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Last Thursday saw Nicky Hager grace the halls of his old student haunt, speaking for Victoria’s students and staff about his Dirty Politics; the book that everyone’s been talking about.
A full house reminiscent of the first week of 100-level BCOM lectures saw a spillage of audience into the isles of the lecture theatre, which was reserved for VUW students and staff.
Under the assumption that “no one ever seems to read books”, Nicky explained the key issues of his latest read, followed by a round of varyingly relevant questions, comments and reminders (there are indeed advanced polling booths available in the Hub, if anyone has yet to be pursued by the abundant voting wardens).
In a nutshell, Dirty Politics draws upon hacked correspondence between the attack-blogger Cameron Slater and various National Party members. The “ugly and destructive politics” revealed through the exchanges points out the poisoning effect of attack politics on New Zealand’s political landscape, effectively “free speech trying to close down free speech”.
Hager discussed the cynicism bred by this manufactured, manipulated form of politics as creating a non-participative political environment, and a subsequent lack of empowerment.
“At the end of the day, it’s a fight between participation and non-participation. We can’t let them win. We have to be outspoken.”
In terms of the shifty actions of specific National Party members, Hager was explicit in his condemnation. The investigative writer states that there is nothing on the scale of dirty politics from the left; rather, this “simply is a long-term problem with the National Party and, well, they need to sort their shit out”.
Hager, however, confirmed he had no expectation that this would change the results of this Saturday’s election, observing that National Party’s “loyal, non-attentive” supporters (the kind that watch Seven Sharp) are likely to have bought into John Key’s defensive rhetoric surrounding Hager’s latest release.
One audience member questioned Hager about balancing free information with privacy. Hager said he was a huge advocate of privacy, but not of secrecy.
“I wouldn’t print anything of Cameron Slater’s that is personal, nothing about his family or his health… If things are fundamentally hurting society, sometimes leaks are the only the answer.”
*Anyone wanting a more comprehensive relation of Hager’s take on Dirty Politics can view Penny Gault’s article ‘Ill-Gotten Gains’.