- Date published:
7:00 am, August 14th, 2014 - 88 comments
Categories: babies, corruption, democracy under attack, democratic participation, john key, national, national/act government, Politics, same old national - Tags: dirty politics, fonterra, nicky hager
Many have commented that there is nothing shocking about the revelations in Nicky Hager’s new book, ‘Dirty Politics’. It is the sad and sorry truth of New Zealand politics that there is some merit in such comments. That does not mean that the stories in the book are not significantly newsworthy.
Whilst most people inside the “political beltway” have long suspected links between John Key’s office and blogs like Whale Oil, it is quite another thing to see the concrete evidence of the bigger picture and the very cynical communications between those involved. The book very firmly ties up John Key’s office and the clear strategy from the outset of his leadership of the National Party: To paint himself as clean and “above dirty politics” while very quietly pulling the strings and using proxies to run his attacks for him.
The downside of a book like this is that there are just so many stories that would each in themselves be well worthy of the front page of a leading newspaper. From the individual political attacks and abuse of ministerial powers through to blog posts paid for by PR companies on behalf of tobacco companies, Ports of Auckland, Fonterra and the Food & Grocery Council; I fear that many good stories will not get the coverage they deserve. I can only hope that the book is widely read from cover to cover.
I have chosen to highlight one story that was particularly hard for me to read. I have become desensitized to much of the dirty politics covered in the book. That is not to say I do not care, I very much do. Whilst I will always remain in firm opposition to anything which distracts from what politics should be about – that is a genuine contest of ideas and policies – there are only so many times you can feel genuinely emotional, shocked, and outraged over the same old dirty tricks.
I do not like political corruption. I do not like political parties and industry lobbyists cynically manipulating public opinion for their own self-interested ends. Yet I have come to expect it where I have seen it before: The National Party, the alcohol and tobacco lobbyists, and PR companies employed to combat unions and political activists.
A couple of years ago I read “The Politics of Breastfeeding” so I am only too aware of infant formula companies’ involvement in what can only be described as the corporate murder of millions of babies around the world. Yet here in little old New Zealand I have genuinely (and now obviously naively) believed that the only opposition to breastfeeding is from a dwindling generation of very out-dated thinking and a very tiny minority of people who have carried on such thinking.
How wrong could I be?
To paraphrase Nicky Hager’s comments on Campbell Live last night: Everyone knows what sort of character Cameron Slater is and that in itself is not newsworthy. I have foolishly never taken Cameron Slater very seriously except when his attacks have been obviously for the benefit of the National Party. I actually believed that the misinformed and bigoted viewpoints that prevail in his posts were his genuine opinions. It fits his character to drone on about “The Breastapo” “Sucking on the Taxpayers’ Tit”. To discover that such posts were actually written and paid for on behalf of Fonterra actually shocked me. I cried and then I paced around the house feeling very genuine emotion and outrage.
It leaves me questioning: Are there really people out there who genuinely believe that breastfeeding advocates deserve to be labelled such nasty names as “The Brestapo”? Or are these ideas almost always bought and paid for by those with a financial interest in ensuring they can continue to push their products without regulations to combat the harm they do? If Whale Oil is a paid outlet for this rubbish then surely it is only the tip of the ice-burg.These industry paid for posts are not a calm and reasonable defense of the products they push. It is cynical, dog-whistling manipulation of the public at its very worst.
Here are some bits from the very posts published on Whale Oil that Nicky Hager has shown were bought and paid for by PR lobbyist Carrick Graham:
The Brestapo don’t seem to care about how limiting (destroying) the branding of, for example, New Zealand’s largest company and other New Zealand companies infant formula brands will impact on this country’s global competitiveness.
Up first is the concept of a ‘Wet Nursing’ programme, an idea flowing from the Christchurch earthquake crisis where mum’s were stressed out and struggled to breast feed naturally.
For Kiwi blokes, this means some random lactating woman turns up at your front door, flops out her tits for the young fella to have a suck on, while the missus sits there and watches.
On the other hand if this woman turned up knocking on your door, offering to ‘wet nurse’ your infant, many dads would not only be more than happy to welcome her into their home, but wish they were 2 years old as well. Don’t think the mums would be, though
Another idea latched onto (excuse the pun) by these troughers is that of a ‘human milk banking’ system. Apparently during times of crisis, like Christchurch, a Government funded (of course) milk bank would kick into action, sending litres of chilled breast milk down to the starving infants whose mothers are too stressed to breast feed naturally. These troughers just can’t stand the idea that mums might consider buying infant formula.
Meanwhile Fonterra and other infant formula producers can all go and take a bath, as these troughers would rather crawl over broken glass than have infant formula as a ready solution to mums struggling to breast feed.
And to top it all off this ‘hui’, stakeholder consultation or whatever you want to call it, also had an earth mother ‘stunt feeder’ attend, sitting there breast feeding her baby throughout the meeting without saying a word. I’m surprised the baby didn’t erupt with reflux having to sit through that bollocks.
On a final note: There have been many comments from the right alleging that the real dirty politics can be seen in the recent Internet/Mana video with chants of “Fuck John Key” and an unrelated burning of an effigy of John Key. I would argue that the prevalence of dirty politics outlined in Nicky Hager’s book is exactly what creates an environment where effigy burning (and if this continues, perhaps worse to come) is inevitible. When a small but powerful elite come to dominate politics and focus the media away from the real issues onto attacks and other distractions, what is lost is the ordinary citizens’ engagement in politics. When ordinary people feel more and more powerless as discussion of the real issues becomes impossible they disconnect from politics. Eventually they will stand up and fight back and it may not be pretty. It is our responsibility to keep politics clean if we want our democracy to survive and prosper.