Written By: - Date published: 10:10 am, September 7th, 2014 - 109 comments
Categories: blogs, brand key, capitalism, class war, David Farrar, democracy under attack, election 2014, news, newspapers - Tags:
In today’s Sunday Star Times, there’s a page (p. A11) devoted to aspects of Hager’s book Dirty Politics. The centre piece is an article by Adam Dudding, based largely on a Matthew Hooton interview and the VRWC (Vast Right Wing Conspiracy). The VRWC is the name a group of right wing bloggers called themselves.
Hooton vs Team Key, & a couple of mea culpas
In the article Hooton stands by his criticism of John Key and his team, while doing a couple of mea culpas, talks about the origins of the VRWC, then ultimately, airbrushes the whole disgusting mess of dirty politics. It’s worth reading Selwyn Manning’s excellent article on his investigations into the Dirty Politcs fallout (and disarray) within National, to get an idea of Hooton’s possible motives.
Hooton says he is an alcoholic, and went on the wagon a couple of weeks ago. He realised he was inclined to shoot off unwise txts and emails under the influence.
He was sober when he criticised the PM on the RadioLive show, and stands by his criticism of the PM and his team. His criticisms are of the way Key’s office tried to block Hooton getting a contract with the Earthquake Recovery Authority. Hooton is also critical of the way Key responded to the launch of Dirty Politics, and his handling of issues related to Collins.
He has described Key’s response as “the most ill-judged performance of his 6 years as Prime Minister”, Collins isn’t fit for office. He said the Government deserves to lose this election.
He regrets having joined in re-Odgers wanting Hager’s address, but never actually believed Odgers’ contacts would organise a hit on him.
Airbrushing the VRWC
He says the right wing bloggers joined forces in 2008, when they wanted Winston Peters not to return to parliament, and they wanted to defeat Clark’s electoral finance bill. They called themselves the VRWC. This was a network of bloggers with a well-defined core, and others on the loose margins.
At the centre was Kiwiblog (KB) and Whale Oil (WO). It also included bloggers Cactus Kate, Busted Blond (Tina Nixon), and Queen Bee (Charles Finny) of the Hive. They acted in concert, but Hooton doesn’t see anything unusual or wrong about they. They tag teamed:
I’ve heard this; I’m going to write that; you guys might want to follow it up.
Hooton calls this
normal political activism with the usual extremely foul language, and the ironic and sometimes deeply inappropriate comment, in they way that people talk when in private with friends, or in the pub.
The limited amount of Kiwiblog and Whale Oil that I’ve read, and some of the stuff quote in Hager’s book, includes some extremely misogynistic , homophobic and racist language and ideas. It’s not something I would dismiss as lightly as Hooton does.
Dirty Politics, bloggers and journalists
The article then turns to the relationship between the right wing blogs and the mainstream media:
A blogger who was on the periphery of the VRWC says some mainstream journalists happily exploited the unregulated medium. They would feed information to a blogger because once it had been blogged they could then say it was in the “public domain” and report it themselves.
This is something many of us at The Standard were aware of because there was no similar conduit from left wing blogs, breaking stories in the mainstream media (MSM). Here is a major problem with the MSM that needs attending to. Sources are a necessary part of good investigative journalism. But when one political faction has a strong covert relationship with MSM journalists, it’s bound to result in a partisan skewing of reporting.
In retrospect, it seems to me that the relationships between authors here at The Standard and MSM journalists is more open: what you see in our posts is what you get. There’s not any covert back channels. We tend to strongly criticise many journalists in our posts. As stated in last weekend”s Mediawatch on Radio New Zealand, journalists, try to treat sourced material objectively, but they also will be reluctant to criticise regular sources for fear of losing the source.
Added to this, there are the allegations in Hager’s book of journalists being threatened, intimidated and possibly blackmailed if they don’t support the views off the right wing smear machine.
Dudding’s article continues:
After Key came to power, the group of bloggers dissipated, with KB and WO remaining dominant. Hooton says WO then took a darker turn. The Hive guy wasn’t surprised by a lot of Hager’s book, but was surprised Slater took money to post. He knew Salter was mates with Collins. Hooton says he suspected there was money being paid for posts, but as they are private blogs….. no problem.
On Friday, David Farrar told the Sunday Star Times he knew for a fact that there were still communications this week between Press Gallery journalists and Whale Oil about potential political stories.
Hooton is still friends with his blogging mates, and they have got closer since Dirty Politics. He reckons Odgers needs some support.
Hooton & Trotter op eds
Accompanying the Dudding article are two companion pieces: a column by Chris Trotter from the right; and a column by Hooton from the left.
Hooton’s column ultimately says, while Dirty Politics was a set back for Key, ultimately it hasn’t hurt his support, and it’s resulted in Key focusing more on policies.
Trotter’s article also is about the impact of Dirty Politics, or rather the lack of its impact on the polls.
He asks if 30 years of “devil-take-the-hind most capitalism has had a corrosive effect on voters, especially left wing male voters. This kind of capitalism focusing on winning above all, and on selfishness as promoted by reality TV. he asks if such values have resulted in people being accepting of dirty politics.
Is that why Labour polls so poorly among blokes? Because good Kiwi jokers no longer do compassion?
Because, if that’s the sort of people we’ve become, then sadly, that’s what this election is about.
Dirty Politics has raised very important issues that should be front and centre of the election. One of them is the need for a strong, politically independent, public service media (on and offline).
Update: Comment from Bill:
If a blogger or bloggers can use their own networks, built up over years, to exert influence over the public narrative, I don’t really have a problem with it.
But when the government of the day is using the bloggers who are a part of their (government) network to control the narrative (ie, dish dirt and discredit), then it’s a completely different kettle of fish. And that’s what’s been happening.
Odd then, that there is neither mention of government involvement (apparently) in the SST… nor in this post. That’s the ‘airbrushing’ right there, courtesy of simple omission.
Update: (8 Sept 2014)
For the record the Sunday Times article says this:
After the 2008 election the VRWC, slowly disestablished.
This is likely to be Matthew Hooton’s view. The article refers to original members of the VRWC dropping out. However, though the personnel changed somewhat, VRWC is a fitting term for the way the black ops attack machine developed: including Slater and the Whale Oil blog, Kiwiblog and David Farrar, and their associates within the National Party and government.