Monday 29 August 2022

Mistrusting Democracy.

Trust Us  We Know What Were Doing: Why is this government so determined to shut-up, shut-down and shut-out the Right?

JAN TINETTI, Associate Minister of Education, is firmly of the view that those who subscribe to “an ideology of hate” have no place on a school board of trustees. So convinced is the Minister, that she is actively seeking administrative and/or legislative changes to prevent such persons from being nominated. Though doubtless undertaken with the best of intentions, Tinetti’s initiative is deeply troubling. In a democracy, the idea that the state is qualified to decide which ideologies are acceptable for candidates for public office to hold, and which are not, should be laughed off the political stage.

Prompting the Associate-Minister’s authoritarian musings, is the revelation that the convicted white supremacist, Philip Arp, the man sentenced to 21 months imprisonment for distributing terrorist Brenton Tarrant’s recording of the Christchurch Mosque Massacre, had been nominated for a seat on the Board of Trustees of Te Aratai College. Christchurch city councillor, Sarah Templeton, who has children at the school, angrily voiced her frustration that such individuals cannot be legally prevented from becoming trustees. Clearly, her objections have not fallen on deaf ears.

The problem with characters like Arp is that their behaviour is so prone to causing public outrage that  citizens find it all-too-easy for to switch-off their critical political faculties and remain silent when politicians call for Nazis to be declared ineligible for public office. After all, who wants to be seen sticking up for antisemitic fascists?

The answer, of course, is: we should all want to be seen resisting any attempt by the state to weed-out “undesirable” ideas, and the dubious individuals who hold them, before they get anywhere near a nomination form. As democrats, our firm position must always be that the only body qualified to decide who should, and should not, be elected to public office is the electorate itself. That is to say, You and I – the voters.

Do Tinetti and Templeton seriously believe that the parents of Te Aratai College’s ethnically and religiously diverse student body are in the slightest danger of electing Arp to the school’s Board of Trustees? If they do, then they are guilty of offering them the most outrageous insult. If they don’t, then what they are proposing will rob those same parent electors of the opportunity to condemn in the most emphatic fashion Arp’s vile beliefs and actions.

That Tinetti, a Cabinet Minister, seems unwilling to affirm that, in a working democracy, it is the citizen who possesses the power of decisive political agency, is worrying. It is not, however, an deficiency peculiar to herself. For some time now, both the Labour and Green parties have struggled to acknowledge in the electorate a collective wisdom more than equal to the task of distinguishing good from evil, right from wrong, democrats from fascists. Indeed, both parties show signs of believing the opposite to be true: that the electorate is neither wise enough, nor resilient enough, to recognise Nazi bullshit when they hear it.

Nowhere was this fundamental lack of faith in the fundamental decency and wisdom of the ordinary citizen more distressingly on display than in the days immediately following the Christchurch Mosque Shootings of March 2019. Completely ignoring the evidence of their own eyes, the Greens’ Marama Davidson and Golriz Ghahraman not-so-subtly insinuated that the entire “white” population of New Zealand was in some way complicit in Tarrant’s “lone wolf” terrorist outrage. That tens-of-thousands of New Zealanders – of all colours and creeds – were filling parks and stadiums to express their solidarity with New Zealand’s Muslim community failed to impress them.

Labour’s response was less insulting but, in a way, more troubling. In spite of delivering her internationally-acclaimed repudiation of Tarrant’s crime: “They are Us”; Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern clearly believed that neither “They” nor “Us” were strong enough to endure the harm, or resist the temptation, of “hate speech”. Seconded by the hilariously misnamed Human Rights Commission, the Labour-led Government set out to radically reduce in size democracy’s foundation-stone – the citizen’s right to free expression.

Sadly, Ardern was pushing on an open left-wing door. Once the most determined defenders of free speech, the New Zealand Left has, for more than a decade, been evincing less-and-less enthusiasm for the critical democratic insight that freedom of expression must never become a privilege, to be rationed amongst “our side’s” best friends, but remain a right, freely available even to our worst enemies.

The Covid-19 Pandemic made matters worse. When the fight is with a potentially fatal virus, individuals and groups communicating false information can endanger the health of millions. In these circumstances, the temptation is strong to rank the health of the democratic system well below that of the population as a whole. Or, even worse, to start seeing the key elements of democracy: freedom of expression; freedom of assembly; freedom of association; as the vectors of a dangerous political disease.

This is now the grave danger confronting New Zealand: a Labour Government which has convinced itself that people communicating lies can undermine the health and well-being of the entire population – rather than a tragic fraction of it. Traumatised by the occupation of Parliament Grounds (by people already traumatised by the Government’s imposition of vaccination mandates they had promised not to use) politicians and journalists, alike, have convinced themselves that the purveyors of “misinformation” and “disinformation” now constitute a direct threat to the security of the state.

Which takes us right back to Jan Tinetti and the “threat” of Nazis on school boards of trustees. The political class’s historical mistrust of democracy, long resisted by the Left, has now been embraced by what is left of it. No longer a “bottom up” party, Labour has grown increasingly fearful that its “progressive” policies are unacceptable to a majority of the electorate. Ardern’s government, and its supporters, are terrified that the Far Right will opportunistically seize upon this public unease and whip it into some sort of fascist majority. Hence their determination to shut them up, shut them down and shut them out.

Except, as the recent history of the United States makes clear, this determination to keep the “deplorables” as far away from power as possible, is actually the fastest and most effective way to bring on the destabilising lurch to the Right that the progressive Left most fears. Poorly educated though they may be, ordinary citizens are not stupid. They can tell when they’re not sufficiently trusted or respected to be given a decisive role in the government of their own country.

With distressing speed, New Zealand is dividing itself into two hostile, camps. The smaller counts within it the better part of the better educated, is positioned on the commanding heights of the state, and considers itself the brain and conscience of the nation. The larger camp, nothing like so clever, seethes with frustration and resentment, anxiety and rage. It fears that its world: the world it grew up in; the world it knows and trusts; is shifting on its foundations.

What remains to be seen is which outcome represents the greater catastrophe for New Zealand: that the policies of those occupying the heights should proceed unchecked; or that the depths should find a leader equal to the task of bringing them down?

This essay was originally posted on the website on Monday, 29 August 2022.


John Drinnan said...

Another astute and timely column Thanks. You , bomber and Dany McLauchlan give encouraging signs that the real Left has not thrown in the towel on free speech and still have respect for the electorate

Don Franks said...

"Do Tinetti and Templeton seriously believe that the parents of Te Aratai College’s ethnically and religiously diverse student body are in the slightest danger of electing Arp to the school’s Board of Trustees? If they do, then they are guilty of offering them the most outrageous insult" Exactly. Today's self styled 'leftists'
have a profound contempt for ordinary working people.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

With people like him, we run into the paradox of tolerance. He wants a state that removes all tolerance from anyone different to him. Him and his friends want to "make New Zealand ungovernable". Overseas, people like him are infiltrating school boards and trying to censor what teachers teach.
So I don't think we should necessarily have to tolerate him at all. Although to be fair I rely on the common sense and decency of the people who vote for school board members. Mind you, he might be in for a bit of a shock if he is elected – it's quite hard work and the remuneration is shit.

Kat said...

"two hostile camps, The smaller camp and the larger camp"......that should bring the usual vitriol out from the usual anti-Ardern, anti-Labour suspects here.

You are doing a stellar job Chris with these pot stirring posts, if not so much in keeping the Labour govt honest but in highlighting just how misinformed that questionably "larger" section of the electorate is.

Odysseus said...

An excellent column but I would dispute the idea that those in the Labour Government currently holding the reins of power are better educated or somehow more clever than the rest of us. Having observed them closely I would suggest they are for the most part plonkers who have gotten where they are largely by default, often as totems of one identity group or another. They are the beneficiaries of COVID-panic, and it is in their interests that the fear continue for as long as possible. By their formidable blend of incompetence and arrogance they are wrecking the very fabric of our economy and society. There will be an accounting eventually, and history will judge them harshly.

David George said...

Chris: "Hence their determination to shut them up, shut them down and shut them out."

An interesting (alarming?) development. It now appears that journalists that question the Official Narrative are being excluded from the country. Just where this directive ultimately came from is unclear at this stage but the intention is clear from this leaked NZ police email. The email explicitly states that “NZ Police would like to stop the two from entering NZ.” and, chillingly, that the journalists may be "anti-government" and "anti-mandate" It was Police who wanted the two journalists banned, not Immigration NZ as has been claimed initially.

It is almost as though the NZ Herald article was seeded so that it could then be used by Police as they tried to get enough intel so that they could effect their stated intention of banning the two journalists from New Zealand. Essentially Police are fitting them up to fit a political narrative that the Police dreamed up.

Not only that, interfering in such a manner is expressly forbidden by Article 3 of INTERPOL’s constitution:

“It is strictly forbidden for the Organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.”

Article 3 of INTERPOL’s Constitution.

This is disturbing, banana republic stuff; a police force prepared to go well beyond their legal rights and responsibilities, a major media outfit spreading deliberate falsehood in line with their agenda and our immigration service acting as enforcers.

The Barron said...

There was an interesting Canadian case of a teacher that held, published and was known for his anti-Semitic views. His employment was terminated by the School Board on the basis that his views are harmful to the school community and the educational safety of the students -

"On the basis of the factual evidence disclosing the substance of R's writings and statements, and the notoriety of his anti‑Semitic comments in the community and beyond, the Board properly concluded that R's off‑duty comments undermined his ability to fulfil his teaching position. The evidence establishes a "poisoned" educational environment characterized by a lack of equality and tolerance. Although there is no direct evidence establishing an impact upon the school district caused by R's off‑duty conduct, a reasonable inference is sufficient in this case to support a finding that R's continued employment impaired the educational environment generally in creating the "poisoned" environment. R's off‑duty conduct impacted upon the educational environment in which he taught. Public school teachers assume a position of influence and trust over their students and must be seen to be impartial and tolerant."

"any resulting infringement of the respondent's freedom of expression or freedom of religion is a justifiable infringement."

I hold that the same principles would apply to NZ Law, indeed, Waikato University had a Holocaust denier dismissed.

Someone on the Board of Trustees holds the employer role for the teachers and other school employees. It would seem that the same standard that applies to employees, should apply to employers. More so, if you are a Muslim student at a school or their parents, you would want the governing to be able to make decisions you have confidence in. If there was someone on the Board who has a history of being hostile to your ethnic or religious views, then there is a question of bias in the governance and no confidence from a sector of the school community.

We should remember that it is education that we are talking about. This is the development of the impressionable. To have governance that undermines the educational safety of any of the student body is in itself contrary to the principles which public education is based.

While Mr Arp has the right of freedom of expression in some spheres, this is outweighed by the right of the school community to a safe space for educational development.

Kyle Reese said...

The funds by for the response to March 15 came into the Workshop, ActionStation, and the Helen Clark Foundation six months before the event.

That money, earmarked for reports and PR showing that “online hate leads to violence”, came from Pierre Omidyar.

Omidyar is:

the World Bank and UN’s principal partner on Digital ID initiatives;
A CIA/NED/USAID partner, who bankrolled the 2014 Maiden Coup, as exposed by Mark Ames of Pando, some years before the present troubles;
The owner of the Lincoln Project, and other SuperPACs,which sought to influence the election outcome in the USA;
A partner of the ADL, who has paid for them to build a fusion centre to censor all online content;
The funder of the Poynter Institute, which was NZ media’s “official fact-checker” during the last election, via AP;
A partner of the CDC, who has run pandemic simulations with them as well as with DARPA;
The owner of the Open Government Partnership as well as Luminate Group, which lobbied the NZ government and worked with StatsNZ to create Data Ventures, the commercial arm of StatsNZ, to make the data the NZ Govt. collects useful to Microsoft and Amazon, etc.

Omidyar made another very curious investment to the same three organisations; this time, six months before anyone knew about Covid-19: to address online health misinformation.

Quite incredible to have a crystal ball of such accuracy, but perhaps not a great surprise if you are a partner of “USAID” and what it otherwise stands for.

All other investments in NZ made by him were toward Open Banking, Digital ID, initiatives.

Gazotaki said...

What concerns me is who decides what is "information" and what is "misinformation".

A good friend who was GM of a large company many years ago told me that when he needed outside advice on some steps that needed to be initiated he always sought advice from an industry provider but made it clear that they would only be giving the advice not implementation or supply.

That was a very good methodology as it removed the bias towards what the advisor was able to supply. Similarly, when the advisor has a predetermined opinion they are incapable of seeing an alternative.

I chose to not get vaccinated, not because I was worried about microchips or growing extra organs but because i had read enough to realise that I was a very low risk patient of any adverse reaction to covid, or any respiratory virus. Now had I been 10 years older or obese or suffering from a severe illness my decision may have been different. I respected all who made their own decision, either way.

Yet my government was unable to accept that I was adult and intelligent enough to make my own decision yet that same government has given me a choice to terminate my life or another's through abortion.

Now, even questioning the government on their decision is to be labeled and stamped out yet we see "vaccinated" people everyday becoming unwell and some even dying despite being assured that this would not happen .... Yet my position and arguments for that position are labled "misinformation".

Weird world we currently inhabit and as for arps, I fully support his attempt to make a fool of himself.

Nicole Foss said...

Very interesting read. In my experience, the larger group is not primarily poorly educated. There are many extremely well educated professionals, including myself. The government is currently paying the media to defame any of these people who run for office. This is a far greater sin against democracy than anything in Kiwi history. A candidate for mayor of Wellington was recently deplatformed from Victoria University in a public statement where they called her racist and transphobic. Her 'sin', apart from opposing illegal mandates, was opposing 'gender-affirming' surgery for children. For this she was prevented from speaking in the mayoral debate. She has a PhD in German literature. I am running for mayor of Porirua, and I also oppose mandates. I am a former research fellow at Oxford. In my case, as a trained researcher, I have devoted two and a half years to research on covid and vaccines. I have earned my skepticism of the government's position. In fact at this point I consider them to be spreading disinformation, given that they have absolutely failed to keep up with the readily available international data.

greywarbler said...

I sometimes get troubled Chris by your search for equality of opportunity in a democracy - it seems to go too far at times, an ideal rather than a practical course.. I have found with some people that they are so individualistic that they can waste a third of a meeting arguing some principle of theirs and everyone gets frustrated or listens politely to this purveyor of postulation and the combined time of the group members produces little and often poorer decision-making than expected.

I have come to regard such people as petulant pestulations. I steer clear of them as ultimately they don't want to work within a framework of effective discourse - they just want to hold everything up until they get what suits them. That could be one result from appointing the type of individual being discussed.

oneblokesview said...

Well said!!!!

You have encapsulated what I fear that many in the ""elite"" category can not or will not see.

Anonymous said...

I listened to Jan Tinetti on RNZ this morning on this topic. I have never heard such woke rubbish spoken by a minister of the crown. The public are not stupid, they will never elect someone of Arps background, trust them. Oh but you can't, they the public have a track record of getting it wrong, the 2020 election!

Trev1 said...

I wouldn't be surprised if getting himself banned by government edict hasn't been Arps' goal all along. Seeking "martyrdom" is a classic technique exploited by those on the margins to gain publicity and also sympathy from prospective supporters, as well as showing up the emptiness of "democracy" and driving alienation. Labour are of course probably too dumb and arrogant to see this.

Archduke Piccolo said...

The anti-Democratic tendency of the so-called 'Left' has been growing, according to my own observation, for at least the last 50 years. Yep - I noticed the first cracks in it - in petty ways and circumstances, sure - even before the demise of the Third Labour Government. There seems to be this 'smarter AND HOLIER than thou' attitude prevailing in that gives these people licence to dictate what others may think, let alone say. That is not to say there was (or remains) no residue of genuine article anti-authoritarian 'Left wingers' out there. For the rest, what I consider to be the left-hand end of the political spectrum has been largely abandoned. I've been calling Labour 'Tory Lite' for over thirty years, and for good reason. I quite fail to understand how come these people consider themselves to stand on the 'Left'.

I have always argued that the likes of Mr Arps and others ought to be allowed to speak what passes for their minds. One need not lay out the red carpet and erect a stage and dais for them - let them construct their own. But also let the folly, ignorance, hatred and insanity of their utterances see the light of day. Do you really want to be like Philip Arps? Do you really want Mr Arps to have some say in your kids' learning environment? Do you really want governance to be in the hands of Mr Arps and his ilk?

Instead of whining about what he's saying, how about refuting it (bearing in mind that merely to deny is not to refute)? OK, that requires engagement. Too bad.

One begins to wonder, you know, just how different from the likes of Mr Arps are the politicians telling us what to think. To be sure, from where they stand, they will perceive themselves as poles apart. But from where I stand - some, maybe, but ... not so much.

The bad part: the gap is closing.
Ion A. Dowman

Phil said...

The NZ media have been very quiet about the recent closure of the Tavistock Clinic in the UK and proposed class action lawsuit by people feeling they were pressured into taking puberty blockers as children.


Oh Touche CT #3 quote:

" ... the New Zealand Left has, for more than a decade, been evincing less-and-less enthusiasm for the critical democratic insight that freedom of expression must never become a privilege, to be rationed amongst “our side’s” best friends, but remain a right, freely available even to our worst enemies."

Yep. This arrogant lofty and presumptuous Labour lot actually believes their superiority is above reproach and trumps any counter view (How dare you!).

Anonymous said...

Agreed. There are MANY highly-educated and highly intelligent people in the large group that find the current gov't policies/actions deplorable, discriminatory and undemocratic!

The Barron said...

It is possibly worth reminding ourselves as to the establishment of the elected school board. Lange's Tomorrow's School was a product of the ideology that competition was the Darwinian answer to State service delivery. Each school became an individual entity and elected its own Board of Trustees. It was in competition with the other schools in the district. Each BOT would purchase as they saw fit for each school, doing away with national or regional bulk buying. More of the Education budget went into private profits. The BOT has the responsibility for hiring and discipline of teachers and is the ultimate discipline body for students. Because of the competition, things that could lead to bad publicity are often wallpapered or fully covered up. A bad reputation could effect the rolls, the Principal's salary and resources are based on roles.

Any idea that the election to the school board is naturalised should be set aside. If other models of school governance existed it is hard to think that Mr Arps would be a government appointment to school governance or hired to a school authority.

As stated, the BOT role has with it certain powers over teachers and students. Could a Muslim teacher feel supported by the BOT as employer if Mr Arps is on the Board, a Muslim student on a disciplinary issue. What if the teacher has a child killed on March 15, or the student a parent? Would this be a safe workspace or education space? If we have a shared humanity, is it a safe environment for anyone?

This is someone who shared images of the people being killed and dying on camera. The Courts showed the public abhorrence with the prison sentence. Punishment is not atonement. This is not someone professing shame and wanting to work with the communities harmed and put back. Standing for the BOT is an extension of the politics that lead to the images of other New Zealanders bleeding and gasping for life.

Often we have competing issues of rights, few are clearer that the right of children to develop educationally in an environment safe from those that fetishise death, violence and hatred.

Terry Coggan said...

The "standing down" of Destiny Church member Rick Southey by his employer Whanau Ora seems to have gone largely unchallenged. But think what has happened: somebody has been deprived of their livelihood merely for expressing a political opinion in a perfectly legal manner.

In 2019 Israel Folau was sacked by Australian Rugby for stating his opinion on the issue of gay rights. And now Ms Tinetti, a government minister, wants to have power of veto over who can stand for public office.

Note that these attacks on basic rights all come from the liberal left, not the "fascists" that they profess to be so concerned about.

Are we back to the days of the McCarthyite witch hunts of the 1950s when people, including in New Zealand, were fired from their jobs if they were suspected of holding communist views?

greywarbler said...

Trev1 09.01
I don't know about democracy being empty; even if I have ranted that in the past. But I think it is a tired old vehicle, needs a wof, and then strengthening and renewal of parts. ChittychittyBangbag! This is what we would like democracy to bring us. Maybe. But it would take a complete change of thinking and behaviour.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Lots of comment about the "antidemocratic" drift of the Labour Party without once mentioning the paternalistic rule of National. If you're not a farmer or a businessperson, do as we say – particularly don't do as we do. :) If
Labour wasn't "doing stuff" there'd be howls of outrage at the "lack of leadership". Conservatives want it both ways – always.
The biggest con Donald Trump has ever pulled is convincing the average American that he's "one of them". Same with John Key. Nothing further from the truth.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

For those of you who think that the conservative view is the last word on freedom of speech.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Interesting about the freedom of speech thing. Comments by far right supporters on MSN about the arse who released the video of the mosque terrorist claim freedom of speech here. Forgetting of course that he was releasing video of people, including children being shot. Complete disregard for the feelings of the survivors and families of those people who were killed. And I suspect many of the far right commenters on this blog would probably agree that he should have been allowed to do it. I unashamedly do not.
Similarly, I hope that that with Alex Jones is bankrupted by his use of freedom of speech – which had perhaps even worse consequences.
Convince me I'm wrong.


Hey Guerilla ...

I said (above) that the present government is a bust but then nothing about the "them-others".

In the inevitable Oct 23 landslide, the thing is; where will the floating/disillusioned voters end up?

The Nats are on notice to prove (with leadership, competence and good policies ***) that they deserve the govt front benches.

*** Everything the present govt lacks!

greywarbler said...

The Barron at 4.09
Well thought out, goes to the heart of the situation.

Anonymous said...

Nailed it for me too.

Anonymous said...

Those who only believe in free speech for individuals who agree with their own biased views are no friends of mine. I don't want to be protected by the government from "misinformation". I want to vigorously debate those ideas in a public forum using evidence and hard facts, rather than emotive cliches and insults. Sunlight is the best disinfectant,