- Media coverage of the February 2022 Parliament protest was heavily biassed.
- The public were never invited to draw their own conclusions but were fed a predetermined diet of anti-protest content.
- Reports virtually ignored the fundamental reason for the protest: the creation of an underclass.
From 8th February to 2nd March 2022, people protesting the COVID vaccine mandates camped on Parliament grounds and parts of the surrounding streets. In the first part of this series, we look at one of the most important angles of the story that was ignored by the media: social exclusion.
Comments made about protesters by the media and politicians were frequently ridiculous and hateful. But the story they told was the only one heard by the majority of Kiwis at the time.
Conservative research group Family First conducted a review of media coverage during the protest, finding it heavily biassed, with only 20 stories (3%) quoting protesters, and only a few in-depth interviews.
Nearly all the commentary was negative and critical, at times derisive and dismissive. The public were never invited to draw their own conclusions but were fed a predetermined diet of anti-protest content. We believe the majority of politicians were equally remiss, and responsible for creating the environment for this approach to prosper.
Watching all this, one wouldn’t guess that 30% of Kiwis supported the protest at the time.
Not only were the media united in strong opposition, the politicians in Parliament marched in lockstep with their party leaders who offered a variety of insults and refused to engage with the protest at all. Never in the history of the country had a large multi-day protest at Parliament been utterly ignored. Though perhaps this wasn’t surprising, since politicians had already ignored almost two years of submissions and protests leading up to this. Also, every party supported the pandemic rules, at least for awhile, that created an equally unprecedented ostracism of New Zealand citizens.
Unexplained reasons: exclusion
The Government created a temporary underclass who were allowed to be severely discriminated against.
Unvaccinated people couldn’t attend weddings, funerals or community events. They were barred from all manner of things from schools to pools, even DOC huts. Many were refused treatment inside medical centres, instead being treated in carparks or garages.
They were disproportionately poor and Maori.
Coverage showed homeless protesters, but didn’t mention that some were made homeless by the mandates. People lost their jobs, some even lost their businesses, and couldn’t pay their mortgages. Many hotels and landlords refused to accommodate people without vaccine passes.
Then when some of these excluded people camped on Parliament lawn in protest, Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard trespassed them from the most appropriate protest site in the country.
By refusing to meet with them, Parliament showed that these people had no democratic representation. Despite over 10% of eligible Kiwis remaining unvaccinated, and another 20% supporting them.