by Geoffrey Churchman
Whenever the government, central or local, decides to withhold information from the public, the question that always gets asked is ‘why — what do they have to hide?’
Everyone knows the main facts about what happened in Christchurch on the Ides of March 2019 — a lunatic visitor from Australia went on a shooting rampage at the two Christchurch mosques in an unexpected and unprovoked racially (not religiously) motivated attack, killing 51 and severely wounding another 49.
The rationale behind it was explained by the gunman Brenton Tarrant himself in a ‘manifesto’ sent by email to numerous outlets — including the Prime Minister’s office — just prior to the rampage. It was swiftly banned by the government; in itself that raised questions. Certainly, exhortations to go out and do the same were unacceptable, but those sentences could have been omitted in an expurgated version. There was no need to ban the whole thing, as the underlying ideology was far from unique to him and, being widespread, requires critical analysis in an open and civilised manner. Driving things underground like the government did only provokes inquisitiveness about what the ‘truth’ is.
The rampage itself was recorded on a helmet camera by the gunman, broadcast live on Facebook and turned into a 17 minute video (it only covered the attack on the Al Noor mosque opposite Hagley Park and not the one at Linwood). That too was swiftly banned. Some overseas media channels such as America’s ABC broadcast some of it (excluding the actual shooting), and Turkey’s President Erdogan made a point of screening the actual shooting at a supporters rally.
Despite the government’s ban, both the manifesto and the video can be found with informed searching on the web (we are not going to tell you how). One useful analysis of it dealt with the question some raised of whether it was fakery (it wasn’t) and whether there was an accomplice (there is some evidence of that). Otherwise it really doesn’t have any redeeming aspects except to demonstrate how incredibly cruel and nasty not just terrorist attacks, but multiple shootings are, particularly of innocent people who have done nothing to deserve it.
The government’s Commission of Inquiry was set up in May 2019, but has yet to report for reasons it has not explained. A month ago came the announcement “The Royal Commission welcomes the Minister of Internal Affairs’ decision to extend the inquiry deadline to 26 November 2020 to enable the completion of its report.” The question most will have is, how much censorship is going to be involved with the public version of the report? It’s a safe bet there will be a lot.
Another intriguing question is why did Tarrant change his plea in April from Not Guilty to Guilty? The likelihood of his being acquitted was zero, but his defense would have been that he was a combatant dealing to invading enemies of NZ. Granted, there was no chance of the Mainstream Media reporting any of that — they made that clear last year — but why did it take a year for Tarrant to change his stance? Did Andrew Little offer him a carrot (better prison conditions) for doing so, or a stick (worse conditions) for not doing so?
Certain media types, such as Patrick Gower and his buddy Professor Spoonley, will for the next week get on their hobby horses with their extravagant obsessive beliefs about their ideological opposites — hard left versus far right (both are problems in this country, but, unlike in America, not a significant threat) — and then hopefully it will slowly fade into history.