Pernicious dirty politics

Dirty politics as practised by Cameron Slater and associates was highlighted by Nicky Hager’s book “Dirty Politics”, to those who didn’t already know.

Slater is an attention seeker who can be brash and nasty, and is often boastful about it. But that’s just the headline making side of dirty politics.

Dirty politics is also practiced at a pernicious level across social media, via Twitter, Facebook and on political blogs.

Petty personal attacks can be more prevalent than sensible and reasonable discussion. Solo and mob attacks aiming to annoy, discredit and shut people up away are common.

Such is the nature of a lot of the active politics in New Zealand – dirty politics niggling away day after day.

And many of those decrying Slater level dirty politics are as much a part of the problem. Complaints about the major dirt are easily dismissed and ignored when those doing the accusing are no better.

A series of examples occurred yestedray in an exchange I had with Lyn Prentice, the setter of standards a The Standard. Like Slater he also boasts about how nasty he is – here is one recent example:

One person’s troll is another persons clear thinker.

There is a pretty clear definition on this site about what a troll is. It is someone that the *moderators* consider is disrupting the flow of robust debate according to the policy.

At least he’s sort honest about trolls at The Standard – they are people the moderators don’t like or disagree with.

The retribution for making the moderators have to work too hard tends to be balanced but mildly irritated. That of the sysop (me) is purely a matter of luck but could easily be (and frequently is) described as being excessive. That is because I’m a grouchy 3 decade veteran of the net and I enjoy being nasty and highly educational. Basically I’m a BOFH.

“Balanced” is questionable.

“Highly educational” is Lynspeak for “be careful what you say or I’ll abuse and ban you”.

“Grouchy” is accurate and “I enjoy being nasty” appears to be accurate but I can’t be sure how much he actually enjoys being nasty.

Another boast along with a warning.

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.

The reason for being like that (apart from some natural inclinations towards all of those traits) is because it makes people very wary about raising the ogre. Those who are aware of that role tend to stay well away from the behavioural edges unless they really really mean it and have a good argument that I might accept.

In other words he uses his power at The Standard to impose “behaviour” – people who aren’t part of his protected mob comment under constant threat of being abused and banned, both of which happen regularly.

In yesterday’s exchange Prentice – in this case it was here so his ban power was absent – happened to bring up the topic of Hager’s “Dirty Politics”:

Most of the “Dirty Politics” was about that. Knowing you, I suspect you haven’t bothered to read the book.

It has become a common practice to try and deny someone’s right to have an opinion on “Dirty Politics” by saying they haven’t read the book.

I responded” You don’t know me well at all, as your claims and insinuations about me show. I bought the book as soon as it was available (I actually pre-ordered a copy) and it’s open right beside me now, on page 13.”

In retrospect not surprisingly that opened up two lines of petty attack. From Prentice:

So you are saying that you haven’t read it? It has been what – 3 months. You’re still on page 13?

Well I did say that you didn’t appear to have read the book.

And framu was as petty at The Standard:

loved this from “old whiney” (pete george)

in reply to iprents musings on wether PG had even read dirty politics

“I bought the book as soon as it was available (I actually pre-ordered a copy) and it’s open right beside me now, on page 13.”

so it nov and PGs only made it to pg13?

I think it’s the sort of book that many people would not read cover to cover. In any case I happened to be have been researching something and was interested in what Hager had claimed in his preface (which was at odds with claims he made elsewhere).

I’m a bit bemused that they would even think of an attack line like that. And there was more, from several of the Standard regulars following on from framu:

ropata:rorsach

PG is a strange bird, trying to be relevant with his boring brand of concern tr0lling and self-martyrdom. Annoying but ultimately a waste of time engaging with the silly old bugger.

Tracey:

how do you pre order it when no one knew it was becoming available?

Murray Rawshark

You retrospectively preorder it, otherwise known as lying.

Nit picking, nitwitting, which framu carried over with a comment here:

pete – ive considered the possible responses that i could spend days engaged in pointless circular debate with you

but i will just ask this – how the did you pre-order a book that no one knew was being released before hand? Your a liar and a very boring one at that

Your also a stalker

I posted a response at The Standard:

I suspected it was becoming available when Hager launched it in Wellington and media covered the launch (late in the day). First thing the next morning I rang a local bookshop and they said they were waiting for delivery, so I ordered one.

They rang and advised when stock arrived later in the day so I went and picked my ordered book up.

It’s odd that something so trivial and straightforward as that results in accusations of lying.

This is stupidly trivial attack lines, but it’s a very common feature of political blogs.

And framu repeated his claim of me being a stalker at The Standard

hes back stalking this thread – and reposting that which does not met his approval

oddly though – he chose my rather timid one liner to repost, but not anything more problematic for him to discuss (which is ood – PG can discuss anything for weeks)

the guys a stalker

How is reading a blog that is open to anyone in the world to read, with comments about me, stalking? It’s as if they want to be abusive and petty without being called on their dirt.

While they abuse and attack under Prentice’s protection at The Standard there has always been a sense of frustration there when their dirty tactics are exposed elsewhere. Of course they are free to respond here, but they seem to have a problem with debate on an even playing field.

Slater operates at the extremes of dirty politics, but many more in our social media contribute to a pile of political sludge.

The drip drip drip of dirty politics is more toxic and corrosive to our democracy than Slater’s occasional outbursts – and if Slater were to retire from blogging most of the dirtiness would remain, ingrained. That’s a sad reality of our politics in social media.

To some degree a very poor example is set at the top of our political chain, in Parliament.

But this cannot be adequately addressed when the top of the blogging chains keep flushing decency down the dunny.

Holding to account doesn’t work when in ways the complainants are just as bad.

This post may be on a petty level but the accumulated effect is a pernicious part of dirty politics.

Slater vows to continue doing what he does, nasty and all. Prentice also doesn’t look like backing off from his nasty boasts.

If Hager had taken a balanced look at dirty politics throughout our democracy he might have deserved praise. His one sided attack makes “Dirty Politics” look like another example of dirty politics. If he succeeds in shutting Slater up he won’t have solved the problem.

He may have highlighted Slater’s excesses but he has also added weight to self-righteousness on the left, and done nothing to address their blindness to their own nasty flaws.

Dirty politics operates at many levels, from dirty deeds done by the few to the pernicious dirtiness of the many.