The politics of vilification

The specifics in the Hagar book are devastating. To focus on them, the left should take Nicky Hager’s advice and avoid the politics of vilification.

Over the summer holidays I wrote a post calling on the left to repudiate the politics of vilification.

“The left should not be defined by political aggression, intolerance and bullying; it should be defined by decency, inclusion, ideas and respect for people.”

I was disappointed by the response, tediously predictable though it may have been.  “Total fucking fake!” “Chardonnay-drinking, middle-class liberal who [has] fucked the working class” and “Cringe-making airhead” are some examples. As even Greg Presland said of the comments about me;

“She has been vilified in the past in part for her partner John Pagani’s rather bizarre campaign ideas.” (Emphasis mine. I replied to his column here: )

Nicky Hager's book exposes both the politics of demonisation and the National Government’s role in facilitating it. The right wing blogs have been more extreme, more violent and more coordinated with the parliamentary party and so the book is their comeuppance. 

But imagine how much harder would it be for the government to deflect some of the disgusting stuff they’ve been involved in if some on the left blogs had not spent so much energy vilifying and demonising people they disagree with. 

How the press gallery must roll their eyes at the vapours when you see what has been written about journalists like Guyon Espiner, and John Armstrong.

This is why the greater danger for National is the specifics exposed in Nick Hagar’s book.

Judith Collins’ behaviour is awful. She has to go as a minister. The only reason she hasn’t is that National has adopted a strategy of refusing to concede an inch to Nicky Hager’s book. This can’t be sustained. What, precisely, was the purpose of emailing Simon Pleasants’ name and position in the public service to Cameron Slater, Minister?

The leaking of information by the prime minister’s office to enable Slater to write an Official Information Act request to the SIS, and the expediting of that request while news media requests were delayed, was corrupt. It demands an independent commission of inquiry. If the prime minister knew anything about it and failed to act he has betrayed his office. And yet how could he not have known?

And that’s just the first two specific issues. Forensic examination of the evidence in Hager’s book could destroy this government. The specifics are indefensible.

But there is also a wider lesson to everyone about the way politics is conducted. 

As I wrote back in December, “The fundamental principle of the left is our compassion…. Ours is the politics of redemption, forgiveness and humanity.” 

Or, as Nicky Hager elegantly stated on The Nation this morning, “if anyone is doing it, they should stop.”