Wednesday, 29 March 2023

An Ugly Demonstration.

Mobbed! As Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull’s (Posie Parker’s) opponents surged forward, her only protecters were a handful of burly security guards who surrounded their client and began forcing a path through what was now a howling mob. At least one video recording shows the diminutive Keen-Minshull, a terrified rag-doll, eyes dulled by the effects of shock, being heaved past individuals with faces contorted by fury and hate.

WHAT SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED on Saturday morning, 25 March 2023, in Auckland’s Albert Park is easily described.

At 11:00am, Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull (a.k.a “Posie Parker”) a small (just 155 centimetres tall) bottle-blond mother of four from the United Kingdom, would have stood behind the microphone set up in the Albert Park band rotunda and delivered a speech.

To a small crowd of about 250 people, she would have detailed her objections to transgender women (i.e. persons born biological males and, in some cases, retaining their male reproductive organs) having the right to enter spaces hitherto reserved for biological women and girls; being incarcerated in biological women’s prisons; and permitted to compete against human females in sporting events intended for biological women only.

Keen-Minshull would have been followed by a line-up of New Zealand speakers (most of them biological women and feminists) concerned about the linguistic erasure of their sex from official discourse (as in the expression “pregnant persons”) and alarmed at the efforts of transgender women and their supporters to silence the public expression of their concerns.

At a distance of about 50 metres, a much larger crowd of transgender persons and their supporters, safely corralled behind sturdy barriers, and a cordon of police officers, would have kept up a noisy barrage of objections to the content of the speakers’ speeches. Above their heads, banners and placards proclaiming their support for the rights of transgender New Zealanders would have been clearly visible to the “Let Women Speak” organisers in the rotunda.

The news media would have been there in force to record the confrontation for posterity. When the meeting came to an end, roughly 90 minutes later, and the crowds began to disperse, journalists would have been seen interviewing participants from both sides of the barriers for their media employers.

Spokespersons for the Transgender community would have set forth their objections to Keen-Minshull’s claims, drawing the journalists’ attention to the lack of evidence for any widespread abuse of women and girls by transgender women in toilets, changing-rooms, women’s refuges or prisons, and pointing out how extremely hurtful such suggestions are to the members of one of society’s most fragile and vulnerable communities. The journalists’ professional commitment to fair and balanced reporting would have ensured that the views of both groups were presented to the public.

By 2:00pm, Albert Park would again have become the preserve of Aucklanders enjoying a sunny autumn afternoon.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED on the morning of Saturday, 25 March 2023, bore very little resemblance to the civilised political ideal described above.

As Keen-Minshull stepped forward to speak she was physically assaulted by a person pretending to be a supporter. This attack caused the counter-protesters, estimated at more than 2,000, to surge forward, thrusting aside the flimsy barriers erected to separate them from the much smaller crowd which had gathered to hear the speakers. They were able to do this because there was no police cordon to enforce that separation. Within seconds, the counter-protesters were pressing in on Keen-Minshull’s audience, screaming abuse, hurling projectiles, and lashing out with fists and placards.

Fearing for the safety of Keen-Minshull and her audience, one observer implored a nearby police officer, who was looking on impassively, to intervene. He refused, allegedly declaring that Keen-Minshull: ‘is in a public space. If she feels unsafe she needs to leave’.

At this point, Keen-Minshull’s only protecters were a handful of burly security guards who surrounded their client and began forcing a path through what was now a howling mob. At least one video recording shows the diminutive Keen-Minshull, a terrified rag-doll, eyes dulled by the effects of shock, being heaved past individuals with faces contorted by fury and hate.

Only when the police present realised that if they did not place Keen-Minshull under their protection, then her bodyguards would be forced to exit the melee by driving through it in their own vehicle – with all the attendant risks to the counter-protesters’ health and safety such a manoeuvre would entail. Keen-Minshull was, accordingly, bundled into a police car and driven from the scene.

Not all the scheduled speakers were so lucky. This is how Ani O’Brien, from the group Stand Up For Women, described her experience:

No sooner had Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull arrived at the Rotunda, a protestor (who had managed to get past the barrier) ran at her and threw a red substance all over her and a security guard. As she attempted to clean up, the protestors pushed over, crushed, and dismantled the barriers and swarmed around her.

At this point, I was caught in the angry crowd. I had whistles blown in my face, abuse screamed at me, and I was fearful for my own safety. This was nothing compared to what Kellie-Jay endured. She was trapped and surrounded by a mob screaming abuse and trying to get past her security guards.

Chris, there were no police in sight. Despite widely publicised threats of violence, the police were nowhere near the protest frontlines to prevent the event from devolving into chaos as it did. I had to call the police from the middle of the screaming crowd! And even then they weren’t particularly concerned that a woman was trapped in the midst of a mob determined to get to her.

Keen-Minshull’s rally was over before it had even begun – victim of the Thug’s Veto. Her right to free expression had been illegally and violently curtailed. Left in possession of the park, the elated counter-protesters took to Twitter to celebrate their historic victory over bigotry and hate.

WHAT ARE WE TO MAKE of the events of Saturday, 25 March 2023? The most urgent questions are those that will, over the coming days, be levelled at the Police. Who was in command? What intelligence did they have regarding Keen-Minshull and her increasingly vocal enemies? Why, in the face of credible threats to her person, was police protection denied to Keen-Minshull and her followers? Why, as the situation spiralled out of control, did the police officers present not intervene?

Predictably – and entirely appropriately – the Free Speech Union, has raised these issues in a letter to the new Police Minister, Ginny Andersen:

We call on you, and the Police Commissioner, to acknowledge the lack of action to defend the basic speech rights of those who turned up to the ‘Let Women Speak’ rally, and reassert that those who express unpopular or controversial views in public are entirely in their right, and deserve to be protected from threats, intimidation, and violence.

There will be considerable public scepticism, however, concerning the willingness of the Labour Government, and Party, to defend New Zealanders’ freedom of speech and assembly. There will be scepticism, also, that the Minister and her colleagues are any longer capable of perceiving the ethical issues which Saturday’s ugly demonstration laid bare.

All through the preceding week, Labour Ministers, Members of Parliament, and activist party members were telling those seeking to silence Keen-Minshull that, as far as Labour was concerned, they were doing the Lord’s work. In this they were echoed, even more vehemently, by the Greens. When the governing parties of the day publicly back a political movement, its followers may be forgiven for believing they have been given the green-light for coercion. The parliamentary Left did not balk at describing Keen-Minshull’s views as “abhorrent” and “incorrect”. Not quite in the same league as King Henry II’s “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest!” – but close.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this incident is the crucial role played by the mainstream news media in creating the preconditions for the violent suppression of free speech which ensued. Throughout the preceding week, journalists had denigrated Keen-Minshull – who describes herself as an “advocate for women” – as “an anti-trans activist” – finding her guilty, by association, of endorsing far-right, even Neo-Nazi, groups. That she, and people who shared her concerns, had a case to make was simply not acknowledged journalistically. In a synergy worthy of Putin’s Russia, the views of the Government, and the views of the mainstream media, had become interchangeable.

Certainly, the state media appeared incapable of perceiving the role it had played in the events of Saturday, 25 March. Television New Zealand’s Jack Tame even offered the violence unleashed by Keen-Minshull’s opponents as an ex-post-facto justification for denying her entry to New Zealand. In other words, allowing those threatening to exercise the Thug’s Veto to determine who should be allowed to speak in New Zealand, and who should not. Nothing could better illustrate the yawning generational gulf into which journalistic ethics has disappeared.

Over the next six months, the New Zealand electorate will discover just how effectively the parties of the Right are able to exploit the Labour-Green failure to uphold the Bill of Rights Act and the democratic polity it underpins. Chris Hipkins may soon regret that he did not step in immediately to set the political tone on Keen-Minshull. Because, whatever the reasons that set New Zealanders against one another so aggressively on Saturday, 25 March 2023, they had absolutely nothing to do with bread and butter.

This essay was originally posted on the website on Monday, 27 March 2023.

Monday, 27 March 2023

Too Big To Punish.

Too Strong For The Law’s Web: But, if the USA is too big to punish, why isn’t the Russian Federation? Russia’s economy may be roughly the size of Italy’s, but it’s nuclear arsenal is more than capable of laying human civilisation to waste. Threatening to arrest Vladimir Putin - especially when the Russian Federation and the rest of the United Nations are recalling George W. Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq twenty years ago – is an astonishingly provocative act.

I AM CONSTANTLY ASTONISHED at how blithely unconscious the West is of its own transgressions. That the International Criminal Court (ICC) could announce its decision to issue a warrant for the arrest of Vladimir Putin a mere three days ahead of the twentieth anniversary of the United States’, the United Kingdom’s, Australia’s and Poland’s illegal invasion of Iraq on 20 March 2003 shows just how morally comatose the West has become.

Twenty years ago, President George Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prime Minister John Howard and the Polish premier, Leszek Miller, ordered a massive airborne attack and an all-out armoured assault upon a nation that was at peace with its neighbours and, which had made no aggressive moves against any of the nations whose armed forces were pouring across its borders. Unsurprisingly, a large number of the world’s nations condemned the invasion of Iraq as a breach of the UN Charter and international law. Millions of people around the world, with considerable justification, branded Bush, Blair, Howard and Miller war criminals. Certainly, the invasion they authorised led directly to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent human-beings.

So, why didn’t the ICC, which had come into formal existence on the 1 July 2002, issue warrants for the arrest of Bush, Blair, Howard and Miller? Were they not guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity? Had they not involved themselves in what the prosecutors at the Nuremburg Trials called “the crime of crimes” – the planning, preparation and waging of aggressive war? The crime for which the surviving Nazi leaders were hanged in 1946.

From the grim perspective of the world of realpolitik, the reason why the ICC decided not to prosecute the four aggressors is obvious: the United States is simply “too big to punish”. Not only did the USA refuse to recognise the jurisdiction of the ICC over United States citizens, but every diplomat and jurist worthy of the name understood that any attempt to arrest George W. Bush would provoke a reaction of truly biblical proportions.

But, if the USA is too big to punish, why isn’t the Russian Federation? Russia’s economy may be roughly the size of Italy’s, but it’s nuclear arsenal is more than capable of laying human civilisation to waste. Threatening to arrest Putin - especially when the Russian Federation and the rest of the United Nations are recalling the illegal invasion of Iraq twenty years ago – is an astonishingly provocative act.

Now, some of those reading these words will object that they are nothing more than an egregious example of “whataboutism”. If Putin stands accused of illegally deporting thousands of Ukrainian children to Russia, then he should be put on trial for his actions – not let off because Bush, Blair, Howard and Miller were not held accountable for theirs. Crying “What about Iraq?!” is an irrelevant question – it has no bearing on the case against Putin.

Except, of course, it does. The application of justice must not only be even-handed, it must be seen to be even-handed. If the public had witnessed the child of a rich and powerful family engaging in clearly dangerous and illegal activity, and then seen the Police refuse to bring charges against him because his family was simply too rich and too powerful, they would be disgusted. And if they then saw the child of a poor and powerless family brought to trial for exactly the same offences, they would be outraged. Prosecuting the poor, but not the rich, child would, quite rightly, be regarded as a travesty of justice. What’s more, the court responsible would be utterly discredited in the eyes of all fair-minded people.

Two-and-a-half thousand years ago, a Scythian prince named Anacharsis had this to say about Ancient Athens’ celebrated legal code: “Written laws are like spiders’ webs; they will catch, it is true, the weak and poor, but would be torn in pieces by the rich and powerful.”

The USA has proved the truth of Anacharsis’ observation by simply overawing the ICC’s timid prosecutors. Twenty years on from its failure to hold the invaders of Iraq to account, however, the ICC clearly believes that the Russian President is too weak to tear its legal web in pieces.

But who would be the person who arrests Putin? Or the country that tries to hold him?

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 24 March 2023.

Sunday, 26 March 2023

All of Us, All of Us.

Mutual Support: Democracy in New Zealand will not be saved by pitting Pakeha against Māori, but by joining together with every other citizen who still understands the meaning of working together to build something good that will last. Call that co-governance if you like, or call it something else – Kotahitanga perhaps. 

THE CLAIM that the push for co-governance comes not from “ordinary” but “elite” Māori continues to gain ground. Yet another instance of the “divide and conquer” strategy – a favourite of colonisers throughout history – it is intended to cast those advocating co-governance as a privileged minority with little or nothing in common with the hundreds-of-thousands of Māori who do not have university degrees, do not receive six-figure salaries, are not fluent in te reo, and cannot recite their whakapapa beyond one or two generations.

The Māori who possess all these attributes, runs the argument, are the only people who will truly benefit from co-governance. They will be the ones sitting across the table from Pakeha politicians and bureaucrats, thrashing out the issues, arriving at a consensus, making the decisions. Such accountability as exists in this brave new administrative world will be, overwhelmingly, to people like themselves – well-educated, well-paid, well-connected. The Māori forester, or check-out operator, will be none the wiser – or the more empowered.

Where this argument falls down is in its overestimation of the size and influence of the Māori middle-class. In comparison to the Pakeha middle-class, the Māori middle-class is tiny. A great many of today’s credentialled Māori are the first members of their whanau ever to receive a tertiary education. Only a handful of Māori families can look back at generation upon generation of forebears who graduated from university. The great professional families that occupy the upper-echelons of Pakeha society are still a rarity in Māori society.

As a consequence of the Māori middle-class’s small size, Māori leadership is drawn from a much broader cross-section of Māori society than is now the case in the Pakeha world. What propels a Māori leader forward is a demonstrated capacity to inspire, organise and achieve. To a far greater degree than is the case among Pakeha (with the possible exception of matters relating to organised sport) this gives rise to circumstances in which resourceful and eloquent working-class men and women can aspire to, and be given, important community leadership roles.

Those who have investigated existing co-governance structures (like Newsroom’s Nikki Mandow) will attest to this phenomenon. Where Pakeha would reach for the services of lawyers and accountants, Māori will call upon the wisdom and experience of men and women who have demonstrated a commitment to, and mastery of, the issues which co-governance is being called upon to resolve. Practical, not theoretical, knowledge is what counts.

And it seems to work – not least because it harks back to the sort of New Zealander that is fast disappearing from Pakeha society. The practical, reliable and, at a pinch, inspirational New Zealander who somehow managed to build a nation without the input of consultants, and without the need for a small army of communication specialists. The sort of Kiwi who, like Ed Hillary, promised to do a job – and did it. Whose word, once given, was never broken. The sort of Kiwi who, these days, is more likely to be Māori than Pakeha.

To see this dynamic at work, take a look at the video recording made at Julian Batchelor’s Stop Co-Governance rally at Orewa. When those protesting against Batchelor’s ideas broke into a moving rendition of Wi Huata’s now famous Tutira Mai, the elderly Pakeha, non-plussed, could think of no better response than to sing God Defend New Zealand – badly and in English. Quick as a flash, the protesters came back with the national anthem – in Māori, and, even more tellingly, in harmony.

That ragged, half-hearted, and horribly out-of-tune rendition of God Defend New Zealand by Batchelor’s elderly audience spoke volumes about where Aotearoa-New Zealand is going – and who is going to take it there. Not least because the Pakeha among the protesters sang Wi Huata’s song of unity as confidently as their Māori comrades – and the Māori version of the national anthem too. If sceptics want to know why co-governance will work – and work inspiringly – they need only look at that video.

Thinking about it, what emerges most clearly from Batchelor’s rallies is the sheer strength of the psychological projection going on. Māori are accused of being misled and mistreated by tribal elites and “Treatyists”. But, is it Māori misdeeds and misdirections they are reacting to, or are the emotions they struggle so hard not to recognise actually born of their own mistreatment at the hands of their own – Pakeha – elites? Because, if you’re looking for evidence a secretive and elite group of ideologically-driven politicians, bureaucrats, academics, businesspeople and journalists who banded together in a grand conspiracy to completely transform the greatest little country on Earth into a broken and divided nation utterly subjugated to the doctrines of Neoliberalism, then look no further – you’re soaking in it!

Democracy in New Zealand will not be saved by pitting Pakeha against Māori, but by joining together with every other citizen who still understands the meaning of working together to build something good that will last. Call that co-governance if you like, or call it something else – Kotahitanga perhaps. And, if you’re looking for a credo to build that sort of movement around, then you could do a lot worse than to start with Wi Huata’s:

Line up together, people
All of us, all of us.
Stand in rows, people
All of us, all of us.
Seek after knowledge
and love of others - everybody!
Be really virtuous
And stay united.
All of us, all of us.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 24 March 2023.

Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Te Pāti Māori Are Revolutionaries – Not Reformists.

Way Beyond Reform: Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer have no more interest in remaining permanent members of “New Zealand’s” House of Representatives than did Lenin and Trotsky in remaining permanent members of Tsar Nicolas II’s “democratically-elected” Duma. Like the Bolsheviks, Te Pāti Māori is a party of revolutionaries – not reformists.

THE CROWN is a fickle friend. Any political movement deemed to be colourful but inconsequential is generally permitted to go about its business unmolested. The Crown’s media, RNZ and TVNZ, may even “celebrate” its existence (presumably as proof of Democracy’s broad-minded acceptance of diversity). Should the movement’s leader/s demonstrate a newsworthy eccentricity, then they may even find themselves transformed into political celebrities. The moment a political movement makes the transition from inconsequentiality to significance, however, then all bets are off – especially if that significance is born of a decisive rise in its parliamentary representation.

Te Pāti Māori (TPM) is currently on the cusp of making that crucial transition from political novelty to political threat. The decision of the former MP for Waiariki, Labour’s Tamati Coffey, to step away from his parliamentary career at the end of the current term will be welcome news to TPM’s male co-leader, Rawiri Waititi, who took the seat from Coffey in 2020. There is a good chance, now, for Waititi to turn the Māori seat of Waiariki into TPM’s anchor electorate.

Certainly, without Rawiri’s 2020 victory in Waiariki, TPM’s female co-leader, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, would not have been able to occupy the additional seat to which TPM became entitled under MMP’s convoluted rules of representation. Ngarewa-Packer’s presence in Parliament alongside Waititi did a lot more than simply double the party’s representation. The two politicians have grown into a powerful double-act: their flair for performative politics (a.k.a showmanship) both complementing and augmenting the pair’s uncompromising radicalism.

Waititi’s signature black Stetson makes him instantly recognisable in a House of Representatives tending towards the sartorially beige. Couple this cowboy persona with his bravura transformation of the humble necktie into a symbol of colonial oppression, and Waititi’s political style is nothing if not memorable. But, there is substance beneath the style – as evidenced by the critical role the only-just-elected Waititi played in defusing the Waikeria prison riot of January 2021.

Ngarewa-Packer is a similar mixture of style and substance. Beneath the radical-biker-chic lies a tireless worker for whanau, hapu and iwi, and a better-than-average grasp of the intricacies of indigenous politics – both foreign and domestic. Even more than Waititi, Ngarewa-Packer understands the dual mandate of TPM.

The party’s purpose is not simply to put runs on the board for Māori by playing the Pakeha’s parliamentary game to the tangata whenua’s best advantage, but to translate TPM’s presence in the Crown’s most important political institution into a revolutionary transformation of Aotearoa-New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements. Not since Harry Holland’s Labour Party first entered Parliament in 1919 has the Crown been confronted by such an uncompromising threat to the status quo.

And now, after a succession of polls documenting a four-fold increase in TPM’s share of the Party Vote, the Crown and its institutional defenders (what Māori nationalists describe, with considerable historical justification, as the “Settler State”) are having to come to terms with the alarming possibility that, post-October 14, TPM may have it in its gift the installation of a Labour-Green coalition government – on certain, non-negotiable conditions. What alarms the elite defenders of the status-quo the most, of course, is that they cannot be certain that Labour and the Greens will not accept those conditions.

Much will depend on how many, and which, Labour MPs survive the October cull. That, and the ultimate truth or falsity of Prime Minister Chris Hipkins’ post-Jacinda Ardern transformation from Woke Warrior to Waitakere Man (via the Hutt Valley). Certainly, it is difficult to accept the Press Gallery’s positioning of Hipkins on the right of Labour’s Caucus. In the words of political journalist Graham Adams:

Hipkins taking the lead role as “The Man Who Wasn’t There” in Labour’s election script — hastily rewritten to accommodate Ardern’s resignation in January — is preposterous. It beggars belief that anyone would fall for his double act in posing as both a political innocent and a simple Westie (“I’m Just Chippy from the Hutt”) but our mainstream journalists appear to have. Certainly they do not seem keen to point out that Hipkins is an ideologue who has been radically reshaping New Zealand education policy alongside Ardern for years, without any explicit electoral mandate to do so.

Exactly which of these two, very different, political personalities Hipkins inhabits may turn out to be critical. If innocent “Chippy From The Hutt” turns out to be the political confection Adams clearly believes it to be, and “Hipkins The Ideologue” is the real Chris, then a Labour-Green Coalition – critically supported by TPM from the cross-benches – may herald the beginning of something really big.

TPM’s most sensible political strategy would be to resolutely reject becoming part of a formal coalition agreement, and to demand instead Labour-Green support for a tranche of constitutionally transformative legislative initiatives. The strategic virtue of binding TPM’s support to the passage of “Tiriti-centric” legislation is that any failure on the part of Labour and the Greens to facilitate such a transformation would immediately place TPM’s agenda at the heart of the next election, which its abstention on the Opposition’s inevitable Vote of Confidence would precipitate.

A suicidal strategy? Only if the party adopting it is indissolubly wedded to the constitutional status-quo. But, very clearly, this is not the position of TPM – even if it turns out to be that of Labour and the Greens. Representation in the House of Representatives is very far from being the ultimate objective of TPM. Both Waititi and Ngarewa-Packer have made it clear that their presence in the Settlers’ parliament should be regarded as a purely transitory state-of-affairs. The parliament TPM envisages will have an upper house composed, 50:50, of Tangata Whenua and Tangata Tiriti. In the lower house, meanwhile, Māori representation will be legally entrenched – just one of many “basic laws” passed to give effect to the foundational promises of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Waititi and Ngarewa-Packer have no more interest in remaining permanent members of “New Zealand’s” House of Representatives than did Lenin and Trotsky in remaining permanent members of Tsar Nicolas II’s “democratically-elected” Duma. Like the Bolsheviks, TPM is a party of revolutionaries – not reformists.

As this reality explodes, like a grenade, in the consciousness of the Crown and its creatures, the days of patronising TPM will come to an abrupt halt. Waititi and Ngarewa-Packer will no longer be treated as entertaining eccentrics – but as serious threats. More and more reasons for them to be hurled from the House in October will be presented to the electorate. All this is likely to communicate to Māori voters, however, is that the Crown is frightened of TPM. It is difficult to conceive of a more compelling reason for Māori voters to come out in record numbers and vote for Te Pāti Māori.

This essay was originally posted on the website on Monday, 20 March 2023.

Checking The Left: The Dreadful Logic Of Fascism.

The Beginning: Anti-Co-Governance agitator, Julian Batchelor, addresses the Dargaville stop of his travelling roadshow across New Zealand . Fascism almost always starts small. Sadly, it doesn’t always stay that way. Especially when the Left helps it to grow.

THERE IS A DREADFUL LOGIC to the growth of fascism. To begin with, it seldom emerges in circumstances of left-wing weakness. Indeed, fascism is almost always a response to what the Right regards as the dangerous strength – or even the imminent triumph – of the Left. Fascism seeks to check the Left, and establishes its typically dictatorial political regimes to prevent the Left from rebuilding and reasserting the power that made fascism “necessary” in the first place.

I couldn’t help musing upon the genesis of fascist movements as I watched a recording of the Dargaville meeting organised by the Christian evangelist Julian Batchelor. The third of many such meetings planned by Batchelor under the banner: “Preserve Democracy, STOP Co-Governance”.

The explicit purpose of Batchelor’s roadshow is to build a mass political movement of Pakeha New Zealanders, not only to stop co-governance, but also to halt what he sees as the state-sanctioned elevation of Māori over European culture. Batchelor’s principal targets are the “tribal representatives or elite Māori” and “elite Māori treatyists” who, he alleges, are hell-bent on transforming New Zealand into “the Zimbabwe of the South Pacific”.

The planned culmination of Batchelor’s anti-Co-Governance crusade is a 100,000-strong gathering to be held at the Auckland Domain on the eve of the General Election – Friday, 13 October 2023.

This is a truly ambitious target. The largest political demonstration ever recorded in New Zealand took place on the eve of the 1938 General Election, when 70,000 supporters of the First Labour Government – most of them trade union members – rallied at the Auckland Domain in a non-violent show of working-class strength.

For Batchelor to succeed, he would need to awaken a huge, and so-far undetected, strata of angry Kiwi racists. And when I say “huge”, I’m talking in the order of a million citizens. A million! Yep. To get a crowd of 100,000 supporters in the Domain, he would have to generate at least that many followers. In any organisation, the ratio of passive to active members is generally around 10:1. Batchelor is, therefore, hoping that at least 20 percent of New Zealanders are mad as hell about co-governance, everything it stands for, and that they’re not going to take it anymore.

About now, the readers of this post will be saying to themselves: “Not. Going. To. Happen.” What they may not be factoring-in to this political equation, however, is the dangerous dynamic at work in what appears to be Batchelor’s method of building his mass movement.

The crowd that gathered in the Kaipara Community Hall in Dargaville on 9 March 2023 was not composed solely of angry and/or curious Pakeha. As any astute observer of current events in the Far North could have predicted (especially following the “Karakia Incident” at the Kaipara District Council meeting back in October 2022) roughly half of the people turning up to hear Batchelor were angry and/or curious Māori. Unsurprisingly, it did not take long for the meeting to dissolve into rancour. Local Māori were shocked by Batchelor’s uncompromising rhetoric. Accusations of “blatant racism” elicited angry responses from those supporting the speaker’s argument. The Police were called. Things turned nasty.

And it was all recorded. Cleverly edited, the confrontation at Dargaville, may yet serve as a powerful recruitment tool for Batchelor’s cause. Posted on social media it may persuade a larger number of angry/curious Pakeha to turn up to the next meeting. Which may turn even nastier, because, predictably, Māori and their anti-racist Pakeha allies are threatening to turn up to shout down Batchelor’s “hate speech”. Undoubtedly, the Police will, once again, be present to keep the antagonists apart. All the elements will be there for another riveting social media post.

Thinking ahead – and apparently unaware of the many legal and political fish-hooks embedded in their intentions – Batchelor’s opponents are planning to contact local councils around the country and urge them not to allow the “blatant racist” to hire their facilities for his public meetings. If some local councils, perhaps worried that Batchelor’s meetings might become unruly, or, even worse, attract threats of serious violence, decide to deny him access to their facilities, then as sure as eggs-are-eggs, the Free Speech Union will become involved. Instantly, Batchelor’s cause will expand to embrace not just the “dangers” of co-governance, but the threat its promoters pose to New Zealanders’ freedom of expression.

It is at this point that Batchelor, providing he possesses both the political smarts and the rhetorical skills to take full advantage of the unfolding situation, may be able to break his movement out of its narrow psychographic confines to engage with a much broader ideological community. People who may not be as hostile to co-governance as Batchelor, but who are extremely hostile to the angry crowds who turn up to shut his meetings down, may feel obliged to, at least, defend his freedom of speech. There may even be an element who feel strongly enough to offer themselves as “security” for Batchelor’s meetings. Naturally, they will wear uniforms – to assist both the Police and the public in distinguishing them from the “extremists”.

With unnerving speed, Batchelor’s movement will begin to acquire all the historical hallmarks of fascism. This will only increase if the Police and the mainstream news media are widely perceived to be – and are criticised for – taking the side of the protesters. Batchelor’s essentially conspiratorial argument that “the elites” are determined to destroy New Zealanders’ rights and freedoms on behalf of anti-democratic “treatyists” will, in the eyes of more and more citizens, be vindicated. The claim that the Left has become too powerful will find a growing number of adherents.

Observing the rapid growth of Batchelor’s far-right pressure group, the National and Act parties will find it very difficult to resist the temptation to range themselves alongside it. Neither of these “official” representatives of the Right will want to be caught opposing Batchelor, for fear that their rivals will immediately come out in support. It is equally hard to see NZ First and the other, even smaller, right-wing parties turning down the chance to piggy-back on what Batchelor’s opponents are angrily calling New Zealand’s shameful “white supremacist” movement.

An awful lot would have to go completely right for Julian Batchelor before his currently tiny travelling roadshow burgeoned into a movement capable of mustering 100,000 New Zealanders into the Auckland Domain. The best reason he has for optimism, however, is the current febrile state of the New Zealand Left. More than any other single factor, the Left’s reaction to Batchelor’s campaign will determine whether it remains a passing curiosity, or develops into something really nasty.

It is, sadly, entirely possible for the worst to happen. If Batchelor becomes the voice of aggrieved Pakeha. If National, Act, NZ First, and all the others rally to his cause – for fear of being lumped in with “treatyists”, “cultural Marxists”, and all the other manifestations of the “Woke Left” – then a great, 100,000-strong, gathering of the right-wing clans in the Auckland Domain on Election Eve suddenly becomes a “live” proposition.

Fascism almost always starts small. Sadly, it doesn’t always stay that way. Especially when the Left helps it to grow.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 17 March 2023.

Friday, 17 March 2023

Weaponising Illegal Immigration.

Human Destabilisers: Russia now has a new strategic weapon – migratory waves of unwelcome human-beings. Desperate people with different coloured skins and different religious beliefs arriving at, or actually breaching, the national borders of Russia’s enemies can wreak as much havoc, culturally and politically, as a hypersonic missile exploding in the middle of a Ukrainian power station.

THE ITALIAN GOVERNMENT has uncovered what it believes to be a new layer of mendacity in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. Thousands of kilometres to the south of the fighting in Ukraine’s eastern provinces, deep in the anarchic wilderness of Sub-Saharan Africa, there’s been a grim addition to the criminal infrastructure of human-trafficking and people-smuggling. Russians.

Displaying that formidable mixture of state and private interests the world has learned to recognise in the Wagner Group’s fearsome mercenaries, new groups of highly organised Russian smugglers are hard at work. Unquestionably, these men are motivated by the huge profits to be made out of human suffering and desperation. But, they have not set up shop in these lawless lands entirely of their own volition. Somebody sent them there.

Moscow may not have intentionally propelled a vast wave of Syrian refugees in the direction of the European Union back in 2015. Indeed, it was most likely the German Chancellor’s, Angela Merkel’s, open arms of welcome that caused so many tragic columns of humanity to come bursting through Europe’s border fences in search of “Angela’s Country”. But Moscow looked on with considerable interest as this great wave of refugees broke over the nations of Western Europe.

Startled, at least initially, by the extraordinary welcome extended to the refugees by Europe’s most innocent and idealistic citizens, Russian cynicism was all-too-swiftly confirmed by the vicious racist backlash unleashed against the newcomers. Russia saw Germany riven by animosities its leaders had believed long buried. It watched the rise of far-right political parties disturb the civilised equilibrium of the Federal Republic. With a mixture of horror and delight, Moscow watched the eager ghost of Nazism break free of the stones piled upon its tomb.

Putin’s advisers now had a new strategic weapon to work on and perfect – migratory waves of unwelcome human-beings. Desperate people with different coloured skins and different religious beliefs arriving at, or actually breaching, the national borders of their enemies could wreak as much havoc, culturally and politically, as a hypersonic missile exploding in the middle of a Ukrainian power station.

The first inkling that Moscow had drawn a devastating lesson from the “Syrian invasion of Europe” came at the border of Belarus and Poland in 2021. Operating through his most trusted lieutenant, the Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko, Vladimir Putin arranged for Middle Eastern economic refugees, hungry for the peace and abundance of Europe, to be flown from their homelands and bussed to the frigid forests straddling the border of Belarus and Poland. “Over that fence lies freedom and prosperity!”, cried the freezing refugees’ minders – pointing westward.

The Poles, all-too-familiar with mendacity of the Russian bear, were having none of it. Crossing the border in significant numbers, the refugees would find themselves swaddled in the proudly humanitarian laws of the EU. The Polish government decided that under no circumstances could that be allowed to happen. Batons, tear-gas, and the use of water cannons in sub-zero temperatures ensured that the refugees did not make it across the fence.

Two years later, with Europe united against Russian aggression in Ukraine, the next great human wave of refugees is coming up out of the South, crossing the Sahara Desert, setting sail in frail and dangerously overcrowded boats from the coast of lawless Libya for the toe of the Italian boot – where gangsters every bit as ruthless as their Russian confreres are waiting to welcome them ashore. Twenty thousand illegal arrivals this year alone.

Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s first woman prime minister, may now be regretting the strong stand she and her country took against Russian aggression. As the leader of Brothers of Italy, a party of the Italian far-right, she is well aware of the political utility of illegal immigrants. Without them, and the racist tempers they inflame, she and her coalition could not have won power. Meloni promised to turn back the boats, but still they come: more and more. Putin has made a liar of her.

One can only speculate as to whether the British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has been made aware of exactly who the gangster wolves driving Africa’s immigrant lambs over Europe’s borders are working for. Meeting this week with his AUKUS partners in San Diego, did he pull aside Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, and whisper:

“Tell me again, Tony, how Australia stopped the boats.”

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 17 March 2023.

Wednesday, 15 March 2023

Nobody To Shoot.

Unbridled Consumption: This civilisation we have built (we being the whole human species) is the most astonishingly wonderful thing homo sapiens has ever seen. We love it. We cannot imagine how awful life would be without it. And, we most certainly are not going to co-operate with anyone who advises us to throw it away.

THERE’S A SCENE in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” where an embattled dust-bowl sharecropper struggles to defend his land. He threatens to shoot the man sent to demolish the farm buildings on behalf of the bank. Don’t blame me says the demolition man. The farmer then threatens to shoot the bank president who signed the foreclosure papers. Patiently, the demolition man explains that the bank manager is only carrying out the instructions of the bank’s owners back East. Utterly defeated, the propertyless sharecropper cries plaintively: “But where does it stop? Who can we shoot? I don’t aim to starve to death before I kill the man that’s starving me.” To which the demolition man replies: “I don’t know. Maybe there’s nobody to shoot. Maybe the thing isn’t human at all.”

It’s an exchange I always recall whenever I hear people advocating going after “the man that’s starving me”. The latest target of this “who can we shoot” proposition are the 100 companies allegedly responsible for 71 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Not surprisingly, the first of these planetary polluters to fill the gunsights of Earth’s angry sharecroppers are the oil companies.

Former One Tree Hill-feller, Mike Smith, now working for the Iwi Leaders Forum, is aiming to bring Rainer Seele, CEO of the Austrian oil-giant OMV, before the International Criminal Court for “genocide and other climate crimes impacting on indigenous communities now and in the future”. It would be churlish not to wish Mr Smith well, but the chances of Mr Seele being convicted (or even indicted!) by the ICC are about as good as Steinbeck’s sharecropper bagging a New York banker with his gopher gun.

The Iwi Leaders Forum may have deep pockets, but they are unlikely to be as deep as OMVs when it comes to keeping a team of international law experts on retainer for the length of time between Mr Smith launching his legal case – and its inevitable abandonment. Inevitable? Of course. The idea that the CEOs of those 100 companies will ever be brought before a criminal court for doing what their billions of customers and clients around the world demand of them is ludicrous.

That’s the nub of the problem, isn’t it. Those giant corporations would wither and die in just a few months if the peoples of the world unanimously agreed to stop purchasing their products and services. What could be simpler? Just throw away your lap-top and cellphone. Junk your car – and your ready-to-wear wardrobe. Leave the city you’re living in. Stop using electricity. Throw away your prescription medicines. Easy-peasy! Take away the demand, and rest assured, there will be no more supply.

Except, the demand for all those goods and services isn’t going anywhere – is it? In fact, it is set to grow, exponentially, as all the peoples on earth currently shut out of the Western lifestyle determinedly amass the wealth needed to acquire it. Now, the Mike Smiths of this world will undoubtedly urge the people of India and Brazil, and the poorest nations of Africa, to embrace their poverty as the surest means of saving the planet, but I would advise them to put on their running shoes before they start making their pitch.

There will be many who object that this is nothing but a crude exercise in victim blaming. Most people really do want to save the planet, but the relentless battering of journalists, advertisers, public relations consultants, lobbyists, corporate fixers, corrupt politicians – many of them on the payrolls of those 100 companies – keep us all running, like so many demented consumerist hamsters, on the great wheel of capitalism.

But, once again, all we have to do is stop. Except, we don’t stop – do we?

This civilisation we have built (we being the whole human species) is the most astonishingly wonderful thing homo sapiens has ever seen. We love it. We cannot imagine how awful life would be without it. And, we most certainly are not going to co-operate with anyone who advises us to throw it away.

We like our lap-tops and our cellphones. We like our cars and our cheap RTW clothes. We like living in vast, vibrant cities built out of concrete and steel. We like being able to flick a switch and get all the energy we can use. We like turning on a tap and being able to drink the water that comes out. We like it that there are hospitals and clinics full of clever doctors and nurses, and pharmacies full of clever drugs. And we don’t actually care if every last Polar Bear in creation is reduced to a pathetic heap of skin and bones – just so long as our super-civilisation, powered by its indispensable and irreplaceable (at least for the foreseeable future) fossil-fuels, keeps on a-rockin’.

So, much and all as Mr Smith might wish it were otherwise, Mr Seele and all the other CEOs of those miscreant 100 companies have nothing to fear from virtue-signalling activists. They know, just as the demolition man in Steinbeck’s novel knew, that there’s nobody to shoot.

Because the thing that is frying the planet – and all our futures – isn’t human. It’s a vast and impossibly complex economic machine, and it absolutely does not care what we think or say – only what we buy.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 14 March 2023.