By Michael Tavares
Nicky Hager’s book ‘Dirty Politics’ threatens to destroy the facade of #TeamKey’s image of a ‘Mr Nice Guy’, who sits above the fray and ties him directly to this behaviour, as well as implicating his staff and ministers in potentially illegal activities.
This is a little more disturbing than the muckraking of earlier eras, which sought to cast light on the abuse of power, this is the abuse of power! John Key seems quite comfortable with members of his staff and/or party helping themselves to the private information of Labour party members through hacking their website, and he continues to stand by his justice minister Judith Collins after she admitted giving the personal details of a public servant to Slater, opening him to death threats. The Greens have rightly called for a Royal Commission of Inquiry and in Government would instigate it.
Yet Waiheke has not been immune to the rise of the attack blog. Ever since being voted out of office in the 2013 local body elections, former Waiheke Local Board deputy chair Jo Holmes and her sidekick Jerry Flay, along with ‘anonymous’ guest bloggers have been publishing daily blogs attacking: The Mayor, the new Waiheke Local Board Members, especially Paul Walden, Denise Roche, Green MP based on Waiheke, her partner and daughter, me, and anyone associated with Green or progressive politics anywhere.
Far from being a discussion of policies and ideas, the daily blog posts have been heavy on the personal attack, making unfounded accusations and relying heavily on superficial comments on people’s appearance. As Martyn Bradbury points out “Politics can be angry, politics can be loud. – but hateful? Hate politics has no place in a modern democracy”
In the Waiheke Whale Oil ‘joholmes.com’, Denise Roche is referred to as ‘an old bag’, Becs Ballard is referred to as ‘Barbie’ I am called ‘a silly little boy’, and implications alluding to physical characteristics of Denise’s 15 year old daughter have been made too.
Whilst for many the blog may be a form of light entertainment, as it is far more entertaining than any satire of the subject material could be, it is scarily serious. Jo has written or hosted pieces in favour of single use disposable plastic bags, blogged against the public fruit tree project in Blackpool, railed against the concept of ‘fairtrade’, and has called Generation Zero (the youth climate change action group) “just like the Hitler youth”! Whilst it would be amusing if read as satire, like The Civilian, or The Onion, there is no reason to believe that the views expressed there are not genuinely held. Jo admires and models herself on Cameron Slater’s Whale Oil blog. I’ll say that again: Jo admires Cameron Slater, and proudly considers her blog the Waiheke equivalent.
It’s not so much that anyone outside her close circle of attack dogs takes her seriously, however, in fact the most frequent response of a new reader of the blog is “Is this for real? Or hilarious satire?” It’s more a question we need to ask ourselves;
“Is this new medium of the attack blog what we’re about on Waiheke?”
Jo Holmes still holds that the path that her administration was taking on the Waiheke Local Board was the right one, despite the community opposition, and that she and the rest of the ‘A’ Team lost their positions not because they were making unpopular decisions and ignoring the public sentiment, but that it was because of a conspiracy and media bias against her by the Gulf News paper on the island. She refuses to see that the Waiheke electorate made a very clear judgement on her time on the board, believing herself to be the victim of an orchestrated conspiracy against her benevolent regime.
This lack of insight, and unwillingness to examine ones self and their actions, preferring to blame everyone else around them, is undignified behaviour, and the daily barrage of negativity is not in the spirit of the Waiheke. This is not the direction I think we want local politics to take.
Other bloggers on this site have encouraged people to just ignore the blog and deny it an audience. But like a screaming toddler in the corner, ignoring only makes the shouts louder. Jo and Jerry patted themselves on the back when members of Generation Zero took to the comments section of her blog responding to the outrageous Nazi claims. Measuring success in having upset people.
No, I would encourage the opposite. Steel yourself and go and a look at what is being put out there on that blog. Challenge the accusations made and ask for proof. Be informed as to what she is about, what she stands for and how she conducts herself. Waiheke’s own Whale Oil. Is it gonna fly on the island of the Rainbow Warriors?
In light of the dirty politics revelations, I encourage Jo to put forward a positive alternative vision of how she would like the island and the city to go. Engage in the conversation, discuss policies and proposals, rather than slimy Whale Oil attacks on individuals and the community. Talk about issues.
“At the end of the day” Spreading rumours is not journalism, and slander is not debate.
Michael Tavares is an Environment, Transport and Sustainability advocate, the Convenor of the Waiheke Green Party, a Trustee on the Waiheke Resources Trust and a Committee Member of the Hauraki Islands Forest and Bird Society Branch. He maintains the blog www.micheltavares.net, a positive Waiheke Blog celebrating this wonderful island and it’s community. His views are his own.