This post is part of the 100 Days Project
I've been down with a bad cold over the last five days and before that I was just bunking off, so I have a lot of retrospective writing to do.
As I write now, this minute, my partner, the sysop at New Zealand's largest left-wing blog (thestandard.org.nz), is watching a mass of comments appearing as Nicky Hager's book "Dirty Politics" cuts a swathe through the blogosphere. If you're not someone with a specific interest in New Zealand politics, the implications of organised right-wing smear campaigns via "Whale Oil", the blog of one Cameron Slater, will be lost on you, but this is what the book addresses, using as its base material 8GB of emails posted to Hager on a USB drive. National Party leadership, including Jason Ede from the prime minister's office and Judith Collins, are in the mix, as is John Key (that's our prime minister if you're not from around here).
As I was reminded during a conversation with a solidly centrist work friend today, I am left-wing unto death, but rather than deriving satisfaction from the right-wing blood that is surely spilling as I type, I find the revelations in the book's preface (released here online) very depressing. According to Hager, Slater's campaigns have intimidated journalists and news outlets. They have also kept the focus of news media and other public venues off political issues and debate and on the personal lives of politicians outside National. But possibly worst of all, there has been "concerted manipulation of National's candidate selection process". All three points represent serious harm to the fabric of democracy in this country. The first two because they switch people off politics and because they make it impossible to vote in an informed way, while the third point represents a literal infringement of democratic process.
I have no doubt that there will a lot of activity on the blogs tonight and I would imagine that the midnight oil is burning bright at the Beehive as Winston Peter's office has already sent through a press-release as well as an advisory. What I hope is that enough of us understand, past the accusations, the spin and the commentary, that we are brought low, as a democracy. I hope we remember that and find a way to do something about it.