The hysterical mislabeling of a freedom protest

As the protesters at parliament continue to garner support from fed up kiwis, the campaign to slur them has only intensified.

Protestors sit on the steps at the Beehive, New Zealand’s parliament. Credit: The Looking Glass

After a weekend trip to support the anti-mandate protest at Parliament, it’s both amusing and disturbing to see the continued campaign to misrepresent the protesters as thugs, neo-Nazis and ferals.

One senior Labour Minister, Michael Wood described protestors as a “river of filth”, which yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern refused to condemn – at the same time she continues to deny the country is divided.

The desire for freedom and assertion that medical mandates are wrong, that vaccine passes are discriminatory and the legislation underpinning these measures is undemocratic apparently makes protestors islamophobic, anti-semitic and fascist.

I was just informed by a person on twitter who I have never met and knows nothing about me that I am a Nazi collaborator because I attended the protest. I’ve always been left of centre and I certainly didn’t see any Nazi’s in attendance but apparently he has proof, despite not having been there, and my direct experience is of little importance.

I encountered very warm, open and principled people.

Courtesy of Coronavirus Plushie

Louise Clarke said she had come down from the far north to support what was going on at parliament.

“We had to be a part of it … everyone is smiling and happy and together and can feel that … this is our last bastion of hope.”

She said she wanted to help her country get back on the “right path” and that the protesters needed to stand and fight for everyone.

“If these mandates go, we all win.”

Sandy, a self-employed grandfather and “ordinary Kiwi”, said he was sick of the mandates.

“We were supposed to be a team of five million. I’ve been coming in here every day to parliament and meeting some fantastic people. The only violence I’ve seen is not from the protestors.”

Sandy no longer has access to his grandkids, he said.

“One of the biggest things in my life is my grandchildren but no, I can’t see them because they feel that I am a danger to them.”

He said the behaviour of the protestors would “shine through” and the truth would win the day in the long run.

Despite having been very clear about why they are protesting, the smear campaign continues and has managed to convince a good number of Kiwis of something untrue. To such an extent they actually believe the protest is an insurrection, and that even being present should disqualify you from future employment.

There are people openly calling for police force to be brought against them.

A Horizon Research poll last week found that 30 per cent of New Zealanders supported the protest, and an earlier poll from the NZ Herald was closer to around 50 per cent.

It’s little wonder that efforts to smear protestors have gone into overdrive. Some believe there are agitators in the crowd working to set off altercations.

It was reported (and then used as another excuse not to meet with them) that protesters flung faeces at the police. It might be true, I wasn’t there – there is no photo or video evidence to confirm – but the accusation has been widely denied by those on the ground.

A group of highly influential pundits on twitter continues to pump out disparaging commentary, and what appears to be encouragement for the use of force by police to disband the camp.

I find this frightening, especially because so many gullible people believe it. Imagine a kaumatua, a mother, a child, being hurt by a police raid involving tear gas and batons.

Protesting for your freedom is pretty radical these days according to some.

On the suggestion that perhaps a chat with the protesters would be a good way to find out about who they are and what has brought them to parliament, this response:

I suspect the message of peace and love coming from the protesters in this video will not be accepted, however.

Courtesy of Coronavirus Plushie

And as for the liberal and misinformed use of the term fascism …. it should never used to describe people demanding their freedom. That is antithetical to the fascist ideal, which demands individuals dissolve their personality into the collective social body. Fascists want to destroy the individual in the name of social cohesion, which of course completely aligns with the ‘team of five million’ line and the accusations of ‘selfishness’ thrown at people who feel the injection is not right for them.

Instead, fascism demands loyalty, duty, obedience and self-sacrifice. And we’ve heard a lot about Those qualities in the last two years, haven’t we?

So are they right wing? Here is a poll of the protestors from The Platform, which shows a significant majority are former Labour and Green voters. Check out the rest of their findings, which also do not fit the media portrayals.

After Canadian Prime Minister Justine Trudeau invoked emergency legislation normally reserved for terrorists, to put down the convoy occupying Ottawa, I’ve been wondering if Ardern will follow his lead. A vote in the Canadian house of parliament today saw it pass. The Canadian protesters were set upon by cavalry police and an old woman was trampled.

Some suspect the use of force will come here soon.

As I write, protestors report that riot police are moving in.

As Ardern looks increasingly rattled and continues to refuse to meet with protesters, it seems more and more likely.

Some protestors are saying that the police intend to clear the camp tonight in the early hours. There are many families and old people there. This would be a tragedy and a huge mistake and would only serve strengthen the social movement to end the madness.

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