The Dim-Post

April 24, 2015

The story behind the story

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 9:23 pm

The other interesting (to me) thing about ponytailgate, or whatever we’re supposed to call it, is how the story broke. Normally when someone has a scandal like this (I know – there is no other scandal like this) they take it to someone in the mainstream media. But if Amanda Bailey did that, then whatever journalist she gave her story to would, routinely, call the Prime Minister and ask for comment – at which point the National Party communications machine would roar to life and devote all of its energy and power into shutting the story down, or litigating it down to nothing. They may have succeeded. They’re very good at that stuff.

If you take it to a blogger then that check for a balancing comment doesn’t happen. Bloggers don’t play by the rules. But what they do – and I’m thinking of Cameron Slater here, as well as his homologues overseas – is insert themselves into the story. They write it up, in imitation of a mainstream media story and then accompany it with commentary and interviews on the MSM outlets they affect to despise, and attempt to frame the story and promote themselves. In Slater’s case that tends to dilute the story since the attack is so clearly partisan and motivated by malice.

Bomber didn’t do that. Instead he simply published the waitress’s own account as a primary, information-rich source that the mainstream media could base their stories off. Reporters called the PM, but the scandal had already broken and the media were all matching each other’s stories. It couldn’t be shut down. And Bomber kept himself out of it all. That approach – publish a primary source and make it available to all media simultaneously – turned out to be a really awesome way to get the story out there.

61 Comments »

  1. I’ve been a pretty big critic of Bomber in the past, not least because it seemed he couldn’t conceive of a successful left wing movement that he wasn’t at the heart of. But Danyl is right, he’s really played this very well. Does this point to a new humility and credibility on his part? It’d sure be nice, but even if it doesn’t, he deserves congratulations for it.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — April 24, 2015 @ 9:27 pm

  2. I think what helped in this instance was that the writing was rather good; pithy, well measured and impassioned without being strident. As such, it needed no editing, so it didn’t end up being a Bomber piece.

    It was also instantly credible as a result, which is why the spin-machine has been flailing about without I think, gathering much traction.

    The post Glucina piece was equally as good.

    Comment by Gregor W — April 24, 2015 @ 9:43 pm

  3. So dirty politics is ok now?
    It’s so hard keeping up

    Comment by Graham — April 24, 2015 @ 9:46 pm

  4. Wasn’t Bomber, end of.

    Comment by Moira — April 24, 2015 @ 9:47 pm

  5. What astonished me is how quickly the Herald- and Glucina- turned themselves into the real villians. They appear to have brought malice, deceit, and obviously political motivation into a story about odd, stupid (and upsetting) behaviour. Key’s hair-pulling was bizarrre; the Herald’s bad faith made me angry.

    Comment by Rob Stowell (@rob_stowell) — April 24, 2015 @ 9:48 pm

  6. “how quickly the Herald – and Glucina- turned themselves into the real villians”

    Distraction is a habit.

    Comment by Sacha — April 24, 2015 @ 10:04 pm

  7. Graham – It’s hard to keep up because you can’t grasp simple concepts like false equivalence.
    Never mind. Keep trying though.

    Comment by Gregor W — April 24, 2015 @ 10:07 pm

  8. “So dirty politics is ok now?”

    Huh? Involving a blog doesn’t make something dirty politics. If this were Slater, he’d be publicly salivating for weeks beforehand about how he had the goods to destroy someone who deserved it, then drip-feed it, complete with immature slurs, to attract maximum attention to himself and maximum damage to his target.

    Comment by izogi — April 24, 2015 @ 10:39 pm

  9. What I equally found interesting is the measured post DPF put out relatively quickly after the Daily Blog. Way before the MSM got anything published on this.

    It was in fact so measured in tone that it was clear that DPF thought it was credible. I suspect he already knew it was true and this was the first sight of that machinery in action that day.

    The title was “Inappropriate if accurate” and not “Inappropriate if true”. A small difference, but clearly he thought it was true and was hoping there may be some inaccuracies.

    Comment by eszett — April 24, 2015 @ 10:51 pm

  10. “…What astonished me is how quickly the Herald- and Glucina- turned themselves into the real villians. They appear to have brought malice, deceit, and obviously political motivation into a story about odd, stupid (and upsetting) behaviour. Key’s hair-pulling was bizarrre; the Herald’s bad faith made me angry…”

    This x100%

    Comment by Sanctuary — April 24, 2015 @ 11:09 pm

  11. Although to be fair to the Herald, I suspect the Glucina story was cooked up between her and her brother – because the Auckland National Party really is that malicious, entitled and stupid (think Brewer, Quax, Slater, Wewege, Palino and Collins). The Herald was left to cobble together some sort of statement once the second piece was published.

    Comment by Sanctuary — April 24, 2015 @ 11:12 pm

  12. This is starting to look like a shared post-coital cigarette.

    Comment by Lee Clark — April 24, 2015 @ 11:15 pm

  13. Indeed. I was impressed and very surprised at the way that bomber handled the story. It isn’t something that I have come to expect from him.

    By not intruding and providing his usual kind of editorial content he provided the space for the MSM and others to verify it themselves. He didn’t distract from Amanda Bailey’s words, didn’t hype up unrealizable expectations, and didn’t provide easy ammunition for critics to denigrate what she said. The rather creepy and weird recitation of events was more than sufficient on its own.

    People have still been going back to the linked source. The daily blog had more than 210 thousand page views over the last 3 days. 121 thousand page views yesterday and 97 thousand of those silly “unique visits”. The page views to ‘visits’ ratio getting so close to 1 indicates that it was mainly from people coming in to read the source. I suspect a large part of that was from overseas as a result of the interest.

    Bearing in mind that last week his average pageviews per day was 9701, I think that he should be pleased.

    Comment by lprent — April 24, 2015 @ 11:23 pm

  14. TDB has struggled for influence because it has largely preached to the choir. But #ponytailgate seems to be taking on a life of its own.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — April 25, 2015 @ 1:58 am

  15. But you do understand why an actual journalist would call the Prime Minister and ask for him to comment before publishing, right?

    Comment by Gareth — April 25, 2015 @ 7:49 am

  16. From the Guardian:”An employee of New Zealand Media and Entertainment, the company that operates the Herald, told Guardian Australia that Currie was “aware of issues, but signed off on [the] story”, speaking to Grant and Brown but not to Bailey.”
    Wot! Not talk to the central character? Mr Currie. You are a naughty boy – or worse.
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/24/nz-herald-editor-defends-reporting-of-prime-minister-john-keys-ponytail-pull

    Comment by xianmac — April 25, 2015 @ 10:07 am

  17. Yes, and it’s a good thing Bradbury didn’t, for the reasons outlined in the post. Bloggers aren’t journalists, they form a valuable but completely different social function.

    Comment by doloras — April 25, 2015 @ 10:26 am

  18. Who needs the old media when there’s Tripadvisor? This cafe review made me giggle …

    http://www.tripadvisor.co.nz/ShowUserReviews-g255106-d6591288-r267434495-Rosie-Auckland_North_Island.html

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — April 25, 2015 @ 10:28 am

  19. “But you do understand why an actual journalist would call the Prime Minister and ask for him to comment before publishing, right?”

    I understand why a real journalist would have been obliged to call the Prime Minister’s office beforehand, which is reasonable enough given the job they do. But considering what we’ve learned of how that office tends to act when it gets a pre-emptive tipoff of bad political news (let the dogs out to muddy the waters and have independent commentators assasinate the characters, also completely independently of responsible media, before anyone has a chance to hear it), I also understand the logic which someone in her position might have had in not going to a regular journalist with the story.

    Comment by izogi — April 25, 2015 @ 10:29 am

  20. In Slater’s case that tends to dilute the story since the attack is so clearly partisan and motivated by malice.

    Obviously Slater is partisan and everyone who follows politics knows this, but how many people follow politics? When the Len Brown scandal broke a lot of people weren’t aware of Whale Oil and all of a sudden there is a blogger with the biggest story of the moment.

    And then the retaliation started, everyone in the MSM piled on Whaleoil as he became enemy #1 of the left. It never stopped all the way through to Dirty Politics.

    Bomber didn’t do that. Instead he simply published the waitress’s own account as a primary, information-rich source that the mainstream media could base their stories off. Reporters called the PM, but the scandal had already broken and the media were all matching each other’s stories. It couldn’t be shut down.

    Did it need to be shut down? A politician making a mistake and apologising is survivable.

    By making it only about the story Bomber failed to provoke any large scale retaliation.

    Comment by unaha-closp — April 25, 2015 @ 10:30 am

  21. Heh. Who needs the old media when there’s Tomonews? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJCqnInb1MM

    Comment by izogi — April 25, 2015 @ 10:33 am

  22. “And then the retaliation started, everyone in the MSM piled on Whaleoil ”

    Which whaleoil is this ?

    Until his major role in Dirty Politics was revealed, he was watching the rugby from the Heralds private box. Lots of puff pieces about his background too.

    Not much background on the secret meeting between Slaters fathers pop up candidate Palino and Chaung.

    Comment by dukeofurl — April 25, 2015 @ 10:41 am

  23. Political journalist phones Beehive press secretary:

    “So, two things. First, can I get a comment on this story? And second, has your boss had a chance to look at my job application yet? It would be fun to work with my old mates from the newsroom again. it’s getting lonely here …”

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — April 25, 2015 @ 11:01 am

  24. Sammy has an excellent point. Increasingly, I wonder whether a whistleblower or leaker might be disinclined to go to a mainstream journalist, when there is a high likelihood of that journalist subsequently becoming a PR advisor to people who might want to see whistleblowing and leaking stopped. Would you trust your secrets to someone who might be advising a minister or a political party in the near future?

    Comment by Dr Foster — April 25, 2015 @ 11:28 am

  25. @izogi – I was just emailed a ‘Key’ reference from Urban Dictionary.
    I wonder if this might become NZ’s ‘Santorum’ political neologism?

    Comment by Gregor W — April 25, 2015 @ 11:32 am

  26. “Ponytailgate” is a) too long, and b) stupidly predictable. If this story must be given a name of it’s own, surely we should just call it “tailgate.”

    According to Wikipedia, tailgating is the practice of vehicles driving uncomfortably and dangerously close to others. Apparently “tailgating can occur because of a lack of perceived risk in so doing. Thus, it is done unconsciously or negligently, very often by people who consider themselves safe drivers and generally obey the other rules of the road. Evidence shows that more experienced drivers are more likely to be involved in rear-end collisions, possibly because they overestimate their skill and become complacent about allowing sufficient distance to avoid an accident.”

    Comment by Higgs Boatswain — April 25, 2015 @ 3:24 pm

  27. I forgot rule one of the left wing play book
    It’s different when the left do it

    Comment by Graham — April 25, 2015 @ 4:19 pm

  28. Is it hard work being so obtuse and ignorant, or does it just come naturally?

    If you’re indicative of the attitudes and critical thinking abilities of dairy farmers then it sure explains a whole lot.

    Comment by Rob — April 25, 2015 @ 4:54 pm

  29. @unaha: Do you really think some contextualising explanation on Bomber’s part would have made a story that’s bad for Key even worse for Key?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — April 25, 2015 @ 5:31 pm

  30. Graham!!!

    You’d still sell us milk, though? Because I sure like my milk.

    Comment by Flashing Light — April 25, 2015 @ 5:35 pm

  31. Graham: I’m confused. Which left-wing prime minister has been bullying service staff and then getting their friends in the media to do a hatchet job when the person complains?

    Comment by Psycho Milt — April 25, 2015 @ 8:33 pm

  32. Dairy prices hurting are they Graham? Lucky you’re not paying for your water or pollution innit?

    Comment by Judge Holden — April 25, 2015 @ 10:12 pm

  33. @unaha, who else would you invite to your so-called “large scale retaliation” ? Because last time I looked this story had gone fully global. Is there someone missing from your list of potential critics ?

    Comment by Mikaere Curtis — April 25, 2015 @ 10:35 pm

  34. Psycho -http://undpwatch.blogspot.co.nz/2009/08/real-helen-clark-bullying-quote.html

    Comment by Lee Clark — April 26, 2015 @ 10:52 am

  35. Wow, Peter Doone was bullied now? How far down the rabbit hole can you go Lee?

    Comment by Judge Holden — April 26, 2015 @ 11:11 am

  36. Gosh, Holden, chill out won’t ya? Psycho asked, I googled a link. Don’t really care about it much beyond that. People gain power, others accuse them of abusing it – it’s a circle of life thing.

    I’m guessing ‘Half-way’ is the answer to your rhetorical question, because because at that stage, technically, I’d be coming out of the rabbit hole.

    Or something.

    Comment by Lee Clark — April 26, 2015 @ 2:28 pm

  37. “I googled a link.”

    Fantastic contribution then, Lee. Yep. Was it at random, or did you think it somehow relevant?

    Comment by Judge Holden — April 26, 2015 @ 3:10 pm

  38. Psycho asked: Which left-wing prime minister has been bullying service staff and then getting their friends in the media to do a hatchet job when the person complains?
    I googled ‘Helen Clark – Bullying’ and that was one of the results. Apart from that, it was completely random.

    Comment by Lee Clark — April 26, 2015 @ 5:53 pm

  39. The PM’s staff have come up with “I’m probably the most casual PM ever”. It’s a really good line. It might even work.

    Comment by Fraud — April 27, 2015 @ 9:55 am

  40. “Casualkey”?

    Comment by Lee Clark — April 27, 2015 @ 11:46 am

  41. “Casual” means football hooligan in the UK, so he might want to rethink that one.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — April 27, 2015 @ 2:14 pm

  42. I guess what the internet does best from Amazon to raw news is to take the middle man, the ticket clipper – the channellers, censors and story shapers – out of the picture and deliver to you direct from the source. When a blogger tries to re-insert themselves into the narrative as a middle man, they break the key strength of the web.

    Comment by Sanctuary — April 27, 2015 @ 2:25 pm

  43. @Sanc: I agree. Online editorialising is the worst.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — April 27, 2015 @ 10:08 pm

  44. #41: Yep, about as casual as the Millwall FC casuals.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — April 28, 2015 @ 2:34 am

  45. Poor John Key, he can’t catch a break. Now he’s got Bob Jones helping him out, playing the part of Friends Like These …

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11439407

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — April 28, 2015 @ 9:41 am

  46. I see John Oliver has done a segment on it as well.

    Comment by Gregor W — April 28, 2015 @ 9:53 am

  47. And there’s a wonderful symmetry about that. He’s gone from Letterman (“Look at me, I can laugh!”) to Oliver (“Look at him, and laugh!”).

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — April 28, 2015 @ 9:56 am

  48. Lee Clark — April 26, 2015 @ 5:53 pm – just to be a pedant – and its only the start of the week! – you only googled one parameter ‘bullying” and missed out the other equally pertinent parameters of ” then getting their friends in the media to do a hatchet job when the person complains”

    and graham – keep up the laughs buddy – but stop trying your jokes out on the herd first – the humor level of a cow is vastly more nuanced than your basic internet lefty

    Comment by framu — April 28, 2015 @ 12:25 pm

  49. @Mikaere – If the right could have been goaded into blaming the victim and publically calling it all a conspiracy that would do real damage to the Nats. Surely it is easy to goad Slater into attacking the victim, all the Daily Blog had to do was make it look like “dirty politics” on the left and Slater would have come out swinging. But now even Cameron Slater has been down on John Key for being a pony fiddler. John Key has apologised to the victim. Key’s ratings will be damaged only a little bit.

    Compare it to the Len Brown affair where, within a week the entire Left (even the moderates) were rooting through the muck joining dots and cooking up/unearthing a conspiracy. Len Brown was soon insulated (in his own eyes) as only partly the victim of his own behaviour and mostly the victim of a Whale Oil conspiracy, so Len Brown merely offered an apology to his family and to Auckland, but not to Bevan Chuang. A month later Bevan Chuang – the victim – was apologising to Len Brown. Len Brown was finished as a politician.

    The Cameron Slater effect was to goad the left into being self-righteous sanctimonious twits. Surely Bomber could have made an effort and goaded the right.

    Comment by unaha-closp — April 28, 2015 @ 5:33 pm

  50. Does anyone who matters still read Slater’s rants these days?

    I see that his blog rankings are still up there, but from the allegations I’ve heard about how he manufactures those numbers, it doesn’t necessarily count for much.

    Comment by izogi — April 28, 2015 @ 5:37 pm

  51. “If the right could have been goaded into blaming the victim and publically calling it all a conspiracy that would do real damage to the Nats”
    – this has been happening though – plenty of conspiracy calls and plenty of victim blaming

    ” But now even Cameron Slater has been down on John Key”
    – this has been brewing for a while now and has more to do with internal nat movements than tail gate

    “Compare it to the Len Brown affair where, within a week the entire Left (even the moderates) were rooting through the muck joining dots and cooking up/unearthing a conspiracy”
    – and there was a conspiracy – something to do with wedgies or something🙂

    I guess theres a lot thats just opinion on either side there – but to me the slater effect was more to do with an attempt to attack and destroy people and setting the media narrative – getting “the left” to act all sanctimonious is just icing on the cake

    Comment by framu — April 29, 2015 @ 8:50 am

  52. @izogi yeah, Slater’s numbers are pretty much faked.

    I think its a bit of an achilles heel for the wingnut blogs that they’re trying to make money (mostly by stealing from advertisers who don’t dig too deeply where their clicks are coming from). Most of the left blog for a hobby / political involvement and don’t care about doing more than coming out level on hosting costs.

    Comment by richdrich — April 29, 2015 @ 1:36 pm

  53. Here’s a joke the latest polls have national at 51%
    So whose laughing now

    Comment by Graham — April 29, 2015 @ 6:10 pm

  54. gee whiz graham – you dont try very hard do you. Maybe a link might help?

    http://pundit.co.nz/content/poll-of-polls

    Comment by framu — April 30, 2015 @ 7:45 am

  55. or maybe this one? – http://www.colmarbrunton.co.nz/index.php/polls-and-surveys/political-polls/one-news-colmar-brunton-poll

    or are you talking about this little bit of PR from national party hack audrey? – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11440058
    note: it doesnt cover the tailgate episode as claimed in the story

    i mean, help us out graham – if im looking in the wrong places its a very easy thing for you to correct.

    Comment by framu — April 30, 2015 @ 7:50 am

  56. Herald digipoll
    But you know that

    Comment by Graham — April 30, 2015 @ 12:21 pm

  57. oh come now graham – im not a mind reader – but at least ive demonstrated the ability to cut and paste a string of text.

    i linked to the story that references the herald digipoll – and pointed out a pertinent fact regarding it.

    you? – oh is that a tumble weed?

    Comment by framu — April 30, 2015 @ 12:40 pm

  58. and just to be a pedant – the herald digipoll is A poll – singular

    if your going to use plural “polls” (note the “s” – its important) then your going to have to link to some sort of aggregated result or several polls individually

    come on – get us some links dear chap

    Comment by framu — April 30, 2015 @ 12:42 pm

  59. from Stuff:

    “The prime minister has admitted he misread the situation when he pulled a waitress’ ponytail over a period of months, but denies it was a sexist act, saying he “could have” done it to a man”

    Jesus. One of Key’s PR handlers really needs to tell him to stop embarrassing himself.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 4, 2015 @ 9:55 am

  60. The Prime Minister’s entire 9 minute interview with Guyon Espiner this morning sounded very flustered on his part, as if he didn’t really know how to respond to any of it. The question about whether it was sexist, answered with a definite “No”, was one of the very few moments where the PM sounded as if he actually had a clear answer.

    Comment by izogi — May 4, 2015 @ 10:31 am

  61. Who can save John Key now?

    Answer: Labour MPs tomorrow at Question Time. They could leave it alone, or they could join the Greens in smart forensic questioning, or they could just shout “pony tail” a lot.

    Caucus: “Let’s do the shouting! It’s totally worked for six years!”

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — May 4, 2015 @ 10:48 am


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