Kia Mataara – Assessing the Risks to Mana Motuhake Pt 2 – The Far Right and Its Attempted Subversion of Mana Motuhake

This is part two of a three part Waitangi series of reflections on risks to our mana motuhake movement. In part one, I looked at the risk posed by the uptick in performative gestures by this government without any real commitment to transformative change. In this part, I’ll be reflecting upon the risks posed by white supremacists, and the far right.

Possibly one of the most jarring aspects of the far right movement in Aotearoa in the past few years is the co-option of Maori into the movement. I’ve written about the rise of “Māori MAGA” before and since then a number of us have watched with great concern while more of our whānau became aligned with what is ultimately very dangerous mindsets.

What should be very clear now is that the groundwork for co-option of Māori into the far right movement has been set by the institutions of government, media and science themselves – for each of those institutions have their own history rooted in the Doctrine of Discovery, all of those institutions have visited significant harm upon Maori throughout the process of colonization and all of them have yet to really reckon with that history. The drivers for the dissolution of society are different – For Indigenous and the disenfranchised, the driver to dissolve government stems from the longstanding failure to secure real justice and the clear lack of regard for our human rights.

For the far right, the drive to dissolve government stems from the fact that governments have become too progressive. The far right seek to undo the progress made on civil and Indigenous rights, and wind the clock back to when white supremacy was well entrenched and normalised. Of course, it would be unhelpful for them to frame it as such – it’s much more helpful for the far right to focus on the shared interest of dissolving government.

Importantly, white supremacist movements understand that the dissolution of government must play out on their terms, to enable their vision of installing their own power structures. Of course, the work on constitutional transformation and the Matike Mai report – which considers how a government that is centered upon Te Tiriti and He Whakaputanga o Nu Tireni might look – has been underway for over a decade now, and presents a clear threat to the far right promise of political reform. For these reasons, constitutional transformation (particularly through the He Puapua Report) is consistently attacked by the far-right conspiracy front. For those who have been aware of these discussions over the past decade, it’s farcical that conspiracy movements think they have uncovered some great secret – when John Key’s National government funded a nationwide conversation on constitutional reform, Matike Mai Aotearoa is freely downloadable online and has been for many years, and the 252 hui around the country that led to the report were anything but secret. Still – the pretence that they have access to secret information is one of their favourite recruitment devices so they will continue to larp as spies and detectives.

One of the narrative tools used to recruit Māori into the far right draws from Western storytelling methods which construct one-dimensional binaries of good and evil. Within these binaries, those who are constructed as villains are denied any form of humanity, and a happy ending can only come with the downfall of the villain. The dehumanising of our perceived opposition is a dangerous premise for violence and denial of human rights. When the far right position themselves as the victims, and suggest that they are “under siege”, it can trigger, at a very deep level, our own intergenerational trauma as a people whose way of life has actually been under siege for 254 years, and we can think we have something to identify with.

The “great replacement” conspiracy theory can also interact with our own internalised racism, a legacy left in our hearts and minds by the Doctrine of Discovery, and trigger our own xenophobia towards other racially marginalised groups. When pākehā speak of great replacement – they do that with the privilege of not being seen as immigrants, or descendants of immigrants, themselves. When pākeha speak of great replacement, they have a media and education machine behind them which reiterates that they are the default, never the “other”. Raising the great replacement theory is much more likely to stoke Māori trauma about being replaced on our own land, than lead to us considering the root of that trauma itself.

The involvement of the new age and capitalist wellness industries further confuse our communities, because they present themselves as being progressive (when in fact they are often also capitalist extractors). We can also layer upon this confusion the practice of “pointing to the mirror” – seen way in which white supremacist and neonazi movements utilise nazi and Nuremberg imagery in their attacks, casting their opponents as nazis and threatening them with hanging… all while either wearing swastika or standing alongside others who do. It is not an approach built on logic (and in fact confusion and disarray is also a goal in itself) but rather a deliberate strategy of emotionally manipulating the masses in order to build your movement.

While antiracism as a concept and movement is over 2 generations deep – there are now new elements to the far right political scape that have super-charged it, and chief amongst those is the advent of the internet. Through the internet and in particular social media, the far right have been able to rapidly recruit in an unprecedented fashion, utilising the reach of the internet to warp the minds of the disenfranchised. Internet security analysts have noted:

“The internet has become the most important tool of right wing extremists to spread propaganda, plan events, recruit, finance and communicate”.

Indeed it has already been evidenced that right wing extremist groups have become global in nature, and New Zealand’s right wing community is bankrolled from the USA/Canada, and there is a mimicry and trial relationship between our nations where what happens over in the USA/Canada will be mimicked here, and the USA/Canada far right groups also utilise New Zealand as a kind of social experimentation site.

They have successfully infiltrated non-extreme sites and online communities for recruitment and radicalisation purposes, and court people across to their conversations using universally condemned notions such as child sexual abuse but then gradually link that to their broader conspiracies – and in this way the far right are building the critical mass necessary to mainstream white supremacist ideas.

So the mana motuhake movement needs to understand internet and social media dynamics and how to combat them (I will be talking about our solutions in the next essay). In addition to this, of course, is the direct harassment and the threats received by online racists towards Māori leaders, Māori technicians, Māori activists, Māori academics and Wāhine Māori , the brutality of which is completely uncalled for and reminds us of the depraved extent to which white supremacy will extend itself, where neither women, nor children, nor families are safe.

Collectively, the co-option of our own struggles; the triggering of our trauma and recruitment of our own people into their movement; the super-charging effect of the internet; the reach of social media; and the brutality and degradedness of the white supremacist online bullies have all delivered a chilling effect upon the mana motuhake movement. The very notion of hikoi has been sullied by the 2022 Wellington protests, and people who would have previously engaged in perfectly legitimate discussions on our rights or constitutional transformation now veer away from it for fear of being misaligned with violent conspiracy theorists. Others simply will not take the risk of their families being targeted, and who can blame them?

The clear articulation of our rights struggle is what is necessary here – the story of the Doctrine of Discovery and its connections to the far right as well as its connection to our current government. From that shared understanding of how a global injustice was brought to our shores and remains here, can we then clearly articulate our own whakapapa within this story – from He Whakaputanga o Nu Tireni, through to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and onwards throughout time to our mana motuhake movement of today. Kia kaha tātou katoa

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