EXCLUSIVE: Dirt Alert! Are the Greens and Labour about to become the targets of a major negative advertising campaign?

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WE’VE SEEN IT ALL BEFORE. In 2005 pamphlets began appearing all over New Zealand attacking Labour and the Greens. For a couple of days both the parties targeted and the news media were flummoxed. Who was behind such an obviously extensive and expensive campaign? No one knew – until former members of the Exclusive Brethren Church recognised some of the names of the pamphlets’ authorising agents and put two and two together.

The exposure of the Exclusive Brethren Church’s role in printing and distributing the pamphlets, followed by the shock revelation that the National Party leader, Dr Don Brash, had been made aware that such campaign was in the offing, contributed significantly to National’s 2005 election defeat.

Could history be repeating itself?

Yesterday evening I received an e-mail from a sender styling himself “Charlie Taylor” advising me that “a group of concerned citizens just like you are paying for billboards like this”.

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Exactly who “Charlie Taylor” is I have no idea, but the lengthy e-mail send out in his name is clearly intended to inflict maximum damage on both the Greens and, by association, Labour.

If I was a betting man, I would hazard a reasonable wager that Don Brash’s superb propagandist, John Ansell, was in some way involved with all this. There is something in the cheeky tone of these designs that recalls Ansell’s immensely powerful Iwi/Kiwi billboards of 2005.

This, for example:

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The other reason I have for speculating that Mr Ansell might be involved is that some of the text of the e-mail bears a striking similarity to the accusations levelled at the Greens co-leader, Russel Norman, by Mr Ansell when he was interviewed on Radio New Zealand’sMorning Report recently. In the course of that interview, Mr Norman was branded a communist in language very similar to that used in this excerpt from the e-mail:

“Will you be happy to learn that your Labour party vote has helped ex-Aussie Communist Russel Norman achieve his ambition of becoming Mr Cunliffe’s finance minister?

“Will you think it a hoot when, thanks to you, ex-McGillicuddy Serious and Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis candidate Metiria Turei joins Red Russ as ‘Joint’ Deputy Prime Minister?”

Nor is this the worst thing the author/s of the e-mail have to say about the Greens. Apparently, they are responsible for the deaths of 50 million Third World children:

“Green thinking has a long and black track record of sounding heart-warmingly plausible, but wreaking death and destruction when unleashed in the real world, on real people.

“In the 60s, the hysteria over Rachel Carson’s green bible Silent Spring led to the banning of the mosquito-killing chemical DDT.

“Which led to 50 million people dying of malaria.

“Every day, more children die painful deaths because the Greens continue to deny them the treatment that would save their lives – a treatment that science has long since proven safe.”

All good inflammatory stuff! But the real sting (and true target) of the e-mail comes in its tail. The message which the “Group of Concerned Kiwis” who sign-off this diatribe really want you to take away is: “To stop the Greens, you must stop Labour.”

“You may think National and Labour are two sides of the same coin. And usually that would be fair comment.

“But with the Greens now guaranteed to be 30% or more of a Labour government, the economic danger signs just got a whole lot redder.”

Better, one assumes, to stick with the blues.

Whoever Charlie Taylor turns out to be, his group of “concerned citizens” is almost certain to fall foul of the Electoral Commission.

For a start, the designs feature absolutely nothing in the way of an authorising statement. Without the true name and residential address of the person responsible for authorising these political messages, any billboards, pamphlets, stickers and/or posters that may appear between now and 20 September are almost certain to be in breach of the legislation regulating political communications during a General Election campaign.

They will also discover that any and all “concerned citizens” wishing to participate in the cut and thrust of the General Election must first register themselves with the Electoral Commission and undertake to keep their expenditure within legislatively sanctioned limits.

The revelation of such identifying details would, of course, facilitate the full disclosure of who is behind this proposed negative advertising campaign.

In the wake of Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics, I do not imagine that the National Party will relish answering questions about the provenance of yet another example of, well, dirty politics. And if, as happened in 2005, incontrovertible evidence emerges that John Key or his party were forewarned of these “Concerned Kiwis’” campaigning intentions, then National’s chances of holding onto power will take yet another hit.

32 COMMENTS

  1. Well, this could spectacularly backfire on National. They’re finding it difficult to overcome the dirty tactics and smear claims of Nicky Hager’s ‘Dirty Politics’. It seems to me that this will just reinforce their negative, dirty attack type politics.

  2. I’m left wondering why on this green earth would “Charlie Taylor” send you this email, thus forewarning you of “concerned citizens” intentions and enabling you to write this article.

  3. Nothing is beyond them. We know it will be a coalition of the left already. Many people who are non-voters may really like this. And let’s face it, the tories are already voting, and always vote. The non-voters are waking up, and this will look good to them.

  4. Despite obviously wanting to. I don’t think the anonymous author/authors of this campaign will go further than, a hard to trace, email.

    For a number of reasons:

    First, just as you point out Chris, there is no legally required authorisation statement, and if the true identity of the person/persons behind the pseudonym Charlie Taylor, is uncovered they could find themselves be in serious legal difficulties.

    For this reason I don’t think we will even see it on facebook

    Second, it is very late in the campaign and if they were ever going to do this they would have started by now.

    Thirdly, they are cowards, not willing to openly put their name to their views.

    Fourthly, you are probably right in supposing that these anonymous cowards have links to the National Party, and if this was discovered to be the case, just as you say Chris, rather than helping National’s chances, National’s chances of holding onto power will take yet another hit.

    • Well they must have got permission from their local council, because the size of them indicates that they would require resourse consent.

      The council will know who applied for the consent, and who put them up – within the council guidelines for the erection of signage.

      Ask the council or under an OIA request – then you will have the answer. Or just ring the council and complain about them, and check out the response! Or contact the Electoral COmmission and complain and then see what they do about it!

      Also, if council did not give resourse consent for these signs then council will send along their roading guys to remove the signs.

      Are they still up? If they are, then they have council consent – otherwise they would already have been taken down.

      Maybe it’s the Mayor behind this? Or whoever at the council is responsible for the issuing of resourse consents.

      Opinion.

  5. One of those billboards is on the Wellington motorway, facing the southbound lane, just prior to the Murphy St turnoff. Exactly the same style of lettering, and the same wording on the bottom “Labour means 30% Greens”.

    If there’s an authorising statement, it’s in small letters, not big enough to read when you’re driving past at 100 kph.

    I think we’re about to see Dirty Politics v2.

      • I can’t provide photos but can confirm it’s there. I saw it last night on my way into town. It may be backlit, even, and I didn’t notice any authorising statement either.

  6. Maybe Charlie has already achieved it’s purpose : the slogans are now on the net, and about to start spreading virally. Do you need to get an authorising statement for posting one of these on Facebook? Sneaky to have ‘leaked’ them to Chris, so he becomes an unwitting part of the distribution of them….

  7. Knowing now what I always suspected about the National Party I have to say this screams of their involvement.

    I say this because they’ve done it before of course and over the past 2 years there have been subtle little comments made by all and sundry in this National government and of course led by the PM deriding the Greens. It has led to copycat comments in the MSM similar to “I’d vote Labour but it would mean getting the Green Party as well” etc etc.

    “Charlie Taylor” and his/her “Group of concerned Kiwi’s” has that benign yet hollow blokey sensible ring tone to it that the equally odious National Party blog site Kiwiblog or the National Party’s Tax Payer Union has. That Good ol’ common sense – get your hands dirty – mucking in” bullshit impression. Honestly who thinks of these names because I assume they think this is what dumb arse non National voters talk like!

    In fact ordinary Kiwi bloke “Charlie Taylor” is in all likelihood some spoilt hateful rich sub human/s and or well known business men who are heard using the standard talkback line, “I’ve worked hard and got and education” wank wank line.

    Sorry National but we’ve had a guts full of your filthy politics, your dishonesty and your manipulation, give it a break for God sake, it’s getting beyond tedious.

  8. The claims made in regard to DDT and deaths from malaria are also total bullshit.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DDT#Use_against_malaria

    Agricultural use (i.e. not vector control (of mosquitoes) ) of DDT led to decreased effectiveness in disease control due to resistance developing in mosquitoes. The agricultural bans of DDT actually helped maintain effectiveness of DDT in continued and limited use for disease control.

  9. I remember that in the first leaders debate Key repeatedly tried to drag the Greens into the topic, saying that the Greens would not let Labour do this or that, although Cunliffe generally ignored the bait. Wonder if this was a signal that we are indeed going to get a lot of advertising of the reds-under-the-beds style coming out shorty, only instead of being directed against Labour this time it will be against the Greens.

    • @Mike the Lefty – I think you might be right there Mike. Desperation is driving the right (National/Key/soon to be gone Collins/Slater/Farrar et al) into more discrediting of the Greens and possibly Labour.

      This one could almost be the sequel to “Dirty Politics” – “Gutter Politics”!

  10. National wanted the greens in the major party debate. This smacks of National all over. Unfortunately as the government they are almost certainly immune to investigation by the electoral commission.

    Countries which issue there own currency can not go bust (and none ever has) which shows the level of intelligence on display here.

  11. I find it incredible that this half baked McCarthiest scaremongering campaign has escaped from virtual world into the real world.

    Will any of our tame cat Main Stream Media journos be following up on this?

    Or will we have to wait for someone like Nicky Hager to probe the inside workings of this conspiracy?

    Come on all you MSM journos, instead of obediently maintaining your silence, here’s a chance to make a name for your self

  12. I love the idea of a Labour Green govt.
    So this seems a lot like a positive statement to me.
    At the end of the day, this is what we will have – a Labour/Green/IMP coalition, and this will be great for NZ. 2or3 Parties keeping each other honest. Good.

    If this was put out by Nats, then I cannot see why they think it would cause a problem. It’s just relaying the future result of this coming election. It certainly doesnt make me want to not vote Labour or Greens, and why would it. It just advertises the real outcome ahead of time.

    Opinion.

    • Yeah but that’s because your moral development is stunted.

      New Zealanders don’t like corruption and if you think Key is getting a hard time now wait and see what will happen if he tries to rig the election by an Exclusive Brethren style disinformation campaign.

      Key’s dishonesty tactics has already created hackivists, the next steps are as historically inevitable as the overthrow of any other corrupt and non-performing government.

  13. John Key and his sort in the national party dirt machine just cant stop themselves.

    It would be like asking snakes to stop being snakes.

    A recent example of the snake in key was when the greens announced some policy.

    Kicking straight into dirty politics smear mode key dismissed it with a ” what have they been smoking” comment.

    This from a man whose party and especially his corrupt justice minister Judith Collins subverted recommendations from health and police experts to minimize the HUGE damage our country suffers from the abuse of the drug alcohol.

    In fact John Key was friends with cam slater and his hate site which attacked health professionals who wanted to lower alcohol abuse.

    John Key with that cheap outdated stereotype smear against the greens while he sided with the profits of booze against the harms to our community took my disgust of him to a new level.

    Alcohol is a drug and New Zealand spends roughly $ 85 million PER WEEK on it. It is pushed like no other.

    If we regulated Alcohol properly while having sensible cannabis laws we would have much lower serious crimes like rape, assault and murder.

    We would be closing private prisons instead of opening them.

    Its all about money before people with national.

    Vote clean vote green 🙂

  14. One of these billboards has gone up in Wellington just off the motorway heading south at Thorndon. It’s freaking huge too, must have cost a large amount, it’s possibly the most expensive advertising spot in Wellington.

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