Wednesday, April 25, 2012

John Ansell, lizard creature

I remember watching a B-grade sci fi movie where a race of evil lizard creatures landed discretely on Planet Earth and, using a strange trick they had learned on some other planet, began to take over the bodies of humans. Soon millions of the lizard creatures were wandering around living apparently normal lives as humans. Sometimes, though, a lizard's disguise failed for a moment or two - the blue eyes of a shop assistant suddenly turned a savage red, alarming a client, or a politician's tongue became forked and viscous as he opened his mouth to give an important speech. Because of these rather unpleasant lapses in disguise the lizard creatures were eventually found out, and driven back to their own corner of the galaxy.

John Ansell did a good impression of one of those sci-fi lizard creatures on national television tonight, when he appeared on Close Up to discuss race relations in New Zealand with Hone Harawira and Morgan Godfrey.

A veteran of the advertising business, Ansell is best-known as the author of the Iwi/Kiwi billboard deployed by Don Brash during the bitter 2005 general election. Ansell was enthused by Brash's denunciations of Maori nationalism and biculturalism, and when his hero took control of the Act Party last year he was employed to produce a new series of provocative advertisements. But the long-winded broadsides Ansell created against the 'Maorification of everything' were unpopular even inside Act, and the party quickly distanced itself from him.

Ansell may be out in the cold politically, but his rhetoric has only become more heated over the past few months. In comments on right-wing blogs and in intermittent but often prolix posts to his own website, Ansell has warned of the 'Maori tradition' of 'treachery', decried the National government as a bunch of closet Marxists, expressed sympathy with the idea that 9/11 was an 'inside job', and cast doubt on whether women possess the ability to be responsible voters.

A number of Ansell's statements have shown his sympathy for the conspiracy theories of New Zealand pre-history and history promoted by men like Martin Doutre and Kerry Bolton and organisations like the One New Zealand Foundation and the National Front. The likes of Bolton and Doutre claim that white people established a civilisation on these islands thousands of years before Maori, and that the remains of this civilisation are hidden by a coalition of Maori, scientists, historians, and civil servants. They insist that the same sinister coalition has hidden the true text of the Treaty of Waitangi from public view, and has in recent decades set about the 'Maorification' of New Zealand.

Ansell has never held public office or an elected position in a political organisation, has never worked as a scholar on New Zealand society or history, and appears never to have published much except vituperative blog posts. Ansell was put on Close Up not to provide political or historical insights, but to engage in a bun-fight with Hone Harawira. While the token 'moderate' Morgan Godfrey sat looking rather bemused, Close Up host Mark Sainsbury repeatedly invited Ansell and Harawira to fire at each other. Ansell was happy to let loose, and his first few verbal volleys would have had many conservative Pakeha viewers nodding and muttering agreement. He complained about the "appeasement" of Maori radicals and about the establishment of "special" rights for Maori, and called for a "colourblind" government in New Zealand.

Ansell's charges were unfounded. Maori radicals like Rua Kenana, Syd Jackson, and Tame Iti have traditionally been arrested, not appeased, by the authorities they have railed against, and institutions like kohanga reo schools and Maori Youth Courts represent not privileges for Maori, but specifically Maori ways to access universal rights. But Ansell's misperceptions are shared by many Pakeha, who equate their own history with New Zealand history and their own identity with New Zealand identity, and regard the state institutions they crafted as institutions designed for the needs of all Kiwis. Many Pakeha are still personally affronted by Maori who do not identify with Pakeha history, traditions, and institutions, and some perceive Maori institutions like kohanga reo as symptoms of separatism, rather than the products of a desire for equality.

After his initial rhetorical success on Close Up, Ansell showed a little too much of a very strange ideology. The well-seasoned and popular complaints about Maori radicals and separatists gave way to a blast of conspiracy theory, as Ansell claimed that the National-led government is in the process of turning New Zealand into "apartheid Aotearoa".

With the excitement of a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, Ansell began to talk about the Constitutional Advisory Panel, an obscure committee set up last year to organise public debates on such burning issues as the royal honours system and the relevance of the Privy Council to New Zealand. The Constitutional Advisory Panel has no power to formulate, let alone implement, changes to New Zealand laws and institutions, and has widely been seen as a sop given by National to the Maori Party during coalition negotiations, and as a salary-earner for clapped-out politicians like Michael Cullen, John Luxton and Deborah Coddington.

Ansell assured Close Up's audience, though, that the Constitutional Advisory Panel is actually the tool John Key and Pita Sharples are using to turn New Zealand into a "communist, animist, and racist" state. The panel is apparently intent on creating a constitution which will outlaw private property, force all Kiwis to follow ancient pagan beliefs, and remove political rights from non-Maori inhabitants of these islands. Noting that he was speaking on the eve of Anzac Day, Ansell compared the coming Key-Sharples dystopia to the Nazi empire New Zealand forces fought in World War Two, and urged a new struggle against evil. The disguise of the fair-minded bloke had dropped; the weird lizard creature was revealed. Even Hone Harawira looked embarrassed by John Ansell's outburst, and Close Up's producers must have wondered whether they had taken their penchant for 'controversial' guests too far.

To his credit, Harawira refused to get down in the mud and wrestle with Ansell, and instead gently questioned the man's credentials and knowledge. When Ansell proclaimed that many Maori share his views, Hone wondered whether Ansell could name even three of his Maori supporters. Ansell fell quiet. After Ansell had banged on about New Zealanders losing their country to Maori radicals, Hone noted the thousands of Maori and Pakeha uniting to protest the sale of state assets and proposals for deep sea mining off New Zealand coasts by foreign companies. After Ansell had made his absurd link between 'Maorification' and Nazism, Hone discussed the experiences of his ancestors in the Maori Battalion during the First and Second World Wars.

It is not surprising that Hone Harawira was unimpressed by John Ansell's conspiracy theories, but I doubt whether even the more conservative viewers of Close Up bought into the notion that John Key is about to turn New Zealand into a communist, Maori-dominated, pagan society. With his half-dozen luxury homes and squillions of dollars in investments, John Key seems an unlikely Lenin. And National, with its overwhelmingly white membership and long history of rhetorical Maori-bashing, seems an unlikely surrogate for the Black Panther Party. Nor do the proscription of Bibles and the state-enforced hugging of trees on Sunday mornings seem likely in the near future in New Zealand. To all but a handful of viewers, Ansell's claims must have seemed otherworldly.

John Ansell's lurch from redneck respectability to purveyor of loony-fringe conspiracy theory reflects the intellectual difficulties of the far right in this country. Although Ansell and his co-thinkers are able to land isolated blows on their opponents by using rhetoric about 'Maori separatism' and 'special rights' that is popular with Pakeha, they are unable to formulate the credible narrative of New Zealand history and the coherent analysis of contemporary New Zealand society that are preconditions for building a serious  following for the far right.

Until the 1970s, the far right in this country was able to piggyback on the hegemonic view of our history, a view which Chris Trotter expressed very well in a column for the late Independent:

In the beginning were the Moriori – a primitive Melanesian people who were easily defeated and exterminated by a proud and warlike Polynesian race called the Maori. The arrival of Europeans profoundly disrupted Maori society, forcing their chiefs to seek the protection of the all-powerful British Empire. Almost alone among Britain’s colonies, New Zealand was founded peacefully and in good faith. The 1840 Treaty of Waitangi guaranteed native property rights and gave Maori the legal status of British subjects. Unfortunately, the warlike Maori tribes proved incapable of keeping the peace, and the British Government was required to subjugate them by military force. As the Moriori succumbed to the more powerful Maori, so were the Maori forced to give way before the more civilised Europeans. However, the dignity and valour of their Maori adversaries left a deep and favourable impression on the victorious "Pakeha" settlers. Convinced they were descended from the same Indo-European stock, the two peoples intermarried freely, producing a vigorous hybrid nation famed throughout the world for its racial harmony. 

For most of the twentieth century, the far right could happily assert that New Zealand whites were indigenes, by virtue of the martial victories of the nineteenth century and the interbreeding that had supposedly destroyed Maori as a distinct people. Opposition to Chinese and Indian immigrants and American movies and Marxist ideas could be justified with straightforwardly nativist rhetoric about the dangers of foreign pollution. The Maori seats in parliament and the Ministry of Maori Affairs could be condemned as obsolete. The march of assimilation could be cheered on.

For Maori banned from practising their traditional religion, from sitting on juries considering the fate of Pakeha, and from speaking their language at school, the assimilationist New Zealand that prevailed from the 1880s to the 1970s seemed anything but colourblind. The rise of Maori protest and the increased circulation of sensitive studies of New Zealand history made the old 'myth of New Zealand' described by Trotter untenable. As academic courses, official rhetoric, and the occasional law began to recognise New Zealand's binational nature, the racist far right found itself suddenly out in the cold. The sheer size of the Maori protest movement, both on the streets and in the universities, made the notion that New Zealanders constituted a single, harmonious race impossible to sustain.

Although a number of prominent Kiwi intellectuals, like CK Stead and Michael Bassett, emerged in the 1980s and '90s as critics of aspects of Maori nationalism, none of them has called for a return to the assimilationist policies of old. The National Party continues to engage occasionally in Maoribashing, but it is generally content, in practice, to try to coopt parts of the Maori renaissance, by making alliances with conservative iwi leaders and courting 'upwardly mobile' young Maori. National's coalition with the Maori Party, which nowadays mostly represents the Maori business community, exemplifies this strategy.

The far right has been struggling for decades to deal with the loss of its traditional narrative of New Zealand history and its traditional allies in the mainstream right. The claims by Doutre and Bolton about Celts, Phoenicians, and various other pale-skinned peoples reaching these islands and eventually being overwhelmed by Polynesians are attempts to give the far right a new narrative of New Zealand's past. Bolton and Doutre believe that their theories deprive Maori of the status as indigenes, and make the white dispossession of Maori in the nineteenth century a delayed act of justice. But Doutre and Bolton's claims are fantastic and poorly presented, and their connections to neo-Nazi movements, Holocaust deniers, and 9/11 Truthers hardly enhance their credibility. Attempts to explain the Maori renaissance of the last forty years as a sinister plot to impose communism, animism, and apartheid on New Zealand are similarly desperate. Conspiracy theories are generally a sign of intellectual failure, and the crackpot notions John Ansell has chosen to promote are no exception.

 [Posted by Maps/Scott]


Blogger Robert Winter said...

So it is true that the lizard people were here first in Aotearoa - and that presumably explains the Marxist plot to conserve the tuatara, It all becomes clear.

1:52 am  
Blogger Sanctuary said...

The fact of the matter is the lizard people are still here, something I have warned about frequently upon my apple crate in Aotea square.

It is a pity the occupy people are gone now, they gave me cigarettes.

7:59 am  
Anonymous rites for whites said...

So now you want to DEHUMANISE white patriots by comparing them to insects...and you say we are racist because we want to stamp out the scourge of Maorification!!!

8:38 am  
Anonymous Edward the conspirator said...

"rites for whites" cannot spell 'rights'. Or do you mean rites in the ritualistic sense? And my yes, you are racist as is obvious from your post.

Movingrightalong, I am forever annoyed by the NZ media tendency to give these racist nutters a soap box to stand on. As you say, I think most conservatives would have found him to be loony.

10:02 am  
Blogger alejandro said...

haha i love this white humor. send free text messages at

10:53 am  
Anonymous rights for whites said...

race traitr

1:42 pm  
Blogger Chris Trotter said...

A very good post, Scott. I am constantly amazed at how inept the Far Right is in this country.

The only writer who comes close to developing a compelling White Supremacist narrative is Michael Laws.

He, at least, understands that the only truly viable race-relations path for the Far Right involves resurrecting the assimilationist policies of the 1950s and 60s - basing their re-introduction on the argument that the policies of bi-culturalism, a noble, if misguided, experiment, have failed comprehensively to advance the welfare of most Maori.

They could fuel their populist message by adapting the work of Dr Elizabeth Rata: claiming that, far from being a communist plot, the Treaty settlement process has created a "Neo-tribal Capitalist elite" parasitic upon the vast majority of (still) underprivileged Maori.

Only a reaching-out by the Pakeha poor in the direction of the Maori poor, and the forging of a common alliance against the economic and cultural elites, offers the slightest chance of uplifting the Maori people.

This would be, in effect, a re-statement of the original New Zealand myth - albeit with the temporary intrusion of a biculturalist/neo-tribal capitalist serpent into what used to be an Antipodean Garden of Eden.

Trouble is, you'd actually need half-a-brain to successfully run such a line ... nuff said.

3:46 pm  
Blogger ianmac said...

What intrigued me was the response from Mark Sainsbury on Close Up. He seemed to me to squirm with delight at every word that Ansell uttered. Either he was in agreement with Ansell's message, or he thought that at last he was onto compelling in-depth journalism.

4:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ianmac, I think Sainsbury was squirming with delight at the idea that this could be controversial TV and therefore good for ratings! In depth journalism...? You can't use that term in the same breath as the name Close Up!

11:50 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Close Up: in-depth interviews conducted by former trolly bus conductor Mark Sainsbury and (mostly) unintentional comedy skits ("How do we stop drowning?", anyone?) by former shampoo salesman Matt Chisholm.

2:49 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess there are worse ways you could get sacked by a demon, but being shown the door like that would still suck.

8:01 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Meanwhile ridiculous catastrophism from the Woods tendency

8:20 pm  
Anonymous John Ansell said...

If there were an immanent final goal of history, then those who believe they know it and claim to promote its attainment would be legitimized in using all the others who do not know it and cannot promote it as mere means. Infinite progress does make each present relative to its future, but at the same time it renders every absolute claim untenable. The idea of progress corresponds more than anything else to the only regulative principle that can make history humanly bearable, which is that all dealings must be so constituted that through them people do not become mere means.

11:00 pm  
Anonymous Keri Hulme said...

I dont think I have ever, in my entire reading life, read such a meaningless piece of crap as J.Ansell's tripe above.

12:22 am  
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1:49 am  
Anonymous John Ansell said...

The John Ansell who posted above is someone trying to further discredit me (if that is possible).

Your post is exactly what I would have expected from you Scott. I'm not quite sure where to start, or when I could reasonably expect to finish.

I think for now I'll just ask you to cite where in the interview I mentioned the Nazis?

When you confess either in writing or by ignoring the question that you made that up, readers may make their own assessment of the validity of your other points.

However I will confess to being a reptilian shape-shifter from the Pleiades. Fair cop.

I now await Keri Hulme's citing of my confession as fact, as she did when I responded in a similar vein to a commenter's suggestion that I was a Nazi.

(Note to self: should you ever apply for Nazi Party membership, do be sure not to let on that you're a quarter Jewish.)

Seriously though, if I could shift shapes, why would I shift to this one? I'd much prefer Wendy Petrie's.

Now that the real Ansell has identified himself, could the moderator please expunge the imposter.

Thank you. I look forward to responding to your most imaginative post next time I have a spare week or two.

2:50 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

New Zealand needs colourful characters - don't be so harsh on strange John.

3:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris trotter is more disturbing because he pretends to be "on the left". Commonplace: Settler states don't require fascism because democracy does the job, they didn't need fascism to dispossess Maori in the first place or to enforce the last 100 years of racist policies. NZ accomplished more than the European fascists did without any of the overt fascism, the reason is settlerism. All settlers have a stake in maintaining it, whatever politics they claim.

4:35 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marxists are impotent.

9:49 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

ADD MAN (JOHN ANSELL) QUITS(?) NZ Herald Jul 10, 2011
The marketing guru behind controvesial new Act Party adverts has quit after he attacked "white cowards" for not standing up against the "Maorification" of the country.
Act Party creative director John Ansell said Maori were taking advantage of New Zealand's fear of appearing racist and he wanted the Act Party to speak out.
He said: "These guys (Maori) have gone from the stone age to the space age in 150 years and haven't said thanks. That's the nature of the thing. In Maori world, if one tribe conquers another you eat the guys eyeballs. The Brits were pretty civilised by that standard."
Ansell has the ear of new leader Don Brash but .... Brash distanced himself from Ansell's "extreme statements" and he confirmed today that he had accepted Ansell's resignation.
Ansell was taken on by Act after previously winning plaudits - and criticism - for his 2005 National Party election advertisements. The best known was the Iwi/Kiwi billboard, which panned Labour for treating Maori separately from non- Maori.
Yesterday, Ansell said he was considering quitting his role with Act because some were balking at a polarising position. Adverts asking if Kiwis liked living in "Apartheid Aotearoa" and if people were "Fed up with the Maorification of Everything" had been canned.
.... It asked: "Fed up with pandering to Maori radicals?" The Dominion Post in Wellington refused to run the same advert. The canned adverts - obtained by the Herald on Sunday - contained material cut from the advert printed yesterday. One line was: "Now is the time to draw a line in the sand (while we've still got access to the beach)".
Brash refused to discuss ... He said exceptions created for Maori, like advisory boards, were a form of "apartheid".
Brash and Ansell were supposed to be sharing a stage in Palmerston North yesterday but the creative director pulled out citing problems with the party.
Ansell said "white cowards" were scared to "tell the truth about this Maori issue".
"If you don't agree with the Maori radical perspective you're branded a racist." Asked how a "radical" was defined, he said: "People who want everything all the time."
He said Prime Minister John Key and Attorney-General Chris Finlayson were "grade-A idiots" but he admired the Maori Party for taking advantage of them. "When the white man opens the door and says come in and rape us, of course, if you've got any sort of business like sense you'll go for whatever you can get."
Ansell said Key was an "idiot" who was the "most lilly-livered Prime Minister" and a "massively incompetent economic manager". He said the National Party no longer espoused the values it claimed - instead the Act Party had taken over.
"Don Brash cares more about Maori than the Maori Party or Mana Party or any other party combined. He just wants Maori to get with the programme... not be idiot, useless, Johnny-come- latelies." He said Maori were worse of economically because they were "too bloody lazy" to listen to iwi leaders. He also referred to "high achieving Maori, most of whom are in Queensland".
"...anti-Maorification... the relentless Maorification of every bloody thing in New Zealand."
By David Fisher and NZ Herald staff

12:54 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would you shapeshift into Wendy Petrie, John, so you could touch yourself or have lesbian sex?

12:24 pm  
Anonymous John Ansell said...


I wouldn't have said Maori were too bloody lazy to listen to iwi leaders.

I'd never suggest anyone listens to iwi leaders.

And I humbly apologise to John Key and Chris Finlayson for calling them Grade A idiots.

I don't know what came over me. I'm not myself, as you know.

(Nor am I Wendy yet, but I'm working on it.)

I'd meant to say "useful idiots", as you communists would say.

(Or Grade AAA+ idiots, as we capitalists would say.)

Anyway I've got shapes to shift, so must slither off.

8:01 pm  
Anonymous John Ansell said...


I see Comrade Trottersky's is back to his foaming best talking about white supremacists and the Far Right.

Question: if I'm Far Right, where does that leave Anders Brievik?

I'll have you know I have yet to empty my Uzi on a single Young Labour Indoctrination Camp, or blow up even so much as the Bowen State Building.

Give a man some credit!

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a white hood to iron.

I am much cheered by Comrade Trottersky's assessment of the so-called Far Right, given his admission today that he was wrong about nice Mr Shearer.

Trouble is, I don't think nice Mr Robertson is going to be any better.

Trottersky implied that himself with his unfortunately-worded statement:

"It's time for the Labour caucus to put an end to 'the unfortunate experiment' and begin a new one."

8:35 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

who isn't a communist according to john?

9:20 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I see Comrade Trottersky's is back to his foaming best talking about white supremacists and the Far Right.

He's giving you useful advice, comrade. You'll do better if you accept him as your leader, I think he's angling for the job.

1:20 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John, you still haven't answered my question: What do you intend to do after shapeshifting into the body of Wendie Petrie?

8:45 pm  
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