Tag: John Ansell

The end of Treatygate?

So, John Ansell has brought to an end his Treatygate and Together New Zealand campaign and is, rather, providing some conditional support for the 1law4all Party (who plan to contest the next election).

So, this is the end of Treatygate. Good riddance, I say. Although Ansell has always claimed to be out to get what he calls “Griever” Māori, the tone of his campaign has really been one of forcing Māori to give up on any notion of restitution for past injustices and requiring them to give up on tikanga if they want to be proper members of New Zealand society. Ansell has railed against te reo Māori being used in documents, Māori having spiritual connections with the landscape and like, which have all been petty snipes at Māori in general rather than targeted attacks at things which could be even vague considered privileged behaviour by a minority.

That being said, just because Ansell is stepping down from his self-annointed leadership position of the (apparently) underprivileged Pākehā majority, someone else is likely to take his place, given that the steering committee of the 1law4all Party have the following agenda for equality in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu:

  1. Strip from legislation all references to the Treaty of Waitangi and it’s recently invented “principles”.
  2. Abolish all race based seats and positions in central and local government.
  3. Abolish the Waitangi Tribunal.
  4. Ensure that no individual or group has preferment in legislation or funding on grounds of ethnicity.
  5. Ensure that there is no constitutional change without the support of three quarters of those voting in a referendum.
  6. End the official state promotion and enforcement of divisive bi-culturalism.
  7. Repeal the current foreshore and seabed legislation.
  8. Withdraw New Zealand from the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

A lot of this is material cribbed directly from the John Ansell hymnal, with the usual conspiratorial allegations (“[state] enforcement of divisive bi-culturalism”, for example). They then go on to say:

Those who advocate “one law for all” are on the right side of history. Those who denigrate us are either confused or malicious. How can a party that is dedicated to equal rights for all New Zealanders, regardless of race, be damned as racist? Only by fools and knaves.

How can the advocates of the 1law4all Party be branded as racist? Because they might be choosing to ignore the existing inequalities in society which has entrenched privilege with Pākehā, such that a policy of “one law for all” will do nothing to fix said inequality. Because when they advocate “one law for all”, they are basically asking Māori to abandon tikanga and accept the results of colonisation unconditionally. The people who will brand the members of the 1law4all Party are not necessarily fools and knaves, whilst those who do advocate such policies almost certainly will be. ((Take point 4 of their policy list, for example. When they say they will advocate to “Ensure that no individual or group has preferment in legislation or funding on grounds of ethnicity”, they are effectively claiming that if any ethnic group happens to be treated unequally by the existing way of doing things, they won’t support any legislation or funding to fix it. What great guys these 1law4all people are?.))

It remains to be seen if the 1law4all Party will go full-Ansell and use the rhetoric of “There might well have been people here before the coming of the Māori” (my suspicion is that they won’t, given the membership of people like Peter Cresswell). They do use some of the arguments Ansell developed or resurrected, such as the argument there was no real tragedy at Parihaka (but they don’t seem to be citing Kerry Bolton, which I suppose is a kind of plus?) (as Lew Stoddart has pointed out, the Parihaka article cites Kerry Bolton, whose unsavoury history and radical views on local history will not play well to the New Zealand electorate should 1law4all end up campaigning in the next election). Like Ansell, they also provide a completely decontextualised list of ways in which Māori, via funding, apparently have special privilege in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu (New Zealand). ((There’s an awful lot of talk about “taxpayers” on the 1law4all site, as if Māori are not proto-typical payers of tax.))

The 1law4all website is a weird beast. Whilst it’s more clearly laid out than Ansell’s Treatygate site, it seems a step back from the information he had collated and presented. Ansell, no matter my problem with him, had an awful lot of content to hand. The 1law4all Party seems to be starting entirely from scratch, which seems odd, given how little difference there is between their agenda and Ansell’s. On the positive side, I’m probably going to be able to reuse a lot of my critique of Ansell and just swap “Treatygate” or “Together New Zealand” with “1law4all”. On the downside, if 1law4all manages to get registered as a party, the media spectacle of journalists talking with Ansell and him getting a chance to air his views is likely to be repeated with whomever ends up being the spokesperson for what is, effectively, the replacement Treatygate Party.

So, the criticism of blinkered and mistaken Pākehā views that, somehow, Māori are the real privileged people in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu (New Zealand) must continue. The monarch (John Ansell) might be figuratively dead, but there will soon be a new monarch.

Oh, and said monarch has a shop where you can buy branded merchandise to show your subjectness to the royal doctrine of “one law for all”.

So, don’t rush out and buy a t-shirt!

In which John Ansell adopts the “Māori were not here first” argument for Treatygate

I haven’t said much recently about John Ansell, because his “Treatygate” blog has mostly been an accounting of his rabble-rousing attempts around the country.

However, this post by Ansell, entitled Kupe’s descendant confirms other races were here first needs addressing. I mean, the name somewhat gives the game away: has Ansell finally succumbed to some version of the Celtic New Zealand thesis?

Ansell’s post is a partial reprint of a Franklin eLocal article, which itself is part of their series of pieces which claim there is a grand conspiracy at work in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu (New Zealand) to hide the real history of human settlement here. The Franklin eLocal recently interviewed David Rankin, a problematic figure in Māori politics generally and Ngāpuhi specifically ((David Rankin is not an ariki of Ngāpuhi and is, basically, a self-professed “elder” of his tribe; he does not speak for Ngāpuhi, no matter how often people in the media claim he does.)), to get his view on claims of Māori indigeneity. Rankin had this to say:

Let me just start off and say this, Maori are not the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand. There were many other races already living here long before Kupe arrived. I am his direct descendant and I know from our oral history passed down 44 generations.

I believe this needs to be investigated further because every Maori community talks about Waitaha, Turehu and Patupaiarehe. This goes hand-in-hand with the other research.

So, what to make of this? Well, not much really. Māori oral history quite freely records that when the Māori arrived, there were people already living here. However, if you delve into these stories you’ll discover that said people were the ancestors of the Māori. The pre-Māori people in most of these stories were the people who first arrived here and then sent some of their people back to tell everyone else to hurry on over. For example, my favourite volcanic cone of the Waitemata, Maungaika, gets its name from the fact that when it was “discovered” by one of the migrant waka, the navigator’s grandfather, Uika, was already living there, having previously discovered it, settled it and then sent his sons back to the home islands to fetch more people.

It is, then, important to make sure we’re not confusing stories about the people who were here before the arrival of the Māori (a cultural group which settled these islands), the pre-Māori (the ancestors of the Māori who discovered Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu) and talk of the Turehu and Patupaiarehe (who are fey, or fairy folk).

Still, the real pearl of Ansell’s piece comes from the comments, where Ansell claims:

The UN know Maori and others aren’t indigenous, so they simply change the meaning of the word to: “The good brown people who got to the country (a bit) before the bad white people”.

Large scale UN conspiracy theory much? Ansell is pretty much a prescriptivist about language, in that he holds to a thesis about there being set definitions for words which are to be taken as inviolate (as evidenced by his claims about the definition of “taonga”, for example). However, I don’t think he gets the irony here that whilst he disagrees with claims of Māori indigeneity, he is doing so by perverting what the word “indigenous” actually means. Ansell doesn’t like term “indigenous” because he holds to a radical and unorthodox definition of the word.

None of which matters anyway. The Treaty of Waitangi is not strictly a treaty between the indigenous people of this place and the British Crown (although it is by inference). It is, rather, a treaty between Māori and the British Crown; even if it turns out that Māori weren’t the indigenous people of this place, it wouldn’t have any bearing on the rights and obligations bestowed by the Treaty because the Treaty isn’t about indigeneity.

The scale of the conspiracy

PeterC, over in the comments of my review of Max Hill’s “To the Ends of the Earth” suggested that contemporary archaeologists in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu (New Zealand) dance to the tune of their political (and funding) masters, which is why there is no academic support for the theses of Max Hill, Martin Doutreé and the like. That got me to thinking: if we were to treat that claim about the existence of a conspiracy seriously, how big would the conspiracy in question actually be?

Think of it this way: Pacific archaeology is not an entirely New Zealand-based concern. Whilst New Zealand archaeologists do an awful lot of our local archaeology, they are just part of the wider archaeological community interested in the history and pre-history of the Pacific. Quite a lot of Pacific archaeology is performed by Americans, the French and Germans, in part because each of these nations have a history of colonial activity in the Pacific.

So, if there is a conspiracy to hide the real history of the Pacific and to deny the existence of some other people living in or passing through the Polynesian archipelago, it must be a pretty big one that encompasses the research output of not just the New Zealand university and research community but extends to the university and research communities of Europe and the Americas ((Truth be told, quite a lot of New Zealand archaeology is undertaken by people who not only did their undergraduate and post-graduate studies overseas but are, shock horror, foreign nationals (and not necessarily the kind the GSCB is allowed to spy on).)). What possible rationale is there for such a large-scale, encompassing conspiracy?

You might concede that maybe someone, in a position of political power, decided one day that we should rewrite Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu’s history in order to appease some group of Māori (even though I think this is very unlikely it is still a possibility) but why would that decision be in anyway binding on the research outputs of archaeologists and historians elsewhere, especially since these reports are perfect congruent with the archaeological research that is produced elsewhere in Polynesia? Why do American archaeologists write site reports and make inferences which look eerily similar to the site reports of French and New Zealand archaeologists? Surely, if there is a conspiracy, we should see a divergence of views between these sets of researchers?

Now, maybe the large-scale claim of conspiracy is justified: I did say that these nations have a history of colonialism, so maybe they are part of a “post-colonial guilt party” conspiracy, or the indigenous peoples of this place (generally speaking) have some kind of hold over the governments of these nations, but that just seems unlikely. The attitudes of France, America and New Zealand with respect to the indigenous peoples of the Pacific really couldn’t be that different (look at the poor state of native rights in Haiwaii) and so it just doesn’t follow that American archaeologists doing Pacific archaeology funded by American universities and NGOs would be hiding evidence of some non-Polynesian, pre-cursor people in the way that Doutree and company seem to allege.

You might also, if we’re going to treat this thesis with more respect than it deserves, argue that the decision was made by, say, the American establishment and we’re just following the dictates of a world superpower. Once again, you have to give a reason as to why, say, America would want to pervert history and produce archaeological disinformation, especially given, as previously noted, just how badly off the Hawaiians are (and let’s not forget the plight of the Native Americans).

Both of these rationales also fall foul of a basic truth about research communities; governments set the funding levels and they certainly mangle research outputs by overfunding some types of degrees and underfunding others. but they don’t control who researches what and they certainly don’t set up the terms of such enquiries, let alone decide what conclusions are allowed to be drawn. Certainly, many of Ansell’s fellow travellers complain about the kind of research that goes on in the academic sector and how good it is that sensible Ministers in our present Government ignore such policy advice and use common sense instead. It seems that the kind of people who are likely to come up with a conspiracy about there being an agenda to hide the existence of a pre-Māori people want to have it both ways when it comes to condemning the research outputs of our universities.

The other problem with this claim about large-scale conspiracy in the world of archaeology is that, surely, you would expect someone to buck the system and release evidence of both the hidden history and the conspiracy itself. This is a common argument against the 9/11 Truth Movement (and, increasingly, being employed to show that the claims of a “CIA/Swedish honeytrap” against Julian Assange seems very unlikely): the lack of countering evidence to the well-accepted or official theory seems to suggest that the theory is plausible. Now, any holder of a conspiracy theory which claims that well-accepted or official theory is based on disinformation, etc. will point towards people like Richard Gage (with respect to the 9/11 Truth Movement) and Martin Doutré (with respect to the Celtic New Zealand thesis) and say “But, looksy, there is evidence to the contrary and these brave researchers are willing to put up with shoddy ad hominem attacks and ridicule to get the truth out there!”

But, once again, this seems to present a problem of scale: Doutré and Gage are not just dismissed by part of the academy but, rather, all of it worldwide. Doutré and Hill’s respective theses are not just considered silly and vapid in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu but elsewhere as well, so we’re back to the “Everyone (else) is in on the conspiracy” angle which, as I’ve shown, is already problematic.

But it gets worse. Doutré and Hill’s radical pre-histories of Polynesia is based upon not just archaeological claims but also claims based in comparative linguistics, oral histories, ethnography, epigraphy and (to name a few). In each of these fields, his arguments have been picked on by someone with appropriate expertise who are largely in agreement with the rest of their peers. If there is a conspiracy in existence, it’s not just a conspiracy in the worldwide archaeological community but, rather, a conspiracy of every academic everywhere ((I would love to see the agenda for the meetings that set up such a conspiracy. I’ve been in academic staff meetings. They are not pretty. No one seems to be able to agree with anyone.)).

Once again, this is a potentially huge conspiracy that people like PeterC are envisioning, and given the different research funding models worldwide, the organisation and control of this conspiracy is likely not to be governmental (unless you believe there exists a New World Order/One World Government who have, as one of their aims, the promotion of both false history and indigenous rights) but, rather, academic.

Now, admittedly, people like John Ansell and Martin Doutré will agree with this and say “Well, we’ve been saying the academic world has been taken over my Marxists for ages now!” but a) it’s not clear that Ansell and Doutreé know what Marxism, as a mode of academic pursuit, looks like and b) it’s not clear that Marxism is the most popular mode of academic pursuit at the moment any way ((That being said, no matter what I say next, Ansell and Doutré will likely claim we’re all “closet Marxists” who are either unaware we are Marxists or are afraid to admit to being Marxists because we might suffer the old bit of biffo by the common person on the street.)).

More importantly, though, who is directing us academics to pursue research in a Marxist way?

Ansell, PeterC, Doutré and company will say “That’s where the funding comes from” but is it? Sure, New Zealand’s university sector is funded by central government, so maybe there are Marxists in the Ministry of Education, but what about America? There are lots of American researchers who work in Pacific archaeology, linguistics, history and other related disciplines and their university sector is definitely not funded by the Federal Government (there is very little publicly funded research in the USA) so if the conspiracy is based around funding, it’s a conspiracy where either the international (particularly American) academic sector has undue sway over individual government funding bodies like we find in New Zealand or small countries like our own somehow have sway over the international research funding community.

Both theories seem unlikely, I must confess.

There is, of course, another option. Perhaps, just perhaps, the radical theories of the Richard Gages and Martin Doutré’s of this world are considered lacking in academic merit because, well, such theories are lacking in the kinds of credentials a largely independent academic sector expect to find. No need to posit a conspiracy; outlier research like that found in the 9/11 Truth Movement or the Celtic New Zealand crowd might just be examples of pseudo-research.

However, I don’t think that conclusion, however likely it appears to be, will be accepted by people like PeterC.

A primer on the Treatygate conspiracy theory

As a fair number of people are finding this blog and series of posts whilst looking for information on John Ansell’s “Colourblind New Zealand” and “Treatygate” campaigns, I thought it would be useful to have a series of primers on the central tenets of his claims, showing why we should not support his campaigns. In the previous post I provided a series of reasons as to why Ansell’s “equality for all under the law” thesis rests upon a fundamental misunderstanding of the process of restitution that are the Treaty Settlements and how he and his allies mistake the renaissance of Māori culture for Māori somehow having more privileges than other New Zealanders. In this post, I will show that Ansell’s “Treatygate” thesis is a vapid conspiracy theory.

What is “Treatygate?”

“Treatygate” is the thesis that the series of treaty settlements both show that Māori are more privileged than Pākehā in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu ((In part, the Treatygate thesis is an extension of the Colourblind New Zealand campaign.)) and that New Zealand history is being perverted and changed by both Māori and Pākehā cultural elites to justify these settlements. As such, “Treatygate” is a conspiracy theory. It is a thesis that rests upon a claim of conspiracy which says:

    1. These exists a set of plotters (the Māori and Pākehā cultural elites, including members of both major political parties) who
    2. Seek to advance an agenda to give the country back to Māori and deny New Zealanders their true history
    3. Work towards this goal in secret (in that the true history of this place is being kept hidden from the populace and the real reasons for treaty settlements is not being admitted to).

The Treatygate thesis, as espoused by the arguments of John Ansell, is an argument claims there is a conspiracy about Māori which, despite the alleged statistical data, are highly privileged in New Zealand society and that the true history of this place is being kept from ordinary New Zealanders.

Why is the thesis behind “Treatygate” a bad argument?

With respect to the first claim, that Māori are highly privileged, the statistics say otherwise. Ansell and company avoid this, in part, by claiming the problem with Māori is a Māori concern which should be solved by Māori and thus Ansell and company place the blame on iwi leaders.

Note two things about this move.

    1. This kind of argument makes out that Māori are, in some sense, not proper New Zealanders. Ansell’s argument assumes the very thing he is trying to persuade and prove to his audience: Māori do not believe themselves to be like the rest of the New Zealand population. That may be Ansell’s view, but he has no good argument to back it up. Rather, he just asserts it and moves on.

    2. By placing the blame on Māori, Ansell ignores the role of colonisation in the socio-economic environment that is New Zealand. Ansell’s argument is entirely economic when it comes to solving the problems of Māoridom and yet seems to be almost entirely social when it comes to pointing out how Pākehā are, somehow, disadvantaged by the process of Treaty settlements.

It is hard to show that Pākehā are economically disadvantaged by such settlements, so Ansell and company have to talk about Māori having more of some set of amorphous rights than other New Zealanders (such as access to the Waitangi Tribunal). It’s. tricksy argument because it trades on a feeling of being disadvantaged rather than actual disadvantage and it is subject to a lot of goal post shifting; even if you can conclusively show that Pākehā and Tau Iwi are better off than Māori with respect to health statistics, arrest rates and the like, there are a lot of other areas in which such people feel worse off even if they actually aren’t.

With respect to the Treatygate claims about the true history of Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu being kept from ordinary New Zealanders, Ansell and his allies have two tactics which they use to try to show up conventional New Zealand history as being wrong.

The first is to claim that modern histories are pro-Māori and anti-Pākehā, and thus such histories overlook the benefits the Europeans brought to this place.

The second is to claim that Māori are not, properly understood, indigenous to Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu either by claiming that when the Māori first arrived there was another people living here or by claiming that as Māori only arrived some six to eight hundred years prior to the Europeans, that Māori are also recent settlers like other New Zealanders.

Biased Histories

The first claim, about the nature of contemporary historical interpretations of early Colonial/Māori interactions, rests upon a misunderstanding of how History and historical interpretation works. Ansell and his allies will point towards histories written in the late Nineteenth Century and early Twentieth Century and say “These histories show both a Māori society that was in decline (socially and economically) and a willingness (indeed, eagerness) to embrace British rules and values.” They will then point to modern histories and argue that such modern histories either ignore these early histories or dispute them. They then conclude by saying “These earlier writers witnessed what they wrote about first hand; if modern historians are ignoring them, then what is there reason?” or “If modern historians dispute these earlier accounts, are they doing so because its PC,” with the assumption the real reason is that modern historians have or are part of an agenda to hide or obscure the truth of what happened in the early days of Māori/Pākehā interactions.

The issue with this suggested conspiracy is this: these early writers Ansell and company rely upon were often not historians and, even when they were historians, they were writing their histories in a way that is now thought to be problematic.

Historians work from a corpus of archival materials and modern historians are particularly sensitive to the possible political nature of their work. Whilst it seems obvious in retrospect, it is really quite a modern notion to recognise that when people write about events, such accounts can (and often do) reflect the political leanings of both their day and the writer’s own beliefs about the kind if world they think they live in. When it comes to Colonial history, many writers sought to show the benefits European civilisation had brought to New Zealand whilst others wanted to play up the devastation the Pākehā wrought. Modern historians have to sort through these varying accounts and try to discern the facts of history from the political polemics that such histories are wrapped in ((Modern written histories and historians can also suffer from the same kinds of biases, which is why we have peer review systems. However, Ansell and company think that the academic world is involved in a conspiracy to hide the truth, so any peer review of a pro pre-Maori history which criticises that work is evidence of the conspiracy and not evidence, it seems, that historians are treating the work seriously but noting its short-comings.)). Ansell, and his Treatygate researchers, work solely from pro-Colonial accounts and ignore the other historical data. This is the same kind of sin they charge the holders of the orthodox history as committing.

Indigeneity, a lack thereof

Ansell’s second line of argument, about indigeneity, is a rather more curious beast. Ansell has expressed conditional support for the work of Martin Doutré, an amateur historian and archaeologist who has written both on Treaty issues and on the pre-history of Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounami. Doutré claims there was a pre-Māori, Celtic people who lived in New Zealand and were wiped out and/or absorbed into Māori. If this claim were true, it would speak against Māori being indigenous and a first people. He also provides evidence to back up his claims, but the evidence he provides does not clearly support his thesis. Like many amateur archaeologists, his site interpretations seem to be attempts to find evidence for his theory pre-Māori people rather than engaging in a process of discovery, where the evidence leads him to the development of a theory. His interpretations of the oral histories and mythology of the Māori are equally problematic, as I have outlined here in an earlier post. ((This post is also a good primer on Doutré’s work.))

Ansell and company want Doutré’s work to be treated as some kind of plausible historical narrative but their standard of plausibility is not the usual standard we associate with good historical research. Plausible historical accounts are explanations of events based upon our best inferences. The standard of plausibility Doutré (and Ansell) want us to operate with is the “If it’s possible it might be true, we should investigate it” kind, which shows they are either confusing or deliberately conflating “possibility” with “probability.” If you counter this and say “But it’s so unlikely, so why should we bother?” they will response with some claim like “What is it you are trying to hide?” thus assuming the very academic conspiracy they are concerned with.

Doutré’s work is not taken seriously by historians or archaeologists and it belongs to a particular school of fringe archaeology practised worldwide which claims to find evidence of earlier, now forgotten, supercultures which once spanned the globe but, somehow, didn’t leave behind any robust records of their existence. Whilst Ansell has expressed support for Doutré generally,, Ansell refuses to accept that he has explicitly endorsed the pre-Māori thesis ((His endorsement appears in this post when he wrote:

Pretend that Maori are indigenous to New Zealand, when they sailed here just before the Europeans, and suppress the mounting evidence that other races got here first.

)). Thus, if pushed, Ansell will distance himself from this particular view, which means a second strand of argumentation is needed to bolster the claim that Māori are not indigenous.

The argument Ansell and his supporters seem to fall back on, then, is to say “Māori are immigrants/recent settlers too.” They claim that Māori are like the rest of the New Zealand population: people who got here recently by boat and thus are no more deserving of the claim of being indigenous than someone whose family has been here four generations or so. The fact that Māori have been here for a significantly longer time, had a unique and developed culture, their own language and the like is irrelevant, it seems, to the holders of this view.

However, none of this really matters; the Treaty makes no claim about Māori being a first people or having been here a long time. It simply recognises that they were here before Pākehā. This entire strand of argumentation is a distraction, a reason to get angry at “them uppity Maoris.” It has no bearing on whether the Treaty process is just and fair.

Concluding Thoughts

Ansell’s conspiracy theory about New Zealand history and the Treaty process is implausible and unwarranted: his claim that there is a conspiracy, by the Māori and cultural/political elites in New Zealand society is a claim that can be easily dismissed via an analysis of the kind of evidence he uses to buttress his arguments ((What is not so easily dismissed is the way in which he trades upon a particular psychological attitude towards Māori, in that Ansell and his allies display and make use of the feeling that the policy of biculturalism in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu has not settled well with a certain section of middle-aged, middle-class Pākehā. These are the people who believe things were better for them when Māori and Māoridom were treated as an historical part of our society rather than part of its contemporary vibrancy.)).

Ansell’s argument for the existence of a conspiracy looks more complex than it really is. This is because, in part, he has collected a large amount of disparate evidence to support it, most of which relies on radical reinterpretations of New Zealand’s pre-contact and early post-contact history and some of which assumes the existence of the very conspiracy he is trying to prove the existence thereof. Like many conspiracy theorists (9/11 Truthers are a good example here), Ansell assumes that if an interlocuter cannot respond to his “evidence” with a counter-argument which accepts the proffered evidence as being true then they have no argument against his view at all. To argue with Ansell you have to accept much of his evidential base. A failure to respect to his sources (say, questioning them) just shows that you are in on the con (and likely to be the product of a Marxist institution which has blinded you to the reality and gravity of the supposed problem). As such, Ansell and his allies live in an echo chamber which, due to the way these things work, selects for the evidence that supports their views and discounts any argument which disputes that evidence as being evidence of the conspiracy against them. Ansell thinks this is the way the academic sector works with respect to our supposedly “PC” histories (gone mad) and either he thinks you fight like with like or he doesn’t appreciate that the academic sector has something above and beyond the echo chamber: we live in a combative peer review system where success is measured not just by your ability to develop and improve on existing theories but also in demolishing theories which are weak, unsubstantiated or based on poor arguments.

I’m mixed in my feelings about the likely success of the Colourblind New Zealand campaign. There is still a substantial section of our population which either views Māori as a base underclass or iwi as greedy and manipulative. It is possible that Ansell’s campaign might have legs. However, it is also possible that it will self-destruct either because Ansell’s “Either you are with me 100% or agin me” attitude, which has already turned away some potential fellow travellers, will alienate the very supporters he needs or he will end up saying something that exposes just how dark an underbelly his movement has ((I haven’t talked at all, in these two posts, about the wholesale racial denigration of Māori that has gone on in the comments thread over at Ansell’s blog, and Ansell’s facile and insulting claim that so-called “Muslim fanaticism” (i.e. the reason why we are involved in a War on Terror) is equivalent to Māori unease about the so-called “benefits” of colonisation.)). Whatever the case, should his movement gain traction, I hope these two posts prove to be useful in talking through the issues Ansell is raising.

A primer on the Colourblind New Zealand campaign thesis

A lot of people are finding my blog because they are searching for information on John Ansell’s “Colourblind New Zealand” and “Treatygate” campaign and I thought it might be useful to give such (potentially new) readers a bit of a primer on what Ansell’s movement is and some reasons as to we should not support it.

People who are sympathetic to Ansell’s arguments might be sympathetic because they believe that Māori have access to more power/are more privilege than other New Zealanders (which is the basis for his “Colourblind New Zealand” thesis) or because they think the Treaty settlement system is a rort (which is the basis for his “Treatygate” thesis), or they might believe both sets of claims. I think both theses can be shown to be bad arguments and the purpose of this first post is to provide reasons as to why the “equality for all under the law, regardless of colour” argument Ansell purports to run as the basis of his Colourblind New Zealand campaign is based upon a misunderstanding of our current cultural milieu.

N.B.: Ansell is talking about changing the title of his campaign away from the loaded “Colourblind” term, so contents of this post might change in the near future.

What is “Colourblind New Zealand?”

“Colourblind New Zealand” is a campaign based upon the premise of equality for all under the law, regardless of skin colour.

Why is “Colourblind New Zealand” a bad idea?

New Zealand (also known as “Aotearoa” and “Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu” ((The te reo Māori names for the North and South Islands of New Zealand are the subject of some contemporary debate. Whilst in recent history the name “Aotearoa” has been taken as being synonymous with both islands, there is now a growing movement to refer to the South Island by the name given to it by local iwi (tribes), which is “Te Wai Pounamu” and go back to the older meaning of “Aotearoa,” which refers solely to the North Island of New Zealand. Organisations like “Nga Maia O Aotearoa Me Te Wai Pounamu” and the the Anglican Church of New Zealand (with the Bishopric which covers the South Island and the lower North Island called “Te Pīhopatanga o Aotearoa o Te Waipounamu”) are two examples of the resurgence of identifying the South Island by its local name.))) is a country that was first settled by the Māori some eight hundred to a thousand years ago. Europeans (or “Pākehā”) arrived some two hundred years ago and began a process known as “colonisation,” whereby, despite the existence of an indigenous or first people, the (predominantly) English newcomers decided to settle in (what was to them) a newly discovered land. A treaty (Te Tiriti O Waitangi, of which the Treaty of Waitangi is the English translation thereof) was signed between Māori iwi ((Iwi, or tribe, is a collection of hapū, or sub-tribes, which are in turn a collection of whānau, or extended family groups. Iwi are a macro political group based on kinship.)) and the British Crown to provide for governance of the new settlers and, for a time, things seemed peaceful. However, soon many more English settlers began to arrive and the fledgling Colonial government began seizing land from Māori (in contravention of the treaty), leading to the Land Wars. Many Māori were dispossessed from their ancestral land holdings and marginalised in their own country.

This process has lead to systemic and institutionalised problems for Māori. Economically, Māori, denied use of their own land, have been pushed into the poorer areas of the country. Culturally, up until the last two decades, Māori culture was looked down upon and hardly ever celebrated (arguably, aspects of this denigration are still prevalent and much contemporary celebration of Māoridom is tokenistic). Both of these factors (which fall under the rubic of socio-economics) have contributed to a poor state of affairs for Māori. Māori feature heavily in crime statistics, have a lower life expectancy and are generally poorer, financially to Pākehā, and so forth.

John Ansell’s Colourblind New Zealand campaign does not recognise this state of affairs and, instead, paints a false picture of Māori privilege. He and his supporters present two, related reasons for thinking that Māori are currently over-privileged in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu.

    1. Māori are treated as being more important than “normal New Zealanders/Kiwis” and

    2. The system of Treaty settlements, started in the 1980s, disadvantages Pākehā.

The first rationale, that Māori are somehow treated as first class citizens compared to second-class Pākehā and Tau Iwi (New Zealand citizens who are not descended from or related to the Colonials), is based upon a fundamental misunderstanding of the renaissance of Māori culture and Māori identity in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu.

Ansell and his allies seem to object to the following kinds of things: te reo Māori (the Māori language) being taught in schools, powhiri (Māori ceremonial greetings) at public ceremonies, the existence of Māori electorates, the ability to approach the Waitangi Tribunal to make land claims and the like. These things, amongst many others, provide Māori with more rights and privileges than non-Māori, Ansell and his allies argue. However, it is not at all clear that just because, say, Māori can choose to be on a different electoral role to Pākehā and Tau Iwi and te reo Māori being taught at schools (with some talk of it being compulsory, alongside English), that Māori are somehow both better off and more privileged than other members of New Zealand society. It is quite possible to believe the former claim “Māori are somehow both better off” (which is a relative claim; “better off they they were previously” rather than necessarily “better off than some other group”) without necessarily believing the latter claim that Māori are more privileged than anyone else in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu.

Several aspects of contemporary New Zealand society only make sense if you understand their historical context. Ansell likes to make out that, because of the Māori Roll, Māori are, in some sense, politically more privileged than non-Māori. Now, it is true that Māori have the option of either being on the General Electoral Roll or the Māori Electoral Roll (but not both), whilst Pākehā and Tau Iwi can only enrol generally. This looks odd, because it seems to give Māori a strategic other people do not have, but the context of why Māori have this option shows that this is not quite the privilege it appears to be. Until the late 1970s (this link gives a useful backgrounder to the Māori Roll and its history), if you identified as Māori, you could only enrol, as an elector, via the Māori Roll, and the number of Māori seats was fixed at four no matter the proportion of Māori to non-Māori in the country. Historically, Māori were disadvantaged by the existence of the Māori Seats due to a lack of proportionality under the first-past-the-post voting system New Zealand used. Under the mixed-member proportionality system we now use, Māori can choose to enrol via the General or Māori Roll and have both an electorate vote and a party vote. Whilst this is some debate as to the utility of the Māori electorates under a MMP system, both major political parties agree that the move to abolish the Māori electorates should come from within Māoridom as despite the historical injustice these seats caused, they are still valued by Māori (and, arguably, they ensure adequate Māori representation in the New Zealand Parliament).

Even without this piece of context, it still isn’t clear that Māori have any more political power or representation in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu as Māori can be enrolled either via the Māori Roll or via the General Roll but not both. Māori, like non-Māori, get two votes (one electoral vote, one party vote). Māori can choose to be represented either in a general electorate or in a Māori electorate, but by choosing to be in one electorate they opt out of being represented in another. It is not clear what specific privilege this gives Māori but Ansell and his allies either use the publics lack of considered knowledge about their own electoral system, it seems, to create a false impression that Māori have more political powers than non-Māori or Ansell and his allies are as equally ill-informed as their fellow citizens about how the Māori electorates actually work.

Similar arguments can be made about the role of powhiri at public celebrations and the role of te reo Māori in public life: historically Māori culture was downplayed or removed from public life, in breach of the Treaty, and thus the reinstatement of these things is not a heavy-handed attempt to promote Māori above other peoples in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu but, rather, a restoring of the balance and an acknowledgement that Māori are equal partners in New Zealand society and their culture is en par with the introduced English way of doing things.

This leads into the second rationale used to claim Māori have more privilege in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu, the Treaty settlement process.

Because the New Zealand Government in the 1980s decided to start a process of restitution between Crown and Māori, based upon a recognition of long-standing and continuing treaty breaches, Māori, and Māoridom in general, have had access to the Waitangi Tribunal and many (but not all) iwi have had significant settlements/redress which include both money, the return of land and the restoration of some customary rights.

On the face of it, the treaty settlements look to be large transfers of wealth and land to many Māori iwi. However, these settlements, whilst significant in the sense that they are an acknowledgement by the Crown that treaty breaches occurred, they are not substantial settlements, in the sense that these settlements amount, in most cases, to less than one percent of the actual worth of the land that was seized from Māori by the Crown and often these settlements have restrictions on how the money (and land) can be used and are parcelled out over long periods of time.

The Colourblind New Zealand campaign, then, paints such restitution as privileging Māori when, in fact, the Treaty settlements are merely a way of restoring the balance between the two Treaty partners, Māori and the Crown. The Treaty settlements return to Māori what was illegally taken off of them and restore rights that were guaranteed under the Treaty but, on the part of the Crown, taken away or severely curtailed.

What Ansell and his allies either do not understand (or possibly are trying to create confusion over) is that Māori and Māoridom being better off does not entail that Māori have more privilege that other New Zealanders (a point I will come back to in my next post on this subject). They confuse one sense of “significant” with another, the substantive, and assume the latter meaning when, really, the significance of the Treaty settlement process to Māori is the acknowledgement of past wrongs and Treaty breaches rather than (as Ansell would have the process characterised as being) a money grabbing exercise.

The central tenet behind the Colourblind New Zealand campaign is Māori are treated unequally in New Zealand and that this is unfair. The perverse part of this is that Ansell is almost right: Māori are treated unequally in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu but it is not that Māori have more privilege. Rather, historically, they have been a marginalised people in their own land. Recent developments in New Zealand has seen gains for Māori, but Ansell’s Colourblind New Zealand campaign wants to wash away these positive developments and, rather, return us back to the mid-Twentieth Century, where Māori were a dispossessed people struggling for recognition.

Pākehā are not disadvantaged by the Treaty settlement process. Arguably, the Treaty settlement process is, at worst, entirely neutral with respect to Pākehā and Tau Iwi. At best, because the Treaty settlement process restores much needed equity between marginalised Māori and other New Zealanders, the Treaty process is a win-win scenario ((The truth is that the Treaty process is probably somewhere in the middle, in that as Treaty settlements only return a small proportion of the land and wealth that has been taken off of Māori, many Pākehā and Tau Iwi will continue to have substantial advantage over Māori and will continue to profit from historical land seizures and the removal of customary rights.)). A Colourblind New Zealand is a New Zealand in which we would ignore the process of restitution. That is not equality but rather the bedding in of historical inequality.

In the next post I will talk specifically about the Treatygate thesis and why it is not just a conspiracy theory but also an example of an unwarranted conspiracy theory.

Ansell and Doutré – Part II

Really, John Ansell is the curmudgeonly, bigoted gift that keeps on giving. Despite admitting that he hasn’t actually read Martin Doutré’s book, “Celtic New Zealand” he’s willing to stand by his man.

I am not qualified to judge Martin’s efforts regarding pre-Maori inhabitants, especially when he gets into the technicalities of surveying.

On the topic of Martin Doutré’s support for the work of David Irving, He goes on to say:

I have heard about Martin’s so-called support for David Irving. I have also heard from Martin how his words are routinely twisted by people who regard him as a threat.

These people, I seem to recall, include Scott Hamilton and you.

I assume the words ‘his support for David Irving’ are intended to imply that Martin does not accept that there was a Nazi holocaust against the Jews.

My first instinct is to doubt very much that Martin believe this.

Now, I’ll give Ansell some credit here. Given that Doutré claimed the criticisms against Irving were part of a Zionist conspiracy, it is fair to say that whilst it’s not entailed that Doutré’s support of Irving means he also denies the reality of the Holocaust (he might, after all, just be saying “There is no one document which details it”), Doutré has claimed that the criticisms levelled against Irving are part of a Zionist conspiracy. It certainly sounds like he is some kind of fellow traveller with Irving and his supporters.

It’s also not fair to say that I, or people like Scott or Gio, have twisted Doutré’s words. We’ve simply quoted what he wrote over in the Scoop Review of Books thread. Ansell has admitted to not having read that thread but so he could, quite easily, go and check to see if we really are twisting Doutré’s words or reporting them faithfully.

It would only take one click: we’ve already provided him with the necessary link several times.

Ansell goes on:

My first instinct is to doubt very much that Martin believe this.

This instinct is heightened because the implication comes from someone who (correct me if I’m wrong) supports the Waitangi Tribunal/Tariana Turia/Kerry Opae view that there was a British holocaust in Taranaki against Maori.

Now, my view on what happened in the Taranaki is irrelevant here. I could believe or have no belief in a holocaust in the Taranaki and that would have no effect on my ability to parse English sentences and understand that when Doutré writes:

As for David Irving, it was generally accepted worldwide that he was the most astute, prolific, all-round scholar and historian on the subject of WWII, at least up until May, 1988, when he made a very bad career choice. At that time he was called upon to give expert testimony, under oath, in a court case and stated that he could find no documented evidence of “Hitler’s Final Solution”. For this unforgivable admission, he fell foul of the Zionists who, thereafter, focused their hatred on him and have been unrelenting in trying to destroy his credibility ever since.

what he is implying is that he thinks Irving’s research is top-notch and that the Zionists are out to get him.

I don’t know whether Ansell thought he was being clever to suggest that my views on Doutré’s support of Irving is somehow clouded by whatever unexpressed views I have about what happened in the Taranaki, or Ansell is just being malacious and trying to smear my view (in the eyes of his supporters) by saying something like “We can ignore Matthew’s criticism of Doutré’s support of Irving because Matthew (I assume) supports the notion of a holocaust in the Taranaki, and that’s just wack, don’t you think?”

I’m leaning towards the malicious interpretation, meself.

Whatever the case, it’s irrelevant, and Ansell is just trying to distract people from the fact he doesn’t really want to look into Doutré’s support of the work of a noted Holocaust denier.

Later still Ansell revealed his sympathy for the 9/11 Truth movement:

I read in Scott Hamilton’s character assassination of Martin Doutre that he is a 911 sceptic too. Again, odd for a right-winger, don’t you think?

(But entirely typical of an honest seeker of truth.)

Being curious about all things, I decided on Saturday to visit an exhibition in the bowels of the Tug Boat in Oriental Bay created by a group called NZers for 911 Truth.

I did not expect to be persuaded by their evidence. But I was prepared to look at it with an open mind.

(To me, that’s what you do, rather than engage the scoff reflex.)

I have to say the evidence was superbly presented. If it was fraudulent – and I couldn’t say for sure until I’d seen the other side’s rebuttal – then it was an extremely plausible fraud.

I spent a good half-hour grilling the designer of the exhibition, Peter Woods. He, too, could not be faulted for his ability to supply plausible answers to my every question.

But here’s my point…

For revealing this information to you now, what’s the betting that I will now be reported by Matthew Dentith and Scott Hamilton as being a ’911 conspiracy theorist like Doutre’?

Now, it’s clear from this that Ansell (as he states later on) hasn’t subscribed totally to the thesis of 9/11 Truth but it does show something of the intellectual character of the person behind “Treatygate.” So, no, I won’t be calling him a 9/11 Truther just yet. He is, rather, just intellectually shallow and incredibly naive.

John Ansell is the kind of person who is easily persuaded by the presentation of an idea, rather than the evidence for it. He is also the kind of person who thinks that if an idea is expressed with sincerity and conviction, then it should be believed. He doesn’t understand where the burden of proof lies when it comers to extraordinary claims. He also seems to favour contrarian thinking: these all make for a dangerous combination which, despite his claims to the contrary, blinkers Ansell to reason and argument.

Indeed, I said something to that extent in the thread:

I think, John, the problem here is that you don’t actually appreciate how arguments work and the relationship between evidence and theory. I’m not going to call you an 9/11 Truther because, as you said, you want to hear the other side. I am going to call you incredibly naive, for your position in this matter (and if you really think there is no good evidence of a plane hitting the Pentagon, then I have a bridge to sell you). Issues like the explanation of the events of 9/11, whether anthropogenic climate change is occurring, et cetera, are not debates between two sides which deserve equal treatment. Both “Climate Change Skepticism” (I put that in quotes, because the proponents of that view present what is really a mockery of skepticism) and 9/11 Truth are radical views which go against the best theories of our day and thus shoulder a heavy burden of proof: proponents of those views need to provide extraordinary evidence to support their theories before we should entertain those theories as being plausible.

Just because you, a common man on the street, find the arguments of the proponents of these views persuasive doesn’t mean their arguments are any good: it just means you are a bit credulous when it comes to valuing the presentation of arguments over their content. You keep talking about how you value people who hold their views with conviction and the value of contrarian thinking, but these have nothing to do with claims about which theory or explanation of an event is the best. Martin Doutré may well hold his views with conviction and sincerity, but that doesn’t mean his views are supported by the evidence: indeed, the lack of support by members of his peer community (historians, et cetera) indicate that whilst he is convinced by his own arguments, others are not.

This should say something to you about his views, but it does not, because you value conviction over rigour and you seem to think that if someone can answer your questions, then they have it right and the burden of proof is on those who would oppose it. What is so perverse about this is that you seem to think your intuitions are, somehow, a mark of when a view is right or wrong and yet I really don’t know why you would think that. Your support of Doutré revisionist history of Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu and your credulous views on the events of 9/11 speak to your judgement about the so-called “Treatygate” scandal: if you see fictitious conspiracies in these arenas, then it seems reasonable to think your claims of conspiracy and malfeasance in the “Treaty industry” are similarly wrongheaded.

As if that wasn’t enough to go on Martin Doutré also dropped by to lay down the law. Rather than addressing our criticism of his support of Irving, he decided the best way to deal with the issue was to imply that Gio and meself were part of some conspiracy to shut work like his down.

Here in New Zealand, as elsewhere, there are droves of politically-aligned individuals that I delicately refer to as “rent-a-pricks” (the hallway-monitors) who are pressed into service by their handlers to hijack significant blogs like this one, get plenty of red-herrings strewn around to lead everyone off the scent or pour cold water over anything politically-inconvenient.

Their purpose and function is to generally “bugger” the otherwise serious discussion.

I really would love to know who my handler is and why they haven’t given me my luxury yacht yet. Frankly, if I’m part of the conspiracy (and let’s face it, I’d make a great specimen: I’ve spent time with senior members of the US Department of State and was personally invited to attend a workshop run by the US Air Force on the control of fringe groups), then they aren’t really looking after me.

Where is my tenure? Where is my rocket pack?

Why haven’t they recommissioned “Farscape” (sorry, “Firefly” fans: “Farscape” comes first)?

Doutré went on to say:

I once presented Matthew Dentith with an “off-the-top-of-my-head” list of 29 major anomalies that exist within New Zealand and Pacific archaeology.

The only requirement was for Dentith to acknowledge or discount the anomalies.

All I got from Matthew Dentith was a pathetic “fob-off” and no explanations of any substance whatsoever, although he now “boasts” that he answered all of my points and put me in my place.

He didn’t even remotely address anything.

This, once again, is the thread in question. You can go and look at both my answers and… His lack of acknowledge I had worked through the list and given plausible explanations of his “anomalies.” It’s almost as if he had no adequate response to it.

Now, maybe he didn’t see them, although he did see Scott and Edward’s responses. Maybe he thought my answers were so ridiculous that he didn’t need to say anything against them, but, once again, he did seem to think Scott and Edward’s replies, silly as he thought they were, needed to be addressed.

So, I’m stuck thinking that maybe Doutré, with his reliance on out-dated anthropological theories and his double-standard approach to historical research (he treats similar claims as either literal or figurative depending on how well they suit his theory at a given time), couldn’t come up with a response to my criticisms.

You might wonder why I keep going back to Ansell’s blog. Well, this is my rationale: should Ansell’s Treatygate campaign actually get off the ground (which I doubt, but miracles, even evil ones, still happen), there needs to be some other resource, other than Ansell’s blog, for people to refer to (for example, if I were Ansell I’d be deleting large chunks of the comments thus far, because it’s going to be politically embarrassing for him in the long term; aside from the lack of intellectual rigour, a lot of his comments about Māori show that he really believes them to be an inferior people to Pākehā) which covers just how intellectually unsound Ansell’s arguments are and who his fellow travellers are.

So, yes, I’m doing this for the sake of the future.

Even though in the present, this is giving me a hernia.

Not really joking.