Newsroom review: Whale Oil

Finlay Macdonald has a very good review of the Maggie Thomson written book on Matt Blomfield book, Whale Oil – Where only trolls and the spiritually misshapen go

Many readers will feel like a shower after a session with this book, and Thomson is to be applauded for her willingness to go where only trolls and the spiritually misshapen could feel at home. As she explains early on, her book was born from a footnote to Nicky Hager’s 2014 bestseller Dirty Politics, arguably the book that marked the beginning of the end for Slater by laying bare his methods and the scabrous demi-monde he inhabited.

Calling their vendetta “Operation Bumslide” (a lexicon of vulgar and puerile Slaterisms would make a short book in its own right), these detractors harnessed the then-popular Whale Oil machine to depict Blomfield as a fraudster, a thief, a liar, a pornographer and a lunatic. Strange and sinister things happened along the way, including a violent home invasion and assault, which was at the very least worthy of far greater scrutiny in the context of Blomfield’s other travails than the police gave it.

Being from the same publisher and with an admiring foreword by Hager, you could be forgiven for thinking Whale Oil might represent one dip too many into the same dank well of character assassination, paid hit jobs and vicious mockery of undeserving victims. It’s not. Rather, Thomson has constructed an elegant psychological study of both main protagonists, equally obsessional in their own ways, locked in a kind of death-embrace from which only one can emerge the winner, but which will leave neither unscathed.

The term Kafkaesque is over-used and mis-used, but Blomfield’s predicament surely meets the criteria. Defamed, denigrated and physically attacked, he was nevertheless incapable of defending himself through any normal channel. The police, the courts, the media, the bureaucracy all live down to Kafka’s vision of a system designed to serve only itself and its own absurd purpose. The more Blomfield struggles to extricate himself from this web of perfidy and stupidity, the more he appears fixated and vexatious to indifferent observers. The more he professes his sanity, the more insane he appears.

It really is a wonder that Blomfield didn’t go completely raving mad – or just give up, as so many of Slater’s targets did.

I think that many of Slater’s targets will be grateful that Blomfield had the determination and tenacity to see this through, as far as it has come at least – a successful defamation after over six years of delays and attempts at avoidance by Slater, and of course the book detailing it all.

But this shouldn’t be the end of it. It would be worth following through with more holding to account. There are serious unanswered questions about inaction by the police on a number of occasions, including doing nothing about attack death treats that came very close to a murder being committed.

And accomplices of Slater should be nervous about being held to account for their actions too.

When truth finally does arrive, albeit on crutches and with a bandaged head, it’s almost an anticlimax. Having gamed the courts for years, delaying and prevaricating (for much of the time continuing to gleefully defame and otherwise harass Blomfield), Slater has nothing to offer; no proof whatsoever that anything he posted was true, fair or reasonable. So he loses. But the outcome is less than our aforementioned primitive instincts for story might demand. Slater is a bankrupted wretch, those who conspired with him are untouched by the verdict.

Some are untouched, like Warren Powell, who (the book claims) probably paid Slater at least in part for the protracted attacks on Blomfield, and also Amanda Easterbrook, who has kept a low profile.

Others have been affected to an extent. Dermot Nottingham is now bankrupt as a result of court costs incurred after multiple unsuccessful private prosecutions, some related to the Blomfield saga. He is also currently serving a home detention sentence which includes a ban on him using the internet, but remarkably Blomfield wasn’t included in the prosecution of him on five charges of criminal harassment.

Marc Spring has been at least as involved in abuse, false claims, defamation and harassment as Slater and so far has avoided court action against him – more due to police inaction than anything. He continues to attack Blomfield, although his major online options are now limited. He conducted sustained attacks against Blomfield in 2015-2016 when Blomfield had a restraining order against him, but the police decided not to take action.

But Spring has been affected. His credibility, his employment, his business affairs and his family have all been victims of his obsession with trying to destroy others, this has become more a self destruction.

What animates the likes of Slater and the haters he attracts remains a mystery, other than that they lack normal empathy and a sense of decency.

This whole affair is bad enough on it’s own, but there are very important wider issues.

That they are enabled by the failings in our systems and our souls is more the point, and this necessary but unpleasant book should be required reading for anyone interested in reforming the media-legal nexus for the realities of the attention economy. That will be too late for Matt Blomfield, but at least he’s finally out of the shit, while those he wrestled are still in it.

Blomfield’s long fight has finally managed to prove his attackers were malicious and almost totally wrong, and he himself has won back some of what was taken from him. The book has resulted in almost universal sympathy, admiration and respect – as far as I have seen the only exception being a small number of Slater apologists at Kiwiblog (I was accused of hate speech there yesterday for being critical of Slater and his accomplices).

Things should get better now for Blomfield. He will never get back everything that was taken from him, he and his family will bear the scars of vicious attacks online and physically,

The same can’t be said for the trolls and the spiritually misshapen, who still claim to be victims (as bullies do when someone stands up to them), have shown no remorse, and show no sign of recovering from their self inflicted miserable situations.

So what is the ‘Whale Oil’ book about?

A book called ‘Whale Oil’ by author Margie Thomson was launched by Nicky Hager last night in Auckland to a large receptive crowd. I now have a copy of the book, and have been able to have a quick look through it.

The book has been very well researched and well written. It is very readable, and should be of interest to a much wider audience than people involved in blogging.

Disclosure: I was interviewed by Margie, and feature in a very minor way in the book, due to the fact that I was dragged into a campaign of harassment and was myself harassed when I put a stop to attacks here on Your NZ.

Obviously the book is about the Whale Oil blog and about Cameron Slater aka ‘Whale Oil’ the blogger (or sort of ex blogger). But it is about much more than that.

Primarily the book is about Matt Blomfield and his partner Rebecca and daughters Rosalie and Bella, and the extreme harassment they have been subjected to for about a decade. The worst of this was a home invasion attack on Blomfield in which a shotgun was used and Matt was seriously assaulted in front of his family, who were also targeted, But there was much more attacking and harassment, ranging from extensive attacks on Matt’s business operations, threats to family, and even an attempt by someone called Cam Slater trying to friend a 10 year old daughter on Snapchat.

The handling of the assault and a number of other complaints made to the police, in particular the lack of police action, feature prominently through the book. These issues are still under scrutiny.

The six year defamation case that Matt pursued against Slater also features. This shows that claims by Slater and associates on Whale Oil that lead to the defamation, throughout the proceedings, were largely a big pile of whale shit. Finally last October a judge ruled that after years of deliberate delays and stalling and incompetence, Slater had no credible defence.

Damages may take another year to be determined, but as Slater declared himself bankrupt it could be a hollow victory for Matt, unless some of the company and asset ownerships that have been ‘rearranged are unraveled.

Also under scrutiny in the book is ‘Operation Bumslide’, a campaign of harassment by Slater and ex business associates of Matt’s – Warren Powell, Marc Spring and Amanda Easterbrook, plus the close association with the notorious Dermot Nottingham.

Matt’s challenging but determined efforts to shut down Lauda Finem and their notorious website are also covered. However there is still a lot of material still online, despite a jury and judge finding that Nottingham was largely responsible. Spring and Slater were also implicated in using Lauda Finem to harass and attack people, including myself (and many others).

Things have caught up on Slater and Nottingham, both now bankrupt and both suffering health problems – although it is apparent that Whale Oil overstated the effects of the stroke suffered by Slater last October, and Slater tried to avoid and delay court proceedings claiming he was incapacitated, while showing he was far more capable than he was claiming.

But what about the others? It is claimed that Powell paid Slater, which has implications of the campaign against Matt being a paid hit job. But Powell moved overseas.

Easterbrook is put under scrutiny for her involvement. She seems to have avoided consequences so far, but will be uneasy about what is written about her.

And Spring, in my opinion, still looks like a loose cannon, unrepentant and intent on continuing his harassing activities. The book claims that evidence shows that both Spring and Slater discussed the attack on Matt before it happened as well as immediately afterwards. Lack of police action in that respect looks odd, but Spring seems to have been dealt with leniently by police over the years of harassment. Perhaps an attempt at justice will finally be seen to be done.


The book also looks at the wider and very topical issue of bullying and online harassment, and the failure of the police and court system to adequately protect people.

Nottingham has been convicted of five counts of criminal harassment, in which he harassed people over periods of several years. The sentencing judge said that the five charges were the worst of many found on the Lauda Finem website. I disagree with the judge on this.

Matt Blomfield and Rebecca and Rosalie and Bella have, I believe, been subjected to far worse, over a longer period of time, than any of the victims for which Nottingham alone has been convicted. I am amazed and concerned that the police have not addressed this adequately, or addressed those working with Nottingham, in particular Slater and Spring.

Perhaps the book will prompt some more holding to account for the worst case of harassment by a big margin.

These are nasty people who seem to enjoy trying to destroy people’s lives (they have called it fucking over’ – and possibly in one case, take lives. They seem unremorseful, unrepentant, and Spring at least seems intent on continuing with this behaviour, while claiming to be a victim (something Slater and Nottingham have also done). This is typical of bullies.

Matt Blomfield has done something huge for the many victims of abuse from this group of people, he has stood up to them, he has had significant successes, and through this book has highlighted a number of things that should be of concern to the public.

‘Whale Oil’ is about far more than a blog. It is about a pod of pricks.

This has been online bullying at it’s worst. At least it has now been confronted and serious questions have been asked. However more answers are needed, and as a society we need to be looking at how we can prevent this sort of thing from happening, at least to this extent.


Margie has done a great job with this book. Please read it. Copies have been distributed to book shops around the country.

Those of you who have followed things here over the past few years will recognise a lot of what is detailed in the book, but there will be things that will (or should) shock you.

It should also have wider appeal. It details real dangers of harassment online, and how the tentacles of that can spread into the real world, doing real harm.

The book can be ordered online, eg: https://www.whitcoulls.co.nz/product/whale-oil-6462218

But bookstores should have copies.