The vast rightwing conspiracy: REVEALED

Readers, I have earth-shattering received information which will blow the lid of one of the greatest scandals of our time.

An internal WhaleOil document, exclusively created by released to Boots Theory, show the innermost workings of a corrupt, depraved, unmitigated, cryptofascist conspiracy to control our media, our government, our daily lives and even our rare Pepes.

Nicky Hager ain’t got shit on this.

I’ve uploaded the documentation at full resolution so it can be available to all in the event of my sudden disappearance.

Click to view the full, horrific truth.

Click to view the full, horrific truth.

Now, this may at face value appear to be a really obvious two-minute job with the SmartArt functions in Microsoft Word and some Google image searches. The kind of “evidence” which shouldn’t even seem compelling to the people who really, really want to believe it’s true. Don’t worry, loyal Booters: I’m suspicious too.

But it’s so important to unveil the terrible depths that the rightwing will sink to – the secret Bitcoin payments, the hidden overseas blind look-through trust fund trusts, the pineapple on the pizza – that I am willing to pay hundreds, nay thousands of dollars to an elite super hacker who can’t even spell the names of my targets correctly and thinks screenshots of a Notepad file counts as “documentation”.

I’m doing it for you. I’m doing it for our country. And above all, I’m doing it for myself.

witness me

With absolutely no apologies nor credit to Cameron Slater or his self-important creep of a conman, Ben Rachinger.

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We totally meant to do that: the WhaleOil story

There is no point engaging in argument with the WhaleOil crew, however many or few of them there are. This is taken as read by most people on the left, and was even before Nicky Hager exposed what a shallow, mercenary organisation “they” are.

A lot of our antipathy towards them has to be ideological. We’re talking about an extremely rightwing, vicious attack machine which actively seeks to destroy the lives of people who stand opposed to it.

But there’s no need to bring political opinions into this. The chief reason not to give even the slightest benefit of the doubt to WhaleOil is because nothing published there has any weight. It’s nonsensical and self-contradicting, and while I should really just not be writing this post and giving them oxygen, it may be helpful to have one canonical example of this as a warning to the next ten generations.

Holla if you get that reference

Shout out if you get that reference

So Cam Slater wrote a book about the terribleness of unions, and the first review posted on Amazon was a five-star paean, under a pseudonym, quickly discovered to belong to WhaleOil moderator Pete Belt. Immediately after publishing, free signed copies were sent, apparently to every Labour MP and other leftwingers who would presumably be outraged by its contents.

And yesterday this post [donotlink] went up praising the book for being #1 in Amazon’s Kindle/Kindle eBooks/Nonfiction/Politics & Social Sciences/Politics & Government/Specific Topics/Labor & Industrial Relations category. It is remarkable only for being a perfect example of Whaleoil doublespeak.

To accept the assertions of Pete’s post, you are asked to accept several ideas:

  • That seeing “many copies” at the CTU conference proves the book is popular among Slater’s enemies, while admitting dozens of copies have been sent for free … to Slater’s enemies
  • That “the media and the Left were very quiet” about the book (which may not ring true if you follow #nzpol on Twitter) and that this means there was a deliberate strategy of not talking about the book
  • That “the Left have outrage cornered”, but WhaleOil nevertheless had to “engineer” it because of our deliberate strategy of not talking about the book
  • That Pete Belt deliberately left a mild-sounding but favourable review with a “provocative” screen name in order to “engineer” outrage
  • That the Left then promptly forgot our strategy of not talking about the book and began talking about it
  • At which point Pete Belt immediately deleted the review, because its only purpose was to engineer outrage, not game the book’s rating
  • And this all proves that the Left are buying Slater’s book in droves – even though the Amazon figures are for the Kindle edition, not the hardcopy, which has been sent for free to many people.

It’s a classic case of someone saying whatever they need to in the moment to “refute” the arguments against them. It’s “I totally meant to do that” writ large. Of course it’s accepted without question by the WhaleOil commentariat, rejected out of hand by the Twitterati, and largely ignored by the rest of the country who have better things to do with their time.

By accounts from people who have read the book, there’s not a lot of new material. There’s not much material full stop. If you want to know why Cameron Slater hates unions, and what he thinks is wrong with them, he’s already told us, many times, for free.

Which is probably why no one had to create a “strategy” of not talking about the book. Though the cover is still pretty funny.

How the Dirty Politics machine continues to do its work

“There are a few basic propositions with negative campaigning that are worth knowing about. It lowers turnout, favours the right more than the left as the right continue to turn out, and drives away the independents.”

Simon Lusk, email to Nicky Hager reproduced in Dirty Politics (p18)

One of the many dispiriting things Nicky Hager described in Dirty Politics was how attack blogs like Whaleoil and two-dimensional shell organisations like the Taxpayers’ Union have been deliberately created by the right to push their narrative on New Zealand politics.

From page 103:

Like the blogs that ‘need not be associated (in name) with your party or campaign’, the NZTU is an example of a supposedly independent organisation designed to back up the work of a political party. Its launch press release described it as a ‘politically independent grassroots campaign’, but it is no more politically independent than the election finance and anti-MMP campaigns. In fact, it was like a rerun of the anti-MMP campaign, with Jordan Williams once again as frontperson and [David] Farrar as founder and main strategist.

The strategy works on a big or small scale. Sometimes it’s specific stories – like Len Brown’s affair, which was “broken” on Whaleoil – and sometimes it’s just general ideas and memes which benefit the right – all politicians are troughers, government spending is out of control, unions are evil.

The point isn’t to stir up the Whaleoil or Kiwiblog commentariat into ever grosser expressions of racism, misogyny and generalised hatred. It’s to make headlines in the mainstream, offline media. To get specifically-chosen language into the common vernacular.

And here we are today, with the Taxpayers’ Union pointing fingers at MPs’ travel expenses – always an easy target and one which literally everyone, besides the MPs themselves, are happy to throw shade at – and specifically, at the extension of those perks to partners. Or as they put it:

‘WAGs’ Should Stay at Home

WAGs is a very particularly British term, applied to the partners (“wives and girlfriends”) of professional football (soccer) players. It’s pretty obviously demeaning and dehumanizing – you’re not a person, you’re a vagina attached to a famous man – and feeds into any number of boring sexist tropes about women as pointless accessories whose “proper” place is in the home.

In this day and age, and when applied to the partners of New Zealand Members of Parliament, it’s also wildly inaccurate, since:

  • Not all MPs are men
  • Not all male MPs are heterosexual
  • Not all women partners of MPs fit into the categories of “wife” or “girlfriend”

But it is a snappy headline, precisely calculated to create indignation among one part of the population (containing me and my very best Killjoy Feminist buddies) and Daily Mail-esque class resentment in another.

And thus it was copy-pasted straight onto an article at Stuff:

MPs’ Europe trip: ‘WAGs should stay home’

And that’s how the machine keeps on ticking.

The irritating thing about it is that there is an important issue to explore here. The idea of partners (who yes, historically were assumed to all be wives) getting subsidised travel, even being automatically included, in work-related travel is a pretty archaic idea, still barely clinging on in some sectors and industries.

But that honestly doesn’t matter to the Taxpayer’s Union. They – and it feels somehow inappropriate to use a plural pronoun – weren’t created to fight issues of government spending on principle. They were created to sow National Party-favouring ideas into mainstream political discussion, and they’ll do that by any means necessary.

Specific reform of MPs’ expenses isn’t the goal. It’s about getting widespread acceptance of the idea that all politicians are troughing scum and all politics is dirty and why bother voting, it just encourages them.

Just like Simon Lusk said.

Watching our language on mental illness and disability

[Content note: ableist language]

It was probably inevitable that in a post on The Standard about the differences in commentary style between leftwing and rightwing blogs, someone would come along and start saying things like:

Kiwiblog’s comments threads feature a great many angry retards, who mistake the laying out of their prejudices for thinking about a subject and presenting an argument on it. This topic attracts them more than most, and the thread was accordingly psychotic in tone.

When I pointed out that using words like “retard” and “psychotic” was unfriendly to people with mental health issues, it was probably also inevitable that I would be called a member of the “volunteer word police”.

The thing is, ableism is a serious issue. And I’m not ashamed to point it out when I see it.

If you’re unfamiliar with the word “ableism”, this is a good introduction.

There are two very good sets of reasons to not use that kind of language.

The first is the harm it causes. The way we talk about people with disabilities or mental illnesses contributes to how society treats them. We can use language which accords people some basic dignity and agency – like “wheelchair user” – or we can use language which pigeonholes them and defines them purely by what they “can’t” do – like “wheelchair-bound”.

And when we talk about judgemental, vindictive, aggressive, callous people like the standard commenters at Kiwiblog as “retards”, we’re saying that people who have severe mental disabilities are judgemental, vindictive, aggressive, and callous. Do you think that’s going to lead to anyone saying “gee, maybe I should be more open-minded and accommodating to people with mental disabilities?”

There’s a lot of highminded progressive principles which liberal/lefty people subscribe to, about treating people equally and not tolerating oppression. And we extend our analysis of power and exploitation to language all the time. We can all see the harm caused by referring to workers as a “resource” or telling sickness beneficiaries that “the best path to recovery is paid work.”

But when it comes to ideas like “don’t use ableist language” or “stop calling Paula Bennett fat” those progressive principles tend to fall down. Suddenly, we refuse to see the harm we cause with our language.

The second reason to avoid ableist language is, sadly, probably more persuasive.

That’s the idea that when we write off threatening, bigoted hate-speech as “retarded” or far-right and religious extremists as “nutjobs”, we’re downplaying the real threat they pose and cut ourselves off from being able to challenge their ideas or the people who propagate them.

Calling Kiwiblog commenters “angry retards” basically lets David Farrar off the hook for providing a platform for bigotry and hate. Talking about Cameron Slater’s mental health all the time mitigates the fact that he has built a following on deliberately destroying people’s careers and trying to threaten their lives. Writing off people like Anders Breivik as “crazy” stops us from examining and understanding the huge community of people who think, say, and may be planning similar violent actions. (And writing off that entire community as “crazy” is a great way to let them organise further acts of terrorist violence right under our noses.)

It’s easy enough to see why this language has a lot of currency. It’s so satisfying to be able to write off whole groups of people as being beneath us, isn’t it? But really it just hurts everyone else, including ourselves.

If that makes me a member of the Volunteer Word Police, I can only hope that the job comes with a shiny badge.

If you’re having difficulty figuring out how to stop using words like “retard” or “lame” in your day-to-day life, here’s a handy guide.

(Repost) When is a nasty attack not a nasty attack?

Originally posted at On The Left.

John Key was on Breakfast on One this morning talking about the political year past and the challenges facing him in 2015. And it was a fascinating display of how someone can say utterly contradictory things with a straight face.

On the “low point” of the election campaign – after talking dismissively about Nicky Hager – Key says:

“The low point was the campaign … it was a style of campaign that New Zealanders aren’t used to, don’t want … the whole thing was just awful.”

“[Labour] have done every rotten trick in the book.”

But of course:

“It’s the nature of politics and I don’t complain about it.”

Then, after the ad break:

“The one difference with [Andrew Little, compared to previous Labour leaders] is, he’s comfortable in his own skin … he’s got a pretty narrow base … and he’s always been the aggressive hard man, there’ll never be a change of dial or temperature, if a kitten crosses the road … he’ll be screaming like that.”

What was that about nasty attack politics being a turn-off to voters?

This has been the rightwing response to Dirty Politics since the day it dropped, throwing up utterly contradictory defences (“everyone does it so get over it”, “no you’re the dirty ones”, “it turns off voters”, “it’s a beltway issue voters don’t care about”) and assuming

The problem is, it’s worked. So in under 12 minutes on Breakfast, Key can attack the integrity of one of our best investigative journalists, repeat the WhaleOil smear about Andrew Little having no support, and literally accuse him of yelling at kittens.

But apparently it was Labour’s nasty attack politics which resulted in their bad election result.

To add insult to injury, he even kicks off the resurrection of Judith Collins’ career by talking about how good a minister she was! The minister who tried to smear a gallery journo to another in order to distract from her shady dealings with Oravida! (Collins is clearly still holding a grudge on that one, too.)

So when is a nasty attack not a nasty attack? It’s basic emotive conjugation: I am making a neutral observation, you are a nasty attack blogger, he just keeps texting me and I can’t stop him.

It’s frustrating as hell: it seems utterly bizarre that our own Prime Minister can sit in a television studio and act like a victim of attack politics then moments later hurl personal insults at the Leader of the Opposition.

Apparently that’s the nature of politics in New Zealand these days. But unlike our Prime Minister – who will assure you as often as you care to hear that he’s “not complaining about it” – I expect better.