TIM HINCHLIFF AGAINST THE SPINOFF

Case Number: 3024

Council Meeting: APRIL 2021

Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: The Spinoff

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Balance, Lack Of

Overview

The Spinoff published an article on 9 March 2021 by Siouxsie Wiles looking back on the Covid-19 pandemic. The website introduced the story by saying: “Twelve whiplash months on, Siouxsie ranks the good, the not so good, and the downright ridiculous.” The article was a personal reflection on what she’d learned about the issues relating to the pandemic. In one section of the article, Dr Wiles said the pandemic had shown the “best and worst of research and academia”. At its worst “medical doctors and people with PhDs” were ignoring and cherry-picking evidence saying we should be protecting the vulnerable, learning to live with the virus and that the pandemic was manageable by the “herd-immunity-by-infection route”. This was “bollocks”, unethical and eugenicist, she said.

Tim Hinchliff complained that the article lacked balance and was inaccurate, and particularly objected to the use of the term “eugenicist” to describe the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) [a statement from a group of experts who favoured shielding those most at risk, lifting lockdowns and allowing natural immunity to develop]. The primary definition of eugenics was selective breeding for positive traits, which had nothing to do with the position of the GBD. Dr Wiles made serious allegations about those behind the GBD and New Zealand’s Plan B group, without giving them a chance to respond. There had been no effort byThe Spinoff to present competing viewpoints. Mr Hinchliff elaborated on his assertion that the GBD and Plan B proponents’ viewpoint should be covered, and provided a large number of links to support his view. “There is a debate that we are simply not exposed to in New Zealand,” he said, and this was dangerous.

The Media Council notes that the article was clearly an opinion piece and therefore does not require balance or an absence of bias. Dr Wiles is entitled to put her views without canvassing the opposite perspective. This is clearly a long-running issue and the views Dr Wiles criticises have been covered in other media previously. Mr Hinchliff’s specific concern about the use of the word “eugenistic” is based on a narrow definition, and Dr Wiles’ use of the term seems a legitimate extension of it to a belief that some humans have more value than others. Its use is also in keeping with the colourful language of the rest of the article and it is not used as a technical term.

No Principles have been breached.

Finding: Insufficient Grounds to Proceed.