By Steve ‘Snoopman’ Edwards
In a Casino Far, Far Away …
Behind New Zealand’s hosting of the now sunk-Trans-Pacific Partnership economic super-treaty on 4 February 2016 was a secret stratagem to scapegoat Māori and TPPA protesters as public enemies.
The secret stratagem detected here breached section 240 of the Crimes Act, which deals with fraud – including deceptions for political and economic gain – through the exploitation of deceptive stratagems, tricks and devices. It involved the deployment of manipulative spin-doctoring techniques as described in New Zealand-born Nick McFarlane’s book, Spinfluence: The Hardcore Propaganda Manual.
For these techniques to work, the Key Ministry needed to commit to actions that applied game theory, which in turns requires players to ‘post hostages’ to advance the game. In game theory, hostage postings can take many forms, but the underlying logic is to function as a mechanism for producing and stabilizing cooperation in social circumstances that require collective action. In their application of game theory, then-Prime Minister John Key & Associates constructed a propaganda strategy to make the TPP Treaty signing ceremony and events linked to it, perform four ideological functions – distortion, legitimation, integration and control – as first developed by French philosopher Paul Ricoeur to theorize ideology in his “Lectures on Ideology and Utopia”. The successful application of these four ideological functions were necessary for New Zealand’s hosting of the TPP Treaty signing rituals to be a total success.
But, the day of the Trans-Pacific Rim super treaty signing at Sky City Casino – just two provocative days before the 2016 commemoration of the country’s founding Waitangi Anniversary Day – New Zealand’s Neo-Colonial Government had to manage a crisis of legitimacy.
Brazenly underpinning this crisis of legitimacy was a calculated gamble.
By hosting the signing in an isolated moated-location 8,619 miles from Washington D.C. – far, far away –where it would have been politically potent amid America’s election campaigning, the security-vetted Sky City Casino Complex provided a safe-haven. If something were to go wrong – as it did – the risk is low and can more easily be contained to the far-flung mildly difficult South Pacific Realm.
The risk taken by the Key Ministry was calculated because it was predictable that a large protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership signing ritual would take place and would be seen by tens of thousands of office workers and the whole country via social media and news coverage.
The intent had been to keep the 6,000-page text of the 12-country Pacific Rim economic super-bloc treaty classified for four years after signing, but a global groundswell of opposition created a crisis of legitimacy in completing the deal following WikiLeaks’ release of four chapters in October 2013. At this thin end of the wedge, the TPP Treaty planners changed from a stratagem of stealthy secrecy to sudden spectacle, or ‘speed politics’. Speed politics is designed to ‘manage the optics’, or appearance, of fast-moving clustered events, so that a copy of reality is created, as“politics ‘disappears into aesthetics’ ” – as Monash University lecturer in international law Eric Wilson has identified more generally.
To this end, the Key Ministry had – along with all the other partnering countries – planned to keep the timing (and place) of the TPP Treaty signing a secret, to minimize any opposition and play Māori at Waitangi.
But, like all plots, the carefully crafted propaganda detected here did not all go according to the script.
The Chilean, Mexican and Peruvian economic and trade ministers had let slip on January 5 2016 in online communications that New Zealand was to host the TPP Treaty signing ceremony, a development spotted by anti-TPPA activists. The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade confirmed on January 12 that it intended to host the symbolic signing ritual in early February, would not say where the event would take place, a clear move to mitigate the build-up of a groundswell opposition coalition. Indeed, it was not until January 21 that the new Trade Minister Todd McClay announced the February 4 hosting date, but he still did not divulge the location.
Because New Zealand’s hosting of the TPP Treaty signing took place a mere two days before the annual commemorations of the initial signings of the Treaty of Waitangi of 1840, TPPA protesters viewed the ceremonial signing at Sky City on 4 February 2016 as provocative.
The choice of location was provocative for several reasons.
The symbolism inherent to signing a mega-economic bloc treaty in a complex that houses a casino in Auckland City, or Tāmaki Makaurau, two days before Te Tiriti o Waitangi commemorations, signified Neo-Colonial players were advancing the game together. Indeed, during a morning press conference the then-super-rich Prime Minister John Key stated the symbolic line, “As a country, we won’t get rich selling to ourselves,” which served the distortion function of ideology as this sugar-coated promise. Thus, New Zealand’s Tax Cattle were contaminated with toxic ‘Done Deal’, and ‘Get Rich’ zombie viral memes. A meme is to a culture what a gene is to an organism, it is a code imprinted with instructions to direct behaviour. In this case, the distortion worked to mask-over the intention underpinning the now-shelved Trans-Pacific Partnership framework, which was to standardize the laws of partnering countries, outsource state-based policy-making to the supranational arena, and sideline nation-based democratic participation, including indigenous peoples.
On this score, when local Māori tribe, Ngāti Whātua, declined to be used as politically correct extras for the secretly negotiated ‘trade deal’, the New Zealand Government’s political hygiene test went awry. The Neo-Colonial Government’s plans for a strong indigenous welcome turned into a dismal hastily-organized Micky Mouse-looking farcical powhiri performed by ring-ins. Furthermore, the TPP Treaty signing ceremony was marked by a 15,000-strong protest group, which included motorway off-ramp and intersection blockades – organized at short notice – that together shut down the CBD streets of Auckland City for the entire day.
The TPP Treaty signing ceremony was, in essence, a Bandwagon spinfluence ritual designed “to create the illusion that everyone is backing a particular movement” and “appeals to the common desire to follow the herd, whilst reinforcing the fear of being left behind”. The signing rituals were designed to construct an atmosphere of legitimacy, cues for the news media to post themselves as hostages without them fully understanding the deeper game in play.
For example, the Crown-owned TV OneNews staged a scripted conversation between news anchor Simon Dallow and political reporter Corin Dann, a conversation intended to support the government’s planned TPP Road-show. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s road-show was designed to be another manifestation of the Bandwagon spinfluence ritual. Dallow deployed Team Key’s ‘Done Deal’ meme and performed the ideological legitimation function. Dallow said:
“Alright, it is signed, it is done. But there is still plenty of debate to go on. The signatories have to go through the process of putting it into action, the ratification, and so on”.
The second prong of John Key’s morning presser required him to convey contempt for protesting New Zealanders by repeatedly referring to “some” anti-TPP Treaty marchers as a ‘rent-a-protest’ crowd via the news media. Key said manipulatively:
“I think a whole lot of Aucklanders will just see that in the category of ‘rent a protest’”.
Key performed this ritual of animosity to construct a stigmatizing enemy image, which exploited the fourth ideological control mechanism function. Stigmatizing treatments produce scapegoats – whether they are persons, groups or organizations – that become targets on which to project blame, animosity and fear. In the drama of the telling, stigmatizing treatments tend to be very effective at obscuring the causes of news events.
But Team Key was not done yet dealing out cards from the Animosity Deck. The Neo-Colonial Government’s choice of timing was provocative too.
Always Go to Waitangi… [Pause] Not.
In the prime minister’s February 4 afternoon press conference, Key delivered another manipulative two-pronged communications stratagem. The Rich-Lister acting as a prime minister announced he would not be going to Waitangi. Key claimed that Te Tii Marae at Waitangi had, in effect, subjected him to a ‘gagging order’ and that Ngāpuhi iwi leader Kingi Taurua had threatened violence and a riot if Key showed up. Key stated:
“I can’t go as the prime minister of New Zealand onto a marae with a gagging order. And if I go onto that marae and I speak … then as [Ngāpuhi kaumatua] Kingi [Taurua] says he would incite a riot”.
Key repeatedly made this claim to the news media. However what the then-prime minister did not say was that Te Tii Marae had offered for him to speak for an hour in a political forum tent adjacent to the marae. The Prime Minister’s Office received this offer on Tuesday 3 February. On the morning of 4 February, Team Key sent a letter, which Key claimed was for ‘clarification’ – when none was needed – with a 4pm deadline. This February 4 ‘clarification’ letter was really intended to construct a fiction that Te Tii Marae had not communicated clearly in its letter received on 3 February, knowing in all probability that Te Tii Marae would likely be unable to respond in time.
Ironically, it had become public on January 22 2016 that New Zealand Police had undergone riot training focused on TPPA protest scenarios, under a directive from Police National Headquarters. It would seem the Police National Headquarters’ directive to conduct riot training was more about re-framing protest to serve Team Key’s propaganda stratagem, a point made by TPPA protest organizer and Auckland Law professor Jane Kelsey when she was asked about the riot training, as well as police home visiting activists at their homes.
Key audaciously made another claim that also worked to cast Ngāpuhi and Māori in general as scapegoats to resolve a political crisis for New Zealand’s ruling Rich-Lister Civil Oligarchy. First, Key said the deliberation that took place at Te Tii Marae “looked Mickey Mouse”, implying that they were amateurish or disorganized. Key’s Mickey Mouse accusation occurred hours before the 4pm deadline, not a gracious thing to say to provoke a peaceful powhiri, especially as the noises came from the mouth of a representative of the New Zealand Crown.
Here, Key brazenly dog-whistled to stigmatize Māori individuals and groups. Dog-whistling is a public relations industry tactic to produce messages that work like a high-pitched whistle that will only be fully-audible to those directly targeted for persuasion, while others will not be offended. The tactic is deployed to amplify peoples’ fears, frustrations, or prejudices, and transform them into anger, as investigative journalist Nicky Hager reported in his 2006 book: The Hollow Men: A Study in the Politics of Deception. Key also claimed to the news media that he had been disrespected Te Tii Marae, that his status as prime minister would have been diminished – to help justify his ‘Mickey Mouse’ Maoris dog whistling.
The pre-Waitangi discussions were about whether Key could speak on the marae, or even come, given that Ngāpuhi elders, including Kingi Taurua, had concerns about the escalation in protest if Key attended. Furthermore, Kingi Taurua had initially stated his view was that Key and his Ministry should not come to Waitangi, was because he said the Government was undermining the Treaty that Māori had with the Crown – on January 17! However, Kingi Taurua had said earlier in the day of February 4 that the decision to restrict Key from making a political speech in the wharenui at Te Tii Marae was for his own safety. If a political speech were delivered by Key in the wharenui, it could have easily turned into a screaming match, said Taurua, who was also not allowed to make a speech in the Treaty grounds meeting house.
In other words, Key & Associates did nothing to de-escalate the vexatious situation because the exploitation of Waitangi as a hotspot was part of their plan to open up the racial faultline.
It turns out that Thus, Key’s ‘gagging order’, ‘inciting riot’ and ‘Mickey Mouse’ claims were a wedge tactic aimed at Māori. This wedge tactic relied on seizing control of the one dimension at Waitangi open to Team Key to warp – Time.
The other three dimensions – Space – were under Te Tii Marae and Ngāpuhi iwi jurisdiction.
In-built into the stratagem to host the TPP Treaty signing – that involved keeping the timing and place a secret to minimize a groundswell of oppositional demonstrations – was a decision to game Māori at Waitangi. By hosting the Pacific Rim super-treaty two days before Waitangi Day, the Key Ministry’s coercive stratagem meant that the host community at Te Tii Marae would find themselves under increasingly constrained time to make decisions as they liaised with multiple groups.
When it is recalled that the New Zealand Government was forced to admit on January 12 that it was hosting symbolic signing rituals and would not divulge the location, the Key Ministry actually had three weeks to liaise with Te Tii Marae – and longer – if Key & Associates had been upfront about hosting the TPP Treaty signing ceremony.
Earlier, on January 26, Key had said:
“Every year, there’s always been a call for me not to be able to go, or some sort of protest. But I’m not going to gatecrash the place, in the end, if the governing body of the marae say they don’t want me there, then I won’t be there.”
Waitangi becomes an easy target for New Zealand’s ruling class to dismiss many issues as if they are only important to Māori because most New Zealanders’ experience of it is filtered through the mass media. Key’s repetition of this Kiwi slang for attending a party uninvited was intended to cement a falsity as universal truth, a staple to propagandist media diets like fries are to fast food franchises.
In essence, Key had acknowledged Waitangi was a hotspot, which in propaganda terms means a place that is known to arouse intolerance in people along fault lines, or cultural divides, such as race, religion and social status. According to the Hardcore Propaganda Manual, a wolf’s job is to:
“identify a hot spot of intolerance and fan the flames of bias to ignite radicalization. Intolerance toward the other group’s differences turns fault lines into open divides. Once divided, the Tax Herd is easily conquered.”
It turns out that the task to facilitate the political forum tent was allocated to activist-politician Hone Harawira, a prospect that would have made the Key Ministry’s Political Risk Meter ‘blink red’. Harawira could colourfully facilitate rigorous speeches, with highly news-worthy lines in between, capable of slicing the Smiling Assassin into flailing slithers like the silicon cyborg cop in Terminator II: Judgment Day.
Therefore, any ‘confusion’ around the decision and communications at Te Tii Marae was the result of the Key Government’s exploitation of ‘speed politics’, exploiting scripted fast-moving clustered events designed to overwhelm opponents and obscure the underlying motives. In his “I’m not going to gatecrash the place” statement, Key was, in essence, anchored a new norm, wherein he deployed a party-imbued metaphor in place of a truthful, clear explanation. This new norm was to withhold playing his politically constructed ‘Always Go to Waitangi Card’. Key repeated the provocative ‘gate-crashing’ phrase on February 2. In keeping with the behavioural traits of functional psychopaths who are skilled at winning the confidence of their intended victims, Key & Associates appeared to enter into ‘good faith’ communications with Te Tii Marae, while gaming the trustees with the one dimension the tangata whenua o Waitangi were now fast skating thin on: ticking time.
At his dog-whistling February 4 presser, ‘Mr Nice Guy’ Key metaphorically traded the tailor-made ‘Always Go to Waitangi Card’ for its belly-laughing Joker Race Card replacement. In the next move, the super-rich ex-banker pulled out his ideologically-infused ‘Go-to-a-Coliseum Card’.
The Maiden Flight of the Dildo & Key’s ‘Go-to-a-Coliseum’ Card
Another metaphorical spanner in the works occurred between the TPP Treaty signing day of 4 February and New Zealand’s Waitangi Anniversary Day of February the 6th, in the form of a low-velocity flying rubber dick slung by nurse Josie Butler at New Zealand’s then-Minister of Economic Development, Steven Joyce. This event went viral on news websites and social media and became rich material for comedian John Oliver, and dented the ruling classes’ overly stretched limousine-monopoly over ideas.
Videos and news articles of the replica dick immediately went viral worldwide.
Predictably, Key gave a limp rebuttal to Butler’s inspired ‘news crashing’ moment. The un-Smiling Assassin flaccidly remarked that he was appalled because, he claimed, what Butler did had hurt New Zealand’s reputation, saying the world would think we celebrate our national day by throwing dildos at government ministers. Here, Key & Associates were seeking to emotionally hijack New Zealanders.
I’m appalled that our taxes paid for the Prime Minister to watch sports and talk about a sex toy on our National Day instead of doing his job and representing the Crown at Waitangi.
Instead of attending the Waitangi Day commemoration of the initial signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the British Crown and the misled Māori chief signers on February 6, super-rich John Key opted to attend a NRL Rugby League Nines match.
Here the political action figure – ‘Mr Nice Guy’ Key – performed the integration ideological function, as he sifted around a sports stadium in Auckland. The integration function works to assimilate an extraordinary individual doing an ordinary thing by adopting an ‘Everyman’ persona, thereby exploiting a common touch positive spin ritual to complete the deception.
Metaphorically, Key had played a ‘Go-to-a-Coliseum Card’, a provocative symbolic move.
Following Butler’s dildo slinging and widespread public mocking, Minister of Economic Development Steven “Dildo Baggins” Joyce tweeted, “Someone send the gif over to John Oliver so we can get it over with”. Next, comedian John Oliver lampooned the former CEO of RadioWorks, Steven Joyce. Oliver’s hilarious video, which included filmmaker Peter Jackson waving a mocked up New Zealand flag with the dildo impact moment, went viral in mid February 2016. In the video – in-which Butler can be heard calling out, “That’s for raping our sovereignty” as she slung the sex toy – Peter Jackson said the country “has spoken” and was “punching above its weight”. Oliver chimed in to say his production team went for the “nuclear option” due to Joyce’s careless “wish”. The nuclear option was the climax scene in which an American evangelical choir sung the refrain – “It’s a dildo! It’s a dildo!”. The Oliver’s ‘Dildo Baggins’ broadcast was the moment when the Key Ministry’s Flag Deception literally collided with the very ‘thing’ it was supposed to distract from: the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty.
All the Matador’s Men
To sum-up, The symbolically encoded messages designed into the security-vetted signing ceremony at the Sky City Casino were intended to construct consent, undermine oppositional voices and signal a biggering of the Global Neo-Colonial Casino Economy – to those smart enough to understand the game in play.
By being forced on 12 January 2016 to admit they were hosting the TPP Treaty signing rituals, the New Zealand Neo-Colonial Government showed they had leveraged their use of secret proceedings to build into their deceptive strategy the control over time. The intent was to manage a crisis of legitimacy, by undermining a groundswell of democratic opposition, and game indigenous Māori, who were hosting New Zealand’s Anniversary Waitangi Day commemorations, to appear ‘Mickey Mouse’, violent, and unreasonable. The stigmatizing of Māori occurred so that then-prime minister John Key would not have to face terse debate, spirited protest and the possibility of someone throwing something at him.
The large protest against the ceremonial signing two days prior to the Treaty of Waitangi commemorations provided the Key Ministry with an ideal opportunity to create an enemy image out of the TPPA movement that included Māori – who featured prominently at the large Auckland protest. By distorting TPPA demonstrations as a ‘rent-a-protest’ crowd, New Zealand’s Rich-Lister prime minister and his associates constructed an atmosphere of hostility, contempt and ridicule toward the Māori and the TPPA movement as ‘groups of national origin’. Key’s repetition of the ‘rent-a-protest’ ritual of animosity produced animosity pulp to stick the boot into the anti-TPPA movement, thereby fulfilling the fourth ideological function, the control mechanism. This was message discipline that showed Key’s advisors had trained him well to ‘stay on message’. On this score, the roles of political strategists CrosbylTextor and Hannifin de Joux – who formed an alliance exactly one year before the Sky City TPP Treaty signing ceremony – need to be investigated.
John Key signed CrosbylTextor on in December 2006, the same political strategists that his predecessor Don Brash had used to stick the boot into Māori to build a resurgence in the National Party’s popularity. Jo de Joux was the National Party’s election campaign manager through all three of John Key’s fraudulent election wins. Those victories relied on dirty attack politics knowing that their attack wolf tactics would turn left-wing citizens off voting before right-wing constituents – a fact that John Key admitted on TV3’s now-defunct Campbell Live two days after re-winning power in 2014! (Key had brazenly accused Nicky Hager of being a conspiracy theorist for breaking the Dirty Politics scandal with his book, Dirty Politics: How attack politics is poisoning New Zealand’s political environment six weeks before the 2014 election).
In effect, New Zealand’s Acting Prime Minister used the February 4 press conferences to spinfluence the media and public into thinking that Māori dissent and the TPPA protest were baseless.
Further evidence that there was either no threat of a riot comes from the Office of the Prime Minister. The letter of February 4 2016 to Te Tii Marae to clarify speaking arrangements stipulated a 4pm deadline for the same day. Either there was no riot threat, or the Key Ministry was not worried about it. Despite this discrepancy, Key emphasized Kingi Taurua’s alleged threat as though it were fact, set-up Te Tii Marae and Kingi Taurua, Ngāpuhi, and other TPPA protesters as violent, for the news media to construct a fear frame and justify his hidden trump card.
Furthermore, Key pre-empted his own ‘at the end of the day’ deadline, telling the media he would not attend Waitangi if he did not get the special privilege of making a political speech in the marae wharenui, where he would not be countered. It was really about gaming Māori while passing the political hygiene test. Given this fake sincerity, specifically that if Te Tii Marae had responded by the 4pm deadline with an answer saying Key could speak in the marae wharenui, Key inferred he would have been happy to attend. With his next brazen breath ‘Mr Nice Guy’ bemoaned he was subject to a ‘gagging order’, when in fact Te Tii Marae had offered for him to speak in the political forum tent, a practice that goes back to at least the mid-1990s, when a prior National Government was in power!
Key & Associates’ trumped-up ridiculing of TPP Protesters, deception stratagem and avoidance to attend at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds amounted to a brazen political conspiracy, in breach of section 240 of the Crimes Act. As Tony Molloy QC said to the New Zealand Herald in 1999, “you can often prove criminal intent from people’s actions and the circumstances”. Since it is rare to gain direct evidence of secret deals, I have commandeered circumstantial evidence to show that Key & Associates – by their actions – committed a political deception to underpin their Wedge of Time Speed Politics in the clustered events examined here.
Despite John Key quitting and the Trans-Pacific Rim super treaty being shelved, these fraudulent, criminal and unsafe practices will continue until New Zealanders confront the belittling of social movements, the undermining of democratic processes and the scape-goating of Māori to resolve the crises of the Neo-Colonial ruling class in the Queen of New Zealand’s far, far away South Pacific Realm.
Steve ‘Snoopman’ Edwards is Pakeha, a television editor and blogger.
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