Paul Spoonley: Returning to the front lines
Prof. Paul Spoonley is the go-to guy whenever the media wants comment on the far right in NZ. In June he announced he was stepping down from his role as pro Vice-Chancellor at Massey's College of Humanities and Social Sciences and returning to frontline research, with a new book on the far right in Aotearoa/NZ in the pipeline.
The old right is actually a very diverse group. From neo-Nazi skinheads through conspiracy theorists about “big government” and the undermining of nationality through migration (rather like the US John Birch Society) to white supremacist gangs. When I worked on these groups through the 1980s and 1990s, there were still old school pro-British and pro-apartheid groups like the League of Empire Loyalists and what remained of the anti-Semitic Social Credit. But all this changed, and especially after 9/11. New groups and activists emerged that supplemented anti-Semitism with Islamaphobia, they were much more skilled at using online options and they aligned with groups and communities that were strongly nationalist, strongly anti-multiculturalism and held strong beliefs about the influence (seen as corrosive and undermining of nationalist interests) of progressive groups and international agencies. There is overlap between the old and the new and, of course, they exist side-by-side. But the use of the (Renaud) Camus conspiracy theory about the “great replacement” tends to characterise the Alt Right but also to unify. It operates as a powerful ideological trigger. The Alt Right have been much more successful in influencing mainstream debate and political actors, as Trump has illustrated. And they have recast many of the traditional concerns about miscegenation or the “inferiority of certain races” in new and more “acceptable” ways. And they have been important influencers in debates such as free speech or “mass migration”.
Thanks very much for your time and all the best with your return to the front lines. It’ll be great to see what you come up with!