Brian Edwards Media

Whaleoil dishonestly accuses Helen Clark of dishonesty

HELEN-CLARK

 

I suppose dishonestly reporting that someone else has behaved dishonestly could be regarded as a wonderful example of irony. But if the dishonesty of the reporter is transparent then it’s also a wonderful example of crass stupidity.

Either way, this is precisely what Cameron Slater has recently done. In a post on Whaleoil published a couple of days ago, entitled Manufacturing Clark’s History, Slater refers to a television interview the former New Zealand Prime Minister gave to Australia’s Channel Nine programme The Bottom Line and to a subsequent report on the interview, entitled ‘Helen Clark reflects on life as a leader’, which appeared on Stuff.

The Stuff report of the interview contains numerous quotes of things Clark said. You can tell they’re quotes because they’re all in inverted commas.

At one point in the interview Clark is asked how she pitched for her current job at the United Nations.

She replies: “So my pitch was, ‘This job needs a leader, and I am that leader’”.

That reply is directly followed in the Stuff report by this sentence:

Having led the Labour Party without barely a whisper of a coup for six years in opposition and then nine years as Prime Minister, human resources at the UN could hardly argue that credential.

Note that there are no quotation marks around the sentence. That’s presumably because Clark didn’t say it. Everything else she said in the Channel Nine interview is reported in quotes.   

But this interpretation doesn’t suit Slater’s purposes. So he decides to do the very thing he accuses Clark of – rewrite history:

Helen Clark does so like to re-visit and re-edit her history, aided and abetted by an unquestioning and ill-informed media.

She has recently given a nice soft cosy interview to Channel Nine in Australia where this claim was made:

“Having led the Labour Party without barely a whisper of a coup for six years in opposition and then nine years as Prime Minister, human resources at the UN could hardly argue that credential.”

Oh rly?

Is that what she told the hapless Channel Nine reporter? I don’t see where he’d have got it from otherwise… he wouldn’t have the background knowledge of NZ politics.

And then Fairfax repeat it unquestioningly… probably because there isn’t anyone there who’s older than 1.

Or indeed at Whaleoil. Now here’s the problem. If you follow Slater’s link to the Fairfax report on Clark’s interview on The Bottom Line, you’ll find (unsurprisingly) a link to the original TV interview itself. And nowhere in that  interview does Clark say, “Having led the Labour Party without barely a whisper of a coup for six years in opposition and then nine years as Prime Minister, human resources at the UN could hardly argue that credential.”

And unless Slater  (perhaps understandably) doesn’t read his own posts, he must have known that. So this is just a deliberately dishonest assertion. Or, in the very kindest interpretation, a preposterous piece of circular reasoning that Clark must have said this to someone because that is the way Clark “does so like to re-visit and re-edit her history”.

The fact of the matter is that Clark actually refers in the Aussie TV interview to coups and rumours of coups in the mid 90s: “There was always party room rumbles as well that there would be some kind of leadership coup and I always stared those rumbles down.”

More than that, Clark has talked frequently and openly about the abortive threat to her leadership in May 1996. She relates the events in detail in my book Helen, Portrait of a Prime Minister:

In May 1996, just before caucus, I get this delegation telling me to stand down. From memory there was Michael Cullen, Phil Goff, Annette King, Koro Wetere, Jim Sutton… These people had rushed around the caucus counting numbers and then decided they’d come and confront me and ask me to stand down, and say there was a majority who wanted that to happen… And I said to them, “Well, if you want a change of leader, you’re going to have to go into the caucus and move a motion…” And they never did it. They walked out into the corridor to the caucus and so did I, and nothing was said.

So is this rank dishonesty or crass stupidity on Whaleoil’s part? Hard to tell really. That’s the problem with ‘my good friend’ Cam – it’s often so hard to tell.

, , ,

47 Comments:

  1. It seems as if you are confused BE.

    “The fact of the matter is that Clark actually refers in the Aussie TV interview to coups and rumours of coups in the late 60s: “There was always party room rumbles as well that there would be some kind of leadership coup and I always stared those rumbles down.
    More than that, Clark has talked frequently and openly about the abortive threat to her leadership in May 1969.”

    If my knowledge of history is correct the Labour Party leader in the late 60s was Norm Kirk and Helen Clark was a student at that time.
    So how she could be talking about threats to her leadership is a little hard to fathom.

  2. I guess it depends on your definition of “coup” Brian. While there was never a formal vote called, plotters – Cullen amongst them, till offered the Deputy Leadership to get him to change sides – were actively counting the numbers and a raft of senior Labour figures approached her and asked her to stand down.

    When one senior ALP figure – Simon Crean – did the same to Julia Gillard the Australian media called this a coup (e.g. http://www.crikey.com.au/2013/03/21/labor-spill-crean-brings-on-leadership-challenge/)

    How the day unfolded: anatomy of a failed coup…

    4.46pm: Julia Gillard remains PM. No one challenged her. (my emphasis)

    The article Slater links to to support his assertion has, ironically, exactly the same subhead: “anatomy of a failed coup”(http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10716608)

    Most people would call what occurred in 1996 a coup, so to state that there were only ever “rumblings” – which most people would read as akin to “murmurs of discontent” not “openly counting the numbers” is varnishing the truth.

    • I’ve no idea what you’re on about, Rex. At most you could call what happened in May 1996 ‘a failed coup’ and even that is overstating it. To mount a coup you have to have the numbers. This lot didn’t. And a coup surely has to consist of something more than going into someone’s office, saying, “Would you mind stepping down please?” And then, when you’re invited to do your worst, shuffling off down the corridor with your tail between your legs and saying nothing more about it.

      • Pointing out that one man’s coup is another woman’s “rumblings”.

        Saying “we think you should resign” and then not following through is precisely what Crean – and other plotters – did to Gillard and the Australian media called it a coup.

        The NZ Herald called the events of 1996 “a failed coup”.

        That’s two votes for “coup” and two (counting you) for “rumblings” (I’m leaving myself out of it, because I can see how a difference in perspective can make either appear correct).

        As for having the numbers, if you read Phil Quin’s account of what happened (linked to in my earlier comment) he says it might have gone 21-20 either way (i.e. there were one or two votes in it) until Clark persuaded Cullen to her side with the Deputy Leadership.

        A coup is still a coup if it fails… unless it’s a rumble.

        • The Oxford dictionary (and several others) gives coup as
          coup
          1 (also coup d’état) A sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government: he was overthrown in an army coup
          2 An instance of successfully achieving something difficult: it was a major coup to get such a prestigious contract
          3 Billiards A direct pocketing of the cue ball, which is a foul stroke.

          ~~~~~~~~~

          So a coup is not a coup if it fails. A coup is only a coup if it’s successful.

          • …and don’t “rumblings” mean something ominous yet indistinct, beneath the surface, or in the distance – yet not clearly seen or specified?

            That hardly applies to a delegation in your office calling for your resignation.

            Also, in the context of Clark’s longevity, doesn’t the phrase “whisper of a coup” imply plotting and planning? If there HAD been a coup as you insist on defining it, there would never have been a “whisper”. We would all have known.

            “Coup” in context meant “plotting to unseat Clark”. That seems to apply…

          • But by that definition, if a change of leadership isn’t achieved “suddenly, violently and illegally” then it’s not a coup at all. So Clark never staged a coup against Moore? Or Shipley against Bolger? Or Gillard against Rudd, then Rudd against Gillard?

            The use of “coup” in relation to the events of 1996 may be grammatically imprecise but two media outlets called a case of “ask the leader to resign and don’t follow through with a ballot” a “coup” or “failed coup”, and I’d argue that’s how the voters would see it too – in the commonly understood (and somewhat hyperbolic) sense when applied to democratic politics.

            Then, as Kimbo says, the use of “rumblings” is far more misleading when read as the commonly understood meaning of the word in this context. Having people openly counting the numbers against you while much of your front bench and party eminences grise call on you to fall on your sword is a little more than a “rumbling”.

            It’s hard to see Clark’s quote as downplaying the unpopularity she’d achieved amongst many of her own caucus at that time – hence Slater’s piece. The only way the reporter could have got the impression there was “barely a whisper” of a coup, when in fact there was an abortive but almost successful attempt at one, was from the comment Clark made which Brian has quoted.

            It misled the reporter. It is capable of being misleading. Whether it was intended to be so, only Clark knows. But Slater is within the bounds of reasonable comment to suggest that it was.

            [I'm afraid I'm starting to sound like a Slater fanboi. I'm not. I took him to task on the "West Coast ferals" controversy, for instance and he (to his credit) ran a guest post pointing out why I felt he was wrong in that instance. (He's also run what were, for WO, other very liberal opinion pieces authored by me, as have Kiwiblog and The Standard)].

            • Para four should start “It’s hard NOT to see”… hopefully BE will be kind enough to correct.

            • 2.1.1.1.2.2

              “It’s hard NOT to see Clark’s quote as downplaying the unpopularity she’d achieved amongst many of her own caucus at that time – hence Slater’s piece,”

              No, you have the cart before the horse.

              The question put to her was not about how trouble free her tenure was. Instead, it was primarily asking about her SELF-DOUBTS when she had troubles in the form of lack of popularity – and what her friends were advising. So highlighting the difficulties she overcame would actually BOOST her reputation for overcoming self-doubt.

              Precise definition of caucus coups/rumblings/whispers/whatever term Clark used are irrelevant. She is acknowledging they existed. She also addresses the primary question of self-doubt – at that point there was NONE. If anything, she actually downplayed the resolution and skills she used to overcome the plotters, because she DIDN’T specifically label it a “coup”.

              But through the period of unpopularity within and without caucus, her resolution was helped by friends giving her good advice, such as “‘well there’s no one else who can do any better so you’ve just got to stand there and have the confidence in yourself that you can do the job’.”

              Which is why she now says, “One of the homilies I’ve often offered young people, high school students, others that I’ve addressed about leadership is if you don’t believe in yourself you can’t expect anybody else to believe in you and I think I applied that principle to my own life.”

              So the primary question about SELF-DOUBT has been well and truly addressed – and inner-caucus difficulties actually downplayed if she REALLY thought it was a coup (she obviously doesn’t!). Instead, in summarising it as “rumblings” and “whispers” she is actually trying to protect the reputation of the colleagues who expressed their doubts, and were proved wrong by subsequent events. Very classy.

              Then, in another unrelated part of the interview Clark explains the way she addressed the problem of having no real background in aid and development when she applied for the UN job:

              “So my pitch was “this job needs a leader, and I am that leader”".

              In response to THAT statement, a later commentator then comes along summarises: -

              “Having led the Labour Party without barely a whisper of a coup for six years in opposition and then nine years as Prime Minister, human resources at the UN could hardly argue that credential”.

              Which was not what Clark described in her “I am a leader” pitch to the UN, and neither is it an accurate description of her self-confessed caucus difficulties elsewhere in the interview.

              However, Clark has NO control on an editor’s commentary.

              And then Slater comes along, and gets the wrong end of the stick of who said what…

  3. Isn’t when someone resigns at the instigation and encouragement of others before a vote is taken a “bloodless coup”? Like happened with David Shearer.

    So if a group of plotters attempt to bluff or induce someone to resign, and they don’t, and for whatever reason the plotters don’t then circle the palace (e.g., they never had the numbers, or it is perceived more damage would accrue from going public) could that be classified as an “abortive bloodless coup”?

    Just asking…

    • I’ve no idea what that would be called, Kimbo. But I’m sticking with my view that saying, ‘Please miss, would you consider stepping down?’, then walking away when Miss says, ‘Go away!’ really shouldn’t be dignified with the word ‘coup’. ‘Rumblings’ struck me as fairly accurate. Now perhaps we could all move on to the real thrust of the post, that Slater knowingly accuses Clark of having said something she she didn’t say.

      • Um, just to bring in my specialist concern for jesuitical nitpicking (I have a hard-won and jealously-guarded reputation to uphold!)

        …”rumblings” are disaffected people speaking in corners, muttering, and gossiping, but bever actualy DOING anything to confront the source of their dissatisfaction.

        Also, you seem to be overlooking the possibility Cam Slater minsinterpreted and misread the report. I don’t think you’ve established intent. Especially as you haven’t yet nailed down a satisfactory description of exactly WHAT hapened in Clark’s office.

        • So if Slater ‘misrepresented and misread the report’ is it then OK for him to accuse Clark of deception or dishonesty? And I have an extremely clear understanding of what happened in Clark’s office from more than one source.

          As for your hard-won and jealously guarded reputation for Jesuitical nitpicking, have no fear. It is entirely secure.

          Cheers

          • “So if Slater ‘misrepresented and misread the report’ is it then OK for him to accuse Clark of deception or dishonesty?”

            Eh? No, but it doesn’t necessarily make him a deliberate liar. Just as Clark isn’t necessarily either.

            But as you are barking up the wrong tree with your one-word definition of what Clark reported, the matter is moot.

            Now go and have a Gin and Tonic and enjoy your evening, and write out 100 times, “if I don’t like the answer, then I shouldn’t ask the question…”

            • 3.1.1.1.1.1

              So, the choices are Slater is a deliberate liar or an incompetent journalist – neither is very flattering.

              • 3.1.1.1.1.1.1

                Or he has accurately summarised what took place in Clark’s office. It was indeed a coup (it is quibbling to say it failed, as in the context of Clark’s longevity any mention of ‘coup’ implied it had to have failed).

                In which case Clark is a deliberate liar or an incompetent chronicler.

                Because it seems it is not so much facts that are in dispute, rather the interpretation of facts.

                For example John Key brokers a Sky City convention deal, and to some of us that is good business that continues the essential policies of previous National and Labour governments…while to others it confirms he is a psychopath.

                So Slater’s accusation that Clark is a liar may be OTT (I think it is), but in Slater’s mind it corroborates a pattern (paintergate, speedgate). Hence he thinks he has sufficient evidence of Clark’s deliberate dishonesty.

                Ya pays yer money and ya takes yer pick…

                • I can’t find any summary by Slater in his post of what happened in Clark’s office. Nor have any of the people named by her ever, to my knowledge, come forward to take issue with her version of events. But this still isn’t the issue here. The issue is whether Slater accuses her in his post of lying on the basis of a statement she never made. And the bloody facts in this matter are in dispute. Slater concludes that Clark made a comment which I am 100% certain she never made. The facts then are in dispute.

                  And then you say: “So Slater’s accusation that Clark is a liar may be OTT (I think it is), but in Slater’s mind it corroborates a pattern (paintergate, speedgate). Hence he thinks he has sufficient evidence of Clark’s deliberate dishonesty.” So your argument here (on behalf of Slater) is that something that was never said can ‘corroborate a pattern’. I take it this is the pattern of not having said the same thing on previous occasions!

                  And now, Kimbo, here is my Easter resolution. This is the last reply I will ever make to you. I enjoy a good argument or debate. But I am tired of dancing on the heads of linguistic and philosophical pins. It’s tedious and unproductive.

                  So, with the exception of defamation, or excessive length, the field is now open to you. Enjoy.

                • 3.1.1.1.1.1.1.2

                  On closer reading, including what Clark DID say in the TV interview, I withdraw and apologise – to both you and her.

                  Clark clearly never said what Slater asserted. Your essential fact is correct.

                  Even if Slater tried to argue that Clarke’s comment “There was always party room rumbles as well that there would be some kind of leadership coo (sic) and I always steered (sic) those rumbles down” is what influenced the editorial comment

                  …the context of the questions Clark was answering: –

                  “(Years before you became Prime Minister you had a popularity rating that was in single digit figures and from what I’ve read that was the one off time where you really thought “should I stay”. What were your friends telling you because you’ve always counted on that as being really good advice at the time?)”

                  …indicates she was not trying to portray her tenure as “without barely a whisper of a coup”. That was solely the editor’s conclusion. In fact she is acknowledging all was not entirely well.

                  Slater should read more carefully. So should I. I can’t answer for his honesty, but in mine, it was a careless mistake.

          • G&T contingent upon any prohibitions for those with type 2 diabetes

  4. Brian – you seem to be attacking Cameron rather than some essential truths like – Helen Clark has been a liar.

    She faked a signature to a work of art she purported to paint – but didn’t.

    She assumed the fax role of minister of Culture and heritage – only via the prompting of Judith Tizzard… for its media/ profile benefits… not lying exactly but dishonest and manipulative to say the least.

    She tried to fob off the faking of the art – as ‘trivial’… itself IMHO – a real disservice to artists.

    Barry Thomas

    • Well, we could debate those matters. But what relevance do they have to the current topic? If I’m right and Slater dishonestly accused Clark of having said something that there is absolutely no evidence of her having said, are you saying that that’s OK because you believe that Clark was untruthful on a previous occasion? Preposterous.

  5. “So is this rank dishonesty or crass stupidity on Whaleoil’s part?”
    Im more inclined to find him guilty of both.

  6. While dishonesty is certainly a vice. Whaleoil is not renown for journalistic excellence is he? Accuracy, objectivity and letting the story ‘tell itself’ are not his style nor apparently within his writing & researching capability.

    At best it appears that he only writes versions of ‘a truth’ that reflects his brand. Any slurs on Helen Clark are red herrings and unlikely to be of an objective truth. Attacks on a high profile ex leader are a bit like compromising paparazzi pics of a celeb framed out of context.

    Whaleoil appears to be a singular commercial enterprise that has found a niche that is incompatible with any sort of journalistic ethics.

    It may be more appropriate for readers to analyse the worthiness of his work, rather than argue the nuances of a past leaders ability to keep a team on track.

  7. Please leave Whaleoil to its delusional self, there is no good reason to even acknowledge its existence… it is an online circle jerk, the only entertainment value comes from the irony of its commenters commenting on how the oppositions commenters all disagree with them! self awareness: zero

  8. Brian, why are you commenting on what this scum bag far right brown shirt Cameron Slater regurgitates? he represents the very essence of the gutter press at its very worst, at its most heinous and humanly subversive. I am sure Helen couldn’t give a damn of such low life.

    Now….Cunliffe is going to confine those monster trucks to rail..oops the slow lane….that’s worth commentating on!

    • I can assure you, Kat, that Helen cares a great deal about being defamed in this way.

      • Perhaps if this ‘defamation’ was coming from a plausible source Helen may care. Helen has been on the receiving end of some pretty vile attacks in the past including members of parliament such as that Act/Hide imbecile.

        Something I have noted over the last few years is that John Key always refers to what Helen Clark would have done or would do whenever he wants to justify an action taken by his govt. He must obviously hold her in high regard.

  9. Let’s revisit Shakespeare, shall we? How about keeping it simple by just referring to the title: Much Ado About Nothing.

    Cam has a pretty god rep when it comes to factual reporting, so cut him a bit of slack. No one would take much interest in that Channel Nine programme, besides, the audience numbers would be miniscule because it is neither current nor of much significance, past or present.

    To be honest, it is like becoming indignant over: So-and-so lied because he said I had bacon-and-eggs for breakfast at a convention I attended 8 years ago when, in fact, it was link sausages that I had with my eggs.

  10. The trouble with the Labour Party is simply that they don’t have somebody of Helen Clark’s calibre in their ranks.

    • Trouble with you Edward is your bike’s got a flat tyre and you’re stuck in lane 4.

      • My bike’s always getting flat tyres. It’s these bloody bottle smashing students who are to blame. We have cycle lanes here.
        Anyway, who can you name in the Labour Party who could shows any sign of shaping up to be a leader like Aunty Helen? I knew a staunch National voting old lady of farming background who thought Helen was well worth her long leadership.
        I haven’t been paying much attention to NZ politics lately, as it is too painful. For me a National win again is a foregone conclusion.

        • Hard to compare anyone with Helen. However your question is somewhat loaded as any new leader of the Labour Party will be naturally very different to Helen.

          Cunliffe is now showing himself to be a good opposition leader and may well prove to be a great PM.

  11. I think that the most dishonest part of this post Brian, is the implication in the first two paragraphs that Cameron Slater may be some sort of journalist or reporter.

    Very disappointed.

  12. I find it interesting that so many on the right still attack Helen Clark. It must really annoy them that she is doing so well at the UN after 9 years as Prime Minister of New Zealand.

    As for Kimbo – he gives Jesuits a bad name!

    JPC

    • No – Jesuits are always precise and accurate.

      As per my recantation above, I am currently in sack cloth and ashes.

      • BE barks, and your bravado dissolves faster than the Clark coup plotters. A bit like a 1940s’ Italian tank — 10 Reverse gears and one tentative Forward gear.

        • Useless to argue against the facts. The Italians were never die-hards. But they were good-looking and lives to ‘fight’ another day.

          Now donna hitta ma face!

        • ‘Italians: Big tanks, four gears – all reverse. Great pasta’
          I believe it was

        • The true nature of Italy’s part in World War II has never been fully understood. In fact World War II for the Italians was a civil war between the Left (predominantly Communists and Socialists) and the Right (Fascists).

  13. So is this rank dishonesty or crass stupidity on Whaleoil’s part? Hard to tell really. That’s the problem with ‘my good friend’ Cam – it’s often so hard to tell.

    It’s neither. To be dishonest you have to care in some way about the difference between truth and falsehood.

    Harry Frankfurt

    It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.

    • Matthew Hooton to a tee! I wouldn’t credit Slater as knowing the difference between the truth, lying or bullshitting.

  14. 14

    We should be grateful for having the voice of Cameron Slater. I’m glad he’s not infatuated as you are with David Cunliffe, where your adulation of this clumsy-clot is second only to the people of North Korea’s “love” of Dear Leader, Kim Jong-un.

    • 14.1

      There is a need for lunatic conspiracy theorists. They provoke defence of an account, opinion, theory or hypothesis, and we are all the more knowledgeable from the debate that results. In much the same manner we need Cameron Slater. He frequently vomits up some issue that might otherwise sneak under the radar. It’s all tied up in that fundamental principle of free speech. Doesn’t mean we have to like him though.