The desperation of political sockpuppets

Political bloggers push stories, they speculate, they try to score hits against their opponents. Some of them make things up – they lie.

Naitional linked blogs Whale Oil and Kiwiblog are major players.

Yesterday David Farrar posted Are Labour planning smear campaign on Shane Jones?

This is very unusual. Whale blogs about a poll being done, presumably on behalf of Labour, asking if people’s view of Shane Jones was:

  • Shane Jones delivered amusing one liners but his political career was accident prone and did not amount to much. The most attention he got was for using his parliamentary credit card to pay for pornographic movies.
  • Shane Jones was one of the few politicians who tells it like it is and with his attacks on Countdown has been the most effective Labour politician this year. He will be a huge loss to Labour especially amongst Maori and blue collar voters.

If the polling was being done for a media client, then the question would be sensible – it would be for a story on the impact of Shane Jones. But presumably the poll is on behalf of Labour (as was being done by their normal polling company) and the question is why would you poll on Shane Jones…

It’s easy to make the presumptions made here. UMR is Labour’s usual polling company and it’s a Labour related poll question. but it seems very unlikely it was Labour, as pointed out in UMR poll on Jones not Labour.

Farrar did some research, possibly taking Russell Brown’s word for it but he may also have checked through polling company contacts (he is a pollster and runs polling company Curia). He appended his post.

UPDATE: I’m told from a very reliable source that in this case Labour is not responsible for this question. So it will be fascinating to discover who is, if it ever comes out.

Later in the day Farrar put up another post at Kiwiblog – Is this photoshopped? This showed a photo of David Cunliffe at a rally at Parliament. While the photo did look unnatural the implication that Cunliffe had not actually been at the rally was lame. Farrar again updated:

UPDATE: Have had confirmed that was at the rally. So the image may be touched up, but is genuine.

This isn’t unusual. It’s common for bloggers to float ideas without full details or evidence, often to initiate discussion and try to flush out more information – sort of crowd-sourced story development.

Farrar can be provocative and devious – note his masthead statement: “DPF’s Kiwiblog – fomenting happy mischief since 2003″.  He is also relatively open about his interests in About Kiwiblog which includes disclosure statement is here.

He sometimes oversteps, notably with an attempted hit job on Winston Peters just before the 2011 election. But as he said on Facebook yesterday “Umm, everyone knows my viewpoint”. If they don’t know they can easily find out.

Later yesterday Farrar and Whale Oil’s Cameron Slater were blasted by their main opposition in the blogosphere, The Standard. The iron fist behind The Standard, lprent (Lyn Prentice) posted The desperation of the National’s sockpuppets.

National Party pollster David Farrar must be seeing some numbers he really doesn’t like because he is claiming that David Cunliffe photoshopped himself into a rally that he was really at! Yeah right – a doyen of the local net governing body failed to use google before making a complete dick of himself on the net. I expect we will see a lot more of National’s paid for bloggers acting like fools heading into this election because National only being good at putting us heavily into debt (again!) rather limits the good news they can write.

There are a number of ironies in Prentice’s post and comments. Desperation comes to mind, as does sockpuppet. Pot/kettle stuff. In the thread Prentice says…

As you might have picked up, I am pretty pissed off about the lying that showed up today at the sewer. It is stupid, shallow, and something that needs quashing as a political technique.

However I am pretty sure that it is simple to make up such mischief. Farrar will make quite a good target between now and the election. With a bit of luck we can see if he appreciates the attention enough to donate me some discovery time.

Threats of a blogger war, one way at least. In the post…

This looks like another odd attempt to smear a man that the Nats are clearly worried about. It looks David Farrar finally realised how much of a dickhead he looks as he goes from this incorrect assertion (ie a lie) with a touch of plausible deniability.

Irony keywords: smear, worried, dickhead, incorrect assertion.

And on to a series of justification about why he David Farrar really is not just a petty dipshit putting out this kind of nonsense and never bothering to check it. I guess he is trying to remember the glory days when he was the single big voice in the local blogs and could lie like this for his paymasters with relative impunity.

He pushes the paymaster/sockpuppet theme strongly.

But even weirder (as usual) is the under-employed Cameron Slater, a blogger with no visible means of support and with lots of friends in the Prime Minsters office, posting creepy, paparazzi style pictures of David Cunliffe eating his lunch at parliament.

This picture was prominent on The Standard yesterday:

The question one has to ask is from whom did the bloated moron get this photo from? John Key our Minister for Photo-ops or his personal blogmeister Jason Ede perhaps?

And accusations of the Prime Minister’s office being involved in it all.  More pot/kettle.

The previous day The Standard ran a Q&A for David Cunliffe. When someone said “@ Lynn – thanks for organising this” he responded:

I didn’t. The request came from Cunliffe’s staff. They did most of the work.

I just went to work early so I could go home early to moderate.

And Prentice often brags, like yesterday:

I’d also point out that I spent several decades in volunteer work working for and with Helen Clark across 7 elections (whilst usually in disagreement with her) so I have a fairly good idea what is required for the task.

But you only find out about things like this if you see them in the comments. The Standard has very vague and misleading disclosures. From ‘About':

We write here in our personal capacities and the opinions that are expressed on the blog are individual unless expressly stated otherwise (see the policy). We do not write on behalf of any organization.

The Standard doesn’t disclose it’s own connections and it protects it’s authors’ anonymity – Prentice says they are not anonymous because he knows their identity, but most of the authors’ identities are either not publicly disclosed or are vigorously protected. Attempts to speculate on identities is discouraged with threats of bans – threats and bans are the standard way of discouraging questioning anything to do with authors.

Apart from Prentice who are the authors? They state:

Why don’t you say who you are?

Some of the authors here use their real names, but others choose to blog anonymously for a variety of reasons. Some of us have professional reasons for doing so, others of us are reluctant to expose ourselves to the kind of personal threats sometimes made online.

While there is no formal disclosure some details about authors have dribbled out over time.

Mike Smith is Prentice’s co-trustee of The Standard. Until recently he worked in David Shearer’s leader’s office.

mickysavage (Greg Presland) is closely associated with David Cunliffe via his New Lynn electorate committee and recently became known as the lawyer behind Cunliffe’s secret donations trust.

Ben Clark stood for Labour last election and is the brother of MP David Clark.

Stephanie Rodgers is “a member of the Ohariu LEC and campaign team I’m obviously very biased, but Ginny is a fabulous candidate and a wonderful person.”

Geoff has started to post and you can get an idea of where he’s coming from in Judith vs John and Moving Collins On.

Bunji is relatively mild but does his bit for the team. See John Key challenged!

Zetetic is unlikely to have been used by Trevor Mallard as some have alleged but has  fairly obvious intent. See Cabinet Club.

The ‘Eddie’ handle seems to be in remission at the moment but had strong hints of various internal hands.

Karol is currently the odd one out claiming to be a Green supporter.

James Henderson seems to have retired from The Standard but had close Green connections (which may have turned red again).

And the author messages are not to be messed with. Criticising authors is severely frowned on, proving them wrong usually invites wrath commonly leads to being banned.

Prentice illustrates this in his latest thread.

[lprent: That may be your opinion - and I'd say that it is impossible to tell. Go and raise your pet lies, assertions and conspiracies on your own post on your own blog or comment in Open Mike. Don't do it on mine, they really are just a diversion troll.

My post is almost entirely about David Farrar and Cameron Slater being a complete dickheads stalking Cunliffe with silly picture posts. ]

‘Diversion troll’ is Lyn-speak for questioning his bull and bluster.

But the post isn’t about the image it is about Farrar and the bloated moron being dickhead stalkers. So this is your warning. Try Open Mike for conspiracy theories.. or return to the banned… ]

Lyn is the only one who can refer to images apparently.

[lprent: I didn't say that you did. I said that David Farrar did? Is this a sockpuppet? But you didn't heed my warnings about what I the author considered this post to be about. Do not repeat the offense for which you got warned - banned 2 months. That is one fast way to de-amnesty yourself. ]

Lyn-speak translated means that if you say something they don’t want said you will be banned.

[deleted]

[lprent: Banned 4 weeks. ]

That one may have been fair enough.

As the most widely-read and influential leftwing blog in New Zealand, The Standard is a great platform to get yourself heard.

Only if you toe the line and are accepted as one of the comrades.

But there has been a significant change of tone at The Standard over the last few weeks. The resident trolls are protected from this sort of moderation for obvious reasons, anyone deemed a threat to Labour can be freely attacked, abused and harassed.

Some trolls are specialists at trying to initiate bans on people they decide are not welcome. They frequently make things up (lie). And the end game is for Prentice to use an excuse to ban them.

When Prentice posts about sockpuppets and desperation wry and black comedy (inadvertent) come to mind. There’s plenty of same old, but it seems to be deteriorating into sad farce. Debate on the left is dire.

The abuse will continue until the disillusioned absentee voters return to Labour. /wry

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