The New Zealand Freedom Convoy and the Covidian commentariat
A public game of shoot the messenger and ignore the message is unfolding as protesters in Wellington dig their heels in
The Convoy22 protesters camping in front of Parliament since Tuesday face a complete unwillingness by the media, political and pundit classes to take them at their word.
Present are people who have lost their jobs due to mandates, people whose lives have been forever changed due to ‘vaccine’ injury, people separated from loved ones through travel restrictions and those who oppose the suspension of civil liberties due to the Covid ‘emergency’ and myriad other reasons connected to the loss of freedom and state coercion.
Despite being clear they are there in the name of freedom, to end medical mandates, to halt the roll out of the Pfizer injection to children and to end Covid restrictions, their critics insist they are not what they say they are.
Instead, they are conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, crazies, QAnon devotees, right-wingers, violent extremists, neo nazis, delusional freaks.
This playbook is so played out it’s entirely predictable at this point. Anything but reality. Anything but real people suffering under Covid policy. Anything but a grassroots surge for freedom from tyrants.
This from Finance Minister Grant Robinson yesterday:
“The protest we have seen at Parliament this week is driven by wild, false, dangerous conspiracy theories and people with an extreme agenda.”
Research director at lobby firm Capital NZ, Clint Smith, an influential supporter of the Ardern Government, continually posts comments like this:
So for a little balance, here is one the protesters giving a virtual tour of occupied Parliament grounds, which tells an almost diametrically opposed story.
Gary Moller has also been posting some good reports from the centre of action.
Nasty New Zealand
I’ve been shocked by just how far the dehumanisation and mischaracterisation has gone. It’s almost pathological. I take it as a given that people are 100 per cent nicer in real life than they are on Twitter, but what people have been willing to publicly post shows how emboldened that hatred has become with little concern for how it will look when the mood changes.
We have the receipts, as they say. So let’s review.
Commentators on social media are happy, proud even, that not a single politician has addressed the crowd:
They have defended police brutality (see full video of police kneeling on this woman’s head below):
Here is the footage in full:
It was claimed that the protester’s grievances are a ‘political dysfunction’:
Tweets that expressed indifference to the tragedy of medical mandates and that celebrated people losing their jobs were posted and then deleted.
Others wished misfortune on them:
And generally showed indifference to their plight:
Barely any commenters have shown any willingness to hear what the protesters have to say, understand their experiences or what has brought them to Wellington. But still, we are authoritatively infomed that “there is no rhyme or reason to their call to action. They want freedom, but don’t respect others’ right to choose to be protected by the mRNA jab, or the Government’s democratic mandate.”
The delusion goes further. Despite the Government’s Covid policies having wiped a minimum of 27,000 businesses off Companies Office records, and tens of thousands of professionals losing their jobs, and the vaccine injured going unacknowledged, reporters are more concerned about the impact of the protests on local businesses, disabled road crossings, and local residents.
In a display of complete cognitive dissonance, the Finance Minister is bemoaning the toll the protests are taking on MPs’ families:
The media seem confused about why protesters are not welcoming them, despite having spent two years vilifying and gaslighting anyone who disagrees with the Government.
They have mercilessly smeared dissenting experts and other critics, have used the bogus concept of ‘false balance’ to justify biased reporting, and egged on the Government in its authoritarian policy making – ‘Why are you not locking down sooner, longer, forever? Why aren’t you punishing refuseniks harder?’
After such a dereliction of duty, do the press really think they have a right to walk among these protesters heckle-free?
I can’t support jibes by protesters, or signs referring to the hangings at Nuremberg. While historically accurate, it is distasteful. I’ve always read them as a reminder that the abuse of power is eventually held to account but others have interpreted them as death threats.
Given the media’s willingness to misrepresent the protesters words and actions, it’s important that they attempt to be beyond repute. Protests are heady affairs and tensions run high, so this is a difficult ask. But they have the moral high ground here and need to stand on it. They need to be the adults, while the press and pundits throw their tantrums.
One News reporter Kristin Hall did go among them, but sadly with pre-set ideas of collective delusion, and could not resist a low blow in her final analysis.
‘The kids are in danger’
A noticeable criticism from the haters has been the fact that many people brought their kids. I’m not really sure why they think this is so bad, every protest I have ever been to has had kids present. It’s completely normal. Clearly, protesting parents had no intentions or expectations of violence.
This picture made a bit of a wave but the kid was later reported to be happy as Larry and well cared for:
But when I saw the same criticism was being thrown at the Canadian Truckers, who inspired the New Zealand convoy, it made a lot more sense.
This morning it was announced police would stop carrying batons at the protest over concern for children present. This is obviously a good move, but in my view this should have been their plan from the start precisely because there were children present. The fact they have decided this only now implies it’s more about making the protesters look bad.
The new information war on freedom fighters
Along with freedom and bodily autonomy, thinking for yourself is now deeply frowned upon. ‘Doing your own research’ is an invitation for mockery.
It is considered so dangerous that it can lead to radicalisation, some researchers say.
Thursday’s One News report on the protests compared the protesters to the January 6th ‘insurrectionists’ in Washington last year. Despite this narrative emerging from the security services in the US, without evidence, the media has embraced it.
The Department for Homeland Security in the US has been signalling for the last year a major pivot from focusing on foreign terrorists to domestic ones. So have local agencies.
In a new briefing from DHS, factors contributing to a “heightened threat environment” included “the proliferation of false or misleading narratives, which sow discord or undermine public trust in U.S. government institutions”.
Why is the fouth estate not challenging what is being implied: That anyone who disagrees with the government or shares counter-narrative material – as I do here – is a potential violent extremist?
“Covid-19 mitigation measures—particularly Covid-19 vaccine and mask mandates—have been used by domestic violent extremists to justify violence since 2020 and could continue to inspire these extremists to target government, healthcare, and academic institutions that they associate with those measures.“
Newsroom political editor Marc Daalder published a piece on Saturday called Splintered Realities’: How NZ convoy lost its way, which claims the protest has been high-jacked by the ‘far-right fringe’. It’s an interesting case in point of how the mainstream are following the new narrative to turn the freedom movement into something sinister. There will be many more articles like this so keep an eye out.
Counterspin Media, the focus of this article, is not my cup of tea at all for a number of reasons. But they have covered important court cases that the mainstream media has not touched in any meaningful way.
Daalder correctly identifies that like any social movement there are splits between different groups and what they are trying to achieve. Most people protesting that I’ve spoken to take the view that the challenges faced are beyond left and right politics, and require uniting on the issue of freedom to push back against government over-reach.
The media’s use of terms like ‘white supremacist’ and ‘anti-vax’ is liberal and often dishonest, which is one of the reasons they are losing their audiences.
The article contains an interesting fact. What Daalder and the mainstream designated as ‘misinformation’ pages on Facebook, have had more views than mainstream media pages during the protest.
“The leading misinformation page, run by anti-vaxxer Chantelle Baker, garnered more video views with five posts than the leading media page, the NZ Herald, got with 73 …
“Chantelle Baker is, with five videos, generating more video views than 73 videos put out by NZ Herald in the same 24-hour period. There are dynamics here that are unprecedented. You are talking about a small misinfo/disinfo community who are pushing out real-time footage and coverage and framing about something that is happening that is fundamentally different to what the mainstream media is putting out.“ (emphasis mine)
Daalder and commentator Sanjana Hattotuwa from the Disinformation Project express alarm and imply this is a result of a kind of radicalisation process. But this is delusion. Just as Joe Rogan has more listeners than CNN, the reasons for this are not difficult to understand. Audiences want more than what they’re given.
There will always be people attracted to more extreme ideas and interpretations, but most people can intuitively tell when they are and are not being manipulated and bullshitted. When they hear chat they have been missing and needing, they know it and tune in. Authenticity shines through.
Chantelle Baker comes across as open, interested, kind, and eager to hear about how Covid policies have hurt people. She is explaining and showing her audience the reality of who the protesters are and why they are there – something the mainstreams media can’t execute because no-one involved wants to talk to them.
They are losing their readers and viewers to new independent sites. In their self-reinforcing bubble, they believe their own bullshit and then buy into dark fairy tales about why people don’t want to hear it anymore.
Despite the spin and internal disputes, protesters report swelling numbers, a great deal of community spirit, much hugging, children and the elderly being cared for collectively, love being shown to the police, the distribution of free hot food and drinks and even hot showers. They are a from a wide cross section of New Zealand society. They know what they are about.
A watershed moment
Despite the predictably negative media campaign and the intolerance from the laptop class, the response from the Government has been telling.
I asked propaganda and crisis communications expert Greg Simons at Uppsala University what he made of the fact that politicians are refusing to meet with protesters, but at the same time have now publicly said there will be an end to mandates (at some point) – the first time they have said this.
“This is an act of desperation to keep their totalitarianism on track. They engage in character assassination as they try to kill or at least compromise the messenger, and will not go after the message itself for the risk of people seeing how illogical the official narrative is.”
“I also note how the same narrative is being used everywhere to discredit those protestors in both Canada and New Zealand. They are the same essentially, and bring in some recycled stuff from the ‘populism’ and Trump narratives.
“To me, this signals coordination, but it also signals desperation. The old tactics used to intimidate, scare or shame people into submission are not working. In fact, in Canada and parts of Europe, it is having the opposite effect and instead of dividing the public it is uniting them through a common sense of outrage at these ‘lovely’ would-be dictators. It is a watershed moment.”
Simons says the hardliner ‘Covidians’ are being forced to double down on their authoritarianism, like in a game of poker.
“If protests continue the Government will be forced to fold on their totalitarian paradise, and this scares them. Accountability comes after that.”