The Dirty Politics hack has been an important public service. It has highlighted disturbing issues as to how members of the National Government have operated, including almost without question the prime minister. Anybody who writes this off in glib or flippant terms is either ignorant or has something to hide.
But hacking people’s private communications is a serious matter. It isn’t something we should applaud. On the contrary, in fact, we should abhor such intrusions of privacy unless it is clearly in the public interest.
Cameron Slater and Jordan Williams’ personal conversations don’t hit that criteria. Not even close. It is a dangerous realm to enter. How many people have not said something to a friend that they wouldn’t say publically? I suspect few, if any.
As part of my job, from time to time, I read transcripts of conversations that have been surreptitiously (but legally) been recorded by police. What strikes, and always frightens the bejesus out of me, is that transcripts don’t pick up irony or jest. One doesn’t understand the relationship between the two talking parties. Often this can create a misleading understanding.
Saying that if women didn’t have cunts then men would throw rocks thrown at them is an ugly and puerile statement. But it’s also a joke meant for private consumption between people who are ribbing the opposite sex. And even if it’s more than that, we have no right to know.
I’ve said worse things to mates and one in particular: between us we purposely try to up the anti on offensive comments. Do I expect those things to be made public? No. Would I be horrified if they were? Yes I would.
There are numerous reasons to feel distain for Slater – he has a pathetic intellect, an un inquiring mind, and a nasty streak a mile long – and his nitwit mate, but those statements are not them. The great sociologist Erving Goffman talked about front stage and back stage life - dramaturgy, he called it – let’s not judge what people say privately unless we really need to. The alternative is that we all live with microphones on our pillow.