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Hager: Dirty Politics three years on

Written By: - Date published: 7:02 am, August 17th, 2017 - 26 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, accountability, Dirty Politics, national - Tags: , , ,

The Spinoff has an interesting piece by Nicky Hager:

Sunlight did what sunlight does: Nicky Hager on Dirty Politics, three years on

Three long years ago, during the last election campaign, the book Dirty Politics revealed a political dirty tricks campaign being run out of John Key’s Beehive office. It was an ugly operation, jarringly contradicting the friendly, BBQ-guy image cultivated by Key. If you don’t know the details, it is still well worth reading the whole grubby story. … Here is my assessment of what has changed as a result and what hasn’t.

Exposing and considerably closing down the dirty tricks campaign

Before the book, the dirty politics brigade was having a huge influence over New Zealand politics. Personal attacks were cooked up in the prime minister’s office and elsewhere, drafted into nasty, drip-fed blog posts and sent out into the world through two National Party-aligned blogs: Whale Oil and Kiwiblog. An embarrassing number of journalists reprinted these attacks and came to use the bloggers, Cameron Slater and David Farrar, as regular sources for tip offs and news. The journalists were aware that the bloggers had close links to John Key and his government, and this further enhanced their status and influence.

The most important effect of the book is that this dirty tricks campaign was exposed and largely stopped. The dirty tricks coordinator in John Key’s office, Jason Ede, was hastily removed from his job and has never been seen again. There is hardly a single journalist left who would take stories off the dirty politics bloggers. Cameron Slater and the Whale Oil blog still exist, but they have shrunk back to the margins of politics. Sunlight did what sunlight does. Just three years later, the 2017 election seems relatively free of orchestrated attacks and undeclared machinations. (The politicians are still quite capable of creating their own problems and random events, but that is what makes politics endlessly interesting.)

Revealing the attack machine to its other countless victims

Numerous people have been attacked over the years by the Whale Oil or Kiwiblog sites: politicians, journalists, academics, a public servant handing out political leaflets in his lunch hour, almost anyone doing something effective on the left side of politics. Some attacks were to help the National Party; some were commercial operations attacking private people on behalf of undeclared paying clients. The important thing that has changed is that now these people know what was going on. It is a shocking experience to find yourself virulently attacked online, with some scurrilous criticism appearing at the top of the search results when someone looks up your name. Now, at least, these people know that it is the dirty politics brigade, that there are many people in the same position and that the attacks say much more about the attackers than they do about themselves. By understanding the game, people have been able to fight back.

Diminishing the influence of the dirty tricks operatives

On this point, the results are more mixed. Slater and the Whale Oil blog, the heart of the dirty politics system, are certainly diminished. It now seems hard to believe that not long ago they were so influential. But some others have continued to be a problem. Slater’s political attack collaborator, Simon Lusk, was seen in last year’s local government elections when he assisted with attack tactics for some mayoral candidates. His campaigns faced a backlash in some towns when people realised that a dirty politics practitioner was involved in the election campaign.

Slater’s fellow attack blogger, David Farrar, is still used as a commentator by some news media, including being introduced just as a “blogger”. He is still also chief pollster for the National Party, helping study public opinion and guide political management week by week. It is hard to imagine a more partisan commentator and at the very least his job should be declared to listeners.

Read the full piece for other headings and plenty more.

But overall, as the list above shows, plenty has changed already. The trouble with using dirty tactics is the risk of being found out and the tactics blowing up in your face. Bit by bit, the triumphant manipulators of the 2011 and 2014 elections have been getting their comeuppance; and other people have hopefully been deciding that there are better ways to do politics than following them down that dismal road.

Time now to sweep the party of these disgusting tactics out of office and #ChangeTheGovernment.

26 comments on “Hager: Dirty Politics three years on ”

  1. Carolyn_nth 1

    In the article, Hager does say a bit more about the mixed results. the two-track, highly orchestrated dirty politics linked to the PM’s office has largely diminished.

    But Hager also says Jordan Williams and his Tax Payers Union is taken too seriously by the mainstream media – though Williams reputation is gradually diminishing.

    Hager also says John Key’s reputation is still largely in tact.

    Nonetheless, three years ago, when the book Dirty Politics came out, Key determinedly dodged or denied everything. Week after week he refused to answer questions put to him by journalists. Surprisingly, this approach in part worked. This is one of the things that wasn’t changed by the book: Key has continued to be defined more by his success in the polls than by what he achieved and the tactics he was willing to use to help stay ahead in the polls. It is going to take a while before this period of our history is properly understood. This should come with time.

    • garibaldi 1.1

      So the exposure of the real John Key “should come with time”. Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the political direction this Country takes. If we change the govt. now, then yes it will happen. If the Natz win again, then I very much doubt that the truth about Key will get traction in our controlled media. They still fall all over him as if he’s some sort of deity…. absolutely pathetic.

    • … ” It is going to take a while before this period of our history is properly understood. This should come with time ” …

      – we understand it alright though , – and so do all the poor bastards who were kicked out of their rentals and sleep in cars or on the streets.

      ‘Sir’ John Key my bloody merry arse.

      The guy was nothing more than a two bit bankers whore.

  2. One Anonymous Bloke 2

    Hager is so polite 🙂

    Of Jordan “take one for the team”* WIlliams:

    …but his character is becoming more widely known…

    *translation: use sex to get information. Who is Jordan’s pimp?

  3. …” Bit by bit, the triumphant manipulators of the 2011 and 2014 elections have been getting their comeuppance; Time now to sweep the party of these disgusting tactics out of office and #ChangeTheGovernment ” …

    No one needs these sort of scumbags in a democracy ,#ChangeTheGovernment and get these bums out of here.

  4. lprent 4

    I have to say that the politics this year to date has been way less dirty than 2014.

    Sure there have been a couple of dogwhistle campaigns started. But since everyone (even the bigots acting as the driving force) are well aware that they may be being manipulated, the handling has been much cleaner and abrupt.

    The hysterical campaigns barely start getting traction before they are undercut and often by the public responses.

    Compare that with the most extreme versions in the last 15 years like that induced racism of Don Brash in 2005, or the artificially manufactured hysteria that ran in 2008 against NZ First. Or the virulent beneficiary bashing that was so characteristic of the past decade. Or the Hone bashing in the wake of the Glenfield housing corp clearances.

    It hasn’t all gone. You only have to look at the self-conscious and almost defiant utterances from various political journalists after they targeted and drove Metiria Turei from parliament.

    Personally I think that I’m gong to have to switch focus from dealing with the dirty mongrels of our political underside back on to commenting about journos performances. Clearly they have started to recover from the shock of being so clearly played for suckers by Nationals dirty politics crowd by Hagers book.

    But freed of the worst of the deliberate targeted dirty politics against opponents we’re actually starting to have some realistic debates about what needs to be done in this country across a range of issues from housing, social welfare, migration, and even out to the businesses that keep this country afloat.

    • Sacha 4.1

      I really wish Hager had named the journalists who collaborated with the Nats dirty politics machine. No consequences there.

    • Carolyn_nth 4.2

      I was thinking earlier today, maybe there is a need to focus on the media performance, now the Nats 2-track dirty politics is on the wane.

      But, then, maybe it is necessary to think, not just of journalist performances, but how that fits into the way the media-scape has changed in the last 3-8 years.

      Under John Key’s watch the corporate media in NZ consolidated their position, current affairs programmes on TV became much more short segment, infotainment. Shockjocks have gained a strong foothold straddling radio and TV. TVNZ 7 has gone. Some TV journos have gone from TV3 and Maori TV to RNZ.

      We’ve had the rise of Facebook as allegedly the vehicle through which many young people get their news.

      Political blogs remain, but we’ve also had the rise of the likes of Spinoff, Newsroom, and some journals like Overland and Pantograph Punch. And videos everywhere.

      So what kind of political news are most Kiwis getting, and from where?

  5. tc 5

    Farrars continued presence along with hooten and williams shows DP has become more nuanced but not gone away.

    A cancer that should be pursued vigorously by a new government like the sickness to society it is.

  6. dukeofurl 6

    Slater was again mentioned the other day in another Tribunal hearing, a media campaign by a lawyer against her estranged husband, Principal of Kristin School. She used the services of Carrick Graham who was able to arrange paid for posts on Whaleoil

    Lawyer Jeanne Denham waged ‘personal vendetta’ against ex husband and Kristin School head Peter Clague

    “Evidence included a trove of emails and text messages between Denham and PR merchant Carrick Graham, who helped organise damaging, paid posts about Clague and Kristin School on the Whale Oil attack blog.
    In an email exchange in November 2012, Graham wrote that the campaign had already generated media coverage, forcing the school board to issue two letters to parents.

    “It would be safe to say that Clague has had the blow-torch applied to him in terms of a much wider audience being aware of his actions. In terms of reputational hits he is damaged goods.”

    In another exchange after a Whale Oil post alleging Kristin board members had known about the allegations and done nothing, Denham wrote that “Cameron’s blog is starting to generate interest in the Kristin community. It’ll spread like wildfire now!”

    The only difference was it was 2012 not 2014 and the National party wasnt involved yet.

    The end result ? Denham is bankrupt and has been struck off the lawyers roll. Slater cant be too far away himself if the Craig case runs against him

  7. Treetop 8

    The most dirty politics I have seen is what National has done to housing and child poverty. Next I would add rationing health care.

    J. Key had words to say on housing and child poverty just after receiving his night hood. He now sees where he has caused so much misery when he was the PM..

    • tc 8.1

      I would call that classic national politics, they do this every time they are in power except shonky’s crew had a ruthlessness about them, no pun intended. The sale of state houses being a case in point, cruel and vicious.

      This is not to be confused with the smears, leaks and inappropriate use of govt resources to sully opponents or inconvenient truths. That’s dirty politics and it was used to ensure he got a second term to flog assets.

      Key knew exactly what he was doing and is continuing his faux concern. He’s about as contrite as a lion that’s just taken down prey, it’s an act all bankstas mastered.

  8. tracey 9

    Does John Key not like Bill English? He has effectively endorsed Adern. Interestingly, but not surprisingly,the thing Key most likes about Adern, is that she reminds him of, well, him (I do not agree they are similar, he was very wooden before the media training). As for his regret that he didn’t do more for poverty, he presided over a Government that never accepted there was any.

    • ” Housing crisis?… what crisis ? ”

      ” Homelessness ?…. nah , just a political beat up from the opposition ” .

      ” Beneficiaries ?… we’ve given them a generous increase”.

      ” Low wages ?… we’ve given them some tax cuts,… besides , Bills proud of our low wage economy”..

      ” exploiting immigrants to keep wages low ?… no , its up to their contract to determine wages, and we need immigrants to work in jobs no other Kiwis seem to want to ,- besides Kiwi workers are all too drug addled to turn up to work ” …

    • mary_a 9.2

      @ tracey (9) … seems by virtually endorsing Jacinda Ardern, Key has damned English! Let’s not forget either, sometimes Jacinda wears her hair in a ponytail. And ponytails are something the creepy, lecherous Key can’t get enough of!

      Spot on there re your final comment.

  9. Sumsuch 10

    Nick, I can’t imagine in my wildest ‘maginings you’ll read this–you don’t need your ego stoking. I’m a creature of idle amusement and you’re NOT.

    You’re just out 5th estate.

    And your blow 3 years ago set back on its heels Trumpism in our so very dear country.

    Especially, individual attacks.

    The right-wing blogs still get twice as many comments as the Lefties’. The brain-dead factor in the absence of force, some ‘Wizard of Wales’ speaking for everyone.

    (Disagree with you about ‘Pro Bono Publico’ however–audio and visual aren’t argument, even for a Lefty, tho’ my born-again brother bought it hook and line –the ultimate indictment)

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