This is an extract from a long article by Muriel Newman — read the full article here

Censorship by Big Tech is now rife. While Twitters banning of President Trump was widely reported, not so well known is how closely Facebook works with the White House – and other governments – in the fight against so-called “misinformation”. Meanwhile, YouTube has admitted deleting a million videos containing Covid “misinformation”, and even Microsoft’s LinkedIn is cancelling accounts of those challenging the woke agenda – including genetic vaccine pioneer Dr Robert Malone, who has expressed concerns about the mRNA vaccine.

This raises an obvious question: to what extent are governments influencing social media content? And is that influence solely due to the threat of regulation, or have social media companies become overly reliant on revenue generated from government agencies? 

What we do know is that controlling the narrative has become a fixation of our ‘unless you hear it from us, it’s not the truth’ prime minister.

The Ardern Government spent $16.4 million at the start of the pandemic on public relations and messaging, paying Clemenger BBDO $3 million and the multinational advertising firm OMD $12 million. Everything from the “team of 5 million” to the “be kind to each other” slogans were carefully planned, tested and executed.

‘Controlling the narrative’ became such an obsession that even cabinet ministers were gagged – unless they had approval from the prime minister’s office.

Herald journalist Kate MacNamara, who has been investigating the government’s communications strategy, reveals that New Zealand social media users are under surveillance – by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet:

“The government has paid an estimated $200,000 for a long-running series of social media listening reports, aimed at gathering information on Kiwis’ online posts and conversations… However, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has refused to make the reports public, along with the scope of the ‘listening’, its methodology and the themes it has encompassed. Fifty-two such reports were commissioned in the past full financial year: one per week. That ‘regular reporting’ has continued through the current financial year.”

The department is also funding “social media influencers”, with $50,000 paid to Fuse Creative for 21 ‘entertainers’, including Gaby Solomona, Moses Mackay, Anika Moa and Tina Maro, to promote the February 2021 “#stayinforit” campaign.

Kate’s investigations uncovered the extensive efforts undertaken by the government to put a positive spin on the vaccine procurement process, even though New Zealand lagged behind other countries.

The debacle was caused by cabinet setting up a vaccine taskforce – to buy vaccines and promote the need for vaccinations – in May 2020, but failing to provide their funding until August. While that meant vaccine deals could not be finalised until December, “the public was fed a soothing version of events shaped by outside PR help”.

That PR advice was provided by Karl Ferguson of Arkus Communications, who was paid $130,000 for “communications that controlled and shaped the flow of information around vaccine procurement… to achieve a singular and flattering version of events”.

Kate MacNamara reveals ‘independent commentators’ were targeted for briefings: “We worked closely with Taskforce agencies on key communications collateral to support the Pfizer announcement… key stakeholders – especially those likely to be approached by media for comment – were provided with a ‘heads up’ prior to the announcements going out. A number of these stakeholders have provided positive public comment as a result.”

Those commentators have been named as the Ministry of Health’s Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Ian Town; Auckland University’s Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles, Associate Professor Helen Petousis-Harris, Associate Professor Nikki Moreland, Professor Shaun Hendy, Professor Nikki Turner, Dr John Taylor and Dr Matire Harwood; Otago University’s Professor Michael Baker, Professor David Murdoch, Professor Sue Crengle and Associate Professor James Ussher; Queensland University’s Professor Ian Frazer; Dr Graeme Jarvis of Medicines New Zealand; Professor Dame Juliet Gerrard of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet; Professor Graham Le Gros and Gail Marshall of the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research; Professor Michael Bunce of the Environmental Protection Authority; and Dacia Herbulock of the Science Media Centre.

These became the go-to ‘experts’ that the mainstream media relied on: “Updates by officials to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern say the proactive briefing of the ‘commentators’ helped to achieve positive media coverage.”

Kate MacNamara reveals that even the timing of vaccine announcements was manipulated: “The timing of vaccine announcements also entailed considerable and clearly political choreography, all of it aided by Ferguson… The agreement with Pfizer was signed on October 6, and that news was held for six days and released by ministers Chris Hipkins and Megan Woods on October 12, the Monday of election week.”

The Government denied that politics played any part in that announcement delay!

Kate explained that once the vaccine contract wound up, Karl Ferguson’s expertise was re-directed to the health reforms, where he “now provides ‘communications and engagement services’ to the Health Transition Unit in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, which is leading a plan to transform the structure of the country’s health system”.

The prime minister will spend $18 million this year on consultants, trying to convince New Zealanders that abolishing District Health Boards and segregating health services by race are necessary – even though the primary motivation behind the Pae Ora health reforms is political: to introduce Labour’s He Puapua co-governance plan for tribal control.

The ‘official’ justification for the reforms – to eliminate systemic racism in the health system and reduce Maori disparity – have been fact checked by Auckland GP Dr Lawrie Knight and found “to be incorrect.”