One Question Quiz
Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull aka Posie Parker, Hannah Spierer of Counterspin, Brian Tamaki, Alia Bland and Chantelle Baker. Main pic: Getty Images
Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull aka Posie Parker, Hannah Spierer of Counterspin, Brian Tamaki, Alia Bland and Chantelle Baker. (Main photo: Getty Images)

SocietyMarch 28, 2023

How NZ conspiracy groups latched on to the Posie Parker controversy

Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull aka Posie Parker, Hannah Spierer of Counterspin, Brian Tamaki, Alia Bland and Chantelle Baker. Main pic: Getty Images
Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull aka Posie Parker, Hannah Spierer of Counterspin, Brian Tamaki, Alia Bland and Chantelle Baker. (Main photo: Getty Images)

She may not agree with them all. They may not agree with each other. But they found common cause.

In New Zealand, as across much of the world, many of the groups that espouse anti-vaccine, conspiracy-aligned and rightwing extremist ideas have hitched their wagons to anti-trans-rights movements. Little surprise, therefore, that the abbreviated visit of Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, who self-identifies as Posie Parker, and is conducting a tour beneath the slogan “2023 is the year of the TERF [trans exclusionary radical feminist]”, became a lightning rod for those energies.

While the groups do not see eye to eye and some have routinely bad-mouthed one another, their various analyses shared a few elements: support for Keen-Minshull’s position; anger at the counter-protesters’ wall of sound which made it impossible for the British speaker to be heard; disgust at the examples of violence that were recorded at the Auckland event (though I could find no condemnation of the the incident in which a motorcycle hit Marama Davidson on a pedestrian crossing); and fury at the police for not stepping in sooner.   

‘Supernaturally manipulate situations on Earth’

Brian Tamaki did not step foot on Albert Park, site of the Keen-Minshull event and counter-protest on Saturday, but stopped briefly, flanked by at least a dozen fellow Destiny Church members on motorbikes, on his way to a rally of his own a few minutes away in Aotea Square.

A coincidence? Not according to Tamaki. Speaking to his Destiny Church congregation a day later, the founder of the Freedom and Rights Coalition and the newly registered Freedoms NZ political party explained that someone had tipped him off in advance about the fracas that awaited: God.

“When she came here I already knew in my heart it’s not going to work for her, but I know if I say something I’m going to get clobbered,” he said. Because he sometimes needed to “supernaturally manipulate situations on Earth”, he had arranged a protest of his own. 

The Keen-Minshull gathering, however, had, he suggested, had a different “influence”. He said: “They had the same time, in the same area. That wasn’t their fault, just wrong influences.” Tamaki then adopted a Gollum-esque voice. A demon, certainly. “‘Do it on this day! Do it at 11am! Do it in the centre of Auckland!’ And the innocent ladies just said, ‘that’s a good idea.’”

Elaborating on his access to such high-level information, Tamaki said: “I should know what’s coming and I do. Normally speaking, this is the greatest frustration of my life: being God’s point of reference, at least of the Destiny movement, maybe for the region, maybe for New Zealand, maybe for the globe, I don’t know.” How far into the future he could foresee events? The self-proclaimed apostle said: “I’m able to see a good couple of weeks, usually.”

Tamaki leveraged off the Keen-Minshull headlines throughout a homophobic, transphobic diatribe which centred on the theme of “taking back the rainbow”. Queer communities, said Tamaki – recently seen linking the damage of Cyclone Gabrielle to pornography use in Gisborne – had “hijacked what belongs to God”. He said New Zealand had become a “gay haven”, with the government, media and police all doing the bidding of “demons”. It was all part of Satan’s emasculation project, to “confuse the gender of the man”.

Tamaki criticised the organisers of the Albert Park event. “The police were useless in protecting a guest. Posie came with good motivation that she was going to be safe. The police never protected her. Those people who organised it, I’m saying this kindly to you ladies, but you did not do a good job.” 

He also confessed to an addiction. “I love protests. I’m a protest junkie from way back,” he told his followers. “I probably would have been a statesman, probably would have been knighted if I hadn’t been a protest junkie.”

‘A multitude of shrieking, hissing lunatics’

Far-right conspiracy platform Counterspin, which just last week was busy resurfacing manifestly false claims about the terrorist act on Christchurch mosques, has published numerous posts on Keen-Minshull in the last week (including the baseless suggestion that the neo-Nazis present at her event in Melbourne were a “false flag”) and was not just present at the Albert Park protests but actively supporting organisers.

Co-host Hannah Spierer confronted Marama Davidson near the park, leading to the “white cis men” comments that were subsequently clarified by the Green co-leader following an intervention by the prime minister’s office. She also made repeated appeals, seemingly in vain, for the British activist to join Counterspin for a recording and claimed, without evidence, that the group of masked men with fascist insignia were “Antifa dressed up as fascists”. Some of the men have since been identified as associated with far-right groups. 

An “essay” posted to Counterspin last night began like this: “When Posie Parker tried to speak at Albert Park on Saturday, and was attacked and silenced by a frenzied mob of far-left extremists, a dark and cold wave washed through the nation. Many Kiwis, lost in the blissful ignorance for which our country is renown, had little idea of how precarious our rights to free speech had become. On Saturday it was driven home to us by a multitude of shrieking, hissing lunatics.”

‘Overtired and sugared-up toddlers’

The commitment to free speech and derision for “cancel culture” was less pronounced across other parts of the so-called “freedom movement”, however. Kiwi and Sue, who have run conspiracy-fuelled livestreams since before the parliamentary occupation, said that Newshub journalists involved in an erroneous story should be “tried and charged with incitement”. The official Telegram page of Voices for Freedom, meanwhile, urged a boycott of ASB Bank for the sin of expressing solidarity on Saturday with “our trans and non-binary community”.

VFF has probably the biggest audience of New Zealand’s misinformation-laced “freedom” outlets, and avoids some of the more far-flung language adopted by the likes of Tamaki and Counterspin. It was, however, eager to stand alongside Keen-Minshull.

In an email to supporters on Sunday night, co-founder Alia Bland (also a co-owner of Reality Check Radio) said she had intended to speak at the event in Albert Park, before it was cut short after being drowned in noise and a bottle of tomato juice. Keen-Minshull had been “grossly misrepresented” in the media, she said. “These deliberate lies were then weaponised and used to encourage people not only to attend but actively disrupt and shut down the event.”

Bland shared her reflections with another figure who has built a massive following while disseminating misinformation from the parliamentary occupation in Wellington to the streets of Ukraine, Chantelle Baker. In a video posted on Facebook viewed by close to 25,000 people, Bland condemned “assault that was sanctioned by the mainstream media”. She said: “One of the guys who was helping her out told me that grown men pushed Kellie-Jay down to the ground and began punching her.” There is no evidence for this claim. Keen-Minshull has not said she was punched. 

The speech Bland would have given, she told supporters in her email, began: “I am a mother, NOT a birthing individual. I am a happily married woman, NOT a ‘cis’ woman.” And ended: “Trying to engage with people on the erasure of women and the wellbeing of our next generation is like arguing with overtired and sugared-up toddlers.”

Keep going!