From the passenger seat: Who created the monster?

Cameron-Slater-Bugby Pete

Almost ten years ago, a fairly unknown guy called Cameron Slater was spiraling down.  Financially.  Emotionally.  Pretty much everything he had touched had come to nothing.

He spent most of his days in bed.  When he didn’t, he was surfing the Internet, or listening to talkback radio getting increasingly annoyed at the “commentators” who were talking rubbish.

Someone suggested he start a blog, more as therapy as anything else.   On day one, nobody knows you exist.  The first ever article you ever write is only read by you, and perhaps a few close friends.

How did we get to the point where this blog became the focal point through which a whole national election progressed?

Ten years ago, would anyone have guessed a Prime Minister would have to issue a written apology, or parliament would have this blog and Cameron Slater at the centre of its discussions for months on end?

Who created this monster?

The obvious answer appears to be “Cameron Slater”, and yes, he is indeed the critical element of this whole phenomenon.  But it isn’t just Cameron Slater.  If it was, all we would have today is a guy running a blog and being happy with getting monthly traffic that we currently do in 6 hours.

When the Dirty Politics brigade decided to take Cameron Slater down once and for all, they decided on a multi-pronged attack that included placing Slater under immense mental pressure, cutting off his financial support, and disconnecting him from his support network.

On paper, that looked like a perfect plan.  And it could have worked with anyone else.   But not with Slater.

When you work with Cameron, he’s actually a very nice guy.  He’s straight up and down, doesn’t stab you in the back, and if he says something gets done, it gets done.  This, of course, isn’t what many people believe to be true.  They think he’s a liar, sneaky and underhanded, and will take anyone down that gives him the chance.

This error in perception was their major problem.

No matter how much the Labour and Green leadership were pushing for their own people as well as National’s to no longer communicate or associate with Cameron Slater, the truth is that those that really know Cameron, and have a genuine bond with him, were never going to comply.

The most publicly damaged relationships were with Cathy Odgers, Jordan Williams, Judith Collins and Carrick Graham.

So the test is:  have these relationships been destroyed?

Not at all.  Because the bonds between these people are real.  They are strong.  And they can stand a little pressure.  In the end, they were based on loyalty and truth.  Nobody on his own team got blindsided by Cameron Slater, and they never will.

But what about all those people that claimed he’s a back stabbing untrustworthy liar?

Yes.  What about them.

People use Cam Slater.  Or they try to.  In the beginning, this appears to be going well, as Cam is all about building relationships.  Relationships that work both ways mind you.  After a while, when there appears to be only one-way traffic, Cam turns off access to what and who he knows.

So far so good.   It can end here.

An example would be Rachel Glucina, who was prompted to let bygones be bygones and make contact.  Cam happily gave it a try, and for some time, close observers would have noticed Glucina appeared to be the first to certain political stories.

But then it stopped.   Why?  Because nothing came back.   It’s not the way Cameron works.  He’s not a place to go to help people sell papers, or solve their problems.   Occasionally he needs to fill his blog, or solve his own problems.

So, Glucina hasn’t been getting any more leads.  Slater sees himself as a trader of leads, something that comes from his background in sales.  Once the trade is going only one way, he stops.  At no point did she get thrown under the bus.  At no point did Slater take more than his pound of flesh.  The relationship, which was really just a one-way street, is still convivial.  But unless Glucina understands the process of give some to get some, nothing more will come of it.

Cameron Slater is surrounded by people that want something from him for free.  And for a while, he’s happy to oblige.  But when it becomes clear the other person isn’t interested in carrying part of the load, it ends.

Which brings me to David Fisher.  Let’s take the New Zealand Herald’s David “tainted” Fisher as a perfect case study.

David and Cameron worked closely together for some time.  But again, it was a one way street.  This may be a professional blind spot for journalists when you compare them to PR monkeys or politicians, but even so, the one way traffic ended up with Cameron stopping the information flow.

This is where Fisher acted differently to Glucina:  he threw Slater under the bus.   And I’ve seen him do it with others.  He’s done it with Bradbury, and in the end he did it with Dotcom.

It is a standard technique for some journalists.  Sidle up to your source, get the story, but also get lots of “soft data” that you won’t use because it doesn’t fit the narrative.  When that original story runs out, you use the info that the source didn’t expect you to use.  Eh presto – two stories for the price of one.  And, sarcastically enough:  balance.

Of course, once you have betrayed Cam Slater, you do get onto his shit list.  And you do get ground down with prejudice.  And you discover there is no end to it.

Pay back double?  They wish.

As the media at large started to realise that they were “being used” by Cam Slater, all the shutters came down.  Well, not all of them, but those editors, media personalities and hacks that had previously been happy to take a Slater story tips were now stone walling him.  Oh, they were still talking, but it would be to get a quote for an attack piece about him.

Overnight, he went from the ‘secret’ source that was never revealed and quoted, to the bad boy that was front page news and the devil incarnate.  Cameron Slater was presented as the central source of everything that was wrong with New Zealand politics.

Talk about throwing someone under the bus…

The newsrooms at the Herald, Stuff and Mediaworks must have felt quite chuffed.  There was no way Slater could exercise his power if they didn’t let him have access to their audience.

Two problems with that.  One, Cam Slater runs a blog with an audience that is larger than any regional newspaper, any radio station, and all other New Zealand news web sites with the exception of Stuff, the Herald and TVNZ.

The other:  it motivated Cameron to start his own media company.  If he can’t work with them, he’ll simply go around them.

So who created the Whaleoil monster?

By and large, the New Zealand media did.  First, by making fun of the “rude bloke that laughed at dead babies” and giving him exposure.  Then, by working with him and using him as a very productive source of stories about politics.   Next, they tuned him into the most recognised bad boy of the election, when in reality, the hacker Rawshark should have been the bad guy instead.  And finally, by giving him the drive and motivation to start his own competing media company.

Who else but Cameron Slater would think:  “seeing as the main stream media are broken, it is time we went back to basics”.  Critics have suggested he’s working on Whaleoil 2.0, but how ridiculous is that?  Whaleoil 1.0 is head and shoulders above anyone else.  There is no need for a Whaleoil 2.0.

What there is a need for is a media company that goes back to basics.  It will be a return to the ethics of journalism of a by-gone era, one lost , squandered even by the NZ Herald, Fairfax and other media.  And the funny thing is, they won’t even believe this is the genuine objective.

But a number of very serious investors believe him.  And a new crew of media people that are chomping at the bit to get back to what really works.  You won’t see him “out front” at all.  He’s got Whaleoil for that.

But for the rest of the media, the Monster hasn’t been slain, and it’s still growing stronger.




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