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AARON IRONSIDE: The one-sided cannabis debate

I will never forget the day I was announced as the Say Nope to Dope spokesperson. Within hours of the press release being sent to media, I received an anonymous call from a radio station where the announcer told me that if I intended to speak out against cannabis legalisation he would bring every power at his disposal to destroy me.


I spent 25 years in the NZ Media, including time as a newsreader, and I struggled to believe that bias was an issue. I would quickly learn that some journalists were no longer satisfied with reporting the news. They wanted to make the news. And they nearly managed it.


Our referendum victory was against all odds. Say Nope to Dope was up against 10 Yes campaigns and a media determined to give them an advantage. It wasn’t a fair fight but common sense prevailed!


After the Election, we analysed the print media coverage of the referendum. Most Kiwis expect balanced reporting of important issues regardless of how they see things. All they want is enough information to make a good decision. What we uncovered was shocking.


Advocates promoting the Yes position were quoted twice as often as our side. Over half the articles failed to quote anyone from the No campaign, twice as often as the Yes perspective was omitted. When they did quote us, it was often printed at the bottom of the story, where only the dedicated would discover. A third of all articles were entirely biased towards the Yes point of view, but only 6% of articles were biased towards No. Put simply, “Yes” coverage twice as biased as “No”.


Those writing the stories hoped to change people’s minds. If their stories had instead reflected the attitudes of voters, they would have been evenly balanced. Over 50% of adults opposed legalisation – but you would never guess that browsing through the newspapers.


However, it wasn’t just the biased coverage that concerned me. It was seeing firsthand that journalists were willing to distort the coverage and attempt to discredit our message. Say Nope to Dope was an alliance of around 20 organisations who fell under the umbrella of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) NZ. We had borrowed the name from a US organisation that provides research on cannabis legalisation to American politicians.


Early in the campaign, I was interviewed by a well-known TV journalist about the role that SAM USA had in Say Nope to Dope. The accusation was that they were secretly bankrolling our efforts and trying to affect the outcome of the referendum. I explained that we only used their research and borrowed their name, but that they weren’t involved in strategizing or funding SAM NZ. We even offered to produce an auditor’s letter proving that we were 100% funded by concerned Kiwi families. That same journalist interviewed someone from SAM USA who confirmed our story. Despite all this, the next day, the news story was about how the US was interfering in the New Zealand elections. Justice Minister Andrew Little was even fed information that this was true. Yet all along they knew they were selling a lie. We were furious and demanded an opportunity to correct the error.


The next day a 20 second clarification was broadcast – but not during the news, but just after the Sports News. Sadly, the damage was done. The question of US involvement would plague us for the remainder of the campaign. You can imagine how frustrating and ironic it was to answer a false accusation created by journalists wanting to change the outcome of the referendum. It was sad that I could no longer assume that the news media is impartial and objective.


Some journalists now yearn to be influencers. They want to see their name in the history books. Too many are more interested in followers than facts. I never believed Fake News was a real thing until I watched the facts get twisted into a new narrative barely inspired by actual events. It doesn’t happen for every issue – but it did on this one.


The news media needs to take a long hard look at itself. Kiwis deserve to hear both sides of the story reported without an editorial bias. Without balanced reporting that space can be filled by extremists and conspiracy theorists. They offer their own distortion of reality.


Truth still matters.



Aaron Ironside was the Say Nope To Dope spokesperson. This article was published at The Common Room


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61 Comments


lynnsam112
lynnsam112
Mar 12, 2023

when was the last time there WAS a DEBATE on anything......just asking for a friend....

I nearly choked when Hipkins said Labour are happy to debate on the co-governance thing......just another lie.....they tell us plebs what is happening and DON'T allow any other narrative.....DEMOCRACY IS DEAD, in this country and globally.....👹

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Replying to

While people like you live, democracy is not dead.

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As I stated before, the lies come in many different shapes and colours, each one fitting a certain narrative, a bit like drugs that fit certain neuron conductors, in general our society is been drugged into submission.

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Octavian Augustus
Octavian Augustus
Mar 12, 2023

When "democracy" means manufactured consensus and uniform opinion, and being free to express any thought you like, so long as it conforms with a set of ideas acceptable to and imposed by people who hold you in contempt. (But don't forget to vote!)


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Nearly all without exception of the comments are bang on. You see through the illusion. The US Military and CIA have long standing programs called MK Ultra. Fundamentally, they are about programming. Turn your Bullshit TVs, off, bin Newspapers and research internationally to learn what is really going down. They did not name it Tell A Vision and Program for fun. MSM is FAKE Stream Media. They PROGRAM the masses to their narrative and Dumb down.

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Replying to

Yes and they also possess Stockholme Syndrome. The number that viciously defended their oppressors like Jack Adern (now why do foreign commentators keep using that male name), is astounding.

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I have seen the damage cannabis causes and pleased to have it controlled. THC is the culprit and frequently leads on to further hard drugs,

However CBD (Cannabidiol) is not THC it is a powerful polyphenol medicinal in it own right and should be freely available at an aforable price. I would consider its use in my range of herbal prearations. Indications are that it may have wide application.

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Replying to

"pleased to have it controlled."

It is arguably under loose control , but not by whom you seem to believe . It is definitely not under control of any law.

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