Not a story: John Ansell and @ColourblindNZ

This is the story of me doing John Ansell a good turn, a sentence I never really thought I’d write in any seriousness.

Read on!

It started with the discovery that John Ansell apparently had joined Twitter under the handle @ColourblindNZ and was tweeting thusly:

Which seemed quite characteristically John Ansell, especially since @ColourblindNZ was tweeting Ansell’s repeated call for a poll about whether New Zealanders really do support biculturalism:

Well, I thought, this deserves a blogpost, one which I dutifully started writing late Sunday night. I tore into Ansell’s use of language, especially the way it sounded awfully close to the “White Pride” language of the various White Supremacist movements. I almost pressed “Publish” but I knew the post could do with another pass and, frankly, I was a bit too tired and cranky to that late on a Sunday night.

However, despite my better instincts, I decided to start following the @ColourblindNZ account (I’d prefer to not litter my feed with racism), and as I was settling into my bed I caught up with the antics of @ColourblindNZ, who had tweeted:

Wow, I thought. Kyle Chapman, failed mayoral candidate for Christchurch but, more importantly, a former director of the New Zealand National Front (i.e. former leader of a bunch of Neo-Nazis).

That should have rung alarm bells and made me think twice that John Ansell and @ColourblindNZ were one and the same, but it didn’t.

Why not? These are probably all post facto rationalisations for my lack of scepticism, but, for one thing, I could see Ansell pushing the “Treatygate” angle ahead of his “equality for all” banner which is (meant to be) the “Together New Zealand” brand, since his new blog is not “Togetherness New Zealand” but “Treatygate“. Given that he has placed a lot of his energy on the claim there is some massive rort-cum-conspiracy being run by both Māori and the Government against “us” Pākehā, I could kind of see him reaching out to fellow travellers like Kyle Chapman1. I’m still unsure as to whether it was all that much of a stretch to believe the tweets about Ansell and Chapman were genuine.

Firstly, given Ansell’s reliance on the works of people like Martin Doutré and Kerry Bolton, who have not just expressed opinions sympathetic to Far Right ideologies but, in some cases, defended such opinions with Far Right arguments, its not outside the bounds of possibility that Ansell has been introduced to Chapman.

Secondly, Ansell has (sometimes rightly, but often mistakenly) often made the case for either not looking into the background or other beliefs of the people he is associated with (as far as I know, Ansell still hasn’t looked into Doutré’s claims of a pre-Māori, European people living in Aotearoa me Te Wai Pounamu. Given that Doutré’s views on this material is relevant to any discussion of his ability – or lack thereof – as an historian, Ansell should be interested in looking into these claims) or claiming that he won’t buy into any allegations of guilty-by-association. Given that Chapman is no longer the director of the New Zealand National Front and has tried (albeit unsuccessfully) to distance himself from claims he is a racist first and foremost, maybe its possible Chapman (who holds to some form of segregationist policy) is now sufficiently distant from his former Neo-Nazi activities to be a credible member of team “Together New Zealand?”

Still, I suspect I should have been more incredulous.

So, long story short, I went to bed still believing that @ColourblindNZ and John Ansell were one and the same, even though I should have been doubtful the very moment I saw that “WPWW” hashtag.

A major problem in talking about conspiracy theories is that people often confuse the parody of conspiracy theorists with the actual conspiracy theories they put forward (I’m working on a paper which argues against making such a move). It’s all well and nice to knowing laugh at the kind of campaign John Ansell is running, since it smacks of a white man of privilege bemoaning the world moving on without him, but the problem with such parody (and this is a problem with satire in general) is that some people do not know that what they are experiencing is a parody and react accordingly.

I say this because it obviously didn’t occur to me, until the next morning, to think that the account might not be the work of John Ansell (that might also be a post facto move on my part; it’s just as possible that idea came to me after Lew Stoddart (@LewStoddart) mooted it). However, once the spectre that we were dealing with a parody account was raised, it suddenly seemed very unlikely indeed that John Ansell and @ColourblindNZ were one and the same, although I toyed briefly with the following idea:

However, when the following tweet by @ColourblindNZ appeared, the pretense was all over:

In retrospect, I should have known it wasn’t Ansell. Firstly, @ColourblindNZ seemed really good at using hashtags, which is unusual for a newbie on Twitter. Secondly, the #WPWW (which refers to “White Pride Worldwide”) tag seemed a tad extreme for Ansell (even given his like of certain books by Kerry Bolton, who is formerly of the New Zealand National Front and writes for the openly bigoted Counter-Currents Publishing). Thirdly, the clue I really should have picked up on was the fact the account was called @ColourblindNZ; Ansell has given up on the “Colourblind New Zealand” name as a brand for his project. His brand these days is “Togetherness New Zealand” (for an “ad guru” he certainly goes through a lot of rebranding; “Treatygate,” “Colourblind New Zealand” and “Togetherness New Zealand”). Whilst the person running the @ColourblindNZ account did end up using the “Togetherness New Zealand” label in their tweets, I can’t see Ansell using a label he’s dropped as a Twitter handle. Indeed, as Ansell said in his blogpost confirming that the account was not his:

For the record, I’m no longer using the name Colourblind New Zealand. As others had warned me it would be, I found the name was being wilfully misinterpreted as ‘blind to people of colour’ — which is the last thing I intended.

Still, even given the evidence, I still wasn’t entirely sure Ansell wasn’t behind the account (I suspect part of reluctance to follow the evidence, which was strongly suggestive that @ColourblindNZ was a parody, was because I had written blogpost slamming John Ansell for the @ColourblindNZ account; I hate wasting my words). Crucially, Ansell hadn’t mentioned the account at all over at his “Treatygate” blog, so I did something which I felt a bit uncomfortable about; I emailed him.

This is what I wrote:

Hi, John.

I thought I should touch base and tell you that there is a Twitter parody account masquerading under your name:

http://twitter.com/ColourblindNZ

and it is using some disturbing far right language (“Worldwide White Pride”, references to Klan regalia, et cetera). You might want to notify people on your blog that the account isn’t you. You also might like to think about starting up a Twitter account so this won’t be a problem in future.

As to why I’m doing this; I know a fair number of tāngata whenua who are getting upset with the white pride remarks the parody account is making. I may not agree with your views, but I also want a quality debate in the media, not the kind of strawman remarks the parody account is putting out there.

Yours sincerely,

Matthew Dentith, PhD

Ansell’s response (reprinted without permission, but as he printed my email to him without permission, I don’t think he’ll care) came a few hours later:

Thank you Matthew, a journalist has just told me.

I am doing a blog post, and will credit you for your generosity. I appreciate the thought.

John

This was not, as one commentator on Twitter has suggested, me trying to ingratiate myself into the cult of John Ansell. As I said in my e-mail, I’m after a quality debate (i.e. I don’t really want to have to deal with misinformation masquerading as fact, which is a problem when dealing with many conspiracy theories) and I was concerned that many tāngata whenua I knew where taking the @ColourblindNZ account seriously. I could have gone to Ansell and said “Is this you?” but I didn’t really want to appear to be accusing him of something I suspected wasn’t the case>. If he had responded to my email with “But it is me, Matthew” … Well, then, I would have had even more ammunition for my (sadly now unusable) post.

As I suspected and David Winter surmised on Twitter:

Ansell and the commenters over at his blog have used the existence of the @ColourblindNZ account as evidence of sinister forces seeking to discredit the Treatygate movement and its leader with a smear campaign.

Ansell wrote:

As I said to Laura [the journalist who contacted him], it’s just another battle tactic of the crooked ones. It’s a compliment, as they wouldn’t be wasting their time blackening my name if they didn’t think the Treatygate message was striking a chord.

whilst one of his commenters shared this:

Not sure I would call it a “parody” JA – that is too kind. More like a desperate attempt at sabotage by deceit. Probably perpetrated by those few who have already tried to sabotage the standard blog with their absurd and repetitive postings under various pseudonyms. Now that you have successfully blocked those attempts, they have turned their feeble but nasty efforts towards the relatively infantile medium of Twitter, which is subject to very little regulation.

So, the damage is done; the Treatygate campaign, which posits a conspiracy by Māori and the Government to deny equality to all the peoples who make up the modern nationstate of New Zealand, now has (further) evidence of a conspiracy out to discredit the Treatygate campaign. Given that I’ve been accused, in the past, of being part of this conspiracy (or, at the very least, abetting the conspirators), I’m kind of waiting for someone to pull the double bluff argument and accuse me of being @ColourblindNZ.

Give it time.

Which makes out, on rereading this post, that I’m somehow annoyed by the existence of @ColourblindNZ (“How dare @ColourblindNZ confuse me with parody!”). I’m really not; yes, it’s a bit worrying that I was taken in for so long, but that kind of shows just how carefully constructed those early tweets were (although this sounds a little too much like me saying “Look, I wasn’t really being credulous afterall!”) but that’s the benefit of good parody; it should be hard to distinguish from the real thing. That being said, it’s quite obvious now that @ColourblindNZ is not John Ansell, especially when @ColourblindNZ tweets things like:

So, why write this post? Well, for one thing, it’s always a good idea to document your own mistakes, in part because it requires thinking about them but mostly because owning your mistakes is what a good academic should do. It’s also going to be useful “going forward;” these posts are, aside from the content on John Ansell’s blog, probably the most comprehensive set of resources available on the topic of “Treatygate”; it would be a bit weird not to have a record of what happened in re the @ColourblindNZ account.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

So, in conclusion, I will reiterate that John Ansell is not @ColourblindNZ and had I not wanted to wait until Monday morning to edit my post about said Twitter account, I’d have written a post which would need to be retracted with what can only be called “extreme prejudice”.2

Oh, and if @ColourblindNZ wants to get in contact with me, I promise to not let on who you are. I’d love to find out more about you. Maybe even interview you for “Conspiracy Corner” on 95bFM.

Notes

  1. Ansell has also joined forces with Vinny “Mr. News” Eastwood (who is the kind of conspiracy theorist who seems to be both a classical left and right wing conspiracy theorist), probably New Zealand’s preeminent conspiracy theorist (seriously: he was given a chance to speak at David Icke’s packed out talk a few years ago, has an internet radio show with a substantial listener base in the US; Eastwood’s even interviewed Nicky Hager, which was interesting and awkward all at the same time). This won’t play well with the usually serious and dour New Zealand public who still really aren’t quite sure of the value of social media (behold, “Seven Sharp”) and are, in this case rightfully, worried that bloggers, pod and vodcasters and the like are really just part of a giant conspiracy theory generator; Eastwood is that generator.
  2. This is not the first time I’ve confused the identity of someone with that of a parody Twitter account. I’m really hoping it is the last time.

3 thoughts on “Not a story: John Ansell and @ColourblindNZ

  1. Thought you might like to know that Police (Fraud Squad) are investigating the people involved for scamming funds at Treatygate. Ansell is seeking donations to set up a political cause, but he has no intention of setting up the political party that people are hoping for.

    Most of the people interested in the Treatygate cause are older and vulnerable. It is a scam designed to separate older people from their retirement savings.

    Also, the host at Treatygate uses more than one alias, to both give false praise to his own comments, and to abuse commenters whose presence is unwelcome. Recent aliases have included “Gavin” and “Graeme”, but the aliases are changed often.

    Regards, Tropicana

  2. I used to be John Ansell’s greatest advocate.

    That was till I discovered that John Ansell is a chronic liar, and fraud.

    Notice how Ansell warps everything. He says that police are watching him for running a
    campaign.

    As I said yesterday, this is a distortion. The police interest in John is that he
    is promising to SET UP A POLITICAL PARTY, and raising funds for it, while having no
    intention of using any funds received for SETTING UP A POLITICAL PARTY. It is fraud.

    Ask John directly. Is it his intention to set up a political party? He will not answer
    you. At best he will fudge the question.

    You have been alerted.

    Will you be recommending to your parents that they invest large sums of hard-earned
    savings with John Ansell? Please don’t . Please see the wood for the trees.

    BTW, did I accuse John or using the alias “ironsides” on his blog? See how John lies.

    ACT dumped Ansell for being a chronic liar. So did National.

    Regards

  3. I’m taking this all with a grain of salt; John Ansell has a post refuting these allegations and I have to say it would be the height of hubris for him to ridicule your claims if they were true (although stranger things have happened). Can you provide me/the readers of this blog some evidence for this investigation (either in these comments or via email to me)? Whilst I’m loathe to call anyone a liar, I do wonder whether there is exaggeration going on here (maybe on either side).

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