THE FAR RIGHT ORGANISERS of the now suppressed occupation of Parliament Grounds will in no way consider themselves defeated. On the contrary, they will be celebrating their spectacular migration from the unnoticed ideological fringes to the glare of prime-time politics. In exactly the same way that a largely unknown provincial agitator was catapulted into the national German spotlight by his failed “Beer Hall Putsch” of 1923, the rioters of 2/3/22 have succeeded in seizing Middle New Zealand by the ear.
The Daily Blog’s editor, Martyn Bradbury, estimates that the dramatic events of 2/3/22 have recruited 100,000 followers for the Far-Right string-pullers behind the occupation and its cataclysmic finale. If he’s correct, then that is roughly enough voting power to crest the 5 percent MMP threshold and secure 6 seats in the House of Representatives – assuming, of course, that the Far-Right can arrive at an ideological consensus strong enough to permit the creation of a coherent political party.
There is, however, no evidence to suggest that such a coming together of the volatile elements on display in Parliament Grounds is imminent. Paradoxically, the same social media that brought the doings of the “Freedom Village” to around 30,000 people per day during the occupation all-too-easily emboldens those on the losing side of major debates to strike out on their own. Not only that, but it provides a public stage where the personal animosities of the major players can be played out for the edification of friends and foes alike.
In the absence of an Adolf Hitler-type figure with the requisite intellectual, ideological, rhetorical and political skills to transform the brawling and fissiparous Far-Right into an effective electoral force, the conclusions of the SIS’s Combined Threat Assessment Group (CTAG) are almost certainly correct. The locus for effective action on the Far-Right will shrink down to the level of the “Lone Wolf”. Those dangerously alienated individuals who see themselves as either the “saviours” of their race, or the “avengers” of those whose rights and freedoms have been stripped away by tyrannical blood-drinking paedophiles.
Under discussion here is terrorism – pure and simple. Across the national security community there will be many who, even as they witnessed the fire and smoke of the twenty-third day, were thinking of what a more organised and tactically aggressive leadership might have achieved on the first or second day of the protest, when the defences and defenders of Parliament were at their weakest.
Had 500 or 1,000 brawlers of the sort who hurled paving stones at the Police on 2/3/22 rushed up the steps of Parliament Buildings on 9/2/22 and forced their way through the doors – who could have stopped them? Would New Zealanders, like Americans, have been presented with live images of a crazed anti-vaxxer seated in the Speaker’s Chair? Would a noose-swinging lynch mob have made their way up the Beehive stairwells crying “Ja-cin-daaa!” And, having seen a dozen of their comrades shot down by the Prime Minister’s bodyguards, would they have set fire, not to pup-tents, but the Beehive itself?
There are senior “public servants” across Wellington brooding worriedly today upon what could so easily have happened because, exactly as the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch Mosque Shootings warned, far too little attention has been paid, by those whose duty it is to protect the national security of New Zealand to, the Far-Right and its kindred subversives and terrorists.
Not the least worried of these public servants will be Police Commissioner Andrew Coster. He will be asking all manner of questions about why his own intelligence division failed to anticipate the scale of the crisis the foreign-inspired Far-Right promoters of Convoy 2022 were determined to provoke on the grounds of Parliament. One can only imagine the cold fury with which the Prime Minister directed the same questions at New Zealand’s chief law-enforcement officer.
With the events of 15 March 2019 – and now 2 March 2022 – etched upon her mind, Jacinda Ardern will be more determined than ever to curb the expression of hate speech. On her side of the House (and among a fair proportion of those seated on the opposite side) there will now be even less patience for those who attempt to keep the banner of free speech flying.
Among the public there will likely be a surge of support for the Government’s stance. In the minds of more and more New Zealanders it is now the defence of society itself that must take precedence. Increasingly, the defenders of free speech will come to be seen as the defenders of those who not only use their freedom of expression to cry “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, but then do all they can to persuade the audience to burn the theatre down.
That so many members of the Free Speech movement genuflect to the Right, rather than the Left, will only harden the resolve of those determined to silence the pedlars of arson and murder who – to borrow the Prime Minister’s expression – “desecrated” the holy precincts of New Zealand’s democracy.
Coming down hard on hate speech will only be the beginning. It is highly likely that the Law Commission will be tasked with reviewing the effectiveness of the legal weaponry currently available to a Government under siege. Geoffrey Palmer’s giddy 1980s bonfire of the repressive instruments of state power has taken on a less admirable lustre. Bonfires are no longer in vogue.
Finally, there is the formidable apparatus of New Zealand’s national security community, most particularly of the SIS and the GCSB. It should be presumed from here on out that those who blithely spout prejudice and hatred online will be simultaneously announcing themselves as “persons of interest” to all those who wield the swords of state protection.
To the stone-throwers and tent-burners out there, girding their loins for another crack at the lizard people and their lackeys, the most useful advice is simple and direct:
From now on, assume that you are not alone.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday 4 March 2022.