Hard News by Russell Brown


The out-of-control manchild on the council

We were having fun with the internet adventures of Aaron Bhatnagar long before he became an Auckland City councillor. And readers will doubtless find droll amusement in Transmogrification, Bhatnagar's thrilling new series of autobiographical blog posts about how he won back the Auckland mayoralty for John Banks. It's like this:

In early 2006, I met with Banks at his large family apartment in Remuera. “I think you can win it back John, I think the time is right to start polling”.


But there's another story too. Bhatnagar was playing victim a couple of weeks ago, when his one-time political opponent Christine Caughey raised what are, as we shall see, not unreasonable concerns about the inappropriate political use of Wikipedia. He compiles a list of "nations that censor blogs". (Yes, he's comparing himself to the bloggers of Iran, and no he's not being ironic. Bless.)

David Farrar weighed in on his mate's behalf, demanding to know "how did such a person get elected in the first place, and why in God’s name has Labour appointed someone who wants to regulate Wikipedia to a powerful transport funding board?"

At issue was Caughey's submission to the Justice and Electoral committee's review of the 2007 local body elections. In which she said:

Advertising by way of blogging, use of Wikipedia or similar, are two examples where abuse may occur. Wikipedia does not appear to have adequate structures in place to monitor and control abuse of the system.

Regulation to control the type of use of the internet for political/campaigning purposes should be put in place and made explicit in candidate information booklets.

You might think that's wrong. You might be right. But read on …

Bhatnagar used his blog to rail against Caughey's submission ("I'm going to demolish these points one by one") but curiously neglected to mention a very important dimension to the story: his own extensive history of inappropriate political editing of Wikipedia: directed at Caughey, her Action Hobson party and former mayor Dick Hubbard.

Indeed, it would appear that Bhatnagar wanted everyone else to forget it. What kind of victorious candidate tries to delete the Wikipedia article for his opponent at 3am in the morning after the results were announced?

Fortunately, Bhatnagar was unsuccessful in deleting the articles and their attendant edit trails. They make for interesting reading. Bhatnagar, as "Barzini", created articles on Caughey and Action Hobson. And when other editors sought to excise the political froth he poured into the articles, he put it all back in. Some of his edits -- including removing a reference to Caughey being named Metro's Aucklander of the Year -- seem sad and petty.

In the case of Action Hobson, Bhatnagar stacks the article with his own spin. He later even brags about its "opponents" -- that is Bhatnagar himself -- "now controlling" the Action Hobson website.

Let's pop on over to where Bhatnagar made his first unflattering edit to Dick Hubbard's page. And then again. And a riotously self-serving effort over the so-called "Queen Street Massacre" of some trees.

See also here, where someone removes an inappropriate rant about Hubbard's mayoralty, and Bhatnagar puts it back.

And of course, no story about perpetual adolescents without a sense of boundary would be complete without a contribution from Whaleoil.

It ought to be a no-brainer that creating Wikipedia articles on your political opponents, and then consistently using those articles to push your own spin about them is, well, not in the spirit of Wikipedia. We can only be grateful that good-faith Wikipedia editors (including the sainted Gadfium) have largely cleaned up the muck.

Bhatnagar and his friends can grouse as much as they want. But when they're done with rolling around the floor whimpering and playing victim, they might want to consider how it looks for a city councillor to behave like an out-of-control man-child and then try and cover it up.


Also, I really enjoyed making this week's Media7 programme on the state of the gay media. With an all-male panel, it inevitably leaned more towards gay men than lesbians, but our panel -- Jay Bennie, Douglas Jenkin and Johnny Givins -- had lots to say. The show is now up on TVNZ ondemand (there's a backgrounder right at the beginning that explains the state of the play).

See also the Windows Media clips, the podcast and (soon, hopefully) our the YouTube version.

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