For a long time, many of us on the left knew it was happening. The National Party has been feeding its pet bloggers, and some tame mainstream (MSM) journalists with its smear lines. Now it has been publicly outed, and some in the MSM seem remarkably complacent about it – at times they almost seem to celebrate the slick, and tricky success of it.
Two days, two articles, two different media outlets admitting that they know National use Slater/Farrar to smear and dissemble.
Both media outlets admit they are still happy to run those lines without attribution to who actually provides the source material.
All these examples of dirty tricks, whisper campaigns and character assassination go by without comment. Our media are captured, lazy and unable to function properly.
Can’t forget the new front in the Nats media machine Gossip.
Some extracts from the linked articles:
The election is nearly six months away, but National is already winning the media war.
Herald political commentator John Armstrong cannot recall an earlier start to the unofficial campaign, which has so far been notable for “frippery, sideshows and the inconsequential”.
But diversionary tactics and John Key’s popularity have worked, and Labour is not getting a chance to promote its policies.
National has developed a media network incorporating the Whale Oil website, Kiwiblog and commentators Matthew Hooton and Michelle Boag.
They have been feeding the media appetite for short, sharp crises to fill online news space.
It is Labour’s job to counter National’s influence over the news agenda. But it does not have many of its own partisans in the media; the left-leaning website The Daily Blog does not have an audience to compare with Whale Oil.
Matt McCarten was an articulate voice for the left during his time as a columnist for the Herald On Sunday, but he is now working for Labour.
THE SMEAR CAMPAIGN
Do smear campaigns work?
Short answer – of course.
If they didn’t, they would not be a time-honoured political tool.
But the trick is maintaining the appearance of keeping your hands clean. In 2008, when Labour was caught out trying to gather material to drop an “H-bomb” on John Key it backfired spectacularly. But that was in the days when smartphones were still new, and it was not so easy to plant an internet meme and see it spread like wildfire before it had been proved or disproved.
Would that story have played out differently in 2014?
When a senior adviser to Key was caught out earlier this year supplying photographs to shock-jock blogger Cameron Slater, it was confirmation that the major parties see blogs as an important outlet for stories they prefer to keep at arm’s length or don’t want their fingerprints on.
The fact that Jason Ede supplied Whaleoil with photos of rubbish from a press gallery party was less of a revelation than the fact that feeding the blogs is officially part of his job description. Key used to give a passable impression of someone who had just noticed a bad smell under his nose whenever he was questioned about National’s links to Slater. Not so now.
Key even admits to having a direct line to the blogger.
Links between the Left-wing blog The Standard and Labour are just as scrutinised; the blog has not always been a friend to Labour, and was pivotal in destabilising David Shearer’s leadership. But the fact that a confidante of David Cunliffe’s is a chief contributor to The Standard aligns it much more closely to the current regime.
Fact check –
Cunliffe has had some guest posts published on The Standard. That does not make him “a chief contributor”. “a confidante”? Seems a little over-stated to me.
Gossip columnist, Rachel Glucina:
A former friend and employee of Kim Dotcom spoke exclusively to The Diary from Los Angeles yesterday about the internet tycoon as he launched his foray into New Zealand politics.
Alex Mardikian played fixer for Dotcom, bringing people together and making things happen. He was a close friend and trusted adviser, living in the Coatesville mansion and watching Dotcom first-hand. He says he was paid a monthly retainer, but left in 2012.
And Chris Trotter rightly asks how these authors are able to run similar smear lines via access to some crucial sources.
What is clear, however, is that the material currently being used to discredit Dotcom and undermine his Internet Party launch did not just descend from the clouds in the hands of blameless angels. The information being drip-fed to the news media was assembled and distributed in an organised fashion. Introductions were arranged. Phone-calls were made. “Eye-witness” testimonies were recorded.
Of course, it’s always possible that the FBI, the BKA and their Kiwi equivalents had absolutely nothing to do with the current smear campaign against Dotcom. The information about Nazi memorabilia and the damning testimony of erstwhile employees and friends may simply be the fruit of outstanding journalistic research on the part of Cameron Slater and Rachel Glucina.
Then again, they might have had help.
Where is the critical fourth estate on this? Or are some writers just willing participants in the Nat smear machine? A critical fourth estate, working in the public interest, would be speaking truth to power, not celebrating the success of a well orchestrated political smear machine.