Why Newshub Nation Made Me Feel Ill
They wanted me to be a guest. I said no. Who they got instead made me want to barf.
I don’t usually write on the weekend — but I felt a little bit ill watching Newshub Nation today.
Newshub Nation is a news and politics show in New Zealand — and earlier this week, they’d asked me to come on via Zoom and talk about the Zuru story I’d written for Webworm. Full disclosure: I used to work at a former iteration of Newshub, and I’ve worked with some of those I talk about in this story.
My story was about how billion dollar Kiwi company Zuru had taken legal action against American website Glassdoor, in order to get the identities of those who’d posted negative reviews about them online.
Zuru said they’d done this so they could take defamation action against those reviewers, in a New Zealand court.
In a followup piece, I wrote about my belief that perhaps defamation action was never Zuru’s intent. I suggested Zuru never intended to sue, and simply wanted the reviews taken offline — as well as a scary warning placed on Glassdoor’s site, warning that future negative reviews could be met with legal action.
So Newshub Nation asked me to be a guest. I said “no”. It was a busy week for me, and I also felt an element of unease about the whole thing. Maybe I’ve been in LA too long, surrounded by clairvoyants and crystals. Seriously, I have crystals now:
But as I said: I just felt uneasy.
Turning the show on today, I realised I wasn’t wrong to be uneasy — because I watched one of the show’s guests talking on Zuru: defamation lawyer Chris Patterson.
Maybe the lawyer was on instead of me, maybe he would have been my counterpoint. I don’t know.
A few things made this awkward for me to watch.
First up — the entire angle of the entire interview was in Zuru’s court. Chris Patterson’s narrative was that the reviewers were bad agents. The concept they were actually aggrieved former employees of Zuru barely entered the conversation.
This is an example of the rant Patterson was allowed to go on — with zero interruption from the host, Simon Shepherd:
Patterson: “The first thing is we have to assume these reviewers actually exist. That they are not fake reviews.
And of course the issue with this is that the whole process of setting up an account on Glassdoor or any of these review sites doesn’t require any real kind of solid form of authentication.
So they don’t know if these people A) Actually exist, or are
B) actually here in New Zealand — and they’re not a competitor of Zuru who are just campaigning in a smear campaign.
They don’t know.”
Shepherd then stepped into the shoes of Zuru — leaning into the narrative from Patterson, undermining those who had left reviews:
Shepherd: “Is it really worth pursuing that [legal action] given that these could be fake reviews, given there may not be a real person at the end of that IP address?”
The whole thing made me feel ill.
Let me get on my high horse: Journalism is about holding power to account.
Casual viewers who didn’t know about this story may have tuned in, thinking they were hearing a compelling conversation about how random strangers like to slag each other off offline — and how they should be held responsible.
What they got was a defamation lawyer who could have been standing in for Zuru — talking as if anyone who claimed they were former employees of Zuru were in fact online trolls.
Mediawatch had a much more important angle earlier this week: How screwed up New Zealand’s defamation laws are, and how terrifying they make it for an individual to speak up about terrible shit that’s happened to them.
Instead — Shepherd and Patterson barely entertained the idea these people may well actually be former employees telling the truth: people trying to talk about the alleged (I throw that word in for the lawyers who will be reading this) awful things they experienced while working for a billion dollar corporation.
This angle was given 6 minutes and 39 seconds of airtime. The perspective of those writing the reviews was never raised.
And there’s another reason why I felt ill: Chris Patterson was the man New York conman David D’Amato hired in 2014 an attempt to stop me making a film about him.
I published all of Patterson’s legal threats to me in their entirety, here. They are for paying Webworm subscribers only — because I need paying Webworm subscribers to protect me from people like Chris Patterson.
Because Chris Patterson sent Webworm more legal threats in August of last year, trying to get me to remove this article about a kiwi doctor who was an Ivermectin (you know, the horse paste) enthusiast.
I also published those legal threats here. Again, that piece is for paying Webworm subscribers only — because I need paying Webworm subscribers to protect me from people like Chris Patterson.
I felt sick watching The Nation.
Watching Patterson end on this tosh made me want to sick up in the nearest toilet:
“For a long time now — decades — the internet has created a Wild West bastion with keyboard warriors sitting in front of a screen thinking, “I can say whatever I like and I can’t be touched”.
It’s cases like this that serve a good message out there that you aren’t necessarily that safe, so make sure you can backup what you’re about to say.
Because if it turns out that it’s not true - or it’s not your honest opinion or you don’t have some other legal escape mechanism — then you should be held to task.”
I want to say ‘Fuck you’ to Chris Patterson, and Newshub Nation for giving him this platform.
If I listened to Patterson’s message and took it to heart — “cases like this serve a good message out there that you aren’t necessarily that safe” — then there would be no Webworm.
To see a show that I assume is meant to be speaking truth to power (look, I’m excited Rage Against the Machine is back on tour right now, sue me) — seeing a man who basically tried to shut down my first documentary, my work here on Webworm, and apparently anyone else that might be trying to do the same — it all just leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
What I watched today was the antithesis of journalism and what it stands for.
I wanted you to know all this.
Have a safe weekend. Thanks for your ongoing support.
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Having been on the receiving end of Patterson's legalistic bullying this is indeed a shitty thing to behold. He happily acted in the interests of a man with money to prevent us telling the truth, and reinforced those lies in writing with the intention of intimidating us so that we wouldn't continue our project.
Absolute bullshit. And a great example of the totally unbalanced power of those with financial resources to silence those without those resources.