Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Paranoia in Dargy, as Noel's mates complain of 'moles'


[Note: as Timespanner has pointed out, the editorial which this post discusses was produced by John McDonald, editor of a publication called Dargaville On-line, and not by Dargaville News, as the post claimed. My apologies for this misunderstanding, which was aided by the fact that McDonald's editorial defends the Dargaville News, by the way that it appears on a site where Dargaville News articles are often reproduced, and by the fact that it is not credited to McDonald. I think the points in my post stand, even if some of them should have been aimed directly at the editor of Dargaville On-line.]

I've spent most of the past few weeks in Tonga and in that curious region known as Smithyland, so I've only just spotted a statement which appeared last month in response to criticisms this blog had made of the Dargaville News.

I made a post to this blog on the 11th of November to criticise an article which Dargaville News journalist Rose Stirling had just published about the long-time pseudo-historian and anti-Maori activist Noel Hilliam. Stirling's article presented Hilliam as a distinguished scholar of New Zealand's past, and announced that he was about to publish a book which would include evidence that ancient Greeks, and not the Polynesian ancestors of the Maori, were the first settlers of New Zealand. Stirling explained that Hilliam was 'speaking out' about his incredible discoveries because he was tired of the 'politically correct crap' which supposedly impedes the study of New Zealand's past.

As I noted in my response to Stirling's article, Noel Hilliam is an untrained crank with connections to extreme right-wing organisations who has been peddling all sorts of fanciful claims about New Zealand's past for decades. Hilliam may now have decided that Greeks got to New Zealand first, but he has previously awarded that honour to Incas, Celts, and a New Age cult whose members claim to be the descendants of extra-terrestrials. Hilliam's habit of breaking into and looting Maori burial caves in the north Kaipara has been condemned by Te Uri o Hau, the tangata whenua of the region. Back in 2007 Hilliam's unsubstantiated claim to have discovered a Nazi submarine off the Northland coast made him into a figure of ridicule, and earlier this year he made a fool of himself by falsely claiming to have received the prestigous Senior New Zealander of the Year Award.

My post argued that Rose Stirling's article showed a lack of basic journalistic ethics. Stirling wrongly presented Hilliam as some sort of authority on history, and she made no effort to balance wild stories about ancient Greeks arriving on these shores with the opinion of one of the many qualified, widely-published archaeologists or historians who have studied New Zealand's distant history.

Rose Stirling left a comment on this blog in reply to my criticism of her article. She argued that she was simply being 'open-minded' when she talked to Hilliam, and that it was unfair to criticise her article for a lack of background research and balance. I responded to Stirling's defence of her article with a blog post which argued that an open mind and an empty mind were two different things.

A large number of comments were made under my criticisms of Rose Stirling and Dargaville News. A few of these comments were anonymous, but most were signed. Almost all of the comments were hostile to Stirling and her employer, and many of them came from people with a professional interest in New Zealand history and its public presentation.
On the 19th of last month, in response to the discussions on this blog, the Dargaville website carried a rather paranoid statement called 'Now Lets [sic] Be Fair!'. The statement's author begins by placing a spelling mistake in his title, and then proceeds, in a series of often ungrammatical sentences, to repeat the claim that Noel Hilliam is a 'widely-acknowledged' scholar. Apparently the anonymous polemicist has not grasped the fact that scholars earn prestige through training, careful research, and publication in peer-reviewed journals, and not through making outlandish claims about the discovery of Nazi subs and lost white tribes to the trashier parts of the media. Hilliam is 'widely-acknowledged' as a crank, not as an historian.

The statement goes on to assert that the idea that Maori were not 'the original human beings' to settle New Zealand is intensely controversial, and engages the minds of 'academics, researchers, historians, and even politicians'.

The reality, of course, is that it has been eighty years, at least, since any trained scholar believed that the Polynesian ancestors of the Maori might not have been the first permanent settlers of New Zealand. Back in the 1920s HD Skinner demolished the myth that the Moriori were remnants of a group of a Melanesian people who settled these islands before the ancestors of the Maori; ever since that time, scholarly debate has focused on matters like which part of East Polynesia the ancestors of the Maori came from, and when they arrived.

Even before Skinner's intervention in the '20s, no academically-trained scholar ever asserted that Europeans settled New Zealand in prehistoric times. As this blog and other sites have explained at some length, the notion that a large, technologically sophisticated white civilisation existed here thousands of years ago was invented in the 1980s by the neo-Nazi political activist Kerry Bolton, and has been developed by Martin Doutre, Hilliam, and several other self-proclaimed experts who share many of Bolton's political beliefs. Bolton and co believe that proof of an ancient white civilisation in New Zealand would make Pakeha the 'tangata whenua' of this country, and allow for the scrapping of the Treaty of Waitangi and related pieces of legislation.
There is, in short, no real debate, either in academia or in mainstream politics, about whether the Polynesian ancestors of the Maori were the first settlers of this country. If the claim that white people built a civilisation in New Zealand thousands of years ago arouses strong opinions from serious scholars of the past and from Maori, this is because the claim is so absurd, and is so obviously being deployed in the service of a very unpleasant political agenda.

After its unpromising beginning, the statement on the Dargaville website goes steadily downhill. The editorialist talks darkly of a group of 'moles' with a 'passionate hatred' of Noel Hilliam, and about the damage they have done to a series of publications which ran articles about Hilliam. Instead of writing sober letters to the editors of journals they want to criticise, these 'moles' gather in an evil corner of the internet known as Reading the Maps, where they show their essential cowardice by posting anonymous smears about decent folks like Noel Hilliam and Rose Stirling.

I find all these claims very strange indeed. I wrote my criticism of Rose Stirling's article as an open letter, placed my name at the bottom of it, and e mailed it to Dargaville News. I reproduced the letter and my subsequent reply to Rose on this site, but Reading the Maps is hardly an anonymous, shady locale: the name of its author is easy to find, and it was, the last time I checked, one of the twenty most popular non-commercial blogs in New Zealand. Most of the people who made substantial criticisms of Rose Stirling and the Dargaville News in the comment boxes of this blog used their own names, and at least one of them, the Dargavillean archaeologist Edward Ashby, also e mailed his comments directly to the News. It seems to me that the critics of this website lapse into paranoia when they present its denizens as anonymous, devious types.

The claim that a series of publications have been victimised because they gave space to Noel Hilliam's peculiar views also seems to me to be rather strange. Back in March a publication called Dargaville On-line ran a story which congratulated local boy Noel Hilliam on winning the Senior New Zealander of the Year award. After this blog was tipped off and a few enquiries were made, it emerged that Hilliam had not won the Senior New Zealander of the Year award after all, but had instead lied to the editor of Dargaville On-line. After the intervention of the bemused organisers of the award, Dargaville On-line decided to withdraw its article, and to explain that it had been misled by Hilliam.

How, I wonder, can the sad little episode around the Senior New Zealander of the Year award be blamed on sinister 'moles' motivated by a 'hatred' of Noel Hilliam? Surely this episode was the fault of Hilliam and of the publication which was foolish enough to repeat his claims, not the fault of the people who exposed his deception?

Just as Dargaville On-line was wrong to take Hilliam's claims at face value back in March, so Dargaville News blundered when it repeated his fantasies last month. Like the editor of Dargaville On-line, Rose Stirling failed to her job as a journalist when she uncritically broadcast Hilliam's fantasies.

With its mispelt title, frequently ungrammatical sentences, sweeping ignorance about New Zealand history, and preference for paranoid conspiracy theory over serious argument, the statement placed on the Dargaville website further undermines the credibility of Dargavillean journalism.

30 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:01 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL

Unfortunately for Rose, she, like the editor of newsletters before her, has fallen foul of a seemingly small group of people who have a passionate hatred of Noel.

They have a local “mole or moles” implanted here who immediately notifies the group of any publicity for Noel Hilliam. Then the intrigue starts.


They use the cover of a blog called Reading the Maps: http://readingthemaps.blogspot.com/2010/11/dargavilles-media-should-honour-towns.html

and as a general rule seem to hide behind pseudonyms and anonymous postings.

7:21 pm  
Blogger Mad Bush Farm said...

"They have a local “mole or moles” implanted here who immediately notifies the group of any publicity for Noel Hilliam. Then the intrigue starts."

Yes the fantasy seems to get bigger every time. Hate to break the news but the..'mole' was me sending a clipping to a friend who in turn sent it on. Result - Maps and co aka the guys who know what they are talking about debunking the myth of the greeks turning up first. Still trying to find that reference in Herodotus. And I'll still say yeah right!

I'll go and pull out my old X-files episodes as well just in case I missed something there as well.

Cheers Scott thanks for another yet as always great post

8:19 pm  
Anonymous KR said...

Noel Hilliam has sent out a series of legal letters to people he describes as his 'enemies'.

This happened recently and he has been telling people about it up north.

8:49 pm  
Blogger maps said...

It does seem, doesn't it Liz, that if you criticise Noel Hilliam you must be part of some sort of conspiracy located outside Dargaville motivated by sinister ends? And there is a suggestion that if anyone local such as yourself makes a criticism then they must be in collusion with outside forces.

I don't understand why Dargy News didn't simply reply to the e mail I sent them, or better still take up my invitation to the launch of a book of poems by that genuinely distinguished son of Dargaville, Kendrick Smithyman. If I were trying to conceal my identity from them, I'd hardly have issued that invitation! They could easily have contacted you through your blog, as well, and they also had Edward's e mail to respond to. I suspect that they find it comforting to consider their critics to be part of some nebulous and alien conspiracy.

I look forward to your next drawing on this subject!

9:47 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hilliam was linked to the Nationalist Aliance, the collection of neo-Nazi and cryptofascist groups that formed to contest the 2008 election but then fell apart. Was he actually a member of the NA?

10:00 pm  
Blogger Scott said...

Great post. People like Hilliam deserve to be exposed for the cranks they are.

10:28 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

from a sunday star-time article on nz's neo-nazis:

Race-hate skinhead thugs. Some phrases just roll off the tongue. And eavesdropping on the internet chatter of New Zealand neo-Nazis can be chilling.

On websites like Stormfront, you will find exactly the kind of vicious and screwball views you might expect. A popular subject is Auckland author Martin Doutre’s theory about a pre-Maori settlement of New Zealand by a fair- haired race of Celts - the justification for an alternative view on tangata whenua, on whose country this really is.

http://www.fightdemback.org/archive/groups/new-zealand-national-front/

12:08 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry that article came from the press, chch's paper

12:09 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the neo-nazi national front was closely involved in the anti-treaty 2 u road trip organised by martin doutre and noel hilliam and other supporters of the one new zealand foundation.

see this discussion of national front involvement in the anti-treaty 2 u tour of the north island taken from the neo-nazi discussion site stormfront:

http://www.stormfront.org/forum/t262707/

12:13 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so...how does rose stirling feel about giving free publicity to neo-nazis?

12:14 am  
Blogger Mad Bush Farm said...

I'm looking for moles to model trench coats for me at present. Any takers? My sketching pencil has started to activate.

Scott I have had the honour of being loaned Smithyman to read. I'll consider the man a giant amongst his talented kind. I would rather see Kendrick Smithyman given column psace for a change but..blank spaces seem to be for a fine son of Dargaville.

Quite right D&D could have printed a letter or two and replied in kind. Instead we get a conspiracy theory put out on the Dargaville site about 'moles' being embedded? My pencil calls...

6:45 am  
Blogger Timespanner said...

Oh, so sorry. I should declare openly (so that folks like Mr John McDonald don't have to go to the trouble of finding my name in my Blogger profile) that I am Lisa Truttman, of Avondale in Auckland. Another concerned citizen, stepping forward.

6:46 am  
Blogger maps said...

Is John McDonald the editor of Dargaville News? He was the bloke who was hoodwinked by Hilliam's Senior of the Year award hoax. Why on earth would he now be defending Hilliam? Odder and odder...

8:27 am  
Anonymous Edward said...

"KR said...

Noel Hilliam has sent out a series of legal letters to people he describes as his 'enemies'."

I received one such letter myself on his own 'marine historian' letterhead. I presume he thinks of me as his 'enemy' too. Truth is I don't care about Mr Hilliam personally - I barely know him - it's simply that I, like Scott and countless others, find it hard to stomach or ignore his wild and otherwise unchallenged claims.

9:08 am  
Blogger Timespanner said...

"Is John McDonald the editor of Dargaville News?"

No, the editor of the Dargaville & Districts News is Robyn Downey.

Describing McDonald as "odder & odder" sounds about right.

10:22 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't Robyn Downey a film star?

10:46 am  
Blogger Timespanner said...

Not this one.

5:35 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

How can one "...have a passionate hatred..." of person one has never met (Edward's view also it seems)?

It seems the news paper has an extreme right wing bias. Also they may well be very anti Maori.

Hilliam and his mates are very dangerous. Their ideas and his associations (which seems to be also to the newspaper people in Dargaville) contribute to the core of what is a malignant political cancer. A growing virus of death, distortion, and hatred.
The Nazi link is clear. The White New Zealand racism, and in particular the anti Maori view, is clear also.

The paranoia thing from the Dargaville paper, is not simply poor or incompetent journalism, as these journalists know what they are doing. The paranoid tirades from Dargaville sound like they were written by Goebbels.

It seemed amusing before. Now it just seems really bad. Really obnoxious.

9:44 pm  
Blogger Marty Mars said...

I agree with Richard that these people are dangerous and I would say that alongside serious rebuttals of their lunacy, that we combat them with humour and ridicule. Perhaps an annual award system that can highlight the absurdity of what they are saying and an explanation of why that is so - might get some airtime and any light is toxic to these types.

1:56 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Maps

I discovered your blog a few months ago, and I find myself coming back every now and again on the off chance that you may have posted another 'alternative' view on some pressing issue.

Being just a humble programmer working in the US and feeling somewhat detatched from current events back home, I don't profess to have much of an understanding of NZ history or political science, but I've found there to be an increase in what I can only call 'right wing' politics by the likes of Coastal Coalition and the NZCPR.

I seem to hear a lot about the Maori 'aristocracy' lately. Perhaps this is a common term back home now, but it's rather new to me.

The thing is, I find the term to be at odds with what little I know about aristocracy in general, which comes by way of Form 2 social studies and School Cert Economics if I remember correctly.

I just don't see the whole property and wealth accumulation thing being concentrated into the hands of a priviledged class of nobles who have the backing of some ruling monarch.

From what I can tell, tribal society seems to be more of a collectivist redistribution model (sorry if I'm not using the right terms, as I said, I'm a programmer not a historian/political scientist).

Anyway, it's something I've been thinking about because it would appear to me that Maori tribal society wouldn't be too dissimilar to Indian tribal society in terms of its structure, obligations of reciprocity etc.

In short, I just don't thinkg the 'aristocracy' label fits and I would be interested in your view if you get stuck for a blog idea in the future, since you articulate these things very well.


Regards
M

4:45 pm  
Anonymous Keri H said...

Anonymous - with reguard to "Maori aristocracy"
(and not trying to jump Maps's gun):
there wasnt any such thing: it was a term used by English folk for the degrees of mana (ariki-upoko(arikinui in the north); rakatira; wareware, and taureka.) "The Maori King Movement" was a deliberate attempt to set up a mana-equivalent base to the English Queen. It sort of works for Tainui, but does not really travel outside of their rohe (my lot, Kai Tahu, give their arikinui due respect, but dont feel any need to accept their self-proclaimed priority.)

I am very glad Maps is - yet again - taking on these nasty racist Dargavillians (while also exemplifying the the truly lasting importance of another Dargavillian - Kendrick Smithyman.

11:16 pm  
Blogger AHD said...

Hi Maps --

I come from a small town like Dargaville and I've been told several times that the May-ori don't really deserve Treaty rights because they 'ate out' the Moriori. Now I'm no historian, but...

Thanks again for another patient post when dealing with nutcases. I agree that an annual lampooning of the worst history -- like the skeptics' 'Bent Spoon Award' -- would be a good way to go. Happy to contribute in whatever way I can.

AHD

10:36 am  
Blogger maps said...

Timespanner made this comment but then it apparently disappeared:

"Unfortunately, and mysteriously my opinion and comment, revealing what I had found out about McDonald's post and that it had originally appeared as an editorial in his "Dargaville Online" newsletter on 13 November 2010, seems to have been deleted from the Reading the Maps blog. Six days after publishing the newsletter issue, "Dargaville Online" repeated the editorial on the Dargaville site here. Sadly, it's created some unfair confusion between John McDonald's "Dargaville Online" and the community newspaper the Dargaville & District News, who are not involved in this latest dust-up."

Confusion piled upon cinfusion and all that...

10:22 pm  
Blogger Timespanner said...

Cheers, maps. (thumbs up)

10:41 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Hi M,

thanks very much for your comment. I wouldn't apologise for being a computer programmer if I were you: your trade makes you the adept of a language which is every bit as abstruse and - to the uninitiated such as myself - mysterious as ancient Greek or Latin!

I agree about the rise of right-wing (Tea Partyish?) populism with the Coastal Coalition, and about the incoherence of the 'Maori aristocracy' meme. Coastal Coalition poster boy John Ansell actually talked - on this blog, I think - about 'backward tribal aristocracies' recently, and used Tonga as an example of such a phenomenon.

But a 'tribal aristocracy' is a contradiction in terms: an aristocracy exists in a feudal society, and to create a feudal society you have get past the tribe, where folks are related and land is distributed according to geneaology, and create an order where the blood link is broken, and a bunch of nobles can lord it over serfs who are part of their property.

Patrick Vinton Kirch's book The Evolution of the Polynesian Chiefdoms is perhaps the classic work on pre-contact Polynesian social organisation. Kirch shows that Polynesian societies could be organised in very different ways.
Some (Tonga, Hawa'ii) were very hierarchical and had quite big economies which generated large surpluses, whilst others (Pukapuka, Takuu, Rekohu) were very egalitarian and had economies based on either small-scale susbistence farming or hunter gathering. Most fell somewhere between these extremes.

Some Maori iwi were very egalitarian, especially in the south of the South Island, whilst others were larger and quite hierarchical. Kirch calculates, though, that the largest political unit in pre-contact Maori nation only had 3-5,000 members. Maori had nothing to compare with the feudal systems which had evolved in Tonga and Hawa'ii. There was rank in Maori society, and there was also, on a relatively small scale, slavery, but there was no class of nobles exploiting serfs.
The notion that pre-contact Maori society is characterised by an avaricious aristocracy is thus silly.

The King Movement created in the 1850s might seem like a good place to find dodgy aristocrats, but it was essentially an attempt to modernise Maori society from within, in the face of the Pakeha threat. The economy which operated in the lands controlled by the King Movement was a mixture of capitalism and pre-contact communal subsistence farming - some sociologists have used the term 'the Polynesian mode of production' to describe it. The Waikato Kingdom was certainly not a feudal state!

When it appeals to anything, the right-wing critique of contemporary iwi business ventures usually goes for Elizabeth Rata's work. There's a certain irony in this, because in her major piece of academic work Rata uses quasi-Marxist language to condemn the various iwi businesses as merely new capitalist bosses exploiting workers in the same way that white bosses did before.

Rata's work contains a grain of truth, but it has little empirical content - she tends to extrapolate from tiny samples - and it suffers from the Eurocentric leftist bias I've criticised in this post on Chris Trotter (amongst many other places):
http://readingthemaps.blogspot.com/2010/04/history-necessity-and-new-zealand-wars.html

Whatever we think of Rata, though, she certainly doesn't offer a license to use the word 'aristocracy' to characterise contemporary Maori business ventures. That really is a lazy piece of rhetoric...

11:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mapy map's map,
The work you did is republican in the best sense of the word : Res (Khes) = cause , Publica = public. For the community's benefit, for all of us. Too many papers spread false news, and we should defend reality against fantasy in our democratic countries.
This guy in Dargaville is just a sad mythomaniac... But what's revolting is that the local newspaper supports him. On which basis? They're on the side of his nonsense "discoveries"? Or is it just because they consider it is flattering to have a local with such "qualities" (archeo, awards, etc)? But that's mad! Some other locals are surely more flattering.
We have the same problem here in the Canary : as a big part of the population is fed up with both main left and right wing parties, there's been a big transfer of votes towards the Canarian nationalists. Many folks state they're cCnarian, not Spanish!!! That their fellows should stop endure the pain of colonialism!!!!!!! But they are just as white as the folks in Madrid (no need to mention the possible -and temporary- effect of the sun) and look typically Iberian. But they all invent these weird stories. And the local papers love this crap. Recently, they published a (true) genetic survey which stated that "All Canarian (except the recently settled Germans, etc) have Guanche (the aborigene, considered extinct) genes". Ever since, lots of people give Guanche names to their kids, proudly consider themselves has Guanche, reject mainland people and administration, etc... But that's just as ridiculous as stating : We are all of us true Neanderthals!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, indeed, we all have Neanderthal genes, but this is just 5 %. Just like the 5 % of aborigene-guanche blood that has been found in today's Canarians. But that "detail" was only explained later in the paper's article, after quite a few technical and academic paragraph. So what most readers remembered was the big title "Scientists found All canarian descend from the Guanches"
Is it with that crap that we can expect any progress, locally?

9:41 am  
Blogger Mad Bush Farm said...

On checking of recent days it seems said editorial along with every post since the end of October has been removed from the Kauri Coast Website. They're now focusing on what they should have been focusing on to being with. Their very nice town and not...Evil Historians and Kaipara Moles.

They sat up and took notice Scott. Good!

8:06 am  
Anonymous Tammy said...

Such a great article the editorial which this post discusses was produced by John McDonald, editor of a publication called Dargaville On-line, and not by Dargaville News, as the post claimed. In which Stirling's article presented Hilliam as a distinguished scholar of New Zealand's past, and announced that he was about to publish a book which would include evidence that ancient Greeks, and not the Polynesian ancestors of the Maori. Thanks for sharing this article.

6:08 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mabey you should ask noel or read the book resetly publish insted of goosping about a person you dont know and are making assumptions about its immiiture an bitchey

2:10 pm  

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