Monday, 28 May 2012

No Comparison: Why Tame Iti Has No Role In "Smith's Dream"

Bogus Equivalence: As anyone who's actually read C.K. Stead's novel Smith's Dream, or seen Roger Donaldson's Sleeping Dogs will tell you, the desperate political situation prevailing in their fictional New Zealand bears absolutely no resemblance to the real New Zealand of either 2007 or 2012. Sam Neil's heroic "Smith" has nothing in common with Tame Iti or his embryonic Maori militia.

THE POSTER featured at the top of this posting indicates how very far from reality the Far Left in this country has drifted. So far that they can no longer even distinguish the salient differences between C.K. Stead’s 1971 novel Smith’s Dream (which Roger Donaldson turned into the 1977 New Zealand film Sleeping Dogs) and Tame Iti’s embryonic “private militia”.

In Stead’s/Donaldson’s fictional setting, New Zealand finds itself in the grip of an authoritarian dictatorship - complete with secret police, imprisonment without trial, torture, military tribunals, executions and lethal violence meted out to protesters on the streets. Not surprisingly, this leads to the formation of an armed resistance movement, which in turn spurs the government to invite in American "advisers".

Were any of these factors present in 2007? No.

So, the equating of Stead’s/Donaldson’s fictional New Zealand with New Zealand as it really was in 2007 is completely bogus. No one was being fatally beaten in the streets by murderous riot police. No one was being tortured. No one was being tried and sentenced to death by military tribunals. No American “advisers” were clambering through the New Zealand bush.

Yes, there was an unnecessarily heavy-handed raid on Ruatoki by armed police. But this was the culmination of a year’s worth of observation and evidence-gathering directed at apprehending a group alleged to be organising covert, military-style training camps in the Urewera Ranges, and undertaken on search-warrants lawfully issued. It resulted in the seizure of 18 firearms.

The persons arrested as a result of “Operation Eight” were not held incommunicado, denied access to legal advice and tortured until they confessed. Nor were they tried and executed in secret. On the contrary, they were given a fair trial in an open court and only convicted on a number of firearms charges. Two of the accused were jailed for two-and-a-half years. Their convictions and their sentences are now being appealed.

So, no. The "real life" Tame Iti is not the same as the fictional hero "Smith" played by Sam Neill. He was not fighting a murderous dictatorship. He was not being hunted down by US “advisers”. Nor were he and his followers being strafed and bombed by RNZAF Skyhawks.

What Mr Iti does appear to have been doing, however, was giving practical effect to the numerous discussions, extending over many decades, in which Maori nationalists and their far-Left Pakeha allies have weighed the pros and cons of organising a revolutionary Maori army.

Inspired by the Mexican “Zapatista” model, in which indigenous issues are fused with issues of environmental despoliation and globalisation, was Tame Iti attempting to turn the Ureweras into Mexico’s Chiapas province, and himself into Tuhoe’s own “Subcomandante Marcos”?

Finally, as bogus as it undoubtedly is, the poster’s comparison remains potentially very dangerous. People who construct a fantasy world, and then decide to live in it, very rapidly place themselves beyond the reach of arguments grounded in reason and evidence. And, as the images emerging from Syria over the past 24 hours make so tragically clear, those who forsake reason for violence are capable of doing just about anything.

This posting is exclusive to the Bowalley Road blogsite.


Don Franks said...

There are several fantasy worlds here.

The most harmful is Chris Trotter's fantasy that Tame Iti and his mates were a real threat to anyone but a passing possum and the related fantasy that capitalism's police exist to protect the people.

If there had been a real revolutionary movement going the accused would have made the dock an international megaphone to inspire the movement.

As it was, they stayed silent while their lawyers argued they were training to be bodyguards for imperialist interests in Iraq.

As well as the jailing and detention, all the accused were worked over by the state during a period of years, a preposterously unreasonable punishment for a bit of harmless theatrical fantasy.

The accused deserve compensation, not condemnation.

Madison said...

Chris, excellent post. I think that Iti's group and their supporters are trying to paint this as an exercise in persecution on trumped up charges trying to quash any protest movement. While I think the whole thing was definitely a bit heavy handed I can't find any real justification for playing at military games in the wilderness using live ammunition and no firearms license.

The fact that Iti is a repeat offender on misuse of a firearm is a serious enough issue for me to question why anyone would allow him to speak out against his convictions anyway. I presume if I engage in the same way to protect myself from the self-styled militants living near me then I can be free to assume I'm being persecuted just the same, but I'm not a freedom fighting Maori artist, I'm just an average person with no fame, fortune or previous record.

2.5 years for multiple firearms offences on someone who is a repeated firearms offender seems short enough to me but fairly appropriate. He didn't seem to get it when he was sentenced to community service and home detention, what else is the next step but jail?

I know the group as a whole are upset with their treatment by the criminal justice system but I think they are just experiencing business as usual as I don't know anyone who has been through that ringer and been happy with it.

Robert Winter said...

The confusions on the Left on this issue (between the rule of law, the seriousness - or not - of the actitities involved, the appropriate response of the state, and, above all, in relation to the possible use of armed struggle in NZ) are, for me at least, depressing.

I do not doubt for a minute that the state had a prima facie case for action (even if it acted in far too heavy-handed a manner). As one once might have said,there is more than a whiff of petit-bourgeois adventurism in some of the Left's response.

Robert Winter said...

".....a preposterously unreasonable punishment for a bit of harmless theatrical fantasy" etc. etc..

As I noted in a previous post, some of the Left's response to this is simply depressing.

Anonymous said...

"Left" identification with and faith in the cops, now, THAT's depressing.

bsprout said...

I have never attempted to defend Tame although I have enjoyed his sense of theatre and have been amused at the fear a tattooed, fifty something, diabetic can engender amongst many New Zealanders. This whole debacle is about the management of the threat that this little group provided. All evidence pointed to them being fantasists and generally disorganized and incompetent and most of that evidence was collected by the police. Given that Tame is a known identity and had even had Gerry Brownlee open one of his painting exhibitions the police response was hugely over the top. I have often stated that a personal approach or phone call to Tame would have nipped the whole thing in the bud and would have cost a fraction of what has been spent so far. Given that it has taken so long to progress the trials and get to this point, further sentencing seems nonsensical.

What compensation are the innocent families and children going to receive for having their homes and lives violated by the extreme actions of armed police. If it happened to any of us we would be incensed. It is obvious that the police used the flawed terrorist act to rough up some annoying environmentalists and maori activists and so become terrorists themselves.

If the police had really acted intelligently and tactically they wouldn't have taken such extreme action because they have effectively created a Che Guevara persona for Tame and imprisonment will make him even more of a martyr for radical maori.

Chris Trotter said...

So, presumably, Anonymous@3:07PM, in your world there'll be no need for policemen?

Because in your world everyone will be equal and all property will be shared?

You know, like Cambodia under Pol Pot?

And the people who complain? Well, that's simple. You just pull a plastic bag over their head.

No need for courts, or jails, or policemen either, come to think of it.


Alex said...

I have read Smith's Dream, and I must say the comparison is a bit over the top. However, there is definitely a lot to be concerned about over the jailing of Iti, he was given a sentence based in part on the idea that he was in a private militia, however no such charges were proven. Why the should he be jailed for so long? Was there some pressure put on the judge to 'send a message'?

Victor said...


"I think they are just experiencing business as usual"

Therein lies the rub.

Perhaps people possessed of offensive weapons and expressing thoughts subversive of the ruling order should all be as firmly dealt with by the law, as has Mr Iti.

But, for better or worse, that's not currently the sort of country we live in. And so the sentence handed out to the would-be Che Guevara of the Ureweras seems out of kilter with normal usage and, hence, less than just.

This impression is all the more compelling, when set against the backgound of the recklessly excessive incursion by the police into the lives of ordinary people in pursuance of this matter and by the suspicion that this was ultimately a case of "round up the usual suspects".

As to the wisdom of banging the guy up, incarceration didn't do any harm to the subsequent careers of Gandhi, Nehru, Mandela, Kenyata, Devalera or, for that matter, Hitler.

Anonymous said...

Surely one may harbor some distrust for the rozzers without being a Pol Pot fan.

guerilla surgeon said...

"If there had been a real revolutionary movement going the accused would have made the dock an international megaphone to inspire the movement."

Everyone seems to be missing the main point here. This is it.

Anonymous said...

Chris you are the only one I know comparing Tame Iti and the others with Smiths Dream.

You are simply setting up a straw man to justify your inherent 'white southern man' conservatism.

As for comparing anonymous 3.07s very normal and reasonable distrust of a police force, that is proven to tell lies as naturally as it breathes, with support for Pol Pot, or a lack of understanding of the need for a justice system, that is just ridiculous.

What it is reasonable to do is compare the actions of Tame and the others with other things happening at the moment and what the states response is to them.

Surely injecting kiwifruit with antibiotics poses a far more serious risk to public safety, and it was very likely a conspiracy to break the law, but what chance is there of a 50 white men in suits going to jail for it?

Will we see the ninja's descending on Te Puke?

How many will go to jail over Pike River where the white skinned owners and managers of a mine preferred killing a bunch of workers to taking a few health and safety measures that might have cost them a bit of money or lost production time?

And so it goes.

Anonymous said...

I'll add 2 cents here

Op EIGHT was run by NZ Police. Not SIS. Not GCSB. Not the SAS. There was some ASSISTANCE from those groups, but the guys running it are the same guys who investigate rapes, murders, and robberies.

There was no giant conspiracy, no attempt to "prove ourselves" after 9/11.

I knew several of the guys running it. Salt of the earth guys. There was no "racist conspiracy." These are guys who pride themselves on their professionalism.

Lew said...

For once, I agree -- of course he's no Smith. But, beyond a bit of posturing, he made no public claim to be. I don't know who created this propaganda image, probably as effective within some circles as it is disingenuous -- was it his doing, or the doing of some ardent, opportunistic groupies?

So no Smith, but then neither is he this guy, though you seem to have convinced yourself otherwise:


jh said...

The reality of present day NZ is Valerie Morse shows up like a blow-fly on Anzac Day and burns the flag and she then feels she doesn't have to explain what she was doing with a molotov cocktail as the evidence gathering was technically illegal.

peterpeasant said...

I would like to know how Don Franks justifies Molotov Cocktails?

Anonymous said...

Madison writes: "and no firearms license."

This just goes to show how much you know about this case. Rangi Kemara, who was sentenced to 2.5 years jail, had a valid NZ firearms license and has no previous convictions whatsoever.

As for the "bodyguards for imperialist interests in Iraq" defence at trial: this was one defence advanced at trial but not by all the defendants. The defence relates to the October 'camp' where someone with experience in the security industry (Rau Hunt - he was a former defendant) conducted various training exercises. Three of the defendants (Kemara, Bailey and Signer) were not present when that training was conducted.

Anonymous said...

but morse wasnt just playing in the ureweras, she was doing shady deals in wellington's back streets. there is plenty of reason to think she and her fellow travellers were looking beyond just flag burning to make an impact.

and its hilarious those suggesting the cops should just have had a word in iti's ear and it would all have gone away. what makes him deserving of this special privilege? why not extend that to those planning to manufacture drugs, or rob banks, or carry out fraud? they surely are only guilty of a few youthful enthusiasms same as iti up until the moment they actually rob that bank etc.

itvshould also be noted that iti is nothing special; people regularly get sent to gaol for arms act offences


Tiger Mountain said...

The “pie and penthouse” brigade have arrived to defend their patch. The ‘spook squads” were donkey deep in Op 8.

Madison said...


The fact that the system doesn't seem to do true justice is an issue to be dealt with by other people. I don't think it's done a very good job, but to have these guys claim they have been singled out for treatment for all sorts of subversive reasons because they are unhappy with the way they were treated in the courts shows how little their treatment differed from others.

The operation to arrest them was a total disaster but as far as I can tell the courts treated them as well or poorly as any other. For that portion they've received what any other citizen seems to be able to expect and for that I see no reason for them to bang on about being special.

Don Franks said...

Molotov cocktails were apparently made and thrown at the September camp, although none of the 4 convicted were proven to have personally done so.

As a musician I was once hired as part of the entertainment of some rich guys partying in a block out in the sticks. Other entertainment was the repeated discharge of several guns and the destruction of an old barn with dynamite.

Different lads, same game.

Madison said...

Thank anonymous 11:36, I only mentioned Iti in the majority of my statements because he is the only defendant I was familiar with, however I've also found his previous conviction was overturned, although on slightly odd grounds. As far as I knew none of the others had the same high profile or convictions, they are also not drawing the same name recognition with the general public.

Also, doesn't having a firearms license make you in part responsible for the actions of those unlicensed persons operating a firearm under your supervision? Honest question as I don't know the NZ law on this and it would actually push to explain why Rangi might have received the same sentence as Iti, not because he was Maori but because he woulk by law be deemed responsible for Tame's actions as well. IF that's not how the firearms act works then I've got no idea why the hell his sentence was the same.

BobbyD said...

Excellent summation Chris given the amount of hypocrisy shown by others.

And to those who suggest this could all have been resolved over a cup of tea, you are absolutely right. It's incomprehensible that the activities of this group weren't known by a large proportion of their friends, family and associates. Why not a single one of them had the moral fortitude to sit them down and talk some sense into them before this got to the stage it did, is a very pertinent question.

This was only going to end one of two ways, and fortunately it was the conclusion that didn't involve death that eventuated.

We can be thankful that it was only the reputations and temporary loss of liberty for a couple that ended up being sacrificed.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if any of those - like Don Franks - trying to paint these guys as either inept clowns or lacking any serious intent have read the now widely available 155 page affidavit.

If not, can I suggest you do. It is quite clear from the intercepted communications that both Iti and Kemara were prepared to kill and to die. If the cops had not stopped this, someone would have been killed ..nothing surer.

Tim G. said...

Iti and his friends needn't worry... if Stephen Jo- I mean, if Volkner does seize power and bring the American advisors in, there will be plenty of people prepared to take up arms to defend the country.

Until that time I have a question for the apologists: why should social democrats reject Police and the Rule of Law?

Being left-wing does not make you an anarchist or a terrorist - that is a right-wing meme.

Why should Iti get off with a tip-off and a word sideways that the raid was coming?

Much is made by Iti apologists of the fact that it wasn't the 4 (eventual) defendants who were carrying molotov cocktails in the evidence admitted in trial. That is because the organised group were successful in having a huge quantity of police evidence ruled inadmissable.

skalusanini said...

I hold an opinion that most romantics have a natural tendency to become fascists when oportunity arises. That is quite visible in the poster you placed on top of your post. People removing themselves from reality and deciding to live in romantic world of "fighters for justice". I don't think the Tame Iti's group was of extreme danger to New Zealand but sure, good they were stopped before they had a chance to become one.

Anonymous said...

Opportunity or not Shelley, Hazlitt, Burns and Blake would have made piss poor fascists.

Anonymous said...

Where did that silly "this man" poster atop this thread come from?

Anonymous said...

just wanna ask again - how many people were shot by Tame Iti and the others - none. How many people were harmed by Tame and the others - none.Is it any wonder that Maori have real problems with a justice system from another cultural base (England; a system that fails to provide justice for Maori; and, a system supported by a society that "is scared witless of Maori men (of any shape or size)and Maori men who carry ta moko, even more. But it aint Maori men that have been using their guns to shot the "whites" in this country. Its been white men, hunters, David Gray, the list goes on.