Friday, June 12, 2009

A case study in character assassination

Last week I wrote about the Mysterious Fall of Richard Worth, a cabinet minister thrown to the sharks without so much as a twinge of regret, for causes unnamed.

As I confidently predicted then, those causes emerged in short enough order: sexual harrassment.

Now the media's attention has switched firmly to the Woman, one Neelam Choudary. Her husband, we hear, is awaiting sentencing for immigration fraud. Most remarkably, she tried to stand as a Labour candidate at the last election. Now opposition leader Phil Goff is being portrayed as her cynical puppet-master, the diabolical-yet-bumbling mastermind behind a KGB-like honey trap.

In other words, the smear campaign has shifted into high gear.

I understand how the media (including blogs) works. I can quite see why they're running with the story as they are. But standing back a little from the pack, there are two questions that still bother me.

One: despite the rapid demolition of the only prosecution witness, no-one - not even NotPC, or the insanely right-wing WhaleOil (now leading calls for Phil Goff's political lynching), is suggesting Worth be rehabilitated. As I said last week, prime minister John Key was pretty thorough about burning the boats when the story began to break. Although now it seems as if Worth's crime is less to do with abuse, more stupidity, that is just as bad in the eyes of the right wing.

In other words: Worth's party is successfully attacking Worth's attackers, without giving any impression of defending Worth. That's quite impressive, and I think it's Key's decisive butchery last week that makes it possible.

Two: the burning question of last week's announcement remains unanswered. Why didn't Key tell us then what Worth had done wrong? Did he foresee how the story would unfold? Is he even helping to engineer it?

Exhibit - what are we up to now, F? - the relatively moderate Kiwiblog says that Goff "tried to turn it into a political circus by insisting he attend any meeting with the PM as her 'support person'". How, I wonder, does it know that, unless through some contact with Key's office?

Well played, sir. I am impressed.

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