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Return of the Hollow Men

Written By: - Date published: 10:16 am, September 26th, 2013 - 48 comments
Categories: accountability, brand key, david cunliffe, don brash, election 2014, Ethics, john key, Judith Collins, news, same old national, slippery, spin - Tags:

John Key and his handlers have tried so hard to distance himself from the underhand dirty tricks employed by National Party people to undermine opposition parties.  They were used relentlessly to undermine Helen Clark, but, once in power and having achieved dominance in the popularity polls, the government has focused more on it’s positive public image.  Now that Cunliffe’s Labour is in the ascendance, and a Labour-Green government is a real possibility next year, once more we are seeing the NAct and/supporters pull out their bag of dirty tricks.

john-key-snake-oil

The kinds of strategies used, with significant input from expensive political advisers like those at Crosby Textor, are exposed exposed in Nicky Hagar’s book The Hollow Men (2006).

In his review of the book, Wayne Hope, associate professor in communication studies at Auckland University of Technology, said this:

Hager’s general thesis can be outlined as follows: With the replacement of Bill English by Don Brash, National became an anti-democratic political party which set out to deceive the voting public. Wealthy corporate elites associated with the Business Round Table, the far right ACT party, the Centre for Independent Studies and various public relations firms supported Brash’s seizure of power and anonymously donated substantial sums to National’s campaign war chest. They wanted a new government with the power to institute market driven policies in the areas of labour relations, state owned enterprises, education, transport, accident compensation and local body government tax cut package.

Throughout 2004 and 2005, Brash’s strategists (Murray McCully, Gerry Brownlee, Steven Joyce, Richard Long, Matthew Hooton, Peter Keenan and Bryan Sinclair) employed market research companies, advertising specialists, public relations firms, media managers and television trainers to sell the National brand.

My bold: Scarily, while John Key was not centrally implicated in the underhand tactics of the Hollow Men, the pro-corporate, anti-democratic, market-driven policies favoured by the Hollow Men’s backers have steadily been brought in by Key’s government.

John_key_pokies

Now we have a new smear campaign launched against Cunliffe, lead pretty clumsily by Hollowman Matthew Hooton, with Judith Collins joining forces with a dodgy right wing blogger to cheer-lead Hooton’s efforts. Collins has previously been implicated with Brash’s Hollow Men, as indicated in Danyl Mclauchlan’s post about the book, and in a Fran O’Sullivan article of 2009, about Brash’s attempts to get the police to pursue enquiries into how Hagar got access to his emails:

Collins was Brash’s close political chum during the dying days of his leadership when it seemed as if he might just survive.

For an outsider like myself, it’s hard to know who is involved in the latest dirty tactics in which Hooton has been involved.  But there are some intriguing connections on the public record.

In the Hollow Men, Hagar pointed to Crosby Textor as being the main overseas consultants used by Brash, and later it became known that John Key was also using this company for strategic advice. Wayne Hope again:

… Hager details compellingly how the Australian based market researchers Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor translated the insecurities of uncommitted voters into loaded messages; politically correct Labour—mainstream National.

In a 2008 blog post, Hagar identifies Mark Textor as being John Key’s main CT adviser.  Curiously, this post is also pretty damning about Hollow Man Matthew Hooton:

Anyone who wonders what to make of Matthew Hooton’s public contributions to New Zealand politics really should read what he writes in private. His advice is sometimes clever, but it is also cynical. It is very revealing.

[…]

For this sort of PR person, the answer when faced with a crisis is to attack the messenger, deny everything and claim that they themselves are the victims in the affair. Like an octopus squirting ink into the water, the hope is that these diversions will allow them to escape unscathed. In this world of spin, words, arguments and personal attacks are all just means to an end, tools to advance their and their clients’ objectives.

A Stuff, Fairfax news article of 2008, also outlines some of the strategies of Crosby Textor (and there are probably more that we have yet to see in the lead up to NZ’s 2014 elections). It claims Key has continued to use the same adviser as Brash, Mark Textor., but that it has been kept secret from the public.  The reason for secrecy is that, if their tactics and manipulations become widely known, they will be less effective.

It also shows how the NAct parties aim to benefit from having access to wealthier backers than is the case for more left leaning parties.

Specialised Crosby/Textor researchers visit New Zealand to conduct the research (costing about $10,000 per visit) and Textor flies to New Zealand, as required, to provide “high-level strategic advice” to Key and his staff on what Key should be saying and doing in public (also about $10,000 per visit). He also advises by phone and email. Key’s parliamentary staff saw Textor visiting his office around April 27, 2007, for instance, and it has all continued up to the present, including a visit in recent weeks.

The article points to ways that Crosby-Textors’ dirty, “and ruthless attack politics” tactics, “using subtle appeals to fear and prejudice” have been controversial in Australia.  This includes push polling, and the kind of tactics used when working for the UK Conservative Party and for the London mayoral campaigns of Boris Johnson.

Awareness of the kinds of strategies used by Crosby-Textor will be helpful in countering Nact’s dirty tricks in the run up to next year’s NZ election.  The 2008, Stuff article point to 3 main ones used in Boris Johnson’s campaigns.

First, Crosby and Textor realised there was a high risk of Johnson tripping up and making mistakes compared with his experienced opponent. Their answer was to tightly control and script all Johnson’s public appearances

[..]

The second strand of the London mayoralty strategy was relentlessly attacking Livingstone’s reputation. He had introduced some innovative and popular policies, so they concentrated on personal attacks.

[…]

The third strand was “issue management”. They found Livingstone had support on environment, social services and other issues. So instead they ran a narrowly focussed campaign on the rising cost of living and public safety even where these were the result of forces beyond Livingstone’s control.

The indications are that John Key will be getting advice from Mark Textor in the run up to the 2014 elections.  Intriguing that Key was cosily photo oped with Textor’s high profile client in his recent visit to England.

Brighter future for key and pals

Knowledge is power.

 

48 comments on “Return of the Hollow Men”

  1. Tracey 1

    Crosby’s connected to… Cameron, Abbott, Key.

    I do wonder why political strategeists were at a function for Key to meet British MPs.

    The Nats have more money (together with ACT) to polish up their poo. It’s hard to see through the shine.

    • Tiger Mountain 1.1

      And the Exclusive Brethren connection too, lest we forget, an organisation that eschews voting for adherents but ponied up significant funds during Brashes time and were outed, and the 2007 Australian elections too attempting to secretly fund John Howards re-election campaign.

  2. Bill 2

    Nice piece (again) Karol. On a positive note, if the idea is to carbon copy the strategy employed in Boris Johnson’s campaign, then there is deep shit rising up around the neck of the right.

    True, they can tightly script and manage. But then, that should be expected to some degree or other for any politician depending on the caliber of the person behind the political facade.

    On the second point, since Cunliffe hasn’t been in any position to have policies sniped at, then that only leaves them ‘reputation’. And vitriol at spelling mistake level inconsistencies in a CV just ain’t gonna go very far.

    And the third point of small issue focus – that they have used previously – just doesn’t appear to be an option since it it they who are in power and when they have created are so many big issues they can be buried under.

    There’s also the potential for scrutiny and successful counter argument being quick off the blocks as illustrated by commenters and authors on ‘the standard’ delivering Hooten his bloody nose ;-)

    • just saying 2.1

      There’s also the potential for scrutiny and successful counter argument being quick off the blocks as illustrated by commenters and authors on ‘the standard’ delivering Hooten his bloody nose ;-)

      Ah people power. Warms the cockles of my heart.

      Great work everyone:-)

  3. blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill) 3

    Excellent article Karol.

    The photo – op with Boris Johnson can be viewed as product placement.

    This is a technique that works on an subconscious level, giving viewers little option of free choice.

    This article lists some of the effects of product placement: [click link for full list]

    Key findings from this research show that Product Placement:

    ~Can dramatically shift TV viewers perception of a brand
    ~Implicitly forges brand association with TV content on a subconscious level, unlike more explicit forms of advertising
    ~Normalises brands through association with trusted TV content
    ~Produces a halo effect with brands associated with popular TV shows
    ~Can significantly increase consumer purchase intent and behaviour in terms of brand knowledge, likeability, talkability and advocacy in viewers exposed to the placement

    And this article concludes

    “Embedded marketing today is no longer an innovation – it has already proven to be arguably the most powerful marketing tool existing today that is not only practically 100% efficient, but also often works as a hidden, espionage tool of which the consumers become victims. When properly launched, such product placement campaigns are even hard to prove to be real, since any association and word-game usually tend to be considered critically subjective. No law and no act can prohibit embedded marketing since it is so difficult to identify and even harder to prove. This, and the fact that embedded marketing mainly affects the consumers’ brains on the subconscious level, makes it both an unethical and extremely dangerous marketing tool.”

    • Rodel 3.1

      I’m waiting to see photo ops of the PM with the Emirates Team New Zealand crew.
      Somehow I don’t think it will happen.

  4. marsman 4

    Great work once again Karol! As you say ‘knowledge is power’. I’ll share your Post on Facebook.

  5. Athena 5

    The exclusive brethren are about to get 9 million to integrate their schools, is someone trying to sweeten them up again?

    • Delia 5.1

      Exclusive about other New Zealanders, except when it comes to tax payer dollars which are not exclusive. They should fund themselves, anti social outfit, that claims only they are the special ones.

      • mike e 5.1.1

        exclusive bretheren have high alcoholism and pedophelia rate more than double the general population rates.
        They are also connected to extreme far right birther gun lobby and neo nazi’s etc etc !

    • Jenny Kirk 5.2

      Where is this information, please, Athena – that Exclusive Breth are to get $9m for their schools ?

  6. Rogue Trooper 6

    “The Great Way is quite even,
    yet people prefer byways.
    When courts are extremely fastidious
    the fields are seriously neglected
    and the granaries are very empty.
    They wear colourful clothing
    and carry sharp swords,
    eat and drink to their fill
    and possess more than enough.
    This is called the vanity of thieves.”

  7. gobsmacked 7

    On his recent trip to the UK (when he was supposed to be working for us, the NZ public, not the National party) John Key attended a caucus retreat for British Conservative MPs, in rural Oxfordshire.

    The guest speaker was one Lynton Crosby.

    The NZ media have largely ignored this, although it was reported in Britain.

  8. wyndham 8

    Nobody has yet mentioned the evil machinations of one Simon Lusk ! My understanding is that he still moves about in the shadowy world of NAct propaganda.

    Great article karol. TS is indeed fortunate to have your expertise in ferreting out some great exposes of NAct.

    • karol 8.1

      Yes, I came across mention of Lusk in my research for this post. It’ll keep. The post is long enough.

  9. red blooded 9

    If Exclusive Bretheren folk want to exclude their kids from a balanced, open education; exclude aspects of the NZ curriculum they don’t like (bye bye Darwin);exclude girls from freedom of choice and equality within their church and their relationships and exclude people whose sexuality they don’t approve of then they can damn well exclude themselves from the receipt of public funding. My tax dollars should be going to State schools (and while the EB might be an extreme example, I don’t actually believe that state funds should go to any religious school – teaching religious belief as revealed fact does kids a disservice).

    • Chooky 9.1

      The New Zealand education system was set up as on the principles of a high quality, egalitarian, secular state run education, with equality of opportunity for all children
      ( see: Colin McGeorge, “Schools and socialisation in New Zealand 1890-1914′

      ….it has been eroded in recent years and State Schools have been run down, class sizes increased, and school fees expected

      …. private and charter schools should NOT be receiving any New Zealanders’ tax dollars.

      …..if special interest groups want to indoctrinate their kids into religious beliefs (and often sexist, homophobic, racist , anti – science and anti equality of opportunity for girls…values ) as in religious, special character or charter schools …..they should pay for them themselves ….and preferably after normal school hours.

      ….any special privileges/finance/buildings /small class sizes/special tuition must go to the Public State Schools first….

      I also strongly object to propping up the Exclusive Brethren…especially as they are already fat from lack of taxation for their businesses and they denied a friend of mine a university education because she was an Exclusive Brethren girl….She would have loved to have studied science.

      • Rogue Trooper 9.1.1

        nooooooooooo, not science. ;)

        • Chooky 9.1.1.1

          @RT…she was very good at biology and chemistry in the large state secondary school I attended ….but she was not allowed to eat ( with us sinners) …let alone go to university. I guess she was destined for Exclusive Brethren motherhood….

          • Rogue Trooper 9.1.1.1.1

            I understand sects Very well Chooky; studied with at least four in the last eight years. Christ wept.

  10. Skinny 10

    What Labour doesn’t need is the loss of support through a private members Bill intended to lower the drink limit in half. It will have a backlash effect on Labour. It will be a huge resentful turn off to hundreds of thousands of responsible drinkers who enjoy a few drinks at pubs & clubs around the Country. I’ve had a number of mates that say if Labour get this Bill approved they will not get their vote. Campaigning for Labour will be tougher having to defend this Bill should it pass.

    • McFlock 10.1

      Nah.
      If you’re going to drive, don’t drink.

    • karol 10.2

      Amazing to see what some people’s priorities are. Being a danger on the roads? Wanting life easier no matter the risks to others? Voting out a government that is damaging lives and the country’s future?

      • Skinny 10.2.1

        The point is if Labour want to win in 2014 trying to push this bill will only succeed in allowing Key to trot out a line something like “responsible Kiwis in general behave sensibly drinking and we are not going to punish them with ‘nanny state’ laws, this is what your voting for if you vote Labour.”
        Hmm a fair few of those 800,000 previous non voters are hardly going to be infused with a Bill like this, a vote attracting policy I think not.

    • Rogue Trooper 10.3

      Mate, I was a mechanic for a Southland rural trucking company (towards the end of a 23-year career working with machinery and it’s operators). The amount of intoxicated driving and subsequent domestic unrest that arises from your anecdotal reality is beyond a couple of pale ales. Time for a change! F#ck The Piss! The level of booze consumption in NZ is one of a number of structural realities holding the nation back.

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