Don’t use Comment section of this site while the National government is in power

To qualify that heading, I suggest that if you have something critical to say about the government you don’t, without careful thought, use the Comment section of websites, the same if you intend to approve something critical someone else has said about the government. As well, principals and teachers need to be similarly careful about writing letters to newspapers. Underlying that caution from me is an opposite message if, having taken that caution into account, and you go ahead with your comment or letter, I applaud you as demonstrating moral courage inspiring to us all.

We should all take a step back and ponder what depths we have fallen to in New Zealand when the Key government, the minister’s office, the ministry of education, Cameron Slater, newspapers (local), and possibly the GCSB, have conspired to create an environment of fear – a fear so pervasive as to make New Zealanders hesitant about exercising their freedom of speech. Is this the kind of country we want to live in?

There is no doubt that powerful search engines have trawled sites to catch out teachers and principals – the names for these being put forward by the minister’s office.

Three instances:

  1. I want to begin with the possible use of the GCSB (though possibly Slater trying to be funny).

A principal is waiting for a decision (and still is ) from the Employment Relations Authority in a hugely controversial long-running struggle against suspension and the use of a statutory manager. A false e-mail was sent to the Comments section of a posting on this website.

The e-mail said:

 

June 15, 2014 at 9.33 pm

Hey Kelvin

But remember who was on the 2 year NOVOPAIN task force …

[The name of a person] and he never gave a report back to the NZPF executive that it was a no brainer …

Love you

Marlene

 

This e-mail was carefully crafted in the style of the principal’s manner of writing e-mails, though it went a step too far with ‘you’ after ‘Love’.

The e-mail was false. The identifying details of the e-mail received therefore were false, but what were the genuine ones.

A team of computer people was engaged in the arduous and complex task of establishing the genuine origins of the e-mail.

Here they are:

OrgName:        Navy Network Information Center (NNIC)

OrgId:          NNICN-1

Address:        2465 GUADALCANAL ROAD

Address:        BLDG 1265

City:           VIRGINIA BEACH

StateProv:      VA

PostalCode:     23459

Country:        US

Yes – the USA naval spy centre. I believe the GCSB was involved in this (though possibly Slater).

The intention of this false e-mail comment was very likely to set up the circumstances for a further e-mail comment containing some Gestapo-Nazi reference. Thus detracting from the Employment Relations decision when it came out.

This is your New Zealand.

2.    I move now to another kind of situation we could never have imagined for New Zealand.

One of New Zealand’s top principals (he had recently received an outstanding ERO report), an outspoken opponent of national standards, had his name placed on Anne Tolley’s hit list (my categorisation). His name was passed on to Whale Oil. Then, in a posting headed ‘Nothing less than a scandal’ this principal, along with two other principals (one of them the target of the possible GCSB attack above), were attacked.

A comment made under the principal’s name from a year and a half earlier was discovered on an education website – a comment with a gestapo reference. It was a comment he couldn’t recall making, but he supposed he must have made it. That comment now became part of the campaign against the principal. The principal went online to try to find it; he couldn’t. So submerged was the comment that only a highly skilled computer operator controlling a computer with a very powerful search engine could have found it. Experts consulted suggested two possible sources: Whale Oil or the GCSB. In the end, the principal had to go to the local newspaper (which had been used for the leak) to find out where it was.

The full torrent fell on the principal. He was described as someone who tried to ‘rally his comrades rather than teach kids at his school how to read, write and do maths.’ Slater went on to say that ‘Any journalist worth their salt would be calling the boards of trustees of the principal involved … ‘ and so on and so on. And then there was a follow-up posting by Slater headed a posting ‘Know your union scum’. Charming – this is what a dedicated and caring principal had to put up with.

Anne Tolley on her departure was congratulated for putting the principal under pressure. Everything about Slater’s postings indicated a close association between him and Tolley. The terrible point is that when the minister’s office and Slater team up, and Slater makes an open invitation to someone in the school community to make a complaint, that person can rely on the minister’s office for instantaneous back up

3.   And a further case, this time relating to a principal who had written a letter to the editor criticising national standards. Once again, one of New Zealand’s great principals. If I said she was a legend in education and one of the kindest most sincere principal there ever was, many readers would recognise her, so I won’t say it.  Yes, she was on Tolley’s hit list. This time, as well as the minister’s office being involved, there is little doubt the school’s computer system was hacked.

The principal in August 2011 wrote a letter to the NZ Herald criticising national standards. She was hauled over the coals by Slater for not saying she was an NZEI member (headed ‘More dishonest NZEI action’) and later on a ‘hard left suspect’. Also included in the posting was a letter, almost certainly hacked, she had sent to a number of selected principals.

A little under a year later, Slater responded to another letter the principal sent to the NZ Herald, this time criticising league tables. He says ‘Almost a year ago I outed a whiner called …, posing as a normal person, who wrote to the Herald complaining about national standards.’

So a principal writes a letter to a newspaper and that principal is slagged. The point is that if it was just a blogger slagging somebody, not much would be at risk, but behind this, informing Slater, egging him on, ready to pounce if the opportunity offered – is the minister’s office. Slater’s posting, backed by an agency of state, dramatically increases the threat to the principal.

These are dark days for New Zealand democracy. Democracy is not democracy when its citizens are constrained from speaking out freely on the issues of the day – it becomes something else. Is this what our forebears fought for? The prevailing idea I took from Dirty Politics was that an unscrupulous, right-wing group, centred in Auckland, had built up an extensive network of support in politics, the power structure, and the media, determined not to let go of power easily and, in the occasion of it occurring, just as determined to be unrelenting in regaining it. As part of that network was the sleaze of Slater and Whale Oil. And here was New Zealand’s prime minister in regular contact with him. When asked if he was going to stop that contact with Slater – asked three times – he was evasive. As discussed in another posting, New Zealand’s prime minister is not able to stand up against Slater because Slater has too much on him. These surely are unprecedented times. As another example of where New Zealand politics presently is, take the strange circumstances surrounding the appointment of the head of the GCSB, a school friend of the New Zealand prime minister. The prime minister wanted a bunny and he got one. The New Zealand prime minister clearly had already committed himself to the unconsented mass surveillance of New Zealand citizens. My conclusion is that if you have something critical of the government to say, be thoughtful before you say it – but if you proceed – all hail to you. You will gain strength from the idea that in exercising your right to speak you are defending democracy and providing an inspiration to others.

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6 Responses to Don’t use Comment section of this site while the National government is in power

  1. Paul says:

    I thought along these lines after reading Dirty Politics. It is worrying when democracy and free speech are under threat. Yesterday i hesitated when making a point on blogs that opposed the government. Paranoid maybe but given the range of people who have been attacked maybe not.

    I am concerned too about how deep it goes. We had a weasel journalist here in the North who seemed to find every little thing that didn’t go well in schools but turned a blind eye to the problems known by all in a school that openly supported Tolley and National Standards. I haven’t forgotten that Duncan Garner just happened to be around to make first story news about principals arguing about national standards either.

    We can only continue to have our say or sink into a form of society that we never planned or wanted. Bad things happen when good men and woman lay silent and if too many do then they get you in the end anyway.

  2. Melanie says:

    We need to take back our voice as voters and members of a democratic New Zealand. We are not just teachers and principals. We are tax payers too. We are citizens. We are professionals. We have the right to comment because we live in a democracy. To stay silent is to let the Whale and his ilk win, to kill our democracy. This is not what New Zealand was built on.

  3. John carrodus says:

    Writer’s ink is the lifeblood of democracy. Some say that truth and knowledge is a result of a change in the spirit and vision of mankind. As teachers we know this site proves the opposite and therein shines it’s strength. This battle must be waged in the open and kept in the light. It will be difficult in the future however to keep it out of the foreign policy and security realities as politics will increasingly cloud the educational arguments. History does repeat and it would appear mutates quickly with technology. I guess we as a species have not quite got a handle on this yet, hence all the fun and games created by this vacuum! Keep that feather claymore sharp Kelvin and long may your ink flow.

  4. Myles Ferris says:

    Thank you once again Kelvin. It is clear to me that this regime is hell bent on destroying all who oppose and is the darkest and most insidious leadership group we have ever had. Using their rabid attack dog to do their dirty work is cowardly and pathetic. It still only works if they think we have something to lose and personally I know I can survive without my job as a principal but I will not stay quiet while injustice and bad policy is thrown at us. They can only take away my job but not my voice and I will continue to highlight their inadequacies every time they present them. Slater is no longer a threat as he has been exposed as a puppet for hire and has lost what little credibility he had. We are better off ignoring him. The deeper threat we need to be aware of is the supposedly independent offices that we suspect of being under the control of the Minister. Educanz is the prime example of this if it gets the green light after the election. Anyway mate, using a current colloquialism that is big in my neck of the woods they can “Run at me Bro!!!” I have my own guard dog who will attack anyone who has a crack. That is my BOT Chair so as a team we are ready. Arohanui…Myles

  5. Attack Politics is the weeping sore festering under our fragile democracy. My God I can’t wait to kick this corrupt National government out and I don’t care how many spies read my opinion. The public MUST mobilise and demonstrate at parliament to demand the total resignation (not just stepping down from cabinet) of corrupt ministers such as Key, Collins, and Tolley if they remain on after the election. The beehive must be purged of corrupt staffers and contractors like Jason Ede. Our teachers, principals, pro-bono lawyers, stirrers, and critics of conscience deserve the public’s wider support in being able to speak their minds without fear of dirty smear tactics, and an independent public service broadcaster is needed (as called for by Nicky Hager) to counter the spin merchants of commercial media. Perhaps Orwell got it wrong, and it should have been entitled 2014

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