Wednesday 13 July 2022

The Strange Case Of The De-Selected Professor.

Insufficiently Woke? It is difficult to read the leaked review which sank Professor Richard Jackson's bid to become a co-director of the Centre for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism as anything other than evidence of the ongoing and destructive conflict between the Professor and the Tiriti-centred, iwi-directed, bi-culturally-driven commissars of the University of Otago.

DAVID FISHER’S EXCELLENT ARTICLE in the NZ Herald, “PM’s terrorism, extremism expert Prof Richard Jackson hired then dropped” raises a number of disturbing questions. Not the least of these is: Why did the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet (DPMC) allow its professional judgement to be overturned by a single leaked document, the contents of which damaged the reputation of the man it was on the point of appointing to a sensitive government position?

Professor Richard Jackson had led the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, since 2017. In November 2021 he had applied for, and was on the point of being appointed, Co-Director of He Whenua Taurikura – the National Centre of Research Excellence for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (CPCVE). Jackson’s strong academic record in conflict research made him an excellent choice to lead the new centre, the establishment of which had been recommended by the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch Mosque Shootings.

It was not to be. On the 1 March 2022, just as Jackson’s contract was on the point of being signed, the content of a confidential internal review of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies was leaked to The Otago Daily Times. The content of the leaked report was unsparing in its criticism of the Centre. What is most noteworthy about the criticisms quoted in the ODT, however, is that they appeared to be focused, almost exclusively, on its alleged failings to meet the University of Otago’s bi-cultural expectations.

The ODT reported that the review “recommended Māori staff be employed, but not until the Centre’s culture was ‘considerably improved’ because at present it would be a culturally unsafe environment for new Māori staff.’”

Some hint of the ideological leanings of the review’s author/s may be gleaned from the ODT’s reference to their remarks concerning the Centre’s interest in the histories of Parihaka and Rekohu (Chatham Islands):

“The centre was also criticised for a tokenistic commitment to biculturalism.

“While it received praise for its efforts in starting relationships with the Maori and Moriori communities of Parihaka and Rekohu, it was called out for the narrowness of its approach and for having a poor grasp of appropriate indigenous protocols.

“The strategic inclusion of indigenous groups was a ‘well-known divisive settler colonial practise’, which the centre needed to avoid.”

It is difficult to read such comments without concluding that the review was part of a much larger and even more destructive conflict between the Centre and those elements within the University of Otago charged with ensuring that there is no deviation from the te Tiriti-centred, iwi-directed, bi-culturally-driven partnership protocols mandated by the University authorities.

The bitterness of this conflict is made clear in the following excerpt from the ODT’s report:

“It said staff appeared to be of the view the Aotearoa New Zealand Peace and Conflict Studies Centre Trust ensured the continual financial viability of the centre, when in reality, the university was increasingly having to underwrite an operating deficit.

“Staff also believed they were heavily overworked, while by university standards their teaching workloads were light.

“The centre was ‘not as special or mistreated as it seems to assume,’ the review said.”

One can only speculate that the Centre, by virtue of its independent source of funding, the Aotearoa New Zealand Peace and Conflict Studies Centre Trust, believed it could hold out against the demands of the bi-culturalists in the University administration.

The fate of Professor Richard Jackson is, therefore, salutary. Clearly, the University of Otago feels obliged to shoot the occasional professor – pour encourage les autres.

Jackson’s rejection by DPMC is by no means the only peculiar aspect of the appointment of CPCVE’s foundational directors. Fisher’s article setting out the whole, extremely odd, story is here

Even more disturbing, however, is the idea that DPMC’s strategic coordinator for counter terrorism in the National Security Group, Andy George, and National Security senior policy adviser Julia Macdonald, who sat on the selection panel, appear to have allowed a document positively reeking of academic rancour to de-rail the appointment of Jackson.

Did it not occur to these public servants that somebody, somewhere, might have it in for the man they were about to appoint, and that the leaking of the “confidential” internal review might have been intended to bring the appointment process to a shuddering halt? As persons closely bound up with this nation’s security, did they not feel obliged to dig deeper into the whole affair? Were they not struck by the near perfect timing of the leak? Were they not in the least bit curious about how the leaker knew when to make the document public? Wouldn’t they like to know who passed-on that presumably confidential information?

After all, the direction taken by CPCVE in its mission to prevent and counter violent extremism in New Zealand is a matter of no small importance. Indeed, our national security may well hinge upon the direction in which the new directors – Professors Dr Joanna Kidman and Paul Spoonley – choose to look for those most likely to launch terroristic violence against their fellow New Zealanders. If, for example, the Co-Directors decide to focus on white supremacist groups and Islamophobes, is it possible they might miss the emergence of other potentially violent extremists?

In the event that a National/Act Government emerges from the 2023 General Election, and within the first 100 days of coming to office abolishes the Three Waters Reform and the Māori Health Authority, is it not likely that the country’s political temperature will rise? And if David Seymour’s proposal to enshrine the meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi in law becomes law, and then progresses towards a national referendum, would not the nation’s fever rise even higher? Can the National Security Group, in need of all the help it can get to prevent and counter violent extremist acts, have confidence that CPCVE will be bringing its attention to bear equally on furious groups of Māori ethno-nationalists?

It would be comforting to believe that the identification of potential violent extremists by CPCVE will in no way be influenced by ideological factors, and that the New Zealand taxpayers who are footing the bill for its investigations can be absolutely certain that the people charged with preventing and countering extremism are not themselves extremists. Surely, that would have constituted a key aspect of the National Security Group’s brief from DPMC?

And yet, the disturbing question remains: Was the person, or persons, responsible for leaking the “confidential” internal review of the Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies worried that if Professor Richard Jackson became Co-Director of CPCVE, he might feel obligated to investigate all potential threats to the peace and tranquillity of New Zealand?

Is that why it was so vitally important that his appointment should not proceed?

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 12 July 2022.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

I don't know enough about this to comment, so I won't. I doubt if lack of knowledge will bother other people though, so tomorrow morning I'm going to take note of the number of times the words "cancel culture" comes up, and on Friday I'll have a nip of spirits for every one.

"Don't forget though – it's only cancel culture if it comes from the Cancelle region of France. Otherwise it's simply sparkling consequences."

Not original but I wish it was.

John Hurley said...

He started a field called Critical Terrorism Studies and he critiques discourses that make the terrorists (I can imagine how that might play out).

I have been thinking that up to now CT has operated within a framework that critiques the institutions of the status quo. CTS moves that technique to a more expansive realm; so where would biculturalism sit - surely it is just another discourse to be critiqued?

Odysseus said...

"Disturbing"? There is something sinister about these machinations if correct. It could be argued the greatest threat to the peace and stability of New Zealand is this government's pursuit of an ethnonationalist agenda promoted by a radical cabal within its ranks. The forthcoming Water Services Entities Bill is a race-based confiscation of assets owned in common. Water Services Providers will be legally obliged to follow directives from tribal authorities (Te Mana O Te Wai statements) which only Maori can formulate. This legislation is potentially embedding a major source of discord into communities the length of the country. Will Ardern do literally anything however misguided to retain the support of her Maori caucus?

David George said...

Kidman: "who are we; colonist settlers, we are your worst enemy"

Yes Chris, a strange decision. The choice of clearly partisan directors can surely not have been an accident. What were they thinking. For people believing their group is systemically victimised this will be seen as further proof of their oppression. Petrol on the fire.

Are they, Jacinda & Co, terminally stupid or crazy ideologues.

Unknown said...

This new CPCVE is making me very nervous. There's no worse type of government agency to have this effect on ordinary law abiding citizens than a security and surveillance one.

It is frankly terrifying that someone so clearly partisan and unqualified as J Kidman has been appointed to such a role.

David George said...

Given the obvious issues with these appointments, and assuming (admittedly with little evidence) that the government aren't completely foolish and incompetent, perhaps the choice of partisan activists was deliberate.

There has been a noticeable ramping up of fear inducing rhetoric around "far right extremists", even anti-mandate hippies and Maoris are now budding Nazis apparently.
Part of a Machiavellian psyops program to demonise the right generally?

greywarbler said...

DG Part of psyops programs to demonise anyone 'we bloody well like' think the various regulators. The targets pop up all the time in random places, like a bit like in a shooting gallery at a funfair. Some fun. Some fair.

greywarbler said...

GS Please keep on commenting - you make it always interesting and worthwhile.

David George said...

Thanks Grey, after sleeping on it I think that what Jacinda & Co are wanting is for Kidman and Spoonley to cook up a damning, exaggerated, one sided report to provide cover for their totalitarian anti speech and liberty laws.
We already have state surveillance and security agencies that monitor these things, what do we need this for. Any other explanations?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Well, I said I didn't know enough about it comment – obviously what I didn't know was that this guy is someone the right doesn't like. So obviously this is merely sparkling consequences. Looks like I'll be remaining sober tonight then – probably just as well given my age. :)

John Hurley said...

CTS attempts to combat what they feel is a prevalent state-centricity and ethnocentricity in traditional terrorism studies.[2][13] Prominent scholars Jackson, Gunning and Smyth claim that since most research on terrorism is done by state-sponsored scholars and experts, there is a disproportionate amount of research articulating states' perspectives and experiences (namely western state-actors), leaving almost all non-state actors without any fair, unbiased representation in the research field.[14]

As Chris Trotter pointed out: "multiculturalism is state ideology". You just have to look at the participants in that madhouse hui from the PM's office. See how white supremacy is defined as opposition to a system that dismantles a majoritarian based state/nation. A reasonable position is what we saw with the lucrative tourist industry of the 90's where work permits gained residency and brought a wife or married a local. A true [white] supremacist wants a pure society.
Labour's position was to create a new society which values difference. The problem with that position is the way an ethnic group is constructed (around common histories and values and symbols). When Ali Macram [?] (whose father was a Pakistani surgeon) settled in Chch he was the mace thrower at St Andrews College, in other words outsiders can also join in the game.

David George said...

An immigrants Love Letter To The West.

Great wee essay in the form of a review of Konstantin Kisin's new book. Excerpt:
"The right likes to play with Oswald Spengler’s gloomy prophecy and almost yearns to see the West’s decline complete – just for the grim satisfaction, as the gates swing open and the hordes pour in, of witnessing the Reign of Terror that the Americans, unlike the French, missed out on the first time around. ‘I told you so’ is so much more satisfying than ‘Trust me, you don’t want this’.

The left has its own prophet of decline in Antonio Gramsci, who warned excitedly in the 1930s that ‘The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born; now is the time of monsters’. This idea – and the sanctioned bloodletting rippling through it – has its seductions, too.

Thus, regardless of their political persuasion, many people seem to sense, in this febrile moment, a trembling, an instability and a half-chance not just to see the world burn, but also to release the phoenix that will surely rise from the ashes.

This is where Kisin’s Love Letter comes in. As well as addressing the familiar talking points from his successful podcast – the intolerance of the woke and the value and vulnerability of free speech – Kisin reminds us, as the likes of Sir Roger Scruton and GK Chesterton have before him, how quickly it can all be lost, how long it takes to build again. It might be showing its age, it might be a fixer-upper, but the West is still better preserved and patched up for a while yet, rather than demolished to create a brownfield site for redevelopment."

John Hurley said...

The most significant of these implications is that as orthodox researchers tend to take an objectivist viewpoint, the majority of their research accepts the status quo and focuses on terrorism that poses a threat to the state while minimising or ignoring the arguably larger problem of state terrorism and terrorism that poses less of a threat to the status quo. This approach strengthens the state’s position of power and reinforces the divide between the ‘good’ state and the ‘bad’ terrorist. Herman and O’Sullivan20 took note of this phenomenon and spoke of these scholars as being part of a wider “terrorism in dustry”. They argued that some ‘experts’ were a cover for state interests and only sought to reinforce the state’s position of power. Similarly, Reid21 spoke of “invisible colleges” of orthodox researchers that solely focused on terror from below. Many other authors have identified this association, primarily out of concern for potential bias and a lack of academic neutrality22 and have questioned the research community’s “intricate and multifaceted links with the structures and agents of state power”23 along with the con sequent influence this has had on shaping their research. The implications of failing to question the existing political and social structures are far-reaching. Political elites can use orthodox academic discourse to promote specific political ventures like the devel opment of extensive surveillance systems; the normalisation of intensive security proto cols; the expansion of powers and jurisdiction of the state; the control of social dissent; and even the restriction of human rights.24

There’s a saying, often attributed to Voltaire, which declares: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticise.” The free speech controversy, by identifying multiculturalism as the concept Kiwis are not allowed to critique without drawing down the unrelenting wrath of its state-sanctioned and supported defenders, has caused many citizens to wonder when and how “nationalism” and “biculturalism” became dirty words.

The answer is bound up with New Zealand’s – or, at least “official” New Zealand’s – wholesale embrace of neoliberalism and globalisation. A country whose elites have signed-up to an economic philosophy based on the free movement of goods, capital and labour: the three fundamental drivers of globalisation; is more or less obliged to adopt multiculturalism as it core social philosophy.

Old fashioned New Zealand nationalism, and its more recent offshoot “biculturalism”, were products of a country which saw itself as offering something uniquely and positively its own to the rest of the world. It is probable that a substantial majority of Kiwis still subscribe to this notion (although a significant minority still struggle with the concept of biculturalism).

One third of Australians [mostly originals] think immigration is the worst thing that ever happened to Australia; there is a large gap between originals and migrants in support for immigration. [Plenary - George Megalogenis>An Australian expert reminds Paul Spoonley and Spinoff]
Paula Bennet wants to see Auckland double - these people are way up the ladder. John Key has friends with "more boats than the NZ Navy". Who know who Bennet hangs out with.

John Hurley said...

You are quoted here Chris

Guerilla Surgeon said...

" Kisin reminds us, as the likes of Sir Roger Scruton and GK Chesterton have before him, how quickly it can all be lost, how long it takes to build again"

Well David, that's one thing we can agree on as the right continually erodes freedoms, particularly in Eastern Europe and the USA. I'm not at all sure what's going to protect us from the authoritarian right in the future in NZ – perhaps it's time for a written constitution.
But that hasn't stopped Americans from losing their freedoms, particularly in the area of employment, where 90% of the US can be fired for it pressing a political opinion that your boss disagrees with. I think we can blame Ronald Reagan for that one.

We seem to have lost the right to become middle-class – if you consider that a right which you maybe don't. Perhaps you are happy pulling up the ladder behind you. But social mobility is almost dead in NZ and certainly dead in the US.

We are rapidly losing the right to the pursuit of happiness as employers demand more and more of our time – and in the US of course there is no entitlement to any vacation time at all.

We have no right to privacy anymore due to the lack of regulation on large corporations taking and selling our data.

Academics are being censored all over the world by right-wing governments that don't want them to teach the truth about the way their ancestors behaved towards minority groups.

That's not to mention all the loss of freedom in over one's bodily autonomy in Eastern Europe and the USA.

"According to the report, Hungary’s decline began after the ruling Fidesz party came to power in 2010.

Since then it has shut down the main opposition newspaper, contravened EU rules on treatment of refugees and is currently threatening to close Budapest’s Central European University – the highest-ranked postgraduate institution in eastern and central Europe – due to its foreign ownership.

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban has openly spoken of his desire to turn the country into an “illiberal state”, citing Russia and Turkey as influences.

Turkey, meanwhile, saw the largest one-year fall in freedom (as shown in the chart below), following the government’s response to a failed coup attempt in July last year.

It imposed emergency rule that resulted in the arrest of more than 50,000 civilians, the imprisonment of dozens of journalists, the closing of hundreds of media outlets and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the arrest of the leaders and hundreds of officials from the third-largest party in the parliament, and the firing of more than 100,000 civil servants.

While Turkey saw the biggest one-year decline in freedom worldwide, Poland’s downward trend was the largest one-year fall of any EU nation.
After little more than a year in power, the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party has passed legislation that has politicized public media, weakened the constitutional court, handed the security services sweeping powers of surveillance and restricted the right of public protest, the report claims."

I'm glad you're with us David in the desire to preserve our freedoms from right wing authoritarianism. It's a little bit of surprise I guess but nonetheless welcome.

David George said...

"social mobility is almost dead in NZ and certainly dead in the US"

Interesting point - the rest of it not so much. People, communities and entire countries move from poverty to prosperity and vice versa.
Here's a great discussion with a Senegalese lady about that question and how it pertains to here country and more generally.

"Magatte Wade is a serial entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, and visionary business leader with a passion for creating positive change in Africa. She is the founder and CEO of, “the lip balm with a mission,” and is dedicated to reducing racial discrimination while creating jobs and prosperity in her home country of Senegal."