I hope that all readers have had a good festive season and are headed into a healthy, happy and productive New Year. 2019 was a relatively consistent and quiet year at KP, as befits a niche political blog. 39 posts this year, including three by Lew on the gun buy back (some the most informed commentary on the post 15/3 gun law reforms has come from Lew). Some months were slow, with just one post, while most months averaged between two and four posts, the high being seven in February (in other words, just over three posts per month). We averaged around 2500 page views per month and got a pretty steady flow of comments from regular and new readers, having now passed the 2,800 comment mark from over 930,000 page views.
Since I do most of the posting the topics reflect my interest in international relations, comparative politics and international security and intelligence. I did write about more domestic-focused subjects such as the NZDF, the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch terrorist attacks, the misogyny of the NZ Right, the implications of Rocket Lab’s military payloads, Simon Bridge’s silliness, Mark Taylor’s desire to return to NZ, Anne Marie Brady’s problems with the PRC, Huawei as a potential arm of PRC intelligence, the Christchurch attacks and backlash to it from rightists, the cloaking of hate speech in the mantle of free speech, and the decline of small-d democracy in NZ and elsewhere. I also celebrated the ten year anniversary of KP’s first post in January 2009.
As for foreign affairs, I wrote about the Venezuela crisis (twice), the US (and its relations with various places), Argentina (on the use of torture there) Hong Kong (protests as collective action), Israel (as a limited democracy), Iran (as a regional power) and Sri Lanka (terrorist attacks). I wrote about the global protest movement, coming resource wars, the fallacy of the so-called “proximity” argument, xenophobia and racism, legacy versus speculative investments, trade versus security (with regard to NZ-PRC-US relations), and the “post-truth” moment that we are living. Underprinning all of these posts was an orientation towards democratic theory, strategic analysis and comparative research methodology, as one would expect from someone with my training, background and interests.
Most of KP readers know the rules of engagement and respected them. A lot of the comments made by were thoughtful, well-grounded and informed, for which I am thankful. There were the usual cranks (hat tip to Paul Scott) but in the main things were kept pretty civil. I did get visited by a pro-PRC troll when I wrote about the PRC and Anne Marie Brady, and he is the fellow who (I will say likely just to be polite) tried to undermine my citizenship application by making false allegations about me to the Department of Internal Affairs. No worries for me, but potentially big worries for him since there are ways that even I can track people who write to this blog (that includes those who use so-called “masking” sites), and government agencies do not take kindly to having their resources wasted by false allegations made by people with dubious foreign connections themselves.
All in all it was a good year for KP. We shall see if it keeps rolling along. I have some health matters to attend to in 2020 that may take me out of circulation for a while and there is no one to pick up the slack. Assuming that all goes well on the health front I will potter along as I can, as there will be no shortage of topics to discuss.
One thing that I can guarantee, though, is that I will not engage in the type of intergenerational warfare (“OK Boomer”) and reactionary/woke nonsense (recently associated with some pathetic old white guys turning magazine and books upside down because they have a powerful woman’s face on them). In a world where refugees are dying in droves trying to reach safe haven, only to be caged upon arrival (be it in Samos or San Antonio), and where the gap between rich and poor widens while global temperatures rise, protests rage and ongoing wars of convenience and opportunity demonstrate the powerlessness of international norm enforcement, I have better things to do in a blogpost than write about petty trivialities.
Feliz Ano Nuevo and Happy New Year to all! See you next decade.
Thanks for your efforts over the years. I am a regular reader and find your columns to be informative and interesting.
Cheers Ken. All the best for a productive, healthy and happy New Year to you and yours.
” No worries for me, but potentially big worries for him since there are ways that even I can track people who write to this blog (that includes those who use so-called â€œmaskingâ€ sites), and government agencies do not take kindly to having their resources wasted by false allegations made by people with dubious foreign connections themselves.”
So would you like to see this person face some kind of legal sanctions or punitive action for what they did to you? WHich laws do you think they have violated? And would you be able to take them to court yourself?
I have no interest in pursuing anything with regards to the troll. However, he wasted govt resources making false claims about me, and from the conversation that I had with the special investigator, that has piqued Internal Affairs’s interest, especially since if it is the person that I suspect he has clear ties to the PRC. In fact, it has been suggested that he could be an embassy staffer whose job is to troll “anti-PRC” social media. I cannot confirm or deny that particular angle, but certainly DIA can.
I would be surprised if he was an embassy staffer – even in a large embassy like the PRCs, embassy staff are usually too thin on the ground to do this kind of low-level interference workm which requires no skillset beyond rudimentary fluency in English. Usually social media sock puppeting and Potemkin villaging is done via “contractors” with at least two or three cut outs between an official representative of the interested government . let alone an acredited representative.
But the thing is, when I worked at DIA, there were many instances where we felt that allegations made about citizenship applications were being made in bad faith, but we never opted to pursue them even when they involved very serious allegations (like rape or embezzling). In theory the DIA could bring suit under common law but it would be a very lengthy process and would require a lot of expensive legal counsel, and unfortunately the DIA just does not have the resources for this. A successful court case would have to prove not just that the allegations were incorrect but they were made with malicious intent, which is a high enough bar to clear without the context of a form of speech that is generally viewed as not just protected but desirable and actively solicited (e.g. public comment on citizenship applications).
Long story short I think, for better or worse, your troll will walk free, and any comments DIA staff made about taking a dim view of this were probably more along the lines of personal comment than announcing the departments intent to take legal action.
Like I said, I do really care what happens to the troll. And I agree with you that a direct PRC embassy connection is unlikely. But I will point out that in my dealings with the PRC embassy I discovered that its junior political officers are very well trained, speak fluent English (my main interlocutor had an American accent) and specialise from the time they are in foreign service school in the region or countries in which they are subsequently stationed (unlike the US foreign service, which believes that diplomats should be generalists at the beginning of their careers, then specialise as they move up the ranks).
Well, let’s hope I am wrong and the full force of the law is brought to bear on this guy intent on subverting New Zealand’s democracy by denying you your rightful citizenship.
I think some foreign services follow the early specialisation model, some the generalised one. MFAT and the Ozzie equivalent allow early specialisation, but the British Foreign Office, the Russian Diplomatic Corps and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs follow the same US model. I assume each approach has upsides and downsides, no opinion about which is superior, but still, it is intriguing.
I think the high quality of diplomatic staff at the Chinese embassy (and the consulates in Auckland and Christchurch) reflects the relatively high level of economic and cultural connection between NZ and the PRC (and to a lesser extent, the Sinosphere generally). I know this is something you are not generally keen on, but I guess it has minor benefits in terms of a high level of consular service for NZers and residents of NZ. Certainly I had nothing but a good experience with the PRC Consulate in CHristchurch who went significantly out of their way to help me (my Chinese employer, less so, but that is not the Consulate’s fault).
ON further thought I think it is not fair to expect the DIA to actively pursue the anti-democratic troll. I think NZ needs something parallel to Czechia’s Centre against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats, e.g. an agency that is actively funded, staffed and resourced to go after such “fake news” threats as a core part of its mission.
Really, every democracy should have such a group. The fact nZ doesn’t is just another example of NZ’s slow sleepwalking towards being a Chinese puppet dictatorship.