Basic Tenets: The Police, the Roastbusters, and New Zealand’s Masculine Culture



WHEN A FORMER High Court Judge decides that a group of Police officers couldn’t pass “Policing 101”, it’s worrying. But, when he goes on to say that the officers tasked with investigating the notorious Roastbuster abusers of underage girls “failed to adhere to the basic tenets of any form of criminal investigation”, it’s time to get angry – very angry. Because what Sir David Carruthers, Chair of the Independent Police Complaints Authority (IPCA) is telling New Zealanders, is that their Police Force cannot be trusted to do its job.

But Sir David’s scathing commentary is only the most explicit message emerging from the Roastbusters inquiry. A close reading of the IPCA’s report reveals a reality much darker than mere incompetence. Deep within the Police, an apparently ineradicable culture of misogyny continues to thwart every attempt to improve the Force’s handling of rape and sexual abuse cases.

What is it that prevents these misogynists from being exposed and rooted out? Because, Lord knows, the official Police policy on rape and sexual abuse could not be clearer. Senior officers are constantly being brought up to speed on the issue at seminars and conferences. The protocols and procedures could not be clearer. But still, only one out of every 99 rapes reported to the Police ends with the rapist being convicted and imprisoned. Clearly, the policy is not being enforced. Why?

Part of the answer may be found in this morning’s (20/3/15) NZ Herald. Columnist Paul Thomas suggests that, in both Britain and New Zealand, society is, increasingly, separating itself into two groups: “The divide is between what might be called enlightened metropolitan opinion (EMO), aka the chattering classes, aka the forces of political correctness, and popular opinion (PO), aka the silent majority, aka the great unwashed.”

Thomas clearly locates himself in the camp of PO. Right alongside John Key. The Prime Minister’s political success, opines Thomas, is attributable to his being “someone who speaks our language, the voice of bluff, non-PC common sense.”

This description of society as an endless battle between the forces of urban vice and rural virtue has a very lengthy pedigree in New Zealand. In spite of the fact that ours has been an overwhelmingly urban society for well over a century, New Zealanders (especially male New Zealanders) still like to think of themselves as worthy descendants of the sturdy settlers who tamed the wilderness with axe and plough.

Though most of them live in the country’s largest cities, they nevertheless think of themselves as self-sufficient men; rugged individualists who prize practical knowledge over “book-learning”. They want the country to be run by sensible blokes, like themselves. Blokes who can be relied upon to use their common-sense and not be influenced by intellectuals and so-called “experts” who would like nothing better than to tie up the whole world in politically-correct knots.

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The great problem with this “sturdy settler” (Southern Man?) role model is that it was forged in a world without women. Or, at least, a world in which women were for a long time a distinct minority.

The overwhelmingly masculine culture it produced is one in which physical prowess counts for much more than intellectual or creative endeavour. Sport, and the barely suppressed violence that sport redirects and absorbs, is its most pervasive artefact. It’s an authoritarian culture that expects to be obeyed and which finds it next-to-impossible to tolerate dissent and debate.

It is also a culture which has never quite worked out where women fit into it. The Kiwi bloke’s hackneyed lament: that he can’t live with the female of the species, but also can’t live without her – is hardly a sentiment to put Kiwi women at their ease. Especially when it leads New Zealand’s good, keen men to look upon “the little woman” as simply another piece of gear to be stashed in the back of the ute, along with the footy-boots, fishing rods, and a few dozen cold ones. By this reckoning, women are reduced to mere adjuncts to otherwise masculine pursuits: something to make the evening go better – like beer.

The Police Force – so overwhelmingly male, and so demonstrably steeped in New Zealand’s rigidly masculine culture – in large part still sees itself as an institution dedicated to upholding and defending Thomas’s “popular opinion”. The policies of “enlightened metropolitan opinion” foisted upon them by left-wing politicians and radical feminists, may require them to pay lip service to the goal of eliminating New Zealand’s “Rape Culture”, but the “common sense” of real men, good men, strong men still tells them that “boys will be boys” – and that girls like it that way.


  1. To be honest, Chris, I normally don’t find your writing to sit well with me. This, however, is bang on. As a bookish kiwi male with interest no in sports, nor competitive streak when forced into them, I know the attitude you describe all too well. I recall distinctly an instance in an intermediate school cricket game. I missed a run, and my teammate batsman ran up to me and punched me in the stomach, because that lost point apparently threatened his sense of worth. God only knows who he grew up to be. 90% or more he grew up to be a normal, decent guy who let childish concerns fall behind him. However, 10% he grew up to be the kind of asshole who continued to drag that stupid attitude along with him, and inflict it on everyone around him. You’re not a part of the team? Well, take that! And that!

    Which, I think, is very likely the kind of attitude that is bubbling under the surface in cases like this.

  2. Chris,
    “One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch” is apt to depict this situation on both sides including the Government.

    1000% Richarquis.

  3. Seems pretty open and shut to me – video boasting/confessions and multiple complainants. The police didn’t charge anyone – sounds like they’re ready for new careers in animal husbandry. The commissioner didn’t get anyone charged – he too has a promising future in bovine maintenance. The minister has been completely ineffectual – par for the course and what we expect from the dregs and sweepings that make up the Gnat government – she should do the decent thing and resign – and since she won’t Key should sack her – and since he won’t we should shoot the useless son of a bitch.

    • Did you actually read the report?

      The assumption people are making is that if the police had done everything properly, it would have been reasonable and in the public interest to prosecute. As far as I can see, the report doesn’t actually say that. It says that they didn’t exhaust all options and that they didn’t do anywhere near enough in the way of alternative actions to prosecution (among many other failures).

      So we clearly know that the police didn’t do all they should have done. That’s not the same as knowing that the police were remiss in not charging the offenders. Looking at the case, I would think it would be pretty easy for even a moderately talented lawyer to have got acquittals, even if the police had done their job properly.

      • There is always the option to Charge Without Conviction – which could have been a fair option – but to not even talk to the boys and their parents about the acts which were illegal in many cases regardless of ‘concent’.

  4. “The divide is between what might be called enlightened metropolitan opinion (EMO), aka the chattering classes, aka the forces of political correctness, and popular opinion (PO), aka the silent majority, aka the great unwashed.”

    And this obscures the fact that on many issues, including gender issues, the chattering classes are just as subject to myopic groupthink as everyone else. Anyone who has ever moved in such circles knows that there is a very limited set of opinions that it is permissible to hold on such issues, and that dissent is not tolerated.

    There wouldn’t necessarily be anything wrong with this, except that the permitted opinions largely originate in one way or another from 1970s social theory and are untainted by any rigorous, empirical evidence (asking for such inevitably provokes hostility if not outrage). Talking to any of these people about the crime of rape yields the same laundry list of claims, some of which are true, some half true, and some preposterous. It’s like talking to born again Christians, and just as boring and unproductive. We might as well have the police take advice from astrologers. Lord help anyone who has the temerity to ask for evidence based policy.

    We can only hope for a new generation of feminists, trained in the empirical sciences, and rightly suspicious of deceased French mountebanks and their mindless followers. It really has nothing to do with “masculinism” and more to do with the fact that radical feminism entertains some pretty silly beliefs – a reason why many educated young women don’t want anything to do with it.

  5. And every one of those men had a mother…

    Wherein there are many sub-cultures. Some of which aren’t very nice.
    Co-dependency and enabling are very much alive and malignant in this country (as in many others).

    This malaise cannot and will not, be resolved by earnest seminars and pledges to be ‘open, understanding, etc’.

    New codes of decency, fair play and honour, lived by both sexes, might be a place to start.

  6. ” “The divide is between what might be called enlightened metropolitan opinion (EMO), aka the chattering classes, aka the forces of political correctness, and popular opinion (PO), aka the silent majority, aka the great unwashed.” ”

    I try never to read that dreadful little rag, so I haven’t seen Paul Thomas’ article. I’m guessing, however, that it’ll be – at least in part – an apologetic for the police’s failure of competence. That “boys will be boys and that’s just how the girls like it, and anyway, what were they wearing/doing out at night/drinking alcohol…and where were their parents?” schtick underpinned quite a bit of the online commentary when the Roastbusters case first hit the headlines. Although those voices seem to be quiet at present, they won’t have had a road-to-Damascus conversion in the intervening period.

    And – speaking of apologetic – the IPCA report describes the police as having behaved with respect and compassion toward the alleged victims. What? When those same police did exactly nothing to progress the case? And we’re supposed to accept this report as being a scathing critique? Bollocks to that!

    “It is also a culture which has never quite worked out where women fit into it. The Kiwi bloke’s hackneyed lament: that he can’t live with the female of the species, but also can’t live without her – is hardly a sentiment to put Kiwi women at their ease.”

    Those of us who’ve spent our lives in the so-called “chattering classes” know very well that misogyny permeates every part of that milieu as well. Possession of a good education and the benefits of a liberal upbringing don’t seem to be enough to propel most men beyond such views and allow them to see women as people.

    It’s blindingly obvious that the police – and the criminal justice system generally – don’t take seriously the issue of violence, including sexual violence, against women and children. We’ve seen it over and over again in the way in which a tragic procession of cases has been dealt with, indignant denials notwithstanding.

    But members of the police are drawn from the community: if misogyny is prevalent in that community, we shouldn’t be surprised that it prevails in the police as well. And it probably goes some way to explaining why it appears to be such an intractable problem.

  7. Yep ,…by and large there’s alot of what Chris talks about going around….

    But a word of caution….NZ of course is not exempt , – one only has to look at the big stories coming out of India at the moment – rape, corruption in police doing anything about it….and mysogynist attitudes in the middle east regards women.

    And none of those places had a ‘pioneer’ culture to fall back on to blame. not exclusive to white Anglo Saxon western males.

    I think its just men being nasty abusive wankers . Plain and simple.

    And theres just no need for that sort of ugly disrespectful behaviour against anyone by any chalk .

  8. The two groups you mention, Chris, are two extreme ends of a wide spectrum. There is a whole lot of grey in between the black and white offered in your op-ed. This spectrum is not unique to New Zealand or even the New World, either. Should we, could we, do better? For sure, but the world is not as simple as you make it out to be. I don’t see any point in setting up two extremes and pitching them against each other when, in reality the great majority are likely either mosaic, or found somewhere in the grey middle.

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