Jacinda Ardern via Getty
Jacinda Ardern via Getty

Peter Williams: Jacinda Ardern admits it’s ‘propaganda’

Peter Williams 02/03/2021

OPINION: Did you hear the staggering thing that came from the Prime Minister’s mouth on Monday? Her use of the word propaganda. 

I’ve had a few pieces of correspondence since then, essentially saying it looks like she’s admitted it, it’s propaganda! I think I’m prepared to give the Prime Minister, on balance but only just, the benefit of the doubt and call it a slip of the tongue. 

She was referring to the 21-year-old who did a test and then went to the gym and then came back positive. Apparently, he’d been overseas last year, had two weeks in isolation and while he was there he was, like everybody else there, subject to a “two-week period of sustained propaganda” about the dangers of Covid. 

Propaganda is a word that no modern-day free and liberal democracy should ever use in the context of its government departments or government officials. Take whatever dictionary definition you want, but propaganda does not have very positive connotations. One says it’s information, ideas, opinions or images often only giving one part of an argument. Another says it’s the information of a biased or misleading nature. 

Either way, when I hear the word propaganda, I think of Nazi Germany who had a Minister for it, and George Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty-Four, the whole point of which was the Party’s propaganda. So frankly it is a word that modern-day politicians should steer very, very well clear of.

Maybe Jacinda Arderrn doesn’t know what the real meaning is, and doesn’t realise its historical context but heaven forbid, you’d like to assume she does. But to say that people in MIQ facilities get two weeks of sustained propaganda is a very bad use of the world. What was so wrong with using sustained advice? Or strong recommendations? 

Like with my falling out with her deputy Grant Robertson over the use of the word “reset”, the point is with politicians that words matter. For a Prime Minister to be telling us that a young man was subject to sustained propaganda is a very bad look.

Peter Williams is the host of Magic Mornings, weekdays 9am - 12pm on Magic Talk.