The @B3nRaching3r Allegations – Part Three

Lauda Finem Redux

A quick update on the Lauda Finem issue; apparently one “Matthew Denteth” is causing them trouble, and they have evidence of him doing something shady in Hamilton. This “Matthew Denteth” they keep banging on about seems to look exactly like me, but has a last name that is almost-but-not-quite my own. You would almost think – given how consistently they misspell my name – that they had been told about me over the phone (or in person) and then told to write a blogpost about me. Certainly, if they had actually been reading my blog and researching me (as they claim), you would think they would be able spell my last name. Then again, they also call Keith Ng “David”; Lauda Finem’s research credentials are just a little suspect, aren’t they?1

The Matthew Hooton Connection

Let me put on my overt political hat for a minute and say that I think Matthew Hooton is a despicable character who makes great issue out of how moral and open he is, whilst at the same time happily supplying Nicky Hager’s address to Cathy Odgers (so she can pass that on to disgruntled clients to enact vengeance). My personal opinion is that Hooton is a terrible person with no real moral centre, other than a self-aggrandising belief that he is basically a decent guy.

I put this hat on because, like many people on the Left who read “Dirty Politics”, I thought Hooton came across as a nefarious co-conspirator in Cameron Slater’s #dirtypolitics campaign. Yet Hooton has stage managed his role so well that he’s still a political commentator of some note. As such, when Ben Rachinger had a post about Hooton I thought “Oh goody!” As did Rachinger; , since in this installment he claims that he has proof Hooton lied about knowing what Rachinger and Slater were up to with regards to hacking blogs. Except that, on careful reading, the evidence does not say that at all. My “Oh goody!” moment became a “Oh noes…” instead.

It all starts with an email from Matthew Hooton to David Farrar, the primary author of KiwiBlog (the blog which epitomises the adage “Don’t read the comments!”). Hooton who had been searching The Standard, a Labour-aligned blog which you probably also shouldn’t read the comments of (for example, you’ll find a fair number of approving references to Lauda Finem there) and realised that the Standard’s search system was picking up on internal (and thus not public) discussions between moderators. Farrar then asked if these discussions could be extracted from the Standard without hacking (i.e. if they could be found legitimately). After all, what treasures which would benefit the Right might be unearthed by such an action?

Farrar’s response to Hooton was cc-ed to Slater, and Slater forwarded that email to Rachinger. Forwarded is the word we need to focus on here, because Rachinger seems to use this forwarded email as evidence that Hooton knew about Rachinger’s hacking assiciation with Cameron Slater. As he claims about Hooton:

Why send this email to a hacker? Why deny the emails existence and then defame ruthlessly the ‘hacker’? Was Mr Hooton lying when he said he didn’t know anything about me?

Well, I would day in response, it’s presumably because – unless Rachinger has further emails sent to him by Hooton – the e-mail he uses as evidence Hooton knew about him was forwarded by Slater, not sent by Hooton. As we know – and surely Rachinger knows as well – if someone forwards an email to you, there is no reason to think that the original emailer has any idea their email has been passed on. As such, there’s no reason – given the provided evidence – to think that Hooton subsequently lied when he said he knew nothing about Rachinger. Rachinger knew about Hooton because Hooton and Farrar’s correspondence was forward to him by Slater, not because Hooton or Farrar cc-ed him into said correspondence.

As to why the email was forwarded to Rachinger… Well, presumably it was because Slater wanted access to those internal communications and was ignoring Farrar’s request that this information should be extracted legally rather than via some hack.2 As such, given that Farrar, at the very least, was saying “No hacking!”, it would make sense for Slater to forward that email along and not notify Farrar (and presumably Hooton) that he was asking a hacker how they might (illegitimately) get to such a dataset.

Unless Rachinger has further email correspondence that shows that Hooton was aware of his work with Slater, then it does not seem we have grounds to think Hooton is lying about knowing Rachinger’s role in the conspiracy. So, whilst I – with my political hat back on – would love more evidence of Hooton’s central role in the “Dirty Politics” scandal to emerge, Rachinger has not provided it here. Maybe he has other evidence to support his claim, or maybe this is just evidence that he sometimes he overstates his case or makes faulty inferences from what data he has.

Who or what is Ben Rachinger, anyway?

I am not fond of ad hominem attacks, particularly when it comes to talk of conspiracy theorists. However, there is a class of legitimate ad hominem, the class which call into question the ability for someone to be the right kind of witness. For example, it is inappropriate to say that because someone wears corduroy trousers, then they cannot contribute to a debate on economic policies. However, if someone turns out to have bad night vision, it is appropriate to call into question their ability to accurately report what they saw on some dark and stormy night. Arguments cannot be dismissed via an ad hominem, but testimony can.

I bring this up because some people are wary of Rachinger’s testimony about his exploits with Slater because Rachinger was a member of the Young Nats.

The Young Nats, for those of you unaware of such abstract entities, is – like Young Labour – a group of young people who have decided to support one of the major political parties here in Aotearoa (New Zealand), to whit the National Party. It’s like the entryway drug to becoming a politician, and most of us outside the two major parties in Aotearoa (New Zealand) look at the members of the Young Nats and Young Labourwith a mixture of suspicion and derision. So, the fact Rachinger was an admitted Young Nat and he worked with Slater makes some think that his story must be some ruse, or play, by the Whaleoil (National Party-aligned) social media machine, a distraction from some other terrible happenstance. Others think that we have grounds to suspect Rachinger’s story because Rachinger was an ally of Slater and the National Party who at some point got burnt by Slater, and thus is getting his revenge on Slater and, by extension, National.

Both versions of this story are arguments to the extent that we can ignore or dismiss Rachinger’s claims because his narrative is disinformation emanating from Slater’s camp, or from an ally-turned-enemy of Slater. There may well be something to this, because Rachinger’s narrative is a little opaque at times. Whilst Rachinger presents himself as the hero of his story – a tale of a bold hacker who decided to infiltrate the Whaleoil social media empire and find out its secrets – the evidence he presents also fits with a rival narrative, in which he happily worked for Slater until such time Slater’s corrosive company pushed him away.

For example, Rachinger appears to agree to hack the Standard (although he claims he did not actually perform such a hack) and, as evidence, he presents bank records which indicate Slater gave him a down payment for said hack. This means we have to ask whether Rachinger:

  1. Attempted the hack and failed (thus accruing the wrath of Slater),
  2. Succeeded in the hack but then found that Slater was unwilling to pay him more (something Rachinger presumably could not publicly admit to), or
  3. Whether he really was a double-agent, working against Slater and seeing what it was Slater would be stupid enough to ask him to do?

Herein lies the issue: in his various posts Rachinger has has told stories about going to the police (and claiming they wanted to use him as part of a fishing expedition for information), seeking work from Slater’s associate Tony Lentino (and a blackhat hacker), and agreeing to hack the Standard. It’s a confusing tale, where you really aren’t sure whether he’s a noble hacker who decided to go undercover or just another of the villains in the “Dirty Politics” scandal, albeit one who ended up on the wrong side of Cameron Slater. All we have is his word, or more precisely, his version and interpretation of those events. He wants us to believe the noble hacker hypothesis is the best interpretation of the story, but he would, wouldn’t he? The fact is that if we believe he was undercover the entire time, then we are relying on the word of a good liar – since he conned Slater – which should give us reason to doubt at least some of his accounting of what really happened.

This is not me saying “Don’t trust the words of Ben Rachinger!” Rather, I am simply saying there is something to the idea that the way he tells his story opens him up to accusations that what we are getting is his interpretation of events, wherein he is the noble hero, rather than a totally honest accounting of what really happened. It seems clear that Rachinger witnessed (and maybe was complicit) in a variety of Slater’s #dirtypolitic activities. As such, Rachinger’s narrative fits in with Hager’s exposé of Slater and Company. What isn’t clear is Rachinger’s motivations. None of this detracts from the information released by Rachinger; it just raises interesting questions about what we might not be being told.

Notes

  1. As for what I might have done in Hamilton; attended a conference, taught at Waikato and given a eulogy. Dreadful dealings the lot of them.
  2. After all, if it turned out you could access the information on the Standard via a simple search or by accessing a unlinked but public page, then the fault would be on the hosts of the Standard for not securing their communications. However, if the information could only be accessed via a hack, then accessing that information would require criminal activity.

About Matthew Dentith

Author of "The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories" (Palgrave Macmillan), Matthew Dentith wrote his PhD on epistemic issues surrounding belief in conspiracy theories. He is a frequent media commentator on the weird and the wonderful, both locally and internationally. On occasion he can be caught dreaming about wax lions but, mostly, it is rumoured he works for elements of the New World Order.

2 comments:

  1. For someone who is picky about the spelling of your name, you might take the effort to spell David Farrar name correctly not “Farrah”
    Apart from that I think you are on the right path

    1. Gah. Thanks for pointing that out. At least I didn’t call him “David Farrier” again. David Farrier gets very upset when I do that, and for reason, since I know David Farrier but have never met David Farrar.

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