For some years now I've "enjoyed" a growing amount of internet 'hate mail' biffed my way on websites, virtually all from people I've never met and most from people who've never actually read my work themselves but who've relied on a kind of 'Chinese whispers' from their mates.
These numbnuts collectively allege that my journalism work is shoddy, or that I don't get facts right, or that a journalist's belief system (whether they are atheist or Christian) is the sole determinant of whether their work can be trusted. In reality, most of the critics are tribal, hoping that by marginalising the messenger they can prevent people from reading the stories at the centre of the debates.
It hasn't worked. For the record, nearly every book I have written has been a top ten bestseller in this country, and a majority have been number one or two on the bestseller list. Absolute Power, which received virtually no media coverage on its launch and no reviews in major media, nonetheless went on to sell almost 26,000 copies.
So in the spirit of, if you can't beat em, join em, I have decided to engage in a debate with my adoring critics.
Ian Wishart is a "conspiracy theorist" because...I wrote a book called "The Paradise Conspiracy" which detailed a plan by a group of major corporates to raid the tax bases of NZ, Japan, Australia and other countries using tropical tax havens in the 1980s. Legally, it was a 'conspiracy' because more than one person was involved in planning (in fact, dozens were).
When that story broke I was pilloried by the mates of those using those particular tax havens, many of whom were politically very well connected. The National Business Review – because of a journalistic stoush at one point, hit me with the 'conspiracy theorist' moniker and the PR teams of the corporates involved ensured it stuck.
The story I produced, with Mark Champion, Carol Hirschfeld and Michael Wilson for TVNZ eventually won its category at the New York Film and Television Awards, and also a Business Journalism Award here in New Zealand. The book, The Paradise Conspiracy, went on to sell 40,000 copies around the world.
Ian Wishart is a conspiracy theorist because...I alleged Dow Chemicals manufactured Agent Orange at their plant in New Plymouth, New Zealand, based on exclusive information from a former top executive with the company:
'There have been rumours circulating for some time, never proven, that IWD was supplying the defoliant Agent Orange to be used in the Vietnam War. The allegation is true. I was on the management committee of Ivon Watkins Dow, and I supported the plan to export Agent Orange. In fact, it went ahead on my casting vote.
'People who'd served in the armed forces made a strong case for the need to defoliate the jungle, because of the risk to servicemen from ambush or sniper fire from the undergrowth. So we began manufacturing this Agent Orange, but it didn't meet the international specifications and probably had an excess of 'nasties' in it. The problem was, we didn't consider the product was harmful to humans at the time.
"Our scientists relied on assurances and technical data provided to them by Dow Chemicals in the USA. We were led to believe it was safe. The whole reason I supported Agent Orange is because we thought we were giving our boys on the ground a hand.
"To avoid detection, we shipped the Agent Orange to South America - Mexico if I recall correctly - and it was onshipped to its final destination from there."
Read the full story and judge for yourself whether Investigate magazine's stories are well-researched.
Not convinced? See Investigate magazine's photos of babies with birth defects born at New Plymouth hospital, then ask whether the magazine (in this case journalist Hamish Carnachan) did its homework.
Wikipedia, the reference of convenience for most, and of last resort for the desperate, downplays all this, preferring to rely on government assurances in preference to Investigate. As others have said elsewhere on this blog, it comes down to a matter of who you trust, and who has the biggest vested interest. We only have magazines to sell, but governments and large companies have financial liabilities they wish to avoid. Wikipedia editors are, in quite a few cases, evolutionary descendants of village idiots. Who are you going to believe? Your call.
UPDATE 1/10/2010: I was asked by an emailer to double check my spelling of "Jeannette" in the Crewe murders book, as Wikipedia is apparently insisting the correct spelling of the murder victim is "Jeanette" because a Royal Commission spelt it that way. Yet again, I have news for Wikipedia, and it is this image from Jeannette Crewe's last Will and Testament:
I'll put my accuracy record up against Wikipedia's any day of the week.
Air New Zealand doesn't like Ian Wishart because...we have repeatedly exposed corner-cutting practices in the airline. Such as, in-flight failures that put passenger safety at risk
Alternatively, you might hear arguments about the credibility of Investigate magazine, in which case why not read the story that picked the financial crash 18 months before it happened. Or the story that forced an inquiry into Civil Aviation. Or the story that dragged Vitamin D into the public and medical consciousness of New Zealand. Or the story that was raised in parliament and helped force an inquiry into the 111 emergency call system.
Or the scandal surrounding a Cook Islands tax haven bank, WSBC, its founder Riaz Patel and the NZ company WSD he was trying to float on the NZ Stock Exchange. The story eventually snagged Internal Affairs minister Richard Worth.
When the tainted milk formula tragedy came to light in China, it was questions raised by the dreaded Investigate magazine at a Fonterra news conference that came to dominate front page newspaper headlines the next day.
One of our stories was considered sufficiently credible by the Solicitor-General that Investigate magazine was subjected to a gagging writ to prevent the story being released, while Crown prosecutors then asked the magazine to assist in the police investigation.
Investigate's work exposing fraudster Kim Schmitz was another carefully assembled investigation.
And what about our special investigation into the Natural Dairy takeover of the Crafar farms? Read file here:Download Feat2 (2)
Gun control groups don't like Ian Wishart because...of this inconvenient story and interview with gun control lobbyist Phillip Alpers.
Some don't like Ian Wishart because...Investigate publishes politically inconvenient but nonetheless accurate stories on polarising issues like the Middle East. Not because we have a dog in the ring but merely because so many in the media are unbalanced regarding the nuances of the conflict.
See this, for example, on the background to the Palestine conflict.
Investigate was the only magazine in New Zealand to report on attempts to radicalise Islamic youth in NZ.
Our critics said it was a beat-up, despite the facts in the story staring them in the face.
They continued to deny it when we named some members of Pakistani terror group Lashkar e Taiba who'd managed to slip through NZ's immigration system because of sympathetic Labour activists.
The magazine has also been inconvenient in exposing the spin of lobbyists and their capture of the news media via patsy events like "The Media Peace Awards".
Let's face it, when you threaten the sponsors of canapés and drinkies evenings for journalists, you effectively threaten the journalists themselves.
When the rest of the media were falling dutifully into line on energy-saving light bulbs, believing all the little glossy spin pamphlets they were fed by the Ministry of Energy, one magazine was, again, asking inconvenient questions about mercury filled CFL bulbs. Questions that needed to be asked given that NZ authorities were blissfully unaware of the health issues.
When Investigate published an 18 page expose on police corruption in Dunedin, the daily media focused on a chicken-sex video mentioned in one paragraph, and ignored the other 17.9 pages. When Investigate was hammered in parliament and on National Radio as horrible muckrakers, the media were all over it like a rash. When we published a detailed rebuttal proving police had lied, the daily media found other things to cover and didn't report it.
In any functioning, objective newsroom, hard evidence of police corruption would normally be headline news. Sadly, in New Zealand, journalists at the time simply didn't have the guts to confront the issues. I make no apologies for doing so.
People on the Left hate Ian Wishart because...I challenged the groupthink behind key policies in the last Labour Government. Why? Because it's the media's job to challenge and no one else was doing it. If you believe the left-wing conspiracy theorists, Investigate was part of the vast right wing conspiracy. But if that's the case, how does one explain this?
Some people are highly annoyed about the climate change book Air Con that pilloried the global warming scare. Tough luck. I have yet to see a substantive critique of the book that actually deals with the arguments raised in anything other than a strawman fashion.
Other people claim "Ian Wishart is a fundamentalist Christian", as if this is somehow relevant to, say, the climate change debate, or police corruption, or tainted milk formula. One website run by an atheist fundamentalist, Silly Beliefs.com, claims to have demolished the credibility of this particular journalist, yet its entire argument was based on out of context quotes. When push came to shove in its comments thread, website founder John ran for the hills and couldn't meet my challenge.
Anyone who wants to debate religion with me is welcome, as I've laid out the facts supporting my beliefs in a book you can download for free, The Divinity Code. It ain't secret. It's a shame so many atheists run when the questions get too difficult.
To wrap up this little session, some people hate, well...just because. For no better reason than that. But keep this in mind. Over the past 117 issues of Investigate magazine, we have published something in the region of 700 main feature stories, and more than 2,000 columns or short articles.
The magazine and the book publishing company have generated somewhere north of $25 million for the New Zealand economy, mostly to keep retailers and printing companies gainfully employed. We have never been successfully sued. We have suffered only two Press Council complaints, one of which we won, and the other we lost on a technicality (using photoshop to create a front cover was deemed inappropriate!)
I'll put my record for accuracy and investigative journalism up against that of any other journalist in NZ, happily. Conspiracy theorist? Where, in the above stories, was there a conspiracy theory?
Why write all this? Because amidst all the sniping from the cheap seats, genuine objective readers will take it into account and look at some of our stories for themselves instead of relying on third hand innuendo.