Lucy Lawless: Much ado about nothing? I think not

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Collins and Slater show makes great drama, and playing Judith would be a dream role.

Nicky Hager's book is riveting, writes Lucy Lawless. Particularly the role of Judith Collins, right. Photo / NZ Herald
Nicky Hager's book is riveting, writes Lucy Lawless. Particularly the role of Judith Collins, right. Photo / NZ Herald

Crikey dick! The media has been fraught with drama these past two weeks. Everyone on talkback says that they're sick of hearing about "the Hager saga" but they obviously didn't read any of it. It is riveting.

The hardest creatures you've ever heard spew forth are the loathsome stars of Dirty Politics. From an actor's point of view, the dialogue is irresistible. Playing Crusher Collins is a dream role that I may one day have to arm-wrestle Robyn Malcolm for. (I suspect I'll lose and have to settle for Cactus Kate.)

And the malevolent males are beyond Shakespeare's villains, whose conflicted selves produced the great soliloquies. No such trouble for Slater & Co, whose revelations come by way of pathological boasting. Excessive pride exposes what Nabokov called "the streak of stupidity that fatally runs through even the most competent tyranny".

Their lust for power is grotesque. Who's more powerful than the king? A kingmaker.

But the really curious thing is that the main players seem to crave approval from some beast higher up the food chain. And they all seem a little in thrall to Mistress Collins.

The Whale Oil perfidy would be pure comedy if it wasn't part of a covert war on the Official Information Act, due process, consumer rights, electoral practice, other people's marriages and the public's right to a free and unbiased media - in short, democracy.

Perhaps New Zealand has had democracy for so long we take it for granted. But we shouldn't let it erode.

Because history is littered with examples of civilisations devolving into totalitarianism or barbarism. An upward trajectory is by no means a right. It requires energy. Because it's a natural law that Things. Fall. Apart.

Evidently the whole cosmos is subject to the inexorable force of entropy. This means that unless we exert energy upon something, it will lose its integrity, give way to natural forces and disintegrate into the sum of its parts. So unless energy (think of money as a type of stored energy) is expended renovating, say, the Beehive, it will eventually turn to rubble - likewise our homes and our teeth.

Indeed, without energy (food) the whole human body will die and break down into gases, lipids and proteins, etc.

Amazingly, it's also relevant to our social and political structures. If we don't put energy into our marriages, they will fall apart. Unless we evolve our economy to match a changing environment, we cannot hope to flourish.

In discounting the content of Nicky Hager's book without consideration, New Zealanders are turning a blind eye to the Whale Oil crew's gleeful perversion of the democratic process. It is we, not them, who are deliberately allowing it to fall apart.

Democracy requires energy in the form of participation - we must write to our MPs, question, vote and demand quality information from a free press. If we do not require integrity in our representatives, we are basically ceding control of our policymakers.

Amorality is so much harder to spot in the realpolitik of the National Party, which favours a starkly pragmatic approach to governance. This is not bad in itself, but without a clearly stated code of ethics, malignant extremists are much harder to expurgate. The National Party agenda is results-based and, by fair means or foul, the Whale Oil cabal got results.

Apologists say "oh, they're all rotten" and "things have always been that way". But that kind of thinking just allows dirty politics to continue and even become orthodox.

Even if dirty politicking is nothing new, the scope of influence of malefactors via toxic blogs is unprecedented. Mercenary string-pullers are now able to access and repackage sensitive information at a rate not dreamed of in the 90s - and with very few people involved.

Never before have New Zealand's mainstream media been so systematically sabotaged by vested interests. No wonder they're pissed off. A free press is one of the cornerstones of a democracy.

Despite the resentment many may feel over the timing of this book, I suspect that ultimately the Whale Oil saga will turn out to be healthy for our democracy. Hacking is not to be condoned, but if you have personal and legitimate knowledge of wrongdoing, it's your duty to shine a light on it. If Labour, Greens, Internet-Mana, etc are similarly disposed, let's hear about that too. At least we'll know who we are voting for.

This is our chance to reinforce our reputation as the least corrupt nation on earth. The Dirty Politics allegations are thankfully not on a par with the kind of filth being exposed by Operation Yewtree in the UK, but we may as well nip this in the bud, right? And don't listen to people who think all politicians are dishonest. The vast majority want to contribute to the welfare and prosperity of our people and it's our responsibility to see that they do. As they say, we get the government we deserve.

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- NZ Herald

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