Thursday, April 29, 2021

Kowtowing to censorious "stakeholders"

Oh, the irony.

The Featherston Booktown Festival, to be held on the weekend of May 6-9, will include a panel discussion on cancel culture, the anti-democratic phenomenon whereby ideas and opinions deemed heretical are silenced and suppressed to protect a small but noisy minority that claims to be harmed by them.

But oh, dear: the festival organisers have announced that they won’t be repeating a popular Harry Potter quiz, a feature of the last festival in 2019. The reason? The quiz might upset members of the so-called LGBT community, some of whom are offended by J K Rowling’s forthright opposition to the trans-gender lobby’s demands that trans people should be treated as authentic women, in denial of biological reality.

This is the point at which real life does its best to outdo satire. As Featherston resident Jenny Whyte succinctly observed, the cancellation of the Harry Potter quiz “encapsulates the whole madness of it [i.e. cancel culture] quite well”.

Booktown Festival chair Peter “Biggsy” Biggs, scrambling to rescue the event from this embarrassing controversy, insists it’s not correct to say that the abandonment of the quiz is an example of cancel culture. But his subsequent explanation confirms that’s exactly what it is.

According to Biggs, a “library stakeholder” suggested the festival was inviting trouble if it went ahead with the Harry Potter quiz. “We treasure the support of our stakeholders, fans and funders – so the Board of Trustees decided to seek feedback from a range of stakeholders, including the literary sector, the local Featherston community, Featherston Booktown fans and the LGBT community," Biggs said.

“In doing so, we weren’t driven by a desire to cancel anything, least of all suppress books and writers, but by a strong desire to hold one of the cornerstone brand values of Featherston Booktown – inclusivity. We are conscious that our audience and fan base are diverse and we want everyone to feel welcome and respected.”

And then the crunch: “We received strong and consistent feedback that including the HPQ Quiz [sic] could cause distress to some of our audience and fan base – particularly in the LGTB community. The result was the trustees took the unanimous view to go with another quiz alternative.”

Weasel words, I’m afraid. The trustees may not have been “driven by” a desire to cancel anything, but they did it anyway. The outcome is the same.

Here was a chance for the Featherston Booktown organisers to put a stake in the ground in defence of literary freedom and the right to free speech, and they wimped out by kowtowing to the censorious left-wing bigots and bullies who want to decide what the rest of us can see and hear. Shame on them.

The objections to the Harry Potter quiz reveal the vindictiveness with which woke extremists pursue people they disapprove of. The quiz was entirely unrelated to Rowling’s views on the trans-gender issue and was presumably intended as a light-hearted diversion for festival attendees. The Booktown trustees could have – should have – pointed that out to the Rowling-haters and politely told them to bugger off. But they didn’t, and the result is another grovelling capitulation to the enemies of free speech.

As an aside, who exactly are “stakeholders”? It’s a vague and opaque term that has troubled me for years. It seems to me that in most cases, "stakeholders" are people who assert the right to exercise influence over others without ever actually accepting responsibility or accountability for anything, still less putting up the money to make things happen. But they also serve the valuable purpose of providing an escape route (as in this case) for people wanting to justify potentially contentious decisions. They can always say they’re acting in the interests, or on the advice, of the stakeholders.

It should be noted, though, that “stakeholders” are typically an amorphous lot and largely anonymous, which makes them a handy means of avoiding transparency in matters of public interest.


David McLoughlin said...

I got an email from Biggsy about this today (oddly at 5.14am; he must have been up all night, poor guy) that appeared to be both apologising for and justifying this Cancellation. And then I read about it on Stuff.

Very sad.

And the irony is that the only LGTBQI++ person quoted by Stuff is Jenny White, a local Fdeatherston lesbian, who opposed Cancelling the quiz, and who you cite, Karl.

All over the world, lesbians and lesbian groups are fighting against this spurious "transgender rights" campaign that promotes the idea that any man who claims he is a woman can walk into lesbian safe spaces, claim he is a lesbian and have sex with them; and that it is transphobic to oppose their "right" to do that.

None of my transgender friends support that. One I had coffee with on Friday raged against Intersectionality and how it was causing havoc in society.

The promoters of this madness appear to be far-Left straight while males in universities.

Ricardo said...

The (excellent) Messines Military bookshop in Featherston holds many books on the Wehrmacht and the SS. There also works on English colonial wars, great massacres of spear-wielding natives against industrial weaponry, Stalin's purges and Japanese atrocities. There is something there to offend anyone and everyone if you look hard enough. Not many Harry Potter books though.

Don Franks said...

Good exposure of this latest capitulation to transactivist extremism. The time is coming when politicians will have to stand up and say where they stand on this pervasive new cult. Does the prime minister think humans are able to change their sex? I just disagree with you that there's anything left wing about appeasing this unscientific and anti democratic behaviour.

Karl du Fresne said...

Fair point, Don.

Odysseus said...

Here's an idea for Biggsy and the festival. How about a book burning? At night. In uniforms. We could start with JK Rowling and then move onto the whole Western canon, all the way back to Plato and Homer. This would completely express the zeitgeist of Jacinda's Aotearoa and enjoy wide and enthusiastic support. Joe Biden would likely send his best wishes. Think bigger Biggsy!

Charles said...

Next, will they cancel the cancel culture panel discussion?

Karl du Fresne said...

As indicated above, it was misleading and unfair of me to refer in my post to "censorious left-wing bigots and bullies". We use the terms "left-wing" and "right-wing" for convenience, but both are simplistic, ambiguous and often unhelpful. More pertinently, in the context of the debate over cancel culture, "left wing" is not an accurate representation of this mad new brand of politics, for which no satisfactory term has yet been coined ("woke" will just have to suffice until something better comes along).
Don Franks, a hard-core left-wing activist from way back, is right to protest at my use of the term to describe the zealots promoting cancel culture. Much as I would disagree with Don and others of his ilk on matters of politics and economics (and they with me), I don't recall old-school lefties (Chris Trotter is another) ever advocating the suppression of free speech. Credit to them for that.

Don Franks said...

Appreciate that Karl. It is a fact that some self styled leftists - and liberals - have, for reasons I don't understand, embraced this narcisstic new cult. I was banned from a union fb site for raising the issue and ordered not to discuss it on my Access radio programe. The issue urgently needs debate. New Zealand government departments now conflate sex with gender on official documents. Worse, young children are being told they were 'born in the wrong body' and should mutilate themselves before puberty.

Andy Espersen said...

Karl - Your post was not really “misleading and unfair”. Don Franks (a “hard-core left-wing activist from way back”) had a fair point - as freely admitted by you yesterday. Your article was a critical of woke-ism generally - and, as it happens, this specifically modern concept is overwhelmingly supported by “leftists”. But woke-ism isn’t actually a “leftist” concept in its classical meaning – is it?.

You are not at all obliged to withdraw unequivocally (grovelling?) your choice of words. In a general sense your choice of words are very apt.

Karl du Fresne said...

I felt my comment could have been read as a smear on all leftists, when some - like Don Franks and Chris Trotter - have taken forthright positions in defence of free speech, and in some instances even found themselves muzzled by wokery (Don Franks himself, for instance, as he reveals above, and the late Prof Jim Flynn).

Jan Rivers said...

Great article and thanks for the clarification about the censoriousness not being from the left in general
but rather from self-styled Gender ideologists and fear of being cancelled by them has also caused much of goverment and the media to cave on this issue. Don's points are particularly important - the root cause of these dubious and largely uncanvassed changes is also fear of people of the same ilk who have reined in the Featherstone bookfair.

The argument that J.K. Rowling is transphobic does not stand up to any kind of serious reading. She carefully prefaced her article on the topic of women's rights and the dangers of transitioning children with extensive reassurance of her understanding and goodwill on these points. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that to speak of women's sex based rights or of concerns that self-diagnosis of being transgender might lead to over-diagnosis is in and of itself an assault on the LGBTI community. It is not!

Brendan McNeill said...

Sadly, just another event excluded in the name of inclusion.

How entirely unsurprising that a publicly funded library 'stakeholder' first raised concerns about the event. I have observed the way public libraries enthusiastically support Gay Pride Month with multi-coloured bunting, and children's books like "Heather has two Mummies" prominantly on display. Yet, when it comes to (say) Easter, the most important annual event in the Christian calendar, it is completely ignored.

Excluded no doubt in the name of inclusion.

As an older New Zealander, it seems to me that all of our institutions have gradually become ideologically colonised. You cannot visit a library, or attend a book festival, or even a corporate entity without someone ensuring the proper 'messaging' is taking place, that the appropriate groupthink is valorised. All of which to say we have lost something deeply important from our national discourse - a genuine respect for diversity of opinion, and a tolerance that is not merely a simile of conformity.

Andy Espersen said...

Well put, Brendan McNeill. This may, however, be just a passing stage. You wait another 20 years (no, neither can I!!!).

hughvane said...

Garrick Tremain - whom I urge responders to investigate - portrays in one of his cartoons the term 'woke' (aaaagh!) as part of the woke-abulary of the sanctimoniously enlightened (my words).

Nevil Gibson said...

The conflation of stakeholders with, say, shareholders is common and misleading. Just last night 1 News used both words as synonyms (one in the reporter's words and the other in the captions) in a report on the Rugby Union and Silver Lake. The implication was that the players had equal standing with the member unions, who are essentially the shareholders, while the players are stakeholders.

Johno said...

Very fair minded, Kari. However among all the woke intersectionalist TERF hating radicals I wager you will not find one single ACT or National voter. It is a domain of the left. Even though most lefties don't support this particular insanity it is a left wing faction.

Johnston said...

The Helen Clark Foundation / Aspen Institute;
The Workshop NZ;
The Law Foundation.

These were the names of the organisations providing the hate speech research that former director of ActionStation, Laura O'Connell Rapira, rattled off when making her lonely submission on the need for hate speech laws:

Every one of those organisations was funded by the same interest: Pierre Omidyar, who owns the proprietary AI algorithms (already used by Facebook, Newsguard, etc) and funds a fusion centre which he hopes will be responsible for "fact checking" all online content.

I find the above disturbing considering that Pierre Omidyar used his lobbying firm Luminate to get the Digital Council elected to advise the government on its digital policy, and because of his grants to Stuff journalists via the Trust Project. I think most of the staff received them, starting with Tracey Watkins when she was political editor? And I see that RadioNZ might be involved, too?

By the way, RNZ, it's not "Trust in Media" but the Trust Project. Here's something about it here:

And something about the bailout Ben Scott from Luminate arranged in Canada:

Did Scott, when he was out here via PhilanthropyNZ, attempt to arrange a similar media bailout here? Given the Canadian one was secret, and also lead to "Local Democracy Reporting", but was only found out about because of a leak, we might wonder whether something similar happened in NZ.

Former Minister for Open Government - or is that Minister for the Open Government Partnership, and Cpen Citizens - Claire Curren was up to something with those secret media meets...

Funding the tech sector, media, activist groups, active censorship... and not a word about it in the press.

The FBI's COINTELPROERS would be proud.

Note, Omidyar also funded along with USAID a far right rebellion in Ukraine in 2014:

Why these efforts, very targeted and fairly recent from the World Bank's leader partner on Digital ID? Why fund the "right to self-ID" groups (which he has done) when you are interested in Digital ID? What's the connection?

I saw Sean Plunket raise it ages ago but things are well advanced since then... what's going on?

Hilary Taylor said...

Queer as all get out! If I had been going to attend this event the organisers have burned off this 'stakeholder'! Can't for the life of me understand where these earnest appeasers get off with letting a few loudmouths run their show. God's sakes, locate thine spines!

Karl du Fresne said...

Phew. There's a lot to digest here. I don't know who you are (obviously)and I don't know how credible this material is; in fact I hadn't even consciously heard of Pierre Omidyar, though perhaps I should have. In running your comment, I'm not implying endorsement. I'll leave it to the discerning readers of this blog (tautology!) to follow up your leads if they so choose.

Johnston said...



The Americans are still extremely interventionist in New Zealand, they have just been very clever about it and people haven't really picked up on it. You've got to give it to them, it's been brilliantly arranged. Another major stakeholder with a lot of influence who is close to the tech oligarch above and who has also been flying under the radar is Grant Robertson's mate John Podesta.

John Podesta or the system he is a part of loads activists via into the training and mentoring system of Originally, there was to be a Centre for New Zealand Progress, but in the end the usual suspects went with a slightly different arrangement that was less obviously linked to the Centre for American Progress:

The head of every activist organisation and its key staff in New Zealand are all fellows. Most of their career opportunities have arisen from their participation in this network. It's left capture, it's been very successful and it's unknown to the public and even highly political commentators. And it's only one part of the US's influence and in some cases interference strategy here, which is largely covert. I suppose when people are screaming in your face that Pakeha are white supremacists and waving communist flags you don't think to check whether they are tied up with r funded by the US State Department or the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) or their common funding partners, who are typically rewarded for their philanthropy by being awarded government contracts and otherwise a strong often tech foothold here.

Look over the names on page 20 of this report and if you follow progressive advocacy or their efforts via the newspapers you will recognise a lot of names:

I think this is significant, because a closely related organisation, ActionStation, which is part of a network called that is run by former Obama staffer Ben Brandzel, was a registered third-party lobbyist for their last two general elections. Former director Laura O'Connell Rapira for the last one, and the Digital Council's / Workshop's Marianne Elliott, then ActionStation director, for the last one.

All of ActionStation's staff have been through CAP. Most were trained in Australia, but key leaders were given internships and jobs with sister organisations in the United States.

At these CAP meetings Ihumatao was discussed as a political wedge issue that would help to advance the UN SDGs, including indigenous goals to some extent aimed at returning land to their control. Key ActionStationers and others were at those and other related progressive organisation meetings. Grant Robertson was at a few. Amnesty International's "independent observer" Meg De Ronde, who is also an Australian Progress fellow, was at meetings. Both orgs are part of the Climate Action Network:

Why should we care? Because we are increasingly being told about recommendations by people the public are not even aware of. The course of New Zealand law and society is being decided on by committees and then put to a vote by a surprised and ill-informed public. Perversely, given all the talk about representation, there is less and less direct democracy. We are being told to sign off on decisions we were never told about, and given a small range of choices that don't reflect genuine public input. The legislative program is decided on for us, and then the people who decided on that course turn up to submit to select committees on what they have already decided for us. And throughout all that, they lie through their teeth, I say, or Stalin was an independent observer of Lenin.

Johnston said...


I went looking for links between digital identity and Self-ID a while back. It was fascinating. The two areas seemed to be first conflated by Sarah Mirk when at Bitch Media (US) after receiving a targeted grant by Pierre Omidyar. She then went on to head his publication "the Nib". In New Zealand, the self-ID campaigns were arranged by ActionStation staffers and people from related organisations, outwardly leftwing organisations, often staffed by flag waving communists and ethnic separatists recruited through left wing student groups, unions and radial socialist orgs. I am not suggesting that all of this activity has been generated in order to push digital ID or conflate it with a human rights issue. But, strategically in respect of the aforementioned tech interests, it is interesting that those who march in favour of self-ID demand the right to chose how they are ID'd, with nobody putting up their hand - and certainly not one of the signs prepared by one of the well-paid former anarchist and communists who work in corporate behaviour change "activism" - to demand we not be ID'd at all.

I consider that the public should know about these efforts, which are presented as grassroots in the press. This is what Chomsky called "Manufacturing Consent". The public displays and marches, as superficially reported on in the press, could give one the impression that there is much greater desire for these measures than there actually is. Committees of a diverse range of handpicked communists of different shapes and colours, sexual preference and religion, might give one a similar impression. Who else has stood in the voting booth and thought: just a minute. "What do my countrymen want, if I put my own interests aside for a moment"? And we can only go on what the press and officials tell us. And they are clearly not telling us the whole story. I fear it may become more and more difficult to make that story known as critical journalists who raise questions about the above are targeted and as money continues to flow into new organisations and to journalists through cutouts like the Trust Project.

Karl du Fresne said...

Explanatory note: "Self-ID" refers to the supposed right to choose one's own gender/sex (for example, on official documents), regardless of biological sex at birth. This is currently in the legislative pipeline - in fact has been described by Internal Affairs Minister Jan Tinetti as a priority this year. If the law change goes through, a statutory declaration will be all that's required to change from male to female or vice-versa. In the brave new world being fashioned by the current government, nothing is immutable.

Johnston said...

What happened to Part 2? Maybe my fault.

Digital ID, if you look at the plans of those funding its promotion and use in New Zealand, will include medical records. Such a centralised digitised database is being prepared. Whether you are male and female will be a matter of opinion to anyone with access to your records. Insurance companies are pushing hard for access, and even want to incorporate your Google search history into their assessments of your liabilities. Banking services, everything, is intended to be linked to your Digital ID, which will likely be #GoodID seeing as the person behind #GoodID controls both the World Bank and to a lesser extent the UN's digital ID programs (which are incorporated into the roll out of the SDGs).

Karl du Fresne said...

I wondered about Pt 2 too. I presume that's what you submitted at 2.53.

Andy Espersen said...

Thank you, "unknown", for going to the trouble of coming out with all that information of the funding of activists ("manufacturing consent")- which I certainly never thought about. In my naivety I believed they were all driven by honest idealism only.

Andy Espersen said...

Immensely relevant to all this is FREE SPEECH. Please may I use this platform to advise you all that for various, excellent reasons our NZ Free Speech Coalition has now changed and will be listed as NZ Free Speech Union.

What a great initiative.

Ricardo said...

Just listened to the Panel on National Radio with Wallace Chapman talking about the cancelled Harry Potter quiz at Featherston. It was more than Orwellian, it was truly black is now white... some organiser denied it was an exercise in cancellation but rather a mere selection of what events to host. More incredibly the panelists all murmured in agreement. I urge people to listen to it. Historical rewriting in action before our very eyes.

hughvane said...

@ Unknown - Anyone for 666?