The Race Is On: Will enough New Zealanders believe Nicky Hager and reject John Key?



WE ARE IN A RACE. It’s a race between those wilfully ignorant and the deliberately spiteful New Zealanders who make up such an alarmingly large fraction of National’s electoral base, and that steadily growing percentage of the electorate who understand that the shocking revelations contained in Nicky Hager’s book, Dirty Politics, require an electoral response. If the latter overtakes the former by 20 September, New Zealand can breathe a mighty sigh of relief. If not, then the next three years are likely to be ugly – very ugly.

Just how real and significant this race is was brought home to me by an article posted on the Stuff website. Headlined “Voters Divided Over Who Plays Dirtiest” it quoted an elderly Taranaki woman who had been sent a copy of Hager’s book. When asked for her opinion ofDirty Politics she replied:

“I think it’s disgusting. It doesn’t surprise me at all from the author. He’s just a communist and that’s just the way he is. He’s just trying to unsettle the National Party.”

Remember, this woman had a copy of the book. She’d been given the opportunity to absorb its contents – to form an opinion. We must, therefore, hope that her stated view that Hager is “just a communist” whose only purpose in writing Dirty Politics was “to unsettle the National Party” means that she felt under no obligation to actually read the book. Because the alternative explanation, that she had read it and that this was her considered response, is just too depressing to contemplate.

The elderly voter’s response does, however, demonstrate how important it has been for politicians and mainstream journalists of both the Left and the Right to demonise Nicky Hager.

Ever since the publication of his first book, Secret Power, in 1996, people in both the parliamentary arena and the mainstream news media have been conscious of the enormous challenge his internationally celebrated investigative journalism poses to both institutions. It’s why they have so relentlessly attacked his credibility. Politicians and journalists, alike, understood that Secret Power and its successors exposed not only the misdeeds of legislators from both sides of the House, but also the consistent failure of mainstream reporters to uncover the stories that have made Hager’s reputation.

Nowhere was the undermining and diminishing priorities of this parliamentary-media nexus more in evidence than following the release of Hager’s fifth book, Other People’s Wars. A work of extraordinary thoroughness, born of superlative investigative skills, this book exposed the moral, military and diplomatic failings of both Labour and National in Iraq and Afghanistan. In doing so it also exposed (in the manner of collateral damage) the cover provided to successive governments by New Zealand’s largely uninterested and easily reassured news media.

It is this potent cocktail of political fear and professional jealousy that has produced a public image of Hager so frighteningly negative that a little old lady in Taranaki felt justified in dismissing Dirty Politics without reading it. Ever since 1996, the unrelenting hostility of politicians – amplified and uncorrected by journalists who should have known better – has very effectively inoculated a depressingly large number of New Zealanders against anything and everything Hager might have to say.

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They had help. Ever since the publication of Hager’s second book, Secrets and Lies: The Anatomy of an Anti-Environmental PR Campaign, he has been the sworn enemy of the powerful public relations firms which play such an important role in rendering the most distasteful government and/or corporate policies more or less palatable to the general public. The representatives of these firms – like the man who appeared on television the night Dirty Politics was released, telling New Zealand there was “nothing in it” – have never lost an opportunity either in public, or behind the scenes, to attack both Hager’s credibility and his character.

I well remember crossing swords with a young journalist in the Green Room at TVNZ after she blithely dismissed Hager as an inveterate conspiracy theorist and looney lefty. I asked her if she had read any of his books. She Hadn’t. I asked her if she was aware he had won international prizes for investigative journalism. She wasn’t. It hadn’t stopped her from casually defaming him, however. It never does. When John Key dismissed Dirty Politics as the work of “a screaming left-wing conspiracy theorist”, he knew there would be many thousands of Kiwis who would accept his characterisation without experiencing the slightest pang of doubt.

Will it be enough? That is the question upon which the result of this General Election now hinges. Is Dirty Politics strong enough to defeat the Right’s inoculating slanders? The evidence, to date, suggests that it just might be. The Colmar Brunton polling agency reports that the number of New Zealanders who believe the “suggestions” contained in Hager’s book has shot up 13 percentage points since the question was first asked of voters on the 14-15 August. Back then just 28 percent said they believed him. By the 27 August, however, the number was 41 percent.

It is its power to convince that is making Dirty Politics so influential. It’s as if all the warnings Hager asked us to take from his earlier books have been vindicated. Indeed, in this latest description of the way political power is wielded in New Zealand the themes of all his previous work have flowed together into an overwhelming torrent of evidence. In Dirty Politics we see them all: the security agencies; the public relations firms; the politicians; the journalists. And, of course, that latest manifestation of the will to power – the right-wing bloggers. In terms of sheer explanatory power, Hager’s book is without precedent. It’s why the Right is doing everything within its power to discredit it.


The race is on.


  1. A prophet is never appreciated in his own country. Also remember Cassandra of Troy? No-one believed her either and see what happened there. I’m surprised that no-one has advocated crucifixion.

    • I don’t know why you are so surprised, Chris. Isn’t this democracy? we don’t know why (or don’t approve) of people’s rationale. But we are stuck with them. So isn’t it all about education??

  2. The race is not on, it is over before it has begun. The elderly woman in Taranaki and young journalist in the Green Room sum that up.

    And this is why people burn effigies.

  3. Unfortunately where I come from the community is amazingly full of “little old ladies from taranaki ” types who absolutely refuse to allow their cosy little world view to be shaken by anything as abhorrent as facts.

    • Classic and too true….same here in my neck of the woods… although I have noticed a few of the headlocked Nat supporters starting to ask questions perhaps realising that there is truth there. I have told a few to look (at the book first) at Nicky Hagar’s track record and what he has said and then you will know he is absolutely not how Key, Collins,MSM etc paint him up.
      Fingers crossed many see through the fog realise how it actually is.

    • I’m 73 years old in my first marriage one of my first wife’s uncles and his wife lived in Auckland. We went to see them. His wife was a staunch Labour supporter and talked politics all the time. He was there with us and we were all agreeing on the political state of affairs. We were a team! Or so I thought. later on when he went out his wife confided in us that no matter what he said when he went to the ballot box his hand was always always guided to vote National!

  4. Key has repeatedly said Dirty Politics is full of mistakes, yet he hasn’t produced one – nor has the MSM ever asked him to. Now he and Collins are singing from the same hymnbook that it can be dismissed because it involved a “criminal” – never mind that it exposes high crimes and misdemeanours, by them.

  5. Overall, New Zealand is an amazingly ignorant and shallow country. Sometimes I delude myself that things are improving, but it’s only a dream so far.
    I remember years ago when there was a scandal with people contracting Hep C through blood transfusions. In most countries the Minister of Health would have resigned. Not New Zealand 🙁

    I only hope we can build an Aotearoa that is less ignorant.

    • I believe Simon Upton did resign over the hep C fiasco.
      One of the few and last Nats with old school integrity.

  6. Even a criminal can give admissible evidence under oath or by proxy to convict a bigger criminal…..they and the public all seem to forget that.

    In this case the term ‘public interest’ supersedes that scenario of accusations of criminality magnificently .

    As well….whoever is talking about criminals here?…it is only a convenient catchphrase to be used by those who’s defense of ‘the criminal ‘is their only answer.

    Another way of putting it is they are on thin ice and are clutching at straws…try any cliche and it still doesn’t erase the issues at hand.

    And they know it.

    • Edit :And by that I meant the hacker in question……as for Hager…he is merely the messenger ….and far from the ‘screaming left wing conspiracy theorist….more like the moral compass that exposes the real crims into the sunlight.

      And at the moment….they are all looking like possums caught out in the noonday sun.

      Well done , Mr Hager…we need more of this.

  7. The Great New Zealand Institutionalised Lie is coming out alarmingly ! All we have to do is take a moment to allow the enormity of The Lie to sink in . If National wins the election ? They’ll have a nightmare by the tail . If they lose ? The best they can hope for is to be able to scuttle off and hide with our money and hope to Christ a decent Royal Commission of Inquiry doesn’t come knocking on their mansion doors .
    Nicky Harger is a bona fide hero .

  8. I’m hoping Dotcom will pull one out of the bag on the 15th.
    A truth about this government and its leader, that will blow all Nat support out of the window, once and for all.

  9. Thanks to Nicky Hager most of us now know how National have performed their poll defying miracles.

    In summary;

    Nationals ability to market itself.

    To control information.

    Its unwavering commitment to mislead the public.

    That it doesn’t make any decisions without constant polling until the most convincing way of selling something is found, no matter how badly the general population comes off as a result (asset sales etc).

    The use of third parties to attack dissenters and anyone it sees as a threat and to enable enough fear to silence critics.

    Smear campaigns.


    Media allies sometimes encapsulating entire radio stations.

    Wealthy backers who have influence in all the right places.

    The misuse of government power and privilege to damage opposition and dissent. Just ask David Cunliffe who was the victim of a good few months of smears from National.

    Manipulation of official government statistics to read like a dream.

    And finally the creation of an image of a fictional and almost mythical PM who lives above the fray and who, under close inspection, bears no resemblance to the calm, blokey, straight talking, honest, non manipulative everyday man his character is supposed to be.

    All of which means an unparalleled 6 years of almost no questioning and 6 years of good news stories. It has been one hell of a snow job people!

    So I think a lot of people have swallowed this fantasy story hook, line and sinker and made their minds up well before Hager’s book came out late in the day, and to accept what the books tells them only grates as they will have to admit its a lie they’ve been sold.

    And this is how you get little old ladies from Taranaki who will send their life savings to a very nice man in Nigeria they’ve never met only for their money to be never seen again!

  10. Another excuse is to spread the dirt onto all politicians. This is what John Key is trying to do with saying Labour would also be exposed as having links between bloggers and MPs if its emails were exposed to the public domain.

    I think there is a difference though and that is the involvement of public services. Either using them for private gain -the PMs office, OIA, SIS etc or by undermining public servants in their duty to the public.

    I recently wrote about this here.

    “A couple of good posts there Andrewj. This to me is the heart of the matter.

    Kiwis wealth and prosperity is protected by many very important public institutions. The Serious Fraud Office, the Commerce Commission, Supreme Court Judges and so on.

    I would say the health of our democratic institutions are more important than cows, water and grass to our collective wellbeing.

    There is evidence that the executive -Collins, Key or at least that poorly defined thing called the Prime Ministers Office are donkey deep in undermining those democratic institutions for their own personal political advantage.

    Corruption is present in NZ. Not the white envelope full of cash kind but the kind of certain power elites having undue influence of a secretitieve nature on public bodies.

    This is undermining the benefits the rest of us should be getting from having effective public institutions.

    I don’t think it is enough to kick out the National party until they learn to play ball fairly.

    I think New Zealand needs some neutral referee position that provides a check on the executive.

    My favoured method of achieving this would for Parliament to unanimously appoint the Speaker (all the MPs should be locked in Parliament without recess until they decide).

    That it is the Speaker’s responsibility to appoint senior civil servants, process Official Information Releases, appoint judges, make recommendations for Knighthoods and so on.

    I believe that would change the culture within the Public sphere. Merit, hard work and effectiveness would be rewarded. Windvane brown nosing would not.”

  11. Quite rightly this election is about trust and policy is secondary.

    Many kiwis do not want to face the uncomfortable truths that Nicky Hager reveals. They would have to think, analyse and assess their political masters continually – far easier, better to sit in the warm diarrhea, pretend it doesn’t stink and settle for mindless slogans.

    It is a lot easier to fool people than show them they have been fooled.

    • Of course, that is just what ‘eternal vigilance’ means.

      Nicky Hager has gone some way to restoring my faith in the profession of journalism – at least to the extent of demonstrating what it can produce. But the contrast is so stark between himself and the MSM that my opinion of the latter has sunk in proportion.

      Those soi-disant journalists – they ain’t journalists’ arse holes – of the MSM and their bosses should right now be hanging their heads in shame and humiliation for being shown up for the time-serving, lazy, mean-spirited and useless scriveners they truly are. They ought to have been doing the job Nicky Hager and a precious few others have been attempting to do pretty much on their own.

      Well has it been said that a servant can not serve two masters: “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Luke 16:13; Matthew 6:24). If I wanted to I could point out that right there lies the fundamental contradiction of capitalism, except there is no contradiction: Master Profit outranks Master Paying Customer every time.

      There being no publicly owned nor unpoliticised organ worthy of the name, we are left with the opinions and news selections of profiteers and their servitors whose horizons extend no further than the bottom line.

  12. “WE ARE IN A RACE. It’s a race between those wilfully ignorant and the deliberately spiteful New Zealanders who make up such an alarmingly large fraction of National’s electoral base, and that steadily growing percentage of the electorate who understand that the shocking revelations contained in Nicky Hager’s book, Dirty Politics, require an electoral response.”

    One of the biggest mistake Labour and others on the left are making again this election is, underestimating the power of the MSM (mainstream media).

    It seems that after the many right leaning players in the media tried to simply dismiss Hager’s book as a “left wing conspiracy”, but did not quite succeed, the majority of the media hacks have now settled for the “next best” solution, to simply say, well Collins was a problem, she got forced to resign, and now Key is “in the clean” again.

    That is what I observe, and I am very disturbed about it.

    As for the majority of the public, and the voters, they still largely rely on the MSM for “news”, and outside of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, there is just too small an “enlightened” voter base. That is what the Nats rely on again, and they know, that by throwing the usual messages around, by ridiculing Labour and Cunliffe, they may get more traction than the whole opposition together.

    Even when people give some credit to Hager and his revelations, they still ponder about the future direction, and as most have been so brainwashed by the neoliberal direction of politics of the last few decades, which has been adopted and accepted by the MSM also, they are simply too suspicious of Labour and Greens, they will tend to stay with what they know, and that sadly means Key and his lot.

    The polls are not truly representative, as they are based on landline calls to seek voter feedback, and ignore the young a lot. But we have the self fulfilling prophecy at work again, where polls may be taken at face value, so many will perhaps think, it does not make a difference if I vote, and stay away from the booths.

    The originally planned social media efforts seem to have only worked too little, I fear, as we have people tend to visit certain forums, and not look beyond. So most will continue to look at Kiwiblog and Whaleoil’s blog, despite of all the stuff that has been revealed, and they will exchange views via Facebook and Twitter, which do not really deliver anything new and reach further beyond those who are “friends” of networks that exist.

    I think before the next election in 2017, some very thorough analysis must be made, to avoid mistakes that may have been made again this time.

    A full blown attack and convincing strategy is needed, not pandering with MSM personalities, who just report certain sound bites and deliver shallow, superficial discussions when they even happen, on rare occasions. That is apart from the few current affairs programs there are.

    This election will be close, but I worry that it will again be determined by the MSM, same as the last two. I fear, too many will again forgive Key and Nats for the mistakes and even nasty activities they are now associated with, as they fear insecurity that may come with the alternative, of too many parties, and a too weak Labour Party and leader of it.

  13. National are going to get routed and democracy will be saved from the power abusing liars that have created a rats nest in the beehives most powerful office.

    They just sneaked in last election and that was with the main stream media telling everyone that Key walked on water and that he was a nice bloke who wanted to have a beer with us all ………

    Even with the Key love fest that the media was having he still ended up needing John Banks, peter dunne and the Maori party to govern.

    He is now being viewed as dishonest and involved in some sleazy nasty shit that anyone let alone a prime minister should not be doing.

    I’m predicting up to 10% of national voters deserting them in disgust.

    So it will be the national party members with real morals who will decide the election to some degree.

    I also expect IMP to engage a lot of previous non voting people, many of them young.

    History will be made in New Zealand as the people here reject the corruption and rot which Key with his Wall Steet Bankers ethics has entrenched in the prime ministers office.

    Hopefully New Zealand can once more be an example to the world if we show that corruption and abuse of power by governments can be stamped out by the will of the ordinary people.

    Be part of history and vote the rats out.

    vote clean ….. vote green

    • God I hope so. But why hasn’t he dropped in the polls? ok the main media polls are a crock but surely not everyone surveyed still thinks he’s a fine honest fellow doing a wonderful job? How badly does he have to screw up to drop below 50%, he’s survived so many scandals it’s ridiculous.
      I think of that “old lady from Taranaki” in an earlier post and imagine what she thinks when she sees DC on the tv – doesn’t smile, has a funny mouth, preachy rather than matey, when he answers a question he goes on way past the old lady’s attention span, gives too much detail when a short sharp summary is all she wants – I bet a lot of undecided voters see these things.

  14. Having read most of the commentary since Dirty Politics was published, here is my estimation of the right voting `segments’ to date:

    Will never vote left
    Ignorant and disinterested…never heard of Dirty Politics? Is there an election on?
    Would rather a sock puppet or completely corrupt govt than vote left
    Mr Key is such a nice man he couldn’t possibly…

    Might vote left
    Decent types and shocked…
    Wasn’t sure who to vote for and this has really helped

    Completely depends on the numbers in each segment on the day

  15. A part of me has always wondered what the reading lists are like for many of the journalists ( tv, radio, print) in this country.

    If only I could do an OIA and see what the leading “opinion”makers of this country have recently purchased from Amazon or checked out from their local library.

  16. Sadly most New Zealanders are totally brain washed and believe the crap MSM and government we have, they live at their own peril:

    Democracy is a FARCE and a LIE in this country, nor in the US, it does NOT exist anymore. We are all lied to and sold out, and we are heading for WW3, no doubt, and the US and other nations follow vested interests, for the US that is Wall Street and MONEY interests!

  17. I keep thinking about Malcolm Gladwell’s debut book, “The Tipping Point”, and hoping this point is being reached as more people digest the facts presented in Nicky Hager’s most recent book.

  18. The ‘ugly New Zealander’ has long been with us, I reckon this sits at around 40% of the population. Conservative reactionary Whadarrryaa! types along with modern neo lib torys and SME operators and contractors and general ignoramuses lulled by their flatscreens and smart phones.

    The class composition of NZ has changed with digital technology and the decline of local manufacturing. Dependent contracting, zero hours and the rise of the slavery by another name–service and care sector and unpaid internships.

    Things will change in the next generation as immigrants cement their position and agriculture has to shape up and young people actually want a viable future. If National are re elected it will be narrow and Key is unlikely to be PM in 12 months as “Dirty Politics” continues to be processed.

  19. I’ve referred to this before…

    A scene in the sf movie, Matrix, where one of the characters betrays the rebels.

    His motivation?

    He knows that “life” he is living is a fiction; a carefully programmed illusion.

    But he prefers the illusion of the taste of fake-steak – rather than the grim reality of a broken, harsh world around him which he does not live in – but has seen. He doesn’t want reality. He wants steak – even if it isn’t real.

    As for the “little old Taranaki Lady” – John Campbell did a similar Vox Populi in Christchurch, to gauge the reaction of Cantabrians to Cameron Slater referring to them as “scum”.

    It was tragic to see the number of older people (and some not so young) who, book unread, dismissed Nicki as a “stirrer”.

    Thankfully, I hold that enough numbers of human beings prefer to know the truth – rather than the nice tasting (but fake) taste of a piece of steak.

    They are the ones who will effect change.

    Otherwise, thinking about it, we would never have emerged from our caves (or trees) all those millenia ago, for fear of angering the “Sky Gods”. Some, no doubt, preferred to stay where they were.

  20. Trotter’s mention of the rank stupidity of the Green Room journalist is very alarming. Many in the media are just not very bright frankly. Not all, but many.

    • No wonder Slater think journos are all lazy shits. It may be the only true thing he’s ever uttered in his miserable life.

  21. I first met Nicky in ’98.

    Nicky is insanely thorough…I know whats not in Secrets and Lies.
    The well founded so called conspiracies and theories are omitted.
    There is a trail of evidence to everything Nicky writes about.

    We both shared the same passion for saving our forests from being logged.
    Dirty Politics is nothing new to me.

    I’ve known journalists that have intentionally misled the public in articles.
    I filmed the first native trees that were felled early 1/1/00…many of which are still rotting where they fell.

    Im guessing there’ll be some rotting with Dirty Politics too.

  22. If you’re not deemed to have developed the necessary faculties to vote until you’re 18, it’s only fair that voting rights should cease after a certain age due to the deterioration of these same faculties. That’d change things up a bit.

    • F.O.
      Just because we get older doesn’t mean we don’t think! The old lady in Taranaki scenario , would probably have been the same when she was a young lady in Taranaki – along with the other two thirds of the population who don’t want to think but are happy to be told what to do……

      • Calm down Jon, stop shaking your stick, you’ll damage the crockery. It was said slightly in jest. But it is an interesting point. Why do 80+ year olds get to have a say in a world they’re not long for while 17 year olds, with a whole lifetime ahead of them do not? No need to respond till after this afternoon’s Keno results.

        • Chris Trotter identified a couple of examples of people who were clearly not prepared to think critically about how we are governed and the motivation of ‘behind-closed-doors’ actions that have been used by people in positions of political power.

          One example Chris used was a young journalist; another was a 73 year old from Taranaki.

          The 73 year old’s reaction to Nicky Hager’s book seems to have sparked your unfortunate suggestion that consideration could be given to the elderly losing their right to vote,

          Using this basis, perhaps the young journalist (or anyone else for that matter) who chooses not to think critically about matters as important as this,

          Your ‘slight jest’ (as you put it) leaves me wondering whether the words respect and dignity are foreign concepts to you? Or, is it simply that they need not be applied to how we treat the elderly?

        • Chris Trotter identified a couple of examples of people who were clearly not prepared to think critically about how we are governed and the motivation of ‘behind-closed-doors’ actions that have been used by people in positions of political power.

          One example Chris used was a young journalist; another was a 73 year old from Taranaki.

          The 73 year old’s reaction to Nicky Hager’s book seems to have sparked your unfortunate suggestion that consideration could be given to the elderly losing their right to vote.

          Using this basis, perhaps the young journalist (or anyone else for that matter) who chooses not to think critically about matters as important as this, should also lose their right to vote.

          Your ‘slight jest’ (as you put it) leaves me wondering whether the words respect and dignity are foreign concepts to you? Or, is it simply that they need not be applied to how we treat the elderly?

  23. Nicky Hager’s ‘Dirty Politics’ has already overshadowed half of the election campaign and I like many other Kiwis are getting sick and tired of hearing about it. I probably will never read it, so instead I just fall victim to the media and its take on the book.

    However, if all these dirty tactics are what’s really going on in parliament and between ministers how can we feel proud of our government? How are young people supposed to want to vote when all they see is nastiness and corrupt politicians? I for one feel completely turned off, even John Key and David Cunliffe’s responses to the issues brought up by the book have been woeful.

    All the fuss has even brought Dame Anne Salmond out to make comment, in a recent article she said:

    “We have the right to live in a democracy where our leaders do not lie to us, or abuse their powers, or strip away our freedoms. They need to represent what’s best, not what’s worst about New Zealand. We are entitled to feel proud and confident about the way we’re governed, not embarrassed and ashamed.”

    I couldn’t agree more. My question to all you intelligent and open minded individuals is this, who is prepared to take a stand to clean up all the dirt? Lets get it out in the open so we as citizens of New Zealand can actually make well informed decisions about who we want running our country. #independent #high-level #inquiry

  24. If the recent round of polls are accurate, your theory that enough voters have being influenced to vote against National by Hager’s book and so bring in a centre left government does not look accurate.

    The ‘willfully ignorant and deliberately spiteful’ typical NZ voter appears not to be buying the grand morally superior vision of democracy that you so eloquently write about.

    If they have paid any attention to Hager’s book at all, they’re probably just as concerned about the illegal basis upon which it is written;i.e. the hacked material, and the dismissal of many of the allegations in that book by those who were apparently wronged by Cameron and his mates.

    They’re probably also unimpressed by the very biased ‘investigative’ journalism demonstrated by the author where he attacks a number of people without getting their side of the story before publishing, which is what a real investigative journalist would do.

    Maybe these NZ’s visualise a democracy that takes these matters into account, as well as the allegations themselves and make a more realsitic and mature judgement about what is right and wrong.

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