By Amanda Vickers

On pink shirt day, Stuff published a long-form piece dedicated to ridiculing and denigrating one of NZ’s leading epidemiologists, Dr. Simon Thornley.

Pink shirt day aims to create communities where people feel valued and respected.

Stuff’s language includes phrases such as:  “feverishly embraces conspiracy theories”, “demand he be fired or censored” and “a personality trait could explain his actions”.

These are amongst dozens of other ad hominem and sweeping statements using disparaging language and ridicule.

The reason? The scientist does not conform to dominant social norms with respect to the Covid response.

The article sets out to manipulate the reader to conform to the narrative, or they too will be categorised as a batshit-crazy, tin-foil hat-wearing conspiracy theorist.

This is a dismal low for our media. Our society strives for a social norm that rejects bullying – and that includes rejecting language that is cruel and insulting. New Zealand news media’s self-imposed standards  include “accuracy, fairness, and balance.” Despite their principles, NZ’s media were quoted as being part of a “sustained propaganda campaign” by the Prime Minister. It is clear these two outcomes are mutually exclusive.

The article may be explained by the work of Dr. Maja Graso, who said:

“Public shaming of scientists and experts is more acceptable to people when it goes against the prevailing opinion”.

Dr. Maja Graso, a senior lecturer at the University of Otago, recently published a paper suggesting there is a bias against studies that evaluate the social costs of strict Covid measures. That evaluation is one of the topics discussed by Dr. Thornley and as such, he is a living testament to Dr. Graso’s study results.

The Stuff article was music to the ears of those who cherish the dominant narrative. As if they had just read a social psychology textbook, one elected representative stated on social media “very thoughtful editorial”.

Read the rest on the Voices for Freedom website