Be Careful What You Wish For.


THERE’S A CURIOUS disconnect between the Left’s support for the Muslim community and its deep-seated mistrust of the security services. On the one hand, they are demanding that the white supremacists be hunted down and brought to justice – by any means necessary – while, on the other, they are wary of expanding the already extensive powers of the secret state. The problem, of course, is that it’s very difficult to achieve the former without promoting the latter. It is, however, far from certain that the Left understands this.

One of the most consistent themes to emerge from the Left’s response to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch Mosque Attacks is that of the authorities’ failure to identify and neutralise Brenton Tarrant’s terrorist operation. Unspoken in these critiques (most probably because those making them are unwilling to acknowledge the full implications of their own demands) is the expectation that, in order to guard against such a terrible crime ever happening again, the Ardern Government will oversee a significant expansion of the National Intelligence Community’s (NIC) counter-terrorist capabilities.

But what, exactly, would that look like? By what means could the activities of a Brenton Tarrant be detected? He had planned his operation with considerable care, always conscious of the need to avoid attracting the attention of the authorities. He understood the acute vulnerabilities of a democratic society and exploited them ruthlessly. Most particularly, he took advantage of our system’s fundamental assumption that people are motivated by good (or, at least, not illegal) intentions. By the time a society like our own realises that it is dealing with someone whose intentions are homicidally destructive – it is far too late.

To its credit, the Royal Commission recognised this core truth of the Christchurch Attacks: that only the intervention of pure chance could have prevented Tarrant from carrying out his deadly mission. The Left, however, remains unsatisfied. It refuses to accept that Tarrant was essentially unstoppable. With all its powers, surely the secret state could have intercepted Tarrant’s electronic communications? A proper network of spies and informants, buried deep in the white supremacist movement, would have had no difficulty in picking-up on this new member of the gun club; this obsessive body-builder at the gym; this traveller with the interesting collection of stamps in his passport.

But, what sort of society would that be? A society in which the state is permitted to eavesdrop on any and every communication without the benefit of a judicial warrant, would hardly merit the title of “democratic”. Likewise, any society in which every new face, every unguarded comment, is noted, recorded and reported to the security services by a vast secret network of spies and informants. A society, in short, bearing a striking family resemblance to the society of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and its state security (Stasi) protectors.

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Is that really the direction in which the Left would like to see Aotearoa-New Zealand travel?

The scary thing is that it’s not entirely clear that such a society is not the Left’s ultimate goal. Not when its extreme antipathy to white supremacy and its determination to protect vulnerable groups from its “hate crimes” and “hate speech” are factored into the equation. After all, it was the Socialist Unity Party’s (as the GDR’s communists called themselves) fear of fascism, both within the GDR and across the border in the Federal Republic (West Germany) that led to the creation of the Stasi and the building of the Berlin Wall.

Is it really too fanciful to suggest that, just as the East German working-class sought protection from any resurgence of the recently defeated fascists’ hateful ideology, so, too, does Aotearoa’s diverse multicultural society require protection from the hateful manifestations of white supremacy?

It is so very tempting to buy into the goals and methods of counter-terrorism when the terrorists are people you despise. Think back to the early 1960s, when the Black civil rights movement was being beaten, bombed and murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. Recall the enraging photographs, published in Life magazine, of lounging Southern sheriffs, obscenely confident that their murderous suppression of African-Americans would go unpunished by the all-white juries empanelled to determine their guilt or innocence. Remember the increasingly shrill demands from liberal Americans that the FBI must “do something” to shut the Klan down. The unspoken assurance being that, whatever the “something” might be, the FBI would be scrutinised thoroughly only by the federal government’s blind eye.

And it worked. Of course it worked! Paid informers, midnight abductions, threats of torture, infiltration, disinformation, fostering extreme paranoia, deliberately inciting factional strife: such tactics always work. And when the Ku Klux Klan began to eat itself and its members started ratting each other out to the Feds, well, liberal America just set its jaw, shook the FBI Special Agents’ hands, and murmured “Well done.”

It is, however, important to remember that although the FBI’s Counter-Intelligence Programme (COINTELPRO) may have started with the Klan, it didn’t end there – no siree! Having shut down the southern white supremacists, the FBI turned its attention to the burgeoning left-wing movement against the war in Vietnam; the Black Panther Party; Students for A Democratic Society. Because, that’s the thing about politicised counter-terrorism: it may crack down on the Right out of a sense of duty; but destroying the Left is something it will always do happily – for the pure pleasure of watching it burn.

Has the New Zealand Left forgotten already the enormous fuss they made about the ill-fated “Operation Eight”. How appalled they all were when the Police and other elements of the security services moved against a group of left-wing activists observed training in the Urewera Ranges with semi-automatic weapons and Molotov cocktails? Have they forgotten their outrage at the illegal use of surveillance equipment? The interception of e-mails. The heavy-handed raid on Ruatoki? Their message to the National Intelligence Community, then, was admirably clear: “Stop trying to turn New Zealand into a police state!”

Ah, yes, but Operation Eight was directed against the Left’s friends and comrades – wasn’t it? Thirteen years on, what would the response be if the news media broke a story about a group of heavily armed white supremacists undergoing military training in a remote South Island pine forest? How many on the Left would complain, I wonder, when scores of heavily-armed and armoured police officers descended on the little Canterbury town of Geraldine to apprehend the fascists?

Hopefully, the outcry in defence of New Zealanders’ civil liberties would be just as loud in 2020 as it was in 2007. Hopefully, the insistence on the presumption of innocence would be just as great.

Every state possesses the means to keep its citizens under strict control. The democratic trick is to ensure that it receives no encouragement to use them. If governments are incited to believe the worst of their citizens, then those citizens will not be slow to live up to their masters’ expectations.

Be careful what you wish for.


  1. whao whao whao there, Tex. Who are “the left” in NZ? Labour Party supporters? Middle class hobbyists? Teenage feminists? Kid’s that wear hoodies? African and middle eastern immigrants? And they want to recreate East Germany against the KKK? Just stop. Just stop this silliness, you’re a grown man. It’s strawman-a-rama and rapid way to become totally irrelevent to any political discussion.

    • ” Who are “the left” in NZ?”… All of the above groups you mention, and hundreds more, have members of “the left” among them… Does that make it easier for you? Seriously, do you really believe that “the left” can be pigeonholed that easily?
      Just accept that there is a left leaning constituency in NZ, just as there is in pretty much every country in the world ….. Try not to let those shadows startle you so much aye…

  2. Chris I congratulate you for saying that, for it certainly needed saying.

    A few points on practicalities:

    Under the previous regime there were in fact spies in the gun clubs. There was an informal arrangement between the various firearms associations and the cops that certain persons in clubs were designated to keep an eye on new members to see if they did or said anything dangerous. This could take the form of unsafe handling of a weapon or making utterances that could indicate mental issues. The local firearms licencing officer would be tipped of and the applicant effectively ‘black balled’. All this was done away with by the cops and a parliamentary select committee because it was considered by them as ‘too time consuming and expensive’.

    Clamping down on guns will not stop a terrorist. Bombs or truck attacks are equally effective and impossible to eliminate. Let’s not forget that the terrorist attack in Europe with the highest number of fatalities was the Nice truck attack. Someone hijacked a truck and drove it into a crowd resulting in the deaths of 86 people and the injury of 458 others.

    Vast numbers of semiautomatic and even fully automatic weapons have not been handed in. We don’t know exactly how many, but in some instances where specific types were imported by one dealer we can compare his records with that of the police to find that, for example, only about 20% of M14 Battle Rifles were handed in. Go google that little beast….

    Most people don’t know that the firearms confiscation only affected some categories of licence holder. Those with ‘C’ licences and ‘P’ licences (Collectors and Pistols) were totally unaffected. Lots of influential people have these licences including some MPs, so they were protected. So we still have lots of semiautos, full machineguns and pistols at large. I know lots of people with LOTS of fun toys in their safes!

    Given a modicum of craft skill it’s really easy to make a gun, even a submachinegun. No special tools are required, just a very basic garage workshop. Since the firearms confiscation in Aussie, the gangs over there have been making SMGs by the dozen and these are now being picked up by cops in drug raids.

    In summary, nothing has been achieved by the confiscation other than alienating a lot of innocent people. We wasted over 100 million dollars – money that could feed school kids or provide elective surgeries just so that Jacinda could make us ‘feel’ safe.

    • I get a little tired of the gun lobby saying that the law didn’t remove all the dangerous guns so it was a failure… It most certainly did reduce the amount of dangerous guns but more importantly it stopped a hell of a lot more being added to the pile. Just because you can’t fix the damage doesn’t mean you can’t stop the rotting.

      • Actually the Buyback made things worst by taking over 100000 semi-automatic rifles out of gun safes and putting them somewhere else. These rifles can no longer be legally sold or used, but they definitely still exist. You didn’t stop the rot, you poured gasoline on the fire, and it looks like they have more gasoline in the form of the proposed gun register. This will shift even more firearms to the black & grey markets. Safer communities together?

        • So what you are saying is that all those (supposedly) law abiding gun owners are actually criminals hiding illegal weapons. And you think they should be allowed to own people killing guns (because that’s all they are) Wonderful.

          • Gun owners are a spectrum of society and will obey laws to various degrees depending on their personal beliefs, same as everyone else. Do you ever exceed the speed limit? Run orange lights? Buy / use illegal drugs? Think that sometimes “no” actually means “yes”? Are you actually a criminal? The answer is probably yes based a a very narrow binary. Laws are just words, and if they aren’t fair or aren’t enforced, they are often ignored, this is reality, not a magical fairy land where banning something makes it disappear. My comment isn’t a complaint, it’s a warning of where we are heading if the current gun control focus continues. Guns aren’t the problem, gangs aren’t even the problem, the problem is poverty & inequality, that leads people to believe drugs, crime & violence are their only escape. We need real solutions, not just smoke screens.

            • Really? Compareing people killing guns ro buying a little weed? All i am saying is the fewer of these guns the better. You can have a semi auto if you must but limited to five shots. If you are such a shit shot you probably shouldn’t be hunting. There are special categories of licence for pest control. All the AR15 and AK derivatives are just wank bait.

              • Kim, if you’re buying weed, then by definition you are a criminal. Also most of the gun crime currently happening in NZ is due to groups of people who just want to sell little bags of crystals to eager & willing customers. If you are buying drugs, then it is likely you are helping to finance their operations, including their right to bear arms & kill people.

                Oh, and other difference between licenced firearm owners & the rest of society, is the we are heavily vetted by the Police, our friends are interviewed, our opinions noted, our homes inspected & we can be visited at almost any time by the Police. Would you allow that intrusion? Would you pass that process and be found “fit & proper”?

            • Richard Slade, that is probably the single best comment I have seen yet on the whole firearm law change and buyback fiasco. Thanks.

              The fact that the law change was fundamentally ideologically driven by an existing anti-gun agenda (rather than logical analysis of the situation) is only clear when you don’t share that particular ideological bias.

              Even if it was possible to get rid of every single firearm in the country and prevent a future Tarrant style attack (51 dead, 40 injured) it does not prevent the possibility of a Lahouaiej-Bouhle style truck attack (86 dead, 458 injured) or a McVeigh style bombing (168 dead, 680 injured), or any other style of terrorist attack. Without addressing the cause, the means does not mater much…. unless you have that particular ideological mindset yelling “BAN GUNS!!! BAN GUNS!!!” constantly in your head.

              • I should have added, what the three terrorists mentioned did was not forgivable in any way, and the result of sick minds. However we do need to try to understand what lead them to commit their atrocities, what could possibly make it seem ok to them to massacre innocent people for a cause? In the case of Tarrant yes he was a sicko and stuck in an extremist echo chamber and probably suffering from roid rage but he got into a frame of mind where he felt sufficiently alienated by what he perceived as invasion by the ‘other’ that he felt it was appropriate to commit mass murder. NZ has gone down a multi cultural path with mass import of all kinds of people and cultures, largely without any approval or democratic process from the citizenry. If there are NZ citizens as unhappy about this as Tarrant was, the worst possible thing to do is lock up their thoughts with hate speech legislation. Much better to have this discussion out in the open. Ban guns as much as you want, but the woke hate speech rules may well create a whole legacy of new Tarrants, people disaffected by the mainstream woke ideas, not stop them. Personally I would prefer to get shot at in a sports stadium with 50,000 other people than have a bomb or gas go off in the same venue with much more horrific casualty potential.

        • Customs intercept hundreds of guns at the border every year that’s just the ones they get- meth and whole containers make it in to the country and guns with them.

          The idea banning guns from licensed people is good because that’s where crims get them all from is simply a police association lie.
          Of those guns seized from crims by police , half have the serial number removed making a gun register redundant already.
          Unless we are doing an angle grinder buy back.

          We don’t ban TVs and jewelry to solve home invasions.

          We would do far more for public safety by banning cycling on public roads than guns – and there are plenty of other places to bike. Bikes are far more dangerous in this country.
          And riding horses especially.
          Let’s ban them.

          But in a grown up society don’t we tolerate those who want to be cyclists, religious, Green Party members, Morris dancers or Nickel back listeners because we are all different and enjoy different things.
          Diversity of thought doesn’t seem to apply to the woke.

      • Kim, you’re assuming a linear relationship between the number of guns floating around and the risk of another terrorist attack. Does that really make sense in the real world?

        Tarrant was a committed terrorist who spent years planning this and dedicated all his energies toward his evil intentions. Do you think such a person will be put off because a percentage of guns are not any longer available off the shelf?

        He can knock up a submachine gun in a week:

        • Tarrent brought his guns from a licenced dealer so i don’t see your point.If he wasn’t able to do that he would have had to access them on the black market which (with luck) might have put him in the sights of police (or maybe not). Or maybe one of the law abiding citizens Richard Slade mentioned.

  3. The “left” as you call it is not the real left if it expects the state to stop attacks on Muslims. The real left builds its own working class community institutions to protect the rights of all workers whatever class, race or creed.

    If there is a contradiction regarding the state it is entirely due to the fake left’s confusion about the class nature of the state. It is a bosses’ state and as late as the early 20th century the radical wing of the labour movement understood this, by counterposing naïvely syndicalist unions as the alternative to the Fabian socialism offered by the middle class.

    The left needs to return to the days of the Red Fed and put its faith in its own class organisation and culture, especially as it includes and protects all categories of workers that make up the 80% who produce NZ’s wealth directly or indirectly.

    The only reason that the latent power of that working majority is quiescent is that it is smothered by the bourgeois culture of individualism itself a fetishised inversion of capitalist social relations.

    The left will not revive to lead the social revolution we need to escape the fate of extinction until it understands that the state is no friend to workers but the state of the degenerate capitalist class.

    The state we are in has to give way to a workers’ state where the new ruling class, that which produces the wealth, shares power for the first time by means of a true democracy based on the vast majority.

  4. At last some uncommon, at least on these pages, common sense.
    You can’t have it both ways, and “those who would trade freedom for security will find in the end they have ,nor deserve,neither”
    We have already discovered how far a “benign?” State will go to counteract what,in either our history or our future, is a nothingburger of a “plauge”.
    God alone knows what all you poor frightened souis will wish on us next.

  5. Another curious disconnect from the left is how the radical feminists condemn our so called ‘white privilege male patriarchy’ that somehow still oppresses them, while welcoming with open arms Muslim immigrant men became ‘diversity is our strength’ . Islam is actually the only real patriarchal religon/ culture/ law left on the face of the earth where women are treated as secondary and actually oppressed by the men and have little rights. This is for good reason as western women are out of control since their emancipation at the ballot late 19 century and the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Its almost like they have gone full circle and want to go pre 1893 again after destroying western masculinity.
    Triggered snowflakes here will call me a racist, sexist, misogynistic toxic male but I don’t care its the truth. Don’t come crying to me when we all start living under sharia law ladies.

    • I don’t think ‘feminists’ per se, exist any more. Modern Islamic countries can be reasonably benign, and most Muslims agree that much Sharia Law is applicable to the time and/or place in which it was written – as with much of the Old Testament – and indeed, the New Testament.

      All extremes can be bad news, but I’d hesitate to describe New Zealand’s world – leading women and baby bashers as emasculated.

  6. It is ‘interesting’ hat the state uses its surveillance systems and ‘security’ systems i.e. police and paramilitary etc., to criminalise and prosecute (even incarcerate and torture) truth-tellers, environmentalists and those opposed to the wide-ranging destruction the state orchestrates, whilst the REAL CRIMINALS, i.e. parliamentarians, bureaucrats, economists and opportunists get lionised, even given knighthoods etc., for the destruction and mayhem they cause.

    Such is life at the end of empire, which also includes bread and circuses, but without the bread.

    Clearly, as we continue down the slope of energy depletion, environmental degradation and financial ruin that the government and its agencies have orchestrated for us, we must expect the assaults on contrarians to be taken to new levels, until the current system breaks down to the point of being inoperable…which increasingly looks to be around 2025.

    Obviously NZ will be one of the last places to see food (lack of) riots.

    • Ain’t that the truth. And a big problem is the generic, neo-liberal managerialism that’s now developed into an artform that means everything – even the slightest minimal progress or change necessary takes an eon.
      Everything is treated as a transacting business – including people
      Bureaucracies that are unresponsive and more concerned with maintaining themselves that what it is they’re intended to do. And as we see with OT, and MBIE, and Corrections, and MSD, and NZTA, and, and, and, and …. there are consequences – not the least of which is that the public they’re there to serve loses any faith in them. Once again, it’s not just as H1 says “a lack of capacity” (which there is), but also organisational culture inherent in that hierarchical managerialism that we now see everywhere.
      Yep, I reckon you might be correct: 2025 or thereabouts, but if things don’t begin to improve before 2023, it’ll be interesting electorally.

      • Ekshully, watching the Selwyn Manning/Paul Buchanan interview again, Paul Buchanan understands the concept of “bureaucratic capture” which is a big part of that managerialism. I suspect its a big part of what happened in OT, but sure as shit I know it to be true elsewhere. If Ministers aren’t careful, they simply become enablers of it all. The astute Minister won’t simply take the word of a gate-keeping ‘official’ that they constantly have complete “faith” in, but they’ll delve a little deeper – even IF they can’t get involved in that fluid phenomenon known as the “operational matter”.
        Tinkering, dithering and incrementalism ain’t going to fix it either. It’s become an artform. Not only did we get CEOs, we now have CEs and DCEs at every turn, and an enterage of spin doctors who probably have their own library of management theory and self-improvement books and a wall of certificates of the various management courses they’ve attended.
        2025, most of them will still be wondering why it all happened.
        And simply changing the State Services Commission to the Public Service Commission isn’t going to cut it either. Sadly, I expected more of Mr Chippie as one of Labour’s ‘heavy lifters’ – but you know – Rome wasn’t built in a day.

  7. What a lovely xmas present–a “don’t rock the boat’ column from Chris.

    The state already added extra snooping power during the Key era along with funding increases. Which included the neo liberal run Govt. Depts being allowed to surveil, plus their personnel and informants can have anonymity for life, and operations can never have existed, or be subject to what minimal scrutiny there is. Under the 1969 Act the SIS already had extended protection for their still living operatives and snouts. Unfortunately the majority of New Zealanders seem not give a proverbial about the dozens of “services”, Bureaus, Committees and special Police squads and units.

    I support Muslims in a general sense of being part of humanity, and those who are NZ citizens, with the caveat that employers of any nationality tend to be bad news, and Religion is a plague, and handbrake on all of humanity in its thrall.

    State Security forces are substantially only ever going to be used against the people, with the added rub that under neo liberalism and globalised commerce, pimping for private capital became one of their prime functions.

    The State could have easily picked up the Christchurch shooter, if they were not elitist, old boy network, Eurocentric, Cold War relics with orders from Washington and Canberra.

    • Tiger Mountain: “The State could have easily picked up the Christchurch shooter, if they were not elitist, old boy network, Eurocentric, Cold War relics with orders from Washington and Canberra.”

      It’s not clear to me how that could have happened. Tarrant was at pains not to attract attention to himself. The only possibility was if hospital staff had reported him to the police. And as we know, reporting of that sort wasn’t routine at the time.

  8. The whole thing is a bit stupid. It just hadn’t really occurred to anyone that a foreigner would move here to conduct a white supremacist attack. After all, most of these people tend to be angry at their own country’s multiculturalism and immigration issues.

    I wasn’t surprised that the attack was in Christchurch, which has been the epicentre of NZ’s small white supremacist movement for as long as I can remember. I would have been surprised if they were responsible for the attack, because our white supremacists are mostly inept losers incapable of organising anything. Of course the cops were watching them. But who’d a thunk that an Australian would move here to stage an attack?

  9. <To Chris Trotter and all thedailybloggers.

    With respect.

    The existence of the 1:16sec Linwood video makes all these questions and projections moot.

    This 1:16 clip, apparently filmed as evidence of the immediate aftermath of the attack at Linwood, is so BADLY MADE that it is EMBARRASSING. So amateur, that it is not even parody. And so obviously revealing of itself that the Office of Film and Literature Classification refuse any knowledge of it. I have requested OIA documentation of their process deciding it. They protest no record of it in the metadata, therefore it remains unclassified.
    No media have ever mentioned it, therefore it remains unreported.
    It appears nowhere 'in the Literature', therefore it does not exist.

    Yet, this brief glimpse into a world we desperately need understand, DOES EXIST, And it exists 'in-the-real', OUTSIDE of the system designed to investigate and prosecute it; negating every possible analysis of the attack being extrapolated from it; Analysis that only forensic cross examination and adjudication under rules of evidence in the courts of law, before judge and jury of our peers, can supply.

  10. Oh dear Chris – clearly you have never been knowingly spied upon and spied upon illegally like Keith Locke and others. This is the sort of spying that goes on all the time, people trying to do their bit to improve our society. Do they spy on the Sirs who have made their money through the hard work of others. And of course we spy for other countries and by doing this we are spying on our allies. Frankly they missed those that carried out the bombing of the rainbow warrior and the three Mossad agents who were travelling on illegal passports one of whom was killed during the Otautahi earthquakes and other events. Too busy looking at people of colour I would say……………. The bias within the security services is the same as what is in our police services, if you are ‘foreign’ and your skin is brown you are deemed as worth spying on.

    At the time that the illegal spying on dotcom was exposed there were 82 others who were illegally spied upon, frankly I thought those people spied upon should know who they were but then they might challenge this state apparatus.

    As Nicky Hager said once, the 5 Eyes are interested in being in the club that is 5 Eyes, they are a club in themselves ignoring the wishes of their individual governments.

  11. Persons ( I’m trying to avoid political labels) hostile to police and quasi police organisations, saying that we need more of them, and criticising them for not intercepting the Muslim killer, may be a bit challenged.

    It doesn’t take a genius to plan and execute a crime, even if criminals think themselves so. It was also apparent early on that the Australian killer was a lone wolf and social misfit.

    Importantly, he was enabled by having his own independent source of money – without that, the massacres may well have not occurred, and he may not have even embarked on the travels which shaped his world view. Inheriting at a young age could transform some young guys’ lives, but here the outcome was terrible killings.

    The sort of Orwellian surveillance needed to intercept evil doers like him is possibly unrealistic, but coupled with hate speech laws, and monitoring by the thought police, it’ll be music to the ears of the power wielders – and open up a whole new sub-specialty to enrich lawyers. Micro chipping could be easier and cheaper.

    Were I Maori I’d look at making this a Treaty issue, which should be able to be done; others will have to learn to live with it.

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