I came across a 2014 article (below) featuring MP Mark Mitchell which mentioned the ‘job’ Slater and his puppet master Simon Lusk did for him. It’s all in Nicky Hager’s book, Dirty Politics. But the ‘job’ they did wasn’t journalism. In fact, the ‘job’ they did for Mitchell reminded me of this:The article in question provided a platform for Mark Mitchell to make bold statements via his local paper, the Rodney Times, which in turn made its own bold prediction in the first paragraph: “Mark Mitchell is likely to take legal action over Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics“.
Oh really? “…a defamation case” no less. … “likely to”?
“Someone needs to be held accountable,” the article quotes Mitchell saying. Quite right. (Golly, doesn’t that sound just like what Colin Craig said he was trying to do with his Dirty Politcs and Hidden Agendas booklet? Hmmm.)
Mitchell’s sabre-ratting was picked up by Fairfax’s stuff website. It’s still there in all its vacuous glory.But, hang on. Did that Mark Mitchell defamation case actually ever happen? If so, what was the outcome? Well, search as I might, I can find no reference to such a case actually being taken. (If you can find it, or you know, please mention it in comments or drop me a line – email address on the ‘About’ page.)
We all know talk is cheap, especially for a politician. Sorry.
Someone “considering” legal action or saying they’re “likely to” … what bunkum. It isn’t binding, is it? And the gullible Rodney Times wouldn’t be the first newspaper sucked in by a persuasive personality into serving his interests.
Defensive smokescreen? Oh, Mark. Say it ain’t so!
Mark Mitchell’s oh-I’m-so-outraged spin – regurgitated by the credulous (or friendly?) scribe at the Rodney Times – performed a useful function: it gave his campaign workers a line of response. A talking point.
To be clear: I’m referring to those workers who were campaigning openly for Mitchell. Unlike the subterranean ‘hit job’/character assassinations that Hager’s book recounts Slater Jnr and Simon Lusk carried out – against Cehill Pienaar and Scott Simpson, the book says – and which apparently Mitchell paid for.
Hager’s book elegantly summed up their efforts as “vigorous and covert negative campaigning”. Not journalism. More like Norovirus.
Mitchell’s defensive line (paraphrased) was: ‘I’m concentrating on the election now. I’ll sue <expletive deleted> Nicky Hager after the election!’
He and his ‘above the line’ campaign staff needed a plausible answer. They needed something to say to the inevitable and awkward questions prompted by Hager’s revealing narrative about Mitchell’s dubious campaign for selection as the National candidate. Not only that – what his choice of … um, er, (cough) contractors, says about him.
It’s worth re-reading and reflecting on what Hager reported about Mitchell, Slater Jnr and Lusk (see pages 57-66 of Dirty Politics). What struck me was the ugly treachery and backstabbing inherent in Slater/Lusk’s ‘dirty campaigning’ work. Slater Jnr even lied to his own father, Hager records. Nasty.
Put all that in the context of Cameron Slater’s negative campaign to ‘smash’ Colin Craig. Recognise any commonalities?
How it looks to me: Far from being “by profession a journalist … simply doing my job” Slater has, in fact, repeatedly worked as a dishonest smear artist for hire.
Good call, Mark
Now, as far as Mark Mitchell is concerned, far be it from me to encourage people to take legal action – god knows, it’s often a yuge waste of time, money, and psychic energy. Terrible. Just ask formerly “out-there, fun guy” Jordan Williams.
Good on Mitchell or his advisors for deciding to leave well enough alone, sleeping dogs lie, etc. Probably for the best, I reckon.
And in another way it just goes to show … well, Mark Mitchell is in the cabinet now. (Congratulations, Mark.) It doesn’t appear to have hampered his career prospects.
Makes you think, eh?
As a follow-up, read this NZ Herald story by Amy Maas (17 August 2014) about how a year earlier poor Mark Mitchell was a victim of an office burglary and an email hack.
Don’t miss the last line where the National Party accuses a political party leader of assisting with a smear campaign (and it’s not John Key!) OMG. Lol.
(Amy’s story archived as PDF here)
For context, you may also be interested in reading:
Returning to the scene of the crime (or How I fell for Jason Ede’s spin)
Facts are stated to the best of my knowledge and commentary is my honest opinion. Corrections or clarifications are always welcome by email. Comments are open, but may be moderated.
– Best wishes, Peter Aranyi