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The Golfball and Sickle

Written By: - Date published: 12:38 pm, April 30th, 2008 - 55 comments
Categories: activism - Tags: , ,

Personally, I think it’s hilarious.

A brilliant piece of activism that got the public’s attention and raised the issue of why we have American spy equipment on our soil. All without any real harm done and no violence.

The wannabe semiotician in me loves that you’ve got a rag-tag bunch of ordinary people attacking a huge, featureless tool of secret State power. And with sickles!

Also, who knew those were just inflated covers? I thought they were some kind of far-out communications spheres


55 comments on “The Golfball and Sickle”

  1. insider 1

    Brilliant stunt. They are just weather shields for satellite dishes. You often see them over radar arrays as well.

  2. Matthew Pilott 2

    Insider – they also prevent people from seeing exactly where they’re pointed, which is an operational benefit. I’m not sure which is the primary and which is the secondary purpose, off the top’o’me noggin.

  3. roger nome 3

    Cool piece of activism. One comforting thing is that the echelon program that these structures are part of is becoming more and more irrelevant. i.e. they only intercept air-borne communications, whereas more and more information is being passed through fiber-optics, which a would be eavesdropper needs to physically tap into in order to monitor.

    It’s all in James Bamford’s most recent book:


  4. Only someone from the left would find vandalism funny. I wonder what Nandor would say if a Anti Cannabis group, went on his property and pulled out his plants, or what would the left say if a group of Americans, did something similar to protest North Korea.

    This has totally blown up in the left’s face. Here was this huge spy base, they have been telling us, the big bad Americans are doing all sorts of bad things, but yet they were still able to climb the wall and get in.

    Don’t you think, if this was important to the USA, these guys would of got no where near it. Basically these protesters have proved that the States were right all along, they are doing legitimate activity.

    This is just the typical, chip on your shoulder, Anti American BS that the left gets off on.

    You guys need to grow up.

  5. Santi 5

    Steve Pierson, Professor of English, said “A brilliant piece of activism…. All without any real harm done and no violence.”

    Don’t you know the meaning of private property?

    Would you condone animal-right activists entering farms to set animals free? Where do you stop in your support of “activism”?

    Shame on you.

  6. Cool piece of activism or outright criminality? I guess that the Courts will be the judge of that.

  7. Felix 7


    “private property”

    Please expand.

  8. roger nome 8

    “Cool piece of activism or outright criminality?”

    Yes look at all the destroyed property, littering the surround ground. And the massacred bodies of the spy-base staff splayed throughout the grizzly scene. Won’t someone think of the US empire? Someone must bring these barbarians to justice!

  9. MikeE 9

    Criminal act of Vandalism.

    I don’t agree in certain governmnet departments existing, and you don’t see me letting off bombs under them (though I did find that scene in V for Vendetta particularily heart warming).

    Then again, it is a foreign government essentially spying on us…

    I’m of two minds on this one.

  10. Ben R 10

    I would have thought that following the bomb attacks in London, Madrid & Bali and threatened attacks in Australia, people would appreciate efforts to intercept terrorist communications?

    Having the spy base doesn’t mean we endorse every aspect of US foreign policy. Personally, I agree that the invasion of Iraq was a disaster, but I still think we need to try and prevent terrorist attacks. As Salman Rushdie says:

    It’s one thing to criticise the way in which the American government is behaving, or the British government, and I have a lot of criticisms of that in fact, nothing but criticisms,’ he says now. “But it’s another thing to fail to see that an enemy actually exists and is extremely serious about what he wishes to do.’ http://www.johannhari.com/archive/article.php?id=1002

    [yeah because these spy bases and all those American fighter jets have been so useful against backpack bombers. No-one denies there are terrorists, that doesn’t automatically mean Waihopai is needed. SP]

  11. Steve Pierson 11

    To state the obivous for our rightwing friends – not all vandalism is good, it depends on the reason, and breaking the law is not good but sometimes it is worth it in a just cause.

    santi. This is a side point but private property is not invoilable, ownership is not an absolute right of use. I do support the release of animals held in inhuman conditions. As to where I stop supporting activism – well, i don’t support people coming and peeing on the wall of your house becuase they don’t like you – so I guess the point is somewhere between that: freeing animals that are being treated inhumanely= good, peeing on your house because you’re not liked = bad.

    Remember, it’s you who are the extremist, the absolutist here. To me, there can be circumstances when breaching the law is ok if the cause is good and the payoff with the damage caused. It depends on individual circumstances. You believe any violation of private property is automaitcally wrong.

  12. Scribe 12


    How about ransacking an abortion clinic?

    As you say: not all vandalism is good, it depends on the reason, and breaking the law is not good but sometimes it is worth it in a just cause.

    Who makes the decision on whether the vandalism or law-breaking is “good”?

  13. higherstandard 13

    Good on the Prime Minister for calling it like it is.

    “Obviously it’s just imposing a cost on the taxpayer having to rebuild. That’s why I describe it as a senseless act of criminal vandalism”.

  14. Steve Pierson 14

    Like all politics, Scribe, it’s a matter of debate. It should be based on principle and reasoned argument and obviously reasonable people can sometimes disagree.

    But you would agree that in some cases activism that breaks the law is OK – like when anti EFA marchers (all ten of them) march with placards that don’t carry name and address. You think that’s ok don’t you?

  15. higherstandard 15


    Is it against the law when anti EFA marchers (all ten of them) march with placards that don’t carry name and address ?

    If so the law’s more of an ass than I suspected. Regardless I don’t see how this relates to the vandalism and associated cost to the taxpayer as highlighted in this post.

  16. Steve:

    So what you are saying here is, Vandalism is good, just as long if you believe in the political statement they are making.

    I have to disagree with that. Protest all you want, but what they did was wrong.

  17. Benodic 17

    Don’t you know the meaning of private property?

    Quick, someone tell Rosa Parks.

  18. Matthew Pilott 18

    Brett Dale, since we’re into some ignorant stereotyping, do you get off on extraordinary rendition to countries that torture, CIA-endorsed waterboarding, or the overthrow of democratic governments for fascist pro-US dictators?

    Sorry, but who needs to grow up?

  19. Macky 19


    should we always obey the law mindlessly?

    because you seem to have the second part of that down pat

    [Macky, play nice. SP]

  20. Ben R 20

    “yeah because these spy bases and all those American fighter jets have been so useful against backpack bombers. No-one denies there are terrorists, that doesn’t automatically mean Waihopai is needed. SP”

    That overlooks the number of plots that have been foiled in Europe through intelligence sharing & intercepting communications.

    I don’t know that you’d describe ‘The Ploughshares’ as ordinary people either? They said they carried out their attack in the name of the “Prince of Peace”. They sound more like religious zealots.

  21. vto 21

    It’s a fine line between stability and anarchy. Just as well we have the state with its big bovver boots to get stuck in and do some bashing with when they are needed to control people. Eh Mr Pierson.

  22. Matthew Pilott 22

    Hey vto – you alluded to this on another thread – so what’s the alternative to ‘da 5-0’s if you don’t like state influence, out of interest?

  23. vto 23

    Ha ha my Pilott, excuse my rough manner but I was just trying to expose some hypocrisy (that is larger than political parties). Namely, that it is ok for the state to put the boot into that state-person relationship but not so for the person in the person-person relationship.

    I don’t have a complete answer developed in my head, but together with my earlier postage, what I am getting at is that today the physical approach as a means of dispute resolution is forgotten. Which ignores the vast majority of human history (and surely we are not so arrogant to think we do things better today than in the past).

    Its a big topic, and off-topic so I’ll stop there (btw, I’m not for the bash). But that’s what I was getting at. Some hypocrisy, and some forgotten history. And some stirring.

  24. Felix 24

    Short memories indeed.

    The most serious terrorist attack we’ve had here in living memory, the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior claimed one innocent life and caused irreparable damage to private property.

    One of the creepier aspects of this horrible event was that the U.S. (and other) intelligence agencies had been forewarned and chose not to tell us.

    With friends like these…

  25. vto 25

    That should have been ‘mr pilott’ not ‘my pilott’

  26. Like I said, you can protest all you like, but if you are going to support this type of vandalism against one country, you have to support it against other countries also.

    You cant pick and choose because of your own political beliefs.

    Can you imagine if a American immigrant living in New Zealand did this to an Arab Embassy, you will all be up in arms.

  27. Felix 27

    Brett, I can support anything I like based on my political (or any other) beliefs.

    I believe the the damage to the echelon spy station was politically relevant, mostly harmless and a bit theatrically amusing.

    What I can’t do is expect you to support anything based on my beliefs. And that’s ok with me.

  28. Steve Pierson 28

    Um. I can and do pick which causes to support based on my political beliefs. that’s what having political beliefs is all about.

    Try and get this straight in your head – the principle I’m arguing is not ‘all vandalism is good’. It is ‘sometimes a breach of the law can be justified for political reasons’ – in this case a minor breach for what I see as a good cause.

  29. You cant pick and choose because of your own political beliefs.

    You fu**kn moron.

  30. Sam Dixon 30

    from stuff:

    “neighbours of the base woke up this morning to a different skyline. The odd passer-by stopped to stare, and one by one the base’s neighbours pulled blinds or wandered out on to their lawns to realise the landscape was slightly altered.

    Sarah Rolston did not hear anything last night and said the sight of the balls from her front lawn this morning was “hilarious”.

    One neighbour who asked not to be named said “Dolly Parton is a bit lopsided at the moment.”

    – seem like the righties are a bit at odds with the locals down there

  31. Steve

    In saying “sometimes a breach of the law can be justified for political reason”

    then you would totally support someone from the right doing something similar in a form protest.

  32. higherstandard 32


    Try and get this straight in your head … in this case a minor breach for what I see as a good cause.

    What is this good cause Steve, perhaps you’d like to inform me and the rest of NZ so we can share in your delight that the public will be footing the bill for the repairs of this vandalism.

  33. Occasional Observer 33

    Yeah, what a momentous, heroic achievement, by standing up against the State like this. A million dollars of taxpayers’ money down the tubes.

    I look forward to the Standard praising a bomb attack against the Greytown WINZ office. Hell, with falling property prices, that can’t be worth more than a million dollars. Or how about an arson attack against a school? Or let some prisoners take the axe to a few cell blocks.

    Yeah, that’s what we’d like to see.

    [lprent: I’m sure that it is harder on your brain to deal with individuals, try anyway. Address the gripe to the poster]

  34. Felix 34

    No Brett, but you possibly would.

    Why is this so hard for you?

  35. higherstandard 35

    That’s great Brett so you’ll be stumping up with the million dollars in repairs then !

  36. Santi 36

    “..in this case a minor breach for what I see as a good cause.”

    A pathetic admission by Steve Pierson.

    It can hardly be a minor breach? You appear to condone trespassing and damaging provate property.

    A good cause? What about the bombing of anti-abortion clinics by religious fundamentalists? The attacks by the anti-whaling campaigners? Anti-globalisation mobs attacking American businesses?

    What’s a good cause to you?

  37. Steve Pierson 37

    ” Brett Dale
    April 30, 2008 at 5:14 pm Edit

    In saying “sometimes a breach of the law can be justified for political reason’

    then you would totally support someone from the right doing something similar in a form protest.”

    – you’re still confused Brett. It would always depend on what the protest was and what it was against. My position that this was a great piece of activism that achieved it’s purpose, a purpose I find laudable, does not mean that I support any action in any political cause.

    Honestly, it’s like you can’t read.

  38. Steve:

    My point being, is you have condone vandalism only because the people who committed this crime sit on the same fence as you, thats it in a nut shell.

    Like I said, you should have the right to protest all you like, but to commit a crime and cost the tax payer hundreds of thousands of dollars is wrong.

  39. Tane 39

    Brett, the idea that a protest is immoral if it damages property is absurd. It’s the same mentality that led Dick Cheney to label Nelson Mandela a terrorist.

    Do you think Nelson Mandela is a terrorist?

  40. Steve Pierson 40

    Brett. I condone direct action, even if it might break the law, if I think the cause is worthy and the damage done is proportionate and ethical.

  41. Matthew Pilott 41

    vto – you may have been in moderation, because I missed your reply yesterday. As for “my Pilott” I almost crashed a plane once so I wouldn’t suggest it 🙂

    Going off topic to yours – as I see it, we have gone past lynch mobs, vigilante justice and codified our laws, vesting power exclusively in the state to enact them. So yes, it is an unequal relationship between the state and the people – that does not make it unjust!

    In other news:

    I heard that the cost of repairing the cover may be up to $1m. Now this is very out of line with my normal thinking, but I have a solution – a Private-Public Partnership.

    Before you think I’ve gone all Tory, hear me out.

    The government contracts Durex to fashion a new cover for the receiver dish. With their expertise, a project such as this should be easy. Now, the domes are virtually a tourist attraction, and well photographed. So, to recoup the $1m it will cost Durex to make the ‘cover’, they get prime, white-background advertising space on the side of the new dome!

    Waihopai – brought to you by Durex – keeping NZ safe for over 50 years

  42. Tane 42

    MP – brilliant.

  43. “All without any real harm done….”

    Well lets see, all three will get a criminal conviction- which will follow them around ever time they apply for a job. I understand one of them had several already, so that’s certainly no help to him.
    But hey, who care’s about them? its “cool” right Roger?

    Then there is the cost to the taxpayer of just under million dollars to replace the cover as pointed out and to fix the fences.
    Then there is the extra security costs in staff time and the cost of an investigation into the events of that night, police time and court costs including legal aid.

    But hey, no real harm and its ‘cool’. Yeah, right.

  44. Matthew Pilott 44

    Richard Hurst – that’ve done NZ an invaluable service. What if they were terrorists trying to blow the facility up? These heroes have demonstrated security deficiencies that could have resulted in the loss of the entire facility. $1 million – peanuts compared to the whole facility, and the lives, that could have been lost.

    Without their courage, our sensitive GCSB facilities could all be at risk. I think you should be a little more thankful.

  45. Oh, it was a public service…oh well in that case free beer and medals all round I should think!
    Funny, the actual group of sad nutters behind the whole thing aren’t saying it was done to help improve security there. I also note they happily sent a 24 years old young man with a long list of past convictions
    ( sadly none politically inspired) instead of going themselves. Wow that shows a lot of courage doesn’t it? The word exploitation springs to mind

  46. Matthew Pilott 46

    ’twas a pisstake, Richard, but if you were being charitable you could call it a felix culpa

    This 24 year old – you’re saying he wasn’t part of the organisation? And that he was coerced somehow into going? And that there were presumably some evil puppet-masters pulling his strings?

    What’s the typical age for being an adult these days? I know it’s 30 for hobbits, but this was Waihopai, not Matamata.

  47. Occasional Observer 47


    I was addressing my comment to all of the people who lauded this piece of mindless vandalism.

    To date, not a single member of the Standard’s regular posters has condemned the action. Many of the Standard’s posters and left-wing commenters have applauded it.

    Yes, it is hard to see that this is the individual position of a single commenter when so many of the Standard’s supporters evidently support the view that attacking a state-owned facility is appropriate, and not a single Standard supporter opposes it.

    You’re acting like a pissant little net-bully, lprent. Could your attempt at censorship possibly be even more vacuous? Just because you have a point of view, doesn’t mean anybody is interested in reading it.

    [lprent: So? They comment on what they choose to. I haven’t seen a post on the crappy weather in Auckland today either. It is of concern to me – I have to drive through it]

  48. vto 48

    Hey Someone Else’s Pilott, who said anything about ‘lynch mobs and vigilante justice’?

  49. Matthew Pilott 49

    I was making a vague attempt to describe a time before civilisation had codified law and vested power of law to the state…

  50. Occasional Observer 50


    For some reason you fail to make a distinction between events of nature–i.e., the weather–and the Standard’s key supporters, backed by the Standard’s posters, supporting a wanton act of vandalism against a taxpayer-owned facility.

    Your argument is so stupid, yet again, you get zero for effort. Stick to the geeky stuff, Lynn, if you’re not going to step up to the plate and come up with a decent argument.

    The fact is that Steve Pierson crossed the line with this post. Even Helen Clark–former peace activist and anti-American par excellence–has condemned this vandalism.

    [lprent: So? I wasn’t commenting on the post (in fact I haven’t read it).

    I was gently noting that you addressed the site as if it had a mind of its own and wrote the post – it didn’t.

    You then tried to tell the posters what they should write about. Hey, you are a guest on the site, normally valued, but not if you try to act as if you own the place. We’ve all seen adolescents acting up before (it is dreadfully boring). Act like one and you’ll be treated like one.

    If you want to control what is written on a blog – then start your own one and do it there.

    If you want to comment here, address the person – not the damn machine. Suggest to the posters what they should write about – don’t tell them. Tear holes in their thesis and assumptions, but don’t tear into them personally. It really isn’t that hard, and it is more effective. Do the negatives and I will as well and I’ve a much better toolkit.

    When you address the site, you address me and will get replied to by me. I’m perfectly willing to stick to the “geeky stuff”, and thats what I’d like to do. However I run the outside bounds of the site as one of my geeky roles. I could simply express some of my more nasty geek traits. It is a liberating experience, but takes time away from the important things in life – like code. So I prefer to just eliminate the problem.

    Would you like me to start on you? This is your last mild warning]

  51. Matthew Pilott 51

    I thought it was a funny gesture, when the costs were announced as minimal. Like patching up a bike tyre, I thought. I like to see things with enough ‘grey’ to allow a sense of proportionality to colour my judgement of an event. When I heard that it was $1m damage my thoughts changed rather dramatically and to the negative, but perhaps it was naive of me to expect something like that to cost bugger-all.

    This was, of course, the story at the time Steve posted the entry, OO, and why people generally supported it as a funny thing, or effective activim. If you’re being honest, you’ll note that Steve actually said “… All without any real harm done and no violence.

    This is no longer the case, but you have come in to this thread a day or two late.

    I suppose you could demand a retraction or update, but that’s just being a touch precious in my books. As is “steve pierson crossed the line“. You came in a bit late to make that call.

  52. lprent 52

    Ummm I just read the post and the comments.

    I’m with Helen on this, it is a very expensive prank. I can think of better things to spend the money on than providing a story for the news media to feed on.

    I’m not happy with people breaking into sites that probably have armed guards either. There is just too high a probability of someone getting hurt.

    As was commented above, it was useful for showing up a security hole. As was also commented, there is nothing to stop people from carrying out illegal acts – it is a matter for their own judgement.

    However they have to accept the consequences. In this case I hope that the book is thrown at them -they deliberately caused damage.

  53. higherstandard 53

    Gosh Matthew

    Very considered took you 12 hours to conclude it was costly vandalism enough time to mull it over.

    Guess that’s the difference between the profession I’m in having to make sometimes fairly rapid decisions on the merits of something and your own good profession.

    While I support anyone and everyones right to peaceful protest can I politely ask on behalf of the NZ taxpayer that Steve admits that protests such as this and the associated cost of the vandalism is unacceptable.

  54. Matthew Pilott 54

    Sorry HS, I didn’t realise I was on a stopwatch, or I would have posted that coment far earlier. I didn’t actually ‘conclude’ as suc, I went with what I read in the media. I’ll let you in on a little secret – as soon as I heard that it wasn’t a small repair bill (and more like a mil), I decided that they’d gone too far – but here’s the rub – I didn’t rush straight to this thread to post the comment!

    Somewhat less-than-sincere apologies,


  55. Tane:

    Actually technically Nelson Mandela was a Terrorist, he supported bombing government departments.

    Ghandai use to make adolescent girls sleep with him to see if he would be tempted, so he was a bit of a sicko.

    The Dali Lama follows a belief, that Slavery is okay.

    But I bet the severe liberal education system wont teach this. Still they all did so much good for the world, I guess we can forgive them.

    I just find it, nuts that you can compare what these protesters did to what Ghandai did and his battle against the British.

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  • Inquiry presents solutions to homelessness – Govt must act
    Labour, the Green Party and the Māori Party are calling on the Government to immediately adopt the 20 recommendations set out in today's Ending Homelessness in New Zealand report. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • A good night for Labour’s local government candidates
    It has been a good night for Labour in the local government elections. In Wellington, Justin Lester became the first Labour mayor for 30 years, leading a council where three out of four Labour candidates were elected. Both of Labour’s ...
    2 weeks ago
  • More contenders for fight clubs
    Allegations of fight clubs spreading to other Serco-run prisons must be properly investigated says Labour’s Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Minister runs for cover on job losses
    Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell’s refusal to show leadership and provide assurances over the future of the Māori Land Court is disappointing, given he is spearheading contentious Maori land reforms which will impact on the functions of the Court, ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Kiwisaver contribution holiday not the break workers were looking for
    The number of working New Zealanders needing to stop Kiwisaver payments is another sign that many people are not seeing benefit from growth in the economy, says Grant Robertson Labour’s Finance spokesperson. "There has been an increase of 14 ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Fight Club failings
    The Corrections Minister must take full responsibility for the widespread management failings within Mt Eden prison, says Labour’s Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Rethink welcomed
    The Labour Party is pleased that Craig Foss is reconsidering the return of New Zealand soldiers buried in Malaysia, says Labour’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson David Shearer. “For the families of those who lie there, this will a welcome move. The ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Disappointment over UN vote
    Helen Clark showed her characteristic drive and determination in her campaign to be UN Secretary General, and most New Zealanders will be disappointed she hasn't been selected, says the Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. "Helen Clark has been an ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Māori need answers on Land Court job losses
    Māori landowners, Māori employees and Treaty partners need answers after a Ministry of Justice consultation document has revealed dozens of roles will be disestablished at the Māori Land Court, says Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Meka Whaitiri. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Key’s ‘efficiencies’ = DHBs’ pain
          John Key’s talk of ‘efficiencies’ ignores the fact the Government is chronically underfunding health to the tune of $1.7 billion, says Labour’s Acting Health spokesperson Dr David Clark.       ...
    3 weeks ago
  • More than 1,300 schools to face budget cuts
    The latest Ministry of Education figures reveal thousands of schools will face cuts to funding under National’s new operations grant funding model, says Labour's Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins. ...
    3 weeks ago