Hard News by Russell Brown

Anyone more normal?

There's plenty on the wires to be going on with as regards the weekend's Act Party conference; and not just the part about attracting no votes at all in the latest One News poll, or even the broadside about muckraking from party founder Roger Douglas.

Scoop highlights the rather odd spectacle of Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia turning up to be the sweetie at the conference of the party whose leader last year compared her party to the National Front. All okay now, then?

The party went on to elect a president who felt it appropriate to make a vomiting gesture when talking about gay men at a candidate's meeting in Hamilton last year.

And then there's the new vice-president, Trevor Loudon, who still actively "studies" with the quasi-religious capitalism cult Zenith Applied Philosophy, which supposedly schismed away from Scientology early on (it's now on the notorious Church of Scientology "fair game" list, along with the Universal Church of Eternal Phetan, the Institute of Advanced Perception, and what seems like a million other flaky, cultish outfits).

ZAP was big news in Christchurch when I was a lad there. Its leader called himself Johnny Ultimate and appeared to have special powers. ZAP members would distribute recruiting leaflets by bus stops in the square, and also circulate books from the John Birch Society, a far-right American organisation which held that both the US and Soviet governments were controlled by a conspiracy of greedy bankers and corrupt politicians. (This archived thread from nz.politics has some more observations.)

ZAP owned a lot of commercial property in the city, including the old Dog House burger bar in Cathedral Square. We went to the Dog House for the milkshakes and the spacies, but one time there I found a copy of the infamous conspiracy tract None Dare Call It Conspiracy, which has long been condemned by the Anti-Defamation League as anti-semitic (the book dismisses the ADL as "Jewish members of the conspiracy"). It was a strange thing to leave lying around for the kids.

The Australian anti-fascist site Fight Dem Back says that in the 1980s ZAP was associated with the neo-Nazi Nationalist Workers Party - but provides no source for the claim. There are further claims to the same effect in this Kiwiblog thread. The link is emphatically denied by Loudon in answer to a series of questions from the Green Party's Russel Norman about his past, on his blog:

There never have been any such links. I am willing to bet my membership and position in ACT against your membership and position in the Green Party, that you have no credible proof of such allegations. I suggest that if you have no proof, you withdraw your question on this subject from your Frogblog post now and post a statement confirming that you were merely "flying a kite" or were misinformed.

Oddly enough, I have a copy of a New Zealand Herald story from June 20, 1983, headed 'Nazis, Zap and Trim Out'. It contains the news that New Force, a party founded by the notorious local fascist and occultist Kerry Bolton had expelled "nazi elements" and "sympathisers of two Christchurch-based organizations, Zenith Applied Philosophy and Trim, the Tax Reduction Integrity Movement."

New Force had been formed by Bolton in 1981 and stood Mr B.W. Zandbergen as a candidate in Western Hutt in that year's general election. It joined the Springbok Tour debate with a pro-apartheid stance, and called for the repatriation of Pacific Islanders.

In 1983 the ZAP and Trim contingent of New Force had demanded that New Force swing in behind their free-market laissez-faire philosophies, and threatened to join Bob Jones' new party if this didn't happen. It didn't, they were chucked out, and after that, New Force became the Nationalist Workers Party. You may look at this and think Loudon is playing semantics here. Perhaps this is simply a case of a cult that attracted the kind of losers and weirdos who independently decided it would be a good idea to try and take over a fascist organisation, but there clearly were "links".

In the same post, Loudon pleads good old youthful indiscretion to questions about a piece in his 1980s magazine New Zeal, which alleged that the Business Roundtable was a communist front organisation ("I did endorse it and am ashamed of doing so").

And it might seem mean to start citing the man's past now he has entered (relatively) mainstream politics. Well, it would be if Loudon hadn't distinguished himself as the local blogosphere's leading ideological underwear-sniffer over the past year or so.

Loudon has obsessively researched the political histories of various New Zealanders, citing their past activities (often as students) in an apparent attempt to imply that they are some sort of covert communist threat. The results, as ProgBlog noted in a post yesterday, can be asinine. (Disclosure: I have not only heard of Joss Debreceny, I have met him in a professional context. He is a nice man who has worked for a number of corporations and I'm really pretty sure he's not a Marxist sleeper.)

Most of Loudon's attention, however, has been directed at Green Party development co-ordinator Russel Norman. His allegations about Norman are discussed here. It all seems a bit sad (if not out of character - this is a man who used to run after Lada drivers and harangue them in the street), especially when, as noted in this interesting Kiwiblog thread, Loudon has been known to launch his conspiracies on dead people.

So far, so weird. Can't Act find anyone more … normal?

As I've said before, I see great value in a classical liberal party in Parliament, playing the same role on the right as the Greens do on the left. The media debate at the moment is about whether it's going to be Rodney Hide's Act or Roger Douglas's Act. Frankly, I think it's looking more like Muriel Newman's Act.

Elsewhere on the weirdo right, an academic celebrated, invited to New Zealand and published by the Maxim Institute has made some unfortunate headlines in Britain. In an interview with a student paper, Frank Ellis expressed his belief that the white male is genetically superior to any other race and also to white women, and praised the racist British National Party - and has now been suspended from his post at Leeds University. The anti-fascist organisation Searchlight told the Guardian that Ellis had been touting such views for 15 years. Quite where a lecturer in Russian gets off making creepy pronouncements about genetics I'm not sure, but, as we have seen, scientific robustness has never really been a strong suit for Maxim.