2014: the year of hacks, text amnesia and tweets run amok. It was a year of ta-dah! - Dirty Politics, the Moment of Truth. 2014 was the year our PM set new benchmarks for being economical with the truth. A year when we felt the panoptic gaze of Five Eyes - "a system of secret, pervasive surveillance from which there is no refuge".

A year when we understood our existence was just so much metadata. In 2014 we watched the erosion of democratic rights by attack bloggers and the rise of executive power. How did we react to all of the above? Mostly with a collective shrug. 2014 was the year of meh.

You could blame Judith Collins. In May she quit Twitter. The PM backed her: "My view is there's a lot of trolls and bottom-feeders on that and in the end they get in people's head. It's an anonymous situation, it's a form of cyber bullying, I don't engage in that."

The former Justice Minister must have had a troll in her head, because she had tweeted that press gallery journalist Katie Bradford was a liar. Another tweet suggested she was biased and another urged exposure of her for approaching the minister for help in Bradford's ex-partner's job application for the police.


Tweets that were all factually wrong and for which Collins apologised. She was also the minister leading the charge on passing the Harmful Digital Communications Bill designed to stomp out such bullying behaviour. At the time I wondered, if the Bill had been law, whether she might be hoist on her own petard.

Collins was also the subject of further petard-hoisting - as a result of an email indicating an association with the attack bloggers Cameron Slater and Cathy Odgers and their campaign to undermine the head of the Serious Fraud Office. An investigation by Justice Lester Chisholm found that while there were efforts to undermine the SFO, Collins wasn't involved. But the minister certainly had a troll in her head, in the form of Slater's big-noting attempts to appear to be a major political player.

As a Herald editorial put it: "She had no awareness of the perils of dealing with a blogger happy to attribute invented statements to her. Her lack of judgment speaks volumes."

A number of journalists were also sucked into Slater's plots. "I felt I was being gamed," wrote one. "I decided to have nothing to do with the blogger." The madness continued when the Canon Media Awards gave Slater Blogger of the Year.

You could blame Kim Dotcom for 2014's troubles. Even he says his brand is poison. Perhaps if we had someone who wasn't such a megalomaniac championing our rights and internet freedoms, it might have been different. He promised the moment of truth, but his excruciating antics on stage were a moment of dork. Internet-Mana leader Laila Harré wasn't much better.

Clearly, as former Mana party member Sue Bradford had pointed out, Harré, Hone Harawira and Pam Corkery had rocks, if not trolls, in their heads.

Still, it was quite a privilege to see a real saint, Edward Snowden, the former NSA analyst turned whistleblower, drop in via encrypted video feed to Auckland's Town Hall.

He said: "When the bulk collection of private citizens' communications - emails, text messages, location data, metadata, calling records, what you order online, what you buy, who you talk to, who you love, what you do - when these things are collected by any arm of government without an individualised, particularised suspicion of wrongdoing on the individual level, that is a violation of not just of rights on the national level, but of human rights that are not given to us by government but are inherent to our nature, " He spoke truth to power. We responded with a collective "whatevs".


Our PM responded by saying he was "sure it's absolutely true" that Snowden had the capacity to see information about New Zealanders when he worked for the NSA, but was "very comfortable in the knowledge" that mass surveillance programmes were not being run by our GCSB. In other words, whatevs.

Dotcom had an annus horribilis. His Internet Party was a train wreck. His wife, and his lawyers, left him. He also lost in the Supreme Court the right to see the detailed documentary evidence against him. Only Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias disagreed, saying that natural justice was paramount and those charged should be informed "in detail of the nature of the charge".

The loss doesn't bode well for his current Supreme Court claim that the search warrants used to raid his Coatesville mansion were illegal. Then again, with the constant flip-flops in rulings on Dotcom's multiple cases in our lower and higher courts, you wonder whether our judges have a grasp of technology. At a recent bail hearing Judge Nevin Dawson asked what sort of website Dotcom's Mega was. "Cloud storage," said Dotcom. Judge Dawson noted it and said: "Cow storage."

You could blame our PM. Texts are his downfall. He can't remember them, especially if they're yesterday and from Cameron Slater. He's also in denial that the inquiry conducted by Cheryl Gwyn, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, has confirmed there was a dirty tricks operation run out of his office the lead-up to the 2011 general election.

In other words, that many of the revelations in Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics were right. But then the PM labelled him a "screaming left-wing conspiracy theorist". Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glen Greenwald: "Dotcom's little henchman" and "a loser".

But as John Armstrong points out, the PM's "fibs, half-truths, memory blanks and - worst of all - the misleading of Parliament" - are becoming a bit of a pattern.

Others like Bryce Edwards say the Gwyn Report should be a major wakeup call for New Zealanders and for democracy because it reflects significant abuse of power. Regarding the "black-ops operations going on inside the highest office in the land" Edwards believes the PM either "knew about and he was lying or he wasn't in control of his office."

To cap off the year the PM, comfortable with Five Eyes mass surveillance, wants more spying and is steamrolling the Countering Terrorist Fighters Bill through Parliament.

It will grant the SIS the power to carry out 48 hour bouts of surveillance on anyone without a warrant. Key is emulating the waves of American and British scaremongering about the real, or rather largely imagined and overblown, danger of terrorist activity on home soil. As Andrew O'Hagan writes of Greenwald's book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State, we now routinely accept that our freedom must be curtailed "by a manufactured fear of the evil that surveillance 'protects' us from."

That's despite living in a world "where more people drown in the bath than are killed by terrorists." O'Hagan reminds us that it is for governments to be transparent and for individuals to be private, but notes: "The reversal of these things is the spirit of the age."

Here in Aotearoa, a long and beautiful land of clouded judgement, we say: "Meh."