An Opinion by Benjamin Hope
Recently I was talking to a trout fishing friend we’ll call Bob and in his study over a cup of tea, we were discussing the current somewhat volatile political scene and the increasing draconian moves by government.
Because of our interests in things like fishing and hunting, we got around to recalling the firearms law which government passed following the tragedy of the Mosque slaughter on the “Ides of March” 2019.
Our post-mortem on the government’s moves reflected on the rapidity with which the firearms law was passed.
There was no public discussion despite there reportedly being some 12,000 submissions to the parliamentary select committee. Government had within a few days, enacted the bill.
Parliament acted swiftly after the mosque attacks to introduce gun laws to improve public safety and tighten gun control in New Zealand it was claimed.
The first of these was the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts) Amendment Bill. It was introduced to Parliament just over a fortnight after the attacks. The bill aimed to remove semi-automatic firearms from circulation and use by New Zealand’s general population, by banning semi-automatic firearms, magazines, and parts that can be used to assemble these.
Usually, bills take months or even years to pass through the several stages to becoming law. However, in this case Parliament agreed to accelerate the normal process. The bill became law within eleven days. The bill still went through all of its stages on different sitting days and was briefly considered by a select committee.
In two or three days, 12000 submissions were read, considered and decided upon.
“A yawning credibility gap there,” smiled bob.
Reportedly there were somewhere between 12,000 and 13,000 submissions which the select committee considered in less than three days, the remaining eight days being taken up with due processes.
It was almost predictably bad law.
It ended up penalising the law-abiding firearm owners while criminals and gangs benefited from the new law. Cases surfaced of gangs, wealthy from nefarious activities such as drug dealing, offering firearm owners “double the price” government would pay.
So the law abiding public surrendered firearms while gangs gleefully bought some in “under the table” so as to speak. The gangs’ arsenals ballooned.
It therefore comes as no surprise that firearm shootings have accelerated particularly in Auckland. It moved Auckland mayor and ex-Labour MP to raise the issue of the city’s gun violence with Police Minister Poto Williams.
But then Goff revealed his shallow thinking when he said he fully supported the “tighter gun controls implemented recently” and cracking down on irresponsible owners.
What he failed to comprehend was the government in its rash new law after the Mosque tragedy had cracked down on responsible – not “irresponsible” firearm owners.
As Bob wryly observed, in anycase Goff does not understand the difference between a “gun” and a “firearm.”
He and I agreed nor did mayor Goff understand as simple as the reality was – despite government’s crackdown with new laws, firearm violence had increased. The laws of government had failed.
“But government wants to disarm the firearm owning public. It’s part of the Big Plan,” he said.
“What Big Plan?” I warily asked.
“Government control. Authoritarianism.”
“Oh no not another conspiracy theory,” I smiled.
Thereupon Bob and I had a debate about the concept of conspiracies.
Conspiracy theories are plentiful in social and political spheres and range from the moon landing was a fake, that the assassination of President Kennedy was a murder by the CIA to the death of Princess Diana which was faked or that she had been a victim of a royal conspiracy.
But Bob remained undeterred. Of course people, particularly politicians do conspire. He rummaged in his bookshelf and came up with some interesting information.
Mont Pelerin Society
For instance, NZ’s Finance Minister Roger Douglas spoke to Mont Pelerin Society in Christchurch 28 Nov 1989 on getting “reforms” into law.
“Once you start the momentum rolling never let it stop,” Douglas said..
“Opponent’s fire is much less accurate if they have to shoot at a rapidly moving target.”
Conspiracies or political strategy – call it what you may.
Conspiracies have happened ever since Man was on Earth said Bob.
“Face it. What was the Last Supper, Jesus Christ’s death and the role of Judas about? What of Julius Caesar?”
On March 15, 44 B.C.E., Julius Caesar was stabbed to death in Rome, Italy. Caesar was the dictator of the Roman Republic, and his assassins were Roman senators, fellow politicians who helped shape Roman policy and government.
Julius Caesar was immensely popular with the people of Rome. Many members of the Senate, a group of appointed (not elected) political leaders, resented Caesar’s popularity and arrogance. After Caesar attained the status of dictator for life in 44 B.C. these officials decided to strike the ultimate blow against his power. A group of as many as 60 conspirators decided to assassinate Caesar at the meeting of the Senate on March 15, the Ides of March. Collectively, the group stabbed Caesar a reported 23 times, killing the Roman leader.
Hitler and Plots
What of the rise of German dictator Adolf Hitler who carefully calculated and conspired to become leader of Germany and the Third Reich? What of the conspiring by Nazi military leaders to assassinate Hitler – a plot that failed in its execution.
Even back in the Roman era, there are other examples of conspiracies. During the year AD 64, the great fire of Rome erupted lasting for almost a week, creating a major inferno destroying most of Rome. Emperor Nero was out of town when the fire started, and he returned to Rome to organise help for the victims. Conspiracy theories spread, which reckoned Nero and his associates deliberately started the fire in order to rebuild Rome according to his own vision.
In addition, the conspiracy theory stated Nero was singing while Rome was burning. Hence the term “Nero fiddles while Rome burns.”
Nero was not amused upon hearing of the conspiracy theories. He angrily reacted with his own conspiracy theory, blaming the Christian community for initiating the fire and spreading the rumors—leading many Christians to be crucified or burned alive.
“Ah but let’s return to New Zealand and Roger Douglas and the Mont Pelerin Society,” my friend murmured.
Mont Pelerin Society?
NZ’s Mont Pelerin
The Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) was created in 1947 by the free market economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek and advocates “neo-liberalism,” an ideology based on less government and minimal regulation of business.
Bob plucked from his library a scrap book and within an article by eminent writer the UK’s George Monibot who said “When the Mont Pelerin Society first met, in 1947, its political project did not have a name”.
“But it knew where it was going.”
The society’s founder, Friedrich von Hayek, remarked that the battle for ideas would take at least a generation to win, but he knew that his intellectual army would attract powerful backers. Its philosophy, which later came to be known as neoliberalism, accorded with the interests of the ultra-rich, so the ultra-rich would pay for it.”
In New Zealand, politicians like Roger Douglas, Ruth Richardson, Simon Upton and Business Roundtable director were allegedly the core of New Zealand’s Mont Pelerin branch.
Did these individuals sit around the table discussing the latest rugby or cricket test or how to grow cucumbers?
No they had a plan hatching. They were conspiring
“The New Citizen” newspaper in 1997 recalled “by 1983-4 the free-market gang had their “reform” blueprints drawn up– all they needed was to get rid of Muldoon.” (Muldoon was the National party’s Prime Minister at the time).
“So the rooster hatched to get rid of Muldoon was the NZ Party founded by Sir Robert (Bob) Jones,” said Bob.
“Get the picture?” my friend asked. “Don’t be so naive as to say humans don’t conspire. Even the experts agree conspiracies do happen.”
The Plan is Hatched to get Rid of Muldoon
Conspiracies such as the Watergate scandal in the US do happen, but because of the difficulties inherent in executing plans and keeping people quiet, they tend to fail. When conspiracies fail—or are otherwise exposed—the appropriate experts deem them as having actually occurred .
A conspiracy theory refers to an allegation of conspiracy that may or may not be true.
Then there is conspiracy belief. For example, apparently about 60 percent of Americans continue to believe that the CIA killed President John F. Kennedy and in the run up to the 2016 European Union membership referendum in the United Kingdom, about 46 percent of those intending to vote believed that the vote would be rigged. Each conspiracy may or may not be true and either way may never be revealed, more so today by a lack of investigative journalism.
And currently in New Zealand with a media, “bribed” to be compliant with government.
“After all, elections and winning power involve conspiring,’ said Bob.
An election strategy manual says “the basics of any election campaign are deceptively simple. All campaigns must repeatedly communicate a persuasive message to people who will vote. This is “the golden rule” of politics. A political campaign is a communication process – find the right message, target that message to the right group of voters, and repeat that message again and again.”
““Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”, is a law of propaganda often attributed to the Nazi Joseph Goebbels,” wryly laughed Bob.
Of course, governments hide all types of secrets, sometimes to protect national security, sometimes to suit their own agenda to maintain control of power.
Democracy a Problem?
But when legitimate secrets do get exposed, it makes people suspicious. Brains start to wonder – if they hid this fact, what’s stopping them from hiding even more information?
As one analyst in 2017 said the Mont Pelerin Society saw that democracy, rather than being either a mere nuisance or an irredeemable obstacle that must be rejected wholesale, posed a genuine problem for their aims.
Democracy can be under threat from the politicians who are elected by democratic election to uphold the principles of democracy.
Very recently New Zealand’s government passed the “Traffic Lights” bill completely by-passing the accepted role of a select committee to hear the publics’ viewpoints.
Speaker Trevor Mallard immediately lashed the Labour Government for its urgent passing of Covid-19 “traffic light system” legislation, though he did allow the law to be passed.
The legislation that would seriously curb the freedoms of unvaccinated people. Opposition MPs legal experts and the Human Rights Commission all condemned the government move.
“There has not been a more important piece of legislation passed by Parliament this year, yet we’ve done it in 24 hours without consultation,” Victoria University law professor Dr Dean Knight said.
I felt like a “breather” from what I had just been told.
“Look Bob,” I said. “Lets go fishing. I need to do some contemplating as the Patron Saint of Angling Izaak Walton said in his book.”
“Aha!” exclaimed Bob, “Old Izaak himself needed to do some thinking about politicians and conspiring.”
He flipped over the pages of a copy of Izaak Walton’s “The Compleat Angler” published in the 17th century. Quickly he found the page and stabbed his finger at it.
“Look what Old Izaak said.”
There it was.
“No life, my honest scholar, no life so happy and so pleasant as the life of a well-governed angler; for when the lawyer is swallowed up with business, and the statesman is preventing or contriving plots, then we sit on cowslip-banks, hear the birds sing, and possess ourselves in as much quietness as these silver streams, which we now see glide so quietly by us.”
Yes – “the statesman is preventing or contriving plots.”