Most of the misinformation that was circulating throughout the Wellington protest came from opponents of the protest.THE MORNING after police invaded Parliament grounds with the predictable mayhem that resulted, RNZ's Susie Ferguson asked Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson what the country could to do about the misinformation and conspiracy theories that had been circulating among the protesters. Both Ferguson and Robertson agreed that many people were being led astray by lies and half truths that were being principally spread via the internet and 'something' had to be done about it.
Ferguson had already made her view of the protest clear a few days earlier when she asked Wellington businessman Marty Verry whether he was happy that his money was being used to 'fund the alt right'. It was later revealed, in a subsequent interview with Sean Plunket of The Platform, that Verry had merely provided some financial assistance for a couple of friends who had lost their teaching jobs because of the mandate and who were attending the protest as a result. Verry told Plunket he provided no more than $250.
Perhaps we also need to be concerned about liberal and Labour-friendly RNZ journalists peddling misinformation.
THE POLITICAL class and its courtiers always behaved as if it was they, the protesters, who were spreading all of the lies. In stark contrast it was they, the great and good of the political establishment, who were standing up for the truth and nothing but the truth. Listening to some of the zealous critics of the protest, they seemed to be operating under the delusion that they were engaged in a battle between good and evil. It was a modern-day crusade against the 'Nazi mob'.
But much of the misinformation actually came from the opponents of the protest. From day one, there was a concerted and unrelenting campaign to delegitimise the protest as 'extremist'. It was variously accused of being 'Nazi', 'neo-Nazi', 'racist', 'anti-semitic' and harbouring violent intent. There was even an accusation that 'freemasonry' was involved. Whatever that meant. I'm sure that 'far right expert' Byron Clark (he likes to be known as Byron C. Clark now) will be writing about it at some stage.
Some of the accusations were indeed bizarre. Idiot/Savant, who blogs at No Right Turn, accused a donut seller of being a Nazi. His terrible transgression was to sell donuts to protesters. Perhaps Idiot/Savant thought the donuts had swastikas on them or they came with a free copy of Mein Kampf. It later transpired that the donut seller in question voted Labour at the 2020 general election. Idiot/Savant though has never retracted his allegation. Like much of the liberal left, his political credibility has been seriously undermined by the events of the past three weeks.
When the accusations of political extremism didn't appear to be gaining traction, the opponents of the protest turned to 'domestic' matters
Protesters were accused of living in squalor, even though every effort was made to keep 'the camp' clean. There was also a ban on the consumption of alcohol on the occupation site.
Ratcheting up the anti-working class rhetoric even further, Prime Minister Jacinda Arden accused protesters of being 'bad parents', even though a creche had been established to look after the children present. But Ardern, who could afford to employ a nanny to look after her child, was deliberately playing to middle class prejudices about the parenting skills of the working class. Whether her claim was true or not didn't really matter in the battle for the 'hearts and minds' of the general public.
THE POLICE also engaged in a deliberate disinformation campaign. The most notable incident occurred when the police alleged that protesters had thrown a 'stinging substance', possibly acid, at police officers. Three officers were admitted to hospital but reportedly left after no more than a hour or so. It couldn't have been that serious. It was later revealed that the 'stinging substance' was pepper spray. The three officers had got in the way of the spray being used by other officers. It was a 'friendly fire' incident. We heard no more about it from police.
The police made a similar allegation about human faeces being thrown at the police by protesters. Although the allegation was never corroborated, it was uncritically accepted by the mainstream media and prompted Ardern to describe protesters as 'disgusting'. Journalist Donna Chisholm tweeted : 'Has anyone verified the “human waste thrown at police” allegation or do we know where it originated? It’s an easy one to “float”, so to speak, but more difficult to prove. All I can find online is “reportedly”.
The police also claimed that they had received a 'report' of sexual assault within the occupation camp. Once again the allegation was never verified and no one stepped forward to say they had been sexually assaulted. Again, we heard no more about it from the police.
The police also claimed at one stage that they were that there were two known 'sex offenders' among the protesters. Yet again the police failed to provide any details. And, yet again, the police claim was unquestioningly accepted by the mainstream media. Yet again, we heard no more about it from police.
THERE WERE a few though who did not join the headlong rush to condemn the protest. Academic and commentator Bryce Edwards, while making it clear he did not support the occupation, declined to caricature it as 'far right'. Unlike the 'keyboard warrior' critics of the protest, Edwards spent time in the occupation camp, talking to protesters and uploading video to social media so people could make their own judgments about the people who were protesting. Edwards made the straightforward point that were a wide range of New Zealanders participating in the protest, from all walks of life.
This observation earned him the ire of those attacking the protest. One of his most severe critics was Clint Smith, former Senior Policy and Communications Strategist for Jacinda Ardern. He seemed obsessed with Edwards, firing a number of abusive tweets in his direction and even going as far as claiming that Edwards was giving comfort to 'would be murderers'.
John Moore commented about the attacks on Edwards:
'For his efforts of interacting with and critiquing the protesters, Dr Edwards has been accused of white-washing the protesters by the University of Otago’s Morgan Godfery, of even of being an outright reactionary by Wellington left-wing intellectual Giovanni Tiso. Others have called for Victoria University of Wellington to cut ties with Dr Edwards.'
Similarly, veteran Newstalk ZB journalist Barry Soper was also on the receiving end of a considerable volume of on-line abuse for daring to say: 'The protesters are not threatening, the ones I spoke to didn’t agree with me but we all have the right to our opinions. Of course there are a few rat bags but they’re the minority.'
THE MOST vociferous - and vicious - attacks on the protest came from the left, most of it aligned to the Labour Party. It is of concern that this dysfunctional left thought it entirely justifiable to launch what amounted to a hate campaign against the protesters.
And labelling political dissent as 'misinformation' now seems to be one of the favoured tools of the liberal left to silence and defame dissenting perspectives. Its all arbitrary and bears little relationship to anything resembling facts. This writer for instance was accused a number of times of giving comfort to the far right. But it wasn't so long ago that I was being accused of being a 'ultra leftist' for failing to support the Labour Party.
But it was utterly hypocritical for establishment liberals - for that is what they are - to accuse protesters of willfully spreading malicious 'misinformation' when their own 'facts' were shown time and again to be false.
Why the liberal enthusiasm for a clampdown on dissenting views? I've talked about this in other posts but I will add that it is also because their party, Labour, has become the party of the professional managerial class and represents its interests. That requires clamping down on independent working class political activity that may prove to be an ongoing threat to the interests of establishment liberals. The liberal left acts like an offended ruling elite because, basically, that's what it has become.
What the Wellington protest has shown is that the liberal left, that once stood for tolerance and free debate, is now characterised by its all too frequent use of shaming, threats and intimidation in an effort to suppress dissent. It has become an arch-defender of the status quo.