Terrorism or fearmongering?
October 16, 2007 10:25 PM   Subscribe

Tame Iti, Maori activist, is no stranger to controversy - with his full facial moko he has a face you won't soon forget. But is he a terrorist? Recently, the New Zealand Police force carried out a series of "raids" against a "training camp" in the north island, in the first use of the Terrorism Suppression Act, legislated in 2002. The act itself is not without it's critics but the country seems divided about the raids. Deluded extremists? Harmless Activist? or Real Threat? Some have claimed the raids are politically motivated, enacted by a police force with a declining public image. The whole case is racially loaded

The "culture of fear" that is so written about seems to have trickled down somewhat, but time will tell whether it stays with the NZ public. By one account the camps are "amateurish" and with the exception of Tame Iti the most significant charge seems to be possession of a firearm without a license.
The police, however, are certainly not helping matters - releasing information suggesting the group intended to start a "race war" and aimed to created an independent state through methods borrowed from the IRA, while keeping quiet on other details. Their press release here
Troublesome, to me, is that the police also conducted a "non-raid" of the homes of environmental activists simultaneously, most notably in Christchurch, over a thousand kilometres away.
I don't mean to start the thread with strong bent on it, but personally I find this worrying. New Zealand has had it's share of radicals, gun-wielding-forest-living cultists and so on, but the hype that this has reached in the media is unsettling.

Worth noting, of course, is the Tuhoe tribe, of which Tame Iti is a member, with unresolved/ignored disputes with the government, which are a significant sticking point. Given this, and the harsh treatment of Tame Iti in regards to the flag protest, was further "radicalization" inevitable? Does the government have a responsibility, not so much to prevent radical groups from acting violently, but instead to incorporate them into public discourse rather than disenfranchise, and thus alienate them and antagonize them?

Your thoughts?
posted by Dillonlikescookies (17 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
my thought: here's a cookie for dillon.

i'm completely unschooled on this, so i appreciate the links and thoughts. what a fascinating subject.
posted by CitizenD at 10:31 PM on October 16, 2007

My take on this is that it appears to be a hack job- while there may or may not have been a Maori independence plot involving weapons, I don't see how Aspaceinside, the Wildcat anarchists or the Save Happy Valley group were involved in this (all three were raided).
Check out the search warrant, specifying an sks rifle to be found at Aspaceinside, an Auckland based anarchist/pacifist group (WTF?).
Indymedia Aotearoa is a decent resource to hear the other side.
posted by scodger at 11:00 PM on October 16, 2007

Ah crap, indymedia aotearoa.
posted by scodger at 11:07 PM on October 16, 2007

Hey, I'd never heard of this guy, and I really appriciated your well-researched set of links. Thanks.
posted by serazin at 11:24 PM on October 16, 2007

The Save Happy Valley involvement is interesting; they were infiltrated by spies (well, students) acting on behalf of Solid Energy (at least according to Nicky Hagar, in the Sunday Star-Times earlier this year, not online). At the time, CEO Jack Elder wouldn't confirm that they were spying on SHV, but said if they were spying "it was "a lot more ethical" than Save Happy Valley's activities. "We act more ethically than the people who would bring about destruction to our business. "
posted by Infinite Jest at 11:27 PM on October 16, 2007

Tame Iti was always going to have more run-ins with the law, and it's best they happened before someone got shot. (Not saying which end of the gun he'd be on, you'll note).

His reputation is not universally high among Tuhoe, either. He's one guy and his mana doesn't run that far as far as this Pakeha observer can tell.

The police are between a rock and a hard place. They have people saying they want to kill other people, ordering up weapons (via an online auction site!), and running around practising. Should they wait until shooting breaks out?

(Derisive comment doing the internet rounds locally: chap has ordered XXXXL camo pants - fattest terrorist ever).

On the other hand, the places they raided in Wellington and other urban centres are where the usual rad anti-globalisation suspects hang out, and I have to suspect some settling of scores with people who really aren't a threat to anyone.

Other interesting things: our current Terrorism Suppression Act doesn't confer any extra power on the police, and there is an explicit exclusion of various forms of "lawful protest". There is an amendment Bill before Parliament that would remove that exclusion and make various other changes that reduce our civil rights. The thing is, that bill was set to pass with a large majority anyway. There's no political reason for these arrests now to drum up support - instead, it's more drawing attention to the new changes, and people like me are saying "look, the power we have are perfectly adequate."

There's a bunch of interesting local discussion (and speculation) here.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:32 AM on October 17, 2007

i have to wonder if the warrants were obtained under the firearms act and the terrorism suppression act - then was the act actually necessary?

i guess we'll find out more as things come to light. i agree that the police are "between a rock and a hard place" but there was no need to use this as an excuse to go intimidate unrelated activists.

all in all, i can't help but think if the government hadn't persistently ignore the Tuhoe tribe then this wouldn't have occurred - even given that this was an extremist element (god this sounds like iraq or something! so surreal) tame iti is a well respected man in many circle and I highly doubt he would be running around in the bush with a rifle if he wasn't mistreated by authority his entire life.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 1:36 AM on October 17, 2007

Tama Iti is a clown with a megaphone - but if he dearly wants to be a terrorist I suspect nobody would object too loudly if the police treated him like one. It's kinder, really. He gets a small amount of mana for being oppressed by the Te Man and nobody else has to listen to him for a while. Win win.

The annoying thing is that the papers* will be all over this for weeks, with some people making the claim that just because you tell all the people you know that you're a terrorist and really into race war and practice with guns out in the bush every weekend, you shouldn't get arrested by the police for some mysterious reason. Dude, that's their job! Sure, they know you're just a blowhard with a publicity fetish, but taking that kind of thing seriously is how they justify their existance.

Raiding Save Happy Valley et al, however? That's just typical kiwi police black/white mentality. "Oooh - hippies not conforming with the corporate mindshare. They're practically terrorists themselves. We must quickly put the fear of God into them to maintain the white lower-middle class status quo or we'll all be eating couscous by Wednesday!" You can tell there's some rock-solid thinking going on in the upper echelons of the NZPD. It's irritating because, to their credit, they often grasp the right end of the stick - but just keep on grabbing until they reach the wrong one.

*by which I mean NZ papers. Thankfully I currently live in a country with a plethora of actual newspapers that manage to report different news items each and every day. It's a revelation. Huzzah!
posted by Sparx at 4:01 AM on October 17, 2007

Should they wait until shooting breaks out?

Unfortunately yes, they should.

You guys DON'T want to end up like us... with every little township and county sporting their own state sanctioned small para-military called SWAT teams. It only makes the chance of abuse and the arms race with nut jobs worse.

There is a part of me that tends to want to over-romanticize guys like Tame Iti. There is something admirable about 'the mouse that roared' kind of thing.

This was a very good set of links. Thanks.
posted by tkchrist at 10:16 AM on October 17, 2007

Methinks your post would have been more interesting had you not introduced your clearly liberal view to it, but by saying that I reveal my clearly conservative angle. For this reason (and not for anything that may be revealed as the truth of the situation) this is set to be a devisive issue in Godzone.
posted by seriocomic at 12:05 PM on October 17, 2007

This is more depressing than losing to France in the quarter final of the world cup.

Interesting discussion at Public Address eh Stephen, this I gotta see...
posted by Samuel Farrow at 12:30 PM on October 17, 2007

One thing about successful terrorists, they’re really distinctive in their appearance and really high profile.

Here’s the thing - terrorists kill innocent people, typically en masse, in a spectacular manner designed to foster fear within a population such that they pressure their government to change its policies to further the terrorists goals. They are willing to and have used fire, explosives, highjacked airplanes, firearms, disease, and radiation to maim and kill. They ruthlessly murder innocent men, women and children to cause fear.

This guy, apparently, has a megaphone, uses harsh language, spits on occasion, and pulls his pants down.

What diffused the neo-nazis in Illinois was allowing them to have their say. Once someone is allowed onto the public stage, their faults are easily exposed (e.g. pedophilia in the case of Frank Collin). It was when that organization (or an offshoot) went underground that they became....well, not dangerous really, they robbed some adult bookstores and killed a talk show host - but they did bomb some synogoges and start a counterfeiting ring which was trouble. Point being, once they lost their public voice they resorted to violent methods.
This is pretty much the typical course of things.

The only connection here is the cult of personality thing. Robert Mathews was a charismatic individual, this guy is charismatic. That’s about it, although Tame Iti seems to have an actual beef. And he doesn’t seem like he’s, y’know, a sick polygamist murderer.

The term “terrorist” has been so watered down it’s applied to people who chew gum too loudly.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:46 PM on October 17, 2007

Interesting to see that you're in Taupo, seriocomic.

I have just learned that some friends of mine near Taupo had their house raided yesterday, by cops with dogs, and all their computer equipment seized. (Imagine the inconvenience of that for a moment).

They are organic vegetable growers. Their major qualifications for being a threat to the public safety: they are active environmentalists, and one of them has a Tuhoe boyfriend with whanau in Ruatoki. (I've met him and in my amateur assessment is no more dangerous than I am).

While I would like to believe that the police are merely acting in the best interests of the public, I am rapidly losing confidence in that explanation.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:00 PM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also, wearing my liberal Jewbag hat, the local neonazis have been having "training" sessions in the bush for yonks, they vandalise our property and intimidate in real life and offline, but they never get worse than the odd firearms conviction. As soon as a Maori waves a gun around - terrorism!
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:03 PM on October 17, 2007 [3 favorites]

As soon as a Maori waves a gun around - terrorism!

Wait till it's a gay Maori. The cops may end up nuking the entire country. Just to be safe.
posted by tkchrist at 3:18 PM on October 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Dillon: I'd add tags for maori and tuhoe.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:22 PM on October 17, 2007

gotcha. sorry about the liberal bent, but i'm reacting to the bent I see depicted in the media. I've yet to hear an opinion better than "sadly necessary" - the public is divided but few people consider him a serious threat to public safety. fool with a megaphone, maybe. I have friends involved with the happy valley movement, though, and hearing about police using this as an excuse to go intimidate them, even though they are completely unrelated, can't help but set me off in a negative tone. but anyway.

considering the police are keeping the details to themselves (obviously) we can't speculate much about it with any degree of certainty, but the whole situation just seems sad. it wouldn't have been difficult for the government to involve the tuhoe tribe, sort out giving them their land back, and be able to forget about it. When people have a legitimate gripe with the government, and they are persistently ignored, bad things are bound to happen sooner or later - other than that, it's just a story of New Zealand government wanting to play "spot the terrorist" too.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 5:09 PM on October 17, 2007

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