This post is part of the 100 Days Project
As I listen to the response being made to Nicky Hager's book (Dirty Politics) by both prime minister John Key and the MP Judith Collins, I'm struck by how often and how vociferously each of them dismiss the book's contents as unfounded and its writer as 'a left-wing conspiracy theorist', even though neither have read or engaged with the content of the book at all. But this is absolutely by design.
I hear on the grapevine that the midnight oil was indeed burning last night on the Beehive's 9th floor (which contains the prime minister's office) and it seems clear that staffers were frantically reading the book and confecting response strategies which didn't require any of the main players in the National Party to get to grips with its detail. Far easier to take a simple position and keep grinding away at it until it becomes 'truth'.
In media interviews I've watched tonight, with Key especially, the style of the response is very similar to a bad comments thread on a blog - it makes sweeping generalisations about the 'other side' and links these consistently to something bad - for example the left all become 'conspiracy theorists' as the phrase 'left-wing conspiracy theorist' gets repeated ad infinitum in reference to Nicky Hager. And, of course, as this strategy is designed to do, real debate becomes muffled and reduced. Complex issues such as the ethical and legal dimensions of what the book contains become nothing more than mud-slinging from someone with a biased world-view, all without the substance of Hager's accusations ever needing to be addressed.
It's terribly ironic that Key is denying all significant links to blogger Cameron Slater when he, in person and with the press, is using the exact same techniques Slater does on the blog. I think the medium has become the message - there is a meta level to this which suggests Dirty Politics is very close to the bone.