Iti and Bomber: response to “The Big Dog”

Rather than further sidetrack the discussion about police and firearms at The Dim Post, quick answers here to inquiries there by “The Big Dog” as to my views on two topics:

Lew, I’d be interested to know what you think of Tame Iti?

Tame Iti is a convenient symbol of all that whitey wants to fear. Since the events of October 2007 he’s been dressed up as our very own Colonel Kurtz.

Likewise Hone Harawira to an extent; Danyl’s brilliant commentary on this is here. The reality is — to put it very mildly — somewhat different. This isn’t to say that either are utterly blameless, or that this depiction is entirely unwanted; only that their notoriety is rather greater than is really deserved.

Lew, What did you think of Bomber Bradbury’s take?

(Assuming Bomber’s take on police and firearms here.) Bomber distrusts and fears the police, and he has his reasons for doing so. In that context the response is not unreasonable or unusual. While I agree with a lot of what he says in principle, I essentially see police as part of a healthy civil society, not as its enemy, so I ascribe those concerns somewhat less weight. So where Bomber insists on hard restrictions on police powers, I am more content with soft restrictions and strong civilian oversight. It’s an open question as to whether our present oversight is sufficient, though.

Edit: TBD was actually asking for my views on Bomber’s response to the October 2007 Urewera Terra raids. I’ve answered in the comments below.


29 thoughts on “Iti and Bomber: response to “The Big Dog”

  1. I should add Lew, that I am genuinely interested in your views on all this. I am a Maori Labour Party voter, but I agree with many of your postings, and find most of the others well-argued. You make a good contribution to important Maori issues which the media generally does a poor job of covering.

  2. Oh, sorry — misunderstood.

    Yes, I mostly agree with Bomber in this case. In a civil, democratic society where meaningful alternatives are not only widely available but expressly protected, resort to arms destroys the legitimacy of protest. If the Urewera 17 are found to have actually been involved in any such action against the state, then by all means nail ’em to the wall. But I don’t believe it’s so, and more to the point the police have singularly failed to demonstrate thay they’re anything other than misguided idealistic fools drunk on their own bravado. That’s not a crime.

    Part of my justification for this belief is personal experience. A large and remote block of Māori land in the Taranaki to which my family has a long association was also on the list of places the Police were investigating. They reckoned that terrorist training camps had been operating there for decades. By October 2007 they had failed to gain the necessary warrants to undertake an operation in connection with this block of land (although they were apparently close), so none ever took place. That they had failed is not surprising, since in fact the place is just a big block of mostly-regenerating bush used occasionally by hunters and part-leased for grazing. Since a bid to farm it was abandoned in the 1980s, the most organised antisocial elements using the land were local gangs growing dope there, as they do in most remote areas of bush in the country. But even they gave it up years ago. The greatest threat to the public order, peace and tranquility of NZ out there at present are (mostly Pākehā) weekend-warriors who go in with a box of ammo and a bottle of whiskey each to bomb up goats.

    So unless the intelligence on the other areas raided was orders of magnitude better than in this case (and given that half the police case was laughed off before they could even lay charges I have no basis to assume this was so) then there’s no cause for concern whatsoever. If those arrested for firearms offences were in possession of firearms without the necessary licenses, then charge them on that basis, and fair enough. But that’s not what’s at issue here.

    But regardless of the merits of the police case, there was no justification for the extent of the actions taken in Ruatoki and the indignities to which innocent civilians — old women and children included — were subjected (and to a lesser extent the actions taken in other areas). This was simply a vulgar display of police power.


  3. Thanks for the further response Lew, appreciate it.
    Your Taranaki argument is cogent. (The TSA is poorly drafted legislation, though that fact lends itself to many interpretations.)
    In the interests of full disclosure I should note that though one of my four solid contacts with more information than is in the blogosphere thinks the police stuffed up, I remain unconvinced by his overall argument. He was more convicing arguing some officers behaved in a vulgar way that understandably pissed off Tuhoe who didn’t have anything to do with Tame’s tragic self-indulgence.

  4. Here’s Moana Jackson take. Note: he was (is?) legal counsel for some of the accused.

    “Conclusion –

    Regardless of whether any substantive evidence of terrorism is uncovered the operation has created division and unnecessary upset for hundreds of ordinary people.”

  5. (Assuming Bomber’s take on police and firearms here.) Bomber distrusts and fears the police, and he has his reasons for doing so.

    I just wish he could explain to us why, in a logical and rational manner.
    I would ask him, and have asked him, but he does not respond, just treats anyone who questions him as a right-wing bigot.

  6. Bomber’s not really a credible authority on the policy since he lack the slightest impartiality and sees them all as gang rapists and thugs.

    Since he’s supposedly been arrested during his activist period 20 years ago when he helped occupy Auckland Uni registry building I can’t help wondering if the police were a bit heavy handed with him in the cells and maybe was even brutalized by them. It could explain how he fears and loathes them.

    Tame Iti is a convenient symbol of all that whitey wants to fear. Since the events of October 2007 he’s been dressed up as our very own Colonel Kurtz.

    I’ve seen Iti and he’s shorter than me and I’m pretty fucking short. If most of NZ actually saw him in the flesh I don’t think they would fear him at all.

    However I’ve heard he has stage presence.

  7. I am reluctant to join this conversation because the Urewera affair has been litigated on these pages before. But since I have written at some length about “Operation 8” let me just state that I believe that Bomber and another well-known Left writer too easily accepted the original Police version of events and too quickly condemned the Urewera 16 (now 18). The latter may be a collection of zealots, nutters and poseurs, but what they were doing, while alarming to champions of peaceful dissent, came no where close to an armed conspiracy against the state or individuals. Remember: talk, including crazy talk is cheap, and playing at paramilitary is not the same as the real thing. As it turns out, the defendants are facing mostly firearms charges and there is a distinct possibility that several will be found innocent of them as well (there is a conspiracy charge brought a year after the fact against three individuals but it is arguable that it will stand up to scrutiny in a courtroom).

    For what it is worth, my thoughts in the immediate aftermath of the raids are found in this Scoop trilogy:;; and

  8. Pablo, much as I like your writing, I think you’re overly academic on this one.
    I am very hardline on gun control; this isn’t freedom of speech we are talking about.
    I can’t think of any country in the world that would do nothing about illegal paramilitary training, whether the crazy talk by actual crazy people with guns was actually gonna amount to anything. I’m not just relying on the police, I have stellar contacts in justice and Tuhoe also.

  9. TBD, I think what’s at issue is whether there was actually any “illegal paramilitary training” or anything remotely like it going on.


  10. TBD: One thing that seems odd (and unfair) to me is that the Police have not been so zealous in disrupting rightwing racist/skinhead/nationalist types from engaging in exactly the same activities, even though they are well aware of them. Perhaps that could be because the cops consider white supremicists to be buffoons and the Urewera crowd to be dangerous, but if the latter is the case they have yet to state why, exactly, that is so (again, I went over this ground in the Scoop trilogy but the bottom line is that they have presented little more, if anything, than the random assorted statements of a handful of individuals (seemingly intoxicated) talking about a variety of things that do not come close to forming a coherent plot against anyone or anything. The illegal firearms purchases and handling of firearms by unlicensed individuals, while criminal, does not amount to a terrorist conspiracy). Anyway, if your sources are correct then the Crown should be able to win easily in Court.

    As for the “no other country would allow this” remark. In the US paramilitary activity of various types occurs all of the time, and depending on the gun laws in a given state, that paramilitary activity involves military-style weaponry. Sometimes this occurs with the at least tacit approval of local authorities. As examples of places where the phenomenon is well developed, check out news on Arizona, Idaho or Montana militias (Arizona militias are in the news because of their activities in monitoring the border for undocumented migrants).

  11. Lew,
    Depends how paramilitary activity is defined, I guess.

    As you know, most of the evidence will never make a courtroom because of the very poor drafting of the TSA, under which it was obtained.

    Your point about the appalling American exceptionalism is salutary, but I’m not sure what you’re trying to say.

    I’m very hardline on gun control, and have been so since well before Michael Moore made Bowling for Columbine. Occassionally these NRA idiots try a Tim McVeigh or Washington sniper. Succeeding just once is too often, and not a risk any government of basic comptency or humanity should countenance.

  12. TBD, well, no meaningful definition of “paramilitary activity” includes “running around in the bush complaining about how much the government sucks”, armed or otherwise. If it did we’d have to lock up every hunter in the country, and half of the DOC rangers.

    I agree with you about the need for our society’s revolutionary zeal to remain nonviolent. But hypervigilance by the government just adds fuel to the fire, giving perceived justification to those who believe the persecution mythologies commonplace to paramilitaries and other wannabes. Despite the utter absence of any comparable precedent here, these sorts of people think our own Ruby Ridge could happen any day now, and it would be a damfoolish government and police force who proved them right. Tolerant indulgence within firm boundaries is a pretty appropriate official enforcement posture in a country like ours with no history of armed internal confict in the past century.

    Aside from which as Pablo says, when you choose to chase shadows, you have to choose which shadows to chase. Those decisions are inseparable from the political realities of the day. Why Tame Iti and a bunch of small-time itinerant anarchists; why not Kyle Chapman and his lot, or (say) the Libertarianz?


  13. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I’m very hardline on gun control. I’d like to see the cops go a bit harder on the gangs in this regard.

    I don’t know anything about what the National Front get up to, but they should be under tight surveillance, if they’re aren’t already.

    Whale Oil’s views on the mentally ills’ right to bear arms views are appalling.
    As I recall, even PC supported the Urewera raids.

  14. Jan Molenaar is the most obvious recent example, but there are many others.

  15. Jan Molenaar is an example of what? Certainly not any risk of any sort of plot against the state, and it’s puzzling that you’d conflate the two issues.

    Molenaar is most clearly an example of what happens when the police fail to adequately enforce the existing firearms laws. That was not a problem in the case of Tame Iti; if anything, police have been overzealous in their enforcement of the Arms Act — prosecuting him for shooting a flag because of a technicality in the definition of “direct supervision”, and then the trumping-up of the Urewera Terra charges.

    (In case you missed it, I posted on the topic of gun control in the NZ context recently.)


  16. Sorry about the lack of clarity re Molenaar (making comments in my free sixty seconds between earning dosh). I’d like to see the cops, supported by the judiciary etc, go a bit harder on gun control to prevent such cases, and disarm the gangs.

    As I understand it, Tame has been banned from the marae where he shot the flag, or at least banned from bearing arms there.

    My tupuna fought bravely under that flag for the Maori Battalion. I’m not sure how that self-indulgent parody advanced tino rangatiratanga, or how shooting a flag is tikanga Tuhoe. If Tame wants to shoot flags, he should do it at his home, not a public place, where tamariki are.

  17. Lew, while we’re on the topics of flags, anywhere in Wellington where one can buy sharp United Tribes numbers?

  18. Just to clarify in case I upset Pablo,

    I don’t know anything about what the National Front get up to, but they should be under tight surveillance, if they’re aren’t already.

    by tight surveillance i mean have an eye kept on if necessary, not Stasi style monitoring.

  19. No worries TBD. I tend to favour your approach to gun laws given my exposure to both US and NZ variants. But in countries with strong hunting traditions and a history of favouring individual freedoms over state controls, it will always be a tough policy debate as to which side of the ledger the laws need to come down on. Lew’s referenced post on guns, to which I added my own 2 cents worth, seems to me to strike a good balance between the rights of individuals and the collective good.

    It may not stop militants or criminals from arming themselves, but that is where effective and even-handed law enforcement comes in.

    And that, it seems to me, was not what happened in Operation 8 given the presence of other, more openly violent paramilitary groups doing exactly the same sort of things as the Urewera 18 are accused of doing. Why them and not the others? Did political criteria intrude on what should have been a straight forward police investigation of suspected criminal activity that fell short of “terrorism” (which is a term that has now been stretched to the point that it means “anyone doing anything that the government does not like”)? As has been argued in previous threads at great lengths, I suspect so but others think not. Either way, the violent Right seems to get a pass on behaviour that when practiced by the Left is considered seditious and terroristic, and strict gun control alone is not going to address the ideological and enforcement reasons why that is the case.

  20. TBD, I’m not sure about him being banned, but I know he was sternly censured for those actions, by the mana whenua as well as by the Crown.

    I disagree about the question of whether it is or ought to be considered tikanga, though — that’s for them to decide, and in court fairly plausible arguments were made that it was (references made to the volley salutes discharged at Western ceremonies, for example). Not to say that it’s appropriate behaviour in general, and certainly not to say it wasn’t a stunt — as good a piece of political theatre as we’ve seen for a long while.

    Shooting the flag (or any flag) I can’t get angry about. It’s a testament to its value as a political symbol; a backhanded compliment. And the NZ flag is hardly an unambivalent symbol; of course there are those who fought and died for it, but it also represents a history of pain, and a present state of considerable ignorance of that history among many. So it is with all flags; this about Old Glory:

    The red is for blood that we shed, as a people
    The blue is for the sad-ass songs
    We be singin in church while the white man’s heaven is the black man’s hell
    The stars what we saw when our ass got beat
    Stripes are for the whip marks on our backs
    White is for the obvious
    Ain’t no black in that flag
    Public Enemy

    You can find variations on this for practically every flag in the world. That’s symbolic politics.

    As for a United Tribes flag — looks like Flagmakers down in Thorndon do one.


  21. Good response Lew.
    That flag has undoubtedly inflicted some terrible things on my people- even Don Brash would have to admit that.
    A man’s home is his castle, so I am very happy for Tame to do whatever he wants there.
    I am aware of a couple of United Tribes waving marae in Ngapuhiland that have banned waipiro (alcohol) as well as guns. I hope more mana whenua will adopt this tikanga.

  22. OK, have presumed this thread’s closed. Fair call.
    Lew, look forward to your mid-term report card for the “Maori Party” soon, particularly given their full-on assault this week on Maori workers and whanau.

  23. No, not closed — I’ve just been otherwise occupied for a few days, and out of the news loop.

    I haven’t heard much Dead Prez, not enough to comment. But I don’t have very much time for the “limousine critique” of the māori party (or any other political movement, for that matter), nor for those who habitually beg the question of just what are “Māori interests”. No remarks at this stage on their alleged “assault”, except to observe that every time they’ve refused to march in lock-step with Labour, someone or other on the left is accusing them of being kupapa, and it’s frankly getting a bit tiresome. This is not to say that there’s no merit to the allegations; only that by its indiscriminate application it’s become awfully diluted. I’ve argued this at very great length here and in plenty of other forums, so I won’t repeat myself now.


  24. Lew, I prefer Davis and Horomia over the Beemer duo on their respective records/merits, so we’re gonna agree to disagree a bit. The Sanjay Law, like 3 Strikes, is gonna majorly sock all whanau in the puku. Like the ETS, I struggle to see how it works as tikanga. As one of the leading commentators on Maori issues, it’s something you should address when you get the chance. I agree the notion that all Maori should support Labour all the time is condescending/stupid, just as is the notion that the Maori Party speaks for all Maori.

  25. Davis doesn’t have a record in parliament (though he has a good one outside it). Horomia gave us the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

    I agree that the extension of the trial period isn’t something the māori party ought to support, and will be happy to criticise them when they do. Just as I criticised them for their support of the ETS, and other topics (like the recent FSA capitulation, though noting that the blame for this ought to lie with the Iwi Leadership Group). But like I say, I haven’t looked at it as yet.


  26. Davis’s blogs suggest he has great potential.
    Re Parekura, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We moderates are supposed to be realists. I agree that law needed revision-although Ngati Porou were happy with what they got out of it-but it also delivered us from the pyschotic Don Brash.

    Re Coalition semantics, enough with the angels dancing on pinheads! From what I hear from Ngapuhiland (haven’t had the chance to go there in a while), many of my people have had a gutsful of all the MP’s empty rhetoric, as Danyl incisively put to bed here:

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