Dirty Politics pollutes the office water cooler

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Standing in a car park during a fire drill the other day I was struck by the long-lasting impact of Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics. 

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, possibly at the bottom of a very deep cave, you’ve probably heard of the book and its stunning allegations about attack bloggers, links with the top echelons of government and who was paying who to do what. 

Certainly it has the political class all aflutter since policy talk appears to have been thrown out the window and Labour’s emerged from the shadows in a last-ditch attempt to look like a suitable alternative. 

Minister Judith “Crusher” Collins has been forced to jump and there’s a solid pipeline of inquiries which may well employ a swag of retired judges for a number of years. 

The story’s still emerging but it’s always worth stepping back and asking, What does it all mean? 

That wasn’t the central topic in the car park but the discussion that day made clearer what this all means for society. 

There we were: three blokes just chewing the fat while a fire alarm blared and people in high visibility gear compared notes on clipboards. 

Conversation meandered from business to the news of the day – the shooting in Ashburton. 

Sensitive souls with squeamish tummies might want to put down the paper now. 

Because as is sometimes the way with horrible events you never want to experience, witness or wish on your worst enemy, we were seduced by the dark arts of black humour. 

Need a few workers, one asked: there might be a few Work and Income workers throwing round their CVs. 

“I’ve had mates who left Ashburton,” one said. “And the reasons they left were more obvious.” 

None of this is kind, fair or all based on fact. But it’s what people do to let off steam; to make fun of the harmful, the serious, the horrible. 

One of us said: the jokes are probably already doing the rounds. If you’re sent one, want to flick it over? 

It was like the bloke had been slapped. There’s no way I could do that anymore, he spluttered. “What if my bloody emails get hacked?” 

And there’s the rub. 

A month ago, people would not have thought twice about forwarding a joke or tittering unprofessionally on Facebook (out of work hours, naturally). 

Of course, there are boundaries about what’s appropriate but an office isn’t the same without a bit of banter. 

Now, because of Dirty Politics, an element of political correctness and bum-covering has crept into our work lives, just in case some tosser hacks our emails. 

Now, just to upload my latest naked pictures to my cloud-based storage account…