Kia Mataara Pt3 – Addressing the Risks to Mana Motuhake

Welcome to part 3 of my Waitangi 2023 series which considers the current risks to our Mana Motuhake movement. In Part one, I reflected upon the uptick in performative gestures and part-measures by the Crown, and our own permissiveness that allows it. Part two reflected upon the shift in white supremacy, how it co-opts the language of struggle, and how its reach is now super-charged by the internet.

For part 3, I will be focussing on our solutions – because all of these issues can, at times, seem insurmountable, but we are not without tools, strengths and strategies.

  1. WĀNANGA – we need to learn about white supremacy – it’s full history from the Doctrine of Discovery’s inception right through to today, and in particular the shifts that the white supremacist movement have undertaken through the various generations. The conventional means of fighting white supremacy aren’t enough anymore – we need to learn about online tactics, and how to counter them. This report is a very informative analysis on online white supremacy. Once you learn about how the Doctrine of Discovery embedded white supremacy within our political and economic systems in order to protect privilege it will become much clearer why the current political system is not equipped to deal with white extremism.

Recommended viewing: Web of Chaos, Fire and Fury
Recommended reading: Maranga Mai report on the impact of colonisation, racism and white supremacy on tangata whenua in Aotearoa New Zealand.

White Crusade: How to Prevent Right-Wing Extremists from Exploiting the Internet

  • OBSERVE – Keep a close eye on what is happening in the USA/Canada far right movements – as I mentioned in part 2 the far right movement has globalised in a much more effective way than social justice movements have, and the far right in New Zealand is bankrolled by and influenced by the US/Canada. Counterspin is financed by Steve Bannon. The Freedom Convoy was directly drawn from the Canadian Freedom Convoy. The Wellington protests drew from the US Washington Riots. The NZ Proud Boys are connected to the USA Proud Boys. The National Rifle Association sends their representatives all around the world to influence gun laws. As we saw in Fire and Fury, the far right likes to use Aotearoa-New Zealand as a kind of social-experiment site, but its also true that observing the far right in the US/Canada can provide us with early warning signs of what might be attempted here.  Recommended viewing: Fire and Fury, How to Sell a Massacre

Recommended reading: The Disinformation Project reports. Keep up to date with them, it’s pretty much a weather report for social disruption (and we’re in a climate crisis there too). The Debunking Handbook provides the current science for how to “debunk” (ie disprove) misinformation. White Crusade: How to Prevent Right-Wing Extremists from Exploiting the Internet is another important and informative security report out of the Geneva Center for Security Policy.

  • LOCALISE – Centralised approaches leave massive gaps at the community level, and these gaps are capitalised upon by online movements who are extremely sophisticated at providing an illusion of belonging. The only thing they can’t compete with is when your sense of belonging relates to a group that can knock on the door and have real-life interactions with you. We have grassroots work to do to embed the mana motuhake movement at the community level through resources, workshops, and a community of support.

    Recommended reading:
    Matike Mai Aotearoa sets out a vision for a JUST Aotearoa that secures Mana Motuhake.
  • STRATEGISE – Social media is still being largely treated as a casual pastime, digital noticeboard or annoying distraction rather than the most powerful current means of social control. In addition to wananga on the Doctrine of Discovery, we need to upskill ourselves in social media and the warning signs of incoming misinformation trends. If you have community Facebook pages (for your marae, for your township, for your hapū or rugby team or kapa haka roopu), engage the page administrators in a kōrero about keeping it a safe space, and what good moderation looks like. You might not agree about how to approach it at first but be open to the conversation growing over time, and be patient. If you can have open communication channels with the admins of your local online communities, then it’s far easier to minimise harm and reduce the chance of that group being infiltrated by external forces/ideas. Offer workshops or open discussions with parents about social media management for them and their kids. A lot of parents are interested in online safety for their kids but are not sure how to go about it. This is also particularly pertinent learning for the mental health workforce and for whanau supporting someone with mental health challenges, as mental health challenges can correlate to social isolation, which makes for attractive radicalisation targets. We also need to strategise, at a local level, how to support each other in the event of online bullying, we need to develop online tikanga at a community and whanau level, and share these tikanga within our whanau.

Recommended Reading: How to Be a Woman Online: Surviving Abuse and Harassment, and How to Fight Back by Nina Jankowicz (yes it’s about misogynist attacks but there is a LOT of good information about social media attacks, and how to protect yourself and your loved ones from them).

  • SOCIALISE – This is in my opinion our strongest tool – *ACTUAL* community. The people you go to work with, the people you cook alongside with in the wharekai, the people you play rugby with or go to the RSA with. Every day we validate truth offline – it might be around the staff table during our breaks as we discuss what we saw online or on the news last night, or it might be on the marae atea as a topical whai kōrero, or in the changing rooms after a game, or it might be from your community radio station. But it’s from people you know, and with whom you share a sense of identity and community. If we utilise these spaces to intentionally build our sense of community, and utilise these relationships to engage in discussions about our health, or our taiao, or other issues, we close the information vacuums that misinformation needs in order to operate, and we take the air out of the online misinformation sails which are necessary for the Endeavour of far right recruitment. What we have found with this approach, is that the new information needs to be made relevant to the local context. It’s a hard sell to make one of us in Rangitukia care about the plight of polar bears and melting polar caps…. But we know very well what the Waiapu looks like in flood, and that is the climate change conversation we need to have. Similarly we need to ground discussions about vaccines, about masks, about water rights and co-governance in contexts that are LOCALLY relevant in order to get local engagement, and to take a collective local position that is based upon real relationships and real factors, not misinformation and online manipulation.

I hope this all helps – if you look at these solutions, the approaches are the antithesis of imperialism – as power networks, they are devolutionary, redistributive, and decentralised, and that is exactly what is needed to support social cohesion, because it’s a colonial fiction that cohesion comes from rigidly centralised power structures –social cohesion grows from the grassroots up, not from the top down.

Kia kaha tātou, we got this.

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