Farewell Jeremy Hardy. RIP

Jeremy Hardy at Glastonbury 2015

Jeremy Hardy has died, aged 57, from cancer. He was a hero of mine, an absolute craftsman with words.

In a world that values eloquence and intelligent, good faith argument, but has to often make do with ‘debate’, Hardy stood apart as a man who could couch the toughest criticisms in a comedy shell.
He was so much more than a poltically-aware comedian and writer. He was a committed man, with great intellect, wit, and an attention span, who knew how to build a sharp verbal spear, to make his point – and he was good hearted with it.

I first encountered him (‘found’ him), as many did, through his work with BBC panel shows, notably The News Quiz, which has been a staple for me for years.

It was a shock last night to tune in to The News Quiz podcast (BBC Radio 4 Friday Night Comedy) and hear the news of Jeremy Hardy’s death, and the brief tribute from Miles Jupp.
Oh, no.

Go well Jeremy. We were so lucky to have you.

My sympathies to his family and those who loved him.

– P

This page, from Jeremy Hardy’s official website, reads most poignantly, now. Especially the last line.

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Matthew Hooton’s latest fevered conspiracy theory: lügenpresse

Shouting ‘lügenpresse!’ – political operative, professional smear artist Matthew Hooton sets out to discredit a news organisation.

National Party loyalist and paid political propagandist Matthew Hooton stooped to another low strategy recently, responding to a news report embarrassing to the National Party’s Simon Bridges with allegations of ‘corrupt’ journalism.

I’ve noticed that when he’s under pressure, Hooton seems to opt for breathless conspiracy theories and smears. The last one we discussed here at The Paepae, you may recall, was his complaint that the Electoral Commission had [allegedly] acted “unlawfully” in its efforts to increase voter turnout for the 2017 General Election.

It was all part of a dastardly plot, Hooton screeched, to swing the election to Labour’s Jacinda Ardern – because the ‘missing million’ voters the Commission was targeting in its voter participation campaign would (according to Hooton) be ‘overwhelmingly’ left-voting, thus disadvantaging his beloved right wing National Party. I thought that was pretty much out in woo-woo territory (see ‘Why is Matthew Hooton SO UPSET at efforts to increase voter turnout?‘).

But this week, in response to a news story on TV3/Newshub Matthew Hooton really went spare. He reached into a dark corner of the propagandist toolbox.

The story was Simon Bridges’ roadshow cash splash: $113k in taxpayer money on limos and hotels (arising from an intriguing early leak of National MPs’ travel expenses) which highlighted how much Crown limousine travel Simon Bridges had run up as Leader of the Opposition in the last three months.

Apparently in a state of high upset, Hooton accused a prominent TV political editor of ‘corruptly’ running ‘a despicable smear campaign’ (oh, the irony) against the National Party leader. The reporter was, it should be said, merely doing her job, reporting a news story. But in Hooton’s fevered conspiracy theory, she is engaged in a ‘personal vendetta’ to remove Bridges as National Party leader, having formed a view he’s ‘not modern enough’ to lead the party. (Don’t get me started on his other conspiracy theory about how women in senior journalism roles is somehow A Very Bad Thing for his beloved National Party. Matthew, pls.)

His preposterous, bullshit claim of a ‘vendetta’ carried out by an ‘extreme left-wing’ journalist is no innocent misunderstanding. It’s a strategy.

Hooton, for whatever reason, most likely his longstanding partisan loyalty to National (“deep in my DNA” remember, as he said here) is peddling a ‘lügenpresse‘-style (lit. ‘The lying press’) conspiracy theory: smearing news coverage of which he doesn’t approve as ‘corrupt’ and untrustworthy. What a piece of work. Desperate.

You can listen to the whole interview on RadioLIVE’s website. See: ‘National supporter says a ‘smear campaign’ is underway to rid Simon Bridges‘. It’s interesting. I’ve made up a 3 minute ‘highlights tape’ (below).

Listen as Matthew Hooton first coldly, then hotly and very deliberately smears and defames Newshub’s political editor Tova O’Brien – and with her, effectively the whole Newshub news network, every journalist, editor and producer.
The other voices are RadioLIVE Drive hosts Ryan Bridges and Amanda Gillies, and former president of the Labour Party Mike Williams. Even Williams, one of Hooton’s regular dance partners, remarks that he’s struck by Hooton’s extreme “even for him” hissy fit and nonsense.

A wry aside: Notice how Bridges introduced Hooton so sweetly — even using the collusive  ‘political commentator’ cover he operates under in the media — before realising that, oops, on this occasion, Hooton’s mask had slipped and instead of sweet, reasonable Dr Jekyll, it was Mr Hyde, the full-blown snarling, spitting, breathless political propagandist and smear artist on the line.

MP3 file

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More on the motivations of leakers

It was an innocent joke, police inspector, I promise.

A while ago, in relation to Murray McCully’s emails,  we discussed the motivations of leakers, particularly poltical leakers, and I suggested that
Every source leaks for a reason, Patrick in a post I illustrated with this ‘The best hackers are Russian’ T-shirt  – which seems ironic at all sorts of levels now.

Today, Axios writer Jonathan Swan has published a fantastic brief on this subject, centred on the dysfunctional Trump White House, in which leaks have been a feature since Day one.

Read it on Axios here: White House leakers leak about leaking

This White House leaks like there’s no tomorrow.

The big picture: The leaks come in all shapes and sizes: small leaks, real-time leaks, weaponized leaks, historical leaks. Sensitive Oval Office conversations have leaked, and so have talks in cabinet meetings and the Situation Room. You name it, they leak it.

  • My colleague Mike Allen, who has spent nearly 20 years covering the White House, says we learn more about what’s going on inside the Trump White House in a week than we did in a year of the George W. Bush presidency.
  • This White House leaks so much that meetings called to bemoan leaks begin with acknowledgement the bemoaning will be leaked, which is promptly leaked…by several leakers in a smallish room.

Why does this White House leak like it’s going out of style? I reached out to some of the Trump administration’s most prolific leakers — people who have been wonderful sources to me (and, I assume, plenty of other reporters) — to get them to explain the draw.

  • “To be honest, it probably falls into a couple of categories,” one current White House official tells me. “The first is personal vendettas. And two is to make sure there’s an accurate record of what’s really going on in the White House.”
  • “To cover my tracks, I usually pay attention to other staffers’ idioms and use that in my background quotes. That throws the scent off me,” the current White House official added.
  • “The most common substantive leaks are the result of someone losing an internal policy debate,” a current senior administration official told me. “By leaking the decision, the loser gets one last chance to kill it with blowback from the public, Congress or even the President.”
  • “Otherwise,” the official added, “you have to realize that working here is kind of like being in a never-ending ‘Mexican Standoff.’ Everyone has guns (leaks) pointed at each other and it’s only a matter of time before someone shoots. There’s rarely a peaceful conclusion so you might as well shoot first.”

A former senior White House official who turned leaking into an art form made a slightly more nuanced defense of the practice. “Leaking is information warfare; it’s strategic and tactical — strategic to drive narrative, tactical to settle scores,” the source said.

  • Another former administration official said grudges have a lot to do with it. “Any time I leaked, it was out of frustration with incompetent or tone-deaf leadership,” the former official said.
  • “Bad managers almost always breed an unhappy workplace, which ultimately results in pervasive leaking,” the former official added. “And there has been plenty of all those things inside this White House. Some people use leaking to settle personal scores, or even worse to attack the President, but for me it was always to make a point about something that I felt was being unjustly ignored by others.”

Be smart: To any would-be leakers who are considering the practice, I’m also told leaking is pretty fun. Give me a call if you’d like to try it out. — Axios

Interesting, huh?

Imagine having the reputation “A former senior White House official who turned leaking into an art form…”  Wow.

In a fascinating and well worthwhile discussion between James Comey and Benjamin Wittes in this week’s Lawfare podcast, it was striking that one of the questions Comey felt he didn’t have enough information to comment on was one he was asked about the possible motivations of Mark Felt, the FBI executive who was ‘Deep Throat’ in the Nixon/Watergate scandal days.

The podcast is here: https://www.lawfareblog.com/lawfare-podcast-james-comey-higher-loyalty

Friends Ben Wittes & James Comey talking at Brookings Institution for the Lawfare podcast, May 2018

7 deadly sins

Too good not to share. I spotted this graphic on Twitter (somehow Amanda Gillies’ tweet sharing it got to me) but it’s around. So excellent! The oldest link I could find was here. If you have a better idea of its provenance, drop me a line as a comment.

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Busted 2: Sinclair Broadcasting demonstrates what’s “extremely dangerous to our democracy”

How craven is this? (Very.)

Highlighted by (among others) Deadspin in ‘How America’s Largest Local TV Owner Turned Its News Anchors Into Soldiers In Trump’s War On The Media

Earlier this month, CNN’s Brian Stelter broke the news that Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner or operator of nearly 200 television stations in the U.S., would be forcing its news anchors to record a promo about “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.” The script, which parrots Donald Trump’s oft-declarations of developments negative to his presidency as “fake news,” brought upheaval to newsrooms already dismayed with Sinclair’s consistent interference to bring right-wing propaganda to local television broadcasts.

Chilling. Not just because it’s a Trump thing. This is propaganda.

To think about: What does this parroting of an obvious top-down script say about the integrity of the ‘news’ organisations?

I’m glad it’s been exposed for the shabby little spin that it was.

– P

Poor @ProtonMail – smeared by its dodgy users

A side issue raised by the Cambridge Analytica exposé is the revelation that the subterranean dirty political operators use a feature of end-to-end encrypted email service ProtonMail – expiring messages (sometimes called ‘self-destructing’ messages, no doubt in homage to TV show Mission: Impossible and its classic line, “This tape will self-destruct in 5 seconds.”)

Cambridge Analytica boss Alexander Nix has been ‘suspended’, as a part of damage control arising from his revelations to Channel 4’s hidden camera reporter.

A quirky detail is his instructions to his supposed new client to ‘Set up a ProtonMail account‘ (“Nobody knows we have it,” Nix said, in a worthy entry in Famous Last Words) and his description of how CA use ProtonMail with settings to make the encrypted email messages ‘disappear’ after two hours.

So, how do you suppose ProtonMail might be responding to all this inadvertent worldwide product placement?

I asked. Not that happy, they say.

Then saw this comment on Reddit:

This seems entirely reasonable.

For the record, if you’re involved in dirty politics and you rely on this sort of tactic to cover your tracks, well, it’s going to come out sooner or later.

– P

Soo busted. Cambridge Analytica’s extensive dirty tricks shopping list exposed

Cambridge Analytica’s Mark Turnbull, the managing director of CA Political Global and CEO Alexander Nix filmed in a hidden camera sting, in which Nix was secretly recorded describing in detail how his operatives have operated hidden camera stings.

Good god. This is devastating. And, at another level, deeply ironic.

Watch below. 19 minutes of your time well-spent.

And to think we used to regard Crosby Textor as ratbags, huh? Just goes to show.

This exposé also puts into context our local wannabe political activists highlighted in Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics — remember his account of Cameron Slater sniffing around for ‘dirt’ on politicians and journalists, even asking a former prostitute friend to check with her mates working in brothels for salacious details? And Slater Jnr sending his apprentice Jordan Williams down to a pub in Wellington late at night on a wild goose chase – futilely looking to get a photo of a senior politician worse-for-wear? Pfft.

I reckon Dirty Politics just scratched the surface, and it sounds like this Cambridge Analytica crowd would fit right in.

Into the bloodstream

There’s a lot notable in the video, including that line from Mark Turnbull about feeding weaponised information “into the bloodstream of the internet” – and doing it in such a way that it’s not recognised for what it is — and doesn’t trigger a reaction of: ‘That’s propaganda’.
Because the next question is, ‘Who put it out?’

As we’ve seen, there’s a lot of hidden action in this dirty politics/dirty PR/attack PR world.

Nice to have the lid lifted a bit.

– P

This is worth a listen too:

Goosebumps! Morgan James slam dunks another big song

Wow. Again. I remember being struck by this talented vocal artist Morgan James, and her wonderful self-awareness when I bought her album Hunter (we used do that, remember? Before streaming).

I posted a nice video (which still works!) at this post: Wow. The talented and likeable Morgan James. The last line she speaks in the ‘Hunter Extended cut’ video (spoiler, but too bad) is: “My name is Morgan James, and I don’t look like soul singer, but I AM a soul singer.”

Boy, look at her prove it again here:

So gutsy. I love her.

– P

Making a pig of it. Jordan Williams has been tardy with his financial reporting obligations

It appears the PR attack machine operated by New Zealand’s most defamed man Jordan Williams (the value of whose reputation has been under review) and his ‘co-founder’, long time National Party political activist David Farrar, has been delinquent in its financial reporting obligations since the end of January this year.

The ‘NZ Taxpayers Union Inc’ incorporated society has failed to file up-to-date financial reports at the Incorporated Societies office, as it is required to, and (as I write this) it has failed to rectify the breach despite it being drawn to its attention.

Some might see that as ironic, given the PR attack machine’s loud focus on holding other, actual real public bodies ‘to account’ in the name of ‘transparency’. (vomit)


Since its first appearance, like a verruca, in 2013, the ‘NZ Taxpayers Union Inc’ PR attack machine has operated as an incorporated society. I listed the original 15 people who were part of the March 2013 ‘Application to incorporate as a society’ in this earlier post: On the ‘NZ Taxpayers Union Inc’ PR attack machine in July last year.

It’s a matter of public record. This is them:
David Peter Farrar
Gabrielle O’Brien
Amanda Richardson
Matthew Stephens
Stephen Leslie Franks
Stephanie Morrison
Hadleigh Pedler
Catharine Mackenzie
Garth Ireland
Bryce Derek Wilkinson
Christopher Edward Westbury
Hamish Gilbert McConnachie
Aimee Sanders
Stephen Whittington
Murray Gibb

Now, one presumes there are all sorts of advantages to be gained by operating in this manner, as an incorporated society – not least that organisers can send out press releases claiming their lobby group/proxy service/PR attack machine is a (cough) ‘grass-roots’ group of Kiwis who care deeply about … yada yada.

But one of the downsides is an obligation to file annual accounts which are made public by the Incorporated Societies office and published on its website: www.societies.govt.nz (part of the Companies office.

The office says filing these reports is ‘important’ … see Why should you file financial statements?: Continue reading →

Farewell Stephen Hawking

What can you say about this hero? Boom!

By his beliefs he has stopped existing now that he is dead. Fair enough.

But few people make the impact he did – those that do, live on in our memory. Their insights ‘live’, recorded in books or other media.

What a shadow he cast.

– P

Thanks to Rod Emmerson whose cartoons are proving so apt. Another legend.

In the news, 1984. Some photographs.

My (endless?) decluttering continues, and with it, blasts from the past rise to the surface.

During 1984, before I trained as a journalist, I set out to create a portfolio of photos of people who interested me – who were ‘In the news’ at the time. As a starting point, I approached figures I’d heard interviewed by Sharon Crosbie on her Nine to Noon National Radio show. Some were regular commentators – and I even asked Crosbie herself.

Most of those I approached were gracious and agreed to be part of the project. Most didn’t know me from a bar of soap, but kindly let a stranger visit them to take some photos. Here are some of the pics I came across recently (with the original slides, which is good even by my own nascent archivist standards).

All the shots were taken on 35mm Kodachrome 64 loaded in one of my Canon SLR (Single Lens Reflex) cameras, either with natural light or with a portable flash unit bounced into a slivered umbrella set up on location. I had a Canon 100mm f2.8 lens I used for portraits in those days.

In the news, 1984 – pics by Peter Aranyi (click to enlarge)

The subjects are: (Top L-R) Peace campaigner Owen Wilkes, economist Len Bayliss*, then-Mayor of Wellington Ian Lawrence, Victoria University Political scientist Rod Alley, Actor and activist Tungia Baker;
(Bottom L-R) The NZ Film Commission’s Lindsay Shelton, Broadcaster Sharon Crosbie, Victoria University Religious studies lecturer Jim Veitch.

It was very kind of these people to allow me to come and take up their time in this way. It said something to me then, and now, about how open and approachable New Zealand public figures can be. Good on them.

– P

*Len Bayliss died very recently. In his world he was a giant – see Len Bayliss’ courageous voice by Michael Reddell at Newsroom.co.nz
Owen Wilkes passed away in 2005, as did our beloved Tungia Baker. Tempus fuget.

Archive copy of Newsroom article

Jordan Williams and Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance – Putting the ass back into astroturf

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Follow this twisted tale … start with Peter WM …

Oh no! Could Steven’s avatar have been appropriated by a Macedonian teenager’s Twitter-bot-for-hire which then, somehow, mysteriously ended up ‘supporting’  the (cough) Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance? Weeell, maybe.

Continue reading →

Stages of grief after an electoral loss

Don’t let anyone tell you this stuff isn’t real.

Can somebody remind me which stage of grief this is?

It’s absolutely natural to cast around for blame, and then a fresh-faced leader after a not-exactly-unexpected-but-oh-boy-we-got-our-hopes-up election loss/disappointment.

How long before Dr Jonathan Coleman is persuaded to throw his hat in the ring again?
He’ll be getting sweet-talked by now, I reckon.

Pic: Alan Weller, Getty (click)

– P

Ask not for whom the bell tolls. (Betteridge’s law of headlines.)

Almost never a good sign:

It can be unsettling when the political chattering classes start asking leading questions.

Anyone familiar with Betteridge’s law of headlines knows how that works …

Click to read Wikipedia entry

But Bill English says calm down, it’s OK. Well, for him, anyway. (That’s too bad about Paula Bennett, then, eh?)

What isn’t he saying?

Personally, I don’t think Bill English did enough ‘wrong’ in the last New Zealand General Election to deserve having the skids put under him by ambitious people in his caucus. I think he absolutely blossomed in the campaign – except for his awful, credibility-eviscerating backing of Steven Joyce’s so-called $11-billion-dollar-hole attack. But what practical choice did he have? He had to fudge it, at least.

Oh, and there was English’s ghastly, nauseating complicity in the slippery Todd Barclay police investigation/non-investigation farce. That was very messy. It took the shine off his ‘Honest Bill’ moniker.

But still, I think English did enough to be allowed to leave the National Party leadership on his own terms and timing. That said, the Labour-led Coalition government arrangement – which sees the somewhat-chastened Green Party ‘in power’ for the first time, as well as the triumphant return of Winston Peters to Cabinet, does feel like a generational change.

And then there’s the Jacinda Ardern effect. National has to respond, somehow.

– P


Einstein on simplifying

I wish you well this holiday season.

Go well. If you can, refresh & simplify.

That second aspect, simplifying, is a path I have been on for a little while now. I’m not finding it easy, but I do feel lighter for every bit of baggage I shed. Also: cycles, seasons & timing are real, tangible things.

Best wishes, -P