Paparoa meets Yeah Nah Pasaran
Here’s Roy from Paparoa speaking on the Australian radio show Yeah Nah Pasaran. It’s an interview that covers a lot of ground — we think it works pretty well as an introduction to the far right in Aotearoa/NZ.
Big thanks to Karina from 3CR for lending her voice! You can listen to more YeahNahPasaran radio shows here.
1) What is Paparoa?
We’re a research team set up after the killings in Christchurch. When we come across somebody on the far right that looks like a threat to public safety, we let the media and relevant authorities know. The network was originally brought together by a group of anti-racists and trade unionists in March last year, and started work as a collective in April. We’re an anonymous group, although that’s possibly going to change soon. We work a lot with the White Rose Society in so-called Australia and several other independent activists. We’re also encouraging more people to join and to help set up autonomous working groups, like deradicalisation, working with refugees, monitoring islamphobia… all that good stuff. From there, we’re looking at the idea of developing a democratic NGO. There is a lot of support in the community for the kind of work we are doing, but there’s a real sense that people also want to go beyond surveillance and research.
2) Who are the main fascist groups in Aotearoa/NZ, how do they organise, and what relationship do they have to similar groupings in other countries?
After the killings all those guys jumped for cover. The neo-nazi identitarians – a group called the Dominion Movement – announced they were going into hiatus. The National Front had already been on life support for years. A complaint got their website shut down and I don’t think we’ll see them again. Right Wing Resistance had broken up a few years earlier. There had been a lot of violence among the members; the whole things was just so full of poison it leached into the bloodstream. People might remember a guy called Kyle Chapman. He was a common thread in lots of those far right groups. He gave up on them and is now a born again Christian. Lets hope he stays that way, for his own sake as well as everybody else’s. Then there’s all the old bonhead crews that Chapman used to hang out with: Aryan Nations, Combat 18, the Hammerskins, Kaos Skins and so on. There were dozens of them but the members are now mostly in jail, or they’ve become junkies or family men trying to leave it all behind. Oh, and I should mention Wargus Christi. Ah, you’d love them. They were kind of a body-building templar monastic cult. The head honcho, a guy called Daniel Waring, calls himself The Meat Monk. They make videos in the bush of flagellating him with a polythene pipe. They managed to get through no-fap November alive but then it all came crashing down when one of them, a neo-nazi soldier, got arrested.
A few months after the Christchurch killings the Dominion Movement reappeared again, under the name Action Zealandia. The neo nazi soldier was one of their leaders, and we can prove that, but he denies it. They’re our main focus at the moment. They’re slicker than the Dominion Movement, but even worse on the inside. The Dominion Movement used to crow about their relationship with the Nordic Resistance Movement, Identity Australia and the Lads Society. Action Zealandia is more calculating. Their whole facade is “we’re just a bunch of fellas into hiking and self-improvement”. You probably know that kind of crap from Identity Australia. It’s the standard identitarian con. Inside their chatgroups its all anti-semitism and homphobia and esoteric Hitlerism. We found a clasic example of this when we monitored one of their leaders, who called himself ‘Matt’ on Telegram. Our Matt was communicating with, or mentioning that he knew, people from Atomwaffen Division, The Base, Antipodean Resistance, the Lads Society, Nordic Resistance Movement and the Patriot Front. Ah you should have seen those conversations. For those out there who have never had the pleasure of looking into the soul of a convinced fascist, just think back on the worst caricature of nazis you’ve seen on tv and then imagine it crossed with the hillbillies in Deliverance. I think they try to outdo each other with grossness, but all the while they’re bringing it back to “yeah, but what are you gonna do in real life, ya pussy”. They’re egging each other on to commit an atrocity. Matt was right into the idea of setting up fascist cells and buying guns on the black market. That’s why we went live with the information we had on him.
3) What has been the history of anti-fascist and anti-racist organising in Aotearoa/NZ prior to the emergence of Paparoa, & how does Paparoa relate to this history?
The most recent burst of organising began in 2004, when the National Front started doing street protests. They’d been operating since the 1960s but in 2004 they called an anti-Asian rally in Christchurch and later that year there were racist attacks in Christchuch and Wellington, as well as desecrations in Jewish cemeteries. In October 2004 they came to Wellington and held a rally at Parliament. Anti-racist activists had formed a coalition called Multicultural Aotearoa (MCA), which brought thousands of protesters to Wellington to oppose about 40 or 50 National Front members. There was a bit of a clash and the NF were chased out of town. For the next few years MCA showed up wherever and whenever the Front appeared in public.
That same year a trans-Tasman group called Fightdemback, named after a Linton Kwesi Johnson song, was formed to monitor the far right in Australia and New Zealand. It was a group made up of lefty activists and was very active for about two years. On the kiwi side of this there was also a wonderful group called Gruppe FluffyBunny, who shared information mixed with a very healthy dose of humour.
When Kyle Chapman left the National Front the fascists gave up on public events. A few activists kept an eye on them over the next few years but not a lot happened. Chapman ran for mayor of Christchurch a few times with no success, usually coming last or close to last. Then in 2009 he formed a new group the Right Wing Resistance. They started doing racist vigilante work, which they called “anti-crime patrols”, and eventually this led to white pride rallies in Christchurch. Local leftists and anti-racists organised rallies to oppose them, and the RWR also tried to disrupt left wing election meetings. As we said earlier, they eventually tore themselves apart with violence and in-fighting.
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign really energised the alt right in NZ. A few of the people involved with Fightdemback were involved in monitoring them, as well as the old National Front, which was becoming more active again. Paparoa was formed directly after the terrorist attacks, and a lot of these activists have become involved.
4) Does Māori tikanga inform Paparoa’s work, and if so, how?
The name PAPAROA is a Maori word referring to an area spread with cloaks to mark a special place of honour. This is our tribute to the victims from last March. This whole anti-racist struggle has always been led by Maori, whether its from the front or in the membership. It’s a bit weird because in Paparoa because we don’t know who each other are, that’s the way the anonymisation words, so nobody’s really sure where the cultural lines run. But we’re working with a couple of Maori powerhouses who keep things well on track, culturally. Its about aroha, coming from a place of love rather than blind anger. You can feel that in the group. Sure, we help each other out with forensics and analysis, but there’s a deeper feeling that is quite hard to put into words. I’d call it āwhina but if your listeners don’t know that word, think of it as a kind of empathetic solidarity. It’s really what sustains us. And we need it, given some of the really gross material we have to wade through. Awhina is certainly not a thing that is central to anglo-European culture, or the racist side of it anyway. You can tell that by looking at the atmosphere in the far right Telegram and Discord and Riot chats we monitor. As an example, when the Action Zealandia member ‘Matt’ got sprung recently, people from the groups he was in almost immediately started talking about what a bloody idiot he was.
5) The massacre revealed a truly psychopathic streak among many on the Australian far right, not just among followers of Siege culture, but also within the ranks of the so-called ‘patriot’ movement; the people who the Australian media would describe as ‘concerned Aussie mums and dads’. Two specific incidents spring to mind: one was a Fraser Anning event at a pub in Sydney where his supporters gave a toast to the killer; another one a man in Newcastle who made threats online to repeat the massacre here. The comments on his posts – from people you wouldn’t look twice at in the street – were universally egging him on. How do you understand the relationship between these sorts of expressions by the extreme-right and those made by members of the general public, and is the same sentiment to be found among so-called ‘patriots’ in Aotearoa/New Zealand?
God its hard to comprehend, isn’t it? In the months after the killings we saw some disgusting rants and social media posts from people you would normally just think of as surburban redneck racists. And these haven’t gone away. There was a huge public backlash against racists after Christchurch and I think that scared the pants off them. They realised the community had had enough, so they started up their perennial whinge about freedom of speech. In reality, NZ has the weakest laws on hate speech of any anglophone country. And even what there is on the statutes is never enforced. There has only ever been one charge under section 61 of the Human Rights Act and that was about 40 years ago. Basically, these people just huddled together for warmth while the storm raged around them. But the fact that they had drawn closer led to a pretty intense case of confirmation bias. Many of them are now utterly convinced that everything they say, no matter how ill-informed and how brutal it is, is self-evidently visionary brilliance. Check out Awake New Zealand with Carol Sakey on YouTube. It’s incredible. She is just so senseless and ill-informed and spiteful it leaves you speechless. I think that’s a real problem within the far right. For people like you and I, the default pronoun is “we”. That’s how we see the world. We include other people when we think about social issues. If we have an opinion we share it because its good for people to talk and read things into the public discourse. But for the far right it’s this endless outpouring of “I”. What “I” think is what actually is. Other people’s views either correspond to that, in a way they like, or they’re written off. For whatever reason, their egos have been trained not to listen. Folks like Carol Sakey and Lee Williams and Warren Knott are putting the I back in Ignorance.
6) The NZ government was quick to respond with changes to gun laws – what has been the material effect of those changes? You also worked with the White Rose Society in Australia recently to reveal that members of Action Zealandia were using encrypted chats to discuss the ease with which weapons could be acquired on the black market. Are you concerned that members of the far-Right in NZ still have ready access to weapons?
There’s a lot of guns in New Zealand because of our hunting culture, and every farmer has two or three ‘shotties’ out the back. Taking certain types of semi-automatic weapons out of circulation was a step forward, of course, but we all know how easy it is to get your hands on a gun in this country. There’s more than a million of them in private hands. At least they have tightened up the licensing process though. The Christchurch killer brought his guns and ammunition online, and when he applied for his license the two referees he gave were people he had met in a chat room. Earlier, a man who had met him on a shooting range went to the police to warn them about this man, saying he was mentally unstable. They didn’t even keep a record of the discussion. So the killer got a license for 10 years.
You mentioned White Rose. Big shout out to them, and to the independent researchers we work with and our new mates in ParaDoxx. Yes, we’re all concerned about weapons, especially when they’re coming from the black market, but there are just so many different ways of mounting a terrorist attack. Our primary goal has to be identifying the lone wolves and the psychopaths, because if they can’t get an assault weapon they will just think sideways.
7) PM Ardern recently stated that: ‘A year on, I believe New Zealand and its people have fundamentally changed. I can’t see how you could have an event like this and not.’ Do you agree? How has the state and how have civil society actors responded to the threat posed by right-wing extremists since the massacre? Can you point to successful or productive responses? And what has been missing from these responses thus far?
She’s right. This country isn’t looking the other way anymore. So many people didn’t believe racism was an issue here. The Mayor of Christchurch denied there had ever been a problem with right wing gangs. Jesus, she was talking about bonehead central. There have just been so many murders and attacks over the years. The NZ police didn’t track hate crimes, despite being asked to by two U.N. agencies. And the spy agencies didn’t either: after the attack it emerged that they hadn’t made a single mention of right wing extremism in ten years of public records. After the attack there was an interesting lull for about a week. Then people laid complaints because the police werent acting on cases of racist abuse in public. Things started to change. Lots of extremists who made psychotic remarks online started complaining about getting visits from the police. There was a huge uptick in reports and complaints from the public. And of course whenever the police got their approach wrong, which they often did, the media piled in on them.
There has also been a lot of talk about new hate speech laws, although the government is way behind schedule on this. But hey, we need to be honest. The Muslim community is telling us that things have got worse, not better. And our research totally confirms what they are saying. There has been more abuse, more attacks. That’s the index we need to be using, not some feelgood list of various steps that have been taken.
8) Recent years have witnessed the emergence of a cottage industry dedicated to ‘de-radicalisation’, largely directed at ‘at-risk’ Muslim youth, but increasingly targeting the extreme-right. Do such programs exist in Aotearoa/NZ, do you consider them useful if so, and how does anti-fascist monitoring such as that engaged in by Paparoa fit within this paradigm?
We’ve got no national programme or deradicalisation centre here. There might be some informal, faith-based initiatives but if there are we’ve not heard of them. We really need something. We’ve been in touch with a couple of the Australian oufits and we have done some experimental outreach ourselves but I wouldnt pretend for a minute that we’ve found any silver bullets. A proper deradicalisation programme would be great — it is so overdue. It’s one of the projects we will look at if we can get the public-facing NGO up and running. God, it’s difficult work! I have nothing but respect for people working in this field, even though so many of them are from far right backgrounds themselves and have done shitty things. It’s about finding ways to move on, for yourself and for others. Christian Picciolini in the USA has said that what lures people into the far right culture is its sense of identity, community and purpose. That’s a combination that few of us could resist. I think that’s our challenge, in terms of deradicalisation. We need to be finding alternative ways to build identity, community and purpose. And if we do it will work, because it takes people beyond all that fear and anger. Thats the way far right people describe it when they find a way to move on. Its a sense of relief and liberation.
9) Despite all the madness, it’s been encouraging to see groups like Paparoa emerge to combat the threat of white supremacist terrorism. How can people support you?
Join us! Honest, above all else, that’s what we need. People and energy. As Bobby Seale put it: “The best way to fight racism is with solidarity”. We need all the public involvement we can get. And if you’re a kiwi living in Australia, or an Australian who wants to support this agenda, please don’t let geography get in the way. We need to work on this together. We need to share what we know. If you’re interested or you want to find out more, our website is paparoa.org and you can also reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.