Critic tackles election year | Issue 15

The blogosphere

The world of political discourse has always, and will always be, full of people who speak really loudly. Sometimes, these people are members of parliament or those who are otherwise politically involved. Sometimes, they’re politics students who happen to write for a student magazine and enjoy trying to capture your attention with mildly outrageous sound bites. And, sometimes, they’re miscellaneous people who have somehow become popular on the Internet for writing blogs. Given the obvious (and accepted) bias of most of these blogs, it can sometimes be difficult to know where to look in order to get a balance of left/right analysis. This week’s Critic looks at a few of the more well known blogs: Kiwiblog; The Daily Blog; Whale Oil; and The Standard.


Kiwiblog began as the personal blog of David Farrar, a National Party advisor. It now boasts a team of contributors, but is still predominantly the brainchild of Farrar. Given Farrar’s involvement in the National Party, the blog is, indeed, centre-right. He largely takes the time to critique Labour’s policies, Cunliffe, and, as of late, Internet-MANA. If you scroll down the pages, you’ll find the word “Labour” everywhere – there’s a significant tendency to focus only on what the Red Team is doing, paying much less attention to minor parties; there’s also not as much mention of National as one might expect.

For those who sit on the left, Farrar’s blog is useful largely to scroll through and ascertain what points of policy might be most heavily criticised. Farrar often quotes news reports to make a point, which may compromise his credibility given the perceived bias many feel the NZ Herald, Stuff, etc., have.

Where Farrar shines is in his dedication to presenting the numbers. He consistently analyses polls, has polls featured down the side of the blog, and spends blog post after blog post analysing the way they could play out. Similar to the analysis presented on iPredict, Farrar is important for understanding how the right interprets possible election outcomes.

The Daily Blog

Swinging back over to the left brings us to The Daily Blog. It’s a relatively recent addition to the political blogging spectrum, but comprises a large team of left-leaning politicians, pundits, reporters, and general political riff-raff. Edited by Martyn Bradbury, The Daily Blog presents more like an online newspaper, with sections including “Deconstructing Headlines,” “Media Watch,” and “The Liberal Agenda.” Given that it has authors who hark from all parties to the left, there isn’t considerable bias any which way within that. It focuses most thoroughly on social issues, and is often used to defend controversial positions (a notable example being the recent Green policy on abortion) or critique right-leaning releases.

The Daily Blog is, in my opinion, most significant for its work in calling to attention the bias we see in major news sources. From the way images are presented in online Stuff articles to the lack of reporting on minor parties, The Daily Blog has made its mission to present current events as they ought to be presented if you sit to the left. There is a strong bias in the way New Zealanders are presented information; it pays to look beyond the general newspapers and see how the “other side” interprets important issues. It also strays from general media critique to present opinion pieces on plays, films, and other cultural outlets.

Whale Oil

Whale Oil is the pseudonym for Cameron Slater; his blog, Whale Oil Beef Hooked, is arguably the most well known in the New Zealand political blogosphere. And doesn’t he know it. With an “About Cameron Slater” page that includes such ego-filled gems as “Cameron Slater doesn’t do quiet, and as a result he is a polarising, controversial, but highly effective, journalist that takes no prisoners,” and, “He is fearless in his pursuit of a story. Love him or loathe him. But you can’t ignore him.”

Slater sits strongly to the right, a social conservative who prides himself on holding various politicians to a certain standard of morality that excludes most progressive ideals. He presents readers with tidbits such as a “daily proverb” and “trivia,” as well as a thread for “general debate.” Whether it’s due to the general readership or the heavy moderation standards on the page, these debate threads tend to be a number of people praising Slater for his analysis or lamenting NZ’s “good old days.” If you’ve wondered where the conservatives go to hang out, it’s not at a Colin Craig picnic; it’s in the comments on Whale Oil’s posts.

Of the stories Slater has broken, the revelation that Len Brown had been having an affair with Bevan Chuang has been the most high profile. People are encouraged to send tips to Slater, so should you feel you have any gossip you’d like him to pay attention to, there’s a place for that (although, personally, I would discourage the practice – any power to Slater is more power to someone who pens posts called things like “Labour’s rape laws plan to destroy your civil rights,” but I digress).

The Standard

The Standard is similar to The Daily Blog in that it’s a collection of left-wing bloggers who aim to present the “real” side of the story. Unlike The Daily Blog, however, its authors aren’t so obvious. Where The Daily Blog reads somewhat like a party of the most well-known left-wing bloggers blogging about left-wing things, The Standard is, comparatively, a covert operation in presenting the facts as they aren’t presented in the media. Its overarching sections are “economy,” “environment,” “international,” “media,” “politics,” and “social issues,” which provide a good indication of the general subject matter of the website.

The main focus of the website is largely critiquing National and ACT policy, but also has a significant “under cover” presence, with anonymous hacks presenting what it’s like behind the scenes at various conferences and meetings.
This article first appeared in Issue 15, 2014.
Posted 6:52pm Sunday 13th July 2014 by Carys Goodwin.