A lot of noise has been made about Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics. There was nothing inside of it which was particularly insightful or revealing. A lot of the supposed secrets were hidden in plain sight. Anyone who looked carefully enough would have been able to draw the same conclusions Hager did without the leaked emails.
It was a quick read, which is surprising because for the last month barely a day goes by without a media outlet making some mention of it.
Nicky Hager is a good writer. He writes in a style which is similar to authors in the field of academia. For the most part he holds back from expressing his own personal opinions until the end, focusing on the information and facts in front of him. It was nice how he trimmed everything down neatly, never sidetracking and always sticking to the subject under discussion.
Hager opens by talking about John Ansell’s fall out with the National Party. It then examines the relationship which Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater and Kiwi Blog founder David Farrar have with National. While National doesn’t control what either man says, it (reportedly) worked with both men to develop smear campaigns against left wing opponents. Jason Ede was a crucial contact point So to was Judith Collins. Hager mentions the working relationship Collins has with Slater. The National party (according to the book) was in regular contact with bloggers, planning ways in which National could be propped up at the expense of everyone else. David Farrar also gets mentioned as a culprit of Dirty Politics, due to his alignment with National, as well as being someone who critiques anyone whose views are not aligned with his.
Both Cameron Slater and David Farrar were contacted to give a defense. Slater had no direct comment due to past scuffles with Getfrank’s owner, although he has blogged in bits and pieces about the allegations made against him. Farrar forwarded one link which comprehensively addresses the allegations which Hager made against him.
Hager does lie more than once. He claims National is a right wing party. Even the most determined supporter must concede at best National is a centrist party. Hager claims Slater is a right wing blogger. He is not. Hager also seems to believe that National Party members behind the scenes have been working to make the party more right wing. Again, this claim is baseless and only really works off the assumption that right wing parties use smear campaigns to look good. There is no evidence to suggest National has become more right wing; a stronger argument can be made for them becoming more left wing.
As I have yet to scour through the hundreds of emails which the book draws heavily on, it is hard to definitively say that everything is true. A lot of the supposed “smear campaign” material is still readily available online. Search through the archives of Whale Oil and Kiwiblog; make up your own mind on the material. It certainly was concerning to read about how determined National (apparently) were to undermine their opposition and prop themselves up as something fantastic. Left wing parties are not much different. Russel Norman has gone after Colin Craig in his opinions on women and homosexuals. Some left wing groups have gone further, writing songs about killing John Key and getting excitedly happy as young people abusively shout out “Fuck John Key.” My question for Hager is simple. Does he condemn these actions? If he does then he must concede the left benefit just as much from smear campaigns as the right. If he doesn’t then he has set a double standard for what dirty politics is.
So try not to be too surprised when you read the book.