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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

DIRTY POLITICS

DIRTY POLITICS (in New Zealand): comments on Nicky Hager’s (2014) book

Assuming that all the quoted e-mail traffic and social media texts are fairly attributed to the respective writers, one must also assume that the main protagonists in the book, from Slater all the way to Key, manifest symptoms of mental disorders. They should seek professional help to address their use of extreme verbal violence and displays of deviant male sexuality that is implied in Lusk’s “… the biggest buzz I get is when I wreck someone …” or the constant, primitive sledging of women they hate. Not that woman are beyond the pale, compared to the male Slaters, as some of Slater’s  best mates seem to be extreme right-wing women and ex-prostitutes, what with “crusher” Judith Collins being a prime example of the former. The language quoted throughout is a crude form of verbal zealotry common to pathalogical fundamentalists of all colours and creeds.

Ever since Machiavelli gave politics a bad name, we seem to have accepted that we should not expect anything less. Nicky Hager’s contention that there is a ‘better way’ has however fallen on very deaf ears if we consider the 2014 election outcome in NZ. If anything, the sorry outcome confirmed the winning strategy of “attack politics” that is practised by the National Party and their associates. Hager quite rightly cites US role models where democracy is bought and sold as any other toxic commodity, noting naively perhaps, that NZ hitherto was less affected by such practices until in recent times, when eager NZ adherents of the US Tea Party began to play their ‘dirty politics’ as outlined in Hager’s book. One may question such a premise in that democracy by election has always been hijacked by those who have the means to buy the votes. Conflicts amongst the buyers may result in aberrant results, as demonstrated by the election process for mayor of Auckland where Len Brown won despite being despised by the right-wingers such as Slater and Co. In-fighting in the National Party (and associated parties) selections led to a pathetic candidate (e.g. Palino) emerging from the field. Not even a manufactured sex scandal could unseat Len Brown.

In fact this may be the only hope for our continued well-being, in that the far-right characters in NZ lack the mental resources needed for not shooting themselves in the foot. On the other hand it seems that enough foot soldiers can be marshalled this way to ‘wreck, destroy, eliminate and fuck all the cunts’ that stand in the way of such mentally disturbed movers and shakers (as they imagine themselves to be). In a fascist state such characters would be the first to volunteer for concentration guard duty. It is also a great worry that Slater and Graham are the sons of National Party grandees and as such have access to the senior ranks of the party.

Nicky Hager’s overall analysis seems to be that dirty politics victimises those dedicated to presumably clean politics, e.g. the likes of Phil Geoff and Len Brown (both members of the Labour Party). This needs to be relativized inasmuch all major political parties in New Zealand espouse an ideology commonly practiced in the so-called Western democracies, i.e. vacillating between the extremes of market capitalism and generally supporting military solutions when under ideological counter-attack. The Labour, Green, Maori and NZ First parliamentary parties in New Zealand have only 5 degrees of separation from the National Party and their associates. The semi-progressive Mana Party shot itself in the foot in a grand way by associating themselves with the Internet Party financed by Kim Dotcom. The latter is also mentioned in Dirty Politics as being a victim of Slater’s grubby politicking, digging up dirt in the shape of Dotcom’s purchase of an early edition of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. PM John Key, quite rightly in this instance, denounced Dotcom as a questionable character, exploiting at the same time the notion that Key himself is of Jewish extraction. Hager’s contention that Dotcom also has valuable book editions by Churchill and Stalin seems to miss the mark. Dotcom (alias Schmitz) is a German citizen formerly convicted in Germany for fraud. If Dotcom was wanting to improve his public image as an well-to-do Internet entrepreneur who aligns himself with a left-wing party to get at a right-wing party that seeks him deported to the USA for allegedly breaking copy-right laws – he ought to have divested himself of such a bad investment as Hitler’s Mein Kampf, or, of course never bought it in the first place. To buy valuable rubbish (such as Mein Kampf) as an investment just goes to show that the buyer has mental problems very similar to those ascribed to the protagonists mentioned before. Hager in his eagerness to discredit the right-wing bloggers and the associated National Party sheds a very postive light on the so-called victims who more often than not are of the same ilk as their torturers. Political infighting across the spectrum of established political parties, be it in the US, UK, Australia or New Zealand is legend, and it seems wrong to portray this as some sort of ‘clean’ versus ‘dirty’ gamesmanship. Of course one can relativize the degrees of ‘dirtiness’ and Nicky Hager’s revelations do a very good job at that. Sadly perhaps, it comes down to having to vote for the lesser evil, forgetting that a voting majority is in itself a concept that needs urgent revision if not total abolition. Participatory democracy is not what is being practiced in New Zealand. The sort of democracy we have is good only for its occasional airing of its dirty laundry – as is currently the case in the US what with official revelations that the CIA has indeed used torture to interrogate terror suspects.

Dirty Politics as such is another timely reminder that Machiavelli is alive and well in New Zealand, and very successful indeed as the outcome of the 2014 parliamentary elections proves. As always the ‘winning’ party receives a minority share of all the registered voters (low voter participation always favours the right-wing parties as pointed out by Slater and his associates) but the media machine celebrates it as true democracy and thereby everybody should be relatively happy. It is however wrong to suggest that Nicky Hager did the right-wing factions a favour by disillusioning even more registered voters from voting. Readers of the book who see the point in it will refuse to register and vote in the first place.


Since Slater and Co. also put a lot of effort into tinkering with the current voting system wanting to revert to ‘first past the post’ rather than having MMP that seems to slightly favour minor parties – but not so during the 2014 elections apart from ACT and United Future getting rigged in – allow me to cite an example from Germany where for some municipal elections the first-past-the post system is tempered with having a run-off if no candidate wins an outright majority of actual voters (never mind the overall registered voter participation which in municipal elections is notoriously low, not uncommonly below 50%). There, a disaffected right-wing politician runs against the official candidate of the same right-wing party, a situation the mainstream media portrays as a battle between left and right. Of course the right right-wing candidate wins the run-off. Certainly a winning strategy as far as Slater is concerned. The idea that everyone to the left of Slater is a red under the bed (and better dead) is equally promoted by the mainstream media in NZ, and it is no surprise that Slater and Co. have a cosy relationship with various editors that run the print, TV and digital media. That the major (toxic) corporations employ such characters to write up pathetic opinion pieces disguised as ‘news’ is also no surprise. There is sometimes the impression that Slater and Co. are self-driven when in fact they are the paid stooges of corporate interests – as indeed politicians are in general. Hager’s investigations into such cash transactions seem to reveal only minor sums – although the working class writer wouldn’t mind $6,000 for a quick piece on how good alcohol and cigarettes are for you. The likes of Graham and Textor, who own and run PR companies, are surely in a much higher league, dealing in millions.  When advising politicians and political parties – paid via large corporate donations – the tactics are of course less transparent, as nicely demonstrated by the machinations that the government PR man Jason Eade engages in. Here PR2PR like B2B. One of the more devious outcomes of such relationships is that the government PR has access to various secret agencies that can be called upon to dig dirt on the opposition, as well as the timely release of saucy materials under the Public Information Act. Poor olds Cunliffe and Geoff were caught in the act this way. Ever since Nixon’s Watergate scandal there seemed to be a gentlemen’s agreement in the US that one ought to desist from breaking into the opposition’s HQ to steal compromising materials – in the full knowledge that the opposition does have dirty secrets – mainly because the exercise will in the end hurt both parties. In modern times we have the equivalent of hacking into Labour’s web-sites to procure donors’ lists and what have you. That a disgruntled client of Slater and Co. leaked all we now can read in Hager’s book is another sign that we are regressing to neo-feudalist, no-holds barred attacks on each other, and all in the name of a pathological struggle to exert power politically and ultimately economically.