He’s Back with (New) Zeal – Part 2

Trevor Loudon hit the ground running (upon his return to active service in the Right-wing Conspiracy Theory section of the Internet) with an Investigate ‘investigation’ of the Urewera 17. It’s a hatchet job; we should be scared of these so-called terrorists because, well, they aren’t nice, middle-class Act voters ((Loudon recently took a Green Activist to task for playing a role in the dissolution of the Auckland Star, an evening daily, because it robbed the people of their evening news fix. That the paper folded because the editor was outed as a homophobe seemed irrelevant to Loudon.)).

Loudon’s `journalism’ is interesting (and I use the term academically); because he rarely advances anything approaching an argument. Instead, he prefers to present his potted version of the `facts’ and it can be very easy to read the material in the `wrong’ way.

Take, for example, the article on the `Urewera 17′ (who are now up one member and being called the `Ruatoki 18′). Up until the final page and an half it would be easy to read the piece as a fairly understanding and almost sympathetic representation of the issues these people are supposed to represent.

For example, Loudon explains how some in the Tino Rangatiratanga movement have been inspired by or involved in the Zapatistas. The connection between those seeking the sovereignty denied to them by their colonial governments in Mexico and Aotearoa is laid out clearly. Because of the lack of some argumentative strand to Loudon’s writing the sense of there being a global community, of peoples interacting and co-operating, seeking to redress these not-so-ancient crimes, felt positive and empowering rather than indicative of a great, socialist evil lurking in the background (at least to this reader).

Of course, this isn’t what Loudon intends. I’m not his target audience; I don’t share his prejudices and fears and thus I’m not reading the piece with horror etched into my face. Loudon’s demographic (which, fortunately for us all, is small but, unfortunately, is also very vocal) share his prejudices and need nothing more than a list of `facts’ (because some of his details are contentious) to activate the Fear Module (TM) in their psychology. Loudon doesn’t need to advance an argument; his readers will jump to the same conclusion given a set of `salient’ points.

Loudon doesn’t condemn, then, the Urewera 17 openly, but he does try to do it by association. In the last section of the article, the only real meat in the pie ((I could here make some joke about Australia. Loudon wrote `that’ paper with Bernard Moran, an Australian, and given that Australian pies have so little meat compared to the New Zealand variety (it’s a regulation thing) it would be easy to make some pithy comment in that direction, comparing things to inferior pies. Instead I’ve written a non-pithy comment which has been relegated to the footnotes. Ho hum.)) he engages in some of his traditional investigative journalism; blog-reading ((I suppose I shouldn’t ping him on this, given what I do, but what the hell?)).

The man reads widely and during his `surveillance’ of the people involved with and around the Urewera 17 he came across a blog written by someone connected to one of the arrestees ((I’m deliberately being vague due to issues with a) privacy and b) the courts; if you need to know more I’m sure a library will have a copy of the relevant `Investigate.’ (Issue 91, August 2008))). The posts Loudon quotes are angry and inflammatory and because of their content Loudon tries to run an analogy between his expression of a extremist militant politic and the motivations and intentions of the `Urewera 17.’

Now, given the paucity of information (Loudon provides several quotes but we do not know just how indicative these posts are of the blogger’s general mindset) we could say that he had been having a series of bad days or that he might even be a militant (because, on both sides of the spectrum, left and right, there are people we can disapprove of. I’m certainly not in solidarity with all of my left-wing `associates’ (some would say I’m hardly in solidarity with them at all)) but Loudon moves from a claim of this person’s blog being “very revealing of the extremist mind-set of some Maori activists” ((p. 61)) (a claim that simply means ‘Some people do think this way’) to associating these sentiments with all anarchists ((p. 62)) (a claim that says `All such people think this way) ((Loudon would probably be horrified to find out that I know, very well, a Libertarian who is also an anarchist; according to Loudon’s logic this Libertarian would also be a suicide bomber and thus all Libertarians would be suicide bombers. And that’s what happens if you use slippery slope arguments.)). He uses this (perhaps unwitting) sleight of hand to then justify asking the leading question “Are [the blogger’s] view’s unique to himself, or are they more widespread amongst the maori [sic] radical community?” ((p. 62))

(The answer to which, for Loudon’s audience, is going to be a resounding ‘Yes.’)

We should not simply laugh off people who think like Loudon. Plenty of presumably sensible left-wingers (like Russell Brown for example) expressed their shock and horror at the alleged crimes of the `Urewera 17,’ buying right into the notion that the intentions and motivations of some of these people can be generalised to the group (Brown, at least, doesn’t tar all Socialalists as being Suicide Bombers; he simply tars all the arrestees with the same brush (see here). It is a worrying trend; people are buying into the notion that as the 17 were arrested by the police that they must represent some cabal of plotters prior to their being grouped together by the arrests (we must remember, the `Urewera 17′ is a media term not the name of a secret society). Now, of course, these people knew of each other if not knew each other, but it is not clear that they present an actual cabal of conspirators.

There will be more to say on this in the coming months.

Next time: Loudon and the Greens.