their alliance with terrorists is one of the most prominent. Reaching as far back as when airplane hijacks first arrived on the scene. Without the media’s rush to cover these events, they may have lost their strategic impact and faded away long ago, and many lives may have been saved.

    FOX news is to be applauded for its decision not to highlight terrorist actions in Iraq. Other broadcasters rushed to feverishly report on every murder, and every mass killing, but this of course with many reporters was not only because of their apparent sympathy for the terrorist’s cause but also because of their obsessive animosity toward the Bush administration. They wanted to hurt George Bush, and it didn’t matter to them that more Iraqis and more allied soldiers died than needed to, as long as their “hate Bush” objectives were met. The BBC probably exceeded all other networks in this respect. Fifth columnists? Worse I reckon. Bordering on treason.

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  6. goodgod (1,348 comments) says:

    “…The paper informs me that reporter Mike Field and photographer John Selkirk went to the cemetery on Friday on the off-chance that family members might be there…”

    I don’t think this is reasonating in the beltway. It’s time to move on. Just an error of judgement.

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  7. pushmepullu (686 comments) says:

    Fifth columnists? Worse I reckon. Bordering on treason.

    What’s the difference between a fifth columnist and a traitor, Redbaiter? I thought they were the same thing.

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  8. dudeabides (15 comments) says:

    This just in: Karl Du Fresne admits to being wrong. Hell freezes over.

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  9. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    “What’s the difference between a fifth columnist and a traitor, Redbaiter? I thought they were the same thing.”

    OK, fair enuff. Technically they are, except that the term fifth columnist has become more benign in meaning of late due to the tendency of the media to confuse such activity with legitimate protest. ie, it’s trendy to hate your country and betray your troops and debase Western European culture and in all of these things, give sustenance to Middle Eastern terrorists. Whereas less abstract treason does not earn this kind of benign viewpoint, and is still viewed with considerable hostility.

    You’re right tho in essence, and speaking for myself, I find it hard to view those who marched in support of Saddam Hussein and the terrorists as anything less than traitors. I know this is not a popular view, but I am more influenced by reason than what might be popular, ie the view force fed to the gape jawed and gullible by cynical partisan journalists trying to keep their shoddy rags afloat. I guess the opinion that I hold, ie that the war in Iraq is an heroic attempt to establish a bridgehead for democracy in the Middle East, doesn’t sell as many papers as the headline “SIX US SOLDIERS KILLED BY ROADSIDE BOMB”.

    BTW, the topic here is the media’s tendency to use sensation to advance an agenda. On the issue at hand, I find it very hard to believe the claims of the paper- ie that the event was not staged. Possible, but hell, why would anyone give the media any benefit of doubt. With their record on truth?? Yeah right??

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  10. He-Man (270 comments) says:

    The NZ police are the best at that game.

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  11. dudeabides (15 comments) says:

    I think this criticism of Greenpeace as staging “pseudo-events” is precious and cynical, actually. The fact is that protest is a form of political speech which, by its very nature, requires an audience, but the question to ask is whether the protests would happen even if the media weren’t there — of course they would. That’s different from Du Fresne’s (now hypothetical) example of the Kahui relatives staging a publicity stunt in cahoots with the media — an event that wouldn’t, and couldn’t, happen without the media being present.

    There’s also the issue of intent. Greenpeace stage their protests to advance a cause — in the case of Lyttelton, to talk about climate change. It’s about something other than themselves. Whereas Paris Hilton or Britney Spears stage publicity stunts simply to enhance their own brand.

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  12. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    Give it a couple of days and the photo will be on Labours site with dear leader airbrushed in again.

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  13. Steve (4,579 comments) says:

    Not so long ago Dear Leader was up Sir Ed’s drive waiting for camera shots and TV coverage.
    Publicity junkies

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