COMMENT

The two strokes which have struck down Cameron Slater are a cruel trick of fate.

The Whaleoil blogger was already lower than he could ever have imagined. Now, aged 49, he must contend with a life-altering medical event which should test everyone's reservoirs of compassion.

Since news of Slater's strokes was made public by the Whaleoil website, there has been enthusiastic rubbing of hands, cracking of knuckles and nastiness at the keyboard.

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He has gathered a horde of enemies. Some have taken his strokes as schadenfreude. One blog simply called it karma.

I've no cause to love Slater. He wrote around 200 blog posts attacking me. Mainly, he objected to my reporting of the Kim Dotcom business. Broadly he attacked almost anything I wrote or did.

Cameron Slater outside the High Court at Auckland during one of his court cases in 2016. Photo /
Cameron Slater outside the High Court at Auckland during one of his court cases in 2016. Photo /

He accused me of being corrupt, of sexual deviancy and called me Gurnard, sending photographs of the same fish with its throat cut.

It wasn't pleasant but it never hit me as hard as some I spoke to.

I take no pleasure at all in his current predicament. I have enormous sympathy magnified by knowing how different this all is from how he expected it to turn out.

His fall is so great it has become tragedy.

It's a fall so great he is beyond the dark, low places at which he began 15 years ago.

Then he was a isolated blogger, using his blog as a way of dealing with the frustrations and upset of mental illness.

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Slater started with just a keyboard and something to say. A failed business behind him and a realisation of mental illness, those original posts don't have the vitriol which later captured traffic. They are gentle and thoughtful.

The blog was, he said, a vehicle through which he could deal with depression. The black dog would rage across his website instead of inside his head. It made him well, he said.

From there, he found a place where he could stand on his own two feet.

Slater got there, through blogging which became increasingly political and pointed as he formed alliances and bonds with those he met over the internet.

It appeared to drive the anger and fury, the online polarisation which has since seized politics.

By the 2011 election, the blog and Slater had become - or were becoming - a force with which to contend.

Media checked it regularly for the tidbits dropped by Slater - morsels of media meat snaffled by journalists failing to care it was all red, none of it blue. I took story tips from Slater during this period, until it made me deeply uneasy and I stopped communicating with him. He then turned, beginning a series of inaccurate, seemingly invented, yet always interesting and nasty, blog posts.

Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics revealed Cameron Slater's relationships with media and politicians. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Nicky Hager's book Dirty Politics revealed Cameron Slater's relationships with media and politicians. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Politicians across Parliament clicked through regularly, looking for updates. Many were watching to see what would come of the leak they had overseen. The Whaleoil blog was a cheap thrill for many - a way to anonymously drop dirt on opponents - and each instance further enhanced Slater's standing.

It was exhilarating for Slater. He had gone from being an unwell man with a small blog to being a household name, regularly appearing as a political commentator in the media, with a burgeoning blog site which had influence in media and political circles.

He was king of the castle for a year to 18 months, and he knew it. Slater walked water in a sea of influence. He talked of having a "trophy wall" and claimed "scalps" of politicians and public servants he considered he had helped remove.

Politicians would take his calls - all the way to the Prime Minister. Influential people would drop his name in passing while talking to those who became his targets, joking about how they had asked Slater to take his boot off someone's neck.

For Slater, these must have been the best of times. The blog was praised at the country's internet and media awards. In conversations prior to deciding I would no longer deal with him, he was completely convinced the hard work he had poured into the blog would be financially rewarded. He expected success to match his fame.

He thrilled at his proximity to power - media and politicians were constantly on the end of the phone. The black dog was banished, kept at bay by a future which would only get brighter.

Blogger Cameron Slater in 2010, as he was gaining in notoriety and prominence. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Blogger Cameron Slater in 2010, as he was gaining in notoriety and prominence. Photo / Paul Estcourt

Then came Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics book, which published in 2014 using material hacked from Slater's computer.

It revealed Slater as someone who had peddled access to his blog. He took cash for articles written under his name. He would be paid for "hit jobs" which attacked the reputations of others. Some of those who hid anonymously behind his blog were exposed.

His own private views on issues became public and some were so unpalatable they caused public revulsion.

Those high-profile friends stopped taking his calls. Journalists - who should have cared sooner - stopped trusting the stories he ran.

The number of people commenting on his website fell dramatically. The number of visitors to the blog - judging by online tools - collapsed.

Slater, who had complained to police about his computer being hacked, found himself in court facing charges after attempting to hire his own hacker to target imagined enemies.

By now, there were three defamation lawsuits underway - the consequence of blog posts written during that sweet spot when he was a Master of the Universe. Slater had fought so hard to be acknowledged as a "journalist" yet now had to accept part of the risk of the job was a challenge in court.

The blog would regularly feature posts asking for donations with legal bills and other expenses.

The request for money was back again this week, with news of Slater's strokes and claims he had been driven to one stroke by the supposed antics of the media.

I learned of the strokes in November. It didn't seem news to me - he is far less a public figure than he once was and clearly wanted privacy as he was staying at North Shore Hospital under a false name.

Cameron Slater, 2014, during the Dirty Politics furore. Photo / Michael Craig
Cameron Slater, 2014, during the Dirty Politics furore. Photo / Michael Craig

Now the Whaleoil blog has made it public. It is clearly serious. Slater has not blogged for months. The description his blog provides suggests it will be some time until he does.

The world is kinder as a result but I can find no joy in this. I can find no schadenfreude or any contemplation of karma.

Instead, it simply seems sad. Slater had reached too far, grasped little and fallen. He had a brief moment of feeling as if he held the world in his hands.

Then it all turned to dust.

The arc his ambition has travelled is epic, its end crushing. It was enough without a stroke robbing you of dignity, freedom, mobility.

Cameron, I hope you get well and I hope it doesn't take long to get there. I hope you find peace on the way.

Like many others, I suspect, I also hope you don't find your keyboard again.

WHERE TO GET HELP:

If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.

OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:

LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757