Hager on the impact of ‘Dirty Politics’

It’s three years since Nicky Hager launched his ‘Dirty Politics’ book. He looks back on what it exposed and what the effects of it have been.

The Spinoff:  Sunlight did what sunlight does: Nicky Hager on Dirty Politics, three years on

Dirty Politics landed like a bombshell in the NZ election campaign of 2014. It may not have affected that outcome, but that was never the ambition. It has, however, made a big impact on our politics, argues Nicky Hager

Three long years ago, during the last election campaign, the book Dirty Politics revealed a political dirty tricks campaign being run out of John Key’s Beehive office. It was an ugly operation, jarringly contradicting the friendly, BBQ-guy image cultivated by Key. If you don’t know the details, it is still well worth reading the whole grubby story.

He must have a bit of stock left. Most people have moved on. The only person who keeps banging on about it is Cameron Slater.

Quite a lot of people wondered at the time whether the book might change the outcome of the election. It didn’t and some concluded that the book had had no effect. But my aims were different.

It’s hard to believe that timed a few weeks out from an election there were hopes of an impact – if not from Hager, there were certainly hopes on the left that it would be a game changer. It did nothing to make David Cunliffe electable.

The book has had an effect far beyond what I could reasonably have hoped for.

Here is my assessment of what has changed as a result and what hasn’t.

Exposing and considerably closing down the dirty tricks campaign

Before the book, the dirty politics brigade was having a huge influence over New Zealand politics. Personal attacks were cooked up in the prime minister’s office and elsewhere, drafted into nasty, drip-fed blog posts and sent out into the world through two National Party-aligned blogs: Whale Oil and Kiwiblog. An embarrassing number of journalists reprinted these attacks and came to use the bloggers, Cameron Slater and David Farrar, as regular sources for tip offs and news. The journalists were aware that the bloggers had close links to John Key and his government, and this further enhanced their status and influence.

There was some nasty stuff going on, mainly centred on Whale Oil but with the complicity of the Prime Minister’s office and mainstream media.

The most important effect of the book is that this dirty tricks campaign was exposed and largely stopped. The dirty tricks coordinator in John Key’s office, Jason Ede, was hastily removed from his job and has never been seen again. There is hardly a single journalist left who would take stories off the dirty politics bloggers. Cameron Slater and the Whale Oil blog still exist, but they have shrunk back to the margins of politics.

That particular source of dirty politics has been severely curtailed, but there’s still quite a bit of more subtle dirt mongering. The people and aims of the Todd Barclay issue still have a mucky look, aided and abetted by some media.

Revealing the attack machine to its other countless victims

Numerous people have been attacked over the years by the Whale Oil or Kiwiblog sites: politicians, journalists, academics, a public servant handing out political leaflets in his lunch hour, almost anyone doing something effective on the left side of politics. Some attacks were to help the National Party; some were commercial operations attacking private people on behalf of undeclared paying clients. The important thing that has changed is that now these people know what was going on.

Quite a few people new quite a bit about what was going on. While there were grubby details in ‘Dirty Politics’ there wasn’t a lot overall that surprised me. A lot of it was blatantly obvious.

Hager confronted it and forced change – in particular he forced Key’s office to tidy up their act and he forced the media to be more responsible too .

By understanding the game, people have been able to fight back. On page 95 of the book Dirty Politics, for instance, there is mention of an attack job done for money by Cameron Slater and his PR industry collaborator Carrick Graham against a school principal who was in a matrimonial dispute.

The person who paid Slater and Graham for the attacks was a lawyer and she has since been taken to a legal tribunal for improper behaviour. Just this month the tribunal decision was published, revealing the whole operation. It makes interesting reading.

The dirt at Whale Oil was much wider than the Prime Ministers office. The above case, recently revealed through a court decision, was not political at all, it was a presumably privately funded domestic smear job.

Revealing corporate smears for cash operations

The book revealed that one of Slater and Graham’s most lucrative freelance attack campaigns targeted public health professionals – on behalf, apparently, of unlovely corporate clients such as the tobacco industry. The public health professionals were trying to save people’s lives from tobacco, alcohol and obesity harms. The attacks seem to have been an effort to protect profits from these meddlers.

Even after these activities were exposed in the book, Graham and Slater appeared to continue the attacks. Eventually some of the health professionals took action. In June last year they launched defamation action against Slater and Graham

I presume this action is still progressing.

Diminishing the influence of the dirty tricks operatives

On this point, the results are more mixed. Slater and the Whale Oil blog, the heart of the dirty politics system, are certainly diminished. It now seems hard to believe that not long ago they were so influential. But some others have continued to be a problem.

Slater’s political attack collaborator, Simon Lusk, was seen in last year’s local government elections when he assisted with attack tactics for some mayoral candidates. His campaigns faced a backlash in some towns when people realised that a dirty politics practitioner was involved in the election campaign.

There seems to be still a market for dirty political campaigners.

Slater’s fellow attack blogger, David Farrar, is still used as a commentator by some news media, including being introduced just as a “blogger”.

I think Farrar was rocked personally far more than Slater and has been more subdued on Kiwiblog, but still uses his blog for political activism.

Williams even won a defamation case against former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig, after Craig accused Williams of being involved in dirty politics against him. Record defamation damages were awarded to Williams.

But then in April this year the presiding judge, Justice Katz, took the unusual step of setting aside the verdict, saying it would be a miscarriage of justice. She said Craig’s actions “must be viewed in the broader context that his own character and reputation were under sustained attack from Mr Williams”. The judge’s carefully argued judgement is a pleasure to read (there are extracts here).

That legal action is also presumably still progressing.

…as the list above shows, plenty has changed already. The trouble with using dirty tactics is the risk of being found out and the tactics blowing up in your face. Bit by bit, the triumphant manipulators of the 2011 and 2014 elections have been getting their comeuppance; and other people have hopefully been deciding that there are better ways to do politics than following them down that dismal road.

While ‘Dirty Politics’ has had a significant impact it takes more than one book to tidy up decades if not centuries of political skulduggery.

Dirty prosecution, dirty blogging

A case involving a dirty private prosecution and associated dirty blogging has surfaced again.

NZ Herald:  Lawyer waged ‘personal vendetta’ against ex husband and Kristin School head Peter Clague

A lawyer who embarked on an “orchestrated campaign” to destroy her former husband’s professional career, cause him distress and gain advantage in a property dispute could be struck off after being found guilty of misconduct.

Jeanne Denham breached professional standards and “tarnished the reputation of the profession” through an abuse of court process, a just-released Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal decision has found.

The decision sets out the lengths she went to damage her former spouse, then Kristin School principal Peter Clague. It reveals private emails and texts detailing a secret media strategy against him labelled akin to “waging a personal vendetta”.

The decision is now under appeal, with Denham’s lawyer Warren Pyke warning that the events were highly personal and emotional, involving “flawed human beings” going through an intimate relationship breakup.

Denham took a private prosecution against Clague after police declined to lay charges over an alleged assault at the couple’s Greenhithe home in 2010.

The case was eventually thrown out by a judge as an abuse of process designed to inflict maximum damage on Clague and Kristin School, and to help Denham gain the upper hand in a property claim against Clague.

She was ordered to pay nearly $146,000 in costs, which remains outstanding after Denham declared herself bankrupt.

It’s not uncommon for marital disputes to turn nasty but the lengths gone to here are extraordinary, including abusing legal processes through a private prosecution – using the court as a weapon in a dispute.

And a blog was also used as a weapon.

Nicky Hager claimed in ‘Dirty Politics’ that Whale Oil was used as a paid for attack blog, and that is what happened in this case.

Evidence included a trove of emails and text messages between Denham and PR merchant Carrick Graham, who helped organise damaging, paid posts about Clague and Kristin School on the Whale Oil attack blog.

In an email exchange in November 2012, Graham wrote that the campaign had already generated media coverage, forcing the school board to issue two letters to parents.

“It would be safe to say that Clague has had the blow-torch applied to him in terms of a much wider audience being aware of his actions. In terms of reputational hits he is damaged goods.”

In another exchange after a Whale Oil post alleging Kristin board members had known about the allegations and done nothing, Denham wrote that “Cameron’s blog is starting to generate interest in the Kristin community. It’ll spread like wildfire now!”

This was back in the days when Whale Oil had some clout.

Throwing out Denham’s case, Judge David McNaughton ruled: “I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that this private prosecution has been brought for an ulterior motive by the complainant, that is primarily to destroy [Clague’s] career and reputation and collaterally to damage Kristin School and at the same time to obtain an advantage in pressing the relationship claim.

“Furthermore … she knowingly and actively sought to subvert the operation of suppression orders with the assistance of Mr Graham and Cameron Slater and that in itself constitutes a serious abuse of process.”

Slater has never addressed the allegations made by and detailed by Hager, but this is evidence of paid for dirty blogging.

It’s not the only example that has made it into the courts. The high profile multiple defamation cases involving Colin Craig and Whale Oil and Slater may or may not have involved money, but it looked like a political and personal hit job.

Another case that has slowly made it’s way though the courts is another defamation case alleging possibly paid for attack posts run on Whale Oil against businessman Matthew Blomfield.

This is the latest ruling in the High Court but the defamation case will be largely through the District Court (not available online).

When as a part of that legal process Slater made a legal commitment not to attack Blomfield it spilled over here in 2015, with an associate of Slater using multiple pseudonyms to attack Blomfield at Your NZ. This appeared to breach Slater’s gag order.

Slater was also involved with the attempt by Marc Spring to gag Your NZ through a court order in 2015. This appeared to be a mix of malice and retaliation.

This threatened to shut down this site and imprison me. This farce was thrown out when the judge was advised he had been duped by legal incompetents. Their claims were fabricated, they didn’t follow defined procedures, and the law they used (the Harmful Digital Communications Act) didn’t come into affect for another year.

This isn’t the only time Slater has been involved in abuse of court processes against me, and there have been threats of more recently.

There is another defamation case against Slater, and also involving Carrick Graham and the use of Whale Oil as an attack blog, that is presumably still in progress – see Blogger Cameron Slater faces defamation action from health researchers.

Three top health professionals have lodged a defamation claim against blogger Cameron Slater and PR consultant Carrick Graham alleging a long running campaign against them on the Whale Oil website.

Auckland University professor Boyd Swinburn, Otago professor Doug Sellman and the director of Maori agency Shane Bradbrook said they had filed proceedings in the High Court at Auckland on Monday.

The trio said in a statement their proceedings related to blog posts and comments published on the Whale Oil website over a number of years.

As well as defamation claimed against Slater and Graham, defendants include FACILITATE COMMUNICATIONS LIMITED, KATHERINE RICH and NEW ZEALAND FOOD & GROCERY COUNCIL INCORPORATED – see JUDGMENT OF PALMER J.

So the ‘personal vendetta’ in a marital dispute that involved Slater and Graham and Whale Oil is just one example of a history of dirty blogging.

Whale Oil is far less prominent now, and the media don’t spread their campaigns any more, but posts under the authorship of ‘Cameron Slater’ will now continue to be under some suspicion of being a part of personal vendettas and/or paid for attacks.

See also this insight from 2015 into some of the Carrick/Slater mentality and Modus Operandi: Carrick Graham: Without Apologies

Whale against the tide

Whale has appeared to have become a convert to Winston Peters and NZ First over the last few months. If things as they appear that would make Cameron Slater a bigger political somer saulter than Martyn Bradbury.

Such is the profound change from sustained attack to frequent promoter it has raised questions about whether money was involved. Whale Oil have some history of being a campaigner for hire.

But such is the lack of reaction or negative reaction to Winston Peters puff pieces, and such is the strength of reaction to attacks on National, on John Key and on Bill English once could be a bit suspicious of whether a reverse psychology game is being played.

Today in Matthew Hooton on John Key’s legacy whoever complied the article quoted Matthew Hooton’s latest NBR column:

But, in the end, Mr Key just couldn’t be bothered. Instead he wasted his eight years as prime minister on a personal project of self-aggrandisement that has ceded all ideological territory to the left. It means Mr English and Mr Joyce will almost certainly respond to Labour’s latest spending promises with new claims on the taxpayers’ wallet of their own – and they will probably be making the right political judgment in doing so.

The one hope to avoid an entirely braindead campaign is that while Mr Key turned out to be as shallow as an empty birdbath, Mr English is clearly capable of considerable ideological depth.

Whoever wrote the article then said:

John Key squandered his personal political capital. Not on useful things, but on stupid, idiotic things that were never going to make a difference to anyone, like the flag referendum. That was the beginning of the end for John Key. He realised that he could no longer sway people his way. They flipped the bird at him and killed off his personal project. I imagine his decision to jack it all in came shortly after the referendum results.

It’s sad really, no one will remember John Key in 3 years time. His high popularity was for naught.

Key was knighted last month and a few days ago Sir John Key receives Australia’s highest honour so he doesn’t seem to have been forgotten yet. Slater may not have forgotten being dropped off Key’s phone list three years ago after Dirty Politics came out in the open, but the Whale Oil troops don’t seem to hold the same grudge.

Sounds a little bitter if you ask me. Yes he could’ve done more to further a centre right philosophy instead of pinching votes with centre left antics but some might say this was required to stay on the treasury benches.

– Steve Kay, currently 11 upticks

No one will remember John Key in three years? Rubbish!
He is and will remain one of our most internationally respected politicians and New Zealand Prime Ministers.

– Jude, currently 29 upticks

John Key was the best politician of my lifetime. Did he go to the left? Yes, under MMP it is political suicide to ignore what middle voting families want.
I have never blamed Key, and the fact that the left vilified him for being Mr nice-guy says more about them than him.

– KGB, currently 20 upticks

He wasted his eight years as Prime Minister leading us through a global financial crisis and coming out at the top of the world. He wasted his eight years as Prime Minister coping with two catastrophic earthquakes in Christchurch and a catastrophic earthquake in Kaikoura, and yet somehow the country is still not bankrupt. If anyone else was Prime Minister during that period we would probably now have the economy of Venezuela.

– Uncle Bob, currently 30 upticks

John Key did nothing? Apart from getting rid of Helen Clark, steering the country almost effortlessly through the worst recession in our lifetime and coping with not one, but three major earthquakes. Apart from that, you mean?

– MacDoctor, currently 30 upticks

I read Hootens article yesterday. It just reminded me how petty irrelevant people become when their jealously takes hold.

Key was one of our most outstanding PMs

We’re not a country of revolutionaries. We don’t need massive ideological swings. We like stability. Key gave us this in spades.

– Valid Point, currently 22 upticks

If the post was aimed at slagging off Key then it failed badly. But was it designed to rally the troops to show how well Key is liked amongst the Whale commenters?

I doubt it by the look of posts promoting Peters, where Slater has taken to getting directly involved on comments threads, trying to talk against the tide of criticism of Peters. Without much success by the look of the tick balance.

From Vox populi, Vox Dei: On Winston being Prime Minister:

WOSlaterVTroops

This has become quite common, with anti-National posts getting strong opposition from commenters, and pro-Peters posts getting slammed. And Slater seems to have no potency in his attempts to stem the counter-damage to his agenda.

Hobson’s Pledge versus National

The Hobson’s Pledge campaign is targeting the National led government. From Reddit:

Meet the people behind Hobson’s Pledge Trust:

Andy Oakley , Casey Costello , David Round , Don Brash , Fiona Mackenzie , John Bell, Kevin Moratti , Larry Wood , Mike Butler , Mike McVicker , Peter Shirtcliffe , Sarah Taylor , Tom Johnson , Wendy Clark

Why are they attacking National and Bill English? If they lose the election and Labour+Greens get in then they are less likely to get any changes they want.

The answer may be Winston Peters.

If NZ First hold the balance of power in a new government Peters is unlikely to concede on any ‘Hobson’s Pledge’ issues, and may demand changes that Hobson’s Pledge want, whether he goes with National or with Labour-Greens.

Someone else trashing National and English and promoting Winston Peters is Whale Oil.

Is there any connection Hobson’s Pledge and Whale Oil?

Earlier this month on WO: Why are only Maori being helped to get drivers licences?

This quotes Hobson’s Pledge and then comments:

This is clearly a racist policy, why is the government promoting it other than as a bribe to the Maori party?

Last month:  Hobson’s Pledge questions why we are revisiting the Foreshore and Seabed issue

This quotes Hobson’s Pledge, including:

The National Government in effect put coastal claims back on the table as a sop to the Maori Party when it helped repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act in return for support, Ms Costello said.

Prime Minister Bill English has uttered soothing words that few of these claims would succeed.

The Prime Minister has confirmed that some groups will be awarded such rights.

The Prime Minister is yet to explain why some New Zealanders will be awarded property rights far beyond those exercised in 1840, with the ability to exclude all other New Zealanders should they so wish, Ms Costello said.

‘Cameron Slater’ adds:

Bill English can barely put a sentence together, so explaining this will be difficult.

It’s almost like Bill wants to lose….or is bending over backwards to help Winston take his vote.

Like Hobson’s Pledge, Whale Oil seems to very much want Bill English to lose, and appears to be bending over backwards to help Winston take National’s vote.

Is Whale Oil just using Hobson’s Pledge to help promote it’s political agenda?

Slater’s motives seem to be a mix of monetary, spite and trying to settle old grudges. I guess he also has some political and policy aims as well.

Are Hobson’s Pledge or anyone behind them working with Whale Oil?

They both seem to have very similar aims.

Craig, Whale Oil and weaponising of the court

Colin Craig has won his appeal against a judgment in which from Judge Mary Beth Sharp had ruled his copyright claim on a ‘poem’ as “vexatious”, “improper” and a “deception perpetrated on the court”.

NZ City:  Craig wins appeal in poem lawsuit

The former Conservative Party leader has won his appeal of a decision to throw the case out as “vexatious”, despite those opposing him saying he’s had enough court time.

Mr Craig’s lawyers this week appealed that decision in the High Court, saying he should have been cut a “bit more slack” because he wasn’t a legal expert and had run the case himself.

Justice Mark Woolford has now allowed the appeal, saying “Mr Craig’s claim cannot be seen as groundless”.

“Even if Mr Craig’s primary motivation was to protect his reputation, I am of the view that his copyright claim should still be determined on its merits,” he said.

“He is entitled to have his day in court.”

Justice Woolford also noted Mr Craig viewed himself as “a poet of some literary merit”.

To me that’s a very dubious claim but Craig’s view may be pertinent in a legal sense.

Whale Oil has quoted this article at length but doesn’t appear to have attributed it to the source.

‘Whaleoil staff’ also offers substantial detail and opinion on a case before the court. They again seem to be trying to prove their case to their readers in advance of the court hearing it.

Of particular interest to me:

It is therefore a good time to point out the elephant in the room.  In my view, Mr Craig does not consider winning necessary.  To him, grinding down all his opponents in a never-ending series of court events is enough of an achievement.   While he has millions to spend, he knows his opponents do not.

That may or may not be Craig’s aim, it is simply speculation.

Colin Craig currently has 12 current defamation/copyright cases on the go.  All related to one originating incident.  The stepping down of Rachel MacGregor.

Such weaponising of the court system is indeed  “vexatious”, “improper” and a “deception perpetrated on the court”.  And treating the copyright case as a stand-alone event totally divorced from anything else is a serious error in legal judgement.

I don’t know what is motivating Craig but there are indications it has been a mixture of things, including defending his reputation (that is in tatters as a result of this saga), and of holding an attack blog to account.

If Craig has been weaponising the court system and is indeed  “vexatious”, “improper” and a “deception perpetrated on the court” then I have some sympathy with the targets of his legal actions.

But that sympathy is somewhat mixed, given the apparent hypocrisy from Whaleoil here.

Someone who appears to have an association to someone with a close association with Whale oil posted a comment here two days ago under the pseudonym ‘Albert’, which included:

I think you will find defamation doesn’t work that way. The last few months have been a free for all in your comments against Slater with some really defamatory things said…

I have been careful to moderate anything that I think could be at risk of being considered defamatory.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Slater didn’t task that mouth breather Belt to collect everything ready for when he beats Colin.

You might find third party discovery a real bitch…

That sounds like a threat.

Much and all as I loathe Slater, he is that cunning to sit an wait and collect months of data. The publisher is Yournz not the commenters.

I’m not a lawyer but Slater is nasty when cornered…and if he has money then I doubt he’d hold back going after someone like you who is a soft target.

Freedom of speech Rights etc won’t stop him…and he will grind you down. He’s that much of an assholes.

There are some ridiculous statements here.

The “mouth breather belt” and “loathe Slater” references need to be taken with a grain of salt, self criticism is a common ploy to try to disguise a source.

I think there is a clear implication from someone probably close to Slater that if Slater gets award a big payout in his case against Craig he will use that to finance vexatious legal actions. He has already been involved in some against me, unsuccessfully, so “soft target” may be a misjudgement.

It will look highly hypocritical if anything comes of this, but I think it is more likely to be empty threats in yet another attempt to try to shut me up.

I think that weaponising of the court system is indeed  “vexatious”, “improper” and a “deception perpetrated on the court” – and with record of this already happening against me, further attempts would be seen as a continuation of an obsession with trying to shut down any criticism and holding to account.

I don’t agree with some of what Craig has done and some of the measures Craig has taken, but I think his attempts to hold a dirty blog to account have some merit.

NOTE: I will moderate anything that I think steps over any lines. As usual I will allow rights of reply but I will have low tolerance for deceit in pseudonyms and attempts by sock puppets to plant ‘incriminating’ comments.

On WO queries and whining

To those who question why I post on WO and Slater inaccuracies (made up claims or deliberate lies), hypocrisy, double standards, dirty blogging, dirty politics etc – see ‘Whale Oil for Winston’ versus Seymour and ACT:

Some of those pushing the ‘poor Cam’, “obsession” etc lines do so anonymously but have a close connection to WO so are trying to discredit the posts. Their attempts make it more likely I will continue to expose WO, not less. They are stupid enough not to have figured that out yet.

Some of those regular readers who genuinely question why I do it:
– I post here for a variety of reasons, a major one being to encourage discussion and cater for regulars here. Another is for a much wider regular readership than those who actively comment. And I also post for other purposes beyond the regular running of Your NZ.
– Posts exposing WO and holding them to account usually attract quite a few comments, aided by the sock puppets.
– Posts exposing WO and holding them to account consistently attract amongst the highest number of clicks/page views, showing there is an interest in them.

Like any post, if you don’t like them you can choose to ignore them. You are also free to criticise me or question what is posted – and you are encouraged to provide facts that might support what is claimed on WO, something I note that no one has done on this thread despite the general moaning.

On of my aims online has always been to hold political blogs to account. I also encourage cross blog commenting, something other blogs tend to discourage. So it is likely I will keep posting about WO, TS, TDB, KB as they are the biggest NZ political blogs.

Finally, a message to friends of WO – if you don’t want to be criticised then don’t post crap. If you want to keep bullshitting and attacking parties and MPs and people then expect to be critiqued. You like dishing crap out but whine when exposed in a mild way using facts – toughen up.

‘Whale Oil for Winston’ versus Seymour and ACT

David Seymour has been targeted by Whale Oil over his criticism of Winston Peters.

Last week:  Winston Peters criticised for telling Islamic communities to ‘clean house’

Winston Peters has told Parliament New Zealand’s Islamic communities “must clean house” and it “should start with their own families”.

Mr Peters was criticised by the next speaker, ACT leader David Seymour.

“There will have to be a more serious and wider debate about when and whether such an event can happen here,” he said.

“And it will have to be a debate without naked political opportunism, as we have heard from New Zealand First.”

Whale Oil has picked up on this. They have been campaigning against every party except NZ First, and frequently have anti-Muslim posts, some of them tending towards the extreme.

Cameron Slater has griped about National since he was cold shouldered after Dirty Politics, and he seems to have held a grudge Bill English for a long time.  Yesterday in  This election the choices are stark:

I can’t and won’t support a party led by Bill English. Not after the UNSC 2334 debacle, not after intransigence on immigration, and not for personal reasons.

One of Slater’s biggest difficulties as a political activist is he gets too personal, with long standing grudges and many burnt bridges resulting in ongoing flaming. He frequently attacks all parties – except NZ First.

For some reason Whale Oil has become very pro-Winston Peters – quite a turnaround from the past. And Peters’ anti-Muslim stance fits with the Whale Oil campaign – they often have several anti-Muslim posts a day, under the names of ‘Cameron Slater’ and ‘SB’ (Slater’s wife).

After Seymour’s criticism of Peters  Slater has switched his  attacks to Seymour and ACT.

On Saturday:  According to David Seymour it is Winston Peters who causes radicalisation and terrorism

Another email to David Seymour from a reader:

To: David Seymour
From: [Redacted]

An anonymous email which just happens to sound as contrived as many Whale Oil posts.

Dear Mr Seymour,

My party vote for 2017 was up for grabs after being a National voter since 1975. However, you blew it by castigating Winston Peters over his speech warning us that radical Islam is on our doorstep.

When you are a bit older, you might gain some sense about what the world is all about. Sadly, it appears that you are merely a product of mushy university-think and your actions re Winston Peters reveal that you are completely out of touch with the real problems of the real world.

You came tantalizingly close to getting a new voter but you have now revealed that your right-centre stance is fake.

That’s funny. Whale Oil has previously ran a number of posts purportedly from voters deserting National because of a handful of issues that happen to coincide with the Whale Oil campaign focus that is largely pro-Israel and anti-Muslim.

Dirty Politics alleged that Whale Oil was paid to promote certain lines. And there is some evidence of this in the past.

Stuff in 2014:  Blogging, money and blurred lines

The man at the centre of the Dirty Politics firestorm sits on a leafy street in Tel Aviv, Israel, just a block from the shores of the Mediterranean, sipping a blended mint lemonade.

Cameron “Whale Oil” Slater is bleary-eyed, having spent 24 hours on a plane, and now finds himself in a war zone during a ceasefire. It’s Friday in Israel; Saturday back home.

He’s one of a group of international journalists invited to visit by the Israeli government, which has been earning bruising international condemnation over the civilian death toll in the Gaza conflict.

The Israeli embassy approached him about the trip, he says, and covered some costs, but he is paying for a significant portion of his travels. He has posted anti-Hamas and pro-Israel stories on his blog in the past.

The arrangement may sound vaguely familiar to anyone who has read certain chapters of Nicky Hager’s controversial new book Dirty Politics, which is based on thousands of emails stolen from Slater’s computer.

Besides his central claims that National used Slater’s Whale Oil blog as an conduit for “dirty” attacks on its political enemies, Hager also says Slater took cash in exchange for running stories for a range of commercial clients.

That trip, paid at least in part for by the Israeli government, awkwardly coincided with the Dirty Politics implicating Slater as a mercenary blogger.

Seymour responded to the anonymous Whale Oil ‘reader’:

To: [REDACTED]
From: David Seymour

Date: 7 June 2017

There are 46,000 Muslims in NZ, 1 per cent of the population. The best way to make sure the few radicals amongst them do some thing stupid is to have an idiot like Winston persecuting the whole community for political gain.

Your vote, however, is your own,

David

‘Cameron Slater’ reacted to this:

A few?

David Seymour needs to understand some basic math. If just 1% of Muslims are radicalised then there are around 500 of them running around NZ spreading hate and plotting. That is a low percentage, a more realistic number would be 10%, that means there are 5000 of them…and it is thought that the actual percentage is much higher if you believe Pew Research…and I do.

It’s not so much basic maths that are absent, it is basic facts. There are none.

Slater needs to understand what Seymour actually said.

Seymour:  “There are 46,000 Muslims in NZ, 1 per cent of the population”.

Slater: “If just 1% of Muslims are radicalised then there are around 500 of them running around NZ spreading hate and plotting.”

That’s an assertion unrelated to what Seymour said, and not backed by any facts.

Slater continued:

That is a low percentage, a more realistic number would be 10%, that means there are 5000 of them…and it is thought that the actual percentage is much higher if you believe Pew Research…and I do.

A more realistic thing for a journalist to do would be to base their assertions on facts, but Slater is obviously not wearing is journalist hat here.

He mentions ‘Pew Research’ as some authority for his escalating 1%, 10%, “much higher” assertions but lacks basic facts.

A Pew Research from last month:  Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the world

There is no reference to ‘radical’ or radicalized’ anywhere in the report (there are some in comments).

There is no mention of New Zealand (nor Australia except a couple of times in comments).

Slater also showed an appalling grasp of maths and facts in this post:  Muslims will outnumber Christians in New Zealand in 60 years – Pew Research that quotes RNZ:

There will be more Muslims than Christians in the world in fewer than 60 years, new research shows – and New Zealand is one of eight countries that will lose their Christian majority in that time.

The number of countries with a Christian majority is expected to decline from 159 to 151 by 2050, with the proportion of Christians in New Zealand slumping from 57 percent of the population at present to 44.7 percent.

At that point, according to the study’s projections, the largest religious category in New Zealand will be “unaffiliated” at 45.1 percent.

He takes two projections…

  1. There will be more Muslims than Christians in the world in 60 years
  2. The proportion of Christians in New Zealand slumping from 57% of the population at present to 44.7% by 2050

…and claims from that that there will be more Muslims than Christians here.

But he ignores or fails to notice “the largest religious category in New Zealand will be ‘unaffiliated’ at 45.1”.

So Pew estimates there will be about 90% Christians plus ‘unaffiliated’. Muslims and all other religious affiliations are estimated be only 10%, so Muslims alone will be nowhere near a majority.

Currently there are more Hindus (2.11%) and Buddhists (1.5%) in New Zealand than Muslims (1.18%), with ‘other religions’ and ‘Spiritualism and New Age religions also totalling 1.35%.

The Slater and Whale Oil attacks on Muslims, and on Seymour and Act, are based on bull – whether it is deliberately wrong or based on ignorance doesn’t matter.

I think it is fair to be very sceptical of the comments on the all the activist campaign posts at Whale Oil too. I think it’s well known that Whale Oil ‘moderates’ out comments and commenters that don’t fit with their messages.

And I think there’s a good reason to be very suspicious of who some of the commenters actually are. I know that some of those associated with Whale Oil have a habit of using multiple IDs.

It’s easy to guess why Whale Oil is campaigning against ACT/Seymour and it is obvious why they are campaigning against National and Bill English.

Why they have become a NZ First promotion blog is less obvious, but the open support for them and their strong bias against other parties and MPs is farcical for a site sometimes claiming to be ‘media’ and ‘journalism’.

And hugely hypocritical yet again given their attacks on other media as being ‘the media party’.

I’m not sure that al this will help NZ First. ‘Whale Oil for Winston’ is more likely to be a toxic association than a vote winner.

WO: political threats against Auckland councillor

This looks like political threats at Whale Oil against Auckland City councillor Denise Lee, under the name of ‘Cameron Slater’ in Will Denise Lee suffer at List Ranking?

National candidate for Maungakiekie Denise Lee surprised everyone in National when she voted for Phil Goff’s pillow tax.

Whale Oil may still speak for some in National with particular interests but nowhere near “everyone in National”.

This was despite a lot of lobbying from National Party Board Member Alastair Bell, who was trying to ensure National candidates actually followed party policy, and listened to him.

Obviously Denise failed to do either, so there are a lot of angry people in National who can’t believe National have a candidate who basically rolls over whenever anyone puts some pressure on her.

A very ironic claim about ‘anyone’ putting pressure on Lee.

This may be just posturing from WO, but if it is accurate I think it is alarming.

Lee is an Auckland City councillor, representing and acting for the people of Auckland.

She is also a National candidate, standing for an electorate and presumably also after a party list position.

There are a number of local body politicians standing in this year’s general election. They will need to campaign for their parties, but while they are still local body politicians they need to separately do their jobs there independently of their future aspirations.

It is alarming to see what looks to me like political blackmail – Lee voted differently to what Whale Oil/Slater/whoever wanted so they are attacking her and apparently threatening her chances on the National Party list selection.

I doubt that Slater actually has much if any input into the National Party list, especially given how much he criticises and attacks the party, the Prime Minister and other ministers and MPs.

The tipline has been running hot that Alastair Bell is furious because he has been made to look like a right fool by Denise, and his clients are very, very unhappy with him.

Without corroboration or specifics “tipline has been running hot” is WO hot air. My tipline is running hot that Slater is an arse.

Who are Alistair Bell’s clients and what do they have to do with this?

So now there is talk of a plan to give Denise a very low list position so she learns quickly that you cannot defy National Party policy and expect to get away with it, even if you are from the wet or Nikki Kaye wing of the National Party.

So now there is talk of a plan by shadowy political operatives using Whale Oil to publish barely veiled threats against a city councillor and national election candidate.

And they can’t resist dissing a successful National MP and minister in the process.

Let’s see how she copes when the rumoured third party campaign, funded by angry moteliers, gets underway against her.

This looks more like the ‘dirty politics’ part of Whale Oil in action, it certainly doesn’t look like journalism.

No supported facts, just ‘rumours’. Rumour mongering and Whale Oil are not strangers. Neither are dirty politics and Slater.

This Whale Oil post has tried to present itself as representing the views of “everyone in National” and “a lot of angry people in National”.

What it shows is that Whale Oil is still being used to target and threaten sitting local body politicians and general election candidates.

And it smells dirty. Not just against Denise Lee. This may also be deliberately trying to muddy National’s election campaign. WhaleOil/Slater has been showing signs of campaigning against National for some time, and dirtiness seems to be starting to kick in.

Whaleoil Party?

A Whaleoil Party was prompted by someone suggesting Cameron Slater in response to the Stuff poll question “If you could choose any living person in the world to be prime minister of New Zealand who would it be?”

KGB said “I was thinking there should be a WO Party 2017”.

Pete Belt posted The Whaleoil Party.

I seriously contemplated it about a year ago and even pitched it to Cam.

It could have been good for Whale Oil statistics, and would have generated a bit of political discussion (always a good thing) but not much else.

The three main reasons it didn’t happen are

1) We have respect for the election process.

Yeah, right.

Like trying to overturn the election of  Len Brown as mayor of Auckland in 2013?

Like running a concerted campaign against Colin Craig, Kim Dotcom and to a lesser extent others.

Like Dirty Politics.

To create a party simply for disruption, publicity and self interest wasn’t respecting voters. If we’re going to do it, then we need to be serious enough to give it a real go.

Who would even consider “a party simply for disruption, publicity and self interest”? Belt seems to have.

2) We knew we’d be severely hamstrung with three defamation suits being worked through. We wouldn’t be able to do the idea justice, no matter if it was done tongue in cheek or seriously.

Again Belt suggests a non-serious party, but he’s right in that with their legal battles efforts to get a new party started and contesting an election would severely hamstrung.

3) Whaleoil believes it has more influence in our current role than we would have with a parliamentary presence.

And interesting comment.  Whale is Whale Oil’s current role? At times they claim to be journalists doing media stuff, but this suggests more of an agenda or vested interest in particular outcomes.

Their actual current influence is actually quite small.

After the last election they may have ended any hope of the Conservative Party getting into Parliament, but Craig would have struggled to succeed anyway.

Their influence on National and the Government now appears to be minimal.

Whale Oil seems to be trying to promote Winston Peters and NZ First, but NZ First had been polling well long before Slater did his weird switch of political allegiance, and Peters has been promoted as ‘kingmaker’ for many elections, coming up just short in the last two without WO help (actually despite WO opposition).

I was still keen to run a pretend party. That is, we’d go through the motions. We do the policies, the web site, the public appearances, but we would NOT register as a party. But. Due to 2) above, I knew we couldn’t do it justice the way I would have liked to have seen it done.

Again he suggests it may have been something along the lines of “a party simply for disruption, publicity and self interest”.

The chances of succeeding with a new party are very small, as even those with more money than sense like Craig and Kim Dotcom have found out.

There is a restlessness.

There may be a restlessness on the fringes, as expressed on Whale Oil, The Standard and The Daily Blog, but the vast majority of voters are closer to being mostly disinterested.

At this stage we are trying to give it a voice. But it does not have a home.

Whale Oil seems to be trying to promote political restlessness, and they have some supporters who have a home where they can discuss it without much real challenge due to their comment filtering (moderation/censorship).

So their niche of restlessness has a voice. It’s just a small voice in a large political wilderness.

There only real chance of significant political influence is to find another scandal and promote the hell out of it, and hope that the mainstream media that they have always relied on picks it up and makes something of it.

The way things currently look at Whale Oil the most likely attempt to influence the upcoming election might be a scandal promoted jointly by Winston Peters and Whale Oil.

At least Peters still gets all media attention he seems to want.

But what about the future?

If Slater and Whale Oil score a $16 million award from the current defamation trial, or even a significant fraction of that, it could finance a future party but even if there is no appeal (that would be unusual with Craig involved) it is too late for this year.

What if NZ First get to call the coalition shots and get into a position of real power in the next government?

Slater as media and communications manager? Shades of Steve Barron?

I doubt it. I suspect that Slater’s promotion of NZ First is nothing more than the only way he can see to try to cause disruption, more likely as pay back for being left on the political outer rather than with any positive aim.

A Whaleoil Party could use it’s blog support base to sign up 500 members, but from there it would be difficult. They are busy enough raising revenue and donations to keep the blog afloat, trying to finance a party and campaigns would be a stretch unless they found one generous benefactor.

The media would likely write off as a stunt and virtually ignore a Whale Oil party, so it’s reach would be limited to their own publicity – preaching to the converted.

 

Whale Oil and NZ First

It’s been obvious for some time that Cameron Slater and therefore Whale Oil had gone off National – politics hath no fury like a Slater scorned.

After Dirty Politics was published in the lead up to the 2014 John Key and most National MPs distanced themselves a politically toxic associate. Slater was noticeably peeved about his contacts and his sources of insider stories drying up. Regular anti-National posts became the norm on Whale Oil.

Slater has long held an obvious grudge against Bill English so when John Key stepped down and English took over, and in doing so easily beating Slater favourite Judith Collins, National was cemented on Slater’s hit list.

Since then, as a number of people here have noted, Slater has often been promoting Winston Peters and NZ First. This seemed surprising given Slater’s past treatment of Peters and his party. It has been speculated that there may be some connection with this to Slater’s lawyer in his defamation case with Colin Craig being Brian Henry, who has been associated with Peters in the past.

There could be a more politically pragmatic reason why Slater is promoting NZ First.

If NZ First are in a position to determine the outcome of this year’s election and enter a coalition with Labour  then there’s a good chance either English would resign as leader or National will dump English – I think English would be more likely to jump first. This would open another opportunity for Collins.

Alternately if NZ First form a coalition with National that would be likely to be National’s last term in government. That would mean Collins would need to be more patient, or it could give another Slater client a chance to establish themselves in the leadership stakes.

Or it could be simpler than this – Slater has been abandoned by National, David Seymour and ACT have no time for him, and he may see NZ First as the best way to do some political damage out of spite. It’s difficult to know when he is operating out of political interest and when he is simply dumping on those who have annoyed him, pay back seems to be a common motivation.

The reasons for Slater are turning on National and English are well known. Whatever the reasons for him trying to promote Peters and NZ First he is fighting a battle with Whale Oil supporters  who still tend to lean far more National than NZ First.

PDB posted on this yesterday:

Had a look at Whaleoil and he continues to push his anti-National party agenda with a recent post that tries to lay a case for NZL First being a better bet than ACT. I note the large majority of comments disputed that. A comment from ‘KGB’ sums it up well;

KGB • 7 hours ago
In my opinion no.
A stronger NZF will not take National to the right ‘IF’ they went with National. They would certainly move Labour towards the left of centre more.
NZF policies are mostly a left-wing list.
NZF have weaker Law & Order policy than ACT.
NZF immigration policy is more ridiculous than Labours numbers.
NZF will close Charter Schools.
NZF does not really care about Israel. (1 or 2 questions in the house were about ‘catching’ them out proceedurly, NOT morally). NOT even an ever popular…bottom-line.
NZF has an aweful list. Always has.
Winston is too lazy, and too old to be in Government now, let alone for 3 more years.
Winston has achieved nothing for anyone but himself since losing Tauranga.
Most NZ’ers have never owned a gun, and hate the things.
And lastly, ask Northland how its working out for them?

That got 9 up ticks. Slater responded:

Be that as it may…they have more MPs than Act. The reality is Act is and will remain a spent force. It is a waste of time voting for Act. There simply isn’t enough of them to get a slipping National party across the line on current numbers. One MP won’t do it.

Gun owners number around 230,000 voters. That is nearly ten percent under MMP. Ignore us if you want, but piss us off and we vote for parties who will protect our rights…right now that is NZ First.

I think you are wanting NZ First to be a major party in its breadth of policy offerings. The fact they have policies is a good start. Where are National’s? Go look…i think you be will disillusioned quite quickly.https://www.national.org.nz…

Basically it is a numbers game and Act simply doesn’t have the numbers. It is a shame, I’m a natural Act voter, but there is no way I can bring myself to waste a vote by voting for them.

Just 1 up tick for that. A ‘niggly’ response also got 1 up for:

Plus NZF is still anti NZ-China FTA (despite that helping NZ’s economic growth during and after the GFC), is anti-TPPA and anti free-trade in general. I wonder if NZF’s solution to economic growth is borrowing the Green’s money printing press?

They talk big on being pro-defence, but constantly attack spending up on non-offensive necessities like new strategic lift transport aircraft and medium,ift tactical helicopters (and if we hark back to 1998 it was Winston First that pulled the plug on the National cabinet wanting to go ahead with the 3rd ANZAC Frigate purchase … to the anger of the Aussies as they bent over backwards ensuring NZ got hundreds of millions of dollars in offsets that provided jobs for many NZ businesses supplying the Frigate project. Then we wonder why the Howard Govt a few years later made things tough for Kiwi’s living in Oz)!

In a post today Pete Belt claims:

Whaleoil believes it has more influence in our current role than we would have with a parliamentary presence.

Whale Oil continues to provide a popular forum, but their political influence seems minimal. About the only thing Whale Oil has in common with Peters is being anti-establishment – sort of. Neither can claim to be a fresh change in politics.

Whatever Slater’s reasons are for campaigning for Peters and NZ First if he can’t win over his own Whale Oil faithful he’s unlikely to influence the outcome of this year’s election much.