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Stupi-duty and Wisharts works of political fiction

Written By: - Date published: 2:00 pm, August 19th, 2009 - 34 comments
Categories: scoundrels - Tags:

Open Parachute has a post Evidence, not lawyers about that well-known writer of political fiction, Ian Wishart, issuing a press release saying that he is preparing to sue the Chris Barton at the NZ Herald and Gareth Renowden at Hot-Topic.

As Open Parachute says

The offensive sentence? ‘Only this week breakfast TV host Paul Henry flirted with stupi-duty by lending support to Ian Wishart’s AirCon, a book that the excellent Hot Topic (www.hot-topic.co.nz) noted ‘appears to come from another planet” (see Chris Barton: Climate debate adrift on rising tide of lunacy). (The word ‘supi-duty’ was a parody on a critical missive the Herald had received from a climate change denier).

Seems pretty mild to me hardly worthy of legal action. After all it was Paul Henry who was accused of flirting with ‘stupi-duty.’ Yet Wishart is threatening legal action and also that ‘he may widen the lawsuit to include Renowden as well.’ Renowden is the author of the critical review of Wishart’s book on Hot Topic (see Somethin’ stupid ).

Ian Wishart in his delusions may believe that he is writing factual books. But in fact he is producing a body of political fiction. It is fiction because he doesn’t let facts get in the way of his imagination. If facts don’t fit his strange ideas of how the world should operate, then he twists them until they do, or just makes bullshit up and tries to market that as ‘fact’. They are political because they are targeted to activate the prejudices of the sewer or talkback.

It is difficult to understand why Ian Wishart is thinking about bringing this case. It is unwinnable because any reasonable person who has read any of his material before would have the same conclusion as Chris Barton without reading more than a review of Wishart’s latest opus, including me. The only reason that people I know haven’t bothered to sue Wishart in the past for his various defamation’s against them is because it is a negative sum game. Even if you win, then you’d have still lost in the time and effort taken.

However, if Wishart chooses to sue someone else, then all of those previous defamations would be admissible to show why Chris Barton’s statements were a reasonable opinion based on Wisharts previous writing. Not to mention that a legal offense fund would be easy to build.

After all Wishart has chosen to make a laughing stock of himself over time, along with gaining a considerable number of enemies. Personally, I’d be very interested in a court ordered disclosure of the finances of Wishart, Investigate, and the publishing of his books. It doesn’t appear to me that they could be self-funding. In which case a political blog like this would be very interested in who his supporters are.

In any case Chris Barton’s comments reflect a commonly held view of Ian Wishart and his books. Overleaf, I’ve pointed out how the authors of this site have viewed Ian Wishart. I’d suggest that other blogs pull out their posts from the archives. Besides like this one on Poneke’s blog about a comment by Danyl they are usually hilarious.

Various authors here have made their opinions clear over the last few years.

all_your_base commenting in Back to the future (again)

What this latest admission shows is that National hasn’t changed its spots since Brash. Turns out Key was actually telling the truth when he told Investigate magazine that he wouldn’t change the policy, just the tone. That could make it the first demonstrable fact that Ian Wishart has ever published.

From the Robinsod’s hilarious “review” of Absolute Power: Book review: Absolute Power

I had high hopes for Absolute Power, I really did. If Faulkner taught us anything with The Sound and the Fury it was that a tale told by an idiot could be a masterpiece, if Nabokov’s Pale Fire offers us any lesson it’s that an exposition of paranoia and madness can make for damn fine reading.

So it was with great literary expectation that I picked up on the first of the excerpts published on Cameron Slater’s blog. I have to say I was disappointed and further reading just brought further disappointment. I mean sure the idiocy, madness and paranoia are all there. So too the stream of consciousness prose, the wild Pynchonesque explosion of detail beyond logic and the refusal to be bound by traditional narratological process. It should have all added up to some kind of masterpiece.

But it hasn’t.

all_your_base pouring humour on Wishart ‘investigating’ Owen Glenn

I was particularly intrigued by the sensationalist chapter accusing Owen Glenn of Mafia connections. The basis for this defamation? ‘Some of his associates allegedly have names like ‘Guido’, ‘Luigi’ or ‘Tony’‘. Intrigued, I decided to do a little digging of my own. I’m delighted to be able to report that to these names we can also add ‘Mario’.

Steve Pierson in The best they’ve got?

When I heard a Chinese national had been approved for citizenship by a minister against the advice of officials and with a letter of recommendation from a Labour MP, after he had apparently donated to the Labour Party, I thought ‘seeing as this is coming from Ian Wishart, it’s probably nothing but the jokers better not have got themselves into anything dodgy’. So, it’s nice to see Wishart has made a fool of himself again, and accidentally turned what was meant to be this great scandal on Labour into an embarrassment for Key.

I commented in Book review of the insane about Gareth’s review of Aircon

Gareth has a lot of fun tearing the ‘science’ in Wishart’s opus to bits. As he points out, Wishart doesn’t actually understand the fundamentals of any of the science. It would involve learning and thinking, something that Wishart appears to consider is below his dignity.

I did this prior to reading Aircon. My subsequent read of that work of fiction merely confirmed my opinion. In the book Wishart manages to demonstrate his monumental lack of knowledge about science to a degree that is an appalling indictment of his lack of secondary level training. Where he has occasionally managed to find a “peer reviewed” paper, he has typically completely mis-interpreted the contents.

It is hardly surprising that Ian Wishart also appears to have committed a act of artistic plagarism on the cover of Aircon as Tane pointed out in Coincidence?.

So Chris Barton is hardly alone in considering that anything written by Ian Wishart is likely to be stupid, and Paul Henry (hardly the brightest spark around) was doing an act of stupi-duty by lending support to Wishart and Aircon.

In my opinion, Ian Wishart is a rather poor journalist who sometimes writes books. He doesn’t check his facts, preferring instead to selectively quote without making the effort to understand what he is talking about. This has showed up in the last two books of his that I’ve read.

In Absolute Power, I know many of the people he wrote about in the circumstances he was referring to, and what Wishart wrote was almost entirely a tissue of distorted and misinterpretation of facts, reporting of unsubstantiated rumours, plus some outright lies.

While my earth sciences degree is somewhat old and I’m not working in the area, I have been reading in the area for the last 30 years. It was clear to me reading Aircon, that Ian Wishart had no basic understanding of the topic. Again it was almost entirely a tissue of distorted and misinterpretation of facts, reporting of unsubstantiated rumours, plus some outright lies.

Open Parachute speculates on why Ian Wishart is thinking about bringing this case.

Seriously though, why the legal threats? Surely there is no serious ground for them? Wishart can’t seriously expect to win such a lawsuit? Has he lost the plot?

I think he has two motives:

1: Publicity. Some authors will do anything to promote their book. Legal stunts are not new. And there is the old adage ‘no news is bad news.’ Interestingly, though, my perception is that it is usually the purveyors of bad products who are the most likely to resort to defamation charges (consider the MaxiCrop case in New Zealand and the Chiropractors in the UK see Suppressing science).

2: Intimidation. Such legal action may have no chance of winning but companies can still be intimidated. They can often end up treating such litigious people with kid gloves. Editors may tell the journalists and columnists to go easy. Again we saw this effect of the MaxiCrop case pn the sensitivity of Crown research Insitutes in New Zealand (see Suppressing science).

Whatever. Legal intimidation is a sign of weakness. I would have thought that if Wishart was confident of his message he would rely on the facts, on the evidence, not the lawyers.

Probably he is trying both and looking at the posturing with little substance Crosby-Textor legal approach to silencing critics.

Seriously, Chris and Gareth, if Ian Wishart does bring this case. Don’t fold. Just ask around and you’ll get a whole lot of help from affidavits to cash. There are a lot of people who are very pissed off with Ian Wishart. As well as the scientific distortions in Aircon, a case like this allows all of those previous distortions of fact to be brought forward to show why it would be reasonable to consider a Wishart book to be a work of political fiction.

34 comments on “Stupi-duty and Wisharts works of political fiction ”

  1. Rex Widerstrom 1

    You write a book, you expect reviews. Some of those reviews are going to be critical, perhaps even mocking. Hardly lawsuit material I would have thought.

    Any publicity for the book will surely be subsumed under the the “WTF?!” reaction of most people, wondering what all the fuss was about.

    At least he got a better reaction than The Satanic Verses

    Having said that, I await the day when Mullah Gore declares a fatwah on the “denialists” and the more fanatical of his acolytes vow to carry it out 😯

    The fact that people wedded strongly to one or other side of the debate aren’t the best at tolerating opposing views is evidenced by the fact that I find I must now… *deep breath*… support Paul Henry.

    He can interview whomever he likes and I agree it could be argued he’d be shirking his duty if he didn’t. Whether he does so competently, well that’s a different story…

    • lprent 1.1

      Paul Henry can do whatever he wants. It is not as if I ever watch him anyway.

      However suing people saying what they thought of your book and/or authoring abilities seems more like trying to silence criticism. If he is that sensitive, then it probably time that Wishart found another line of work. The only reason that I really bother reading Wisharts stuff is because of the strange people that influx to this site before and after the publication writing comments lauding his latest pile of rubbish. Essentially using trolls on the The Standard for free advertising. That pisses me off.

  2. Bright Red 2

    I was in a bookstore in hamilton the other day – Air-Con was in the sicence fiction department.

    • Jarvis Pink 2.1


    • Lew 2.2

      Booksellers have good sense – most put holocaust denial in the ‘War Fiction’ section. Right there with Tom Clancy.

      But putting Wishart in the same section as Wells, Heinlein, Asimov seems a bit off…


      • Rex Widerstrom 2.2.1

        Specially when he’s already undercutting them by offering a “buy one, get one free” deal on his website.

        Presumably it’s a new marketing ploy… “Books in 3D! Just hold one in front of each eye, defocus slightly, and you’ll feel like the truthiness has lept off the page and slapped you right on the forehead!!”

      • Scott Yorke 2.2.2

        Maybe it should go in the Religion section

        • Lew

          Maybe it should go in the Religion section

          An insult to the Prophet! Infidel!


          • bill brown

            Well, most bookshops don’t have a complete fuckwits section so it’s probably near enough.

            Oh and by the way mr security, fishs is not a word.

    • lprent 2.3

      Arrghhh that is a nasty contamination.

  3. Jarvis Pink 3

    1: Publicity. Some authors will do anything to promote their book. Legal stunts are not new. And there is the old adage “no news is bad news.’ Interestingly, though, my perception is that it is usually the purveyors of bad products who are the most likely to resort to defamation charges (consider the MaxiCrop case in New Zealand and the Chiropractors in the UK see Suppressing science).

    The British Chiropractic Assoc. must be ruing the day they decided to sue Simon Sing. The whole thing appears to have backfired on them badly by triggering wide media exposure of the pseudoscience behind chiropractic. If a legal action by Wishart led to similar discussion and exposure of the weakness of the AGW denialists case then he’d be doing us all a favour.

  4. Ianmac 4

    I did sort of wonder if the discussion here might be gold for Wishart? Narcism anyone?

  5. Lew 5

    Lynn, expect a message which reads “address for service?” from Mr Wishart presently.

    That’s what Sam Vilain got, after all. He gladly provided it and has compiled all the relevant communications in the case here. Makes for hilarious reading.

    (H/T Russell Brown in the comments to this thread.)


    • lprent 5.1


      I look forward to it. I wonder how many affidavits I can get to attest to the fact that he distorts whatever he writes about, makes stuff up, and is just has a distorted viewpoint of the world from his last book. There are a lot of people that are severely pissed with him, who’d like nothing better than get a day or two in court describing exactly how nonfactual his books are.

      That is before we get on to the current bit of fiction.

  6. NickS 6

    Stupid does as stupid is, and Whishart is deep in the stupid.

    Though I’m kind of wishing something similar to the “classic crackpot” thing done to Stuart Pivar after he threaten to sue a science blogger for U$15 million

  7. lukas 7

    Iprent, you going for the repeat a lie enough and it will become true by claiming Ian plagiarized the artwork of Air Con? Oh do you not bother to actually read your own blog? Here is a tip, look in the comments section regarding where the image came from.

    There is too much wrong in your article to address now, but it confirms my belief that the “standard” is going down hill rather fast in recent times. Being in opposition hasn’t been good for you.

    • felix 7.1

      There is too much wrong in your article to address now…

      But you will be back to address it later, won’t you lukas?

  8. lyndon 8

    Surely Wishart knows defamation law. The idea that this is actionable is nonsense.

    If I thought it would proceed, I’d suggest getting as many people as possible named in the suit and see how he likes having all their costs awarded against him.

    • Ron 8.1

      Why would he know defamation law. The guy thinks the world is 8000 years old and that humans are more closely related to mice than chimps. He clearly knows FA.

      • Pascal's bookie 8.1.1

        As he’s ever so fond of saying, he has a lawyer check most things he publishes to be sure that he stays scrupulously away from defaming people.

        Why he thinks admitting this enhances his reputation is anyone’s guess, but I suspect that he thinks people are fooled into thinking that it means that what he writes, and more importantly what he implies, must be true.

        And to be fair, he’s probably right about some people. After all he apparently makes a living from churning this stuff out. Though the ‘blog’ has turned into an extended ad for whatever the latest book or Investigate scoop-de-doo might be which may indicate desperation, or just not getting blogging, or just treating his readership like an ATM. But who knows?

        I also suspect that he won’t be suing anyone, and that he’s just feeling ignored, which isn’t good for business.

        • lprent

          The question is if he is checking that what he writes is defamatory, or (as I suspect) if the probability of being sued for defamation is high.

          There is an important difference between the two in my untutored opinion. The first would be covered by privilege. The second could be argued is a business practice – in which case you could probably argue that the court should see the communications (if any). Wouldn’t that be fun. Look at exactly why Ian was saying about his evidence backing his opinions. Because he usually he leaps from some basic and public facts to a completely absurd conclusion that is not supported by the facts.

          The only reason that he hasn’t been sued by a number of people is because there was no intervening logic, and therefore he was expressing an opinion rather than a chain of logic. Typically about people who may be political and may be covered by the defamation exemptions. It’d be interesting getting these into an open court to establish a legal position about people who are not politicians. The current state of the law is a bit murky about all of that – eg Pope.

          • Pascal's bookie

            Yep, it’s why his prose is so god awful dense. It’s hard to actually follow what he is arguing because, as you say, there is no actual structure to the ‘argument’. It’s just a grab bag of context shorn quotes, and a heap of innuendo, questions, and references to earlier not really answered questions, wrapped up in a sack of mind reading and dumped in the river of motive.

            Like you I get the impression that he doesn’t get a lawyer to see if something he wrote is defamatory, but rather to check that writing something this way isn’t defamatory. So yeah t’would be fun to see some of that advice, so we could stop speculating.

            • Lew

              I reckon he gets it checked by a lawyer to make sure that when people level fairly ordinary criticism at him, he’ll be able to sue them for defamation.


          • Scott Yorke

            Any communications between Wishart and his lawyer are likely to be subject to legal professional privilege. I can’t imagine any of the common exceptions to privilege would apply.

            So we’ll probably never know what his lawyer told him, unless Wishart releases the info himself.

  9. Mac1 9

    Felix, I have in the past been the proud co-owner of a house with various cats (one never owns a cat) and you are indeed happily named.

    Sometimes the cat would wait outside the mouse hole, sometimes would walk away feigning indifference. Sometimes it would dispatch its victims with one swipe and crunch, sometimes play for hours. One memorable Christmas day, we humans got delivered a mouse to play with as we sat down to dinner al fresco.

    Never yet though have I seen a cat ask its potential dinner whether it’s returning for a rematch…..

  10. Spectator 10

    Say what you want about Wishart, but he has performed one great service to the English language: in an era when politicians of all colours do not know the difference between a denial and a refutation, his allegations against David Parker a few years ago provided that politician with the opportunity to demonstrate one of the few categorical refutations of allegations against a politician that this country has seen in living memory.

    • r0b 10.1

      the difference between a denial and a refutation

      I’m glad someone finally said something! That really is one of my pet grumpy old sod language peeves.

  11. Nick 11

    Yeah, me too r0b especially when David Benson-Pope is involved.

  12. Wishart’s claim that Barton defamed him is laughable. This almost certainly won’t get to court. If it does Wishart will lose, unless APN buckles under pressure (and if APN settled with Wishart over this they’d be a laughing stock).

    It would be interesting to know who pays Wishart’s legal bills. I simply can’t believe operating a shabby magazine and selling a few thousand books would cover his costs. Defamation is an extremely expensive business, and he’d need tens of thousands to fund a legal fight. Maybe he thinks the publicity will help shift some stock, but he really hasn’t done his homework if he thinks he can come out of this looking good, or financially better off. There just aren’t enough tinfoil hat wearers in this country to swallow his rubbish.

    • lprent 12.1

      Defamation in NZ is almost always a negative sum game at almost any level you want to look at it for the initiator. Which is what Wishart depends apon to prevent people suing him over his books.

      If he goes through with this, he’ll find that effort isn’t going to be worth it. Especially as the commentary about his actions will be worse than the original ‘offense’ (and a lot more voluminous).

  13. Damian 13

    I have a confession to make; I tend to do my bit for humankind by stealthily moving
    Wishart‘s books from the science sections of bookshops to the mysticism or spiritual sections. Been doing it for years.

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