From the passenger seat

Lots has happened over the last two months.  Some of it needs looking back on from the perspective of a close observer and an insider.  Hope you enjoy these little insights as I get them out of my system.

Sunday was the last day in an 8 week stretch of 6:30 am to 10 pm 7 day work weeks.  And not the once did I see Helen Kelly complain about my working conditions.  Funny that.

Cam had told me when I started that there was “no time off” during September.  That was an understatement.  So much has happened that we can revisit and dissect, it was hard enough to get through it unscathed.

As “Whaleoil” we very much expected to perform our role in the election.  What we didn’t expect is how central we would be.  Four weeks of relentless attention through media because of a number of events which are now known as the “Dirty Politics” saga.

The larger strokes of the whole event are known now.  And since the pressure has come off, it is time for our side of the story to come out.  Because not everything is as it seems.

Cameron Slater was vilified for four straight weeks.  Even John Key had to start distancing himself lest his teflon coating fail on him and he get some backsplash.   Not a single political party had a good thing to say about him.  Not a single media organisation had the intellectual honesty to shoot straight.

It was, and should have been, a total massacre.

But was it?

This is where you end up learning that politics and media are not the same as real life.  Wherever Cam Slater went, people were eager to talk to him.   To take selfies, and to congratulate him on his work.

Let’s not deify Cameron Slater.  He can be a total crass prick at the best of times.  But there is one reason I work with him:  we never break the law.   My god it has been tempting at times.   But more about that in another article.

So the hacker took six years of Cameron’s emails.

If Cameron was guilty of even half of everything he stands accused of (most of which are pretty nebulous, really), why is it that after Hager et al had the chance to skim the cream off all those six years of private communications, the best they could come up with are two potential issues that require further investigation?

I’m not going to pre-empt the SIS investigation result.

But it goes to show why we are so calm.  Of course, nobody likes to have their private communications read by people who are deliberately looking for ways to use it against you.  But at the same time, there is nothing in there to be nervous about.

What it has done, is expose some of the way we work at Whaleoil.   And yes, we do other people’s dirty work.   It is interesting to note that the Dirty Politics book didn’t have a chapter on Aaron Gilmore for example.  Aaron Gilmore was an embarrassment to the National Party, and didn’t want to go.

The pressure was ratcheted up day by day as we exposed more and more of his behaviour in an attempt to get him to see his position was untenable.  And that dirt came from the National Party.

Of course, when Whaleoil put pressure on David Cunliffe for two weeks for his sleazy CV, or later for three weeks for his dodgy Trusts for the Labour Leadership Primaries, the information that we published came from the Labour Party.

The Labour Party would like you to think there are rooms full of Jason Ede’s that are working on digging up dirt on the innocent and somewhat hapless Labour Party.  The truth is – their internal stresses are such that the party leaks like a sieve.

They can’t leak to The Standard – that would provide an instant feedback loop as to who is doing the leaking.  It makes much more sense to leak it to us.

Why?   Confidentiality, for one.   And effectiveness is the other reason.

Of course, politicians have similar go-to people in radio, newspapers and TV.   All you have to do is keep an eye on who is exposing these sorts of ‘scandals’ at irregular intervals, and you can pick exactly who the person is that’s getting the dirt from political parties.

This, is dirty politics.

But traditional media are threatened by the emergence of New media, so they try to vilify Whaleoil for doing exactly what they do themselves in the hope it will damage us.  It’s dirty commercialism, in that case.  Or dirty jealousy – at a personal level.

However much Hager, Labour, Greens and Laila Harre have tried to paint this as Whaleoil’s exclusive domain, this is the mechanism of the beast and it happens wherever politicians leak the info they hope will be used to damage something.

Calls to ‘clean it up’ are laughable.  Anyone who does that is immediately suspect.   Politicians need the media.  They need to be able to get soft and poisoned information out there without their fingerprints on them.  The only way they can do that is to have relationship with media – including blogs – where they have 100% certainty of confidentiality.

And Whaleoil, as a blog that likes to expose anything that doesn’t like sunlight, is happy to be a part of this process.

Is it illegal?  Absolutely not.

Is it immoral?   Always, from some perspectives.

Is it ever going to stop?  Only when politicians from all parties stop leaking to media.  So… no.

We enjoy this process, what is now forever labeled as dirty politics.  And to be honest, so do you.  You come here to find out what Kim Dotcom did, or didn’t do.  Or what David Cunliffe did, or didn’t say.

For example, sources deep within the Labour Party told us the result of a caucus headcount:  19 to 8 against the Cunliffe faction.  Now, we won’t be the only ones to have been told this.  The people in the ’19’ want it out there, so it gets leaked.  You can bet your bottom dollar the likes of Vance, Garner and Gower will have been told the same thing, albeit by different people in the 19.

A lot of this sort of info we sit on.  It’s good background info.  Sometimes it is something worth publishing.

Is it dirty?   I don’t think so.  It’s the game of politics, after all.

Is it illegal?  Definitely not.

And once the two issues out of six years of emails that have raised eyebrows have been dealt with publicly  it will be clear that Whaleoil is a very efficient medium for sunlight to get to places where others don’t want to to be shone.

On any side of politics.


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