Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

Some Perspective on Dirty Politics

Some Perspective on Dirty Politics: Partisan News Inspires Partisan Debate


John Key was right to point out that Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics is, above all else, an attack on the National Party. Though Key’s own response was lacklustre, attempting to deflect debate from the allegations against the National government towards the means Hager used to obtain the documents, he was again right to say that there is nothing else in the book about any political party other than National. Let’s be clear then, from the start: Nicky Hager’s book is not about dirty politics, it’s about the dirty tactics National have used.

Key didn’t deny Hager’s allegations, and even by omission essentially admitted some of them. The documents Hager published are, most likely, an accurate reflection of some of National’s back-room dealings. It is a good thing for these sort of tactics to be made public, and there Nicky Hager needs to be praised for doing just that.

But again, let’s call the book for what it is: a partisan attack on the National Party. Though Hager calls himself an investigative journalist, he is not. Investigative journalism is built on the tradition of uncovering the truth and making it public along non-partisan lines, trying to ensure that the truth, whatever it is, comes out. That is not Hager’s idea of investigative journalism. As his book shows, and John Key points out, investigative journalism to him is finding whatever evidence you can, through whatever means necessary, to mount a well-timed attack on an opposition party.

From a highly-partisan book comes a highly-partisan discussion. National supporters deride Hager as a left-wing conspiracy theorist who should be put in jail for obtaining and publishing stolen documents; opposition supporters praise Hager’s journalistic skills, and call for National Party heads.

What good is a purely partisan debate? It causes a whole lot of noise, foul language, threats, and at the end of the day, achieves absolutely nothing. People continue to vote precisely the way they did before the news broke, perhaps feeling more justified in their beliefs than ever. The other option, which I would even bet on, is that both major parties lose support as voters lacking extreme partisan feelings are simply turned off politics altogether, or shift support to minor parties.

Both sides, as in a majority of partisan debates, are right. Hager did obtain documents illegally, and yet he also deserves praise for making public National’s dirty tactics; National did play dirty, and someone should be held accountable.

So let’s keep this “scandal” in perspective. What is needed is a sense of accountability by the National party, who have been shown time and time again to have a blatant disregard for democratic accountability and due process. And what is also needed is a timely book of partisan journalism exposing Labour’s own dirty dealings which, make no mistake about it, also exist. In the absence of true non-partisan investigative journalism, the only way to be fair is a dose of mutual partisan news in the hope that the discussion will turn to the real issue at the centre of the debate.

Only if that other side to the dirty politics story comes out can we have a true debate about dirty politics, and whether that sort of politics has a place in our society. Otherwise the partisan debate will continue to rage, turning more and more voters off politics entirely.

May I end by making a call for true investigative journalism to stake its place in New Zealand political reporting. I believe the Hager-kind of journalism does more harm than it does good. Only non-partisan reporting can garner non-partisan support and understanding and, in turn, create bipartisan agreement that change is needed.

ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Bill Bennett: Farewell Clive Sinclair
My first brush with Sinclair was as an A-level student in the UK. Before he made computers, Sinclair designed an affordable programmable calculator. It fascinated me and, thanks to a well-paid part-time job, I managed to buy one. From memory it could only handle a few programmable steps, but it was enough to make complex calculations.... More>>


Nuclear White Elephants: Australia’s New Submarine Deal

It does not get any messier or more chaotic than this. Since 2009, when Australia’s Future Submarine Program (FSP) known as Project SEA 1000, began to take shape, strategists and policy makers have been keen to pursue the next big White Elephant of defence spending. And few areas of an already wasteful area of public expenditure are more costly – often mindlessly so – than submarines... More>>


Digitl: Facebook Vileness Of The Week
Another week, another example of Facebook not taking responsibility. At the Wall Street Journal Jeff Horwitz writes Facebook Says Its Rules Apply to All. Company Documents Reveal a Secret Elite That’s Exempt. His second deck reads: A program known as XCheck has given millions of celebrities, politicians and other high-profile users special treatment, a privilege many abuse... More>>



Dunne Speaks: Proud to call Aotearoa home

Te Paati Māori continues to provide a breath of fresh air in the political space, otherwise thoroughly choked by Covid19. Its call this week this week for a referendum on changing the country’s name to Aotearoa by 2026 is timely and a welcome diversion to the necessarily short-term focus engendered by Covid19... More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Blinken Says No To Greenland Real Estate

In May, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a visit to Greenland. In a rather unedifying way, he was called ‘Tony’ by his hosts, a disarming point that was bound to open the floodgates of insincerity... More>>

The Conversation: New Zealand's wet regions wetter, and dry ones drier

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has delivered a sobering update on how much the Earth has warmed and how the climate system is responding. The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) is the most comprehensive yet. It shows Earth is now 1.09 warmer than it was in the 1850s... More>>