On Brian Tamaki As Charismatic Frontman For The Commentariat’s Anti-Covid Control Agenda

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Yesterday, everybody’s favourite opportunity for a Monty Python title-drop, Brian Tamaki, held a jamboree in Auckland’s Domain. On one level, it was an anti-Covid-19 control measure protest, clearly inspired by efforts in Melbourne over the past few months. On another level, it was another opportunity for those more broadly disdainful for our Government to get together and have a bit of a tractor-in-lieu-of-traction fest. Replete with an actual tractor and a trailer-load of the agricultural output that was apparently somehow under threat. I assume from something other than Covid, and probably not potato-blight.

Now, don’t get me wrong – on one level, the whole thing’s pretty impressive. Tamaki’s political fortunes have never been especially potent … he’s always managed to take a potentially salient starting-point and then over-egg himself in the face to the point that the outreach into broader New Zealand seemingly-inevitably comes to naught. That might sound silly on my part – but cast your mind back to mid-2019, when you had any number of people coming out and saying that they couldn’t believe they were saying this but they agreed with Brian Tamaki on x hate-speech or other gesture going a bit far. Up until, of course, Tamaki himself took things too far … and that potential support-vector evaporated handily.

A large part of the reason why Tamaki (and, to be fair, Mrs Tamaki) comes unstuck is because what he says runs into the fact that most of New Zealand either isn’t listening – or, more to the point, is actually listening and is frankly unimpressed through to outright aghast at what they may so happen to hear.

What he needs, in short, is an ‘interpretation service’ in much the same manner that various American right-wingers often seem to benefit from in certain sectors of their domestic media over there. A commentariat ready, willing, and fable to stand between him and the actual body politik, filtering out the more extreme stuff and presenting an ‘acceptable’ version of events … which also, at the same time, does him the handy additional PR service of turning things like “he got several hundred of his ultra-loyal Church members to turn out somewhere on a Saturday for a stunt, just as he has done on numerous previous occasions in the past” into “Tamaki managed to motivate thousands of Aucklanders to brave rain and threat of arrest to come together and declare they wanted [whatever it is this time] “.

Now, hitherto this hasn’t tended to happen, for a few reasons. One of which being that bolstering Brian hasn’t really aligned too terribly well with what various politically motivated media mouthpieces wish to do. Usually, that’s because any talking up of Tamaki in such terms means that whatever cause he’s associated with … becomes that much more of just exactly that – a “cause he’s associated with” – running the risk of toxifying it for other parties looking to capitalize upon it for anti-government momentum, and simultaneously diverting support from said other parties into whichever incarnation of Destiny’s ill-fated political ambitions is running this time. Or, at the very least, softly away from the side lining up with him on the same side of whatever issue.

Except this time, it’s different. National (even with ACT) are in a situation which can’t really be termed a ‘death-spiral’, because that would imply the moment of mortality had yet to occur. They’re not so much pushing up daisies as slowly realizing that Judith Collins’ tenure has put the ‘psychotic’ back into ‘metempsychotic’ for them. There’s fairly little to lose by making much out of a Tamaki stunt – it might actually manage to do what National was seeking to stab at in the weeks prior to this current outbreak via its ‘Groundswell’ initiative … that is to say, give the impression (Potemkin or otherwise) of there being a popular anti-Government wave of sentiment out there amongst the electorate.

And handily, Tamaki had the … ‘enthusiasm’ to do what most of the more regular political actors couldn’t bring themselves to. Judith Collins might talk a big game in enthused tones about how she thinks Aucklanders will ‘take back control’ and move themselves (ourselves) down to Level 2 regardless of the public health consequences … Tamaki’s actually gone ahead and directly contravened the law.

Collins can ‘jaw-jaw’ about how the country outside of Auckland being under Level 2 is some sort of fear campaign (and even though I should perhaps defer to her superior expertise in the subject of psychological terror-tactics … I disagree – as did Tauranga’s wastewater this week) and how Auckland remaining at Level 3 is some kind of “political” conspiracy. Tamaki actually goes out and puts on the performative show of pledging resistance and ‘rallying the partisans’ to invite the ‘heavy hand of the state’ to ostensibly reveal itself.

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Collins going out to make herself look popular by just so happening to run into people who support her … has all the depth of a two-dimensional painted backdrop, or the Hapsburg gene-pool. Tamaki, by contrast, at least manages to get a larger crowd together – and one that’s quite overtly and obviously not significantly comprised of suit-wearing National apparatchiks. Indeed, a lot more ‘normal’ looking in various regards, an actual facing which – had it not driven up in convoy through Drury – could perhaps be regarded as looking like a spontaneous gathering of ‘Waitakere Man’. The quintessential ‘Ordinary New Zealander’.

In other words, he’s everything she’s not. Except in charge of a major political party and constrained by the law and public health notices.

It’s telling that various of the media mouthpieces pushing for an Elimination to our previously successful and broadly popular Elimination strategy have moved from championing Collins to enthusiastically pointing to, as the Lord High Executioner put it – seemingly “All centuries but this / and every country but his own”.

Mike Hosking, for example, has spoken enthusiastically about Sweden (some time before Sweden wound up ratcheting up its domestic restrictions), about New South Wales (about a week or two before its current Delta nightmare began in earnest), about how Jacinda Ardern should be more like NSW now-former Premier Gladys Berejiklian (we assume he didn’t mean “forced out of office for corruption” – although he’d no doubt now suggest that that’s exactly the sense that is relevant with a hopeful tone), and most recently about Singapore (immediately prior to Singapore having to roll back its re-opening under escalating pressure to its health system from burgeoning Covid-19 cases, in a situation exacerbated by its domestic economic inequality).

One could say he has predictive form in this area – but that is not my point in raising this seeming cavalcade of catastrophe. Instead, it’s to merely observe that the lackluster state of Collins’ leadership has left those who want to roll this government and overthrow our Elimination strategy by hook or by crook … with few domestic figures they can utilize in support of their craven cause (with the apparent exception of evidently current National Party leader John Key). Even the ‘Plan B’ guys have largely had to go to ground following the escalating bizarreness of some of their claims.

And that’s why Tamaki is now useful.

Because he turned up, possibly hoping to inspire a direct confrontation with the Police, and actually did the thing which many of these mouthpieces wouldn’t dare to. Providing a bunch of photos of hundreds of people gathered together in direct challenge to the Government and to the vocally expressed will of much of the rest of the country.

It’s a ‘useful’ enough spectacle that you can viably expect a lot of his more usual ‘eccentricities’ to be consciously ‘toned down’ by media all-too-eager to act as that aforementioned ‘translation’ service – perhaps we ought suggest a ‘transmogrification’ service.

So with all of that in mind …

Here’s what’s going to happen.

A protest event which had “hundreds” at it, is going to be reported (indeed, is already being reported) as having “thousands” in attendance.

The fact that Destiny Church is actually really good at corralling large numbers of people to come together for Church campaign events … is likewise going to be studiously erased, to again make it seem like a broad and spontaneous explosion of popular discontent.

The fact that the Police – rather sensibly – didn’t attempt to re-enact Melbourne a few weeks ago by actively trying to confront and arrest a rather larger number of attendees than they have easy holding capacity … will be turned into “well if the Police aren’t going to enforce the law by charging several hundred people right there on the spot, we may as well just abandon Covid-19 elimination measures entirely!”

The Government … will be blamed for allowing the whole thing to go ahead, by virtue of not cracking down on it like the authoritarian state the people who’ll blame the Government for allowing it to go ahead, have been breathlessly proclaiming the Government to be this entire time.

This will all be channeled into escalating shrill shouty by certain commentators in the media in advance of next week’s Alert Level decision.

The whole event will be deliberately spun into some sort of would-be Cause Celebre, wherein an American-style televangelist without the broadcast rights, preaching to an audience of his nationwide congregation gathered on the steps of the Museum rather than throwing money toward him in a converted warehouse somewhere, will be presented as a Voice of Reason speaking for most of the city, and a protector of something something liberal freedom against the heavy hand of the no-doubt pseudo-Stalinist state.

You can just see the columnist-inches start to assemble right now !

23 COMMENTS

  1. The only comfort I take from the march is 1000 out of 1 million is a small percentage and some of those were more anti 1080 or other causes.
    It is a pity he uses his power not for good but for evil

    • Trev – He was just trying to shit stir and make himself a victim of police etcetera, because playing the victim is the current global dialectic, but I gather that he wasn’t even able to rustle up a zephyr, let alone a storm. One can only hope that his hapless devotees don’t get infected, because the hospital system is under enough pressure, especially with innocent fragile babies and toddlers afflicted with the RSV virus, and of course, patients in pain on waiting lists.

      Some years back I think he led a parade through the Wellington CBD one lunchtime, with characters chanting,
      “ Enough is enough.” It made a mildly entertaining diversion watching out boring workplace windows, but few knew what it was about – the spectators around Willis Street and Lambton Quay were workers, busy with real jobs, and more important things to do in their downtime, and irritated when marching boys block the traffic.

  2. Irrespective of what one thinks about the actions of Tamaki and his cohorts, there is real anger building in Auckland against the state for their selective enforcement of the lockdown. Be they gang funerals not policed, a senior policeman pulling rank to get through the border to take “mates” to a funeral (Tangi?), gang member with Covid getting home isolation instead of being packed up to MIQ like every one else, just a few examples of selective enforcement.

    Next week the state will lower the Auckland lockdown level to 2 for the simple reason that another round of the wage subsidy is due. The state will try and keep a ring fence around Auckland but it simply will not last. There will be convoy’s of people en mass busting through. Police wont be able to stop them for, unlike Melbourne, there are not enough police resources to stop them. Especially if there are a hundred motorcyclist going south to attend a funeral.

    I think the state is fighting a losing battle with the Auckland lockdown and best, this week, have a better plan going forward. Politically the lockdown is unsustainable, mental health wise it is unsustainable, financially it is unsustainable, providing children with an education it is unsustainable, police resourcing reaching their limits makes it unsustainable, increase in crimes make it unsustainable (linked to police resources being directed to containing the Auckland populace behind the fence), increase in inflation makes it unsustainable, etc., etc.

    As for the “expert” academics safely hiding in their state funded ivory towers (Baker looking at you!) please don’t pontificate about a lockdown till Christmas. Totally unenforceable and unacceptable. Time for the “experts” to stop the fear campaign. The Auckland public are no longer in a mood to tolerate a lockdown extension. Please tell the public what increases in medical infrastructure is required, to live with the virus, in the future and how the state should provide for this.

  3. The Police probably adopted the best tactics–this time–but if Destiny is going to keep such potential COVID spreader events going, the cops will need to go in more firmly and sit the Bishop on his arse.

    Curwen is likely right that the Tamakis are a bit of a false flag at the moment for all sorts of disgruntled people and organisations. Too gutless or aware to call their own rallies. Events like the Domain gathering indeed do not just happen, they take organisation.

    p.s. I looked on MSD site yesterday, typed “Destiny Church” into the search box re Employer Wage Subsidies, and Destiny is down as having received just on $128,000! worth for its Auckland and Hamilton offices/trusts.

  4. This event took place on the steps of our War Memorial Museum; I can only wonder what the soldiers who sacrificed their lives, and all those who endured years of war and all that that entails, would think of Tamaki and his mob’s inability to work for the common good for just a few more days. His egotistical driven stunt has put weeks of real hardship endured by many at serious risk of failure; his real values on display.
    What a stark contrast to the outstanding efforts of the AOG Church members that found themselves at the centre of a cluster.

    • Precisely, Peter. Somebody articulated this to me last evening, about our soldiers making sacrifices going off to various wars and whose lives never came right again, but believing that they were acting for the common good, and doing the right thing. Tamaki posturing around a war memorial honouring the dead is sickening.

  5. If the police weren’t going to enforce the health order because it was Brian Tamaki and his supporters, if they “monitor” (do nothing) about gangs defying the gathering rules along with mindless traffic law violations and tolerate one of their own senior officers lying his way through a border checkpoint then equally they can’t be bully boys/girls and pick on ordinary citizens who breach either.

    And having said that, now all the health laws and rules are unenforceable, why bother with the charade any longer?

    Get rid of the optional health orders and get on with life! It’s not working and had lost credibility.

    • X-ray, did you want a Melbourne type enforcemrnt to occur? Will you be willing to forgo your ICU bed for those who are prepared to accept abidance by the rules for the common good?
      There appears to be a perception amongst the ‘open up’ brigade that some sort of utopia exists out of lockdown – nowhere in the world has that been shown to be correct.

      • Peter, my point is the police cannot pick and choose like they are currently.

        They target the easy citizens like individuals who dare to stray too far from home, but when someone like Tamaki or the gangs blatantly ignore the rules, and nothing happens, what are the rest of us supposed to think?

        • I see it like this – the way a fire brigade tackles a forest fire is a lot different to how they tackle a suburban house fire. Yes, I agree, Tamaki and others must be held responsible, but that will take time and it may come in unexpected ways. No way do I think the police should have got into a Melbourne type stoush.

          • Peter Kelly Agree 100%. I’ve not heard Tamaki speak before, but he sounds an awful slob and the police were right not to get into any playground scrapping with him.

      • Peter, there are two choices for the state to make. Either enforce the lockdown’s with a very heavy law enforcement presence (a la Melbourne where law enforcement officers look more like star war storm troopers) and where EVERY one is subjected to law enforcement, or we accept that lockdown’s are not enforceable and as such the state needs to build more health care infrastructure to cater for a covid outbreak.

        There is no alternative and calling on the goodwill of the people is not a working proposition. Fences dont keep covid in (as witnessed today with the Raglan positive result.)

        Ardern is now in between the proverbial rock and a hard place. She is going to earn each one of those 9000 dollars she receives per week from the tax payer.

        Lock the country down (and risk losing the Auckland vote) or spend money on health infrastructure.

        • Gerritt, firstly, it’s far to late to try and deal with this outbreak by building up the health sector, and no health system in the world has been adequate to do so anyway. I would disagree that this is an either or situation – storm trooper tactics ultimately achieve nothing but spreading the virus. As well as subsequent police action I would like to see community, especially business rebellion against Tamaki and those involved. Given what the business community has suffered in the lock-down how about refusing to Destiny Church credit and services. And to all of Tamaki’s adherents who have lost jobs and income and now put at extra risk, start thinking about about who you think is worthy of your tithe.

          • Peter Kelly – Given that the New Zealand health system is very run down, then I’d also suggest also refusing hospital services to Tamaki devotees who have not been vaxxed, get covid, and need hospitalisation for it.

            Tamaki’s lot have made choices, just like we all have, and they should have to live with the consequences. Many medical conditions are not the result of a conscious choice, and patients who would otherwise receive hospital treatment should not be put on the back burner because of others’ seeming foolhardiness.

            The moral responsibility rests with Tamaki to care for any of his lot discriminated against in any way, because of where he has lead them.

  6. You forget one thing Marty…Brian has GOD on his side, which means his is a righteous crusade of the afflicted, oppressed and bored that see him as the Messiah. Look who cares about what he gets up to, he is no threat to anyone and is light entertainment for the nation. Indulge him, let him prance around and get a laugh out of it. Praise the Messiah! I’d rather have him driving around on his Harley than gangs flouting all laws attending funerals for their criminal scum members.

    • There may not be too many Aucklanders getting a laugh out of Tamaki’s prancing. The Government will now be faced with either keeping the city in an extended lock-down for the incubation period or letting Covid loose with the attendant consequences. Further more Oldie, have you not noticed the Destiny gang on their Harley’s wearing patches.

      Tamaki and Co. will need to keep their heads down – the Police have six months in which to lay charges and will not be wanting for evidence. The penalties of imprisonment for up to 6 months, or a fine of up to $4,000 are likely to be sobering.

  7. The protest is Brian Tamaki.
    Remove him and there is no protest.
    Not serious of course – just sayin’
    ( Any history buffs remember reading about Te Rauparaha? A problem for Sir George Grey who did not try apprehending him in the midst of his followers but sent in a snatch squad in the early morning while all were still asleep. Held on Kawau Island as the government’s guest for a few years. When he returned home he found other leaders had replaced him. All totally illegal of course. Could not possibly do it today. Could we?)

    • To do that, you’d have to have a real police commissioner or a real police minister. We have neither. We have Jacinda clones.

      • A brainless cheap shot yet again sour-kraut. The Army? Police Armed Offenders Squad?
        It wouldn’t help in Aucklands fragile state. Better to quietly deal with Tamaki later on by himself. That’s the smart thing to do. Which is what the Police will do.

      • One of the best qualified police commissioners we’ve had for yonks. He’s nobody’s fool, even if he is quite dishy looking – albeit with yesterday’s – or tomorrow’s – haircut – which is cute – in a boyish sort of way – and oodles better than one of those bald domes sported by the Humpty Dumpty Nat lookalikes, and Poto Williams is shorter and older than the PM, so if you think that they’re Jacinda clones you should have gone to Spec Savers – or consider changing whatever nectar you’re sipping or bingeing on, or have a wee holiday. Wanaka’s quite nice this time of the year, Arowtown’s better, or you could try Dipton, Eketahuna, Petone, Blackball, or Bluff. Not Oamaru – but it’s up to you.

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