The Royal Commission Report: Staying Safely Inside “The Norms” Of Our Neoliberal Society.


THERE’S SOMETHING a bit creepy about the Royal Commission’s report into the Christchurch attacks. That an agenda is at work throughout the document is incontrovertible – and it goes well beyond simply uncovering, describing and learning lessons from the actions that led to the tragedy of Friday,15 March 2019. It’s an agenda dedicated to the monitoring, management and eventual eradication of an entire way of thinking about the world. The “far-right extremist” way of thinking.

Now, I’m quite sure there a plenty of people on the Left who would say: “And what’s wrong with that?” They would point to the mountains of skulls piled up by the Far-Right over the past two centuries and demand to know why the world would not be a better place without these awful ideas and their political executors. But measuring the height of skull mountains is a mug’s game – especially if you’re on the Left. The bone-piles of Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong put Adolf Hitler’s to shame!

To which many on the Left would respond by asserting that Stalin and Mao weren’t actually of the Left, they were totalitarians – a very different beast altogether. Possibly. I would argue that the argument, at its heart, is all about how tolerant you are of people whose ideas contradict your own in a fundamental way.

Even the Royal Commissioners got this: stating, in their definition of political extremism, that:

“Extremism is generally understood as a belief system underpinned by rigid and uncompromising beliefs outside the norm of a society. In the case of New Zealand this might be by rejecting democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Extremism can have different ideological underpinnings and manifest in a number of ways. Central to extremist belief systems is a desire to bring about change and overhaul the political, social or religious environment to conform to the person’s or group’s idealised vision of society.”

TDB Recommends

That unwillingness to compromise is critical. Rigidity, too, is a key aspect of the extremist personality. Certainly, it’s pretty hard to argue that Stalin, Mao and Hitler weren’t rigid and uncompromising political leaders. That said, there are elements of the Commissioners’ definition that are deeply problematic.

The most obvious of these is the phrase “outside the norm of society”. What, precisely, do they mean by that rather extraordinary statement?

Society’s “norms” have a nasty habit of changing. In 2020, anyone advocating the incarceration of homosexuals, or their detention in a mental health facility, would be branded a homophobic extremist. A century ago, however, they would be guilty of nothing more than reiterating “the norm of society”.

In 2020, a left-wing activist calling for the “socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange” would be dismissed as an eccentric ideological throwback to a bygone era. Seventy years ago, however, such a person would have been viewed as a potential threat to national security.

If we are going define extremism in relation to society’s “norms”, then we will discover very quickly that we have signed-up for an extremely moveable feast!

To illustrate the downright sneaky character of the Commission’s definition, let’s apply it to neoliberalism’s conquest of New Zealand in the mid-1980s. The policies introduced by Labour’s “free marketeers” were indisputably outside the norms of New Zealand society. Given the “top-down” manner of its imposition, one could even argue that “Rogernomics” amounted to a rejection of democracy, the rule of law and human-rights. Certainly, the true intentions of its proponents were not communicated to the electorate in the run-up to the 1984 general election. In 1987, Labour dispensed with a manifesto altogether!

It is also indisputable that neoliberalism’s advocates and defenders evinced a rigidity of mind and an unwillingness to compromise that was entirely consistent with the Commission’s definition of extremism. Also present in the neoliberal mindset was a very strong desire to bring about change and to overhaul their country’s economic, social and political environment in comformity with the neoliberal ideology’s “idealised vision of society”.

Thirty-five years on, however, the authors of the Royal Commission’s report would have utterly discredited themselves if they had described neoliberalism as an extremist ideology. If challenged on this point, they would simply argue that neoliberalism is now accepted as “the norm of [our] society”.

And therein lies the problem.

One hundred years ago, what the Commission now describes as “far-right extremism” was the norm of New Zealand society. White supremacy was in evidence across the entire face of the planet: indeed, it underpinned, both morally and politically, the grossly exploitative economic policies of the British, French, Dutch, Portuguese and American empires. New Zealand children educated in the 1920s, 30s and 40s were taught that Maori and Europeans were “brothers under the skin” – members-in-good-standing of the same Aryan race. Many of those children are still alive today. Over the course of a century they have gone from being perfectly “normal” New Zealand schoolchildren, to the hapless victims of far-right extremism.

This is the inconvenient truth the Royal Commission Report is so keen to consign to George Orwell’s “memory hole”. The historical consciousness of constant change that should encourage extreme caution when determining what is, and what is not, “extremism”. The consciousness that resists instinctively the totalitarian impulse to erase all memory of those moments in time when the current “norms” of society weren’t in the least bit normal. The impulse which seeks to eradicate all perspectives but the totalitarian’s own. An outcome that can only be successfully imposed by force.

A wiser Royal Commission, rather than fetishizing the social and ideological milieu which spawned Brenton Tarrant, would have looked more closely at the historical causes of his crime. It would have recalled a New Zealand in which established working-class communities (especially Maori working-class communities) were torn to pieces by the ideology of free market fundamentalism. A country in which the social pathologies of poverty and marginalisation grew steadily worse. It would have counted the casualties.

A wiser Royal Commission would also have questioned the bi-partisan political commitment that took the bi-cultural Aotearoa which was just beginning to emerge in the 1980s, and turned it into a multicultural “Asian nation” (as Jim Bolger memorably characterised New Zealand) without the slightest attempt, on the part of either Labour or National, to secure a popular mandate for such a wrenching demographic transformation.

A wiser Royal Commission might have gone in search of the people who opened the nation’s borders – recklessly setting-up burgeoning communities of new immigrants as targets for populist wrath. The people who provided the “context” for Tarrant’s exterminationist hatred.

Ah, yes, but that sort of Royal Commission would have ended up training its sights on a very different kind of right-wing politics – wouldn’t it? A politics defended by extremists a whole lot better resourced and infinitely more powerful than a handful of bewildered ethno-nationalist malcontents.


  1. The statistics show that the woke hysteria around gender and new task forces are being targeted at the wrong groups. Aka

    The most common people in NZ committing suicide are European and other …. you know the ones that get no protection under law, that the woke and media bully and lefties are out with their vigilante groups to take down, the male, pale and stale.

    In addition when analysing the victims of crime, again, it is not who you think aka Asians are the least likely to be a victim of crime … but they seem to like to tag off the back of Maori government funding and attention because it suits the neoliberal agenda, low wage economy and our export markets.

    “Adults aged 20–29 years (37%) and 40–49 years (36%) were more likely to experience crime than the NZ average (30%), whereas adults aged 65 years and over (20%) were less likely to experience crime.

    (aka pretty much even, the age brackets of victims of crime only 1% difference between 20- 29 and 40 -49 ages.)

    Māori (38%) were more likely to be victims of crime and Chinese Adults (22%) were less likely to be victims of crime compared to the NZ average.

    Analysis shows that Māori are younger and live in more deprived areas and these factors contribute to their higher likelihood of victimisation.

    Adults who had never married or been in a civil union (36%) were more likely than the NZ average to experience crime, while those who were widowed (17%) were less likely.”

    Other issues,

    Adults with moderate (43%) or high (51%) levels of psychological distress were more likely to be victims of crime than the NZ average.

    Adults who were not employed and not actively seeking work (43%) were more likely to experience crime than the NZ average, while retired people (25%) were less likely to experience crime.

    Students were more than twice as likely (16%) than the NZ average to experience violent interpersonal crime.

    Victims were injured in 56% of physical violence offences.

    Over the last 12 months, 87,000 adults experienced over 250,000 offences committed by family members. (35%)

    Pacific adults (2.4%) were half as likely as the NZ average (4.9%) to experience theft and damage offences.

    Asian adults (3.5%) were less likely to experience theft and damage offences than the NZ average. Māori (7.8%) were more likely to be victims of theft and damage offences.

    A quarter (25%) of all crime was reported to the Police over the last 12 months. (So 75% of crime is unreported).

    The vast majority of sexual assaults (94%) were not reported to the Police.

    Victims who experienced multiple incidents within the last 12 months experienced the majority (70%) of all crime incidents.

    Adults more likely than the NZ average to be highly victimised were:
    o young adults (aged 20 – 29)
    o Māori
    o living in a one parent household
    o living in the most deprived areas
    o experiencing high levels of financial pressure
    o experiencing moderate to high psychological distress
    o reporting low levels of life satisfaction and lower feelings
    of safety.

    Adults less likely than the NZ average to be highly victimised were:
    o adults aged 65 years and over
    o Asian adults
    o living in a couple only household
    o not experiencing financial stress
    o not psychologically distressed
    o reporting high levels of life satisfaction and high feelings
    of safety.

    • This again SaveNZ? Maori clearly have highest proportionate (per 100,000) suicide rate though fewer in total number than that catchall other. From your own link; “‘European and other’ includes, but is not limited to: New Zealand European, European, Middle Eastern, Latin American, African and ‘not elsewhere defined’”. That is a large part of the population, not all pale or stale! As for male; “information reported to the Coroner and may differ from that held by other agencies, such as the Ministry of Health”, seems likely to go with birth certificate sex, and thus conflate gender.

      However, this is tangental to Trotter’s OP. I wish I could be bothered to wade through all the RC report’s hundreds of pages, but just can’t be bothered. Though I assume that their attention was more focused on the circumstances of the Christchurch atrocity than 20th century totalitarians.
      Hate Speech =/ Thought Crime.

      • @Forget now – Maori clearly have highest proportionate (per 100,000) suicide rate although Pakeha males are the highest group as an amount of suicides – yet money seems to be increasingly diverted off to other ethnicities in government agencies and more and more task forces and money and resources allocated away from those groups…

        Asians have the least suicides and least likely to be a victim of crime, yet are the start of the statistics table. Pakeha as an ethnic group (and big in parliament) are not even listed in victims of crime statistics as a separate category.

        Asian in itself is vast as a group, Indian, Thai, Chinese, Fijian Indian…. NZ Statistics seem pathetic, after blowing the census they are getting more woke and less a way to find out statistics and do positive policy in NZ, the longer they go on.

        The Christchurch terrorism happened because government agencies were asleep at the wheel giving new residents licenses for automatic weapons with little checks and balances, not following up on the gun clubs concerns and complaints – plus allowing any terrorist in the world to come to NZ as part of our ‘friendly face’ without any checks on what they are up to, once they get here.

        How about a bit more surveillance on who is coming to NZ and do they meet the character assessment and are they breaking NZ laws not just in extreme cases like terror, but drugs, crime, tax evasion, aka all ethnicities and religions investigated…

        before Rogernomics that was part of the assessment of people coming to NZ… now NZ immigration is a bogus process that other countries like OZ have moved to avoid, so that they are not paying and making it easier for international terrorists to come there.

        Soon NZ will be like France, Germany and the UK, a friendly democratic socialist face where the average Joe can be beheaded, driven over, knifed or suffer an acid attack in the streets in the name of some disillusioned first or second generation slight. They don’t even bother with government targets or sophisticated plans, it’s the average Joe they attack with everyday weapons that can’t easily be prevented like trucks and knives.

  2. Absolutely a masterpiece, Chris !

    With so many salient points that articulate in text what so many found difficult to cognitively link,…yet they knew ,- and have known, – for a long time that things don’t add up , that something was amiss, and that someone was not telling the whole story in this country,…

    And indeed cultural and societal ‘norms’ are but moving sands,… unless of course as you mentioned, – those society’s are held together with an iron fist. Any empire, from the Mayans to the British, must be held by force and economic power. And when those empires break up , there is often a corresponding shift in societal norms.

    The use of the free market / neo liberal ideology was excellent,… 35 years ago, any talk of neo liberalism ( the term wasn’t even coined back then ) as being anything but a radical extremist form of economics and political theory was the norm. Now it is called ‘Orthodox’. And we have such destructive social consequences because of it.

    Whereas before that, we had the 60 year long Keynesian consensus. The most prosperous time the west had ever known. But that wasn’t good enough for the extremists like the Mont Pelerin society and their NZ based outpost, the Business Roundtable,… now called the ‘NZ Initiative’…

    As it was by design and by stealth and in not sufficiently informing the NZ public of the true agenda of the Mont Pelerins, – rather by using Bob Jones and his NZ party ( Jones cynically dismantled the NZ party soon after it achieved its objective of ousting Muldoon ) to oust Muldoon and National and dismantle the Keynesian consensus in NZ. Democratic? No. Deceptive? , – Definitely. And so they achieved their rigid idealistic goals with ruthless efficiency running roughshod over the wishes of the NZ public regarding asset sales and privatization of publicly owned utility’s ,.. ie ; power and water supply, rail and airlines …quoting their nauseous self justification with ” the NZ public has given us the mandate”…

    Except that Roger and Ruth ( both Ruth Richardson and Roger Douglas were sitting board members in the Mont Pelerin society of London ) turned a blind eye to the massive nation wide demonstrations of all of these and the 1991 Employment Contracts Act,… yet they rammed all these things through anyways….regardless.

    And so the era of new societal ‘norms’ was brought about. Forcefully and rigidly.

    Something rotten in Denmark?

    Funny old world, innit?

  3. Brilliant Post @ CT. A surgically precise explanation and deadly accurate in my opinion.
    There are dark forces behind AO/NZ’s political mechanism that’s for sure.
    I’d go so far as to predict that tarrant was manipulated and steered into his ‘predicament’. The one thing we can say for sure about extremists is that they’re predictable.
    How did the police miss so many alarms being set off by tarrant? Were they told to stand down? Are they being muzzled?
    A definition of the privileges that power affords might be seen in ron brierly’s case?
    He got arrested for the child porn found on his laptop while he was leaving Sydney AP for Fiji.
    There were thousands of stills images and hundreds of videos according to the reports.
    But where is he? He seems to have vanished? There are rumours that he may have been set up. Ok. I’d consider that as a possibility. As much as I hate the old bastard I’d give him that. But by whom? And for why ? But what ever the reason/s he’s vanished. The titan of industry as he was called by some has managed to elude the media thus avoiding the stony glare of AO/NZ’s citizenry for what might have been vile crimes
    ( Sorry to hijack the narrative but I see parallels and same-same yet different stuff in there.)
    Bloody good work in my humble opinion@ Chris Trotter.

  4. The concerning thing about this heinous crime is that the abuse has been going on for years in NZ to multiple children, but only comes to light when overseas agencies let the NZ government know.

    NZ seems to totally rely on other countries to do their enforcement for them, their labour force for them, their security, their government jobs, their educators,…. how about we spend less of our agencies money on woke task forces and groupthink, and more on actually giving to the front line workers aka police, teachers, social workers and emergency services to actually protect everyone equally under the law?

    Brent Ruddell sentencing: Family of Kerikeri paedophile’s victims lash out in court, judge becomes visibly emotional

  5. The message in NZ, is be a cold, hearted Rogernom, if you attempt to help others the government will come for you and prosecute you.

    Thousands plead with Worksafe to drop charges against ‘heroic’ helicopter pilots who rescued White Island survivors

    SIS failed to report ‘NZ’s Fritzl’ Ronald Van Der Plaat

    • I think this: aptly demonstrates that the government machine is actually suffering from a seizure.
      What is an algorithm? In it’s most simple terms one can describe it as a recipe.
      If there is the smallest error in the algorithm, lives are lost ( as demonstrated in the debacle of driverless cars )
      Facial recognition by AI is notoriously unstable and cannot correctly read a great many facial types, especially those with darker skin, and is fundamentally flawed. An artificial intelligence has no soul. To quote a famous film maker:
      “Technology denies art. It must be served; otherwise, it leads to anxiety and death. It imposes its rule and annihilates all feelings that do not want to serve it. It kills humanity, that is, what is human in man. To pause, to deny, to search, to ask questions, in a word, to educate oneself, means to feel tension, to go against the current, which only an elite (and tomorrow a super-elite) can still allow itself, accepting death, social pressure, by devoting itself to this problem. This is why the young people are silent. They march with their eyes glued to the path blazed by the machine. They advance to the sound of an anthem composed of bad music, visualized by a retrograde television industry, urged on by a nameless film industry and by an anarchical sexuality. This is neither music, nor art, nor love, but a sterile concoction that forces the young people to take refuge in productivity. This is why the youth are silent … yet it is they who will write our history.”
      At the root of this, one has to ask: “who writes the algorithms?” and if they are not written with love, total love, for all of humanity then of a consequence they are not acceptable.
      If the tooth fairy has been signed up by a government department, how can another government department then prosecute same tooth fairy for doing what the first said department has asked her to do in the first place?

  6. There’s money for jam in the field of protection and investigation management, let’s face it.

    Political government is (often sadly) and cynically viewed by many as being a licence to print money and where many live higher on the corporate hog after leaving office. Richardson & Co as one example of many?

    Are corporate and various leaders not sending us a message, New Zealand/Aotearoa, that much about security and intelligence domestically, now has to be looked at from a commercial perspective?

    If you want to receive the best in either from centrally sourced and funded providers, perhaps just be prepared to pay the piper (which includes higher taxes), or just accept that a few stuff ups might occur from time to time.

    Norms and normality are so often different things for different people, as are various ideals based assertions that one boot fits all.

    Perhaps, as a nation we might need to find an identity first, and not just rely on a promo feature that most of the people assert as being representative of the country.

  7. It’s hard to know where to start with this. Perhaps it is just enough to say that New Zealanders have had multiple chances at frequent intervals to overturn so-called “neoliberalism”, but they have refused to do much more than tinker around the edges.

    It seems that some people just won’t accept that turkeys will–and often do–vote for Christmas, and that, as a result, modern politics is not worth your time.

  8. Excellent piece, Chris.

    You have highlighted what many of us have known for years: that those in control are the extremists, and are responsible for far more death and destruction than all the so-called terrorists that ever lived!

    What is more, the extremists who are in control of the system -the government, the banks, the corporations , the opportunist and the bureaucrats- plan to deliver even more death and destruction via their total intransigence with respect to economic and financial policies.

    It is surely a case of the victors writing the history of the conflict. We never perpetrated any war crimes; it was only the enemy that did such things.

    As I have mentioned on many occasions, current living arrangements are a gross aberration in the grand scheme of things -industrialism a mere blip lasting just 300 years before extinguishing itself via depletion and generation of wastes- and the particular arrangements we are living at the moment (petroleum-dependent and electricity-dependent suburbia and high-rise) are an even shorter blip in the grand scheme of things, lasting just a few decades before becoming unviable. Whereas, pre-industrial living arrangements based on local agriculture lasted of the order of 20,000, and hunter-gatherer living lasted of the order of 200,000 years.

    The Royal Commission Report is just one more example of those supposedly in authority becoming increasingly disconnected from reality and operating in an intellectual and cultural vacuum.

    The resources wasted in generating this bullshit report are just another nail in the coffin of our futures. especially the futures of young people, who are not generally aware how much they are lied to and manipulated.

    Not long to go before everything breaks down as a consequence of the activities of the extremists that have constituted governments throughout the world for the past 5 decades.

    ‘Human-made materials now outweigh Earth’s entire biomass – study
    Production of concrete, metal, plastic, bricks and asphalt greater than mass of living matter on planet, paper says’

    • Then we need a song,… a good song, one that will gird and hearten us . Something with good values and encouragement , and encouragement to action. Though not of a violent nature, but of a grass roots unification,… that conditions foisted upon will no longer be tolerated. And we need the educationalists we have, to be heard. Such as the OP.

      Johnny Collins – When all Men Sing

      It is Christmas after all,…and being an old English folk song and to be in taken in context, patriarchal if they be so , the sentiments are not bad at all, as it is inclusive of all. And so should we be inclusive, as its the only way to fight this neo liberal exploitative evil. And to do so peaceably.

  9. Very good work Mr Trotter. Extremism has many faces and does not have to resort to violence to achieve its aims it can be like neo liberalism which sold as the only way to save a crippled supposedly bankrupt nation.
    At the time it was said that the economy was in ruins and there was no alternative. Its implementation without a mandate ( Labour did not campaign on specific policies it was about to enact) in fact there was no vigorous debate , even the famous ” i love you Mr Lange ” leaders debate if you go back and review it you will find Mr Lange actually said nothing about what Roger Douglas intended to do.
    Extremism always needs a catalyst to begin and in our case it was R.D Muldoon whose intransigence is just as much to blame in our free market revolution.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.