NZ Stuff and Wellington’s Dominion Post are peddling baseless and irresponsible conspiracy theories which are in turn inspiring and empowering hate groups such as Antifa.
At first it seemed a joke ….
Back in February a convoy opposed to the NZ government’s covid vaccine mandates arrived at Parliament in Wellington and set up camp. The Freedom Village was ruled with a rod of iron by a bunch of women. The grounds were immaculate. If the campers included homeless or unemployed, they were a credit to New Zealand.
Wellington City Council could have turned the whole affair into a tourist attraction, but chose not to. Politicians in Wellington lied their heads off about the protest (‘bottom feeders’ and ‘a river of filth’), and MPs from both the government and the National opposition petulantly refused to meet with the protesters, thereby ensuring its continuation. The protest came to an end when the police moved in aggressively and a violent altercation quickly developed between them and a group of unknowns.
Wellington’s Dominion Post has now been promoting a conspiracy theory linking the Freedom Village with a plot to use violence to overthrow the government, targeting especially the group Voices for Freedom, but anyone associated (however loosely) with the group or the anti-mandate movement . VFF is well organised and publishes material about the vaccine mandates and related issues. None of the material on its website seems to be subversive in a traditional sense, unless you count its opposition to the government’s covid policies.
‘Foster said he came out of the Backbencher meeting hopeful that a peaceful solution could be found.’
‘A police spokesperson said representatives from NZ Police met a broad range of people with a view to finding a peaceful and negotiated resolution to the unlawful occupation on Parliament grounds.’
There is no sense that either Andy Foster or the police were expecting a violent insurrection. There is no sense that former MPs such as Peters, Hyde etc, suspected that the protest might be a precursor to armed revolution. The idea that all these experienced politicians could be associated with violence or condone violence is ridiculous.
Having created their conspiracy theory, the DomPost is using it to smear independent candidates such as myself, i.e. those opposed to Council policies. Despite the malevolent intention to harm me, it was hard to take seriously. After all, while I was out canvassing voter feedback continued to focus on the issues of the neglected stormwater problem, the aggressive and unpopular cycleway project, the skyrocketing rates and ‘the whole council’.
All humour has now gone from the situation. Stuff has created a documentary named ‘Fire and Fury’ which, while being managing to be essentially content-free, relies on a powerful and dramatic presentation to convince the viewer a threat of impending violence from anti-mandate groups, or indeed all mandate sceptics. The documentary is a telling acknowledgement that NZ Stuff has abandoned all pretense at being a news outlet.
The Dominion Post and NZ Stuff are applying Jacinda Ardern’s deeply unpleasant tactic of marginalising ‘antivaxers’, ignoring the fact that polls suggest that around 30% of NZers supported the protest, and a similar figure oppose the mandates. (VFF has reported that its membership has quadrupled since ‘Fire and Fury’ came out.
The DomPost is promoting the video to reinforce its campaign against candidates who threaten the Council’s Labour/Green majority. However it’s worse than that.
The material is being shared by and empowering hate groups such as the Pōneke Anti-Fascist Coalition (Poneke Antifa) , which stands against ‘fascism, anti-vaxx ideology, conspiracy theories and bigotry in all its forms’ (thus conflating them). It’s clear from both titles and insignia that Poneke Antifa and its sister group in Auckland, Tāmaki Anti-Fascist Action, align themselves with the international Antifascist Action (Antifa) movement. Antifa as a movement can be described as fascist, if your definition is people who use violence and intimidation for political ends (such as the original Fascists of ’30s Italy).
Whether or not the FBI did actually classify Antifa activities as ‘domestic terrorist violence’ (and the source is no more reliable than the DomPost), Antifa are known for their riots causing damage to property and life, and their tactic of organising violent counter protests to shutdown of free speech.
Social media of both the Wellington and Auckland Antifa groups shows that that they are obsessed with any opposition to mandates or vaccines, correlating that opposition with fascism and hate. Building on the allegations from NZ Stuff, they have designated Voices for Freedom as ‘ the largest, most well funded and dangerous far-right group in Aotearoa’.
The Freedom and Rights Coalition (TFRC), founded by Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki, has organised another anti-mandate protest march, intending to arrive in Wellington today, Tuesday. The police press release states that based on ‘similar protests’ (i.e. also by TFRC? Not clear): ‘Our expectation of these protesters is that their protest will remain lawful at all times’.
However Poneke Antifa has declared its intention to organise a counter protest. According to a facebook post of 17 August, ‘The organisers of the protest on Tuesday will, to the best of our ability, ensure that our counter-protest is a peaceful one’. However, their presence increases the chance of conflict, and worst case scenarios for this and other protests are scary.
Graham Adams, who has managed to keep his sense of humour, has critiqued Stuff’s documentary: Stuff’s ‘Fire and Fury’ is often funny — unintentionally.