Mar 23, 2016 People
Ian Wishart, publisher, conspiracy theorist, died 2058.
This article was first published in the March 2016 issue of Metro. Illustration by Daron Parton.
Ian Wishart was just three years old when he worked out the whole joint was crooked. If Father Christmas wasn’t real, what else were they covering up? He’d find out, don’t you worry about that.
In no time at all he was all grown up and sticking a microphone in people’s faces.
He was perfect for it: the lantern jaw, the vaguely amused smile, the shoe that would never let you get the door shut on him.
At Radio Windy, at TV3, at Television New Zealand, he asked the hard questions and took down names. Never mind the press release, what were these characters trying to hide and how far did the rot go?
The story of his lifetime came jammed inside a wine box. Someone wanted him to know all about a bunch of tax schemes, bank transfers with the Cook Islands, and some rich white people.
It looked like a tax-evading duck. It waddled like a tax-evading duck. It flew in private helicopters like one.
If you had a shocking story to tell, a truth concealed, an outrage suppressed, he was your man… He was doing God’s work.
Putting it on television was out of the question. Even the board of TVNZ thought it was a bad idea and thoughtfully said so to management.
But the more the Establishment bared its teeth, the more excited Wishart grew.
Eventually, court action and public shaming saw his work put to air. A commission of inquiry followed.
Nobody went to jail. But Wishart had seen his future and it wasn’t inside a quivering television network. It was at the wheel of his own publishing company, printing the truth without fear, or favour, or even the other side of the argument.
If you had a shocking story to tell, a truth concealed, an outrage suppressed, he was your man.
If you know what happened to Ben and Olivia, if you were a student of intelligent design, if you knew about the red-haired people who settled New Zealand in 5000 BC, Ian was your man.
He was doing God’s work. It was only a matter of time before he formed a closer connection. Like many who come to faith later in life, he was drawn to the God of 1952: no secrets, no depravities, no homosexuals, no automatic dishwashing machines that might give women the freedom to roam the town unaccompanied or take up paid employment.
The books — and a magazine for people leery of the 21st century — just kept coming, putting the hard questions:
Was the Helen Clark Beehive full of dangerous lesbians?
Were scientists lying about climate change for the money?
Were scientists lying about climate change for depraved sexual favours?
Was that first book about Ben and Olivia completely around the wrong way?
There was hardly a week when conventional thinking or “so-called science” were not being challenged. But then, suddenly, inexplicably, he was nowhere to be found. Not a book, not a magazine, not a single press release announcing the publishing event of the decade.
Weeks passed, then months, then years.
“It’s a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream,” said Mike Hosking.
“It’s brilliant performance art,” said Twitter, grudgingly. “Maybe he wasn’t so awful after all.”
“The truth is,” the coroner said this week, officially declaring Wishart missing, presumed dead, at the age of 94, “we have so little to go on, just a single grainy photo of someone who looks a bit like Mr Wishart being tied to one of the masts of an unidentified ketch. It really could be anybody. Although if you pressed me I’d say the other fellow looks a bit like Scott Watson.”