For God’s Sake, Don’t Send Jacinda To Dallas!

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IF THE OFFICIALS’ Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination (ODESC) hasn’t already met, then it should be meeting – right now! New Zealand’s Prime Minister is in danger.

Try to imagine what would have happened had a known white supremacist got within a few metres of the President of the United States and started firing questions. Further imagine that, upon investigation, it turned out that none of the accredited journalists present had been checked-off by the President’s Secret Service detail before getting close enough to make themselves heard.

Not easy.

In fact, it’s almost impossible to imagine America’s leader being allowed to place himself in such a vulnerable position. No unauthorised person gets close to the US President – not if the Secret Service can help it.

Yes, but, New Zealand is not the United States. One of the most endearing qualities of the New Zealand political scene is its easy-going informality. It is only relatively recently that our Prime Minister was assigned a couple of bodyguards from the Diplomatic Protection Squad (DPS). Prior to then it wasn’t considered necessary. The long-serving National Prime Minister, Sir Keith Holyoake, regularly chatted with his fellow citizens over his street-facing garden fence. His number was printed in the phonebook. Prime Ministerial security simply wasn’t an issue.

Sadly, those days have gone for good.

Equally sadly, the thinking of those responsible for our national security has failed to keep pace with the social and political disintegration characterising the last 50 years of New Zealand history. The homogeneous New Zealand society of the first three quarters of the Twentieth Century has been replaced by a multi-ethnic society in which cultural and ideological unity has to a large extent been lost. Though the political class has done all it can to paint New Zealand’s growing diversity as an unqualified good, it has left a great many citizens feeling uneasy and unmoored. The resulting social dissonance is fraught with potential dangers. That the national security apparatus struggles to fully appreciate the full extent of those dangers is deeply troubling.

Part of the explanation for this dulling of institutional acuity lies in the Cold War origins of New Zealand’s national security apparatus. Threats were generally understood to be externally, not internally, generated. Such domestic threats as did exist were held to be connected umbilically to foreign actors.

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Accordingly, New Zealand’s tiny communist parties, perceived as brainless puppets with strings attached to faraway puppet-masters in Moscow and Beijing, were closely watched. As were the seemingly ineradicable Trotskyite groups, whose orders were assumed (quite correctly) to come from revolutionary intellectuals based in the UK and the USA.

With the collapse of actually existing socialism in the late-1980s and early-1990s, the attention of the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and Police Intelligence shifted, quite uncharacteristically, towards domestic political actors without obvious connections to foreign powers. Māori Nationalists, radical environmentalists, opponents of free trade, animal rights activists: all came under close surveillance – often from “private” intelligence gatherers with whom the nation’s spy agencies could plausibly deny any “official” contact.

The terror attacks of 2001 once again focused the attention of New Zealand’s national security mandarins on external threats. Like the Soviets before them, the various offshore Islamic terrorist organisations were deemed to be the primary threat. Such domestic terrorist activity as did exist was assumed to be concerned primarily with recruitment and fundraising for the holy warriors overseas, rather than with the planning and execution of local terrorist attacks.

That the SIS and its sister agencies did not see the perpetrator of the Christchurch Mosque Massacres, Brenton Tarrant, coming was indicative of its wider blindness to the social toxins flooding into the national bloodstream as the failing Neoliberal economic and social order began to rot.

Don Brash’s near miss in 2005 was ignored: even though New Zealand came within 50,000 votes of being tipped into a racially-charged civil war. The rising levels of extremism exhibited by the opponents of 1080 poison were similarly disregarded. Even when Brexit and the election of Donald Trump served notice that all was not well in the profoundly unequal societies of the West, the obvious conclusions were not drawn. Those charged with protecting our national security still did not appear to grasp that if New Zealand society was subjected to new and excessive stresses, then the political centre could not – and would not – hold.

And the stresses of the Covid-19 Pandemic were nothing if not new and excessive. That the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, was able to hold as much of the centre ground for as long as she did was a hugely impressive achievement. A national security apparatus worthy of the name, however, would have noted the evidence of disaffection and distemper bubbling-up in response to the measures required to manage New Zealand’s public health emergency. How the SIS could possibly have missed the evidence on display every minute of every day across all social media platforms is, frankly, unfathomable.

A functioning network of agents, lodged deep in the most volatile sectors of New Zealand society, would have seen and reported the enormous potential for a disastrous breakdown in social cohesion. The offshore evidence is overwhelming: with the inevitable arrival of the Delta variant of Covid-19, the situation can turn very nasty, very quickly.

Jacinda Ardern, who personifies both the success and the failure of the Government’s fight against Covid-19, has become the lightning-rod for a nation emotionally-charged beyond anything experienced since the 1981 Springbok Tour. Indeed, the seething animosities now plainly visible across New Zealand society far exceed the passions of 40 years ago. It will not take much for the raw hatred out there to tip over into murderous violence.

This is not the New Zealand of 60 years ago, or 40 years ago, or even 10 years ago. We are in new, unfamiliar and potentially tragic territory. The Prime Minister is not safe – as the events yesterday (2/11/21) in Northland, and this afternoon in Whanganui, have made amply clear. As the Editor ofThe Daily Blog, Martyn Bradbury, so rightly stated earlier today:

“News that the Wellington mandarins will send Jacinda to Auckland when tensions are this high is as irresponsible as sending Kennedy to Dallas.”

ODESC needs to intervene, now. The Prime Minister must not be sent to Auckland. Or, at least, she must not be sent there without the same measure of protection provided to every American President since JFK.

For God’s sake, don’t send Jacinda to Dallas!

 

64 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t think it’s hit that extreme but at day 80, (whose counting), in this lockdown of Auckland, plenty of us vaccinated citizens (90% +) who have jumped through every hoop and hurdle this government likes to dream up, it seems for their own amusement, are well past Jacinda or her government.

    Now we get layer upon layer of weapons grade bullshit from her and her ministers telling us Christmas travel to is off, their “border” they’ve so proudly built is to remain, on the never never.

    Honesty from this government is long gone. They treat us like idiots.

    They are trying to figure out a way to keep dirty Aucklanders in Auckland. But they know Check Point Charlie will quickly cease functioning as Aucklanders with their identity passes try to leave. And with it the economy.

    So Chippy had floated “time slot” privileges for Aucklanders having proven they’re pestilence free to travel. What the actual fuck? Who does this little ginger creep think he is?

    Her government has now gone beyond any mandate and into the North Korean stratosphere. It reminds me of the Douglas era where anything economics wise was possible. For the Ardern era it’s the endless possibilities of state control.

    About all that will happen to any Labour Party MP venturing into this unhappy city they’ve created will be abuse. Ardern on the other hand has grown accustomed to the passive polite Wellington media charade.

    But make no bones about it, Labour WILL lose the Auckland vote because of what they’ve done to us!

    It’s a little too late for royal PR tours in this city!

    • Xray, you might’ve forgotten Gerry Brownlee, who ” insists he was[n’t] seeking preferential treatment because he’s a Cabinet minister, after being fined $2000 for breaching airport rules when he bypassed security to board a domestic flight.”

      Also, remember Pat Kelly;

      The late activist Helen Kelly blamed the deadly 1984 Trades Hall bombing on a climate of “anti-union hysteria” promoted by then-prime minister Sir Robert Muldoon, according to an upcoming documentary.

      No-one has ever been arrested for the suitcase bomb attack, which killed Trades Hall caretaker Ernie Abbott in Wellington in 1984.

      Don Brash didn’t dodge a lethal piece of manure; The Queen semi-dodged a super-sweaty T-shirt; and Stephen Joyce didn’t dodge a dastardly dildo.

      But, few remember Helen Clarke’s Piper Aztec door “accidentally” opening:

      She was working in the back of the chartered twin-engine Piper Aztec when turbulence forced open the door when the aircraft was 8000ft above the Kapiti Coast.

      Asked what went through her mind, Helen Clark said: “Are you going to live or die? What goes through your head is you hope you’re going to land.”

      What didn’t go through her mind? A right-winger??

      But, I agree wholeheartedly XRay, to keep Jacinda away from Dallas/Auckland

      Chris won’t print this anyway, because he won’t agree with the narrative that right-wing nutters are more deadly and dangerous than left-wingers. It won’t fit with his anti-Labour narrative!

  2. Great column Chris, looking at the pyschology and history of the NZ Security State. Most prescient in the current situation.

    The NZ Police Special Branch used to do the “reds under the bed” work until the formal set up of the NZSIS in 1956. The book “Seeing Red” by George Fraser, a jazz player! and Police plant in the NZCP for many years in the 1950s shows how they used to operate in analog times.

    But we are in digital crazy world now, anti vaccination and conspiracy advocates are on the munt and need to be kept well away from the Prime Minister.

  3. “Seething animosity” isn’t going to be tempered with mad ideas like putting Auckland in a “papers please” gulag over the summer holidays.
    The people venting on social media are not wannabe assassins by any stretch, they usually come unannounced but it will be interesting to see the turnout for the upcoming Groundswell protests on the 21st. It will be huge I suspect, an amalgam of concerns, rural and urban culminating in a collective howl of outrage.

  4. Interesting read, thanks Chris.
    Definitely more than a few angry nutters roaming social media.

    Lock down restrictions, limited metal health outreach (no, Zoom calls are not an adequate substitute for people under stress) and fuel to the fire online activity could tip those on the edge to drastic actions.

    Even previously mild mannered, apolitical people have become seething, frothing ranters. Not good at all.

    We should be monitoring all online behaviour through our plethora of security apperati for signs of excessive emotion that could lead to destructive behaviour.

  5. She could cool the the political temperature by simply backing down on the vax mandates and dropping some restrictions. This is her and her govts doing. People, vaxxed and un-vaxxed are pissed off.
    (I am double vaxxed and encourage vaccination)

  6. Probably not a great example, as I believe US presidents have often been in close proximity to white supremacists, without problems, some have even enjoyed the company.

    Now if it was an unauthorised Black rights activist, security would be all over them. Of course, using that example might be seen as racist. Even Muslim Fundamentalist probably get better treatment, why the Bin Ladens were family friends of at least one US president & got special treatment even after one was responsible for 1000s of American deaths.

  7. So we have “lost our homogeneity and had it replaced by a multi-ethnic society in which cultural and ideological unity has been largely lost, resulting in social dissonance!”
    1. Just wow!
    2. A very ballsy statement to be sure!
    3. I’ve never read anything remotely like this before. It sounds uncomfortably white -like wearing a white suit at a black lives matter rally sort of way.
    So ‘social cohesion’ is the next big thing, the phrase being coined by the very un-diverse David Parker. What does social cohesion mean? Probably everyone attending a Christmas parade-or maybe pet white lamb day and arranging flowers on dinner plates for the school fair (I did enjoy that btw)
    Im not sure blaming our lack of social cohesion on diversity is entirely fair on diverse people. “Hello my name is Juan, I’m diverse. I have been since I was born”.
    Now is a great time to study what divides us and what affects social cohesion. Inequality, poor education, wealth disparity, poor health care, facebook algorithms, fear, insecurity, low paid work, poor work conditions, lack of hope, drugs, gangs, mistrust of authority, mental health, social isolation, social distancing, to name a few. Sort these minor issues out and we will be singing Kumbya round a fire with marshmallows and falafel’s toasting. Side by side like Paul McC and Stevie wonder.

    • Yeah, I think that when you say something that would have Strasserists nodding their heads in approval you might wanna just rethink and redraft. That felt like a jab at Auckland only slightly more sophisticated than some toothless farmer’s grumbling about coconuts, slants, and murrays – luckily for Chris the local ruffians don’t read his waffle, or he might be the one needing to give this city a wide berth.

    • I think CT is accurate in analysing that society has become much less homogeneous, not only racially, but also in terms of things like income, and this has led to overall lower cohesion. Back in the 70’s and 80’s NZ was mostly pākehā and the state had a great deal of control over the economy but generously provided for its citizens. Then the neoliberal reforms happened and at a similar time, the immigration laws were opened up. As a result, there came to be more people on the bottom of society and more people who did not share the same values, beliefs and customs of most of the rest of society.
      Social cohesion matters because trust matters. People have to be able to trust each other and the government to be willing to contribute their part to the whole rather than just looking out for themselves or just their group. But race also isn’t the only factor that matters. Shared experiences and spaces, such as schooling, work and hobbies promote a shared culture and up till now anyway, that’s provided enough social cohesion to survive two major lockdowns.

  8. “How the SIS could possibly have missed the evidence on display every minute of every day across all social media platforms is, frankly, unfathomable.” – exactly what I have been thinking

    • I don’t question the author for not stating it, but to me one implication could be that the Security forces may not want to see too much of such evidence…

      The record shows on various occasions that the NZ public service at top level from Immigration to Health is full of fifth columnists and reactionaries who leak information in all directions to embarrass and undermine the Govt.

      And lets not forget the last changes under Mr Key included warrantless snooping, SIS type powers extended to Govt. Ministries, and immunity from prosecution and life long anonymity for operatives and contractors.

      • ” And lets not forget the last changes under Mr Key included warrantless snooping, SIS type powers extended to Govt. Ministries, and immunity from prosecution and life long anonymity for operatives and contractors ”

        Good to see someone mention what the shyster legislated when National were last in government. Deny any responsibility and never be held accountable was the cost of Key’s henchmen responsible for his black ops programme and after the Kim. Com fiasco it showed where Key and his team were heading with foreign surveillance and those groups operating to undermine the then Labour opposition.

        The security services are very well funded but as Chris has pointed out they are asleep at the wheel.

      • +100
        “The record shows on various occasions that the NZ public service at top level from Immigration to Health is full of fifth columnists and reactionaries who leak information in all directions to embarrass and undermine the Govt”

        Ain’t that the truth! And the sad part is that there are sometimes a few responsible Munsters (captured by their officials) who can’t even see it. And sometimes there are even departmental CEOs being undermined by their ‘top level’ underlings.

        More fool the lot of them

    • they missed the CHCH white supremacist terrorist and the mad knifeman was ‘under surveillance’ seems the surveillance state know what porn you like but can’t handle real threats….

      information is power is a crock, analysis is power, information overload paralyses analysis…ergo the surveillance state can only fail in it’s stated purpose…the question is what is it’s purpose, protection or control.

  9. This has escalated rapidly in the last 2 weeks, more than most had predicted. In this digital/social media age things blossom overnight. The Govt must move quickly (today’s good) to alleviate Auckland somewhat and risk more covid than planned or the shit really will hit the fan. Testy times, but Wellington must bend, and quickly.

    • Diversity / superdiversity / multiculturalism being a ‘societal strength’ is to be honest questionable at best and especially so in regards to internal security . . not a lot of terrorist attacks in the 50’s and also pretty unlikely then that you would have to consider any real risk to the PM being assassinated.
      I can see the Woke Tsunami coming in already . .

  10. In this case, the problem for the security services is that the threat doesn’t come from a group that can be infiltrated or monitored, but a lone actor.

    The people voicing threats of violence are unlikely to carry them out, it is the people listening to those threats & the justifications for them, that are the real danger. A motivated lone actor fuelled by anger, perceived injustices, false conspiracies & lies, only needs a location & a time for tragedy to occur. They don’t need to get close, they only need to know when & where. Ardern is a lightning rod for these times, we just have to hope lightning doesn’t strike. There is definitely a storm coming. Stay safe.

  11. Wow, the lefties are melting down. They’ve caused this mess and they’re projecting the blame. I’m beginning to think they are Q. Fancy being so offended as you cheer on crimes against humanity.

  12. Aucklanders are right to feel pissed off and nutty, but there has also been a bit of a news vacuum so that anger has really snowballed into a hostile emotional orgy that’s affected everyone. I think it will change character a bit when attention can be diverted on another situation or event. No… the PM should not be offering herself as some kind of sacrifice to the masses. Not helpful that the spoil sport anti vaxers will be interfering with any kind of community outreach from now on.

    Bottom-line in five days life in Auckland will be significantly improved.

    You never know, some protester might get usefully truncheoned by the police before then…or similar.

  13. Oh boy, any excuse is good to shield that women from the actions of her government?
    Well, she could just send a plane over Auckland that will drop some feel good notices on the 1.5 odd million people that are on house arrest.
    And hen she can do the same for the rest of hte country, cause quite a few of us have family and friends in Auckland and we too starting to get a wee bit miffed with that sanctimonious crew of politicians and pundits that literally sit in a different boat from the rest of us, that wants us to keep the course, keep rowing mf, without any direction as to where, with what tools, and thus tempers are fraying and the poor women will actually have to listen to those that are not on her side. How will she cope. Seriously, how the fuck will she cope? lol

  14. I agree security around the Prime Minister should be strengthened.
    NZ unfortunately has become a very divided country and seems to me to becoming more divided by the day.
    Very sad.

  15. Rest your case I think Chris …….the angry , whingeing ,right wing nutcases are popping up here too ! Aucklanders , get a grip .

  16. Yeah look – I think the description of the lessening homogeneity of NZ society, and some of the drawbacks that has, is fair enough. There is no way diversity is an unqualified good – just as there is no way any characteristic maximised is a good thing (pure homogeneity being similarly bad, for example). The description of the security forces missing stuff is also right on.

    But “Don’t send Jacinda to Dallas” is all a bit hyperbolic. There may be risks associated with heading up. Probably dominated by going on the Airforce 757 that would take her. So check Facies. Do it seriously. Choose who to meet. Take the DPS. But at some stage it’s got to be fundamental to the PM’s core duty to face up to those most affected by some of the more extraordinary policies we’re ever likely to see – her policies.

  17. Fact: She seems fine. Nothing has happened, which suggests that security did their job like they always do, quietly in the background.

    Big difference between asking hard questions vs assult or worse.

    Nothing to see here. Neve will grow up with both parents I’m sure.

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