A terrifying arcade of thoughts and feelings, since disavowed, from a particular species of Twitter user at a particular moment.
If I saw the story at all I’d forgotten it. At least until the Act Party emailed a media statement this week linking me to a 2021 Newshub article about a series of tweets posted a couple of years earlier by MP Mark Cameron. Then, before his election to parliament, he’d described Jacinda Ardern as a “feckless wench”, declared, “Make Ardern go away”, and called the then prime minister a “vacuous teenager”. He apologised and withdrew the “flippant” remarks.
That turned out not to be the end of it. In his emailed statement, Cameron said: “It’s sad that the media are dredging up comments I made before I became an MP, six weeks before an election, which have already been reported, and for which I’ve already apologised.”
It later transpired that the media in question was Benedict Collins of 1News, who focused his reporting on climate-denialist tweets from Cameron. Act leader David Seymour decried “B-grade journalism”, but as Collins pointed out, Cameron is not some rando candidate with zero chance of making it to parliament; he stands today seventh on the Act list, with a very plausible shot at a ministerial role after the election.
Even before 1News aired, however, prompted by Act’s release, I’d logged on to Elon Musk’s pleasuredome – the app formerly known as Twitter – and discovered, to my astonishment, that Cameron’s old account was still there, mystifyingly undeleted, apparently untouched since January 2020, which I’m guessing is around the time that the Northland farmer was preparing to put his name in the hat as a candidate. It’s still there today, Cameron’s 43 followers, among them BadBoomer2 and ULTRA MAGA VETERAN MEGA BACK THE BLUE, waiting patiently for another tweet.
And so I scrolled. Why did I scroll? Was it B-grade journalistic endeavour? A little bit. Was it procrastination? Certainly. But also, as I scrolled, deep into the feed and the mind (as it was then and is not today, to be clear) of Mr Mark Cameron, farmer of Kaipara, through 561 tweets mostly published into the ether across five spirited months of microblogging from August 2019 to January 2020, I found myself in a museum; a haunted arcade of thoughts and feelings from a particular species of Twitter user at a particular moment. What may be excruciating to behold is also a powerful time capsule. It should be installed in the National Library.
Cameron has moved out of this abandoned mall, moved on from this vault of old, bad ideas, moved up to a high ranking and a shot at a ministerial warrant. But for one sorry afternoon in August, I moved in.
We begin at the top. The username “Mark Cameron Cameron”, a surname so nice he typed it twice. The handle, @Markstuartcamer, which leaves us hovering, demanding more. And the bio note, unapologetic, clear: “hard arse conservative no bullshtr”.
The profile image is equally unflinching, direct and, in this case, unalloyed nonsense. It sports two Time covers, juxtaposed, the first, purporting to be from 1977, with a coverline about “how to survive the coming ice age” and the second on the battle with global warming, and the declaration, “Claimed it was global cooling in 1977, now claim it’s global warming”. As you’ll have guessed already, the 1977 cover is a fabrication, a hoax that circulated in versions of this meme that did the rounds in 2019. (Cameron disavows and regrets, an Act spokesperson assured me, the avatar, the hoax Time cover, along with the entire contents of his accursed Twitter page.)
Before we get to the heady days of 2019, there is a potent, almost melancholy preface to Cameron’s Twitter deluge. In September 2015, fresh to the platform, he responds to a tweet from then Republican presidential nomination hopeful Donald Trump about an upcoming visit to Urbandale High School in Iowa. He responds, but does not put any words in the post. And, to be fair, who can in honesty say their own debut tweet was perfect?
The next tweet is again to @realDonaldTrump and now Cameron is getting the hang of it. “…looking forward to further intetesting poilices…well done Donald…mark cameron ,ruawai new zealand”, it reads.
Donald Trump does not reply.
Not until January of 2016 does Cameron post again. Another blessing for candidate Trump, commending “a great leader to command from the the front”.
And then a pause. No, a silence. A chasm. Three and a half years after the Donald Trump trilogy, Cameron logs back on. His first effort, a retweet of a National Party meme about petrol prices. And then the dam bursts. A tirade of tweets, attacking Jacinda Ardern, cheering MAGA, bemoaning the traffic in Auckland.
Much of the timeline is a windswept digital cemetery: a majority of the responses are to accounts that have since been suspended, links to posts that no longer exist, including many engagements with the unforgettable online personality @democracymum, RIP. There are retweets of far-right libertarian climate-denying bloggers and fulminating all-caps MAGA champions. Tweet after tweet hollers simply, almost plaintively, “MAGA”, into the void.
Ardern is a “pea brained halfwit”, a “feckless wench”, “a IQ light weight”, a “vacuous teenager”. Cameron is determined, across several tweets, to note that the prime minister is a teenager, an assertion not supported by facts. In contrast to Trump, who was making his country “awesome”, Ardern was, he declares, a “git”, who was “destroying hers”.
His interest in international politics extended to a range of leaders. “Poisonous pills like aoc/Macron/ Ardern/ trudeau/ Merkel,” he hammered into his keyboard, “are the sychopants of the globalist machine!!!!”
Green MP Golriz Ghahraman is another targeted in various tweets. “Extremely vacuous and segregationist toned try hard politicians,” he says in response to an image of Ghahraman meeting US congresswoman Ilhan Omar, “as dangerous as they are dumb.” Vacuous, along with asinine, are words beloved of Cameron; he uses them over and over on Twitter (and continues today in parliament). At one point he helpfully suggests that if anyone doesn’t understand what asinine means they should look it up in a dictionary.
Another politician – hard to say if there’s a pattern – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is also on his mind. “Sadly she is a amazingly stupid woman that proves to continually say the most supremely asinine things,” he types, with his hands, on to the internet.
Trump, now president, remains a hero throughout the tweet tsunami. “MAGA All the way,” he says at one point. “Unequivocally a MAGA supporter!!!….all the way Down here in New Zealand,” he says at another. “MAGA!!!!,” he blurts, from time to time. On October 13 2019 he writes, “Because I’m sure I haven’t said it enough today…MAGA!!!!”
There is one exception to his enthusiasm. When Trump says of a catch-up with Ardern, “A wonderful meeting,” Cameron is distraught. “Fake news!!!!!” he tweets.
As for climate change, complementing the avatar are references to “global warming nutjobs” and politicians seeking to “weaponise weather and steal $$$$off middle nzrs”. As for the so-called evidence, “Climate models are paramataized to engineer a desired outcome of one can then legislate over and fiscally weaponise weather for all to pay so Un sycophants profit,” he explains. And don’t get him started on the “leftie media nutters hungry for hyperbole and apocalyptic outcomes”.
Cameron urges fellow farmers to stand up in protest, and rails against what he sees as a war against farmers. He writes (in response to @democracymum): “As a dairy farmer owner I can see a unvetted animus towards my kinsman on mass ,no other social demographic ,non uninonized private sector is lined up and routinely shot like us .I challenge anyone who’s not a farmer to routinely contend with this type of crap.”
Things start to take a darker turn into October. He tweets: “The creeping carcinogen of Labours commie dogmas, will slowly, if unchecked, destroy ones private rights to and of self determination….we are looming nearer a communist state/media/Good/guns/speech/..not much left???…they’ve wrecked them all.”
Responding to a now suspended account on October 19, he writes: “Short rope fixes tossers like this….vote gathering initiative, plan and simple. Another vacuous voting rights idea floated in the American rad left DNC..our nut job leftards are trying to pull the same number.”
A couple of days later, it’s all reading like something out of a QAnon chatroom. Replying to a since deleted tweet, he writes: “Bloody awesome!.the globalist mantra .agender 21 ,is the redistribution of wealth, from rich countries to poor .The destruction of self determination and belief in lue of a collective equality by which all people’s can be monitored and controlled. Globalism is soft communism”.
Cameron appears in the early months to be a National supporter. “Hell’s teeth man… lets get u guys elected… theres a lot of Ardern blunders to fix”.
By November 9, his faith in the National Party is fading. “The capitulation of the Blues has made the party 4ever as urbanites, weak kneed and feckless they do not speak to the core values of the National Party historical greats, a real sad day for middle income NZ is rural New Zealanders and the wider community,” Cameron writes. A couple of months later, the transition is complete. “The rise of David Seymour begins on the back of National’s brown nosing to virtue signalling politics,” he explains.
On January 25 2020, a final tweet. “The disparity between those that genuinely need help and those that want a free ride grows,” writes Cameron. “Ardern has created a monster she now has to feed ..progressive political theatrics another sanfran looms.” Another what? San Francisco? It is hard to say. Cameron is responding to “an account that no longer exists”.
And with that puff of mystery he is gone: shutting with a sigh the door on the vault of unfettered discourse. Or maybe he just forgot his password. Either way, the Cameron tweets were over. People change. And he began his march towards another palace of expression: the House of Representatives.