John Lapsley on Cameron Slater the “blowhard”

This is the most honest and equally brutal summary of the whole Dirty Politics affair yet, and being called a blowhard possibly the nicest thing said for some time – almost a compliment, in comparison.

He is the victim of a spectacular, malicious, theft of privacy. To be candid, Your Honour, I’d prefer another client.

Mr Slater doesn’t scrub up as your ideal privacy victim. He is himself a notable digger of dirt.

And his blogging is – well, it’s unbalanced, far right, crass, egotistic, and scurrilous. In other words, he’s a very good read.

As the country knows, his computer was hacked by a techno-type called Rawshark. The hacker’s reasons met the highest ethical standards, of course. He considers Mr Slater a p….k.

Enter Nicky Hager, the campaigning left-wing journalist whose strongest claim to balance is he wears matching socks.

Rawshark, or someone else connected to the hacking, handed over his stolen emails to Mr Hager, who picked the more politically damaging stuff for his new book, then set a launch date calculated to influence an election.

Dirty Politics? Was ever a tome more ironically named?

And influence it has. We have a minister forced from office, and the chance of the hacked emails being the election’s tipping point.

The mainstream media will be blamed for taking up the story. But once Mr Hager’s book was public, its content couldn’t be ignored.

Mr Hager, the media, et al, can try the good-guy ”whistleblower” defence. After all, the emails suggest tawdry goings on in government, so they can argue stealing them was for the greater good.

That is convenient tosh, Your Honour. Rawshank was not some conscientious whistleblower risking his job by spilling the beans. He was an outsider with a grudge, intent on harm.

The email ”evidence” looks awful for the people named, and is hard to put aside.

But the sniff test results on the leaks are troubling.

We can’t judge if any material is fabricated. We don’t know the hacker, so his character offers no clue to reliability.

We can’t tell how fairly Mr Hager selected his material. Many damning lines are actually ”he said/she said” ones from secondary sources. Despite all this, none of the victims were asked to verify, deny, or explain.

And it is a stone cold certainty that some of the dirty looking private camaraderie in the Whale Oil hacks, is not quite as it seems.

Journalists and their contacts do a daily dance where both sides hold their noses, and pretend to be matey. This helps everyone get on with the job of using each other. Don’t sniff. This happens in most business.

Did the checkout chick really care if you had a good day?

Mr Slater is a more minor player, but he won Best Blog, in this year’s mainstream Canon Media Awards.

Imagine the (rightful) fuss, and ”threat to democracy” cries if it was a New Zealand Herald or TV One newsroom which had been hacked, with private conversations between journalists and contacts spilled.

We get buckets of plastic outrage about the most piddling privacy infringements. But in the Dirty Politics case, the parties who benefit don’t even pretend crocodile tears.

This attempt to affect a New Zealand election is not built on some minor infringement. It started with a closely planned theft that needed more criminal skills than a safe-cracker’s.

Its motive was to cause harm, which it did. And Nicky Hager, the fence who received the stolen goods, has on-sold them to all of us.

He tells us he’s also found embarrassing personal material in the emails which – good chap that he is – he hasn’t passed on. Mud sticks, of course.

And Cameron Slater, dripping with it, has laid a complaint with police and is trying to get the High Court to fence off the media’s reporting. Yes, it seems a bit thick to have Mr Whale Oil wittering on about being nastily hacked. But anyone who’d ever emailed him was also snooped on.

This was a theft of privacy which was malicious, and meant to change our country.

Its origins were without nobility. And if they don’t go out and nail it, what’s the point of privacy protection and an impartial law for all?

Too many people are enjoying watching me take one in the solar plexus to be concerned with the larger implications at work here.   The media reared up behind Andrea Vance for the mere idea that someone had provided access to her security swipe card data around parliament.

Compare and contrast.

Few, very few journalists and media types have had the intellectual courage to get over their schadenfreude and tell it like it is:  the fact that email is now seen as a fair source for media to go ferret around in going on fishing expeditions to see if some of it may possibly be newsworthy.

On that basis, with the standards set over the last month or so, I don’t expect the media to be outraged when they find themselves at the end of something similar.

Oh wait…



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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.