A protestor wears a Donald Trump face mask during a Freedom and Rights Coalition protest at parliament on November 9 (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
A protestor wears a Donald Trump face mask during a Freedom and Rights Coalition protest at parliament on November 9 (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

OpinionNovember 12, 2021

Nicky Hager: My message to friends who joined this week’s protest

A protestor wears a Donald Trump face mask during a Freedom and Rights Coalition protest at parliament on November 9 (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
A protestor wears a Donald Trump face mask during a Freedom and Rights Coalition protest at parliament on November 9 (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Are these really the people you want to align yourself with?

Dear vaccine hesitant friends,

I know you feel worried about vaccines. I understand you feel picked on for not getting the vaccine. But I am feeling disturbed that quite a few good, principled people I know took part in the November 9 anti-vaccine march on parliament. It has impelled me to write.

When people I know march down the road with white supremacists, Trump supporters, fundamentalist Christians, people who are pro-guns, anti-UN, anti-immigrant and anti-Jewish, people who believe a powerful “them” want to kill millions and enslave the earth, things have got totally out of hand.

On Tuesday, this was what you were part of:

1. Many of the prominent people on the march were espousing exactly the same extreme and confused views before the Covid pandemic began. Their current campaigning is exploiting the vaccine issue to push those prior-existing beliefs. They were using your presence at their protest to promote dangerous, marginal ideas.

2. Another set of people in the protest came directly from the anti-1080 campaign, the sadly mistaken idea that Department of Conservation staff are recklessly poisoning human water supplies and trying to kill or mind-control the population. Notice how easily they transferred these ideas to a totally different context of a virus pandemic and vaccination. Remember that anti-1080 people have been willing to threaten other people’s lives if they disagreed with them.

3. Then there is a whole package of Trumpian ideas about the government and news media being enemies of ordinary people. It was in pro-Trump protests in the US that resistance to and denial of Covid were first used as a rallying point for far-right ideas. That is where the political model being seen here began. Do you feel comfortable being part of this?

4. The Trumpian politics have come with the US ideas about “freedom”, meaning freedom of the individual to do what they like and stuff everyone else. In New Zealand, the dominant values are much more about community and caring for each other. Freedom sounds good, but it’s a slogan for deeply conservative and unattractive ideas that deny or avoid the responsibility we have for others.

5. On top of all this, I strongly suspect the Covid resistance is being actively used by some on the right of New Zealand politics to try to destabilise Jacinda Ardern and the Labour Government. Already it has familiar fingerprints all over it. Notice how the recent farmer protests (on entirely different issues of environment policy) use the same extreme anti-Jacinda and anti-Labour script about communism and lies. There are strong signs of orchestration with the rural protests as well.

6. But the most the repellent part of the Covid protests is the constant hatred and violent, misogynist threats directed at Jacinda Ardern as a woman prime minister and at many other women in positions of authority. What on earth are liberal, enlightened people doing in the company of these violent, racist, anti-women people?

We’ve seen these elements in New Zealand before. But the current toxic brew is strong and brings all these parts together at once.

I hope all this will blow over. I hope that few years from now it will be hard to find any normal person who wants to admit they took part in this madness. But in the meantime, something ugly and dangerous is occurring and you should not be part of it.

As Toby Manhire wrote on Wednesday, “reasonable New Zealanders who wish to protest the vaccine mandates have an urgent responsibility today: to actively, vocally disavow and denounce the violent cheerleaders they find themselves marching alongside.”

This includes you, reasonable New Zealander friends: please actively, vocally disavow and denounce the violent cheerleaders. Please realise that your concerns are being exploited for other agendas. And never, ever join or support this kind of fascist protest again.

Related:

The protest that revealed a new, ugly, dangerous side to our country

‘Sharp increase’ in online disinformation since delta outbreak began

 

Mad Chapman, Editor
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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