Describing The Katipo


THE ACTING CHIEF CENSOR’S decision to ban the “manifesto” of the latest hate criminal doubles-down on his predecessor’s error. Putting to one side the universal tendency of all forbidden things to stimulate popular interest purely on account of being banned, keeping the deranged, hate-filled ravings of Paul Tarrant – and now Payton Gendron – out of New Zealanders’ hands has once again robbed us of the opportunity to gain some understanding of the tortured and fantastical world these individuals inhabit.

Since the ideas of these mass killers are extremely dangerous, and potentially fatal, it is surely in the interest of society to be provided with the means of recognising them when encountered. When a family member or friend starts spouting forth the sort of racist ideas that motivated Tarrant and Gendron, that is presumably a strong indication that all is not well. But, with the ideas of both men kept out of the reach of the public, how are those closest to potential offenders supposed to know what they’re looking for?

From a very early age New Zealanders are warned to give small black spiders with a red blotch on their abdomens a wide berth. The Katipo, we are told, is venomous: and while its bite may not kill you, it can make you very unwell. That said, isn’t Mr Rupert Ablett-Hampson’s decision to supress absolutely Gendron’s manifesto a bit like a parent telling his child that, yes, New Zealand does have a venomous spider, but, no, he is not going to give her any information about what it looks like and where it is most likely to be found?

Ablett-Hampson’s news release justifies his decision to declare Gendron’s manifesto “objectionable” – thereby making it a serious offence to possess and/or disseminate its content – by referencing the harm it could do if accessed by the wrong sort of person:

“We understand most people in Aotearoa reading such publications would not be supportive of these hateful messages but these kind of publications are not intended for most people. We have seen how they can impact individuals who are on the pathway to violence.”

It is, however, extremely doubtful if declaring such documents “objectionable” will have the effect Ablett-Hampson intends. Those disposed to the arguments of white supremacy, for example, need only search for the topic on YouTube to activate the algorithms that will supply them with a great deal more information than is good for anyone’s mental digestion.

Moreover, if our white supremacist is persistent he will soon be in a position to move well beyond the material available on YouTube. There are places on the web where the red meat of murderous racism is served up blood raw and dripping. In these infernal regions of the Internet, the Acting Chief Censor’s writ simply does not run.

Another place the Acting Chief Censor’s writ does not run (at least, I hope it doesn’t!) is the past. History, sadly, is one long chronicle of human cruelty and suffering. The acts of injustice committed by our ancestors cannot be undone by the simple expedient of declaring them “objectionable”.

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One could try, I suppose, but it would mean banning  all material relating to the Knights Templar (who inspired the Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik) and the Ottoman Conquest of South-East Europe (which played an important part in the formation of Brenton Tarrant’s worldview). All literature and films relating to the Ku Klux Klan (To Kill A Mockingbird, Mississippi Burning) would have to be proscribed, along with all histories of the Third Reich, and, of course, Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. A similar fate would, presumably, lie in store for the writings of the eugenicists and “scientific racists” of the early Twentieth Century. The thoughts of H.G. Wells, Beatrice and Sydney Webb, Winston Churchill – all would have to be declared objectionable.

The list of things one could be sent to jail for possessing and disseminating grows long!

And then there are the everyday conversations and personal rantings of ordinary New Zealand citizens. A fair proportion of these are bound to contain all manner of objectionable ideas and claims. Racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia and Islamophobia are to be found everywhere. Misinformation and disinformation are not restricted to social media, they constitute the daily subject matter of our national discourse. It is still possible to sit on a bus and hear the person seated in front of you regale his companion with the long discredited myth that the Māori, upon arriving in these islands, encountered the culturally less sophisticated Moriori people, and exterminated them.

Objectionable? Of course it is. But what is the best way to finally put this white supremacist myth to rest? By jailing everyone who repeats it? – A solution which would require all of us to become government spies ready and willing to dob in our neighbours, relations, friends, lovers? Or, for New Zealand society to use its considerable educational and media resources to set forth clearly the anthropological and historical evidence revealing what actually happened – thereby equipping our children to move beyond the myth and embrace the truth?

Would there still be some, diehard racists all of them, who still peddled the Moriori myth? Yes, there would. The point, however, is that when we heard them spout their racism we would be well placed to assess whether or not we were listening to nothing more alarming than a bore in a bar, or, to an individual “on the pathway to violence”.

Hate speech is jarring, distressing, and potentially indicative of murderous intent. After the Christchurch Mosque Attacks it was completely understandable that many of us made the leap from the terrible events of 15 March 2019, to the terrible idea that another such event might be prevented by banning the expression of objectionable ideas – on pain of imprisonment.

But, the actions of the Acting Chief Censor notwithstanding, we cannot incarcerate our way to virtue, we can only arm our fellow citizens with a reasonable description of vice. So that, when they encounter it in the street, the pub, on the bus, or at a dodgy Coastal Otago gun-club, they will recognise it and contact the appropriate authorities – who will do something about it.

Like the blood red blotch of the Katipo, the manifestoes of mass killers must be allowed to acquaint us with the offensive smell and the bitter taste of ideological poison.



      • I would kind of agree gagarin, MK could have been heck of a lot shorter and still got all it’s point across. But back in those days I just think that style of writing (laborious to read) was still in vogue.

        Now of course people have attention spans of a goldfish so meme filled cut and paste manifestos are the norm

        the end result is always the same however

  1. Chris: “Racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia and Islamophobia are to be found everywhere. Misinformation and disinformation are not restricted to social media, they constitute the daily subject matter of our national discourse”
    Yes Chris, and they are by no means restricted to one race or culture, the assumption that they are, in itself, is like putting petrol on the fire. I don’t recall efforts to ban the racist ravings of DiAngelo or Malcolm X. Perhaps I missed it.

    Brendan O’Neil:
    “Is Robin DiAngelo to blame for the Waukesha massacre? You remember that horror in Wisconsin in November last year, when a black man named Darrell Brooks ploughed his SUV into a Christmas parade, killing six white people. Brooks really hates white folk. He had written on social media about the scourge of ‘old white [people]’ and of his urge to ‘knokk dem tf out’. Is this down to Ms DiAngelo, who has pumped out books and speeches on the problem with white people? All whites have racist tendencies, she says. ‘All white people are invested in and collude with the system of racism’, apparently. The white population ‘fundamentally hates blackness’, she argues. And this is a woman who is rarely off TV. Whose book was an NYT bestseller. So, she bears some responsibility for the anti-whiteness of Mr Brooks, right?”

  2. But you’re assuming that everyone’s capable of assessing and processing information in a reasonable sort of way, and unfortunately they’re not. That’s one reason I’m peeved about Kelvin Davis labelling all Pakeha as baddies. Being Deputy Prime Minister gives his utterances clout even if they’re wrong, and this can entrench racial prejudice and cause trouble, which may in fact be the purpose. Time and again we also see misinformation printed which is later retracted or apologised for, but by then the damage is done, and the apology may go unnoticed.

    Experts and shrinks and law enforcers may need to know all this, but it’s a moot point whether everybody does. Having said that, censorship is more sinister, and it can be used to justify nefarious goings on by politicians in particular.

    • ‘Kelvin Davis ………..’ Being Deputy Prime Minister gives his utterances clout even if they’re wrong,’!???

      • Rodel. Yes. Politicians lie all the time, there used to be long lists of John Key’s lies published online. This is probably why so many of them quit and become estate agents, rather than paediatric surgeons, engineers, scientists or actuaries, although I daresay that having the odd brain cell or skill and knowing how to use it helps.

  3. Calling these shooters publications “manifesto’s” is being way too generous

    They are usually just a bunch of memes grabbed off 4chan or some other seedy place on the net and copy and pasted together in a rather incoherent fashion to form a “manifesto”. They aren’t exactly “Mein Kampf” or the “Communist Manifesto” they are haphazard screen grabs at best.

    Some people on twitter are pointing the finger at Tucker Carlson and saying this shooting is on him due to what he talks about on his show, but for me that’s a total cop out and a bit like how Christians blamed heavy metal for making kids go out on shooting sprees.

    I have watched Tucker Carlson, I have read Mein Kampf and I have also seen these shooters manifestos. Did I feel compelled to go out and shoot a bunch of people after being exposed to these things. Absolutely not. The thought never crossed my mind.

    So for me rather than blame third parties how about we look at the shooter himself and figure out why he acted the way he did.

    For example Tarrant was a loner, lost his dad, felt like a loser and I guess found a way to channel that anger at society and also gain a name for himself by his shooting spree. He would be the sort of guy who could just as easily convert to Hare Krishna as to pick up a gun and shoot people.

    • Can’t help but think we’re missing something. “Who will do something?”

      What will they do? Shoot them like some terrible woke version of the thought crime movie minority report staring Tom Cruise?

      Or arrest people for though crimes? If it is true that thought is speach.

      That’s a bold statement that thought is speech.

      How is thought even measured?

      Scannes aren’t even sensitive enough to pick up cancers and we want the state to scan for thoughts?

      I can’t put my finger on it but something’s not correct.

      Maybe if we look at what the theme is this “replacement theory” thing that says Pakeha are being over taken by immigrants.

      Okay so the government restarted the student visa scam and so on. There’s that.

      What I’m questioning is the intent of information in the form of thoughts as if it’s a disease or infectious and can be passed on to radicalise and potentially kill or make sick.

      I don’t think it’s woke online nazi bros poisoning like a Spyder rather them cleaning bugs. Hitler was a germaphobe obsessed with cleansing Europe of its it’s all over his speeches.

      I agree that the manifestos should be required reading in university it’s just there’s no set proposition for thought crimes

      So if X = a list of every known mass murderer and potential mass murderer.

      Not only have we asked the question but we know X is categorically the answer where as the fine fine professor of astrotuefing and censorship believes that proto mass murderes live in New Zealand and I just don’t believe that.

      The only thing that’s radicalise new Zealanders is the crown and I don’t really want to give a history lesson bit of we are talking about replacement theory then that theory should find furtile ground in Aotearoa but it’s not because minorities are the target of replacement theory because there populations have to be surpressed.

      I dont care what you fools do just be good to me and I’ll be good to you.

      • Sam. Some guy in the UK has just won an employment case based on ‘ hate speech’, for having been called a “ bald c*nt.” Being called “bald “ was ruled hate speech, partly because the caller was a much younger allegedly rude person, making it an age-ist offence, but being called a “c*nt is apparently ok. Might have read Marama’s “ c*nt” exhortations in The Guardian, but from now on Luxon is not a bald man, well not in the UK in the company of a younger person.

        • I will have you know that Maori made England sign a treaty.

          Aotearoa New Zealand ain’t trying to be a little England.

          In NZ it’s coffee, not tea.

          Scones, not scooooooooones.

          And the English Rugby Team has a 45% win rate vs The All Blacks.

    • funny how rightwing terrorists are never rightwing terrorists cuz…mental issues….ok does that mean rightwingers shouldn’t be allowed guns cos they’re all nutters…no soz the mental issues just doesn’t wash…hitler and stalin had ‘mental issues’

  4. Agree, Chris.
    This is beginning to happen one too many times… I’v just read a piece in the DomPost about the Wellington City Council CEO taking it upon herself to not release legal opinions that ratepayers have paid for, to elected councillors!
    And I’ve read on TDB, and other publications, how ‘public servants’ do not always give, or give fully, the (Labour) government the advice or information they should be … bit scary for we plebs!
    What price for a free and full flow of information,or even ‘free speech’???

    • sack her administrators are getting ideas way above their status as paid employees.

      the pollies love it because they can pretend their decisions went through a rational process…they didn’t they were generated and signed of by unelected bureaucrats, the pollies being redundant window dressing.

  5. I am 99.99 percent in the ban nothing camp. If Nazis march down my street they will however, soon know my views on their views!

    However in the digital era and after 40 years of neo liberal hegemony we have a major problem. Post modernist philosophy, pervasive individualism, and online channels with zero editorial responsibility, and algorithms that drive people in certain directions, are way different from that dusty copy of Mein Kampf that one of my old car scene mates has kept in his lounge bookshelf for years.

    So I see the problem with white supremacy etc. not being so much with the twisted world view, but the distribution method. Euro countries after a worthy campaign by Avaaz are about to take on Zuckerberg and the rest and hit them where it hurts–in the bank account–if they keep allowing their channels to pump filth and mass manipulation.

    NZ should follow their example.

  6. The tortured world the crazies inhabit! Try watching some of the content that comes on to home screens such as Dark. For contrast with them think Sound of Music which was about holding together seeking a new normal life away from dreaded Nazism. Not without darkness in its theme but with goodness and hope for a decent and kind future ahead. We have allowed our story-telling with images that are compelling to deteriorate and rot our society. The picture is strong in implanting a feeling if not an idea even, in our brains. But as we say, ‘Frankly I don’t give a damn’ and ‘ Play it again Sam’.

    Implanted in my brain is You’ve Got to Serve Somebody Bob Dylan – make it to some good purpose! Other than money profit.

  7. Chris, as a foundational principle, what you say is correct. But it is all bathed in the comforting glow of hindsight, which lends a certainty to opinions about the past which is simply not possible in terms of decisions in the present. I can now buy and read ‘Mein Kampf’ and the ideas expressed in it are commonly reviled and discredited. There will no doubt be a time when Tarrant’s ravings will be similarly widely available.

    But what is a government, that is required to preserve the safety of all its citizens, to do when there is good reason to believe that certain writings might contribute in the near term to more cases of mass murder? You too-readily minimise the seriousness of this problem and the grave responsibility associated with it. Nobody is trying to ‘incarcerate to virtue’ – that is a ridiculous hyperbole and I believe you know it.

    And your absolutism in this matter provides an intellectual framework to people who wrongly think that they are being ‘repressed’, ‘told what to think’ and having their free speech removed whenever they receive some mild blowback on their opinions. Your comments sections regularly show evidence of this.

  8. I am an FSU member as well Chris but I have to admit, I am not sure ideologically where the line is drawn. In theory, we should all be able to access anything in order to assess whether it does pose a threat and to be able to discuss it and learn from it, take action etc. But I do have a hard time deciding what exactly is hate speech and whether we should see it or not.

    As a child in Hamilton aged 11, we received a nasty anti Semitic newsletter in the mailbox. I was so shocked to see that it engendered in me, a life long desire to fight back against anti Semitism where ever I see it. Thus, I still cant make my mind up about whether in fact we should be able to see and hear everything because knowledge is power and in can make a difference in people’s lives.

    • My mother recalled when she was 8 years old overhearing a teacher say to one of her students spit on the Maori girl. Of course that was motivated by hate. By is it a mater of the state to resolve I guess one answer is to say no and to say nothing at all or go full Stasi and nark on each other.

    • You have answered your own question, haven’t you Fantail? I guarantee that if your parents had destroyed that newsletter and just told you that it was a nasty thing you didn’t need to see, you would not have developed that “life long desire to fight back against anti-semitism.” It’s called Know Your Enemy.
      When I was a young socialist I remember a veteran communist leader telling us every socialist should have a copy of Mein Kampf in their library. He was right, of course. (Btw, when I did study Hitler’s book, I was struck not so much by the Jew-hatred, which I was expecting, but by the virulent antipathy to the organised workers movement, especially its internationalism).

  9. Good article. Hate speech is a normal and necessary part of human life. I hate the capitalist system and anyone who takes action to try and stop me saying so.

  10. “It is still possible to sit on a bus and hear the person seated in front of you regale his companion with the long discredited myth that the Māori, upon arriving in these islands, encountered the culturally less sophisticated Moriori people, and exterminated them.”
    could you please enlighten me about the “myth”
    I have recently gained NZ citizenship and have a lot of catch-up on NZ history in front of me.
    I first came across the genocide of Moriori by Maori in Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs &Steel” In chapter 2 he describes in detail the slaughter, cannibalisms and enslaving of the Moriori until less than 5% of them remained.
    Recently I read “The forgotten Wars” by Ron Crosby, author on several books on Maori history. He describes the arrival of Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga in the Chatham Islands in December 1835, killing initially some 300 men, women and children and continue to mistreat and murder these people until in 1860 only 101 person were left.
    Currently I’m reading “Taua” by Angela Ballara, another Maori history expert who also describes the killings, albeit defending them as customary practice.
    Chris, what information do you base your “myth” assertion on, that the geocide did not take place?

    • and it was ‘customary practise’ in europe to kill jews…
      I’ve said it before but it bears repitition….
      ‘reasons’ are not ‘excuses’

    • I’m interested to hear Chris’s reply. If you make a claim one way or the other then back it up. I see one side has

    • Yes, I wondered about that too. Whether Moriori were a completely different culture or not, perhaps Polynesians from a different group of Islands or earlier arrivals, there is no doubt that pre treaty New Zealand was marked by intertribal warfare. The warrior culture, weapons and heavily fortified pa sites certainly weren’t just a game – the prospect of entire tribes being murdered or enslaved by invaders a real prospect.

  11. the problem with censorship is that from the perspective of the future it always looks stupid and ignorant.

    and frankly in the modern world it’s futile if I wanna read the manifesto I’m sure I can…
    empty gestures call the process into disrepute and make society weaker roll on the day the NZ censor is down at WINZ.

    what’s next Maus? oh no that’s right the republicans took care of that for us.


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