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Qanon is here

Written By: - Date published: 7:37 am, September 14th, 2020 - 132 comments
Categories: covid-19, Deep stuff, election 2020, health, Left, megan woods, Politics, uncategorized - Tags:

While a few in the media leapt at the opportunity to vilify a small evangelical community at the latest COVID 19 spread, the really big COVID 19-conspiracy story landed by the thousand this weekend to general shoulder-shrugging and eye-rolling. It’s overdue we woke up to QAnon here.

The National Rally for Freedom, organised by political party Advance New Zealand and the Liberty March movement on Saturday, saw thousands turn out in Auckland and across the country – in fact on that day the marches were simultaneous right across much of the world. Twitter and Facebook just exploded across New Zealand networks.

Here’s one of the protest signs:

“At this point I would feel safer if coronavirus held a press conference telling us how it’s going to save us from the government”.

Another one:
“No Vaxx
No Mask
No Fear”

Now for the immediate impact on the coming election, this may just look like more wasted vote to redistribute. But the global extent of the gatherings including here isn’t going to go away while this COVID 19 rages over every global governmental defence.

Ever rational, Minister Megan Woods reassured us on Sunday of of ‘robust systems’ being in place, after two health workers in west Auckland tested positive. A model of calm and rationality, she keeps most of us believing in the necessity of unemotional almost unpatriotic trust in the benevolence of the state as a source of truth and good.

But for some who were required to give up their freedom to travel, to see the people they loved, to shop, to be in public, and to work, every explanation sounds more like excuses justifying more sustained repression and removal of freedom.

The marchers are rising; they come from a deep anti-establishment position both left and right. This is our version of Q Anon, and Q Anon itself was an organising power behind it. The combination of authoritarian democracies (both those from the minimal government spectrum like Trump, and those from the maximal government spectrum like ours) and the worldwide rage of COVID 19 has led to deep distrust of government to tell the truth, be good for citizens, and be in control when it matters. It’s an epistemic crisis.

As noted by Anna-Sophie Harling the head of media evaluation startup NewsGuard quoted in The Hill:

Pandemics fuel a lot of questions and make people very skeptical, especially in cases when what we would consider to be credible and trustworthy institutions all of a sudden don’t seem to have the right answers or are not aligned on how to manage the situation.”

People will satiate their hunger for answers when every institution appears to have lost control of the world.

In late August Facebook deleted over 790 groups, 1000 pages and 1,500 ads tied to QAnon and restricted the accounts of hundreds of other Facebook groups and thousands of Instagram accounts. Q-Anon newsfeed rankings and search results were also downgraded.

It’s not going to work. Q Anon has its roots on the bulletin boards of the websites 4Chan and 8Chan.

We’ve seen a series of global “save the children” protests in the last few weeks – proof of how resilient and adaptable that community is.

One of the main sources is the hyper-viral short documentary “Out of the Shadows” which fueled baseless theories linking COVID 19’s origins to Bill Gates, 5G towers, and the World Health Organisation. I’m not linking to it – you can seek it if you want.

There’s supposed to be a big ring of paedophiles across the world who are deep within the government. During Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse, Senator Bill Heffernan tried to table a list of 28 names of prominent Australians who he alleged were paedophiles. It’s not hard to imagine the same kind of “outing” occurring when the findings of our own Royal Commission into Abuse in State Care brings its own findings out soon.

This is not an unreasonable instinct. New Zealand levels of incarceration and institutional abuse should shake to your core the foundations of traditional leftie belief in the benevolence of the state. And that’s where the seed of deep distrust begins. Then pile on to that Police blocking the motorways, the military taking over border control at airports, police patrolling hotels, and media-fed witch-hunts of Pacifika people whenever there’s an outbreak. Because within this sustained public health crisis, the state is showing that it can adjust your level of daily freedom every week at the whim of Cabinet decision. No one respecting freedom is going to put up with that for long.

The marches and the political party are a sign that patience is running out, anger is alive, and those who are fed up have very strong global support.

Institutional mistrust is one element, but Covid-19 made it worse by isolating people and leaving them with little to grasp it but to go online: the virus amplified the tendencies already evident within societal epistemic capture by unregulated and globally dominant information agglomerator networks.

We saw a few millennial cults rise and fall with the Depression in Pentecostal tentpole frothings in midwestern USA. But this one is different. It has no church or belief structure of much note. It’s totally secular. It has no eschaological (end-times-anticipating), or apocalyptic drives. It’s a rising anarchist spirit, corresponding to the multiple crises rising in the world right now. It may well have hard-right backers, but that matters not to those marching – not one whit.

We have the new post-Covid society arising: a society divided about whether the state should be trusted, a network of growing anti-establishment rebellion, and a global movement reaching our shores.

132 comments on “Qanon is here ”

  1. observer 1

    It's not "totally secular". Far from it. Read the signs – literally.

    There is little evidence yet that this is more than the ultra-conservative religious fringe in a new guise. There were more protestors back in the day for Destiny against civil unions ("Enough is Enough") or at Parliament against abortion reform, end of life choice etc.

    Yes it's sad to see people buying into imported conspiracy theories. But all we're seeing is a gathering of people who agree on basically nothing (Tino Rangatiratanga says Free Tommy Robinson?), except … I dunno, Cindy bad?

    Climate change protestors outnumbered this lot 50 to 1.

  2. Robert Guyton 2

    Hone Harawira is scathingly critical, on behalf of real Maori activists, of Jonny-come-lately, whip-up-a-treat evangelist, Billy Te Kihaka.

    Everyone's dismissive of Jamie-Lee Ross.

    The adherents, however, don't/won't care a jot!

    • Gabby 2.1

      [deleted]

      [if you have a political point or something to add to the conversation, please do so. Random offensiveness isn’t that – weka]

  3. RedLogix 3

    Institutional mistrust is one element, but Covid-19 made it worse by isolating people and leaving them with little to grasp it but to go online: the virus amplified the tendencies already evident within societal epistemic capture by unregulated and globally dominant information agglomerator networks.

    Humans outsource a lot of their mental health to other humans, we rely on them to trim back our excesses and for our daily sanity check. But the big social media algorithms work by noting what we are interested in and pushing more of the same at us. Effectively it becomes a positive feedback loop confirmation bias machine.

    When an algorithm inserts itself into the process it literally drives us crazy.

    • Robert Guyton 3.1

      My question to the gathered faithful was: From where do your views come? Whose word do you trust? With whom do you test your beliefs?

      From the heart. Billy. Each other. Studiously avoided acknowledging Facebook.

      • RedLogix 3.1.1

        Without wanting to sound overly virtuous about it, there was something about both FB and Twitter that irked me right from when I first encountered them. Nothing that I could put into words at the time, but now I suspect we're seeing the outcomes. (Even YT does it, but it seems more transparent and gives the user more control on that platform.)

        This algorithm driven confirmation bias is something we've encountered before, it's similar to what happens inside cults that use the same basic mechanisms of social isolation from our usual networks, and a high degree of selectivity to control the message.

        But the algorithm is largely invisible to us, and so much more relentless ….

        • Robert Guyton 3.1.1.1

          Agreed. This one has built-in defences against attack from non-infected (or not-yet-affected) parties; every appeal to reason, all advice, all expressions of concern are neatly countered before they are met; we expected you would say that, our Leader described this line of attack, you're asleep as we wake from our mesmerisation, etc. So yes, cult through and through. In minor cases, a cult-breaker is employed to rescue lost souls from the sticky web, but it looks as though something of a greater scale is going to have to occur across the globe in order to cauterise this one – coz, internet.

        • satty 3.1.1.2

          Same here. I can remember how everyone tried to convince me using Facebook. Glad I trusted my instincts and gave it a miss from the start.

          I have / had a twitter account, but only used it one or two times early on. Still don't see much of a point in it (personally).

          The other problem now is that many news (paper) websites get some of there info from twitter – even embed the twitter post – and it's not overly clear how well "fact-checking" has been done. It's all about getting the info out as quick as possible and not like the old paper format, where there always has been a good bit of time between receiving information and publishing the information.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.2

      When an algorithm inserts itself into the process it literally drives us crazy.

      Citation?

  4. Andre 4

    Malicious foreign states may be a quiet push behind amplifying this kind of nonsense, even here in our little islands way out in the middle of a big ocean.

    At the moment it appears most of the really harmful nutso stuff has its origins in the USA, but is getting amplified by Russia. Maybe even here, though who knows what the perceived benefit might be. Who knows what the next nutso idea to catch on might be and which state might think it's in their interests to amplify it.

    Here's just the first hit from googling q-anon russia:

    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/08/russian-backed-organisations-amplify-qanon-conspiracy-theories-200824140346496.html

    Another example of maliciously acting to boost divisive fake ideas:

    https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2020/09/wildfires-antifa-russian-state-media-right-wing-reddit-facebook-conspiracy/

    • Climaction 4.1

      you can't really trust Al Jazeera on anything. the mouthpiece for the failed state of Iran would say anything to create tension between Russia and the USA.

      • Ad 4.1.1

        They are owned by the Qatari state and headquartered in Doha, not Iran.

        • Climaction 4.1.1.1

          Thank you Ad. I do realise that not all countries in Arabia are the same.

          Al Jazerra, the qatari state owned broadcaster and the Iranian Islamic Republic News Agency, mouthpiece for the Mullahs in Iran have signed cooperation agreements. The Qatari sheik recognises Iran as their local regional power.

          Doesn't take much to draw a line between Al Jazerra editorial policy and the Iranian Islamic state lines.

          • barry 4.1.1.1.1

            "Arabia"? Iran?

          • Ad 4.1.1.1.2

            Excellent conspiracy there.

            Qatar hosts the largest US military base in the entire Middle East.

            It got on for a few years with Iran, then early this year realised the error of its ways. They were tight with Israel for a while too.

    • Adrian Thornton 4.2

      Yep as is neatly pointed out here by Andre…the crazy liberal left has Russiagate and its associated bullshit and the crazy conservative right have Qanon…two side of the same coin.

  5. Robert Guyton 5

    Are we kiwis sensible enough to render this contagion harmless?

    I suspect, yes. Well, Southland anyway smiley

  6. Peter 6

    There's a thought, don't trust the state, trust Billy Te Kahika and Jami-Lee Ross!

    • aom 6.1

      Yes – a brilliant thought. We could all join with then in their circle of fruit-cakes, hark back in history, and sing, "Ring a ring of roses, a pocket full of posies – I'll cough on you and cough on you so we ALL fall down!"

  7. Hanswurst 7

    This is not an unreasonable instinct.

    The instinct to out various individuals as a ring of paedophiles deep within government on the basis of findings about abuse in state care? I would say that's pretty bloody unreasonable, actually. Conceivable, yes, but unreasonable all the same.

    No one respecting freedom is going to put up with that for long.

    No-one 'respecting' freedom, eh? I would have been more inclined to say, 'No-one who values freedom above all else […]'. It's possible to respect freedom, while believing that health considerations can justify wide-ranging limits to it, depending on their severity.

    The marches and the political party are a sign that patience is running out […]

    Whose? It shouldn't really be much cause for worry if a small number of people are losing patience, especially if it tends to be people who would otherwise be voting Conservative or ACT. It would, in fact, be more surprising if there weren't a certain number of people losing patience with a government initiative – any government initiative – related to an issue that had been prominently in the news for more than a few weeks.

    In terms of the religious element, I see that I was ninja'd by Observer

  8. AB 8

    "the state is showing that it can adjust your level of daily freedom every week at the whim of Cabinet decision. No one respecting freedom is going to put up with that for long"

    All the trash talk about 'freedom' isn't helping. Both the phenomenon this post attempts to describe, and the post itself, show a defective understanding of freedom. The truth is that the state's action is creating more freedom than it removes. Freedom from infection by a lethal virus versus temporary loss of freedom to do daily stuff. This is so self-evident that the vast majority of us see it immediately and instinctively – and approve of what's being done. We are collectively creating this net surplus of freedom together.

    "It’s a rising anarchist spirit"

    Only if by "anarchist" you mean the peculiar far-right phenomenon also called 'libertarianism'. It's an ideology that is (ironically) popular among highly authoritarian, patriarchal church congregations in the USA – making it about as far from classical philosophical anarchism as it's possible to be.

    • mauī 8.1

      "The truth is that the state's action is creating more freedom than it removes."

      That's an interesting spin on it… Look at the lack of mask wearing in public that went on when Auckland went back into lockdown. That is people exercising their freedom right there. Or imagine if we went into a 8 week Level 4 lockdown, the amount of people exercising their freedom and rule breaking would be astronomical.

      • Draco T Bastard 8.1.1

        That wouldn't be people exercising their freedom but people endangering others because of their selfishness.

      • AB 8.1.2

        People have been given one greater freedom at the expense of some lesser ones. If they don't (or refuse to) recognise this, of course they'll misbehave. It's also why such misbehaviour is often combined with conspiracy theories and lies about the virus being a hoax, or just like a normal flu. If the virus is inconsequential, then these freedoms have been removed without justification, because no countervailing freedom has been created. These lies are necessary to make all the ‘freedom’ nonsense plausible.

      • RedLogix 8.1.3

        The state mandates road rules that remove the individual's freedom to drive however they please, but creates a much larger freedom of making the roads safe and efficient to use.

        But there are limits. Clearly the state can take this argument too far, and understanding where the boundary might lie is would make for an interesting debate.

    • Ad 8.2

      Great to see you get into that definition of freedom. I decided not to unpack it here – there's such a navigation between generative definitions, constraint definitions, absence definitions, and all the rest down to Bobbie McGee and "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose".

      I'd recommend to you Daren Acemoglu's The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty

      https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/555400/the-narrow-corridor-by-daron-acemoglu-and-james-a-robinson/

      The modernist view of freedom within the state as necessarily arising out of the Elightenment doesn't work much in reality: it's going to stay open within a fundamental struggle between state and society that must always be refreshed.

      Acemoglu will take you through all kinds of examples including the American Civil Rights Movement, the Zapotec civilisation circa 500BCE, modern Lagos, colonialism in the Pacific, Saudi Arabia's suffocating cage of norms, and the paper Leviathan's of many South American and African nations to show how countries can and are drifting away from it, and explain some of the feedback loops that make getting it back really really hard.

      I'm not usually one for taxonomic splitting, but it's always fun to see the ends of one version start to join into another.

  9. Stuart Munro 9

    No-one should be particularly surprised at the strength of anti-authoritarian sentiment. Since Roger Douglas began playing his music of decay, the NZ state has broken every tenet of its political contract to benefit a lazy and corrupt yet curiously ignorant and uncultured "elite". The voices that lead our culture aren't conspicuous for their arete, Dr Bloomfield excepted. Why would our serially betrayed citizens repose any trust whatsoever in the wankers who wrecked our nation so they could steal its assets?

    This is the fertile ground into which charlatans and predatory foreign interests sow their disinformation. And people know our political leaders are not trustworthy; they have lied to us and failed us again and again. Not understanding the mechanics of gravitas, even otherwise intelligent people are susceptible to manipulation.

    But the solutions are simple up to a point – go after funded charlatans like Billy TK – deprive them of any improper funding. Issue takedowns against Youtube and Facebook posts that misinform or incite. And be prepared to disperse unmasked crowds – Riot Act style – "Mask up, or go home, or you will be fined".

    • Anne 9.1

      Stuart Munro's contribution should be a post in its own right.

      … the solutions are simple up to a point – go after funded charlatans like Billy TK – deprive them of any improper funding. Issue take downs against Youtube and Facebook posts that misinform or incite. And be prepared to disperse unmasked crowds – Riot Act style – "Mask up, or go home, or you will be fined"

      Wholeheartedly agree. This is in the interest of ALL peoples of NZ. Self-centred crackpots should be totally sidelined until at least the pandemic has been beaten.

      Edit: I think we can leave Ardern out of “our political leaders are not trustworthy” though. She has rightly gained the trust of most people.

      • Stuart Munro 9.1.1

        Yes – she is exceptional.

        "There is a quiet but not so small heroism of the moral life which is crucial here. It is very much easier to be intolerant, angry, jealous and resentful than it is to be generous, patient, kind and considerate. Without question it takes far more thought, and far more work, to treat others from the standpoint of these virtues than from that of those vices, which is why the latter are so prevalent."

        A C Grayling.

        • greywarshark 9.1.1.1

          I'd add to that to be aware of the possible dishonest and sly person who can be behind even the pleasant or apparently moral person. Yes to the above qualities in behaviour and attitude, but even more thought is needed than not getting angry over obvious faults and shortalls.

          Wariness and measurement of character looking at word, deed and repute is required these days especially. Labour have their own petard to note, the experience of the weak-kneed neolib susceptibles Roger Douglas et al.

          To not absolve every warning sign, while still carrying forward the duty laid on you to work and mix with those of doubtful integrity or alternative agendas not agreed with, is a larger heroism and can be exhausting. I wonder if Marilyn Waring might think this.

    • Draco T Bastard 9.2

      But the solutions are simple up to a point – go after funded charlatans like Billy TK – deprive them of any improper funding. Issue takedowns against Youtube and Facebook posts that misinform or incite. And be prepared to disperse unmasked crowds – Riot Act style – "Mask up, or go home, or you will be fined".

      • The spreading of misinformation needs to be a crime including, maybe especially, by those who would be politicians. And, yes, hit them in the funding by including the funders in the charge and the crime.
      • The endangering of others is actually a crime but we seem to be ignoring that in favour of being nice to those endangering the whole of society.

      A society cannot survive with corruption spreading as it is.

      • Stuart Munro 9.2.1

        I might mention that police typically arrest rioters. The Covidiots are not rioting, but they are endangering public health. If the police delivered some of them back to their homes it would break up the dangerous crowds without giving them the relevance or the chance to infect others that mass arrests would. It would not be inconsistent with the kindness approach which is current policy in this area.

    • Red lion seratus 9.3

      This is such a well worded & thought-out, I have commend thee,well done Stuart

      • Stuart Munro 9.4.1

        "If their thinking is … that they're being lied to by authorities, authorities coming and stepping in and starting to be very forceful in the way that they disperse people and perhaps go and fine them, all it does it entrench those beliefs and disenfranchises these people more," she said.

        The argument can be made. But there are many such instances in our state. A little north of Timaru there is a stretch of road as flat as a pancake and dead straight for about 50km. However good the visibility or perfect the road conditions and light the traffic I still may not travel it at 120k, because the rule has been set, arbitrarily, somewhat lower, in the interests of public safety.

        If masks are a rule, then the rule should be enforced. Not enforcing it also contributes to the discourse of fakery – "Mask wearing was not enforced because it's all a big fake." Discretion should be used so that people choose to mask up or disperse rather than being fined, but allowing large unmasked gatherings inciting further rule-breaking erodes compliance.

        • Incognito 9.4.1.1

          When exercising discretion, authorities have to weigh up the consequences too. The diplomatic (respectful) educational approach may have a better outcome, on the whole, than a more rigid (hard-line) punitive one. I lean to the former, by default 🙂

          • greywarshark 9.4.1.1.1

            I'm feeling that the government is being tested by these anti-mask and anti-isolation people, some of whom are being asked to sacrifice much ie attendance at funerals being denied. But the recent protests are outrageous and government must start to insist, setting a time by which masks should be on hand. Public transport is compromised otherwise.

            And instructions should be given, advice that masks should be put in pockets when worn and may have to be used multiple times in a day. Then there should be instructions for washing and rolling in a towel and drying to use next day if there are no spares available. We will have to include this in behaviour like brushing teeth. Get the information out there, be helpful, be insistent, and lastly be threatening about the spread of the virus. In the end people will monitor each other.

            And people who are being good citizens and pick up rubbish as they go on their daily walks are seeing masks just thrown away on the ground. They don't want to touch them and fair enough. Mention what is to be done with masks. Put them in a rubbish bin or take them home and do so. People have to have things spelled out for them. We have had decades of be a free individual looking after yourself, and now we want people to be part of a community again and work together. It's a different mindset and an example of the results of corrosive neolib attitudes about people and society.

            • Incognito 9.4.1.1.1.1

              Boundaries are being tested, for sure. What you and others seem to be advocating is a zero-tolerance approach. I’m ok with that under certain circumstances but each situation is different and the bar is and should be set high, in my view. I have strong anti-authoritarian blood running through my veins.

              • greywarshark

                NZ take things for granted. I want us to be on L1. You don't get to that with wishing. She’ll be right doesn’t cut it. People will have to knuckle down including me. I'm putting one on in stores now, need to do it all the time. Till recently the only one.

                It's not time for going the diplomatic route, the smaller the Lockdown No,. the higher the commitment must be. Our economy depends on having some commerce. The anti-authoritarians with no sense of proportion will need to be slapped down. I wrote to the PM about one I considered serious, it went to the Internal Affairs, Tracy Martin is it. Haven't caught up with it yet but may take it further. Pussy footing doesn't work with yobboes/esses.

          • Stuart Munro 9.4.1.1.2

            It's all a matter of where one draws the line of course – but allowing large crowds of unmasked Covid deniers establishes a woeful precedent.

            • Incognito 9.4.1.1.2.1

              If only it were just a crowd of covid deniers …

              • Stuart Munro

                Yes. Well, one superspreader & we're all back to level three.

                • Incognito

                  Yes, that is a possibility but the chances of that happening are quite slim, IMO. They still don’t know how the cluster started. It would be good if we could answer that.

  10. tc 10

    These anti-vaxers are costing some health systems valuable resources countering the influence.

    Like all vaccines there will be risks, same ones we’ve been dealing with for decades.

  11. Draco T Bastard 11

    Because within this sustained public health crisis, the state is showing that it can adjust your level of daily freedom every week at the whim of Cabinet decision. No one respecting freedom is going to put up with that for long.

    Actually, everyone respecting freedom will put up with that for as long as need be. They understand that people have the right not to be endangered by others.

    It's the selfish individualists, those who only care about what they want, who are going to be upset. They don't care that their actions are going to endanger others. Its seen in their demands for property rights as they demand that they be able to whatever they like on their property with no regard for how that affects others and we're seeing it again now in their demands that they be able to endanger and kill others without consequences.

    I'm now at the point where I think all these people who go against the government's actions to keep us safe need to be treated as terrorists.

    It’s a rising anarchist spirit, corresponding to the multiple crises rising in the world right now.

    No its not, Anarchists would be in that group of respecting freedom.

    We have the new post-Covid society arising: a society divided about whether the state should be trusted, a network of growing anti-establishment rebellion, and a global movement reaching our shores.

    All the more need, then, of getting engagement in politics working better. To ensure that all voices are heard in parliament and that parliament then follows the will of the people.

    We can even make it so that credible information is available to people and that they can't vote unless they've read it.

    • RedLogix 11.1

      Same argument the CCP uses to justify it's concentration camps and ethnic cleansing policies.

      • McFlock 11.1.1

        In some ways, the difference between a psychopath and a trauma surgeon is that one of them is cutting people open to save the person's life.

        The temporary constraints on freedoms we currently have are for the duration of the pandemic. The constraints in China are for the duration of the CCP.

        • Robert Guyton 11.1.1.1

          Very scary analogy, McFlock!

        • RedLogix 11.1.1.2

          The constraints in China are for the duration of the CCP.

          And mainly for their benefit.

          I do agree with your argument here, it's essentially the same as the one I made above around the road code, but it's worth noting that it's easily mis-used for unworthy purposes.

          • McFlock 11.1.1.2.1

            Any argument can be parroted. Their justification relies, in part, on whether their premises are true.

            "Covid is an infectious disease that will kill thousands of NZers without restrictions on personal freedoms for the duration" is an objectively reasonable and factual statement.

            "Growing a long beard is a threat to the security of China" seems to be a significantly more debatable proposition.

      • Draco T Bastard 11.1.2

        Explain?

  12. RedBaronCV 12

    Interesting that they see it as confronting the government rather than endangering the rest of the community who have collectively agreed to a decision limiting contact.

    Do we have a local facebook moderator here that can quickly shut down local misinformation sites or commentators – does anyone know? And yes remove the money.

    • bruce 12.1

      Some insight into the process, not by any means quick

      ” I've been notified of my latest posts that Facebook has geoblocked in Thailand on the orders of the regime. A few times a month, I get several notifications, which shows that Facebook processes the requests in batches.

      There were six posts blocked in the latest batch, dating from April 30 to June 6. So the geoblocking process has taken more than three months in all cases. I wrote in detail about the process here: https://www.facebook.com/zenjournalist/posts/10158153997111154

  13. Dennis Frank 13

    Trotter connects the dots: http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com/

    When Simon Collins asked a member of the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship Trust (which runs the church) if he had anything to say in response to Health Minister Hipkins’ comment that members of his church “don’t accept, or haven’t previously accepted, the science involved here”, the trustee replied: “What would Trump say?”

    It is hard to imagine a more startling indication of just how deeply the deranged ideas of American far-right evangelism have penetrated the desperate communities of South, West and Central Auckland.

    However the three of my old friends who believe the conspiracy theory aren't christians, so that's a red herring in the big picture, even though it's a causal driver of the sub-culture. As Stuart mentioned, delinquent behaviour by the establishment has been alienating folks for a long time. Critical mass may have been reached, and the left & right are both part of the problem…

    • Peter 13.1

      They're not christians but they're travelling on that bandwagon. So what are the conspiracy theories that have them along?

      • Dennis Frank 13.1.1

        In early March, it was the 5G thing morphing into the 5G/covid-denier hybrid. Who knows since then – they stopped responding to emails I sent to the entire group. Shaming is usually effective as a deterrent. When there's an audience, I mean.

    • Ad 13.2

      It's amazing where you find intersections between conspiracy believers and anti-vaxxers. I know a couple of them. There's a lot of those hiding from the law and from US enforcement in the international yachting community, in the marine bars of Suva and Samoa. There are definitely some in low-church Christianity – who have had very strong US evangelical indoctrination in all its cultural forms. There's still a few in our own communes and shanties in the way far north. There are some I know who are big into both alternative health practices, and also into deep sustainability practices.

      They're not all poor by any stretch, but they are definitely a suspicious lot who are determined to strike out on their own, and be beholden to no one.

      They all make for challenging conversations – and their books and sites are usually more ready-to-hand than mine are.

      • Dennis Frank 13.2.1

        Yeah, alt health has been a part of kiwi counter-culture since the hippie era. Widespread & deeply-embedded. I do a range of stuff in that category, and have used some for that long. Some obviously & reliably works, some depends on timing of use, some you can't validate via experience so it starts to seem a matter of faith & I bail out.

        I get that rebels don't take mainstreamers seriously, since that has long been my stance, but common ground can always be found if you try, and when folks give up on that they tend to drift away with the fairies. I get irritated by alternative thinkers who are so captivated by their interior world that they lose the ability to communicate effectively. Get real! But they've lost that ability. When you see this happen to people with advanced university degrees who've put a successful career behind them, you start to wonder about premature senility…

        • weka 13.2.1.1

          it also works the other way. While the rational is god left have been ridiculing alt health, some alt health people have been radicalising away from the left while the left wasn't paying attention. This should be alarming the left, but what I am seeing is people still using language like nutters and apparently thinking that ostracising people is a winning strategy.

          The concerns about vaccination predate Wakefield by many years, but likewise in the last decade the debate about vaccination has included a large degree of hubris from the rational is god left, and an extreme polarisation including lefties arguing for compulsory or coerced vaccination and not being honest about the authoritarianism in the position. Chickens coming home to roost now.

          • weka 13.2.1.1.1

            it's similar to the anti-religion position by some on the left, and then we wonder why religious conservatism is on the rise.

            • Descendant Of Smith 13.2.1.1.1.1

              it's similar to the anti-religion position by some on the left, and then we wonder why religious conservatism is on the rise.

              Nonsense blaming the left for the rise of the religious conservatism. The rise has come about because they and the capitalists make cosy bedfellows. Always have, always will.

              No tax, no government, charity not welfare, patriarchy rules.

              They have been actively courted by the right using issues like abortion and scare-mongering about communism in order to do so. They have wheedled their way into the education system through their mates in government first through private school access to funding and then through BOT's allowing their religious teachings to be inflicted in public schools.

              If by not listening you mean we should cave in to their demands around things like access to abortion or being able to teach their particular brand of religion in a school then you are way off track.

              The left is highly tolerant of the religious in my opinion – rarely is there an example of actual left wing malice in my experience. Indeed all the attacks I can think of on churches have been from the far-right or by disaffected, sometimes abused, members of a religious group and the occasional random miscreant who certainly wasn't political.

              Then of course there are the churches who are intolerant of other religions.

              "In a rage of hatred towards Christianity, a neo-Nazi and his accomplice smashed nine windows of a Feilding church on Easter Sunday, a court has heard."

              https://www.stuff.co.nz/manawatu-standard/news/3914200/Neo-Nazi-in-attack-on-church

              But there's another side to Arps.

              He's a white supremacist – and Newshub has obtained a video of him delivering a box containing a severed pig's head to the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch in 2016.

              https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2019/05/christchurch-attack-the-dark-truth-about-new-zealand-s-white-supremacists.html

              Now Tamaki has further claimed "we can not accept the proliferation of Islam in our country" in a post on his Facebook page.

              "We can not … think Just because you're tolerant, accepting and inclusive that we won't end up like Great Britain, South East Asia and most of Europe with violence, loss of the host country's identity, their values and culture destroyed and Sharia Law enacted," he said.

              https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12241008

          • Robert Guyton 13.2.1.1.2

            yes

          • Dennis Frank 13.2.1.1.3

            Denial of the experience of others is the mistake the rationalists make. Science education is to blame for that: individual experiences are discounted due to not being repeatable (to enable others to verify them).

            Validation as praxis is sensible, but validation as ideology runs into the problem of real things that actually happen but aren't countable. Those get dismissed as anecdotal due to prevalent ideology.

            So when your kid dies from being vaccinated nobody believes you. Then you hear of a support group formed by others who have had similar experiences. You join, because like-mindedness produces solidarity, which is empowering.

            Never happened to me but easy for me to accept. Exceptions to a general rule are real hard for conventional people to comprehend.

            • Robert Guyton 13.2.1.1.3.1

              "The planet Mars was named for the God of War. So it makes sense that astrologically, the red orb is thought to rule anger, action, egos, and desire. So the fact that it's about to go retrograde in Aries — after being direct for the past two and a half years — is worth paying attention to. The sign of the ram is this planet's "home"; as Mars tracks backward through determined and passionate Aries, we can expect plenty of drama and fiery chaos. Oh, and the red planet will stay retrograde for two whole months, from 9th September until 13th November."

              "The truth is that it will take tons of self-care and anger management to deal with the impulsivity and fire coming from this retrograde," Montúfar says. "It’s also helpful to know that when facing obstacles, the more we push, the harder things will become."

              https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/2020/09/10013666/mars-retrograde-in-aries-september-2020-meaning

              smiley

            • McFlock 13.2.1.1.3.2

              So when your kid dies from being vaccinated nobody believes you.

              such things are countable, and taken very seriously.

              Whatever "praxis" is supposed to mean, the problem we have with the … "anecdotal" crowd isn't real things happening but being ignored by the mainstream, it mostly seems to be likely (or even demonstrably) false things being latched onto for a variety of reasons, each reason unique to the individual.

              Mockery might lead to radicalisation, but I suspect that far more often it merely follows it.

              • weka

                "such things are countable, and taken very seriously."

                Are they? Because before Wakefield, the stories from parents were that it was very hard to get medical doctors to report adverse effects from vaccination. I have no doubt that a child going into anaphylaxis after receiving a shot would be treated very seriously and reported. But something less dramatic happening in the following days? Probably not so much. And that's where the gap is that Qanon or Wakefield or whoever now fills. Telling a distressed parent that doctor knows best and then that the parent is a nutjob doesn't actually make the parent believe in the safety of vaccinations.

                I can't believe I had to actually write that last sentence, but here we are. I don't care if the radicalisation happens before or after the ridicule, because this was set up a long time ago and the basis of it is authoritarianism (I'm right, you're wrong, my side has the bigger stick). Like I said, chickens coming home to roost. It blows my mind that even at this stage the left still seems to think that we will win just because our cause is righteous.

                • McFlock

                  As the countries undertesting for covid are finding, deaths are pretty obvious and not difficult to attribute when you get into decent percentages of the population, even if you pretend individual cases weren't caused by that new thing that thousands or millions of people are being exposed to.

                  Maybe there are some real cases which have been ignored, but were actually caused by vaccines/1080/5g/UN or whomever else was at the march.

                  Maybe.

                  But maybe the chickens aren't actually coming home to roost – maybe the damned things have nothing to do with you, and they're crapping all over the patio.

                  • weka

                    you lost me on your analogy there.

                    Not sure why you are comparing known mass covid deaths to possible, rare vax reactions.

                    • McFlock

                      Because while the complications might be rare, the complaints are not. There is a disconnect between the claimed observed (or unobserved) cases and the total number of people with a possible complication in the population.

                      If A(vac/covid) actually causes B(whatevs/death), then even if you refuse to say that a particular case of A caused B, an increase in A will cause an increase in B.

                      The equation can be confounded, but that's the basic principle.

                      Anyhow, I was actually ruminating recently on our frequent disagreement about approaches to the sort who turned up at the march. I think my worldview is largely affected by dealing with drunk people and idiots: some people cannot be reasoned with, and can even be damaging to try.

                      It takes up time, distracts folk from the task at hand and people who might need genuine assistance, and they usually end up taking a swing at you anyway. Sure, if nothing else is going on you might handhold or shepherd the individual for five hours, but if it's going to be a busy night then you should be seriously considering just kicking them out right now. It's not so much a bias towards rationality (although, yeah, fair call, I value the rational over the irrational. It's not god, but at least it's rational), it's a recognition of futility.

                    • weka

                      lost me on the analogy there again I'm afraid. Are you saying that ostracising the people perceived as a problem is valid because it saves time that can be better spent on other things?

                      "If A(vac/covid) actually causes B(whatevs/death), then even if you refuse to say that a particular case of A caused B, an increase in A will cause an increase in B"

                      So? It's a given that there will be more reports of vaccine injury than there are actual injuries. Most people talking about this aren't referring to something as obvious as death. If we're talking about small numbers, of reactions that aren't well understood and aren't taken seriously, and probably have multiple causes, I just don't think medical science is very good at dealing with that.

                      In an environment were parents reporting concerns has been ignored over a long period of time, it makes sense that in the absence of a system taking them seriously some of those parents are going to gravitate towards people who do take them seriously.

                    • McFlock

                      They're only a problem if people waste time on them in that field or give them credibility by pretending their opinions are worthy of debate. That's not ostracism. I'll share a bus with an anti-1080 person, and I might even stay in their store unless they start rabbiting on about 5g. But I generally won't bother debating the issue with them, because there's no point. If they start doing it to other people, then I might get involved. Or I'll flag their social media shares.

                      But there's no point trying to argue against an irrational belief – rationality is not generally contagious, unfortunately.

                      The problem with small numbers is that any old shit can happen coincidentally alongside any other event. Just because stats can't detect it and there's no known biologically-plausible mechanism of causation, it doesn't mean that anyone else has a better idea about what caused something. It just means that nobody knows what caused something.

                    • weka

                      "It just means that nobody knows what caused something."

                      Now we're getting somewhere.

                      "But there's no point trying to argue against an irrational belief – rationality is not generally contagious, unfortunately."

                      One of my fav counters to this argument is security specialist Gavin Debecker telling women to trust their intuition to not get into an elevator with a man if it feels wrong even if there's no rational explanation. I'm sure there are all sorts of ways to try and explain that rationally (we pick up unconscious cues etc) but it's still an utterly rational act based in the non-rational. Also important to note that a woman trusting her gut there might be right, or wrong, and there is no way to know.

                      It doesn't take too much to dig below the rational position on 5G and see that people have concerns and just can't articulate them very well and end up using pseudoscience or belief to justify their gut instinct. It's not that they're right/wrong about 5G, it's that they understand perfectly well that there are massive problems with technology, we're in deep shit globally, and in the absence of agency and respect in the mainstream they will gravitate towards parts of the culture that met them in some way.

                      I'm not convinced that they are small enough numbers to ignore any more. I think we are at a dangerous tipping point and it's not hard to see how this could get out of control fast, as the world becomes an even scarier place. The US shows us just how bad this can get and how fast.

                    • McFlock

                      Isn't Debecker the guy who developed a statistical matrix in order to demonstrate the actual level of danger to people being stalked or subjected to domestic violence?

                      Refusing to get into a lift with someone based purely on a feeling can be reasonable, given the amount of sexual violence in the world.

                      But applying that principle to other situations with risks orders of magnitude less than that in society, and with actual demonstrable benefits to doing that course of action, and it looks more silly. If the parking garage is on fire and your instincts are a bit dodgy about the guy who ran into the fire escape before you, would Debecker recommend going into the fire escape anyway (don't use lifts in a fire)?

                      And there's a difference between mitigating risk based on instinctive impressions and attributing causation based on instinctive impressions (then writing a blog post or youtube video so people get that instinctive impression and start "mitigating risk" based on that video, so essentially they're acting on warped information be it conscious or subconscious).

                      edit: as for the number at the protest, I would like to see how established they remain when the current white house occupant moves out. He definitely fuels the fire.

              • Dennis Frank

                Whatever "praxis" is supposed to mean

                You could google it. Applying a belief in practice, via consistent behaviour. It combines self-discipline with method. Walking one's talk conveys the meaning too.

                The social problem caused by anecdotes is that the facts experienced often tend to morph into something else as the story goes around. Sceptics rightly get suspicious of this because it is human nature to embroider a story.

                • McFlock

                  I have googled it. Still can't see the point to the word, i.e.:

                  Validation as [applying a belief in practice, via consistent behaviour] is sensible, but validation as ideology runs into the problem of real things that actually happen but aren't countable.

                  Very Deepak Chopra-ey

            • weka 13.2.1.1.3.3

              "Science education is to blame for that: individual experiences are discounted due to not being repeatable (to enable others to verify them)"

              Yep. And the rationalists are blind to the fact that empirical evidence is at the core of much of the alt communities. In addition to non-rationalist beliefs and lack of evidence, there are solid bodies of evidence for efficacy. When rationalists frame the alt people as nutters disconnected from reality, there's nowhere for the alt people to go apart from away. If the crystal waving works for them, then it works for them and they're not going to give that up just because someone who hates them tells them it doesn't.

              Lest the crystal waving upsets some, it's pretty easy to point to alt health that was once considered woo and is now supported by science (acupuncture, herbs, meditation).

              The inability to hold two contradicting realities at the same time is one of the biggest flaws in the western mind set. Followed closely by not understanding that that inability is not in any way universal or cross cultural.

            • Incognito 13.2.1.1.3.4

              Personal and even shared (as in: collective) experiences can be misleading and in fact incorrect.

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_memory#Mandela_effect

              • weka

                as can science.

                • Incognito

                  Very much so, but it is meant to be self-correcting and self-consistent. Science is also full of outdated conventions that are wrong based on current knowledge. The direction of an electrical current is a textbook example of this: the convention says that is goes from the positive battery terminal to the negative one while, in actual fact, the negatively charged electrons flow in the opposite direction. Lightning starts at (the) ground level.

                  • weka

                    that's cool, didn't know that.

                    Yes, science is meant to be self-correcting, but unfortunately science is practiced by humans within human societies that bring all sorts of pressures to bear on all aspects of science and interrupt the self-correction. Then there is the issue of how fast something can correct. This is one of the reasons why I prefer to see science as one body of knowledge amongst others and that we are better off not elevating it above all others, but using it in the ways that best work.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    Very much so, but it is meant to be self-correcting and self-consistent.

                    And generally is.

                    Science is also full of outdated conventions that are wrong based on current knowledge. The direction of an electrical current is a textbook example of this

                    Is that science or people not updating their textbooks regularly?

                    It was, after all, science that proved that electricity flows from negative to positive. Semi-conductors would not have been discovered without that knowledge.

                    • Incognito

                      Those conventions were based on what they knew, or thought they knew, at the time, although some were intelligent and humble enough to realise that it was (at) the forefront of knowledge that was moving all the time. That was my point. As I mentioned in a recent reply (to you, IIRC), Science is a human endeavour, by humans, for humans. Make of that what you will.

                      Interestingly, the education and training of a scientist is a gradual step-wise process through the various stadia of past knowledge until they arrive at our current point of knowledge evolution. Some ‘enlightened’ scientists appear to believe that we are almost done and that the final theory of everything is just around the corner.

                    • RedLogix

                      It's more subtle than this; electrical energy is essentially the flow of an electromagnetic field that exists inside the loop formed by the conductors of the circuit.

                      That is why when you close a switch the energy transfer happens at close to the speed of light (it's usually somewhat slower than this due to the presence of dielectric insulators) while the actual electrons move at a much, much lower drift velocity.

                      Cause and effect is the opposite way around to what most people think, it's the electrons that move in response to the electromagnetic field, rather than the electrons carrying the energy. What the electrons are doing is essentially constraining the boundaries of the field to the circuit so that it can usefully deliver energy from source to sink in a controlled and directed fashion.

            • Draco T Bastard 13.2.1.1.3.5

              Denial of the experience of others is the mistake the rationalists make. Science education is to blame for that: individual experiences are discounted due to not being repeatable (to enable others to verify them).

              What a load of bollocks.

              If they describe the experience perfectly then its repeatable. If trying to repeat what the person said through experimentation and it doesn't happen as they describe then its most likely that they didn't describe it perfectly and, in fact, probably misunderstood what they saw. Correlation is not causation after all.

              What has most likely happened when someone describes an experience is that they're misremembering (human memory is highly fallible) and misreading the experience.

              This is why we go to the effort of trying to get things to repeat as it confirms causation.

          • PsyclingLeft.Always 13.2.1.1.4

            Not sure what you are driving at here. Alt Health? Homeopathy? Science is surely better than pseudoscience?

            • Dennis Frank 13.2.1.1.4.1

              Science is surely better than pseudoscience?

              I'm okay with that most of the time, but it does run into the same credibility problem that most over-generalisations encounter: the reality of exceptions to the rule.

              My perspective is based on a lifetime of experience with both science and alt belief systems (since the early 1960s).

              It often amuses me how psychology still gets called a science. Despite nobody ever proving anything about how the psyche operates, I mean. Pseuds even call economics a science – incredible though that seems.

              And beliefs & practices that many sceptics call pseudoscience work surprisingly well for a large part of humanity. Jeez, even the govt has adopted magical thinking (imaginary money via quantitative easing). Your faith in the old simple binary implied by your question needs a reality check…

              • PsyclingLeft.Always

                Well you seem to be off on a tangent there somehow….(apart from the question wasnt asked of you : ). Anyway…there is of course the pseudoscience Placebo effect. I'll take Evidence based and Peer reviewed thanks : )

              • Stuart Munro

                Lots of things can be science – even sociology was, when Durkheim did it. Linguistics was for Sausurre but not for Chomsky. Economics may be for Krugman and Picketty – they like evidence.

                Psych is a chimera though – Jung is a bit of an alchemist I think, but Freud was a charlatan.

            • weka 13.2.1.1.4.2

              "Not sure what you are driving at here. Alt Health? Homeopathy? Science is surely better than pseudoscience?"

              Homeopathy isn't pseudoscience or science though, that's a strawman. Not sure I can be bothered with another cul de sac debate about it, but science doesn't apply rational processes to the study of homeopathy, so it's not like there's even enough good data yet on efficacy.

              But anyone paying attention can tell if something works for them or not despite the absence of scientific explanation and/or despite a person working in the science paradigm telling them that it can't work. Even science has finally managed to figure out that placebo effect is useful, although it hasn't quite managed to figure out how to use it.

              I'm old enough to remember when acupuncture was considered not real by people in the science frame, despite 3,000 years of empirical evidence to the contrary. Now that science has gotten round to studying it, it's suddenly real. Oops.

              The weird thing about all that is the position from science-framed people that something can't be real if science doesn't say it is, when it's patently obvious that the practice of science research is both limited (can't studying everything) and flawed (plenty of discussion in medical science about this). It's such a non rational position, almost like it's driven by complete trust in something without relying on evidence (or despite the evidence) 😉

  14. joe90 14

    The other global pandemic.

    • Draco T Bastard 14.1

      Misread that guys shirt as:

      I don't breathe

      And wondered if he'd reported his zombyism to the doctor yet.

      • greywarshark 14.1.1

        edit
        Dr No opines – The size of his stomach is putting pressure on his lungs I would say.

        And my diagnosis for the outbreak of this mass hysteria, is unemployment. If they were all working and spending all their spare time boozing, as is the pattern for many working class men, they wouldn’t have time to get up to shenanigans like this.

        Cure therefore is for government to fund jobs around the community, beautifying it, building and digging and making physical stuff. Without work, idle hands etc that old saying. Keep people busy, give them small wage rises for staying on at a job for over six months, offer them a house loan if they can demonstrate they can save a fixed amount for two years. The atmosphere would be buzzy and positive, not negative with anomic people trying to be clever and pointing the finger at authority just because it’s there.

  15. Jackel 15

    Well there is positive liberty ie what good is freedom of the press if you can't read, and negative liberty which is what libertarians peddle.

    If you don't have some sort of feel for basic scientific facts, and many people don't, then you become susceptible to all kinds of weird and wonderful viewpoints.

  16. Robert Guyton 16

    Can Jacinda's love protect us from this contagion (like the Colgate "ring of confidence" – I hesitate to use this phrase, you'll soon learn why if you have an inquisitive mind, but used it any way smiley

  17. Incognito 17

    So, by trying to eliminate Covid-19 we let in another contagious disease, Convid-20. Of course, this one didn’t have to jump species, as it had been latent in humans all along, just waiting for the right time to become virulent and spread. There is no cure but there are things that can be done to boost ‘herd immunity’. And no, ‘herd immunity’ does not mean picking on individuals or small groups that are infected, punishing, isolating, and ostracising them. Contrary to Covid-19, isolating cases with Convid-20 makes it worse.

  18. JohnSelway 18

    I got into a debate with some conspiracy theorist about how masks starve you of oxygen and and all that bullshit. When I countered with explaining people in the Andes regularly deal with low oxygen environments without suffering ill effect the only answer I got was “Wake up!” Followed by a kick-ban when I pressed further.

  19. observer 19

    I'm so old I can remember when Vernon Tava was the New Big Thing that the established parties should sit up and take notice of. Or was it Alf Ngaro's new party? Or was it the March for Democracy, paid for by Colin Craig?

    5,000? Long way to go, Billy.

    And then there was … oblivion. If headlines were votes, Brian Tamaki would be PM.

  20. Ad 20

    Anti-maskers on the Titanic:

  21. Andre 21

    Thinking about it, it's probably just as well ACT had a crack at hoovering up the gun nuts before this next lot came along. Keep the crazies separated into a bunch of different camps.

  22. PsyclingLeft.Always 22

    "Billy Te Kahika, leader of the NZ Public Party, Advance NZ co-leader and Te Tai Tokerau candidate" …and CT spreader/Loon.

    Reading the article…

    'One supporter, who asked not to be named, told RNZ he has never voted before, but will be supporting Te Kahika in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate.

    He described Te Kahika as an honest guy with integrity, qualities he said most politicians don't have.

    "They seem to be making a rad hysteria about a virus that doesn't seem to be causing that much of an effect on the health of people, no more different than the common winter flu … do we believe the health officials?" he said.

    Another supporter, who also asked not to be named, is a long-time Labour supporter, but this year she's voting for Te Kahika.

    "He's here for not just one culture, but for all cultures, especially for the Te Tai Tokerau people … he is right. We do need someone for us here," she said.'

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/425970/the-outliers-fears-about-te-kahika-s-controversial-covid-19-views

    Huh? This is really a worry. I give Jacinda Ardern big ups for engaging with Maori…Matariki announcement a real Positive. But somehow…there is still distrust. Or is it just a few? Who are CT believers anyway?

    • greywarshark 22.1

      Were do these people hear PM Jacinda? Where do they get their news, their information, their measured opinions? It seems that there have to be two types of approach to voters, the reasoned one, and the one that feeds straight into the emotions, the desires etc – not with lies that's not what I mean, but like talking to the little child that is inside all of us but remains large in emotional adults. Going to that part of the brain with words that will satisfy, uplift, calm, empower (that's always as good motivating word), I think going through that checklist would mean that the message should reach a target. Labour and Greens take note – have you thought along the above lines? Perhaps you should do more than glance at it.

      • PsyclingLeft.Always 22.1.1

        And indeed. It should be engagement.Talking with, not at. Actual Listening. Empathy. So they dont feel they are othered. I find when talking to people…you can find some common ground…even stereotypical Rugby/Hunter etc etc "types"(well, not always : )

        (edit this was re Recycling…kinda surprising, but cool : )

  23. Stuart Munro 23

    QAnon may not be much longer for this world.

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