Monday, 5 November 2007

Idiot/Savant vs. Trotter

Do I need a tag just for Trotter bashing? Idiot Savant has posted a commentary (1) on Trotter's recent column (2).

As I've said before, I think there is less distance between my position (cautiously support for police action, with reservations) and I/S's (scolding the police for an over-reaction, use of the terror legislation et cetera) than there is between I/S and the loonies on IMC Aotearoa.

The latter decided immediately that all of the Urewera 17 are innocent because "hey, we know them, and their like, really nice guys." I'm sure many - most? - of them are, and have done nothing more sinister than assoicate with people who are somewhat more mercurial. But if the activist community is going to welcome human detritus like Jamie Lockett - an ex-debt collector (3) - and self promoting, junta endorsing (4) fools like Tame Iti, then it it has to expect some fallout from such reckless association. Association doesn't mean guilt. But it does invite investigation, if those you associate with are suspicious. Whimpering about police states or the like doesn't help. Look at Fiji, or Pakistan. That is what real political terror looks like.

Anyway, I was intending to talk about what Idiot/Savant said. I'm not disputing his anger at the use of the terrorism legislation - that's a valid position that's been reached through reason, not automatic anti-police / pro-activist prejudice (5). And I/S is more than welcome to have a go at Chris Trotter. The Moustachiod One needs to be taken down a peg, regularly. He gets too easy a ride as it is, appearing everywhere and being, oh, so eloquent and witty and filling the role of popular leftwing intellectual. Without regular down-pegging, he becomes lazy and (Minto (6) was right about this, at least) pompous. Mike Moore should be employed to shadow him 24 hours a day, to keep him on his toes.

Where I think I/S is wrong is his take on Trotter's comment about the relationsahip between Maori and Labour. Trotter wrote:
How tragic it would be if, at the very point when Maori seemed poised to take their rightful place at the heart of the New Zealand State, a handful of radical relics from the 1970s and 80s and a pack of play-acting paramilitaries ended up supplying the Right with precisely the terrifying "revolutionary" iconography it requires to roll back eight years of advance. (7)
Idiot/Savant counters, arguing:
You get that? It's not the thirty years of advance which have occurred since the Treaty was recognised in New Zealand law, that Trotter wants us to silence our
consciences to protect, but the "eight years of advance" under Labour - eight years of "advance" which have seen Maori stripped of their right to test the ownership of the foreshore and seabed in the courts, and an arbitrary and unjust deadline on the filing of Treaty claims imposed, all in the name of pandering to the same authoritarian rednecks Trotter wants us to pander to again. (8)
Here I think Idiot/Savant is taking too narrow a view of things. I think the problem is perspectives. I/S is thinking about the issue in racial terms, regarding the recognition of the legal authority of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1975 as the point where Maori's historical rights and grievances were acknowledged. Trotter is thinking about it primarily in economic terms, where the key dates are 1984 and 1990. So both are right, in different ways. Maori, in some respects, and generally on a superstructural level, have enjoyed considerable benefits since the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975. On the other hand, the 80s and 90s saw Maori individuals and communities suffer the worst of the carpet-bagging reforms. It is only since Labour were elected that some progress has been made.

National will undoubtedly look to roll back the progress that has been made by those at the bottom of the social pyramid - which is broad and disproprtionately brown. They might not try to do it straight away, Ruth Richardson style. But they'll do what they can, using the leeway they've left them selves in their mealy-mouthed non-policy statements, and they certainly be looking to set about another garage sale of New Zealand assets in their second term. And the hardest hit, once again, will be Maori. So I think the claim that Trotter's prime concern is Labour's election chances is unfair (9).

Nor do I hold with I/S's contention that Trotter is telling the left to shut up and keep their heads down. Perhaps he's rolling his eyes in despair at the sight of Che Guevara and the calls for armed insurrection in New Zealand. But his criticism, to my mind at any rate, has been aimed initially at the Urewera 17, who he lambasts as idiots - deliberate, calculating idiots with wicked intent, or naive, hapless idiots hanging around with the former. He's also scathing of the way the activist community has closed ranks and assumed that there is no case to answer what-so-ever, which just isn't a tenable position. The next step should be to ask why the left has embraced causes like the Maori sovereignty movement, when the goals of the seperatists are at odds with thos of a democratic socialist movement, and tolerates the calls for racial violence being voiced by some.
1 - 'Labour's Trotter,' posted on No Right Turn, by Idiot/Savant on the 2nd of Novmeber, 2007. (
2 - 'No salvation in Ureweras,' by Chris Torrotter in The Dominion Post, 2nd of November, 2007. (
3 - 'Lockett anti-establishment and proud of it,' by Patrick Gower in the NZ Herald, 27th of October, 2007. (
4 - 'Maori Activist Planning to go to Leader's Forum to Help Fiji,' unattributed item on NiuFM, 2nd of October, 2007. (
5 - If my memory serves me, Idiot/Savant's initial post on the raids contained a comment along the lines of "If there has been criminal activity then this is serious and warrants investigation" - not exact words. Interestingly, he/she seems to have edited the post (, or else my memory is blotchy.
6 - 'Open Letter from John Minto to Chris Trotter,' press release from John Minto, 30th of October, 2007. (
7 - '' by Chris Tortter, in the Dominion Post, 2nd ov Novmber, 2007, (
Quoted on No Right Turn, 2nd of November, 2007 (#1, above).

8 - As per #1, above.
9 - This is not the first time I/S has indulged in a bit of Trotter bashing (Trotting?). Witness this comment on No Right Turn, from 12th of July: Notice the similarities?


Idiot/Savant said...

Trotting! I like it! (I also had a go at him when he tried making the Pinochet argument over Labour's election overspending).

Trotter definitely has a point on the economic front. But his supposed concern for Maori while ignoring the very real way in which Labour has screwed them over on the foreshore is just a little sickening.

(Yes, I know claims to the foreshore were just that - claims, But robbing people of equality under the law and the right to test evidence in court is a real hurt, and one which has caused a lot of anger).

People telling others to STFU to avoid hurting (their) cause is another of my hot-button issues - primarily because it displays a fundamental ignorance about the existence of different interests, and an arrogant belief that "my interests should trump yours". Seeing attitudes like that on display is one reason why I can never join a political party - I'm just not a team player.

Finally, I'm not sure about memory blotchiness either. It sounds familiar, and I did a lot of posting on PASystem on the first day, so it might be there (the original post hasn't been edited). OTOH, there is a comment that "This is bad stuff, and the sort of thing people should be prosecuted for" here.

lurgee said...

That's the one! Somehow I read the 'Raids II' post while drafting the above, and managed to miss the crucial sentence. Inspite of that little oversight, I trust you are impressed and slightly awed by the attention I play to your comments.

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