Nicky Hager and the Hollow Book
Nicky Hager resembles something washed up on a Fiordland beach. There's something of the Ancient Mariner about him, but his views are narrow like the Exclusive Brethren's he rails against. He sees plots: evil private enterprise; unscrupulous banks; lying public relations companies; a sinister SIS; and now the ever-so-wicked Don Brash. Businessmen wanting main stream economic policies to increase growth and employment opportunities for New Zealanders are particularly malevolent in Hager's glittering eye, as are conservative religions. Labour was in his firing line in 2002; the SIS was said to be bugging the Maori Party in 2005. Hager specialises in kooky stuff, waving devils on sticks with fanatical energy. It's designed to persuade us towards his world view. Which is what? An existence, one gathers, where we destroy conventional wisdom and experience, re-erect the Berlin Wall, close borders, and oppose globalisation. All politicians, especially National ones, are beyond his pale. Hager's is the "true" religion. I suspect that all but 0.2% of New Zealanders would reel back in horror if they knew what he really stands for.
Such is Hager's righteousness that he'll stoop to anything. First he acquired stolen property, Don Brash's emails. Well-brought up people would have returned them to their owner. Not Hager. He convinced himself that he had a higher duty, to publish them. The fact that he stood to gain publicity and profit from doing so was, you must understand, one of the painful duties of a crusader. Did he pay for the stolen goods? Hager is strangely coy about his own funding. He didn't contact Brash, lest it alert him. Nor did he attempt to find what was missing. Hager possessed no faxes, phone calls, publicly available transcripts, or meeting notes. He seldom referred to newspaper reports. Just a thin incomplete veneer of emails. Some were doctored as I discovered to my surprise. Who did that, I wonder, and why? In the end Hager fixed us with his glittering eye, producing a beat-up over mundane matters of a kind that all political parties deal with every day. How a party positions itself is what politics is about. Hager set out to destroy decent people, putting his opponents on trial, with cooked evidence, and finding them guilty. Just like Stalin.
Strangely, Hager found many journalists eager to deal in stolen goods. TV3's John Campbell beamed as his fellow anti-Waihopai protester raved on. Duncan Garner wove Hager into a TV3 news item, claiming it gave the lie to Don Brash's earlier statements about his first contacts with the Brethren. He interspersed clips of Brash that proved no such thing. Such was the Herald's excitement that it ceased campaigning for a waterfront stadium, preferring Hager to reporting the resolutions passed by the two Auckland councils. Before checking with me, Tracy Watkins of the Dominion Post suggested I was in "constant contact" with Don Brash. No such luck! Instead, I responded to a friend of 40 years' standing, on the rare occasions when he sought free, factual advice. I recently did the same for Labour's president, and ACT's leader. Hager couldn't have prayed for a more compliant audience. The Dominion Post became besotted with him.
Why are today's hacks so easily beguiled by a polemicist? Because too many of them were intellectually washed up on his same Fiordland beach. In the 1960s and 1970s, universities and journalism courses taught students to test evidence by asking what other factors might be relevant to a story, before drawing conclusions. In today's post-modernist, politically correct world, instincts, hopes, opinions and feelings are more important than facts. Thus reporter Ruth Berry could write that Don Brash's views on the Treaty had "alienated" him from "middle voters". Surely she meant herself? Brash's Orewa speech doubled National's poll support. When he resigned, National was ten points ahead. Too many journalists go around the blogs and talk only amongst themselves. Facts seem superfluous. Sadly, they are also foreign to many modern university arts disciplines where some reporters were taught. Evidence is what you say it is, not what it actually is.
So our country drifts into a sunset of international irrelevance, surrounded by plots and polemics. Don Brash who quoted Voltaire in his resignation speech is set up as the intellectual inferior to Hager whose methods are similar to David Irving's. He, remember, set out to prove there had been no holocaust, and cooked the evidence. Irving was found out. It's time Nicky Hager was outed, too.