The Dim-Post

August 20, 2014

Let’s not overestimate these idiots

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 9:05 am

One of the most prevalent responses to Dirty Politics is that it just shows us ‘politics as normal’. (Here’s Trotter insisting that dirty politics is ‘the only kind there is’.) This is weird on a couple of levels. Firstly, in the week before Hager’s book was released everyone was running around insisting that the crowd of students chanting ‘Fuck John Key’ meant that this was the dirtiest, nastiest election ever. Now that we have a book documenting behavior that is so far beyond that, and linking it to the Justice Minister and the Prime Minister’s office, people are running around scoffing that politics has ‘always’ been like this. 

Well, sure, people in politics have done nasty things before. Back in 2004 under Clark’s Labour government Leanne Dalziel  was caught leaking private information to the media and then lying about it. People were disgusted by what Dalziel did, and she resigned. We didn’t have all these very sophisticated world-weary cynics running around insisting that it was no big deal because politics is always dirty so nothing bad should happen to her. It is like saying ‘Well, duh, we all know crime happens so let’s not have a justice system.’ 

Also, I know a few people in politics on both the left and the right, and while some of them might be cunning and ruthless (Hi Honey) they’re not sociopaths. If you go around insisting that political operatives who ruin people’s lives because that’s what gives them pleasure is ‘politics as normal’ then you’re enabling these unusually horrible people to turn our political system into something very ugly. Don’t do that. 

Lastly, there’s a quote from Hager’s book that lots of people have picked up on by Simon Lusk about how negative campaigning and dirty politics favors the right. From the afterword: 

There are a few basic propositions with negative campaigning that are worth knowing about. It lowers turnout, favours right more than left as the right continues to turn out, and drives away the independents.’ In short, many people stop participating in politics. If politicians cannot be trusted, if politics looks like a petty or ugly game, and if no one seems to be talking about the things that matter, then what’s the point of bothering to participate? Just leave them to it. There are innovations in US Republican Party thinking on this point; election tactics do not have to be just about winning votes; they can be equally effective if groups of people in society just stop voting altogether.

Maybe that was the conventional wisdom in political science when Lusk wrote that, which I believe was in 2006 or 2007. But it’s not true. The Obama campaign ran a ‘two tier’ campaign against Mitt Romney in 2012. Their media advertising was almost 100% negative, and their direct targeting and ground campaign were positive. They won by suppressing right-wing voter turnout and maximising turnout among their own supporters. So let’s not assume that Lusk, Slater et al have any idea what they’re talking about when it comes to political strategy, or that the revelations about them can only have negative consequences for the left. 

41 Comments »

  1. I’ve heard the “everybody does it” line a few times. When I point out that they are simply parroting National Party attack phrases, they usually figure out they’ve been sucked in.

    Anyway, the longer Key and his enablers insist that Collin’s conduct is acceptable, the more likely it will be that a Greens/Labour support will increase by enough to result in a change of government on September 20th. Metiria said on Morning Report that the Greens would establish a Royal Commission into this whole nasty affairs. I hope we get one, if only to find out the exact nature of the mutually assured destruction pact between Key and Collins. There has to be something behind his continued support.

    Comment by mikaerecurtis — August 20, 2014 @ 9:29 am

  2. So let’s not assume that Lusk, Slater et al have any idea what they’re talking about when it comes to political strategy

    Yeah, I got the book yesterday and am most of the way through it, and the biggest sense that I get is that despite all their bluster and high fives Slater, Lusk et al are just hideously petty and ineffective.

    They are utter, toxic shits. But they’re also (generally) not very good at what they do.

    Comment by RJL — August 20, 2014 @ 9:45 am

  3. I notice that the Herald have replaced Bryce Edwards with Cathy Odgers, the woman who tried to have Nicky Hager assaulted or killed.

    Comment by George — August 20, 2014 @ 10:06 am

  4. Maybe that was the conventional wisdom in political science when Lusk wrote that, which I believe was in 2006 or 2007. But it’s not true.

    I think the US example is a little more complicated than that. There were a whole host of real world external factors that led to a Republican defeat, notably the crack-pot lunacy that had infected their movement in the form of the Tea Party which scared the shit out of moderate conservatives – many of whom didn’t vote because they couldn’t stomach the hijacking of the GOP – and galvanised liberals.

    Lusk’s assessment was probably correct in 06-07 if you were to make a dispassionate assessment of the success of Rove’s tactics, but it doesn’t account for the significant cultural differences and electoral practices between here and the US that create such fertile ground for deep social conservatism (religion being central to political debate, politically and judicially enabled practices of disenfranchisement, the chronic gerrymandering premised on class and race etc.)

    Comment by Gregor W — August 20, 2014 @ 10:11 am

  5. #1, yes, without wanting to get too conspiracy theorist… you have to wonder what Collins and/or Slater have on Key. Why isn’t Key repudiating Slater as hard and fast as he can? Given the strong relationship which clearly exists between Collins and Slater, presumably there’s a concern that if she was dumped Slater will start splattering shit back at the party.

    And it’s hilarious that Key is downplaying the Pleasants thing as something Collins did 5 years ago, given the accusations about Cunliffe’s Donghua Liu letter 8 years ago.

    Comment by Dr Foster — August 20, 2014 @ 10:12 am

  6. Dr foster “you have to wonder what Collins and/or Slater have on Key.”

    i think the key bit is that collins is better friends with WO than key is – and he knows full well how they do payback.

    thats the thing – key is involved in the dirty tricks machine, and throwing judith under a bus will mean open season on him and anyone else who tries to distance them selves

    Comment by framu — August 20, 2014 @ 10:51 am

  7. The only time I can think a senior minister has been sacked in the last 25 years was Ruth Richardson. It was after the election and not for any impropriety or string of misdeeds

    Comment by ghostwhowalksnz — August 20, 2014 @ 11:42 am

  8. “…People were disgusted by what Dalziel did, and we didn’t have all these very sophisticated world-weary cynics running around…”

    In a provincial society like New Zealand cynicism is all to often mistaken for sophistication. The deeper the cynic, the smarter they appear to some people – and by “some people” I mean most of our media talking heads. To the cynics, Leanne Dalziel’s crime was not leaking, but getting caught. In addition, our provincialism feeds an anti-intellectualism that in terms of political theory and process translates into a dismissal of wishy-washy theories of convention and precedent and replacing it with a huge amount of reactive expediency dressed up as strategy, washed down by copious draughts of amnesia.

    “…in the week before Hager’s book was released everyone was running around insisting that the crowd of students chanting ‘Fuck John Key’ meant that this was the dirtiest, nastiest election ever…”

    Now, I don’t know if you caught Campbell Live last night, but he noted the remarkable statistics of ministerial no-shows on his program. Bill English has not appeared for three years. National ministers effectively never show on RNZ, about the only serious news outlet left. It is all a relentlessly cultivated worship of John Key in soft media appearances. The result has been an deliberately created low information electorate tranquilised by infotainment and a cult of personality around John Key. I am pretty sure this deliberate strategy – a variant on Lusk’s tactics to suppress turnout. The “f**k John Key” ran direectly counter to that strategy, which is why so many ring wing commentators were hang wringing over it. A culture of de-legitimising your opponents with a high handed refusal to engage combined with a Manichean private sneering at their enemies runs deep in this government.

    Finally, negative politics is not what suppresses the vote. Negative politics is a symptom of a lack of choice, which is what leads to a lower turnout. Tribal politics and parties have always had a huge component of mutual enmity between the different parts of society they represent, it is just we tend to airbrush political enmity from the history books. Even in 1935, when the country elected a government subsequently beatified, Labour’s 45.73% vote share was only a shade over 4% more than the right wing parties, and anyone who reads the literature of the time is left in doubt as to the level of personal vitriol that went down. What does suppress turnout is having as our two main contenders two elite cadre parties that spent the last thirty years captured by the same narrow interest groups that only represent the winners in our society. If voting changes nothing, then, and only then, will people not bother.

    Comment by Sanctuary — August 20, 2014 @ 11:54 am

  9. “I notice that the Herald have replaced Bryce Edwards with Cathy Odgers, the woman who tried to have Nicky Hager assaulted or killed.”

    I was once asked by a friend what to do about a tense relationship with a third party – a boss? a family member? I forget. I dashed off a reply of “have you considered killing him and making love to his dead body?” It was a meme that popped up from time to time among our social circle.

    Would you consider that me “trying to have someone killed and his body sexually violated”?

    I’ve lost count of the times I’ve suggested that to solve a minor problem we “take off and nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure”

    Would you consider that me “trying to hijack a space program to use a weapon of mass destruction”?

    Sheesh.

    Comment by SHG — August 20, 2014 @ 1:28 pm

  10. @9 – No, but I would consider it to be the case if you published their home address on a well known website, after previously expressing a hope that a criminal organisation kills the subject, and providing a reason for why they may do so.

    Comment by alex — August 20, 2014 @ 1:32 pm

  11. Waiting for a new cuddly cover story (all shot in soft focus) about Judith Collins to turn up in the Woman’s Weekly

    Comment by Leopold — August 20, 2014 @ 2:15 pm

  12. Ruth Richardson wasn’t sacked she was just told that she wasn’t going to be finance minister again but could still be a senior minister in a portfolio of her choice. She rejected the proposition and departed, prompting a by-election.

    Comment by Tinakori — August 20, 2014 @ 2:19 pm

  13. I have heard and been part of left wing political conversation and encounters every bit as bizarre, deranged and self deluded as the efforts of Simon Lusk and Cameron Slater. There is a class of people for whom their political identity is a far, far too large a part of their personal identity. In the UK, the Workers Communist Party is a classic. In NZ there have been little grouplets of comparable bizarros but none, so far as I can see, on the right. Slater, Lusk and Odgers do tend to be lone rangers, partly because their political and personal philosophies mean there is not a lot of space in most rooms for other egos to co-exist. One wholly beneficial side effect of Dirty Politics is that Slater and Lusk won’t be spending a lot of time in the National Party in the coming years.

    Comment by Tinakori — August 20, 2014 @ 2:27 pm

  14. Oops, I forgot ACT in its middle years when their magazine under the influence of Lindsay Perigo was every bit as whacky as those sad folk passing out copies of their Peoples Voice, Socialist Monthly, Solidarity etc etc

    Comment by Tinakori — August 20, 2014 @ 2:30 pm

  15. Ruth Richardson wasn’t sacked she was just told that she wasn’t going to be finance minister again but could still be a senior minister in a portfolio of her choice.

    Which is another way of saying that she was reminded that Bill Birch actually called the shots. These days, Joyce is Bill Birch.

    Comment by Joe W — August 20, 2014 @ 2:32 pm

  16. One wholly beneficial side effect of Dirty Politics is that Slater and Lusk won’t be spending a lot of time in the National Party in the coming years.

    Another is that Collin’s Prime Ministerial aspirations must now be completely dead and buried.

    Comment by Gregor W — August 20, 2014 @ 2:48 pm

  17. One wholly beneficial side effect of Dirty Politics is that Slater and Lusk won’t be spending a lot of time in the National Party in the coming years.

    Because the National Party members and caucus have risen up in angry protest, and said they want nothing more to do with these people? Except, they haven’t. Not even a little bit.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — August 20, 2014 @ 3:01 pm

  18. @alex at 1:32 – oh come on, now you’re just getting hysterical. Read it:

    http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2013/06/i-wonder-if-nicky-will-spill-the-beans-on-his-own-trust/

    Does it read like a solicitation to murder? Please.

    Comment by SHG — August 20, 2014 @ 3:10 pm

  19. shg – i couldnt see the odgers quote alex is talking about in that whale oil post you linked to

    the odgers quote IS a pretty bad look and goes way beyond a mere “i wish someone would kick him on the goolies” throw away line

    Comment by framu — August 20, 2014 @ 3:23 pm

  20. framu – “i couldnt see the odgers quote alex is talking about in that whale oil post you linked to”

    No, and neither could anyone else. Piss-poor attempt to have someone killed, eh?

    Comment by SHG — August 20, 2014 @ 3:59 pm

  21. SHG – alex said “after previously expressing a hope that a criminal organisation kills the subject,”

    key word being “previously” – i think we need to look at more than just what appears on WO here – unless you want to claim the WO is some sort of clearing house for fully documented hit requests🙂 (in which case he sucks at that too)

    did odgers email that contains the quote get spread around or is hagers book the first time its seen the light of day is the question i guess

    Do i think that the WO post by itself is an attempt to get someone killed? – no

    Do i think that given cactus kate knows how WO plays things and that she also expressed a pretty dodgy nudge-nudge wink-wink scenario where she suggests hager should be careful cause of who she knows, then its not a very good look and one that we have every right to raise eyebrows at? – absolutely

    “you should be careful cause i know some totes dangerous people, oh look i just published your home address” is gang territory not lawyer territory (well,,. maybe not…)

    Comment by framu — August 20, 2014 @ 4:39 pm

  22. @SHG – Was publishing his address an honourable or reasonable thing to do, in light of conversations regarding the possibility that criminal organisations may want to kill him? Genuinely interested in your justification for Slater to have published his address.

    Comment by alex — August 20, 2014 @ 4:40 pm

  23. @alex: if you want “honourable and reasonable” then I humbly suggest that reading Whaleoil ain’t a great place to start.

    You described CK as a woman who tried to have Nicky Hager assaulted or killed. I’m simply saying that’s fucking retarded. My reason for saying that is there’s nothing anywhere that looks remotely like trying to have Nicky Hager assaulted or killed – that is, unless the bar is so ridiculously low that my posts mean I have tried to have the space program hijacked in order to wreak thermonuclear vengeance upon the world.

    Anyone who thinks CK tried to have Nicky Hager assaulted or killed really needs to step out into the big blue room once in a while.

    (and If Nicky Hager was precious about his address being known, he probably wouldn’t have it listed here:

    http://whitepages.co.nz/w/100288949/ )

    Comment by SHG — August 20, 2014 @ 5:10 pm

  24. Say no more, SHG: consider it done.

    What?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — August 20, 2014 @ 7:15 pm

  25. “Firstly, in the week before Hager’s book was released NATIONAL was running around insisting that the crowd of students chanting ‘Fuck John Key’ meant that this was the dirtiest, nastiest election ever.”
    Fixed?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — August 20, 2014 @ 7:20 pm

  26. Pity the Roy Morgan polls don’t agree
    Most people think all politicians are bastards
    Like used car dealers
    They just want jobs and mortgages not to go up
    A green labour government will see inflation rise

    Comment by Graham — August 20, 2014 @ 7:44 pm

  27. Ahh another vacuous Graham-haiku, you got anything to back up your claim buddy?

    I know a few used car dealers who actually aren’t bad guys… never met a dairy farmer who wasn’t a greedy ignorant prick though.

    Comment by Rob — August 20, 2014 @ 8:07 pm

  28. Graham, a poll taken from August 4 to17 won’t tell us anything about reaction to a book published on August 14.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — August 20, 2014 @ 8:19 pm

  29. Hahahaha, Tel over at the Standard observes of the new National Party ad:

    http://thestandard.org.nz/nationals-campaign-video-and-eminem/
    Tel (comment 12)
    20 August 2014 at 3:03 pm

    ROTFLMAO… so who are all those people flailing about in the WHALEBOAT?

    Comment by MeToo — August 20, 2014 @ 8:38 pm

  30. I’m disgusted at the tone of the conversations between Slater and Bhatnagger, mostly by the utter lack of any kind of personal code. I knew they were bad, but really.. that bad???? Whether they’re right or left just doesn’t matter as much as the fact that they’re just horrible people. I wouldn’t want them to be part of any organisation I was involved in, political commercial or anything. Just repugnant cynical creeps.

    Comment by Redbaiter — August 20, 2014 @ 10:55 pm

  31. Hi5 Redbaiter! hahaha

    Comment by Rob — August 20, 2014 @ 11:32 pm

  32. “Bhatnagger” – Please, pretty please, Cam, just a little nod and a wink!

    Comment by Joe W — August 20, 2014 @ 11:48 pm

  33. http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/10405472/Young-Nats-buying-and-burning-Dirty-Politics

    WTF? The entire National party appears to be political petri dish for the most vile of political infections. Slater isn’t an aberration, he is a hero to these sorts of people.

    Comment by Sanctuary — August 21, 2014 @ 8:09 am

  34. shg – having just re-read this exact bit last night, the scenario (according to the book) played out like this

    CK emailed slater et all saying that she had met certain people who were annoyed with hagers digging into tax havens, annoyed enough to do something extreme about it. She had told said concerned parties that she would be delighted to help with sourcing hagers contact details.
    Slater et all provided said details to her after reading the email that outlined this exchange

    so – nothing on whale oil blog – so your technically correct there – but it does sound awfully like arranged payback with physical harm as an undertone

    Comment by framu — August 21, 2014 @ 8:24 am

  35. The “ALL politics is dirty” meme is helped a lot by @whaledump being anonymous.

    Who does (s)he work for? What is her/his background politically? Is (s)he a member of any political party? Does (s)he have a personal vendetta against any of the targets? Is (s)he funded secretly by some organisation that would horrify the general public?

    Who would know? It can’t be verified.

    In a lot of people’s minds, secret dodgy deals between ministers /MPs & bloggers is dirty, but so is secret anonymous information hacking and release during an election campaign.

    /disclaimer – this is NOT a defence of Slater, Lusk etc.
    // also, NOT a claim that all dirty deeds are equal.

    Comment by rickrowling — August 21, 2014 @ 8:46 am

  36. All dirty deeds indeed aren’t equal. Whaledump is worse than anything Slater’s come up with so far, and is certainly a product of people on the left – absolutely, it helps the “all politics is dirty” meme.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — August 21, 2014 @ 8:56 am

  37. “…Whaledump is worse than anything Slater’s come up with so far, and is certainly a product of people on the left…”

    it is the product of an idividual of the left, and as we all know the actions of an individual do not justify collective punishment of the entire left.

    Slater, on the other hand, is the beneficiary of a web of dirty politics which goes to the very highest level of our right wing government and now certainly includes the use of state security organs to discredit the governments opponents.

    THAT is the difference.

    Comment by Sanctuary — August 21, 2014 @ 9:38 am

  38. @36 It’s (Whaledump) absolutely not “worse than anything Slater’s come up with so far”. Good grief, sordid details of behaviour on the right involving threats of gbh, reputational and relationship destruction, persecution of public servants, corruption of public institutions etc etc are being exposed in a series of calculated releases., At least the body politic will be purged of these excesses and the connivers and enablers begin to pay some price for their willing complicity. If you don’t like it, all the better, I say

    Comment by paritutu — August 21, 2014 @ 9:49 am

  39. 36. And where’s your evidence that Whaledump is ‘a product of people on the left’? At least allow for the possibility of morality’s being apolitical, and in the end amorality’s what the releases clearly reveal. .

    Comment by paritutu — August 21, 2014 @ 9:53 am

  40. “[whaledump] is the product of an idividual of the left”

    How can we know, though? Because of the anonymity, we don’t know. Whaledump *could* be the Labour Party Research Unit, a black ops business unit of Mega.com, a group of employees of the CTU, just a random woman with a point make, or anyone.

    That’s why it can easily appear that ALL politics is dirty. If you’re clean and want to get on your high horse about being clean, you’ve got to be *seen* to be clean, and hiding your identity fails that test.

    /disclaimer – I’m NOT accusing anyone in the above list of being whaledump, or even of existing.

    Comment by rickrowling — August 21, 2014 @ 10:04 am

  41. @36 It’s (Whaledump) absolutely not “worse than anything Slater’s come up with so far”.

    Really? The publisher has committed a serious crime, and the publication smears every innocent third party who’s gossiped about in the messages involved. That’s a lot of people shat on by these Whaledump crims.

    And where’s your evidence that Whaledump is ‘a product of people on the left’?

    Sure, maybe it’s just some completely disinterested criminal who likes fucking people up for no gain. Or maybe it was the illuminati, the possibilities are endless really.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — August 21, 2014 @ 10:49 am


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