Deconstructing the Jacinda government’s latest propaganda flopumentary.
by Guy Hatchard
Last week I wrote that last year’s government covid advice about disinformation, when read today in the light of recently published science, was itself disinformation. That night I watched Web of Chaos, an hour-long TVNZ government-funded documentary compiled with the help of main players from the Ardern government’s self-styled Disinformation Project.
Web of Chaos is deeply anti-intellectual, anti-religious, against medical choice, and politically biased. Is this just a lone wolf director giving us his opinion? No. It is funded propaganda. As such, it is part of a wide-ranging on-going government campaign to control the New Zealand public narrative.
Apparently, the Unvaccinated are arming themselves for Violent Revolution!
Watching Web of Chaos, many would have been concerned about such claims; some might have felt entertained or considered themselves better informed. Unfortunately, many would also have been left believing that the unvaccinated were in the process of arming themselves for violent revolution. It is not true. The documentary used violent imagery to suggest associations that don’t exist and thereby sought to manipulate public opinion and sell Ardern’s Internet censorship agenda to the public.
This was journalism turned upside down by government money—a hallmark of repressive regimes. The program openly sought to redesign key elements of the historic cultural and intellectual fabric of our nation. Let’s deconstruct what was said and try to understand the motivations:
The program tried to start on safe ground by pointing out that social media giants host some violent content and use algorithms to keep their audience glued to their screens. Enter Kate Hannah, director of the government-funded Disinformation Project. Kate has an MA in American literary culture, from where she has segued into the cultural history of science. She introduced herself over images of violence and fascist marches, saying:
“I am particularly interested in the ways science in the 20th and 21st centuries have replicated or increased disunity, racism, and misogyny and I am really interested in the larger stories of disinformation”
Unfortunately, despite appearing at key moments throughout the program, Hannah didn’t discuss any actual content of modern science that might support her argument. Instead, she moved quickly onto foreign government propaganda, speaking over pictures of soldiers marching in Red Square, Putin attending a Russian orthodox religious service, followed by images from the Brexit referendum and the Trump campaign. So no science there. We were left with the vague impression that Hannah might not like science, but wasn’t going to tell us why.
Enter Marc Daalder, a young American-born senior political reporter with Newsroom, a self-styled expert on violent extremism. Through imagery and clips, he linked those concerned about covid vaccination safety with ISIS propaganda. Why and how?—Because, of course, they are both using the Telegram communication platform. He described Telegram users as detached from reality.
Immediately Byron Clark, bearded conspiracy researcher, talks over images connected with the horrific Christchurch mosque massacre. The sequence thereby visually links concern over covid vaccine safety with violent extremism of the most extreme kind. A wholly unjustified connection with no supporting evidence. A deliberate audience manipulation.
Enter Professor Lisa Ellis, the American-born Director of the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics program at the University of Otago, who now investigates the conditions of possible human coordination in challenging contexts (??). She talks over the top of historical images of the Nazi state and recent protest actions around the world. She accuses Donald Trump and Steve Bannon of debasing New Zealand politics, and then speaks over images of the Wellington covid protest:
“When I moved to New Zealand from Texas the social egalitarianism was just amazing. What we do notice is that it has declined. The very wealthiest gained enormously during the pandemic while the rest of us suffered. It is a really dangerous trend.”
Of course, we are concerned about exploitation, but the visual implication is obvious: it is the unvaccinated who have stolen our wealth! This is implied regardless of the fact that it is actually the unvaccinated who have lost their jobs and homes through coercive government mandates. Marc Daalder chimes in to tell us that the movement (presumably the pictured Wellington protest) is being taken over by white supremacists with pre-existing agendas—but no evidence is offered.
Then the screw is turned. Over images of people practicing Yoga, children rolling pastry, picking fruit in the sunshine, growing vegetables, knitting at home, kneading bread, or obviously pregnant. Kate Hannah tells us that people are being drawn into the ‘darkness’ from lots of different places—does this make any kind of scientific or rational sense?
Kate Hannah has some strange ideas; she reveals the real culprits are ‘Trad Wives’—white Christian, pseudo-Celtic adherents. They, she says, use Pinterest and Instagram to recruit other women through interest in knitting, children’s clothing, and healthy food. She tells us it is easy (??) to understand that this is a short cut to white nationalism, whilst talking over images of children running in a meadow, a playful kitten, and braided hair.
Hannah warns us to step back and then switches to the dangers of hyper masculinity (over an image of armed and masked ISIS terrorists and a hapless Kiwi farmer saying it is important to look after women) and contrasts this with the virtues of femininity (presumably not of the Celtic kind) and flexible gender roles. She ends this segment with a warning about becoming too attached to the right of free speech, which she says is a US concept(!).
Enter David Farrier, journalist and filmmaker, he joins Hannah in blaming the internet, America, and Trump for New Zealand’s ills. Crucially, he identifies the world’s No. 1 conspiracy as the suggestion that covid vaccination will depopulate the planet. In other words, the covid vaccine is obviously safe and anyone who asks a question about safety is on par with US QAnon deep state conspiracists. He warns us about people with evangelical Christian backgrounds who, in his opinion, are being primed to become QAnon supporters. He speaks over images of the Ku Klux Klan, tank battles, and yes, the Wellington covid vax mandate protest.
Daalder returns to tell us that the problem with the Wellington protestors is not that they are wrong (in other words, he knows they were right), but they were too concerned about assigning blame.
This brings us to the central problem with the whole narrative of this video. It is now clear from published scientific papers that the mRNA covid vaccine is neither safe nor effective and the covid virus did escape from a lab funded by the US government, so the protestors were right all along. It’s undeniable, but somehow the producers of this show still want to shoot the messenger.
Accordingly, Daalder concedes that the vaccine might be causing children harm and then draws a parallel between the Wellington protestors and the small number of Germany’s people who rightfully protested against Nazism. But, he concludes, the Wellington protest was a step too far and very dangerous because there might have been one genuine terrorist lurking in their midst. Can you believe this tripe?
Enter Dr. Sanjana Hattotuwa, a Sri Lankan expert on disinformation, now a resident of New Zealand, talking over images of serial killers with whom he says we are now all connected through social media. He labels ‘internet scrolling’ the algorithmic amplification of psychosis. He moans that his work involves looking at 5,000 Telegram posts every day. Apparently, it is a gut-wrenching journey. He doesn’t actually explain who he is working for, but he says he does have access to some powerful algorithms which do a lot of his work for him.
Hattotuwa informs us that a lot of people dislike Ardern intensely and even express extremely violent emotions toward her. IMO he is right to be concerned about this, but he and I both know that whilst the trolling environment is verbally toxic, it is rarely violent in practice. According to Hattotuwa, people hate Ardern in a very Christian way. He tells us that about 350,000 people in New Zealand are involved. This is about the fourth reference to the perils of Christianity, and by this time I am getting the picture. Christianity is out and reverence for Ardern should be in.
Hannah and Hatottuwa both explain that they go through daily purification rituals. Hattotuwa says he needs to take two showers a day(!), (and one of them is a very long one). Hannah is shown washing her hands over and over again in a sort of ritualistic way in a strange basin. The implication is obvious, people who question vaccine safety are dirty. You need to cleanse yourself if you come into contact with them. Hattotuwa and Hannah both admit to needing counselling and describe their work as lonely.
Now the show’s contributors build to a climax and begin to outline their own very own grand conspiracy theory to an image of a gathering tornado. New Zealand is apparently a target destination where Internet puppet masters come to trial their manipulative methods. Little New Zealand is described as a hackable, highly transparent, small social democracy that conspirators such as Steve Bannon are seeking to upset.
Dramatic switch to war footage from Ukraine—the visual message is clear, New Zealand is next in line! Hattotuwa announces he is bringing down the big curtain (or is it up?). Behind the concern about vaccine safety is a global disinformation network led by various figures, including Vladimir Putin, certain states (said over pictures of the Chinese military and Middle Eastern capitals), religious leaders (said over a picture of a Buddhist priest followed by the interior of a Christian church), Robert Kennedy Jnr., industrialists and business leaders. So just about everyone is involved in this conspiracy. Remind me again to ask: who does Hattotuwa actually work for?
Professor Ellis concludes that TRUST with a capital T is the foundation of everything good and right that we can experience together; without it, we are done for. The message is loud and clear: trust your government; that is what makes us human beings. Otherwise, society will break down in a cascade of evil—(said over images of ram raiders, presumably unvaccinated; how did they know?). You have to contribute to the public good (translation—get the mRNA vaccine).
Cut to Andrew Cowie, netsafe educator, talking about deep fake videos which promote disinformation all around us. Very soon, he says we won’t know what reality is, and it is already happening. The implication again is clear, internet narratives questioning vaccine safety are fake, they are deceiving us.
The answer, according to the video, is the global regulation of the Internet via government-controlled censorship of private mega corporations like Meta. The video concludes by praising young people. According to the video, they are very intelligent, discriminating, and keen en-masse for governments to decide what they are allowed to look at on the internet. A sort of visionary benevolent globally-coordinated civil-service control of the Internet.
Whew! I get that the internet harbors a lot of violent and manipulative content. I get that a lot of commercial interests and governments from around the world are trying to manipulate public opinion, but are the unvaccinated, Christians, yoga enthusiasts, knitters, and young mothers are all violent terrorists rushing to the barricades? No, not in a million years. And who would trust our civil service to sort this out? Not me. Not the young either.
So where are we? Universities around the world are still gaily doing gain of function research to create deadly mutant Covid strains in leaky labs. All cause mortality has reached all time highs around the world (and it’s not due to covid). And the government-funded Web of Chaos is urging us to just TRUST and especially don’t do any of your own research. I don’t buy it. Nor should you.
I expect all political parties left, right, centre, green, and Maori to condemn this manipulative documentary, it is part of an effort to restrict and control the press, and deny public access to information relevant to public health and government probity.
Keeping silent on such a vitally important issue would amount to complicity and fuel efforts to undermine public accountability.