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Wednesday 28 June 2017

Fake News First?

Posted in: Our Communities
By Craig Young - 26th April 2017

It looks like Family First is cranking (...) up its anti-transgender student harassment and victimisation campaign once again, except none of the straight media outlets are paying any attention whatsoever to the latest tired set of claims from the website. Is this because the items in question are 'fake news' items?

I am not arguing that Family First is deliberately fabricating such items, as there is no proof either way to suggest that it is. I will give it the benefit of the doubt and accept that its latest reported (albeit probably manufactured and orchestrated) anti-transgender claims are authentic. However, therein lies the problem- authentication. We are told on the Family First website that several "AUT students" and 'parents' of some "AUT students" have criticised AUT's trans-inclusive toilet and changing room policies, but these individuals are anonymous. Now, there may be legitimate reasons for concealing their identities, if they fear harassment or intimidation themselves, or have been made to fear them due to anti-transgender propaganda from conservative Christian anti-transgender pressure groups and sects. Or it may be because this is an orchestrated trouble-making campaign from unrepresentative anti-transgender pressure groups trying desperately to gain public visibility and seem as if they are raising issues of legitimate concern. However, their anonymity defeats this objective and raises questions about their authenticity. Might it be possible to reproduce anonymized documented evidence of these anti-transgender student claims, if they exist? If this documented evidence does not exist, why is that the case- and further scepticism arises in this context.

Given the above then, one must concede that other media outlets are entitled to ignore Family First's latest cheap attention-grabbing stunt. There is too little that is concrete and properly documented, and news items cannot rely on hearsay and anonymous commentary without some degree of authentication or verification of their claims. At present, that corroboration is absent from Family First's "Ask Me First" front group website. Therefore, without such verification, mainstream news outlets are entitled to question their veracity and raise legitimate questions about manipulation and orchestration.

In the latest round of accusations, one of the respondents is allegedly a young autistic woman and two Samoan students who raise cultural objections (and conveniently overlooks the long-term existence of fa'afafine within Samoan culture in their home lands and the Samoan diaspora in South Auckland and elsewhere). It is also despicable to try to manipulate disability rights concerns within this propaganda ploy. For that is all it is. Family First should be honest about the origins of claims made here- are they actually from New Zealand sources? Is there documented evidence, which can be anonymised but verified? If so, where is it? Or is it orchestrating such claims due to its presentations and campaigning against transgender youth health and safety?

Refreshingly, mainstream politicians are ill-inclined to be fooled by these antics. Recently, the centre-right Kiwiblog website reported about a response from National List MP Paul Foster-Bell over a letter he received from the anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia and anti-LGBT pressure group Right to Life New Zealand. I'm not sure why an anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia website should be campaigning against transgender rights, given that transpeople usually aren't directly concerned with the abortion or euthanasia debates. Foster-Bell responded by affirming that he was proud to represent a pluralist centre-right political party and provide patronage for LGBT youth organisations.

Is this fake news or not? This is a legitimate question. Because it looks like Family First is desperately trying to raise the public profile of a failed campaign based slavishly on mimicking other rabble rousing from the US Christian Right, judging by its close links to a US Christian Right pressure group, the Family Policy Alliance (formerly CitizenLink, a front group for the notorious US Christian Right multinational Focus on the Family, which campaigns tiresomely against LGBT rights, feminism, women's reproductive freedom and so on.


David Farrar: "A Letter and A Reply" Kiwiblog: 21.04.2017:

Not Recommended:

Family First front group Ask Me First:

Family Policy Alliance US:http://www.askmefirstplease. com/

"AUT Students Object to Irresponible and Unsafe Toilet Policy" Family First: 19.04.2017:https://www. aut-students-object-to- irresponsible-unsafe-toilet- policy/

Craig Young - 26th April 2017

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