terror in new zealand

So has terrorism has come to little ol’ New Zealand? My attitude to the “war on terror” does not need restating.

Not following local media, and having little or no internet access of late, my awareness of the recent terrorism raids in New Zealand and their fallout has largely been word-of-mouth, or what people I know are blogging. I just checked out nz indymedia’s coverage, too.

As far as I can tell, after a period of SIS surveillance, the police have chosen to arrest a number of activists of various stripes. The charges appear dubious – dubious in the sense of justifying use of the Terrorism Suppression Act, and dubious in the sense that the media is choosing to report the police spin on events which in and of themselves have legal explanations; a “terrorist training camp” in the Ureweras that is otherwise used as a retreat camp for troubled youth, and so forth.

Anyway, as horrendous as this is, on the whole, I think it is a good thing that this has happened, as it raises general awareness of the laws of the land – laws which apply to you regardless of whether or not you are aware of them.

That we had allowed the terrorism laws to go through without proper scrutiny or debate during the hysteria following 9-11 was a significant failing of our democracy. That the laws are maybe now being abused, seemingly exactly as they were feared to be used, to quash genuine dissent and target legitimate peaceful protest movements, is sad, but not a surprise. That it is on the front page of the newspapers and gives us a chance to talk about it is a good thing. As successive revelations of the overstepping of power and the sheer absurdity of ongoing police actions mounts, they damn themselves. If they were seeking the justification of their powers through their actions, it seems they are failing.

While we need to wait and see what facts can be proved, from my experience with activist circles, I find it impossible to take any “terroristic” threat from them seriously. People who spend substantial portions of their free time and energy protesting and denouncing the use of torture, the bombing of civilians, violence and oppression against minorities and indigenous people worldwide, and generally committed to non-violent direct action – and who are totally identified with that role to the point of ineffectualness through being so damn holier than thou – are unlikely to turn around and decide murder and mayhem is any sort of useful approach. Especially in New Zealand. Especially as any movement without a massive amount of underlying community support always fails. Again, as these are the people who study the lessons of history, they are aware of it.

This helps to show how the spectre of terror has been invoked in modern life; undefined, pliable to political need, and fundamentally lacking in meaningful reality in practice.

I cannot discern a meaning or rationale to the state actions. Who benefits from these actions, done now? (I am assuming here the absence of any serious or credible threat – a common event following the high-profile busting of “terrorist cells”, as the wonderful documentary The Power of Nightmares demonstrated in detail.) Is this just the use of power come unhinged? Inevitable once the power was granted that it would be abused.
{EDIT: Hmm. Just came across arguments that the arrests are to create the political climate to enable passage of more anti-terrorist legislation.}.

However, if the purpose – as argued within activist circles – is purely intimidation – another form of SLAPP, as it were, to raise the risks and costs of getting involved in democratic dissent (it is no surprise Peace Action Wellington are already fundraising for legal costs) – then even if the charges fail and the affair fizzles, the message will be stamped in the minds of the populace. Standing against us is ruin. And worse, the “narrative reality” of terrorism will be established; further moves against “terrorists” become commonplace.

What disturbs me a little is the timing, in the broadest sense of things. The stakes are getting higher. Environmentally we need action – government led, not corporate led, for governments concern is the wellbeing of their people, while corporation’s concerns are for their profits. Peak oil too cannot be contained by market forces. New Zealand has serious potential to be a world leader, especially in environmental issues. We are part of the mostly white, english speaking, first world. When we do things differently we show the rest of the world how things can be.

More and more people are quietly asking themselves exactly how long can we go on doing nothing while current trends continue. So this move towards state repression is concerning, because activism is necessarily going to increase in the coming years; this affair’s most relevant outcome is as a precedent.

On the whole, since we can still talk about this directly, I would encourage people to get involved. These are our rights at stake. This case is a flashpoint for the future of our freedom in this country. There is a real potential for things to get worse – our laws are not yet as draconian as our Western allies, and I really don’t want to live in a fascist future, or even a contemporary one.

This website seems to be the coordinating point for action.

3 Responses to “terror in new zealand”

  1.   Richard
    October 23rd, 2007 | 8:41 am

    While I am massively concerned about “terrorism” laws that have been and will be passed in various countries including our own, I don’t think I can participate in whatever action Civil Rights Defence is planning on taking. Right there on the front page of their website is a photograph of a protest with a sign reading “Stop Police Terrorism” alongside the tino rangitiratanga flag.

    If we are (rightly) skeptical about the need for the Terrorism Suppression Act, and even more dubious about the police unnecessarily using it to arrest people who are in fact being charged under pre-existing firearms laws, then the use of such hyperbole as “Stop Police Terrorism” is merely the other side of that coin.

    If anyone wishes to be taken seriously by those in the Beehive when fighting the TSA, then some restraint is needed. Acknowledging that the police are not terrorists, and that those arrested may well have been acting illegally and possibly deserved to be arrested would be a good start. If we instead focus solely on the spurious enaction, and unnecessary existence of the TSA and the over-th-top actions of the police in arresting Tame Iti et al, we are far more likely to be listened to than if the politicians and middle New Zealand simply see people on TV that they have already subconciously dismissed as yet more sandal wearing, pot smoking, bearded, activist/leftie/greenie nutters. PR works for both sides, but unfortunately the only side that realises the value of it is wrong side.

    I want to fight our silly terrorism laws, but I won’t do it alongside people who are using it more as a platform to have a general potshot at the police or as a means to promote tino rangitiratanga. Make it about the real problem – the Terrorism Suppression Act.

  2.   Pearce
    October 23rd, 2007 | 7:38 pm

    “The media” is a very generalized term. I (once again) urge you to start listening to Morning Report on National Radio, which runs 6am – 9am weekdays. Their coverage of the “terror raids” was excellent, refused to parrot the police line, focused more on potential civil rights abuses than on speculating about napalm bombs etc., dragged out a lot of interesting info from all sorts of parties (defense lawyers, police spokespeople, politicians, etc) that wasn’t being reported elsewhere, and otherwise conducted ACTUAL JOURNALISM instead of what passes for ‘news’ in most of the NZ media.

  3. November 29th, 2007 | 8:00 pm

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