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Nobody looks saintly in politics' sick soap opera

Last updated 05:00 21/08/2014

NICKY HAGER: He got free advertising on TV in the most expensive advertising slot. Excellent. With just 4000 copies in the first print run, the book would be debated by people who couldn't read it.

HACKED: Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater.

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And so the sky fell in. Whatever you think of Nicky Hager, you've got to admit he's slick. He launched his book without giving journalists advance copies first, and had the launch timed to lead imminent news bulletins - with live coverage, even - before anyone could ask annoying questions.

OPINION: That meant he got free advertising on TV in the most expensive advertising slot. Excellent. With just 4000 copies in the first print run, the book would be keenly debated by people who couldn't read it because it instantly sold out. Good move. Another 6000 copies have been printed, a drop in the ocean against the number of eligible voters.

The mystery hacker who gave Hager the emails has now put some of them on the internet. Am I the only person who wants to know that person's identity and motivation?

While people wait to read the book, political polls are destabilised. Two polls earlier this week had a margin of error of 3 per cent, significant when dealing with the small figures minor parties typically get: 3 per cent is life or death to outfits like NZ First and Internet-Mana. Anything could happen there, and National's complacency has been punctured.

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I almost feel worried for Hager in that he always looks so anxious and depressed, as if deeply pained at the wickedness of this world of sin, in which everyone is briskly marching to hell. You'd want to tickle a laugh out of him, if it were possible.

We all need that, actually, because politics in this country has just become a sick soap opera in which nobody looks especially saintly, not even Hager, who wants to do a rather grubby job with clean fingernails.

Put it this way: it's OK when he uses hijacked emails as the basis for a book intended to sway an election, but it's not OK for National to help itself to the emails of the main Opposition party when they're accessible online rather than wisely blocked, as they should be.

Here I'll question why Hager gets to be called a journalist rather than, let's say, a political commentator, or a writer, both of which he of course is.

He has never worked as a journalist to my knowledge, other than doing intermittent freelance work for a Sunday paper, writing about issues dear to his heart rather than the daily cut and thrust of news.

Journalists have to provide balance, which is much more difficult. A one-sided story about the wicked deeds of one political party written by a reporter would need to be balanced by the activities of its opponents.

That could only help Hager's case here, since it's generally assumed that Labour's emails could never contain cuss words, or sniggering about dirty political tricks.

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Nor - this goes without saying - does Labour leak juicy stories to the media. But we have no way of really knowing for sure because nobody's writing that book.

The pity of it is that Cameron Slater's WhaleOil blog has also had priceless publicity, as the beneficiary of leaks from National via Prime Minister John Key's staff members and Justice Minister Judith Collins, who has shown a serious lack of judgment in correspondence with her buddy.

I'm no fan of Slater's Right-wing blog, just as I have a cautious approach to Hager's work. I was unimpressed when Slater won a journalism award in May for best blog - that was for revealing Auckland Mayor Len Brown's illicit affair with the young, vulnerable - and silly - Bevan Chuang.

She, not Brown, was the victim in that nasty affair, as is always the way with young women who sleep with powerful men.

The virtual sniffing of bed linen and the revelations of intimate moments that followed were creepy and unnecessary. It never looks good when men hound an unworldly, young and attractive woman for explicit sexual details - oh sure, that was really, really important news.

As, in the capital, is the idea that the emails of politicians and their aides can be as nasty as anyone else's, lol.

- The Dominion Post


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