The president of the Howick-Pakuranga branch of Grey Power has sent out a newsletter packed full of conspiracy theories about Covid-19, accusing the government of ‘brainwashing’ and trying to create a ‘potential medical/police state’. Alex Braae reports.
In the “President’s Page” column of the latest newsletter from the Howick-Pakuranga branch of Grey Power, president Peter Bankers shocked branch members by filling his column with conspiracy theories about the response to Covid-19. After being contacted by The Spinoff, the organisation’s national president has disassociated the organisation from the views.
Bankers described the upcoming election as “the edge of an abyss that we avoid only if we change direction”, demanding that the country resist the “brainwashing” of the government, and accusing the media of suppressing “counter Covid evidence”.
A member of the branch, Robert, sent a copy of the newsletter to The Spinoff this morning, saying that he “was appalled to find the president promoting an unfounded conspiracy theory about Covid-19 that could do great harm to members, quite literally killing some of them. Publishing such material, even as an opinion piece seems utterly bizarre.”
Robert added that mortality data shows “the members of Grey Power are presumably the ones who are most vulnerable” to Covid-19.
“I’m very concerned as many people are about conspiracy theories,” he said. “Covid, and 5G, and all of the Bill Gates trying to kill the world and suchlike. And I really feel that circulating these things just makes it worse, particularly the Covid-19 one.”
He also criticised the increasing anti-vaxx views that inform many conspiracy theories, saying his life experience shows they’re wrong. “In my lifetime vaccination has rid the world of scourges such as polio, smallpox, TB, whooping cough and many other hideous problems causing lifetimes of grief for the sufferers and their families. Many of these wholly preventable diseases are returning,” he said.
“If what Peter Bankers is putting forward is the Grey Power position then please count me out. If it’s his personal view then it would be better ignored and not published to an advocacy organisation for the elderly’s newsletter.”
Branch secretary Sandy Feringa confirmed that the column was entirely the personal opinion of Bankers, and that it was normal practice for newsletters to include opinion pieces. The representative also confirmed that there had been several complaints and disagreements from branch members about the column.
In a response to one of the complaints, Feringa said “the committee tries to ensure the values of Grey Power and its aims and objectives are carried out, but we do allow opinions to be expressed, rightly or wrongly. We appreciate receiving the views of members to articles in our newsletters, opposing or in agreement with the opinions expressed, as this enables us to better provide material of assistance to our membership.”
The column from Bankers pushed the idea that Covid-19 was being used by governments and supranational organisations like the World Health Organisation to seize more power and sovereignty over populations. “Which party(s) has the courage to reclaim our country, our rights, our freedom and our economy, AND the ability to successfully change direction so that we retain our ability to live independently (of the state)?”
Grey Power is a resolutely non-partisan organisation, which never makes formal endorsements of specific political parties. Bankers did not name any parties in his newsletter.
Grey Power national president Mac Welch said that the organisation would “support any political party’s particular moves that support us, but we don’t support any political party per se. We don’t encourage our members to vote one way or the other, we do encourage them to support things we’ve been trying to achieve, such as the appointment of an aged care commissioner.”
Some of the views in this article were “radical to put it mildly, and are unsubstantiated by fact anywhere in the article itself”, he said.
“As national president, on behalf of the board I wish to express my disappointment and regret that Mr Bankers has chosen to use the Grey Power name to publish his own radical views and thus bring Grey Power nationally, into disrepute. This is clearly in breach of Grey Power’s Constitution and Bylaws. Although all Grey Power members are entitled to hold whatever opinions they wish, they are not entitled to use the Grey Power platform to express those views.”
Bankers criticised former prime minister Helen Clark, who will co-chair the review of the World Health Organisation’s handling of Covid-19. He described her as an “ambitious woman”, and suggested her statements on the pandemic were “scaremongering”.
In one passage of the column Bankers also criticised the wearing of masks, which he described as “akin to wearing underpants while on the toilet.”
He concluded his column by saying “we seniors have experience. We have wisdom. We recognise a con when we see it. We have some responsibility to put it right.”
International data suggests almost three quarters of deaths from Covid-19 are people over the age of 65.
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