- Date published:
7:02 am, August 17th, 2017 - 26 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, accountability, Dirty Politics, national - Tags: #ChangeTheGovt, #dirtypolitics, dirty politics, nicky hager
The Spinoff has an interesting piece by Nicky Hager:
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.