Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
Work smarter with a Pro licence Learn More

Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search


NZ Skeptics’ Bravo And Bent-Spoon Awards 2022

Every year the New Zealand Skeptics have presented their awards to prominent people and organisations who have made an impact on the amount of rationality in our society, both good and bad - and this year is no exception.

Our awards for this year have been dominated by the events surrounding the occupation of parliament grounds for those three weeks in February and March. These protests were dominated by a hotch-potch collection of groups who, while they may like to think of themselves as enlightened critical thinkers, were mostly made up of people drunk on the conspiracy kool-aid. The New Zealand Skeptics have decided against giving these fringe elements any more air time or recognition than they’ve already received. Instead, we have decided to save the nominations for our Bent Spoon award to those who already have a public profile, but who have used that influence to further stir the pot of political unrest or have swallowed the kool-aid uncritically and lent the appearance of authenticity to anti-science and conspiracy theories. In contrast, our Bravo awards this year will be going to those lesser-known heroes who have fought tirelessly to expose and document misinformation, disinformation, deception and conspiracy theories.

The first of the Bravo awards for 2022 go to Kate Hannah and Dr. Sanjana Hattotuwa, who have been tireless workers in the identification, documentation and analysis of misinformation and disinformation within Aotearoa/New Zealand at The Disinformation Project. As well as the study and analysis of the growing ‘infodemic’, they have contributed their expertise to more than 80 public media stories nationally and internationally in 2022 alone.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

Likewise, we would like to recognize Byron Clarke, YouTuber, videographer and online commenter, who has dedicated a significant amount of his time and effort to the online study and combat of the rise of the alt-right in Aotearoa.

Another to receive our Bravo award is journalist Marc Daalder. Marc’s excellent science-based reporting of diverse subjects from climate change, energy & technology to the COVID-19 pandemic, public housing, far-right nationalism and violent extremism has been admired by skeptics for some time, and should be considered something of a model for his fellow journalists.

Our final Bravo award goes to the Stuff Circuit team for their excellent but chilling documentary “Fire and Fury”, documenting the rise of disinformation and violent extremism in New Zealand over the past year, which culminated in the parliament grounds occupation in February.

But this year’s triumphs haven’t all been just about fighting back the fires of disinformation, far-right nationalism and extremism. One independent journalist has had a series of wins this year, uncovering, highlighting and successfully unseating the leadership of Arise church for their abusive behaviour of less senior church members - as well as pointing out serious issues with other religious organisations such as City Impact church, Bethlehem College and Hillsong. He’s also exposed some of the major issues with cryptocurrencies and NFTs, written a great summary of the Peter Ellis case and the craziness of the Satanic Panic, and detailed the daft fake stories about teenagers identifying as cats. Hence, we are pleased to announce that the winner of this year’s Skeptic of the Year is David Farrier.

Our Bent Spoon award is given out to the individual or organisation which has shown the most egregious gullibility or lack of critical thinking in public coverage of, or commentary on, a science-related issue. Although there are many ‘worthy’ contenders this year, we’ve narrowed it down to three candidates.

The first worthy mention goes to Liz Gunn, former litigation lawyer, reporter, TV and radio presenter. Over the past couple of years she’s been fronting for anti-vaccination group Voices for Freedom. Some of her online rants have been spectacular; at one point late last year she blamed an earthquake in the North Island as ‘Mother Nature’s retribution for the enforcement of vaccine mandates’.

Voices for Freedom have been instrumental in the award of the other worthy mention in the race to the Bent Spoon. Melanie Reid, reporter with Newsroom, gave an interview with the leaders of VFF during the Parliamentary protests in late February under the high profile “Newsroom Investigates” banner. What followed has become something of a case-study in uncritical journalism, showcasing the dangers of attempting to create ‘false balance’ by giving even airtime to both sides of an argument, even if one of those sides displays poor reasoning or a faulty evidence-base to form its arguments.

But the 2022 Bent Spoon award goes to Sean Plunket. Sean was once seen as a hard-hitting, thorough, critically adept investigative journalist with a portfolio that covered TVNZ’s Fair Go, TV3’s 20/20 and RNZ’s Morning Report. So it is dismaying to find that his online media platform The Platform has been giving airtime to the far-right Counterspin Media, an opinion-piece streaming channel that has been connected to Steve Bannon’s GTV network. Much of Counterspin’s content amounts to Q-Anon style conspiracy theory and thinly disguised hate speech. Sean has also given airtime to other controversial online media personalities who play fast and loose with the truth, such as Chantelle Baker, Jordan Peterson, Brian Tamaki, Avi Yemini and Bob McCroskie, and has shown a lack of understanding of science and public policy in his views on vaccination, Three Waters, climate change and the work of The Disinformation Project.

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines




InfoPages News Channels


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.