Dirty Politics: the book review

Page 117 is as far as I can stomach to read of Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics before writing this review.  The emotional arc of the shit rainbow painted so vividly and irrefutably in this book began with wet anticipation – and went through stages of wonderment, scepticism, alarm, fascination, horror and dismay – to this point of dry retching.  I really don’t want to read any more of it.  It is at a depressing point in the chronology.  It is essentially a voyeuristic shame-read I have binged upon and now a threshold has been reached.  Should I even bother reading further since at this point, with not much more than a week to the election, events have overtaken the book and the whale dump/raw shark hacker has dropped the personal bombs via social media that Hager – cloaked in the aura of print and preaching deeply and profoundly under a halo of journalistic credibility – could not.  The National Party have even taken to leaking personal and confidential correspondence post-publication, including half an email which was used to force the Justice Minister’s resignation from Cabinet.  The incontent internet has strange bedfellows.
The difference between a crisis and stability in New Zealand politics is a Nicky Hager book of barely 150 pages.  It has been this way for some time.  Everything is nice and orderly and relaxed on the 9th floor, pleasantly predictable calmness prevails at party HQ  and then Hager hijacks a tanker full of their sewage and tips it out behind a jet engine to create a shit storm of epic proportions that no-one involved can walk away from without some level, some percentage coverage, of shit.  There is so damn much of it that some of it will stick.  In the aftermath of the shit storm everyone smells like shit, whether it’s one fleck or one bucket.
The tale is gritty and enthralling and explosive.  The malevolent fantasist blogger, his media stooges, and his circle of hard right cronies forever trying to take over the National Party – like one demented episode of ‘Pinky and the Brain’ or ‘Ren and Stimpy’ after another – has turned into a soap opera from hell: performed by professionals, paid for by businessmen and corporations, produced on the National Party back lot, and directed by their loyal but uncontrollable son, Cameron Slater with a crew of prostitutes, hacks and hangers on.  But big picture ambitions for the Birth of the Nation have been recut from the out-takes and it looks more like Rocky Horror meets All the Presidents Men when it is read on the page.
All of the activity uncovered has been unethical, all of it disturbing, most of it sinister, some of it absurd, and some of it likely constituting criminal offences. The corrupt practices within and between the bloggers, the media, the PR consultants and the politicians are laid bare – some of it in unflinching minutae.  Some of it was executed entirely under the radar, escaping detection and identification at the time; and some of it was known, but the detail elusive; and some of it –  as with the Ports of Auckland strike-breaking collusion – barely needed any lines drawn between dots to finish the obvious picture for those who followed that particularly toxic campaign.
The overall impression is a hackers version of Watergate has gone on, but with the PM kept at a distance of deniability so he can’t get pinged the way Nixon did when his tapes were released.
There may be smoking guns, but John Key and his people have provided nothing that definitively shows that Key’s hand was on any of those guns.  But all around is on fire.  Ablaze.  Judith Collins for example – combustible and brittle at the best of times – was fully aflame.  She had counted on riding into the next Cabinet on Key’s coat-tails despite the hit on his personal support she was causing him.  It was an open secret, or presumed stratagem, that she also intended to roll him for the leadership in the next term.  She found herself fired.  Some form of justice at least for the Justice Minister who indulged in Slater’s network running deceptive, clandestine operations that freely mixed intimidation and blackmail.
As I understand it from other reviews: if you keep reading to the end of this book – gazing at the open sewer pipe Hager has exposed – you come to be motivated into action.  If you’re on the left that is.  If you are on the right however it is a different story: a demotivational revulsion at what the National Party primarily, and politics in general, has become.  That is certainly the impression I have got from the door-knocking underway.  The gruff, mumbling, cynical National-voting men (tradesmen and pensioners in particular) are saying they won’t vote.  These are core National supporters and they would rather stay home on polling day than endorse a party and a system that Hager has demonstrated is sick, sleazy and malfunctioning.
For me, as a blogger who stands  to the side of this particular stage with a view between the curtains and a glimpse of what ropes are being pulled behind the sets, I see the performance slightly differently.  Perhaps I have been walking the path next to the sewer for so long I have got used to the reeking stench?  My initial reaction to much of the nefarious and noxious escapades was: and, so what?  But things were worse than I ever imagined as the pages turned.  The activity was beyond anything I had known to have happened on the left.  The extraordinary extension from political hits to going about the business of procuring an actual hit by irate Chinese on Hager himself – in Cathy Odger’s “chop chop” email – was spectacular; but there are just too many instances of repellant plotting to recall them all in this review.  The footnotes make for grim reading in themselves as Hager’s style devolves the more personal items out of the main text.
The smell of the sewer was normal, it came with the territory – bloggers aren’t journalists and blogs aren’t newspapers – so what do you expect… the truth? accuracy? impartiality? robust declarations of interest?  journalistic standards and legal protection?  This is unrealistic and consequently the reason I have such low expectations from the medium; but Slater thinks these incompatible and contradictory modes are viable – or at least arguable in court – to cover his malicious harassment.  Clearly they are not.
At page 117 the story descends to what could charitably be described as farce.  In the midst of Hager’s inquest of Len Brown’s Mayoral career (following the Slater-engineered sex scandal) there is mention of Slater receiving a Canon Media Award for Whaleoil blog.  The mainstream media – in this case the Newspaper Publishers’ Association – had bestowed this achievement on a person who was already known to be dealing, dabbling and dredging in the gutter.  This honour was conferred by a right wing commentator to one of a very small group of desperate bloggers whose misplaced craving for professional legitimacy had led them to seek approval of the old boys’ club.  $150 and a dinner jacket may purchase access to the network of potential employers these bloggers feel they need, but it cannot buy any credibility in the blogosphere.  Indeed the co-option by the corporate news and the credulous ingratiation of these bloggers to the corporate news may be the shit pot at the end of this tremendous shit rainbow.  It is revolting.  Time to stop reading and start campaigning.


  1. i haven’t bought the book for this reason, avoiding feeling ill. be worth supporting Nicky though, he spoke wonderfully at the public meeting he had down here. thanks for the review.

    • If you want to support Nicky – buy the book. Give it away if you want to – or donate it to a library.

      We don’t have enough ethical journalists in this country. Supporting him by purchasing the book goes some way to ensuring the few we have remain.

  2. Yes it is revolting. I just watched The Shawshank Redemption the other night the whole movie reminds me of the corruption in Nicky Hagar’s book, especially when ‘Andy’ crawls through the sewage pipe to escape. When he stands up in triumph after making it out of the sewage pipe he is standing in the stream and in the rain, he is ecstatic! That will be exactly how i will feel when the left take back N.Z, and this stinking corruption is over! And when we win! I hope The Daily Blog has just the right post of a video of little fluffy white clouds, for us to relax and enjoy some peace*

  3. I for one am sick of the label ‘Dirty Politics’.

    I want it mentioned from here on in as Corruption Politics.

    And the only good thing to come out of all this , is that in years to come it will be taught in universities as a case study of political corruption in this country for political science degrees.

    That is about the extent that all this disgusting saga is good for.

    Every time I see that arsehole Key on TV I feel disgusted.

    Every time.

    Hes a phony….. A weak ,shoddy little loathsome phony , with his cheesy little ‘ums’ and ‘aahs’ and ‘at the end of the day’ bullshit.

    The real Key is a viscious, treasonous little prick who came back to this country to reinforce the neo liberal agenda of the large corporations and banks and gut this country of any remaining soveriegnty it may still have had in real terms.

  4. And as a side note :all you little whalespew jerks who come on this blogsite to mark the thumbs down buttons are fooling no one .

    It has all the subtlety of a fat , dead , stinking rotting whale washed up on a crowded beach full of summer holidaymakers…..much like the jerk who spawned you types in the first place.

  5. Thanks God for Daily B, Wild K and Mystery. Restores my faith in real good kiwis. As the saying goes, Power Corrupts and ultimate power corrupts ultimately – or something like that. It’s taken a long time for the JKey supporters to see the light. Sadly most NZ’ers, they don’t want to know. To me that fellow JKey is so transparent and yet like slick Willy he gets away with it. National Party are going to have a lot of cleaning up to do especially what’s still under the carpet. Thanks Nicky Hagar and Rawshark. Legends!!

  6. I have nominated Nicky Hager as Kiwi Bank’s New Zealand Man of the Year. I hope others follow suit. He has done all Kiwi’s a great service , at great personal risk exposing these criminal acts.

  7. I got totally motivated by this book. We have been round all the houses in our part of the street with muffins and enrolment packs, have taken some non-voters to the polls, and are now pounding the streets with Internet Mana flyers. We’ve got 3000 to deliver between 3 of us across Whanganui this weekend and I don’t care, we will do whatever it takes. I quite possibly wouldn’t have done anything much, but that changed the day I finished reading Dirty Politics. Now there is no way I am gonna sit idly by. I hope others have responded to the call.

  8. I have the read the whole of it- and i have gone on to read a whole lot more- like a heroin addict turning on to a mix of crocodil and ketamine-
    I am now so deep in the mire of the Right,
    and Odger’s erstwhile international money-laundering friends (please read nakedcapitalist.com),
    the beady eyed Lusk’s College of the New World Order (oh we so need to shine a light on this creature),
    Carrick Tobacco’s shit infested family Cornershop of Horrors (leave this one alone – obviously beyond redemption, if not punishment).

    They make Whoreoil just seem pathetic……

    Remember- these are the people who want to take away our choices and our freedom, to make our children’s lives a little more miserable so that their’s can have more…. That’s what success is to the New Right- theft.

    Yes- the time has come for regimented diligence- Let the right expose the Dirty Left- and let the Left expose the Corrupt Right-

    It’s a no brainer who’ll win that one- and they know it for real.

  9. This shows that there is no need to waste time on selections and elections when one can control from without. Soul of the socio paths or probably psychopath

  10. Reading Dirty Politics made me feel sick. Sick that so many people cannot see what theyknow at heart. That Key et al are a bag of sleaze and corruption. Like I looked into a badly maintained septic tank.

  11. I, too, was absolutely sickened to read the book, and learn of this terrible situation. I am very concerned about the implications of all of this for New Zealand as a country. On reading the beginning of your review, I turned to page 117 of my copy and note that at the bottom of this page the print is blotted, with a teardrop – indicating this is the point of the book where I began crying. I noted the orange highlighting, and turned back to remind myself at what point I began highlighting particularly disturbing text and it was Chapter 9 – the many hats of David Farrar.

  12. Like Tim, I find the carryings-on described by Nicky Hager to be repellent.

    More than that, I’m stunned that so many people thought for a moment that this kind of activity could fly “beneath the radar” forever.

    It may be a tired cliche, but this is a small country where everyone is only a few degrees removed from everyone else.

    Did Slater, Collins, Lush, Farrar, Ede, et al truly believe this would remain secret for long?!

    Truly their arrogance mixed with stupidity is greater than I thought.

    I’m reading the book. A chapter every couple of days or so. Keeps my mental health on an even keel.

    God knows how Nicky Hager stayed sane – he read all the material and tasked himself to write it all up.

    His was a mental feat of Everest-climbing proportions.

    Man of the Year. Definitely.

  13. Nicky Hager’s book has made this a very interesting Election Campaign. Add to that the arrival of the Internet Mana party and the emerging strength of the Conservatives it becomes an intriguing formula. Once this election is done and dusted and the fallout is sorted, some clever person will write a thesis for a PhD and hopefully pull out the truths and the lessons.

  14. Dirty Politics = A Bunch of Sleazy Rats nothing has changed since the Wine Box Enquiry and the same characters are still feeding at the trough.

Comments are closed.