Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Have taggers joined the conspiracy?

The Bombay Hills rise only a few hundred metres, but they figure prominently in the consciousness of New Zealanders. For Auckland chauvinists and Auckland-haters alike, the Hills represent the southern border of New Zealand's largest city, and the beginning of that amorphous yet fiercely parochial region known as 'the Heartland'. My father, who has long been an egregious Auckland chauvinist, despite or because of the fact that his property sits almost at the foot of the northern side of the Bombays, likes to describe the hills as 'our wall against the barbarians'. Whenever Skyler and I stop by my parents' place on one of our journeys south, my father gestures towards the low slopes in the distance, with their lumpy lifestyle blocks, heavily mortgaged faux-mansions, and fragments of fenced-off bush, and urges us to be "careful" on "the other side".

Just north of the petrol station and Autobahn cafe which mark the highest point in the southern motorway's gentle ascent of the Bombays, several volcanic rocks of varying sizes sit near the traffic, protected by a bank and by one of those fences of gnarled and lichenized wood which still subdivide much of New Zealand's countryside.

In the Bombay Hills and in the nearby Drury Hills volcanic rocks are a less than remarkable sight. Several local volcanoes shot rocks into the air for tens of thousands of years, before being decommissioned by erosion. There must have been quite a fireworks display for the Haast eagle and the huia to behold.

Today the hills on Auckland's southern border are frequently raided by amateur landscape gardeners. I remember being forced to help my father haul a few of them into the boot and back seat of our car, and then to unload them again at the bottom of our yard, where they were supposed to provide some companionship to a few struggling shrubs. Few of the motorists who pass the rocks near the Bombay Hills service station would give the objects a second look. They are not even particularly large, by local standards.

For a pseudo-scholar who has been an occasional subject of this blog, though, the handful of rocks on the wrong side of that scruffy fence are the 'Bombay Obelisk', the southernmost component of an incredibly intricate network of monuments established millenia ago by a lost civilisation of superhuman white people. In his self-published book Ancient Celtic New Zealand and at the website of the same name, self-proclaimed 'astro-archaeologist' Martin Doutre provides numerous rather inscrutable diagrams in an effort to show how a series of sets of stones at various Auckland locations, from Silverdale in the north to Maungawhau and One Tree Hill on the isthmus to the Bombays in the south, were all part of the network, which has itself has parrallels in other regions of the country. According to Doutre, the ancient super-Celts used the 'Bombay Obelisk' and similar constructions to make astronomical observations and to survey their lands. (Not all of the piles of stones on our hills are the remains of observatories, though: according to Doutre, some of them are the ruins of ancient storehouses raised by the super-Celts.)
On one of the many strange pages of his website, Doutre explains that it was an 'English antiquarian' named Stuart Mason who first noticed the significance of the 'obelisk'. Doutre assures us that the obelisk has since been solemnly inspected and 'tested' by the extravagantly-bearded 'engineer/Druid' Barry Taylor.

In an admirably patient examination of Doutre's 'astro-archaeology' published on the New Zealand Skeptics website, David Riddell finds no evidence that the 'observatories' discussed so excitedly in Ancient Celtic New Zealand are any more than chance collections of stones. Riddell is puzzled by the 'geomancer's mile', the unit of measurement which Doutre uses to connect the sites he has 'discovered' across Auckland and New Zealand:

...how well recognised is this unit, the Geomancer's mile? A quick Google search turned up precisely two pages which use the term -- both of them on the Celtic New Zealand site. Yahoo! did slightly better, locating another site, www.gnostics.com, which uses the term...

Besides finding Doutre's surveying skills wanting and his mathematics kooky, Riddell is struck by certain basic implausibilities in the tale of ancient Celtic New Zealand:

Perhaps the biggest problem with the Celtic New Zealand scenario is that so much alleged evidence for it is tied up with the supposed surveying network. Apart from this, the "pre-Celts" seem to have left little trace of themselves. It's as if our entire civilisation had vanished and left nothing but trig stations, survey pegs, the Linz offices, and a few astronomical observatories. If there really had been a vibrant, mathematically sophisticated population living here for 4000 years, there would be more evidence of their former presence. And would they have been so easily vanquished by a few boatloads of Maori?

Unable to find any empirical basis for Doutre's claims, Riddell suggests that they might have their origins in politics rather than in scholarship:

The Celtic New Zealand home page asserts: "Politics and the agenda's [sic] of racial groupings have no place here. We simply wish to uncover the truth as it relates to the distant past and in doing so know better the land which is our home in the present." Yet the first four items on their Articles page are links to the Treaty of Waitangi site, to an item on an alternative early draft of the Treaty, an account of "Waitangi Tribunal and Government terrorism against a NZ farming family" -- the Titfords of Maunganui Bluff, and a link to the One New Zealand Foundation website. There most definitely does appear to be an agenda here...

Regular readers of this blog will know that Riddell's fears about Doutre's political agenda are not misplaced. Along with his friends and fellow pseudo-historians Noel Hilliam and Kerry Bolton, Doutre has had a range of associations with the racist far right of New Zealand politics. He has had a particularly close association with the One New Zealand Foundation, the Northland-based outfit which campaigns for scrapping of the Treaty of Waitangi and an end to state funding for the Maori language. Doutre believes that if his version of New Zealand history were accepted as fact, then political 'reforms' like these would have to be implemented.

Doutre also looks forward to the 'return' of taonga like the famous carvings in the Maori court of the Auckland War Memorial Museum to whites. He believes that ancient Celts, not Maori, invented the hei tiki and built great waka. For reasons which are not hard to understand, Doutre's views are highly unpopular with Maori.

Like his hero the neo-Nazi pseudo-historian David Irving, Doutre claims to be the victim of a campaign by a sinister global conspiracy to distort the past and destroy historical evidence. In some of the more feverish messages he has left on the internet, Doutre has talked of a conspiracy encompassing Kiwi academics, 'radical' Maori, the Department of Conversation, and the United Nations, and complained that teams of ruthless men have been roaming the Kiwi countryside blowing up sites and objects associated with his ancient super-Celts.

Last year Doutre managed to con the New Zealand Herald into reporting his opposition to the destruction of a couple of boulders at Silverdale which were supposedly part of Auckland's network of ancient observatories. Apparently the transport bureaucrats who were pushing a new stretch of motorway through the spot where the boulders sat were part of the anti-Celtic conspiracy.

Now it seems that taggers have joined the campaign against Doutre and the ancient white tangata whenua of New Zealand. When Skyler and I were venturing over the Bombays into the realm of the barbarians last weekend we noticed that the poor old 'Bombay Obelisk' has been covered in graffiti. I'm not sure whether I approve of the tagging of Doutre's beloved rocks. Call me old-fashioned if you like, but I prefer graffiti which says something - graffiti which calls on the government to resign, or calls the police the world's biggest gang, or memorialises Tupac Shakur or Ian Curtis - to the self-referentiality of tagging. I am rather amused, though, by the idea of Martin Doutre raging against another attack on a sacred relic of the ancient super-Celts, and I look forward to seeing him trying to work a couple of teenagers with spray cans into his claims about a global anti-white conspiracy.

Footnote: in case anyone claims that Doutre and the other anti-Maori pseudo-scholars have become so ridiculous that they are now ipso facto politically irrelevant, I should note their apparent links to the Coastal Coalition, an outfit which has been attracting the odd news headline lately, and the endorsement of their views by Muriel Newman, the Coastal Coalition spokesperson, former ACT MP, and wannabe antipodean Sarah Palin.

14 Comments:

Anonymous Jono said...

Scott, be honest now. Was it you who stole Noel Hilliam's conservation bath from next to the Dargaville Museum last week? Did Edward help?

When will the madness end???

And yes, I would love to hear about what you have seen on 'Eua over a beer. I have made half a dozen flying visits to Auckland over the last couple of months but next year I will be done a bit more for work.

9:55 am  
Blogger AHD said...

Careful: the ancient super-Celts are right now calling upon the stars to reap revenge upon this attack to their mighty yet completely absent civilization.

Seriously, though, I have to give you and the skeptics credit for being able to engage with this type of stupidity, and so patiently too. Keep up the good fight!

10:55 am  
Blogger maps said...

Hi AHD,

nuttiness on right-wing fringe sites I can tolerate with a certain degree of equanimity. Nuttiness on sites that are supposed to serve the left is another matter. Over the past few days I've been sending some ill-tempered e mails to Ryan Bodman of the Aotearoa indymedia site over the way that place is over-run with weirdos whose idea of class struggle is blowing up brothels and letting the 'docile masses' starve until they suddenly see the light of some sort of anarcho-weirdo-primitivist-rasta culture. Depressing stuff.

I've already blogged about the demented Sara Watson, who also advocates the blowing up of sex workers under the name 'Black Tulip' on indymedia, but the comments in this new thread are almost as bad as hers:
http://www.indymedia.org.nz/article/79187/protests-against-transpacific-partnershi

I didn't look at indymedia for a long time, but got guided back there recently by something about Tonga. The place has gone even further downhill.

I wonder what you, as someone on the left who recently set up a group site, and others here think should be done about the mess at indymedia. Part of me thinks I should go back to ignoring the place, but another part of me thinks that the nonsense there could have harmful effects, particularly as some of the people who post it try to associate themselves with legitimate organisations of the left. Sara/ Tulip, for instance, suggested that Unite union might come to a meeting to help organise the bombing of brothels and the assasination of defence personnel on the streets of New Zealand. I'm a Unite member, and I don't fancy getting my door knocked down in the middle of the night because of Sara's foam-flecked fantasies.

11:12 am  
Anonymous alison said...

Why is Sarah/Tulip against the sex workers & not the folks who take advantage of their services? Bit of a double standard there!
Srsly, I didn't realise there were really people who are prepared to advocate that sort of violence against their fellow citizens; alas! my eyes are now opened to that one :(

12:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The logical conclusion is that these people at indymedia are agent provocateurs trying to give the left a bad name..

And indymedia's 'editors' (what a joke!) are useful idiots.

1:09 pm  
Anonymous Edward said...

Indymedia sounds rather depressing. Perhaps the last anon is correct? Violent idiots are a dime a dozen on the web though unfortunately.

By the by, speaking of super-Celts, since the last Doutre article in the Herald discussing the Celt-boulders in Silverdale, I've discovered two more in a new subdivision around the corner! They were buried a meter or so beneath the modern ground level and were exposed during building platform excavations. They were in undisturbed natural base clays which the Celts must have lovingly wrapped around them. I've discovered many such concretion boulders in the past, all of which must 'obviously' have been rolled up the hill and buried under a meter or more of clay by super-Celts.

3:23 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Ha! Good find! Did you get photos of them?

4:14 pm  
Anonymous Edward said...

I think I do actually, though unfortunately the P.C. brigade must have beat me to it and chiseled off all of the Celtic celestial engravings.

6:33 pm  
Blogger AHD said...

Hi Maps,

To be honest, I ignore Indymedia. I have limited patience for stupidity on either the left or the right fringe.

Of course it's more frustrating when it comes from our own side, because we--well me at least--have fantasies that speakers from the left lend critical support to the breaking down of systems of domination/privilege. There are nutties around who would rather see Iraqis die because it'll bring forward the revolution, or as you say, would rather that people starve so more people gain a political consciousness.

I am much too jaded to seriously believe that polite, rational argument will reconstruct crazies of the sort you identify. But there are serious risks in ignoring them completely: allowing them to link themselves in any way with Unite! or EPMU or any other left organization cannot be a good thing.

I normally use a filtering mechanism. If it's just garden variety stupidity, I ignore it put my energy elsewhere. If it's really dangerous and is gaining followers, then I'll intervene.

I would like to think I pick my battles -- but perhaps, as has happened with my blog over the last couple of days, I haven't chosen them wisely enough.

10:44 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

A friend of mine is in the skeptics society. He is great lover of science and has ability in that area but he enjoys the company of this really cranky (but not "bad" as a person) religious fanatic so he can argue with him. The two have a great time! The skeptics would have no place in believing world!!

Of course in philosophy there are different definitions of Skepticism; so the above reference to no place in a "believing world" is rather contradictory. Or can be if not carefully defined.

1:27 am  
Blogger Richard said...

"Geomancy" is defined in my Shorter Oxford (which is still a large two volume mother)as:

'The art of divination by means of lines and figures, formed orig. by throwing earth on some surface, and later by jotting down on paper dots at random. Hence Geomancer one who practices...g'

It derives via Greek and Latin to
French and is from Middle English.

1:43 am  
Blogger Richard said...

The tagging is quite good - pity you cant enlist or employ (!) a swag of professional fuck you taggers to go into a whole scale subversive tagging war against such as Doutre. An ideological war. A kind of N.Z. Cultural Revolution. (Pace Herb).

2:01 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Block the openings

Shut the doors.

Blunt the sharpness

Untangle the knots

Soften the glare.

10:56 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi I am Sarah Watson. I did not post any comment that said 'I want to blow up' someone or something.

Unless you remove the comments where you have defamed me, I will take neccessary action.

Thank you.

12:38 pm  

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