Since the release of Nicky Hager’s book ‘Dirty Politics’ there has been much discussion and condemnation of what has been revealed – even though much of the dirtiness of Cameron Slater was already well known. He has boasted about his political uncleanliness.
Last year after the Len Brown revelations just after the local body elections Slater said on The Nation:
Mr Slater argued that Auckland politics was “a dirty disgusting despicable game”.
“It involves dirty disgusting despicable people at all levels,” he said.
“And to have this high and mighty belief that New Zealand politics is clean, it isn’t.”
He repeated this on his Whale Oil blog recently. He often quotes ” Never wrestle with pigs, two things are for certain if you do. You will get dirty and the pig will enjoy it”, along others from his list of ‘rules’.
Whaleoil’s Rules of Politics
1. If you are explaining, you are losing
2. Utu is good, even necessary
3. Never hug a corpse – it smells and you end up smelling like the corpse too
4. Always know where the bodies are buried
5. Don’t let mongrels get away with being mongrels
6. Don’t mess with The Whale or Cactus Kate
7. Never wrestle with pigs, two things are for certain if you do. You will get dirty and the pig will enjoy it.
8. Never ask a question if you don’t already know the answer
9. Speak plain, Speak Simple
10. Remember, I’m telling this story
11. Never trust a politician if you aren’t close enough to them to hit them in the back of the head with a bit of 4×2
12. Never trust a politician with a moustache or a hyphenated name
There might be a lot of people, especially politicians, giving serious consideration to rule 3 right now.
Slater’s personal attacks and vindictiveness are well known. There’s no one who comes close to his media prominence and dirtiness in New Zealand politics.
So all other bloggers can comfortably claim they are “not as bad as Whale Oil”. But that sets the bar very low and should not excuse lesser levels of dirtiness.
One of the more long serving and respected bloggers Russell Brown posted We can do better than this at Public Address and concluded:
In one of the early reports that annoyed me, Radio New Zealand’s political editor Brent Edwards, talked about smears being unleashed to “blogs” and “the blogosphere”.
Actually, we’re not all like that. The multitude of bloggers, political bloggers included, have no part in this. And while the cynical side of politics is not new, I do believe that the scope, scale and nature of what is described in Hager’s book is unprecedented.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can, all of us, do better than this.
Russell is right, we’re “not all like that”. No one else is as bad as Whale Oil. I agree that “the scope, scale and nature of what is described in Hager’s book is unprecedented” – although it shouldn’t really have been a surprise to Russell if he was aware of what Whale Oil has been doing for years.
But in comments Russell seems to think that the ‘all of us” in “We can, all of us, do better than this” doesn’t apply equally to all of us.
It’s over to you, Pete, to identify a left-leaning blogger with even a tenth of the venality and vindictiveness of WhaleOil.
I feel kind of icky agreeing with Pete (sorry, Mr. George) but if our baseline is “not as bad as Whaleoil” that’s a depressingly low bar you can clear without lifting your feet.
Which is really just a morally elevated way of saying “everyone does it”. It’s simply not true. What has happened in and around Whaleoil these past few years is actually of a different nature.
He seems to be claiming it’s not true that everyone doesn’t do it, despite calling for “all od us” to do better.
Some of what Whale Oil has done has been “of a different nature” and of a more extreme nature, but there are many examples of dirt mongering across the blogosphere. Russell moderates Public Address fairly well but even his own blog shouldn’t be exempt from criticism. There’s dirt at different levels but there’s dirt – there were even mild attempts to attack me personally to divert from the issues being discussed on that thread (eg ScottY and Kracklite).
Public Address is relatively mild but still allows personal political attacks and dirty comments. The other major left wing blogs The Standard and The Daily Blog allow and promote a lot of abuse and attempts to emulate some of Whale Oil’s “success”.
Lynn Prentice (lprent) at The Standard often boasts about his nastiness:
That is because in my sysop role I’m deliberately a nasty vindictive mean old man with abuse of power issues, whose only redeeming quality is that he is too lazy to be bothered exercising those traits, but who often and almost randomly goes totally over the top when roused.
And as chief moderator that sets the tone for blog with support of a one sided attack culture.
And Martyn Bradbury is well know for over the top rants and abuse, as well as doing party promotional blog posting without revealing he is being paid by or seeking payment for his work, one of the things Slater is correctly criticised for.
Josie Pagan is very familiar with how nasty the left wing blogs can get, they have blasted her a number of times. She recently posted The politics of vilification.
Nicky Hager’s book exposes both the politics of demonisation and the National Government’s role in facilitating it. The right wing blogs have been more extreme, more violent and more coordinated with the parliamentary party and so the book is their comeuppance.
I agree with that. Whale Oil is obviously the main culprit but Kiwiblog can be very nasty in it’s comments and I think the generally and widely respected David Farrar would admit to overstepping lines of decency at times (as most if not all bloggers do to varying degrees).
But imagine how much harder would it be for the government to deflect some of the disgusting stuff they’ve been involved in if some on the left blogs had not spent so much energy vilifying and demonising people they disagree with.
I’ve been suggesting to left wing blogs for a long time thatthey would be fdar more credible and effective if they cut down on the crap – I’ve been banned from The Standard for giving them advice along those lines.
At least Farrar recognises problems and has pledged ttake measures to try to improve Kiwiblog – Some changes for Kiwiblog.
But there is also a wider lesson to everyone about the way politics is conducted.
As I wrote back in December, “The fundamental principle of the left is our compassion…. Ours is the politics of redemption, forgiveness and humanity.”
Or, as Nicky Hager elegantly stated on The Nation this morning, “if anyone is doing it, they should stop.
It’s hard to see Whale Oil changing it’s degree of nastiness but if we are to improve political discourse in New Zealand it’s up to all of the rest of us to do what we can to improve – bloggers and politicians.
Directing all the blame at the other lot and demanding action from them ignores those shitting in our own nests.
Yes Russell, we can, all of us, do better than this. ‘All of us’ means not opting out because we’re are not as bad as Whale Oil.
UPDATE: Russell has responded via Twitter: