Thursday 23 May 2024

Paranoia On The Left.

How Do We Silence Them? The ruling obsession of the contemporary Left is that political action undertaken by individuals or groups further to the right than the liberal wings of mainstream conservative parties should not only be condemned, but suppressed.

WEB OF CHAOS, a “deep dive into the world of disinformation”, originally screened on Television New Zealand in November 2022. It was screened again last Sunday. (19/5/24) At the time of its first showing, the New Zealand Left was still reeling from the impact of the occupation of Parliament Grounds and its violent dissolution. Acutely aware that the electoral love of 2020 was fast evaporating, “progressives” were grappling with the first intimations of paranoid dread.

That paranoid dread has been thrown into overdrive by the reactionary policies of the victorious political parties of the 2023 general election. In the seven months that have elapsed since its electoral defeat, the Left’s intense fear of the unenlightened masses has grown to match the Right’s deep mistrust, bordering on hatred, of the highly-educated. TVNZ’s decision to re-screen Web of Chaos (WOC) confirms that the “woke” power structure’s core political fixation – the growing influence and power of digitally delivered “disinformation” – remains as strong as ever.

Slickly directed by Justin Pemberton, one of New Zealand’s leading documentary-makers, WOC nevertheless fails the test of the classic documentary feature by rigorously excluding from the discussion/debate all but the most active promoters of the proposition that digitally delivered disinformation constitutes an existential threat to human civilisation. No one whose testimony might tend to attenuate this core argument makes Pemberton’s final cut. Kindred Films and the Docufactory, the makers of WOC, were willing drivers down a one-way street.

The ideas and accusations of these digital disinformation doom-sayers are illustrated throughout the feature by a powerful and continuous series of disturbing images, augmented by a suitably menacing soundtrack. So much so that, in spite of being professionally produced, the documentary ends up having more than a little in common, visually and auditorily, with the fetid Far-Right propaganda videos it purports to deplore.

Had the project been commissioned in 2023, it is interesting to speculate whether dramatic developments in the disinformation debate would have persuaded Pemberton and his co-producer, Megan Jones, to deliver a very different documentary to TVNZ.

Since WOC’s completion in 2022, the revelations generally referred to as “The Twitter Files” (so-called because they were released to senior US journalists, including Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss, by Elon Musk, following his takeover of the social-media company) have presented evidence that the extensive campaign against disinformation, born of the social-media chicanery that enabled both Brexit and Trump, and intensified by the social-media amplified pushback against the state’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, was initiated within the national security apparatus of the United States, and rapidly reproduced in the analogous state machinery of countries over which the US exercises decisive influence.

Certainly, this is the provenance of New Zealand’s own “Disinformation Project” (whose Director, Kate Hannah, was one of the principal contributors to WOC) which began in the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet, was then given “cover” by the University of Auckland, and is now an “independent” entity funded by a person, or persons, or state institutions, unknown.

One can only hope that the Twitter Files would have prompted WOC’s producers’ to give considerably more attention, journalistically, to the role of the state in disseminating and suppressing disinformation. Or, at the very least, to have elicited a concession that it isn’t just the governments of Russia and China that tell lies and suppress free speech.

The events of 2023 might also have persuaded Pemberton and Jones that the spreading of disinformation and conspiratorial thinking is not restricted to Far Right incels (involuntary celibates) hunched over slimy keyboards in dank parental basements. The Left is every bit as capable as the Right of creating and disseminating conspiracy theories of its own. Capable, too, of believing its own disinformation.

The “Atlas Conspiracy”, for example, has taken so firm a hold of the New Zealand Left’s imagination that it is now being paraded as fact on “progressive” websites.

It all began when left-wing activists in Australia discovered that the Atlas Network – a sort of international clearing-house for, and advisor to, 450 right-wing libertarian think tanks – may, at some point in the past, have influenced a number of the individuals and groups arguing for a “No” vote in Australia’s “Voice” referendum. In response to the Australian people’s decisive rejection of the proposal to sanction a constitutionally-recognised voice for indigenous Australians, disillusioned and angry Aussie “progressives” concocted an alarming tale of shadowy right-wing forces, orchestrated by the Atlas Network, conspiring to give the nay-sayers their dark victory.

To both forewarn and forearm opponents of Act leader David Seymour’s Treaty Principles Bill, Māori nationalists in this country were quick to spread the Atlas conspiracy theory, breathlessly pointing out that Seymour’s legislation also [cue scary music] involves holding a binding referendum.

That David Seymour, long before he became an Act MP, had worked for right-wing Canadian think-tanks linked (as just about all right-wing think-tanks are these days) to the Atlas Network, was offered up as the conspiracists’ “smoking gun”. That the information had been on the public record for years, and was not in the least surprising, given Seymour’s ideological leanings, counted for nought. Guilt by association, long the favoured workhorse of the Far Right, was shamelessly harnessed to the Left’s conspiratorial cart.

Would Pemberton and Jones have included the Atlas Conspiracy in their “deep dive into the world of disinformation” if they had been making their documentary in 2023-24? Certainly, an editorial decision to exclude such clear evidence of conspiratorial thinking not being an exclusively right-wing phenomenon would have been deeply regrettable.

Regrettable, but also inevitable, since the ruling obsession of the contemporary New Zealand Left, and indeed of left-wingers across the Western World, is that political action undertaken by individuals or groups further to the right than the liberal wings of mainstream conservative parties should not only be condemned, but suppressed.

That a group like the Atlas Network should be permitted to solicit the support of right-wing donors in its mission to spread the libertarian-capitalist gospel around the world (a perfectly legal activity BTW) is, from the perspective of the contemporary Left, intolerable. That the Koch Brothers, whose generosity to hundreds, if not thousands, of right-wing organisations is legendary, might be tangentially associated with the Act Party, through its leader, and his Canadian employers of decades ago, is all the Left’s propagandists’ need to portray the Atlas Network as a deadly spider sucking the life out of New Zealand’s democracy.

As a documentary, Web of Chaos would, arguably, be much improved by the inclusion of more voices than those belonging to the usual disinformation suspects – all of whom dutifully regurgitate to its viewers the arguments developed by American bureaucrats anxious to deny social-media platforms to those who dare to take issue with their political masters’ policies. Only very briefly does the documentary make reference to disinformation’s Cold War origins. A great pity, since the proclivity of states to narrow the sluicegates of political information is as old as history.

The Left was once well aware of where most of the truly dangerous political lies come from. That “progressives” no longer fear, nor condemn, the state’s disinformation, to the point where they are now creating their own, is as troubling as it is depressing.

This essay was originally posted on The Democracy Project (Substack) on Monday, 20 May 2024.


The Barron said...

The "Twitter Files" has been before a congressional investigation with the Republican denominated oversight committee and did not uphold the level of cooperation between the US government and the social media companies alleged. Indeed, there was no shown coercion from government with the exception of the Trump Presidency both putting pressure on promoting their position on Covid19 information and Trump wishing a tweet removed when a celebrity dissed him.

The only issue regarding Biden was a campaign official asking Twitter to take into account their own policy when making a decision as to the allowance of nude and sexual photos of Hunter Biden. These were photos unlawfully obtained and without the consent of subject. The decision made was in line with policy available to all. no fear or favour.

As for Web of Chaos, the Broadcasting Standards Committee addressed accuracy and balance in MCKENZIE AND TELEVISION NEW ZEALAND LTD - 2022-141 (1 MAY 2023) -

‘[TVNZ] does not agree that idea that disinformation about a range of subjects is occurring in New Zealand and around the world is controversial or requires “balancing material be broadcast.”’

‘[Hannah] is not saying that wellness and crafts, or people, women, of Celtic ancestry are inherently problematic, rather that these images and themes are sometimes being used maliciously and for consumers of such sites to be wary. The statement “just stand back” is used to give consumers the idea that they should not be uncritical consumers of such sites as some could be malicious. [TVNZ] does not agree that this advice is misleading or inaccurate.’

The complaint did not refer to an individual or organisation taking part in or referred to in the broadcast, so the standard does not apply.

Little Keith said...

To declare oneself "progressive" nowadays directly conjures up the absolute worst in woke dogma. Picture the most repellent woke figure you have ever seen and you have progressive.

I doubt many of any took the blindest but of notice of this conspiracy theory from the left. It was madness. Why? Because there left spent the last 3 years destroying themselves as a political idea.

Arderns lectern speech, "We will continue to be your single source of truth," and, "Unless you hear it from us it is not the truth.", really set the tone. We did trust her but the trouble is during those hideous authoritarian days, she and Labour weren't beyond bending the truth.

You're still not allowed to publically question the potential harm these experimental vaccines could bring, even if it made you very sick, or caused death. But I know more than a few who were very ill immediately after vaccination. But NO questioning of it was permitted. And as the control freaks started ending careers of otherwise law abiding hard working citizens who dared question them plus the totalitarian vaccine passes that were required to go out into the public world, and the caged rats experiment of Aucklanders 4 month lock down dragged on, the progressive left broke and hugely divided many of us.

I get they meant well, but that is the whole giant problem with progressives, meaning well and meaning harm became indistinguishable, regardless of the intent. The hangover from progressive dogma of the last few years is afflicting us today.

Progressives showed us that the ends justfies the means and manipulation and downright bare faced lies, (disinformation), are totally acceptable because they are right on a pious religious level and always beyond question. Just lately Juile Anne Genter has carried on that progressive tradition, intimidating small business owners who spoke up, being badly financially affected by her bicycle fanaticism. She demonstated that's these so called kind caring gentle progressive folk are nasty vindictive arseholes in reality.

I no longer trust the left, they present as mentally unstable, most especially the Greens caucus to a person. The Atlas thing just iced the cake. I've seen enough dishonesty from 2020-2023 for a 1000 lifetimes to never trust these pricks again.

Jonzie said...

Are you sure weren't just reading The Daily Blog? What you describe sounds just like it...minus the music, but that can just be imagined.

John Hurley said...

See this discussion on No Maori Allowed

Gary Peters said...

There is no left or right any longer.

From what I see on a daily basis it's more of a sliding scale of stupidy mixed with a level of dependence.

There are those that thinks the "gummit" owes them a living and those that want the government as fgar out of their lives as possible. There are those that still retain a level of self responsibility and those that have high expectations but expect others to do the providing.

Cynical perhaps but that currently is how I see it and it would seem "left" inclined politicians spend their days inventing ways to remain sucking at the imnaginary teat.

In my opinion.

New view said...

When we communicate we already have a preconceived idea about that communication. We talk with others to see if they agree or disagree with our thoughts. We like those who agree with us. The trouble starts when we want to tell others what we believe in the hope that more of us believe the same thing and so it must be true. Humans are their own worst enemy. When there is an agenda to manipulate our thinking we get mis information and disinformation. We all do it but of course when there is power and money involved misinformation quickly turns to disinformation. Politicians and media are some of the worst offenders. We can understand why politicians use disinformation but the media by their own technics are to me the worst offenders because they are our last chance for the truth. If the media doesn’t portray a balanced view of the subject matter imo they have committed the ultimate sin. No one follows the rules of balanced communication anymore. We are all guilty of it and opinion becomes fact. Chris is exposing the political ramifications of it but it’s almost impossible to avoid at any level. We all rely on information we get from the internet to bolster our arguments and that information we get may or may not be correct. We don’t know. God knows what will happen with google news and AI but instead of listening to people lie to us we’ll be listening to robots lie to us. Try getting the truth out of that. If we believe in something there is a whole lot of echoing out there for us to confirm that belief. Our journalists are the last chance for the truth. We have compromised them badly but they have also let us down. Politicians are what they are. No surprises there.

John Hurley said...


Sir Peter Gluckman, Dr Anne Bardsley, Professor Paul Spoonley,
Dr Charles Royal, Naomi Simon-Kumar and Dr Andrew Chen
December 2021

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Liberal democracy is a form of government that has evolved to ensure that, while the decisions made by a society may affect its citizens variably, those decisions are assumed to be made by accountable decision-makers such that they are fair and will lead to the greater good of society as a whole. Those who elect the decision-makers are presumed to base their choices on facts and evidence, not misinformation, and to have access to clear information about the policies and values of those they may elect. Such a presumption can no longer be assured.

Contemporary liberal democratic societies are comprised of individuals and groups with differing histories, identities, values and worldviews, who also need to trust each other sufficiently to cooperate (horizontal trust).
Over the past three decades, research on immigration policy-making has flourished. To explain why so-called ‘Western liberal democracies’ have liberalized immigration despite popular demands for restriction, scholars have pointed at the democratic character of these states. Freeman (1995) argued that immigration policy-making in democracies follows the pattern of ‘client politics’ because the costs of immigration are diffused among the entire electorate, while benefits are concentrated within a small pool of entrepreneurs. [and universities - may Allah bless them] Hollifield (1992a, 1992b), in turn, showed how the political logic of democratic nation-states pushes towards restrictiveness, while the economic logic of global market liberalization pushes for openness towards immigration. This ‘liberal paradox’ or ‘embedded liberalism’ would explain why politicians’ discourses about immigration tend to be more restrictive than implemented policies. Similarly, Sassen (1996) and Joppke (1998) argued that the rise of an international human rights regime and the activism of national courts, characteristic of liberal democracies, have limited the power of states to curtail migrants’ rights.
[blurring the line]
This paper rethinks immigration policy theories by moving beyond the dominant approach that links theories of immigration policy to a country’s preconceived--and potentially reductionist--categorization as ‘Western’ or ‘non-Western’, ‘democratic’ or ‘autocratic’.
Every time i see Paul Spoonley in the MSM i think of a plumber arriving to repair a leak

I mean imagine if we were not really a liberal democracy?

David Phillips said...

Jonzie it’s funny that you say that, I was thinking the same thing. Before the last election TDB would have mocked the atlas network conspiracy theories, since the election it has been actively promoted there. It has become the very “disinformation project” that it used to scorn.

David George said...

If you want to avoid falling prey to misinformation, propaganda and lies it's better to rely on the evidence of your own eyes than the opinion of others. The Barron chooses other's opinion.

The broadcasting standards outfit have managed to tip toe around criticism of sanctioning The Web of Chaos's fear and loathing propaganda. Anyone with their eyes properly open can see what it is. Here's a tip to test your biases Barron: try substituting another group, say, Islamists or Maori ethno-nationalists in the film. Use carefully chosen antagonists, no counter points, creepy music to amp up the fear and hate emotions. Then try and pretend it's not pure propaganda with an obvious intent.

It's interesting that they chose to discredit by association, western cultural and family values. What's all that about?

Andrew Osborn said...

Oh, so the Twitter files was about the state suppressing 'disinformation', was it?

'Disinformation' such as the Hunter Biden laptop exposé by the NY Post?

'Disinformation' such as discussion that the Covid 19 origin was a lab in Wuhan?

'Disinformation' that Fauci and the NIH funded gain-of-function research at the aforesaid lab. Research that had been banned by the Obama administration because it was considered too risky.

(The Twitter files was about federal agencies putting a thumb on the scales in the 2020 election because the deep state wanted Trump gone)

The Barron said...

Strange response, David. Chris raised -

"As a documentary, Web of Chaos would, arguably, be much improved by the inclusion of more voices than those belonging to the usual disinformation suspects"

I looked at how the regulator, the BSA, had considered balance and accuracy. I did so without comment. I have not always agreed with the BSA, but the standards they evaluate balance and accuracy are clear. In this, we should look at their ruling in 'McKenzie' and if criticizing either you are saying that the BSA have not correctly applied the standards, or, that you do not believe the standards are appropriate. You did neither. Instead, you appeal to populism - "anyone...can see what it is". Well, clearly you mean anyone other than those entrusted to follow agreed regulation or the Broadcaster.

Your 'anyone' is refuted by the BSA ruling that the issues raised are in the mainstream to the extent 'balance' is not required. Similar decisions were made as to Covid19 and Climate Change, where the consensus is strongly accepted, fringe views are not needed for balance, accuracy is still a requirement, but this is based the overwhelming scientific and medical consensus - usually through peer review. The final thing required is whether misinformation pretending to be balance could cause harm and detract from the educative and protective intent of the broadcast.

Your use of the term 'Islamists' in complete isolation is disgraceful. Such attitudes have led to the murder of 51 innocent New Zealanders. To use Islamist as a byword for something akin to a threat or terrorism is a level of misinformation and hate that should have no place in this blog. If you wish to specify an individual or defined group that you believe may be a threat I would suggest caution, but it is then something that can be addressed. To simply use 'Islamist' as a code for the 1.9 billion Muslims in the world, or the 60,000 in NZ as implied antagonists helps create the situation in which children can murdered, be it Christchurch or Gaza.

As for Maori Ethno-Nationalism, it is pseudo-intellectual tripe coined by Elizabeth Rata. This tries to simplify complex concepts and gives prejudice the pretense of academic derived legitimacy.

The Barron said...

Sorry David. I have subsequently understood that Islamist has come to mean promoting a political agenda rather than adherence to Islam which was the previous use of the term.

The Barron said...

What colour is the sky on your world?

David George said...

Barron, Islamist is not a "code" for Muslims, it's a specific reference to political Islam.
Britannica: "The adjective Islamist, denoting someone or something in pursuit of a sociopolitical objective using the symbols and traditions of Islam, is distinguished from the term Islamic, which refers directly to aspects of Islam as a religion."

If you're OK with the allusion that an affinity towards Celtic culture (and blonde kids with hair plaits FFS) is a precursor to Far Right Fanatasism while decrying the hypothetical possibility of a similar treatment of Islamism or Maori etho-nationalism then you really should check your biases, as I've suggested.

"balance is not required" - of course not; propaganda and fear mongering are completely incompatible with balance.

David George said...

Thanks Barron.
And ethnonationalism? A fabrication by Dr Rata or a widely accepted term that is applicable for what the Maori Party & Co envisage for New Zealand?

"In scholarly literature, ethnic nationalism is usually contrasted with civic nationalism. Ethnic nationalism bases membership of the nation on descent or heredity, often articulated in terms of common blood or kinship, rather than on political membership.

Hence, nation states with strong traditions of ethnic nationalism tend to define nationality or citizenship by jus sanguinis (the law of blood, descent from a person of that nationality), and countries with strong traditions of civic nationalism tend to define nationality or citizenship by jus soli (the law of soil, birth within the nation state).

Ethnic nationalism is, therefore, seen as exclusive, while civic nationalism tends to be inclusive. Rather than allegiance to common civic ideals and cultural traditions, then, ethnic nationalism tends to emphasise narratives of common descent."

The Barron said...

As acknowledged above, my bad and apologies.
However, there can be a wide variety of those under Islamist that wish sociopolitical outcomes based on Islam. An Islamic equivalent of the Salvation Army would fit the definition and be very different than ISIS.
As said, my bad.

The Barron said...

Jus sanguinis is problematic in regard to Maori identity. Treaty rights are by descent from those that were NZ Maori in 1840. For some, such as Ngai Tahu, there was a 1848 census available which help guide if there is descent from those on the census. For most it is whakapapa maintained by the hapu.
For all, there is no need for multiple descent strands, if you have one line of descent, you have standing and rights.
Ethno-nationalism based on jus sanguinis usually look far more for blood purity, or at least significant lines of descent. This is not always the case, but rules of inclusion / exclusion are usually stark.
Ethno-nationalism can often use religion as an identity marker [catholic Croats, orthodox Serbs and Muslim Bosnians are the same ethnic descent group, but the religious influence of various empires affected identity].
For Maori, descent from a NZ Maori and self identity is the defining criteria, and Treaty rights as descent from some who did so on behalf of your hapu, or from a Iwi or hapu the NZ Parliament extended Treaty coverage to (i.e. Tuhoe). No percentage blood quota.

David George said...

Thanks Barron.
What a shit show. How's all that supposed to work out if state enforced political power and civil rights are ethnicised?
They've been running round with banners bearing firearms, raving about revolution, now I see the ethnonationalist Māori Party have issued a declaration of political independence with the intention of starting a Māori parliament. Isn't that treason? How much longer can they be tolerated in parliament of all places?

The Barron said...

David, politics and civil rights in NZ are already ethnicised. The naturalisation of the ethicalisation of power into our national consciousness means we have overlooked it. That this is being overtly challenged should be a challenged we are prepared as a nation to take up and address. I am not a fan of firearms, and the loosening of laws restricting them comes form a different political hue. I know of no-one who has been injured by what is or is not depicted on banners.

As for the call for a Maori parliament, even though it is a bit dated, I would refer you to Lindsay Cox' Kotahitanga: The Search for Maori Unity (1993). These ideas have been prominent since at least the 1860s. The Kingitanga, and the creation of a unifying Maori King was seen as treason. Yet when Elizbeth, the sovereign of NZ, passed away it was King Tūheitia Paki helping to lead our official contingent. The same Queen Elizabeth had apologized to Tainui and the Kingitanga for falsely accusing them of treason.

Many models for NZ future have some type of complimentary Maori Parliamentary body. It is something we should discuss in good faith as we evolve our own democracy. Most nations have democratic structures which accommodate their populous. Belgium with parliamentary bodies for Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. Britain with the home countries. The US electoral college. New Zealand has Māori Representation Act of 1867 as a unique feature.

Finally, your final question 'How much longer can they be tolerated in parliament of all places', as long as people vote TPM at electorate level and / or over the 5% threshold. That is the current democratic system we have, with freedom of expression and Parliamentary privilege. I suggest when electorates deliver representatives, we respect this and engage with those representatives. To not do so is to disenfranchise and undermine our democratic structure.

Andrew Osborn said...

NZ history is littered with lost opportunities. The 1986 Royal Commission on the Electoral System recommended that the race-based Maori roll be disbanded because the circumstances for its existence (the requirement to own land to have a vote) had ceased to exist in a previous era.

If only our politicians in that era had shown some courage we wouldn't now have to put up with the racist/fascist rabble in the Maori Party, because there's no way they would win a seat in a general electorate.

So, we have the absurd circumstance where race hatred is being ginned up by people who are claiming to be victims of the system due to their race, whilst being both multi-millionaires and mostly not Maori in terms of their own bloodlines. All while a large proportion of those who are in government who TPM say are racists, are Maori too!

You'd have to being smoking something strange to invent something as absurd as this!

My main concern: The rhetoric of these clowns could incite a disaffected young Maori to take matters into his own hands and do something we would all deeply regret.

TPM need to stop throwing gasoline on the fire.

David George said...

"To not do so is to disenfranchise and undermine our democratic structure"

But inciting revolution is OK? Or this?

Kiri Tamihere-Waititi is the wife of Māori Party Co-Leader Rawiri Waititi.
In a social media video laced with expletives, Tamihere-Waititi, daughter of Māori Party president John Tamihere, claimed “this government is launching an all-out attack on us as a people, on our very identity as tangata whenua. We are under siege by the government. They’re doing everything and they’ve got the f***** power to get rid of us.”
“And while you’re thinking about that, you might as well also start thinking about how we’re going to take our country back too. We’re continuing to subscribe to a model that was designed to assimilate to continue to colonise and to keep us as second class citizens in our own country. By design we are not unified. Right? Just imagine just take one f***** minute of your day to imagine if we were all on the same page.

“Can you imagine the might and the power that we would have? We could overthrow any government. We could do whatever the f*** we wanted.”

David George said...

I'm not sure what the laws are around parliamentarian's obligations (it certainly looks like a breach of the oath of allegiance at the least) or how those laws are upheld but questions need to be asked. I see the police have been around to have words over what was clearly incitement by Waititi's wife. Undaunted Waititi is now expressing admiration for, and affinity with, actual terrorists. If murdering, raping savages are your role model how long before some hotheads decide to go the whole way and act it out? Labour should just refuse to have anything to do with The Maori Party. Simple.