Friday, March 22, 2019

So now we know: we're a nation of racists and Islamophobes

(First published in The Dominion Post and on, March 21.)

You may have thought, as I did, that the Christchurch shootings were the act of a lone-wolf fanatic.
You may have thought, as I did, that no one saw it coming,

You may have thought, as I did, that New Zealand reacted with a genuine and overwhelming outpouring of shock, grief and anguish.
You may have thought that thousands showed their solidarity with Christchurch Muslims by attending public vigils, spontaneously setting up tribute sites and donating millions to a Givealittle appeal.

You may have thought that the Christchurch Muslim community, which could have been forgiven for withdrawing into itself, responded to the calamity with a remarkable spirit of openness, inclusivity and forgiveness.
You may have thought that our own shock was mirrored by that of the outside world, which was aghast that such terrible things could happen in a country viewed internationally as peaceful, tolerant and respectful toward minority groups.

Well, it seems we all got it wrong. Because in the days following the shootings, an alternative narrative emerged.
According to this alternative narrative, we are a hateful nation of racists, white supremacists and Islamophobes.

Not only that, but the massacre was no surprise. A sudden outburst of violent race hatred was bound to happen. Rather like the cataclysmic earthquake we are constantly warned to be prepared for, it was not a question of if, but when.
It was, we were told, the inevitable outcome of a society which condones hate speech.

The former narrative, the one most of us never thought to challenge, was the dominant one in the mainstream media, but the alternative version – let’s call it the “We told you so” version - gained a lot of traction on the online comment platforms favoured by the commentariat.
It’s a narrative of self-loathing that wants us to think the worst of ourselves. It’s a narrative that shamelessly seeks to politicise the killings and create a moral panic in the hope not only that we’ll tighten the gun ownership laws – no arguments there – but far more ominously, that we might be persuaded to discard such democratic niceties as freedom of speech.

We were told, for example, that Islamophobia is “deeply embedded in our society”. That comment came from former Green MP and lifelong sanctimonious far-Left finger-wagger Keith Locke, who quoted former Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy as saying that every Muslim woman she knew had faced racist abuse.
We were told that Muslims in New Zealand wouldn’t be safe until we had tough new laws governing “hate speech”, however that might be defined. We were urged to dispense with old-fashioned democratic notions of free speech and balanced debates.

According to this argument, some views are so self-obviously correct that no one should be allowed to challenge them and others are so self-obviously contemptible that they must be prohibited.  It worries me deeply that I frequently hear this line even from journalists, who should be the first to defend the barricades when freedom of speech is at risk.
We were told too that the Islamic Women’s Council had been trying for years to alert the government to the existence of extreme racists and Islamophobes in New Zealand.

But I found it hard to reconcile that statement with the interview I heard on the BBC with a Muslim woman from Christchurch who said she and her family came to New Zealand because it was safe. She told BBC correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes she had never felt threatened here.
This leaves me wondering exactly who the Islamic Women’s Council represents and what its agenda might be. None of the Muslims I saw and heard being interviewed in the painful days following the shootings expressed even a faint hint of recrimination. None blamed their adopted country or mentioned Islamophobia.

On the contrary, they gave the impression of cherishing their lives here and seemed as perplexed as the rest of us by the violence – which, we need to keep reminding ourselves, was perpetrated by a non-New Zealander.
Obviously, people like Keith Locke weren’t listening. Or perhaps they ignore anything that doesn’t align with their preferred narrative of a divided, oppressive society.

Yes, it’s deplorable that Muslim women are sometimes abused. But who should we allow to serve as the model that dictates the agenda: a few misanthropic cranks who haven’t yet got their heads around the new multicultural New Zealand, or the countless thousands of New Zealanders who attended vigils, donated money or quietly grieved at home for fellow citizens who happen to be Muslim?
Call me a Pollyanna, but the latter group says a lot more to me about the sort of society New Zealand is than isolated instances of abuse in shopping malls.


David said...

According to this argument, some views are so self-obviously correct that no one should be allowed to challenge them and others are so self-obviously contemptible that they must be prohibited. It worries me deeply that I frequently hear this line even from journalists

Many journalists seem to be at the forefront of opposition to freedom of speech. As a former very senior journalist, I joined the Kiwi Journalists Association FB page some years back thinking it would be a place to debate media issues with peers and former colleagues. How I was mistaken!

KJA was then and is still now a hive of trenchant opposition to freedom of speech and full of promoters of the One True View. My attempts to engage by supporting the need for the media to report the news not just the (correct) views were met with increasing outrage and threats to ban me. These threats were made regularly in public and in private emails to me by the very doyens of NZ journalism including a former very senior newspaper editor I had once worked for and in whose paper I had written years of award-winning front page leads sparked by my curiosity to tell stories and report facts, however unpleasant.

Finally, when I objected in a post to the group to the repeated put-down by the (woman) chief censor of KJA of journalists of my generation as "pale male and stale", the head of a university journalism school not only banned me, but set the group's FB settings to try to prevent me even seeing the group. I promptly sent him a screen-shot of his boastful handiwork just to prove I was still able to see KJA. And to enrage him, of course.

Of course, while they can stop me posting to their echo chamber, they couldn't prevent my instant work-around to ensure I could keep reading, which I have continued to do since in growing horror.

Not only have the 2900 members of KJA (who includes almost every current working journalist plus many well-known former ones) sided almost to a person with wanting Brenton Tarrant treated like some Voldemort and never named, they have been criticising those media who dare to use his name, as well as suggesting other out-people whose names should also be banned. There is currently a campaign there to suppress Brian Tamaki, and criticism of media that mentioned his name in stories today.

In response to the latter, one daring soul noted "slippery slope." But he has probably been banned by now too.

This chilling journalism attitude goes well beyond New Zealand. I read widely around the world and see journalists in many western-style countries also promoting the One True View and opposing freedom of speech for views they oppose. The Christchurch atrocity has been welcomed joyously as it has provided avenues to demand the closing down of more viewpoints, people and platforms than I can keep track of. Around the world, fellow journalists are blaming their "right wing media commentator" and "right wing media outlet" of choice for personally inciting Tarrant. Not only that, but the Guardian for example even claimed Tarrant's rampage was symptomatic of people who question the Global Warming cult. Even Chelsea Clinton was personally blamed for Tarrant; I had never thought for a moment she was some right-wing ideologue but then nothing should surprise me any more.

Enjoy your day. I am now off to meet friends for the Call to Prayer and Two Minutes' Silence which is just 30 minutes away now.

Damien Grover said...

Hi Karl. I was on the bank at Lancaster Park in 1992 when NZ was playing England in a one day match. It was the match where Chris Lewis hit John Wright in the head with a bouncer. It was pretty much a full house, and the bank was chanting "Lewis is a black c**t". At other times it was chanting "Botham is a fat c**t" - so all the abuse wasn't directed at Lewis. But there were probably 12-15,000 people on that bank, and they were bank chants - mostly everyone seemed to be in on them.

I don't know - draw your own conclusions. I reckon a lot of the time a lot of us are pretty racist. I'd like to think as a society we are getting better... but geez - are we?

regards, Damien Grover

pdm said...

Excellent Karl - I could not have said it better myself.

Karl du Fresne said...

I'm not sure that a crowd of cricket yobbos on the bank at Lancaster Park represents the mainstream. I certainly hope not. How seriously should we take these imbecilic chants? I'm not sure. To me, racism is the belief that some races are inherently superior (or inferior) to others and that discriminatory treatment is therefore justified. Does chanting "Lewis is a black c**t" constitute serious and malicious racism, or was this a case of hormonal, immature young men indulging in an act of bravado because they enjoyed the safety of the herd? I hope it was no more than that.
I don't deny there is casual racism in New Zealand, but like you I think it's less common now than 27 years ago. As I said I on Sean Plunket's radio show today, there are racists in New Zealand and always have been. Does that make us a racist society? I don't believe so, and I think New Zealand's reaction to the Christchurch massacres bears that out.

Karl du Fresne said...

As you say, chilling. I fled the KJA site years ago for the same reasons you mention. Journalism has largely been captured by the censorious left and sadly the takeover has been made easier by the deafening silence of journalists who know it's wrong but have remained silent.

Michael Wynd said...


Thanks for this. Some things do bother me about the coverage and the media:

- it was odd that the messages written on the weapons and clearly displayed on one of the magazines photographed relating to Manchester and Rotherham were ignored as it may affect the narrative.
- were the hakas appropriate at all? It's getting ridiculous.
- I was over the moral preening, sanctimony within 24 hours. I have worked to avoid all mainstream media since.
- it seems to me Jacinda’s style of ”seeming” is perfect for this situation, but the lack of substance will tell soon.

I am hoping that this mood for vilification and de-platforming by the media class will lead them to overplay their hand and we can return to normal.

Hilary Taylor said...

Excellent piece again, and the comments too. Shocked but unsurprised at David's comment. Shocked AND surprised at Unknown's. Wow. But yeah, what Karl said in reply...herd-mentality, beer, blokes, I dunno. Are we all racists? What's new about people being a bit 'sus' about 'others''s the way of the world. Look at the man-on-the-street outpouring of Kind since last Fri. That counts.

Some of my AK friends expressed relief when I said pretty much what Michael has said..the relentless sanctimony wore very thin and exposed how unhealed my ChCh post-quakes scabs actually are...turned it all off on Sunday and retreated to 'Concert'! Those friends had wondered if they were heartless beasts when reacting similarly.

As far as the threats to free speech we go again as Dolly Parton said.

wah pedal said...

Well said. let's not let over zealous leftists use this to take away free speech or to attempt to use guilt by association to shame us as a nation.

khrust said...

Thanks Karl for setting the record straight. As you say, a significant number of the mainstream media opinion pieces published following the Christchurch shooting have been ideologically-driven rants which brand many NZers white supremacists and racists. They follow that up with calls for government censorship of so-called "hate" speech (however that is defined). In my opinion, the authors of these pieces have seriously disrespected the Muslim people of this country at a tragic time by immediately using the event to further their own political agenda. Where is the solidarity and compassion in that? As you and David (comment above) have spelled out very nicely, it has become the norm in the msm to subscribe to this hard-left view, but not content with that they have drafted in notable far-left others to their cause such as Dame Anne Salmond. The authoritarian tone of these commentaries is actually quite frightening and displays the very labelling and intolerance that they rail against so vociferously. Perhaps most ironic of all is the fact that Brenton Tarrant's extremism seems to be a reaction against cultural Marxism, the very philosophical condition most msm journalists are mired in. The reason I say this is that rare thing in the msm, something insightful and which has the ring of truth. An article on the NZ Herald website on 20 March entitled "Christchurch mosque shootings: What's fuelling the rise of far-right terrorism?" It was authored by Peter Neumann, Professor of security studies at King's College London and founding director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation. He clearly knows a thing or two about the mindset of extremists and terrorists. The article is well worth reading in full but to recap some salient points here;
1) Neumann appears to classify Tarrant as an "identitarian". The Identitarian movement is not openly racist and expresses its ideology in cultural and civilisational terms instead. I quote "According to identitarians, the enemy within is culturally Marxist elites who have systematically pursued the replacement of white European populations through mass migration." Note also, Tarrant himself claims that Candace Owens, a controversial, black Trump-supporter, inspired him. Not what you would expect from someone widely classified as an extreme racist.
2) Neumann also states "Instead of white supremacism, for example, identitarians talk about ethno-pluralism ...."
From all this it seems that one branch of far-right extremism has radically shifted ground. As predicted by many people, right-wing nationalist identity politics has arisen from marginalisation of people by the excesses of the postmodern, marxist left. Thus, is it any wonder that most of our mainstream journalists, they who largely embrace far-left ideology, can't wait to obsfucate the issue by claiming it is about simple racism and white supremacy while simultaneously attempting to shut down debate through "hate speech" censorship. The political polarisation they have induced played a big hand leading to this tragic event.

Philob said...

I read your article with relief Karl. An island of fact and reason in the swamp.
The Left are obsessed with racism (as part of their hierarchy of the Oppressed), and they should be criticized for this.
It is normal for people when dealing with strangers, to prefer to deal with those who are like them - in age group, religion, neighborhood, race nationality and other characteristics. They are more predictable and there is less likelihood of things going awry.
I think that real racism is institutional and legal. Sometimes a public institution like, say a police force may find that it is 99% white and Maori, but their district is much more mixed. That is they don't reflect their community. There may be good reasons for this - eg many recent migrants. But you would expect the district commander to have an eye on this.
I note Peter Neumann's comments above. They make sense to me. I think that "White" is often used as a shorthand way of referring to Anglo-Saxon culture.

Trev1 said...

Karl, you are a shining beacon of reason against a darkening sky. The media clearly have their own political agenda and cannot be trusted anymore. I despair of the future of this country.

unaha-closp said...

The thing about NZ is our Left-wing has (almost uniquely in the Western world) been more anti-immigration than the Right. If the notions of anti-hate-speech held by the global Left are applied in NZ, our local Left-wing journalists get caned.

Unknown said...

I was at the same game and chanting with the crowd. I was chanting 'Lewis is a wanker" along with everyone around me. Get your ears checked.

hughvane said...

What disturbs me most about the current trend of mass hysteria and paranoia over a number of topics is not just firearms, or the plethora of obsessions of NZ’s Precious Petals and Sensitive Snowflakes about alleged ‘ists’ or ‘isms’ - though not including realism or realist - but the willing collusion amongst print and broadcast media to publish and/or report them (including the rubbish spouted by Keith Locke). I simply do not know how the axles and wheels of the bandwagons are able to support the numbers of media people jumping upon them.

Some time ago I asked you to write a short piece, essay if you will, about what you believe is genuine journalism. It was your prerogative to do, or not. At the time I said what we’re now fed upon, be it new or regurgitated, is ‘opinionism,’ constructed by opinionists - I will never grace them with the term journalists - who write/prepare with a predetermined personal or policy agenda, possibly under instruction from editors.

I now add the loathsome practice of dramatic and sensational story-building, often resembling the style of complete fiction, with opening lines that would challenge cheap paperback thrillers, but ‘based on fact’, often loosely. That is neither reporting nor journalism.

Damien Grover said...

Unknown of 26 March - yep I remember the Lewis is a Wanker chant too. Maybe you'd gone out the back for a smoke or something when the Lewis is a Black C**t chant was on and missed it

cheers, Damien