Dirty Politics and the Misuse of Power

Currently, New Zealand has entered an election campaigning season, and a little over a month out from the election, Nicky Hagar published a book called “Dirty Politics”, based upon emails apparently hacked from Slater’s computer, in which he alleges the governing party has used, or more specifically, misused, its information obtained as government, including some of the work of the Security Intelligence Service (the government organization involved with countering espionage, terrorism, etc) to discredit opponents. For people in most other countries, what happens in New Zealand may not seem important, but it goes to the heart of the problems that I have highlighted in some of my futuristic ebook novels. These have various forms of governance, but the problem is invariably that someone in power finds the flaws of the system, either deliberately or occasionally accidentally, and exploits those flaws for nefarious purposes.

I have not read “Dirty Politics” so my remarks here are dependent on the media reports, nevertheless there are some points that seem to be undisputed. Thus in the previous election, a right wing blogger Cameron Slater used a connection to someone in the Prime Minister’s Office to obtain information hacked from an unsecure computer belonging to someone in the Opposition, and used the information to smear the Leader of the Opposition. The accusation is that people working in the Prime Minister’s Office, and apparently one or two senior cabinet Ministers or people working for them, have used information obtained as of right by government, including from SIS surveillance reports, to smear people they do not like by tipping off such bloggers. As an example, it is alleged that the Minister of Justice suggested to Slater that a specifically named senior public servant had leaked information to the detriment of the Government. There are several problems with this, not the least being that the man smeared appears to have been innocent, and worse, the priming was made without a shred of evidence of guilt. The culture appears to be, “I don’t like him so let’s wreck his life.” In this particular case, the Prime Minister denies responsibility, and in the most basic sense he is probably correct in that he was out of the country at the time. And this is the policy: the man at the top must appear Teflon Clean, while the dirty work is done a level below. Straight out of the Richard Nixon philosophy!

But worse than that is the fact that the Prime Minister denies knowledge of what went on in his own office. He may be speaking the truth, but he is not there to be ignorant. If he is truly is ignorant of what is going on in his own office, then in my view he is unsuitable to lead the country. Of course I don’t believe that he did not know, but that is not the point. If he claims not to know, then he is admitting dereliction of duty. If he does nothing to clean out the guilty, which, like Nixon, he shows no sign of doing, then he now takes on the guilt.

What these people seem to do is to enjoy the idea of wrecking other people’s lives. In other words, they are total slime balls. All of which suggests that the whole idea of government for the people is decaying. One of the dangers for governance is that as systems of governance age, people may start to forget the principles that were once held sacred. Little by little, the unscrupulous take advantage, to the detriment of all but themselves. Any form of governance can only work if the people make it work. Paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin, exposing the truth disinfects bad governance, but this requires the truth to be available. Too many parts of government seem to think that secrets are power, to be used as those with it feel free. I believe that the use of government power to smear and discredit those with views that differ from theirs is totally unacceptable.

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