Monday, February 14, 2022

The fascinating new fault line in New Zealand politics

Some further thoughts on Camp Molesworth:

■ A fascinating political and sociological fault line has opened up – one that defies the normal understanding of New Zealand’s political dynamics. People at the bottom of the heap, as political scientist Bryce Edwards describes them – many of them working-class and provincial, with no formal organisational structure – have risen up in defiance of the all-powerful political class, the urban elites who are accustomed to calling the shots and controlling political discourse. I would guess most of the protesters outside Parliament have not previously been politically active and may not feel allegiance to any particular party. They appear to be angry about a number of things.  Covid-19 and the vaccination mandate galvanised them into action, but it’s possible there are deeper, less easily articulated grievances – such as perceptions of powerlessness and exclusion – simmering beneath the surface.

■ Most commentators in the mainstream media are framing the occupation of the parliamentary lawn as being orchestrated by sinister right-wing extremists, and therefore devoid of any legitimacy. How paper-thin their tolerance of the right to dissent has proved to be. The clear implication (where it’s not explicitly stated) is that the occupation is not a legitimate expression of the right to protest by sincerely motivated New Zealanders who present no threat to anyone, but an alarming phenomenon driven by alt-right agitators with an ulterior agenda. But there’s a very marked discrepancy between reports from people who have actually been on the ground at Molesworth St, who generally describe the event as peaceful and good-natured, and those who make judgments from afar and take refuge in simplistic stereotypes about the type of people who are protesting.  This was starkly encapsulated on Morning Report this morning when Bryce Edwards (who has been at Parliament) and Morgan Godfery (who hasn’t) presented strikingly different perspectives.

■ Do I detect a gradual change in the overall tone of media coverage? As more journalists and commentators take the trouble to familiarise themselves with the protesters’ concerns, so the tone is becoming more sympathetic, although most commentators are still careful to distance themselves from the anti-vaccination message and the tactics of the more extreme protesters. My own ground has shifted somewhat, as readers of this blog may deduce, as we've learned more about the nature of the protest action (and also learned to disregard some of the more hysterical media accounts). It would be no surprise if the attitude of the country gradually shifts too, from one of impatience and condemnation to understanding and tolerance. Trevor Mallard’s spectacularly childish, cack-handed and ineffectual attempts to drive out the protesters will very likely have helped bring about a national mood shift. Needless to say, it would also help if protest leaders (whoever they are, assuming they exist) could rein in the few wild-eyed extremists whose antics enable the pro-government media - apologies for the tautology - to discredit the event. But good luck with that, as they say.  

■ Jacinda Ardern displays a telling lack of empathy, one that’s strikingly at odds with her supposed embrace of inclusiveness, when she tries to discredit the protest by suggesting, apparently on the basis of a few Donald Trump and Canadian flags, that the idea was imported from North America, as if none of the protesters at Parliament are capable of thinking for themselves. A more valid comparison might be with les gilets jaunes, who rocked the French political establishment in 2018 in protests that predated Covid-19 by more than a year.

■ I get the distinct impression that politicians from all the parties in Parliament, even ACT, feel threatened by this sudden gesture of assertiveness by the great unwashed and don’t know how to handle it. MPs have done themselves no favours by refusing to engage with the protesters. For one thing, it looks cowardly; for another, it reinforces the perception that the politicians prefer to remain isolated in their bubble rather than sully themselves by talking to a bunch of scruffs who dared to challenge the political consensus. Unusually, this protest is a rebuke to the entire political establishment, which the politicians probably find unsettling because it's outside their realm of experience.  But they need to get off their high horse; the people standing in the mud outside Parliament are New Zealanders, after all.

■ The protest has brought to the surface a level of intellectual and class snobbery that is normally kept carefully concealed. I’ve already referred to Lloyd Jones’ savage putdown in which he basically characterised the protesters as ignorant bumpkins who don’t know their place. Yesterday, Stuff’s Andrea Vance exhibited the same admirable broadmindedness when she, like Jones, sniffily dismissed the protesters as a rabble. But the commentator who most carelessly dropped his guard, unblushingly revealing himself as a closet totalitarian, is the veteran leftist and supposed champion of free speech Chris Trotter, who condemned the police for not getting tough enough with the demonstrators – and who, by so doing, confirmed that at heart he remains a believer in the brute power of the state. When he was subsequently called out by blogger Steven Cowan, a frothing Trotter went even further, denouncing the protesters as a “dangerous collection of angry and deluded lumpenproletarians”. Well, I guess we should be grateful to this friend of the working class for letting us know where he really stands.



Scott said...

Thanks Karl for your balanced thoughts. I would join the protest myself once my schedule frees up.
It seems there is the elite class of politicians and public servants and journalists who have had it pretty good over the lockdown and haven't lost their jobs.
Whereas here in the Wairarapa I know nurses who have lost their job, midwives who have lost their jobs, Cafe owners who are losing business because they don't want to sack unvaccinated staff.
The elites are OK because they can work in their pyjamas on Zoom. Working people don't have that luxury. It's a shame this government has created a new class of lepers, the unvaxxed.
Isn't it time we got rid of the mandate anyway? With 90% vaxxed what purpose does it serve?

Unknown said...

I am hugely relieved to see this protest. I was beginning to think that we had all been beaten into a corner by the continual covid stream of "experts" and the absolute hammering of any differing views, without regard to their validity. To see this large group standing up through the awful weather as well as the extraordinary antics of Mallard as Speaker is a sign that we have not all turned into blindly compliant lambs.
It is very telling that this was started by the truck owning fraternity and not some type of elite personalities, more so as there don't seem to be any individual leaders showing out. I am a bit amused that this phenomenon is frustrating police, politicians, news media, and with great respect, even yourself. It may be why this movement succeeds as we have not really been well served by charismatic leaders in our immediate past.
Decent, normal, proper Kiwis who go quietly about their lives appear to have had enough of out-of-touch theoreticians and a truly dreadful news media. I fervently hope their numbers are considerable so that we may reconstruct a decent way of living again.

Orinoco Jones said...

Like everyone else outside Wellington I though this was an anti-vax thing at first. Now I know it's a general anti-government pile-on I'm feeling much more supportive. I'm actually thinking of going to add my voice to those opposing thee waters and the damage done to our media, and taking my son so he can see a bit of democracy in action. The fact that they are disorganised and lack any clear message just shows how many people this government has enraged.

Terry M said...

Pleased to see that your ground has shifted.I have to admit to being a little surprised by your comments after your visit last week. Almost as if you got a little downwind of the Beehive and inhaled some contaminated atmosphere. Welcome back.

Trev1 said...

What we are now witnessing in Parliament's grounds is the emergence of an authentic working class movement which includes many Maori and which is outside Labour's control. This explains the mix of venom and contempt directed at the protestors by establishment Left Wing commentators, as well as laughable attempts to smear them as right wing extremists. Remember, these people have been the victims of a campaign of coercion to accept a medical procedure they reject, in contravention of international human rights law. The tragedy is alternatives such as rapid testing exist, but the government for reasons that still elude me has failed to deliver despite a chorus of calls since September 2020.

Quentin Jamieson said...

Excellent overview of recent events. Thank you for this article, I would love to see it submitted to wider media.

Andy Espersen said...

What a fascinating, clear-sighted expose’ of the Camp Molesworth situation, Karl. Thank you for that.

And I think all this will become much clearer very soon. As it happens, the opposition against vaccine-mandates is now obviously spreading all over the world – Jacinda Ardern will simply be forced to rethink Government’s whole Covid policy, including vaccine passports and the ludicrous, non-functioning traffic-light system.

I heard a suggestion on ninetonoon this morning that police should simply pick out the few unruly, misbehaving individuals among the protestors and deal with them in court individually. I am all for that – and cannot understand why that is deemed difficult. But you cannot ever remove peaceful protesters from Parliament’s lawns, even if they stay there by the hundreds for years

Madame Blavatsky said...

These political, academic and media "elites" of ours, and their counterparts across the world, are in denial of objective and are rightly ashamed that they have been unmasked as the shameless aiders, abettors and grifters of a political class and their controlling special interests. Hence the circling of the wagons. Their fundamental role is to perpetuate a carefully constructed alternate reality that serves particular powerful special interests, distorting reality and creating "ways of seeing" the world, cynically expecting their "inferiors" to believe without question. If they weren't so intellectually bankrupt, hopelessly compromised and without any moral leg to stand on, I'd be offended by their inane utterances and condemnations directed at those who have the temerity to think critically and reject their absurd output. But they've now been found out by the wider public, and it has taken these events to expose this fact. A social schism has formed? More like a chasm, I'd suggest. I don't see a situation where this group maintains its status. The toothpaste cannot be put back in the tube, so to speak.

The propagandists in the media seriously expect people to believe that these protests in particular, and participants in the worldwide dissenting movements in general, are "far-right/neo-Nazi/misogynist/insurrectionists." One rolls ones eyes when these hackneyed rhetorical devices are rolled-out ad nauseam. Through over-deployment, they have lost all meaning.

The lazy and casual use of these epithets is very handy in lieu of any cogent argument against the motivating arguments of the rising wave of rebellion. Obfuscating the identities and motivations of the participants allows the arguments they are making against coerced vaccination to be ignored – a common rhetorical tactic when one has a very weak argument, or none at all. You'd think these "Big Brains" would be able to come up with some counterargument and justifications for their rights-removing, human dignity-denying Covid policies. But you'd clearly be wrong to think that.

The game is up for these self-appointed political taste-makers and arbiters of acceptable opinion. People are tired of being condescended to and taken as fools by this cabal of smugly self-congratulating luvvies, who hover around the halls of power hoping some crumbs of influence will be tossed in their direction. Mediocrity and obedience are the foremost qualities of the job description. It has been noted and will be remembered what side of history these people have been, and still are, on. What has been done and said, and which positions have been advocated and by whom, cannot be expunged from the record.

The vaccine mandate and vaccine passports (i.e. nascent digital social ID) have broken the camel's back and catalysed a revolt of sorts. While the economic status and "class" of the protestors is wholly irrelevant, I contradict the lazy caricature as a well-paid professional who took all of about 2 weeks in 2020 to see through this Covid charade. A "deluded nutter" I am certainly not. In fact, the more intelligent and critically-thinking one is, the more likely one is able to perceive the ruse. Many of my esteemed colleagues fully agree with me (in fact, you'd be amazed how many and to what extent), but you would never know this if you limited yourself to the carefully curated and on-message pronouncements and "analysis" routinely offered-up by the chattering classes.

Sam Hill said...

Well said, Karl.

I had some of my own thoughts published today.

Take a look:

Unknown said...

See this from The Platform

Remember Woke = sacrilisation of traditionally oppressed minorities and cursed state of ethnic majorities.

Note how meetings start with a karakia.

The new sermonising journalists are not as popular as they imagine. A Reuters study in 2021 that surveyed people in the US, Britain, Germany and Brazil found that most people want newsrooms to deliver impartial factual reporting and to reflect a range of views when covering social and political issues. They want to form their own opinions about issues, uninfluenced by the views of journalists. They prefer to get opinions elsewhere such as in social media, podcasts and editorial pages.

The woke see themselves as cutting-edge, but they are engaged in old fashioned elitism. Their fixation on identity rather than class serves the elite. The fact that around two-thirds of the poor in New Zealand are Pākehā doesn’t fit with the white privilege narrative. We saw this with vaccination rates. More Pākehā than Māori were not vaccinated but the media chorus on low Māori rates was deafening. There is much common ground between working class Pākehā and Māori but the identity narrative ignores this in favour of division.

hughvane said...

What impresses and, dare I say it, gladdens me, is the authenticity and legitimacy of the protest now being recognised. Forget what is a largely pariah media, they will continue to interview their keyboards, but their toxicity is, I believe, being shunned or ignored.

Anna Mouse said...

Madame Blavatsky, an intellegent summary of the situation. It is always good to know that there are still sane people in the world. I too saw through the cloak that covid provided this so called government.

Unknown said...

Madame Blavatsky said...
These political, academic and media "elites" of ours, and their counterparts across the world, are in denial of objective and are rightly ashamed that they have been unmasked as the shameless aiders, abettors and grifters of a political class and their controlling special interests.

tonybridge said...

I ever there was a time for a man of the people, like Jim Anderton, it is now. Thinking that TOP might be a direction in which to head, I wrote to them, asking for their position.
Stone cold silence. Stony silence.
I am just waiting for the Old Silver Fox himself to jump back in the ring.

Hilary Taylor said...

Yes, yes, yes. My instincts exactly. Wow..Trotter!!! I emailed the Nats to say rabbles are people too, voters, but that clearly Lab & Nats decided to collude, so as not to turn off the voting ground they fight over...they're versions of the same beast. To hell with the little people. Well, with the modern comms we no longer have to rely on the MSM...with that comes liberty, and the ability to see more clearly now...thanks JimmyCliff. I support them 100% and have donated. Thoroughly enjoying this particular 'groundswell and long may they rain down on the padded polies & stick it to them. (Haven't even read the comments yet...)

Doug Longmire said...

The mainstream media, as usual, is giving a distorted report on this topic, as required by their masters/employers (Labour Govt)
Surely, It is only a matter of time until Left wing media reporters accuse the protestors of being "racist", "Islamophobic", and "climate change deniers".

Hilary Taylor said...

Great comments, as per. Thanks to all. One more thing...Luxon/Willis believe they shouldn't engage...and prhaps there is an element of not wanting to interrupt the govt while it's making a hash of things...perhaps...the cynic in me thinks it's the much-less admirable fear factor. Appearing in the crowd...go ON! Just do it...

pdm said...

Excellent Karl and most commenters.

Tony Bridge if Jim Anderton is the answer you may be asking the wrong question.

Matt King looks a natural leader who may unite the group into a more coherent and acceptable group - especially if he and others are able to bring the few radicals and fringe elements that are part of the protest into line.

I emailed David Seymour on Sunday and suggested that he get himself and all of his ACT MP's out to meet with the protesters and talk to them - at least the ACT MP's would have gumboots to wear in the bog that Mallard helped create. Even doing so even later this afternoon should still be very advantageous to the party I think.

National have said they will not have Matt King back (another dumb move by their leadership) so I will be looking closely at any party Matt King aligns himself with in 2023 and urge readers here to consider doing so too - New Conservatives maybe.

Alex M said...

The only offensive minority at parliament are the MPs.
A ridiculous rabble who have enshrined the right to represent only those with whom they agree.
This government's reaction is understandable, but the reaction of the opposition MPs is unbelievably undemocratic

Trev1 said...

Are we watching the end of representative democracy in this country? Can it really be that 120 MPs are either too arrogant or too fearful for their "reputations" to dialogue with their fellow New Zealanders who are demanding an end to these coercive mandates (which violate the UN Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights that New Zealand has signed)? Shame on them all.

swordfish said...

And it's precisely this obscene class snobbery, this pompous top-down Woke authoritarianism, their crude, grossly-distorted ID politics worldview & its corollary: the vicious scapegoating of whole swathes of working people ... all of that has forced a principled segment of the traditional social democratic Left (including my good self) to rebel in no uncertain terms.

To me, the fact that this bloated, self-interested, deeply hypocritical New Establishment call themselves 'The Left' is farcical ... unless, of course, they're referring to Bolsheviks & Stalinists, albeit ones in an alternative universe where they espouse a Dictatorship of the downtrodden Chattering Classes.

Huskynut said...

Well observed, Karl.
The genesis is simple. The Left smoked so much horse sh*t during the Trump years that their brains are completely fried.
Trump's supporters were in large part a similar group of disaffected with legitimate grievances but most media were happy to brand them racists and deplorables.
They bow bring the habitual condescension to bear on kiwis.

Ian P said...

You'd have thought that some of these talented 'public interest journalist' would have gone out, found some people who have actually been tested positive for, or had had omicron, and asked them what their experience was. A 12 year old kid could have thought of that. Nothing to fear but fear itself, perhaps.

Martin Hanson said...

Not entirely unrelated is the push to get Maori Myth and legend incorporated into the NZ school science curriculum. The post below is but the latest by Jerry Coyne, Emeritus Professor of Evolutionary Biology in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago.

Martin Hanson, retired science teacher, Nelson

hughvane said...

A challenge - and not a frightfully difficult one - to all responders to this particular theme - what is the official name of the NZ Parliament?

Once you have the correct answer firmly embedded, try applying it to the riffraff we have in the present Parliament.

To Karl (or others who continue to use Facebook), you might care to read the content of The Right Watchman.

hughvane said...

@Martin Hanson - Maori Myths and Legends was a part of the NZ schools syllabus for a long time. I recall it as part of my education and learning as far back as the late 1950s.

[Incidentally, I too am a retired teacher, including of science.]

Karl du Fresne said...

For the record, I haven't been near Facebook for about five years.

Jacqueline said...

I just have to comment. I am the person who asked for your email so I could communicate with you (a few weeks ago).
I will try to keep this brief.

I went to this protest because I had to see for myself.

I camped for two nights and spent all my time listening.

The parents there with children are mighty people. Their children are intelligent, loved and safe. But I am extremely concerned about Jacinda's state of mind. I see she wants parents to take the children away. I have to say it, as a mother. NZ, wake up. I know a lover of children when I see one and I have never yet seen this in Jacinda. Please, move quicker.

I also made a personal attempt to get alongside Police. I asked to see Mr Parnell. I now have physical bruises as testament to their fear. My behaviour was totally passive. I attribute this to having camped with the representatives of the majority of New Zealanders.

Most importantly, for me personally, was that I needed to know for myself whether I belonged. I encouraged as many as I could that we only need a smidgen of trust in Jesus Christ to help us gain victory over this tyranny. Almost everyone encouraged me that I belong with them.

This is an organic movement, and the politicians are out of touch. However, that won't matter - at all!

This is Love in action, all over the country where we protest.

The best encouragement for me was my Maori friends' attitude. We are alike in our belonging as Kiwis. Tribal elitism of any sort is not the reality on the ground within the People's Parliament.

I have never been so happy in all my life and could have stayed forever, except that I have a very comforting home life and important responsibilities here. It is good to get home to nurse the bruises dealt to me by a senior sargeant as he called me, "a silly woman."
Jacqueline Walter

Odysseus said...

The Maori and Pakeha working class anti-mandate protest is now affecting the mental well-being of New Zealand's hard Left if Chris Trotter's latest column is anything to go by: He appears to see them as Karl Marx's lumpenproletariat of outcasts and degenerates who are easily manipulated by fascist, anti-progressive elements. I wonder if Ardern shares these views? After all she "admonished" David Seymour yesterday for having the temerity to meet with some of these New Zealanders, who clearly don't fit the Far Left's "progressive" narrative. These hostile and extreme reactions are actually quite concerning.

Doug Longmire said...

Two days ago, I posted this comment:-
"The mainstream media, as usual, is giving a distorted report on this topic, as required by their masters/employers (Labour Govt)
Surely, It is only a matter of time until Left wing media reporters accuse the protestors of being "racist", "Islamophobic", and "climate change deniers"."
I see that it has now happened, with Wood accusing them in these very terms.

Don Franks said...

How to Protest Properly
We support the right to protest, but
and the But is important,
It can’t be any sort of protest,
You should not have any persons disapproved of
at your protest, noone whose ideas are amiss
Who are they? Don’t worry, we'll provide a list
We support the right to protest, but
There must not be too many
How many is ok? We’ll tell you,
Not any.
We support the right to protest, but,
It cannot be connected with
Some other protest over seas
From other countries there is nothing whatsoever you need learn
Be contented gazing on the silver fern
We support the right to protest, but
It must not be too loud
No amplifiers thank you, chanting is ok
No, not as loud as that, or with those words
Be silent if you can’t chant in
a proper way
We support the right to protest, but
it must not disrupt anything
The normal flow of life must be protected
Have all your placards disinfected
We support the right to protest, but
Preferably, you’ll postpone.
If you really really must protest,
make sure to do it silently,
at home,

Trev1 said...

Michael Wood said in Parliament yesterday there is a "river of filth" running though the protest. This man is a Minister in Ardern's government. Does Ardern stand by his statement? It is unacceptable he should remain a Minister.