Conservatives and Revolutionaries: Together At Last!


WHAT HAS HAPPENED to the conservatives and the revolutionaries of this country? How is it possible that these two groups, separated by ideology, are nevertheless equally persuaded that the occupiers of Parliament Grounds were ordinary, decent New Zealanders engaged in a political protest indistinguishable from a host of similar demonstrations scattered across New Zealand’s recent history?

The most obvious answer is that on both sides of the political spectrum there is a powerful ideological and emotional need to represent the protest as neither threatening nor unusual. Both conservatives and revolutionaries have a common interest in constructing a narrative in which the “innocence” of the protesters, and the “guilt” of the Government, is indisputable.

What could that common interest possibly be?

One possible answer is that the protest offered spectacular proof that “the people” still possessed the power of independent action. As the NZ Herald’s John Roughan put it: “I was proud that a demonstrable minority of New Zealanders have not been persuaded that lockdowns and vaccine mandates are a proportionate response to this virus.”

That not everyone was willing to follow the science and put the interests of ordinary New Zealanders ahead of the demands of business lobbyists and pundits convinced they knew more than the experts, was clearly a comfort to Roughan. That the protesters were happy to parade their ontological certainty on Parliament Grounds was even more comforting. The protest might be ignored by the Prime Minister (and all the other party leaders) but it could not be denied.


Roughan’s column is remarkable in many ways – not least by how far its author is willing to diverge from principles usually held dear to the hearts of most conservatives. On how many other occasions, one wonders, has he congratulated the Police for ignoring the expectations of “politicians, media, and the public who think law is something to be strictly enforced at all times”? Mass defiance of the Rule of Law is not the sort of behaviour usually tolerated by conservatives!


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Nor is it usual for conservatives to downplay the serious harassment (up to and including physical assault) of innocent citizens going about their lawful business. Roughan refers to the many recorded incidents of Wellingtonians being accosted in the street, by protesters visibly incensed by their attempts to protect themselves from infection, as nothing more than “scoffing at people in masks”. Such minimisation of the actual harm experienced is, sadly, essential if one’s purpose is to maintain the fiction that this was a “peaceful protest”.


It is instructive to compare the description of these same incidents offered by two Marxist revolutionaries, Daphne Whitmore and Don Franks. In an opinion-piece posted on theirRedline blog, they say: “There were unpleasant scenes reported of scruffy looking individuals walking on the streets of the city shouting at them for wearing a mask.”

This description is a definite improvement on Roughan’s “scoffing”. But, although the writers concede that for some the experience was “deeply traumatising”, they also explain how “[m]any more just wandered on, ignoring the rants as you do with anyone who seems a bit unhinged.”

Crucially, they then add: “Those interactions, well away from the parliament lawns were then conflated with the occupation as a whole.” Once again, the purpose is to inoculate the occupation from charges that it was anything other than a “peaceful protest”.

The inescapable problem for both Roughan and Whitmore/Franks is how to explain the extraordinary violence of the twenty-third day of the occupation. They manage it, however, by employing the oldest explanation in politics: the minority responsible for the fires and the violence were in no way representative of the overwhelming majority of the protesters.

Roughan further refines his argument by congratulating the Police Commissioner, Andrew Coster, for the way he dealt with this alien violent element – presenting his final decision to clear Parliament Grounds as a “relief” for all the peaceful protesters, who dutifully packed-up and went home.

Whitmore/Franks are more straightforward. “After 23 days camped outside parliament the End the Mandates protest was stormed by 500 riot police. A few hundred hardcore protesters fought back all day, and around a hundred were arrested.”

It was the Cops wot done it.

At the heart of Roughan’s argument one senses a deep resentment that the views of persons like himself, powerful White conservative males, did not prove decisive in determining the Labour Government’s handling of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Such men are not used to being ignored. The inconvenient fact that the young, female Prime Minister who declined to accept their advice went on to be re-elected in a landslide victory only rubbed salt in their wounds.

It isn’t the fact that Roughan and his ilk represent a minority that galls them (the ruling-class and its explainers will always be a minority) it is that they have been required to share the fate of the minorities which, when power was in conservative hands, they were happy to ignore. The person they blame for this insupportable state of affairs is Jacinda Ardern:

“Once the grounds were cleared, the Prime Minister addressed the nation. She was not conciliatory. She said the violence had vindicated her refusal to engage with the protest for three weeks. She said the occupation would not define us.”

Roughan’s final paragraph is telling:

“As Prime Minister in a pandemic, she ultimately decides just about everything we can do. She can decide to shut shops, close schools, cancel events, keep us confined to home. She even decides what is best for our health. But she doesn’t get to decide what defines us. Not all of us.”

Seldom has a conservative writer provided his readers with such a clear view of his politics – nor one so chilling.

The clue to Whitmore’s and Franks’ uncompromising position on this issue is contained in this paragraph:

“Ostensibly pro working class groups painted the occupation as entirely negative and ‘reactionary’, with zero recognition of the social and economic deprivation which had driven many protesters to participate. Significant sections of End the Mandate protesters included trades people and health professionals who had lost their jobs. That is what drove them to arrive at parliament with their families, demanding audience with the government.”

What neither writer attempts to explain, however, is why so many other working-class New Zealanders – Māori and Pasifika working-class New Zealanders in particular – who are also the victims of “social and economic deprivation”, fought Covid by organising collective action and mutual support. These were the “essential workers” who stayed at their posts throughout the lockdowns because, if they hadn’t, thousands of their fellow citizens would have died.

The protesters on Parliament Grounds did not “lose their jobs” – they gave them up because they refused to accept the social obligation of vaccination, and then, selfishly, refused to accept the consequences of that refusal.

Had the “Freedom Village” been erected in the name of social justice, by workers determined to build a better world. Had the protesters not blocked city streets, assaulted passers-by, and prevented schools, universities, businesses and courts from functioning. Had they not swung nooses and issued death threats. Then their brutal suppression by 500 police officers would, indeed, have been shameful.

But, the hard, cold truth of the matter is that this protest was a manifestation of narcissistic, sociopathic, passive-aggressive and violent behaviour unequalled in New Zealand political history. It was a gathering of the deluded and the deranged. The only freedom sought was the freedom to ignore the obligations attached to being fully human. And that is pretty much the definition of “reactionary”.

No matter how hard Daphne Whitmore and Don Franks might wish it otherwise, a revolution by proxy just isn’t possible.



  1. Your intellectual snobbery is on full display here Mr Trotter. You say “That not everyone was willing to follow the science and put the interests of ordinary New Zealanders ahead of the demands of business lobbyists and pundits convinced they knew more than the experts, was clearly a comfort to Roughan.”

    The problem with that statement is the blind adherence to the science that the government of the day chose to follow. Science is a continuum where theories and hypotheses are tested with empirical rigour then adjusted as further evidence unfolds. We have seen that with many aspects of the Covid responses overseas but less so in New Zealand. There was, and is, plenty of evidence in the prestigious medical journals of growing concerns regarding the mRNA vaccines. There was considerable evidence via Israel and the UK of the very short window of efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine mid-2021 and its lack of impact on transmissibility, an inconvenient fact the Government chose to ignore when implementing the mandates and vaccine passes the protestors were so exorcised about.

    That mainstream medical journals such as JAMA, Circulation and the BMJ are now publishing articles demonstrating the alarming link between the mRNA vaccines and heart damage in the young at a rate that would normally be enough for regulatory bodies to suspend or withdraw said products from the market entirely.

    The Government ignored the WHO on the use of lockdowns, ignored the MoH regarding vaccine passes and mandates outside of frontline healthcare and is mute on the very real figures around vaccine safety.

    Those whose lives have been ripped apart by this government overreach are of course angry and motivated to question the prevailing view. If one politician had just listened, if one journalists had questioned more and one scientist had broken ranks (they are there) to present the empirical evidence emerging abroad, all of this could have been avoided. The only price would have been the dent in the hubris of this government and its pandemic faithful.

    The vaccines have undoubtedly made an impact on Covid mortality but we will now see what the cost of that was. It may make for uncomfortable reading. That there was wholesale censorship of all government pandemic policy and its underlying rationale is the reason for the anger of many. It is an anger well founded in my opinion.

    • Salacious Crumb I was going to say something like that, but you said it better. Thanks.

      A friend of mine went for his first vaccination a several months ago and two hours later was in the emergency ward with a reaction to it. He spent two weeks in Northshore Hospital because of his reaction. He now dare not have the second shot and as such he is now classed as ‘unvaccinated’. He has been denied a vaccine pass by the government. He cannot go into restaurants or in many public venues. He is a second class citizen and might as well have a yellow star on his lapel. His reaction and those of many others were never mentioned on the News, instead our lapdog media they denied they even existed.
      Yes I know there are always people who react to vaccines, but the subsequent denial of a vaccine pass was cruel and inhuman: A feature of this divisive and thoroughly nasty government.

      • andrew whot a lott ov unlooky frienz u hav….seemz loike u hav an imagenri frend fur evry issuoo

    • Here here.

      I could add couple of things: first – this notion of “peaceful”, “violent” with a “mostly” in front whichever way you want to play it is as ridiculous coming from crazies down there at parliament as it is from CT. The reality is way more messy. There was a spectrum of views down there, a spectrum of sanity, it changed through time, etc.

      Second, interesting to observe CT veer off into the slightly desperate identity territory when it suits – this ridiculous notion that challenges to a “young, female prime minister” ought not be taken seriously, especially if levelled by “0powerful White conservative males”.

      We just have to accept that all these things make it difficult to parse what happened down there. It’s still too soon to say what happened, really. No one is covered in glory (except maybe ambo folks), no one is uniquely bad (except maybe Mallard). Some might say CT is looking to pen a first draft of history here, but it seems to me the attempt is less to record and more to shape to the benefit of “allies” – craven stuff on this issue.

      • Does chris trotter have a stalinist mustache because of his authoritarian streak ,,,, or a hat tip to state propaganda.*

        Police have established and proven techniques for preventing crowd from getting out of control.

        Using under-covers in conjunction with uniformed ones, 30-40 officers could efficiently skim the aggressive trouble-makers out, by arresting those engaged in threatening behavior, intimidation, assault and other crimes against Wellingtons citizens ,,,, immediate same day court appearance with trespass orders attached as part of bail conditions ,,,, immediate two week detention for breach of order.

        Enforcement like this would have been good for everyone, including genuine protesters who themselves got intimidated or disappointed as things both degenerated and escalated….. so many of them left.

        Unlawful behavior was allowed to flourish and grow into the deplorables narrative ,,,, playing a large hand in bringing about the worst behavior worked out great for the state.

        Finally Justindas kind words and compassion are contradicted by her Govts actions,,, as NZ stood with the successful anti-vax campaign denying millions or even Billions of doses to those in need ,,, to protect drug companies profits.

        We did end up changing our position on being anti-vax for the poor ,,, when Biden/usa pretended to change theirs.


        * the only thing we can say with certainty about Mustaches is that Hitler really ruined it for the Charlie Chapplin type.

    • Salacious Crumb, you should credit your sources, particularly your main ones which, I’m guessing from the BS, must have been Natural News and Prison Planet.

    • What ” empirical evidence emerging abroad, “???????????
      You accuse Trotter of being an intellectual snob then proceed to condescend without providing a single piece of verifiable evidence to back your view.
      The global death count (official) for Covid is fast approaching 6 million people. In 3 years.
      And you waffle on about government overreach.
      Compare our government’s approach to that of China sometime, where the people of Wuhan were confined and still are during lock downs to their apartments for months on end. Not even allowed to go outside for a breath of fresh air during the first lock down.

        • too late done deal

          start a campaign about over use of anti biotics in both humans and livestock, that issue is lurking ready to bite our collective bums.

    • If you were half as clever as you claim you should be able to work out the results for vaccine safety by comparing the number vaccinated (95%) to the number of problems reported. While I am aware that various websites will claim hundreds of deaths from the vaccine they use the logic that believed in a spontaneous generation a few centuries ago so no sensible person believes them.

  2. There is no escaping the logical conclusion that, after close on 40 years of American neoliberalism, all is not well in our society. Neoliberalism has indeed been an abject failure and things are unwinding at an increasing rate as the USA model Roger Douglas deceitfully imposed upon us is being exposed for what it really means to the vast majority of people. These disparate groups we bemoan are but a sign of the deep frustrations growing in New Zealand.

    • just look at the US and say hello to our future, party politics aside all the US metrics are crap…When I was a kid it was ‘hey it’d be cool to live in america’ now it’s ‘thank christ I don’t live in america’ that simple thing illustrates the abject failure of neo-liberalism…but still our pollies flog the same old horse…if the US was a shining city on a hill, ok , maybe worth emulating but as it’s the shitheap of the west why bother?…no other ideas from our 3rd rate pollies

  3. Chris
    You are doing exactly what Roughan is doing by labelling them ‘deluded and the deranged’. What you should be doing labeling Princess Jacinda, too good to talk to the unhappy…the filthy few…yuk they smell…they’re not in my team of 5 million. Some Fairweather PM she is. She ‘ABSOLUTELY REJECTED THEM’…to use her words.

  4. I think its pretty simple. It would not matter what Arden does as far as the tribally aligned John Roughan is concerned. He’s quite happy to be a complete hypocrite and depart from the good old fashioned “tough on crime” stance (assuming trespassing and vandalism are considered such) when it suits. Roughan would probably ‘take a knee’ if he thought it was the opposite of what the PM would do.

    As for W&F Arden is probably way too right of left (and she probably is despite all this rubbish about her being communist ) so they minimise the brick throwing and fire starting to a few bad eggs (I think by day 23 there were more than a ‘few’)

  5. Another disappointing column by CT showing that he has been isolated in his intellectual ivory tower for too long and resorts to snobbish waffling devoid of any sense that he has actually met the people he is talking so badly about.

    “The protesters on Parliament Grounds did not “lose their jobs” – they gave them up because they refused to accept the social obligation of vaccination, and then, selfishly, refused to accept the consequences of that refusal”

    Scratch a socialist and you find a communist seems to ring true with CT’s statement above. Whatever happened to personal choice over what chemicals one puts in their body? Does the state have the right to force people to have medical treatment? Is it OK for the state to punish people who simply don’t want a vaccine?

    Every single column CT has written about the protests has been a total disappointment. Fro the wild conspiracies theories about how the protests are driven and funded by the right wing (where’s your proof) to the seemingly gleeful reaction to the riot police going in, CT has shown himself to be totally out of touch with what is going on on the ground

    even worse CT seems to enjoy some sort of blind subservience to the state.

    • The freedom to decide what to put in your body appears to be a selective thing, I can understand those with genuine medical reasons not to want a vaccine however the vast majority of those wanting that freedom were believers in made-up stories that had no basis in fact. I know of people who have chosen to lose their job rather than take the vaccine & I know others who have taken the vaccine instead, I think CT’s description about that decision is fair & don’t see how your linking socialism & communism has any bearing on the matter. The answer is in New Zealand’s incredibly low deaths from covid, when a government makes decisions that saves lives that is a good thing & while some people would have received some perverse pleasure in seeing mass deaths I am glad our government choose a better way.

  6. and andy disseminates human fertiliser as usual
    ….didn’t quite make it to the storming of the bastille then? how convenient.

  7. Salacious Crumb, very well argued, re science is a continuum. The only empirical science is that which takes place in a controlled environment – and we don’t live in one. It’s such a hackneyed, arrogant and pompous phrase, to say ‘The science says ‘or ‘The research shows’. One really is referring to the one bit of evidence one cars to quote that backs one’s view. Lazy, weak news media do it all the time.

    And Chris, unless you’ve had good first-hand experience of the protest (that lasted over threes weeks), how can you validly make summations of the the of folk who were the occupiers. In my three visits to the sight – unmasked but tripled dosed with Pfizer – I didn’t see a skerrick of violence or harassment.

    That’s why I enjoy reading the journalism and reportage of pre-internet times; scribes generally witnessed what they wrote about. Now we have idle keyboard warriors who parrot, tweet, cut and paste or conflate what they’ve read about on the inter-web.

  8. “What neither writer attempts to explain, however, is why so many other working-class New Zealanders – Māori and Pasifika working-class New Zealanders in particular – who are also the victims of “social and economic deprivation”, fought Covid by organising collective action and mutual support.”

    Actually there was huge resistance in this demographic, took forever to drag them over the 90% vax finish line and only with a massive drive using tax payer funded carrots and sticks.

    They complied and then they got screwed re:housing catastrophe.

    Too bad 25 or 50k of them don’t rock on up to Parliament and occupy the lawns until serious measures are taken to end child poverty?

  9. Excellent commentary.

    I particularly agree with the point on people “not losing their jobs, rather giving them up after declining social obligation.”

  10. If we had gone down the same road of USA ,1 death/ 300 people, NZ death toll would be over 15,000. Somewhere in there, I think the government has done something ok.

  11. Usually enjoy CT articles but this was not up to his usual standard with name calling and stereotyping lazily employed.

    Did you visit the protest, CT?

  12. I think I have said it before Chris, I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. What you say is not wrong entirely and similar those with opposing views thatyou quote. The protest wasnt our best hour as a nation on either side but it was a mish mash of many groups so the evaluation of what occurred is also not starightforward. Lots of reasons why and lots of blame to go around.

  13. Trotter wrote heaps about the Parliament protests, mostly negative, without going to the protest…

  14. Mmm. Amazing how whatever our thought processes are, the reality has the final word. Am I mistaken in thinking the protesters have quietly melted into suburbs and hills from where they came. Some now hospitalised others quietly spreading the love. Being really unwell certainly focuses the mind on our freedoms. Even in the small community I live in the virus is rife. The freedom seekers will need to batten down and hope to survive until they once again challenge authority. Perhaps some of them will pick their battles more wisely. Good article Chris.

  15. Yes! Roughan quoted the PM as saying, “the occupation would not define us.”
    Here is an RNZ link to her statement:
    What she said was, “we will not be defined by one act by a small group of people.”

    Roughan somehow managed to take offence at that statement.
    He wrote: “But she doesn’t get to decide what defines us. Not all of us.”
    He seems to want to be able to be defined by the occupation.

  16. The only freedom sought was the freedom to ignore the obligations attached to being fully human.

    And, by engaging in and prolonging a maskless superspreader event, they stole the freedom of many to remain Covid-free for just a while longer.

  17. Great article, Chris. I too found Roughan’s defence of this incoherent mess and his whitewashing of the blatant thuggery that occurred extraordinary, and indeed, chilling. In fact, he seemed to elevate the whole affair to some noble number eight wire display of Kiwi ingenuity. Even to label it as anti-mandate is a misnomer. Depicting Ardern as some sort of sinister dictator is frankly preposterous and inflammatory. One of the most compelling and in fact heart-rending pleas for common sense came from Wellington Girls’ High School students, whose school was closed because of the daily intimidation.

    Nobody could honestly call this protest a success. Somewhere along the line, surely, the attendees, including the drop-in celebrity poseurs, knew that in fact the answer that they claimed that they were seeking had been given a long time ago, but stayed on as they were spoiling for a fight. And yes, I believe in the right to freedom of expression, and yes, I have attended many protests since teenagerhood, but nobody hung around indefinitely like a spoilt brat stamping one’s foot. What politician deliberately applies a mandate on vaccination in order to assert dictatorship, knowing full well that it may well be an unpopular and potentially divisive move? Not Hitler that’s for sure: he knew better than to apply the vaccination mandates that had previously existed in Germany: better to let smallpox run riot, eliminate undesirables and survive politically. Surely a mandate of this nature is applied for the common good? I have long since given up on attempting to furnish pro-vaccination information to those who are anti, and have long since acknowledged that their stance may well be implacable. But what I think many in Aotearoa NZ found really distressing about the protesters was the refusal to sincerely engage in dialogue. It was they who set that tone, they who accused, bullied, burnt, spat and shouted. No amount of white-washing it, Roughan-style, will make that sense of an assault go away. And as for those who claimed that this was not the Aotearoa New Zealand that our forefathers fought for in World War Two, troops were, for the record, triple vaccinated against typhoid and other diseases. I doubt that they envisaged a march on Parliament to query their personal ‘freedoms.’

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