Hager response to Soper article

There has been a lot of discussion today about the Barry Soper article in the Herald – Another shadow over Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson’s book (some things in the article may have changed through the day) – especially over the the photo from Hager’s book

1hit

Originally that was shown with the bottles mostly cropped, as i had taken a copy of the original picture here Cartridge challenge to ‘Hit & Run’ claims.

Update: See letter from Hager to the Herald below.

The article also now has a response from Hager:

Nicky Hager responds:

“The book does not claim that those weapon cartridges came from the SAS and indeed in another illustration (on page 49) the authors explain that they are Apache helicopter weapons.

The illustration in the book shows objects collected by the villagers after the raid and the caption refers only to two drink bottles pictured, which the villagers thought were left by snipers. There was no suggestion that the weapon cartridges were from the SAS.

But the photo caption implies by association that if the bottles were left by snipers the cartridges would also have been left by the same sniper/s. I think it is reasonable to assume the two went together.

Hager clarifies that the objects were gathered (are claimed to have been gathered) after the raid with no proof of them being associated with the raid, or any or all of them having been left by the attacking forces – “which the villagers thought were left” is all that is claimed.

I wonder why snipers would leave rubbish like that behind.

If we had been asked before the story was printed, we could have cleared up this misunderstanding.”

This is somewhat ironic given that Hager is renowned for publishing books having made no attempt to seek input from those he makes serious accusations about.

This is pointed out by journalist Martin van Beyen in Can we trust claims by Hager and Stephenson about SAS raid?

Another issue is that Hager’s method is not to seek comment or reaction from the people he is accusing before publishing. There are sometimes good reasons for that but if he worked for a newspaper his stories would not run without the allegations being put to the authorities.

Karl du Fresne also covers this in Let truth and falsehood grapple over the Hager-SAS stink

Hager doesn’t bother with balance. He and co-author Jon Stephenson didn’t approach the Defence Force for its side of the story before publishing Hit and Run.

This is consistent with Hager’s previous modus operandi. I don’t think he gave Cameron Slater a chance to respond to the claims made in Dirty Politics either, or Don Brash when he published The Hollow Men.

Cameron Slater has frequently complained about not being given a chance to put his side of the Dirty story.

Hager would probably argue that the reason he doesn’t approach the subjects of his books is that it would give them an opportunity to obstruct publication, possibly with legal action.

But newspapers take that risk every time they run a potentially damaging story about someone. It doesn’t stop them seeking comment from the people or organisation they’re about to take a whack at.

One thing certainly seems different to how Hager handled the aftermath of Dirty Politics – this time both he and Stephenson are getting involved with a lot of defending and trying to justify what they wrote.

Hager in particular seems sensitive to people making assumptions about debatable and less than solid evidence.


UPDATE: the letter from Hager to the Herald (not sure why Stephen price’s name is in it) that prompted the added response from Hager:

——– Forwarded Message ——–
Subject: complaint against Herald story
Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2017 10:32:42 +1300
From: Nicky Hager
To: Steven Price

Hi Shayne,
I am writing to complain about a story and associated comment by Barry Soper relating to our book Hit and Run. The story says that we were wrong about a type of weapon cartridges pictured in a
photo in the book and that this casts a shadow over the accuracy of the the book.

However the basis for the criticism is something that the story says is suggested and inferred by the book when neither of these is what we actually said in the book. It was just someone jumping to conclusions on the basis of an illustration caption. We have been advised there are grounds for a complaint to the press council, however we would much rather sort this out by you adding a comment to the story there and then a follow up story that presents our position on these claims.

Can you please add the following words near the top of the current news story and Barry Soper may like to amend his opinion piece accordingly?

“The book does not claim that those weapon cartridges came from the SAS and indeed in another illustration (on page 49) the authors explain that they are Apache helicopter weapons. The illustration in the book shows objects collected by the villagers after the raid and the caption refers only to two drink bottles pictured, which the villagers thought were left by snipers. There was no suggestion that the weapon cartridges were from the SAS. If we had been asked before the story was printed, we could have cleared up this misunderstanding.”

Then a follow up story could present the same points.

The obvious thing to do was to check the story with us, which was after all based on assumption, not anything we wrote in the book. The story says that a reporter tried unsuccessfully to contact Jon Stephenson, but they could have contacted me. Also, the point I make here is obvious and so even without contacting us should have made a reporter wonder whether the story was correct.

We have no problem with critical comment about the book, of course, but it needs to be based on accurate information and be balanced and fair.

best wishes,

Nicky


I’m kind of gobsmacked by this from Hager. He is demanding a different standard regarding rights of reply than he gives people he writes about in his books – he gives them no chance of any fact checking or contesting prior to publishing, and arranges his launch PR to give him a considerable advantage over his targets.

And balance is absent – in his latest book as past books he has a fairly strong agenda against one side of the story.

Leave a comment

25 Comments

  1. Gezza

     /  31st March 2017

    Hager is getting less & less credible with every further statement he makes, imo.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  31st March 2017

      Why would villagers make a neat little still life of these objects ? I could imagine them collecting evidence, of course, but a glass bottle could come from almost anywhere-or anyone.

      NH is talking frantically to get himself out of sloppy writing !

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  31st March 2017

        Enquiry schmemquiry. The first confirmed ex-sas trooper to get on the teev with blacked-out face & distorted voice, & say – I was there, this is what happened, will carry the day.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  31st March 2017

          The distorted voice thing can make it look absurd. Why not simply use an actor to repeat his recorded words ? When voice distortion was used recently at a trial, it made the words sound ridiculous-it was like a record being played at the wrong speed.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  31st March 2017

            There have been plenty of examples on the teev where an informant’s identity is protected by darkening out the facial features & applying voice distortion that leaves their comments perfectly audible & intelligible. Use of an actor would be silly – I prefer to know it is the real informant actually speaking. Sit down please madam.

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  31st March 2017

              Yes, but it needs to be done with a bit of dignity-the trial one was just lacking in dignity, ridiculous and totally without sensitivity. One doesn’t want the person to sound clownish. If the person’s unrecognisable, how would we know that they were who they were supposed to be, anyway.

              Shan’t sit down and you can’t make me.

            • Gezza

               /  31st March 2017

              One has gone with the rest of the class to an undisclosed location.

            • Anonymous Coward

               /  31st March 2017

              Were you at the trial Kitty? or watching a snippet on the news?
              Was the distortion in the court or on the TV?

      • Corky

         /  1st April 2017

        ‘I wonder why snipers would leave rubbish like that behind.’

        Snipers and SF don’t leave rubbish behind. Rubbish,apart from being ‘evidence’ is also an open book to skilled enemieswho may deduct many things from what the ‘rubbish’ tells them. Even crap must be bagged, and in some cases urine.

        As I said before…Hager has put himself to bed with his latest offering.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  1st April 2017

          Exactly. I was being ironic.One wouldn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that if there’s an identifiable container, the odds are that the person who had the Jaffas was a Kiwi and the one with Smarties was English.

          I would also have thought that their drinks would be in refillable, unbreakable containers, not glass as these ones seemed to be.

          I didn’t know about the bagged crap, but do know that for archaeologists, historic crap is a very useful tool .

          Reply
  2. Ray

     /  31st March 2017

    “This may be one of the places where SAS snipers were located”
    Very unlikely SOP for snipers is to pick up brass and leave nothing, certainly not ratty old drink bottles and giant steel casing.
    Hager is look less and less creditable, relying on Taliban supporters for information is looking like a fail.
    Sounds like most of the evidence is at best hearsay or rumour.

    Reply
    • Thanks. I’ll update the post with this in particular:

      However the basis for the criticism is something that the story says is suggested and inferred by the book when neither of these is what we actually said in the book. It was just someone jumping to conclusions on the basis of an illustration caption. We have been advised there are grounds for a complaint to the press council, however we would much rather sort this out by you adding a comment to the story there and then a follow up story that presents our position on these claims.

      Can you please add the following words near the top of the current news story and Barry Soper may like to amend his opinion piece accordingly?

      We have no problem with critical comment about the book, of course, but it needs to be based on accurate information and be balanced and fair.

      This is quite demanding – demanding basics of journalism that Hager doesn’t give the targets of his books.

      He really seems to be under pressure on this book, he’s all over the place trying to defend it.

      Reply
  3. patupaiarehe

     /  31st March 2017

    I suspect that the ugly truth of the matter, lies somewhere in between what both sides are saying. Any investigation will be biased, even if it pretends not to be, so why bother?

    Reply
    • And any investigation won’t reveal everything so it will still leave open implied claims and insinuations and excuses.

      Reply
      • patupaiarehe

         /  31st March 2017

        Exactly Pete. Any so called ‘investigation’, will be looking for someone to blame, who will most likely be one of the unfortunate lower ranked individuals, who were there at the time. Personally, I have complete faith in our SAS. They have a difficult job, and know the ‘rules of engagement’, in any particular situation…

        Reply
  4. David

     /  31st March 2017

    “I’m kind of gobsmacked by this from Hager. ”

    What’s surprising about it? It’s been his MOA since, forever.

    Reply
    • Not surprised with how he publishes, but surprised by his cheek in demanding balance and checking with him in advance of publication.

      Reply
  5. chrism56

     /  31st March 2017

    Things must be going bad for Hager as his expose collapses and his supporters desert him – even Blazer isn’t here running interference and trying to defend him.

    Reply
  6. Blazer

     /  31st March 2017

    Hager has done himself no favours here.Absolute accuracy is a must for a book like this.I along with most NZ’ers have tremendous respect for our military and their record in conflict is second to none.I have no intention of reading this book and agree with PG’s critique of his reactions.

    Reply
  7. Kabull

     /  31st March 2017

    What appalling comments at the Stan***d.

    Reply
  8. Bob

     /  31st March 2017

    The rank hypocrisy from Hager is truly astounding, a disgusting display of ‘do as I say not as I do’ while dumping on everybody else. I don’t believe a word he speaks out of either side of his mouth, my opinion of him can’t sink any lower it is already zero.

    Reply
  9. Ray

     /  1st April 2017

    NiceApril fools joke Blazer!
    Or, it’s great your new medication enables you to see out of both eyes!

    Reply

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