My person of 2014 is the anonymous hacker who drew our attention to the accelerating conflict between the right to privacy and the public interest.

The hacking of Cameron Slater's Whale Oil website was widely justified on the grounds of public interest although, if the election result proved anything, it was that the public wasn't interested.

When hackers got hold of photos of Jennifer Lawrence and other female celebrities that were never intended for the public domain, the consensus was that it constituted a gross violation of privacy. Accordingly, the mainstream media wouldn't have a bar of the photos and attempts were made to shame people out of going looking for them.

However, the reality is that the media coverage had the unintentional but inevitable effect of drawing attention to the photos' existence. And if there are images of famous, attractive women being consenting adults out there in cyberspace, anyone with the will, a laptop and time on their hands will access them.


Then there was the hack attack on Sony Pictures by what is thought to be an agency of the North Korean Government.

The media had no compunction about publishing the hacked emails, even though the correspondents assumed and intended that they were for each other's eyes only and their publication will almost certainly be more damaging in career terms than the Lawrence photos.

You could argue that publication was in the public interest: if a supposedly "legendary" movie producer believes Angelina Jolie is "minimally talented" that pretty much confirms screenwriter William Goldman's dictum that "no one in Hollywood knows anything".

The fact that Scott Rudin and Sony co-chairperson Amy Pascal engaged in lamentable and racially tinged banter about Barack Obama also challenges the long-held conservative conviction that Hollywood is, in essence, a vast liberal conspiracy to undermine traditional American values.

But invoking public interest is a bit of a stretch: entertainment/titillation is really the name of this game.

And if North Korea was indeed behind the hacking, that would effectively make the Western media complicit in an authoritarian rogue state's brazen assault on freedom of expression: attempting to coerce Sony into not releasing the Seth Rogen movie The Interview.

The big question of 2014 was: is "dirty politics" a tautology or a game-changer?

David Cunliffe, the politician formerly known as the Leader of the Opposition, was firmly in the game-changer camp: the revelations in Nicky Hager's book would, he declared, "shift hundreds of thousands of votes".


I guess he was right. Having decided Hager's book and the attendant media coverage failed to demonstrate that New Zealand politics had plumbed new depths and actually revealed little more than that you wouldn't want to share a desert island with Slater and his cronies, the public transferred hundreds of thousands of votes away from the parties which clambered on the dirty politics bandwagon over to the party it sought to run over.

Bandwagons can be difficult to steer, but this one had a dangerously unqualified driver even if a fair swathe of the punditry took a long time to cotton on to the fact that the public didn't share its fascination with Kim Dotcom.

Indeed the public's view was perfectly summed up by former MP Hone Harawira. He was referring to his Te Tai Tokerau electorate but could have been speaking for the whole country when he said the general attitude to interlopers trying to influence the election was "why don't you guys piss off and leave us to make our own decisions?"

This was said early on election night, before it became clear that "his" people weren't disposed to reward him for his shack-up with the interloper-in-chief, one of the most breathtakingly cynical political manoeuvres since the Hitler-Stalin pact.

The most dispiriting trend of the year was the ability of a handful of tweeters to make mountains out of molehills. Their latest target is cultural appropriation: pilfering from minority cultures. Thus white pop stars doing hip-hop or models wearing headdresses are in a direct line of descent from the conquistadors who looted Inca temples.

Taylor Swift can shrug off this nonsense. Not so astrophysicist Matt Taylor whose achievement - he was part of the European Space Agency team which landed a probe on a comet out in deep space - ended with a tearful apology for wearing a shirt that a few people professed to find deeply offensive.

My wish for 2015 is that the media will resist the temptation to inflate these tweetrages into news stories on the entirely valid basis that nobody gives a hoot in hell that a sprinkling of tiny-minded malcontents are so easily offended.