Toby Manhire has an interview with Nicky Hager at The Spinoff – “A Kick Back Against Government Intolerance” – an Interview with Nicky Hager.
Nicky Hager tells The Spinoff about his case in the High Court, Dirty Politics a year on, and his next book – “one of the most important projects that I could imagine”.
It allows Hager to ask some hard questions, but asks no hard questions of Hager.
What will happen next with the judicial review?
In the very near future, I think, there will be a decision coming out which is about my case but is really about journalism in New Zealand. Like all countries, we are experiencing a new intolerance to whistleblowers and people who provide leaked information. So this court case is happening at a really critical time for whether or not people who collect that information feel safe and whether or not people who provide that information feel safe.
I’m hopeful we’re going to have a decision which is a sort of kick back against the current intolerance from the government.
But no word on any kickback against the intolerance of left wing activists.
It’s over a year now since Dirty Politics, and to some degree at least it feels as though things have gone back to business as usual. Do you accept that, and if so is it because people didn’t grasp the detail or because they grasped the detail but don’t care?
The Minister of Justice who had to resign because of the book has not come back, the main dirty tricks person in the prime minister’s office [Jason Ede], who had to leave the job because of this, has not come back. When people say everything has gone back to normal, they’re possibly not realising how much did change, and what they’re perhaps really meaning is the Prime Minister, who was in many ways at the centre of the distasteful politics, has so far survived it.
Jason Ede escaped the scrutiny he deserved, although he did lose his job and influence.
John Key also escaped the scrutiny his involvement should have received. This was partly due to his avoidance, but it has as much to do with the way Hager launched his book into an election campaign. Voters reacted against this slanted interference in the democratic process, and then the election took over, letting Key off the hook.
I think that when people say John Key got away with the book, and never had to answer the question – and of course he has got away with not having to answer the question so far – I think they’re not being optimistic enough. I think we may still see in the long run it will be seen to have bitten him badly and he hasn’t got away with it.
Hager may be hoping for lingering hits on Key but the timing of his big hit meant that it didn’t have the impact Hager and his supporters had hoped.
Do you think then that the way people do politics has changed as a result of the book?
I wrote a book about one area of politics, and there is absolutely no doubt that things have changed quite a lot. For example, at the time I wrote that book, quite a considerable number of journalists and news organisations were in extremely unhealthy relationships with this rightwing attack blogger, who was acting as a tool of various commercial interests and also of the prime minister’s office, for covert attacks on their opponents.
Most of those journalists have stopped doing that. Many of those media organisations have more or less apologised publicly for getting caught up in it. If one book can do that, I’m really happy with it, and that’s not the only change at all.
The book seems to have been very successful warning journalists off having anything to do with Slater, and that has been reinforced by Slater’s own actions.
Do you read the Whaleoil blog?
No. I’ve spent a year and a half recommending to people that they don’t dignify it by looking at it, because it is not a genuine source of news and analysis. It’s a political tactic: to smear and discourage and hurt people, and so I don’t believe that I want to go there.
I will take anybody’s legitimate, public, owned criticism and I’ll think about it, but anonymous comments are the worst of people, and I don’t need to let them into my head. So I don’t go to the Whaleoil site, and I don’t go to many of those places where I’m just going to hear, you know, anonymous tigers behind their keyboards saying ridiculous things about me.
It hasn’t just been “anonymous tigers” asking questions of the way Hager played his Dirty Politics cards. By blaming criticism of him on anonymous people he’s avoiding real concerns over his actions.
Since his launch of Dirty Politics Hager has played to friendly audiences, and he has done is PR via friendly journalists (like Manhire here).
Would he be prepared to face scrutiny of his actions and agenda?
Both he and Key still have important questions that should be answered.