Whale Oil scuttled

The crew announced yesterday that they were scuttling the Whale Oil blog – It’s the End of an Era…and the start of a new one.

It’s certainly the end of an era, but far too soon to know whether it’s the start of a new one, or whether the transfer to another site and brand will rescue some fizz, or continue their fizzling out of significance. The final post by SB/spanish bride/Juana Atkins suggests that it will be the same old self delusion and denial.

It has been nearly 15 years since Whaleoil’s creator and editor Cameron Slater posted his first post. During that time Whaleoil became New Zealand’s number one most popular and most-read blog. It has won numerous blog awards including a Canon Media Award for Best Blog and to date, it has had two works of fiction written about it.

The site won  couple of contentious awards, but that was five to six years ago, before the scab was lifted by Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics (which was mostly uncontested fact), and Whale Oil was quickly (and Cameron Slater gradually) deserted by most politicians and media that had helped build and sustain the brash and dirty site.

The second ‘work of fiction’ presumably refers to Margie Thomson’s book Whale Oil that was published in May this year. That revealed a decade long campaign against businessman Matt Blomfield, including over a hundred attack attack posts on Whale Oil, which led to six years of Slater trying to avoid a trial before a judge found that he had no defence to a number of charges of defamation. So the fiction writer is Atkins.

Inevitably as the dirty trade and tirades were exposed things turned to custard for Slater, since Dirty Politics started the exposure in 2014.

Journalists no longer fed or repeated Whale Oil.

Politicians stopped using and feeding Slater – and Slater gradually turned on those who had fed him, as well as running bitter campaigns against Key, against Bill English, Stephen Joyce, Amy Adams, Michael Woodhouse et al – and that’s just from the National Party.

Three defamation cases converged in the second half of last year, with Blomfield winning his case, Colin Craig partially winning, and three academics pushing Slater to comply with legal requirements to disclose information aall in October 2018. The month ended with Slater suffering from a stroke. The severity of that is being disputed in the courts as what Slater’s supporters claimed conflicted with what Slater appeared to be doing.

Legal costs amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not a million or more, with the prospects of that growing to multi millions of dollars of debt.

In February this year Slater filed for bankruptcy. The company he had jointly owned with Atkins was put into liquidation, owing over half a million dollars. A new company was set up to continue running Whale Oil, but that was only going to delay the inevitable.

From the First Liquidator’s Report (29 March 2019)

The liquidator took over as registrar of whaleoil.co.nz on 10 June – see here. So it was a matter of time before Whale Oil ceased operations (they tried shifting to another domain name but that seems to have been futile).

From yesterday’s announcement:

Whaleoil was so influential that shadowy forces conspired to take it down and a hacker was paid to hack it.

What actually happened was a number of people held Slater and his company to account through the courts. The three defamation cases had a common target but were quite separate.

I have seen no evidence that “a hacker was paid to hack it” – ironically Slater was charged with (and admitted) paying a hacker to try to take down The Standard, but accusing others of doing what they did was common practice at Whale Oil.

Slater and Whale Oil attacks targeted and affected hundreds of people nd their families and associates. Not just MPs and Prime Ministers, but also people standing for National Party candidacy – I recall dirty tactics in the Northland and Rodney electorates for example, which appear to have been paid for hit jobs.

Len Brown and his family (and Bevan Chuang) were adversely affected by an attempt by Slater to overturn the 2013 mayoral election in 2013.

Families of dead people were attacked, most notably the West Coast feral incident which may be related to the hack that resulted in Dirty Politics being published.

There is a long list of victims of Whale Oil, and of Slater and associates including Atkins who continued some divisive attack posting, including support of international far right operators.

While there were some notable successes and achievements, Slater and Whale Oil will mostly be remembered for being dirty and toxic, and for crashing and burning while blaming others for their self inflicted predicaments.

The new site will lose the brand and probably quite a bit of recognition and support, but will carry with it the dirt and the failures of Whale Oil.more on that in another post.

Other coverage:

The Spinoff: RIP Whaleoil.net.nz (2005-2019): the blog that turned NZ politics feral

It is customary to say kind words about a person or entity when they leave this world forever. So what then can one say about Whaleoil, the blog which in 2014 described a victim of a car crash as a “feral”?

So farewell Whaleoil.net.nz. If it is to be remembered for anything, let it be for making politics a crueler, and more viscerally hateful arena. May we never see its like again.

RNZ: Whaleoil ends after 15 years of political blogs

The right-wing blog Whaleoil has closed in the wake of its parent company going bust, defamation cases and its controversial founder Cameon Slater suffering a stroke.

Whaleoil has been running for 15 years. It was the subject of the 2014 book Dirty Politics by the investigative journalist Nicky Hager, which detailed its close links with some National MPs in running smear campaigns against political opponents.

NZ Herald: The end of the Whaleoil blog – from an outlet for depression to financial pressure and court battles

The Whaleoil blog has shut down, bringing an end to an online publishing effort which began as an outlet for mental health issues – and ended in infamy and financial failure.

A number of people involved in the blog, or linked to it, did not wish to comment when contacted. National MP Judith Collins, who has described Slater as a family friend and was revealed in Dirty Politics to have passed information to Slater, did not respond to an interview request.

Neither Slater nor wife Juana Atkins responded to requests for comment.

Hager welcomed the final post as “positive for New Zealand politics”.

“The Whaleoil blog was incredibly destructive and hurt many, many people who didn’t deserve it and was part of an era of particularly ugly politics and we should rejoice it is finally gone.”

Kiwiblog: Vale Whale Oil

The end of one era but the start of a new one. I wish them well.

David Farrar loyal to the end, which is a bit odd given Whale Oil’s campaigning against Bill English and National, and their ongoing campaign against Simon Bridges .

Comments from other National supporters at Kiwiblog:

Tony Stuart

WO (the blog, not the individual) has been shilling for Bridges to be replaced for more than a year. As a paid-up party member, I can’t see it happening.

Bridges has emerged from the party conference last weekend in good form, with the party vote still holding up at 45%. I am almost certain that would drop if Bridges was rolled as leader. As much as I respect Judith Collins as a politician, I don’t believe she is the right person to be leading National at the moment.

peterwn

Most of the shilling has come from SB. I do not recollect her shilling against Simon when Cam was active. Is she taking instructions from Cam’s sick-bed?

Tony Stuart

Highly likely, I would think.

The Standard: Later Whaleoil

I wonder if this is strategic?  And I wonder how creditors feel about this announcement?  I am sure they will be interested that there is a proper amount paid for any IP the Whaleoil site may have.

While Whale Oil may have waxed, waned and now withered from public view there is likely to be more unravelling in the background.


Legal facts you won’t see on Whale Oil:

 

Nonsense to suggest Brash speaks on behalf of Pākehā

@MorganGodfery: “pākehā should stop letting don brash try to speak on their behalf”

Don Brash obviously speaks for himself. He may speak for Hobson’s Choice, at times at least. But it’s ridiculous to suggest that he speaks on behalf of ‘Pākehā’.  As a number of people on Twitter pointed out in response to Godfery.

I could agree with some things he has said and says, but I also disagree with things he has said.

I see myself as Pākehā but he certainly doesn’t speak on my behalf. He never has. I opposed him when he lead National and specifically voted against National getting into Government when he was their leader.

And it’s even more ridiculous to suggest that Pākehā should stop letting Brash try to speak at all. But Godfery reiterated this nonsense.

This seems to be increasingly common from younger people – demanding that people they don’t like be shut down or shut up.

It shows an alarming lack of awareness of the importance of free speech in a democratic society.

But it’s not just younger people.

Shutting down Whale Oil “not that far off”

Cameron Slater has returned from his two month break (although he kept in touch with a few comments) and it looks like the financial pressure is on.

Yesterday SB posted a question: Would you pay for an ad- free Whaleoil?

If you are already supporting Whaleoil financially, please, for the moment, pretend you are not, then answer the questions on our Whaleoil survey.

In a comment in response Slater said:

Some of you are talking about ad blocking. I respect that you don’t want to see ads, but ad blocking will actually become self defeating, as more people use it the ad revenue goes down and then sites like this will cease to exist. So by all means use ad-blockers, but I don’t want to hear any moaning when I shut the site down because it is no longer sustainable….and it’s not far off that BTW.

This was promoted as a feature comment so it seems to have been more than a passing comment:

WhaleOilShutDownThreat

Whale Oil’s ad click model of funding is obviously under pressure. The donations are also presumably insufficient.

And it’s likely the pay per hit job revenue stream has dried up substantially as well. That relied on the mainstream media picking up stories and circulating them widely, which is ironic considering the level and nature of attacks Whale Oil has made against old media that Slater claims has failed.

Click bait advertising has problems problem across media types.

Was the shutdown threat an indication of unsustainable reality? It seems to be more than a grumpy moan. And being elevated to ‘Featured Comment’ suggests that Pete Belt may be in agreement with the comment.

Whale Oil still serves a useful purpose but after a short time as a pace setting, ground breaking influential media phenomenon it has now joined the ranks of the niche forums along with all the other New Zealand blogs.

The Whale used to blow hard and prominently on the media surface but now it is spluttering. Will it sink altogether?

Slater seems still worn down and demoralised rather than revitalised by his break.  That’s not surprising, he’s had a demanding decade and a torrid couple of years, and his bite is now largely toothless. For someone who thrived on the thrill of online and political warfare there may not be much left to sustain this. As well as the finances.

UPDATE: SB has posted on this again today: Would you pay for an ad-free Whaleoil?

Whaleoil will remain free to access to anyone.  We are just trying to ascertain if there is an interest in being able to pay to make the ads disappear.  One way or another, we need some money to pay for it all…