Wednesday 3 September 2014

The Race Is On: Will Enough New Zealanders Believe Nicky Hager And Reject John Key?

No More Mr Nice Guy: In terms of sheer explanatory power Nicky Hager’s book, Dirty Politics, is without precedent in New Zealand's political history. That's why the Right is doing everything within its power to discredit it. If it succeeds, National will retain power. If it fails, New Zealand will have a new government.
WE ARE IN A RACE. It’s a race between those wilfully ignorant and deliberately spiteful New Zealanders who make up such an alarmingly large fraction of National’s electoral base, and that steadily growing percentage of the electorate who understand that the shocking revelations contained in Nicky Hager’s book, Dirty Politics, require an electoral response. If the latter overtakes the former by 20 September, New Zealand can breathe a mighty sigh of relief. If not, then the next three years are likely to be ugly – very ugly.
Just how real and significant this race is was brought home to me by an article posted on the Stuff website. Headlined “Voters Divided Over Who Plays Dirtiest” it quoted an elderly Taranaki woman who had been sent a copy of Hager’s book. When asked for her opinion of Dirty Politics she replied:
“I think it’s disgusting. It doesn’t surprise me at all from the author. He’s just a communist and that’s just the way he is. He’s just trying to unsettle the National Party.”
Remember, this woman had a copy of the book. She’d been given the opportunity to absorb its contents – to form an opinion. We must, therefore, hope that her stated view that Hager is “just a communist” whose only purpose in writing Dirty Politics was “to unsettle the National Party” means that she felt under no obligation to actually read the book. Because the alternative explanation, that she had read it and that this was her considered response, is just too depressing to contemplate.
The elderly voter’s response does, however, demonstrate how important it has been for politicians and mainstream journalists of both the Left and the Right to demonise Nicky Hager.
Ever since the publication of his first book, Secret Power, in 1996, people in both the parliamentary arena and the mainstream news media have been conscious of the enormous challenge his internationally celebrated investigative journalism poses to both institutions. It’s why they have so relentlessly attacked his credibility. Politicians and journalists, alike, understood that Secret Power and its successors exposed not only the misdeeds of legislators from both sides of the House, but also the consistent failure of mainstream reporters to uncover the stories that have made Hager’s reputation.
Nowhere was the undermining and diminishing priorities of this parliamentary-media nexus more in evidence than following the release of Hager’s fifth book, Other People’s Wars. A work of extraordinary thoroughness, born of superlative investigative skills, this book exposed the moral, military and diplomatic failings of both Labour and National in Iraq and Afghanistan. In doing so it also exposed (in the manner of collateral damage) the cover provided to successive governments by New Zealand’s largely uninterested and easily reassured news media.
It is this potent cocktail of political fear and professional jealousy that has produced a public image of Hager so frighteningly negative that a little old lady in Taranaki felt justified in dismissing Dirty Politics without reading it. Ever since 1996, the unrelenting hostility of politicians – amplified and uncorrected by journalists who should have known better – has very effectively inoculated a depressingly large number of New Zealanders against anything and everything Hager might have to say.
They had help. Ever since the publication of Hager’s second book, Secrets and Lies: The Anatomy of an Anti-Environmental PR Campaign, he has been the sworn enemy of the powerful public relations firms which play such an important role in rendering the most distasteful government and/or corporate policies more or less palatable to the general public. The representatives of these firms – like the man who appeared on television the night Dirty Politics was released, telling New Zealand there was “nothing in it” – have never lost an opportunity whether in public or behind the scenes to attack both Hager’s credibility and his character.
I well remember crossing swords with a young journalist in the Green Room at TVNZ after she blithely dismissed Hager as an inveterate conspiracy theorist and looney lefty. I asked her if she had read any of his books. She Hadn’t. I asked her if she was aware he had won international prizes for investigative journalism. She wasn’t. It hadn’t stopped her from casually defaming him, however. It never does. When John Key dismissed Dirty Politics as the work of “a screaming left-wing conspiracy theorist”, he knew there would be many thousands of Kiwis who would accept his characterisation without experiencing the slightest pang of doubt.
Will it be enough? That is the question upon which the result of this General Election now hinges. Is Dirty Politics strong enough to defeat the Right’s inoculating slanders? The evidence, to date, suggests that it just might be. The Colmar Brunton polling agency reports that the number of New Zealanders who believe the “suggestions” contained in Hager’s book has shot up 13 percentage points since the question was first asked of voters on the 14-15 August. Back then just 28 percent said they believed him. By the 27 August, however, the number was 41 percent.
It is its power to convince that is making Dirty Politics so influential. It’s as if all the warnings Hager asked us to take from his earlier books have been vindicated. Indeed, in this latest description of the way political power is wielded in New Zealand the themes of all his previous work have flowed together into an overwhelming torrent of evidence. In Dirty Politics we see them all: the security agencies; the public relations firms; the politicians; the journalists. And, of course, that latest manifestation of the will to power – the right-wing bloggers. In terms of sheer explanatory power Hager’s book is without precedent in our political history. It’s why the Right is doing everything within its power to discredit it.
The race is on.
This essay was posted on the Daily Blog and Bowalley Road blogsites on Wednesday, 3 September 2014.


pat said...

Let us hope that the scales fall from enough eyes in amply demonstrated around the world if fair representation and open government fail the road back is long, bloody and that future for our children even those on the Right want?

Kat said...

Here in NZ there are the hard core National supporters who will never admit their leader Key is a baddy, but they probably amount to no more than Robs Mob in numbers.

Relax Chris the old lady from Taranaki is most likely been a life long National voter. The best way to avoid National getting another three years and the ugliness that will ensue is to tactically PARTY VOTE LABOUR, even if you are from another tribe of the left.

EXCEPT in Epsom where at least all Red & Green supporters should take a deep breath and vote blue.

Armchair Critic said...

Yeah Chris, they are gone. National only narrowly won the last election. Back then they were polling better, trending better, against a weaker opposition, with all their best attack dogs on form and in control of the narrative.
Only Winston can save them now. The six headed hydra of National, ACT, Conservative, Untied, Maori and Winston would truly be a horror to behold. Enough to make you pack your bags and scurry off to hide in Hawaii, if you were PM.

Anonymous said...

Judging by the polls today, the people who support John Key know who he is, and what he represents, they have always known what they were voting for, and they have learned nothing bothersome through the Hager book. Dirty Politics are fine if it gets their man into power. People who vote for Key are doing fine in the current economy, and they don't want anyone to change anything that might affect their lifestyle. Their huge fear is that they may lose wealth, it over rides any other concerns. "It's the economy, stupid" sums up every election.

Anonymous said...

I believe Hager.

But I'll still be voting National.

Despite how ugly all of this is, a despicable National is still infinitely preferable to an unconscionable Labour/Greens.

The rationale is simple: decent Kiwis won't vote for totalitarianism, even when our champions sully themselves. Protecting democracy, liberty and the Kiwi way of life are too important.

D A Crossman said...

I have just discovered your blog, congratulations on an interesting and informative post. (And of course, I concur with your sentiments!)As a relatively new New Zealander, one thing about the left has always puzzled me. Considering where messrs. Douglas and Prebble ended up on the political spectrum, why did they join Labour in the first place? Obviously it's too far-fetched to think they were deliberate 'moles,' (isn't it?). I would be very grateful for any insights you have or recommended sources. (My own blog attempts to inform overseas Kiwis and others of current and historical events).

Kat said...

Winston made an interesting 'dinner' comment this evening, after the election he will be "cleaning up politics"........that notion is definitely at odds with National.

Anonymous said...

The rationale is simple: decent Kiwis won't vote for totalitarianism, even when our champions sully themselves. Protecting democracy, liberty and the Kiwi way of life are too important.

So you vote for the party of Sid Holland and Rob Muldoon in order to preserve democracy and liberty. Nothing like a bit of cognitive dissonance.

Brendan McNeill said...


I haven’t read Hager’s book, and I wouldn’t read one written by Slater either.

Most adult New Zealanders realize:

a) All political parties have some politicians who behave this way.
b) All of us have said things in private that we wouldn’t say in public.
c) The emails were taken without permission from their owners.
(We used to call that theft)
d) No one other than political junkies and the media is really interested.
e) If there are material issues, the police will sort it eventually.

I’d be very surprised if ‘dirty politics’ (yawn) has much impact upon the election. Labour is sitting on about half the popular support enjoyed by John Key and National, and most voters doubt that they could cobble together a working coalition from their left wing neighbours.

I haven’t given National my party vote for years, but I am doing so this year primarily as a reaction against two aspects of this campaign that I have found particularly loathsome. The first was DotCom leading a group of young people in a chorus of F**K John Key, and the second was the publication of a song whose lyrics spoke of killing John Key and raping his daughter.

No doubt this material will form basis of Hager’s next publication entitled ‘Despicable politics’?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Unfortunately science shows us that people with strong beliefs are not swayed by actual evidence. In fact evidence often just strengthens their beliefs. As I said before, it doesn't matter what national or labour supporters think about the book. It's the swing voters that count.
As Far As Key's popularity goes we can ignore that. Prime ministers are always the most popular choice for prime minister – Helen Clark had a very good popularity rating while she was prime minister, and a crap one before she became Prime Minister.
I knew – or rather knew of – Prebble when he was a member of the Princess Street branch of the Labour Party. He was a law student and a bumptious prick. Michael Bassett was a history lecturer at the same time. And just as bad. Unfortunately the Princess Street branch became a little too influential. None of them had much contact with working people ever. And of course Bassett had studied in the conservative south of the USA. Douglas I never came across, but he was a rich mushroom farmer or some such. Funny – that's the way he treated the people of New Zealand and his caucus – like mushrooms :-).

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Just while I'm here, there was an interesting little piece on the Maori news the other day about a company that was destroying large areas of northern wetlands digging up swamp kauri carving a :-) in the logs and exporting it as processed timber. The relevant ministry was signing off on this. Guess which company it was? And why hasn't the lame stream media caught up on this.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 21:29 posts a non sequitur. What National has done is the direct threat to democracy and liberty. When a govt does this, they must be turned out. Condoning such action by voting for them again only guarantees the destructive bahaviour will continue.

Sanctuary said...

"...Remember, this woman had a copy of the book..."

This is an age old cognitive dilemma. To accept any part of Hager's book is to accept all of it; To accept all of it is reject everything she has been led to believe by the media and her upbringing. Therefore, the only reasonable cognitive action to her is to wholly reject the book as a falsehood, and dash down it's messengers in the hope that in ignorance she shall find bliss.

Wayne Mapp said...

Really Chris,

Is the next three years going to be "very ugly" if the Nats get back in?

You have lived under a relatively moderate National led govt for 6 years now, and has it actually seemed like the end of democracy?

I appreciate you are a partisan, just as I am, but spare the the excessive hyperbole which seems to afflict you from time to time, especially around election time.

Tim Mallory said...

Yep Surgeon. Prebble the Babbler was another Princess St. Socialist who never had anything to do with ordinary working people and looked upon them with disdain.

Douglas was a pig farmer at Papakura and nearly went broke. Mummy and Daddy had to bail him out, they owned Healtheries and were very well off.

I have read Hagar's book too and I note how the Rightie Wingnuts attack the messenger not the massage. That tells me that everything in the book is true and can't be refuted. So they attack the author's integrity.

I'm a swing voter and I won't know who I'll vote for until the night before the Election.

Olwyn said...

@anonymous @21.17:

"People who vote for Key are doing fine in the current economy, and they don't want anyone to change anything that might affect their lifestyle. Their huge fear is that they may lose wealth, it over rides any other concerns."

These people do not seem to appreciate the part that respect for democratic institutions plays in their own security. They think it is OK for governments to bend the rules to keep the hoi polloi under control, but cannot see that the same rule-bending leaves them vulnerable to the bigger players. For example, the attempts at undermining the SFO in the Hotchins case.

@ Wayne Mapp: "You have lived under a relatively moderate National led govt for 6 years now, and has it actually seemed like the end of democracy?"

You should run that thought past the citizens of Glen Innes, and the citizens of Christchurch East. National has presided over a deep and increasing wealth divide. To those on the wrong side of it it does indeed look like the end of democracy.

Jigsaw said...

Incredible that an author who used stolen emails of private conversations and in all of them came across nothing at all-not one single email that showed anyone on the left in bad light.... A veteran journalist the other day said on radio that all political parties do various things-is there someone out there who will say that the left has never done anything at all underhand.
So someone didn't like Richard Prebble - how extraordinary!
At least we know what John Key is-I have no idea what Nicky Hager is-he certainly is not a journalist.

Barry said...

My 92 year old mother has always and will always vote Labour because of the 10 shillings given out by the new labour government back in about 1932. 10 shillings was a lot of money then.
Nothing Labour do will ever change her vote - no matter how stupid (and theyve done their fair share - rogernomics being probably the biggest mess) she remembers that hand out just before xmas.

Similarly there are many who will vote national no matter what Hager or anyone else says. The media usually overlook this.

Chris Trotter said...

There he goes again ...

Tell me why, Jigsaw, you refuse to acknowledge Nicky Hager as a journalist?

He is, after all, the only New Zealand member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

It's easy to see why when (and here I'm quoting his publisher) "US intelligence expert Jeffrey Richelson described his 1996 book Secret Power, on global intelligence systems, a ‘masterpiece of investigative reporting’.

"That investigation won a US journalism award and led to a year-long European Parliament inquiry.

"Since then his books, contributions to books and articles have been published in many countries. John Pilger wrote that he is ‘quite simply one of the world’s best investigative journalists.’"

I'll back the judgement of these groups and individuals over that of a person calling himself "Jigsaw" who, as far as I know, has never had so much as a newspaper article published - let alone six books!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Jigsaw this is getting tiresome. Do you not remember that the man came out with a Labour scandal in 2002? The one that just about derailed Helen Clark? You're a prime example of someone whose mind is never changed by actual evidence.
In fact as I understand that the book goes into the oily whale's efforts to unseat the mayor of Auckland and the scandal surrounding him. I bet Len Brown wasn't happy to have that brought up again :-). I suspect you're just miffed because Hager is obviously so much more ethical than your man Slater :-).

richard said...

Chris, if Hager is such an outstanding journalist, why didnt he follow the basic journalistic principle of seeking the right of reply from those he was writing about? Surely the public have the right to assess the opinions/views of those subject to the accusations so Hager can then assess their responses to make his own conclusions. Or is it that Saint Hager can do no wrong so seeking feedback of those he is accusing of the robbery of democracy is unncessary?

Anonymous said...

If I may disagree with Kat. A Green Party coalition partner might be needed for a Labour victory. In one election, people did vote Labour just to get National out, and without a strong enough Green partner, Labour lost to a right wing coalition.

Darridge said...

Damn right Chris - and further than that:
"incredible that an author who used stolen emails of private conversations and in all of them came across nothing at all-not one single email that showed anyone on the left in bad light...."
The emails were from a RIGHT WING blogger, why on earth would they show anyone from the left in a bad light? I suggest if you're looking for that, go and find it yourself... or does that take a journalist?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I think jigsaw has forgotten what an investigative journalist is supposed to do :-). There is so little of it around these days. A much of that has a right-wing slant - or used to - I don't read the Auckland glossies much anymore.

Chris Trotter said...

The procedure you describe, Richard, is eminently practical if the story does not put a lot at stake.

A story like "Dirty Politics", however, raises the stakes very high indeed. So high that it is highly likely that any attempt to gather comments from the persons involved would result in the whole project being injuncted.

That's why Nicky uses the other journalistic procedure: checking and double-checking the facts and then submitting the entire manuscript to close legal scrutiny before publishing.

The first alternative is certainly quicker and easier - and probably fairer - but if following it means that your article or book never sees the light of day, then it is obviously more sensible to opt for the second

Kat said...

@anonymous 16:21

I am not clear on your point, please elaborate.

jh said...

While what comes to light is bad, the left has a legacy: the groan factor (PC and all that).
I'll never vote National and I only support parts of party policy but I think the public see this as groan factor attacking National with the advantage of only one sides private emails.

Jeremy Bowen said...

Try this next time you are talking to someone whome you strongly suspect to be a JK supporter but who is unsure of your political affiliations. "Isn't it sad the way the far right of the National Party has tried to unbalance the PM's ship by leaping on this dirty politics business. Have you heard the things Mathew Hooton has been saying. I'm so pleased that he managed to get rid of Collins and blame it on Hager. Now we can get on and win this election". That forces them think and it's a slow process I can assure you.

Robert said...

Secret Power and Other Peoples Wars are clearly sourced from far more than official information requests and Hager clearly had a lot of sources in the military and intelligence sources. All the NZ Political Parties are left by UK. US or USA comparisons but Cunliffe, David Parker and Little are more centre and do not share the usual left preoccupations.
The basic perception of the National Government and its trade and defence policies is that China will become the leading power in the world within 5 years and its impossible to stand up to its advance. My own view is that Chinese ascendancy is unlikely and the long term contestants in the 21C with be the US, Russian, Japan and Germany. Whether Australia and UK return to be significant military and economic powers is not impossible.
Warfare can be in many forms, chinese synthetics have recently ravaged the provinces lowering IQ and Increasing violence. Doses and power of all drugs and also Vodka can be suddenly changed without notice. Its just like cyber war. So calls of left or right, God cop, Bad cop is all tactical but real.

Anonymous said...

@ Kat : under MMP, a Green *party* vote goes further, owing to comparatively small differences in the vote number making differences in the number of seats the Greens will have.

Excuse my not being more clear.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Robert, I actually understood you until the last paragraph. I don't necessarily agree with your analysis, but either you're getting clearer, or I'm getting more intelligent. Of course the idea that China becoming the predominant world power in the next 5 years is ridiculous, and I don't know who has that idea, certainly not the New Zealand government. America still out spends the rest of the world on defence. And defence research. But there are economy will become the world's largest reasonably soon, and they will want power commensurate with that. The Chinese government is one of the few in the world that actually thinks long-term.
As for the rest of your analysis, you leave out India. A big mistake. Britain is never going to become anything more than a medium-sized power – albeit with nuclear weapons. And you leave out Israel, which technically is more powerful than some of the countries you mention, but of course is preoccupied with the Middle East. I must confess though, Japan seems to be stirring. But that depends on a continuation of right-wing governments. Russia's major strength is nuclear weapons. Their Army has been reduced to that of a medium-sized power, and not a particularly powerful medium-sized power. The thought of it rolling through Western Europe these days is ludicrous. Germany I don't know enough about.

CheeseFunnel said...

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Unfortunately, according to the latest polls today, it has no power at all. Don't trust polls that much but...........

Kat said...

@Anonymous 05:41

If there is going to be a change of govt then Labour will have to be around the 30% mark or better. Without Labour the Greens will not be in govt this election.

Anonymous said...

Well, Chris, a little old lady in New Plymouth said to me recently I was so lucky to marry a lovely "white man" and well done to me. Sign of the times. Shelley

Jigsaw said...

I don't think that Nicky Hager is worth being called a journalist. In the Listener last week another journalist also said that of him and for the correct reason. Someone who would write a book with only the evidence of stolen emails is hardly able to be called a journalist.
In all the emails that were hacked he didn't find a single example of any sort of questionable behaviour at all from anyone from the left.....
And you have no idea if I have been published or not.
Happy to put my name to this.

Roger Strong

Chris Trotter said...

Congratulations, Roger, on having the courage to comment under your own name.

Unfortunately, merely asserting something - e.g. Nicky Hager is not a journalist - does not constitute an argument.

To prove that Nicky is not a journalist you'd need to establish that he is not someone who writes about current events; undertakes no research; is unable to persuade newspaper editors and/or publishers to take his work; has not been hailed as a journalist by other journalists; has not been treated as a credible witness by official bodies - like the European Parliament - and has not won entry to prestigious international bodies - like the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Since Nicky Hager ticks every one of these boxes, your assertion simply does not stand up.

Evidence, Roger: with it you'll be amazed how much stronger your arguments become.

Len Richards said...

The point of all this controversy about Hager vs Key and his mates is that we are in a war ... yes a class war if you will. All weapons are used in this war, but the most powerful ideological weapon is the truth. That is where the left has the advantage. The truth is that a small coterie (yes they are conspirators) rule our current world in their own interests. The interests of the majority are in irredeemable conflict with these lords and masters.
The on-the-ground battle in this election is being waged under the radar of the media and the blogosphere (by and large). If the GOTV mobilization of the left by the parties, the unions and other progressive organisations is successful, the polls will be proven to be just another weapon being wielded by the powers-that-be to disorientate and demoralize those fighting the good fight for a just, fair, sustainable world based on cooperation rather than profit-maximization.

Mobfiz said...

Your post poses the question of the day. And, as I think you're aware the answer is No. It's no because the Left (apart from the Greens who like to remove themselves from a left label) - have no credible or coherent policy. The popular vote will reflect a failure of the left. Nothing more.

Darridge said...

Jigsaw/Roger, "In all the emails that were hacked he didn't find a single example of any sort of questionable behaviour at all from anyone from the left..."
That's right. he didn't. And those emails have been published, and there isn't. That's quite telling in of itself eh...
But then as I mentioned earlier, given those emails were from a RIGHT WING BLOGGER, why on earth would there be anything from the left? If you can find a left wing blogger doing similar things go for it. Call yourself a journalist, find the proof, publish it. I'm waiting.

Kat said...

People commenting here or elsewhere that Nickey Hager is not a journalist are just idiots. By definition from a dozen dictionary sources Nicky Hager is a journalist.

If by very definition and practice he wasn't then there would be no other journalists on the planet right now.

paul scott said...

quote Trotter
" It’s a race between those wilfully ignorant and deliberately spiteful New Zealanders who make up such an alarmingly large fraction of National’s electoral base,.... " and
" merely asserting something doesn't make it so"

truly condescending, and pompous.

Many people do not want to pay taxes to pay for other people to have babies in overcrowded world. .
Many don't want to see Dotcon any where near parliament, do't like all these extra taxes, CGT, or having to establish new Trusts Trusts, and don't want DC as PM

Chris Trotter said...

Well, Paul, judging by the number of abusive comments which you send to this site and which I am obliged to delete - not to mention the dubious intellectual merits of the comments I do let through - I think you've rather proved my point.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I don't know Paul, I think that if people like you page your fucking taxes instead of desperately avoiding them and leaving them to the poor, then a lot of this country's problems would be solved.

kumararepublic said...

There's a whiff of No True Scotsman-ism about accusations that Hager isn't a journo. If Nicky Hager isn't a journalist, then where does that leave the deeply faith-based Ian Wishart?