Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 5. 1967.
"A misinformed works"
"A misinformed works"
Chris Wheeler Calls Quennell's
Original Article On Demonstrators
Dear Mr. Quennell,—Taking your retirement from the New Zealand Security Service and your avowed disenchantment with this organisation at face value. I was mildly surprised that your attempted analysis of recent protest demonstrations against President Johnson and Marshal Ky should turn out to be such a biased and misinformed piece of work. Whatever your views are at the moment regarding the usefulness or otherwise of a spy network in a country such as New Zealand, it is difficult to come to any other conclusion than that you still share the Illusions and remarkable lack of objectivity displayed by your former employers.
As one of those involved in both demonstrations against Johnson and Ky, I helped the local Committee on Vietnam in its attempts to give as wide a coverage as possible to the reasons for these protests. Not only were the usual press, radio and tv channels covered with prepared statements, but our case was also stated in pamphlets and leaflets distributed on the streets and to letterboxes Even allowing for the heavy-handed censorship of our views by both the daily press and Broadcasting, it is surprising that one so interested in the protest movement was not able to lay his hands on any of the printed matter so readily available from the Committee on Vietnam. You must surely be acquainted with the names of many members of the Committee, any of whom would have been only too glad to supply you with the information you seem to have been so badly in need of.
Were you present at any of the demonstrations? Information was available at both demonstrations. I was one of many moving among the demonstrators with leaflets stating our case. Surely Mr. Quennell, the Political Editor of a university newspaper has a duty towards his readers to do a little more homework than Is displayed in the pseudo news of a third-rate daily press. Hut perhaps it was not politically expedient for you to give us a more informed account.
If ever an issue was clouded by a headline Salient's "Demonstrator finds way to cloud complex issues" was it. Your articles opening lines were a fitting forecast of the inept generalisations and pseudo-intellectualisations which were to follow. "Protest demonstrations by definition are not usually a rallying point for the hail-fellow-well-met sort of people," Whose definition, Mr. Quennell? The Concise Oxford Dictionary or the New Zealand Security Services? What sort of people are "hail-fellow-well-met-sort-of-people?" Similar people to "Communists.'' "niggers" and "Vietinks" one would imagine. The stereotype idea, after all, helps to keep the arguments simple, if not intelligent.
As you are quick to point out, the Johnson demonstration "turned up dissenters against very nearly everything over and above the basic [unclear: Vletnan]... If ever there was a simple way to [unclear: b]a over a few complex issues, the [unclear: demonstr eem]to have found it."
A placard, [unclear: uennell], with 'Withdraw NZ Troops [unclear: N] "Stop the War is fairly specific. Only [unclear: iron], or one whose sole knowledge of [unclear: n] affairs relates to South Island racing [unclear: s] would be unaware of the connection [unclear: een] the placards and the situation in [unclear: V] There were no references in placards [unclear: m hlets] to other issues than those related [unclear: ling] the war in Vietnam. The existence [unclear: y] other dissenters, apart from the [unclear: rat vious] ones Mr. Holyoake and his [unclear: fell ticians] the police and Security men [unclear: a] the odd punchy Fascist extremist-[unclear: m an] a matter of pure conlecture. Your [unclear: t] reference to dissenters against nearly [unclear: s] thing" seems to leave the place where [unclear: npathies] lie in no doubt. Many educated [unclear: nds], Mr. Quennell, object to [unclear: unsupport lectures] being treated as Fact. You, [unclear: he] continue your article as if your [unclear: supp] have defined some sort of reality. [unclear: Yo] of argument, if you can be said to [unclear: ha] at all, seems to be that "[unclear: demonstrator] probably against everything. This [unclear: id kly] passes into the realms of elernal [unclear: Trt monstrators], because they number [unclear: those] are against everything, therefore [unclear: con nd] cloud over the issues which are [unclear: inv n] the Vietnam war.
You give [unclear: us nefits] of your erudition— some [unclear: smatteri] knowledge on the same level of [unclear: conje s] your introductory lines. One [unclear: detects] from Stage I Political Science–[unclear: or] Psychology? "A sizeable minority of [unclear: t id's] people," you tell us, "seems to [unclear: kee nity] by focusing its fears and sense of [unclear: o] upon some vague external enemy such [unclear: a mtry] or a leader." Maybe we have read [unclear: ent] books, Mr. Quennell, but my social [unclear: hology] reminds me constantly of [unclear: he hat] the sizeable minority you refer to [unclear: ly] numbers the sum total of the world [unclear: nation], whatever that is at the [unclear: momen t] you ascribe to a relative few is in [unclear: act ict], present in us all to some greater [unclear: er] extent. Your efforts to discredit [unclear: the] Vietnam demonstrations and by [unclear: inferer e] arguments of those who oppose present [unclear: rnment] policy, might seem in the eyes [unclear: o e]to emanate from your own [unclear: irrational] of the 'threat of Communism,"[unclear: the tic] invasion," or any of the other [unclear: myt] probably share with your former [unclear: employ].
That good, [unclear: dy] Job with the Kiwi Establishment that you may have set your heart on earning may make it difficult for you to think at all objectively. Escape from the womb. Mr. Quennell, even if just for a moment, and toy with the idea that "in a small, highly-socialised country like our own, the people who become alienated and excessively disenchanted with the policies and office-holders of the incumbent Government" are probably not just the "small handful" you would have your readers believe. The array of artists, writers, academics and churchmen who oppose present Government policy regarding the war in Vietnam could never have been gathered to support the present Government's action. If you study the "complex issues" a little more closely and avoid the super-patriotic ravings and Red horde nonsense of the United States Information Service and its attendant news agencies, you will possibly notice that by any but the most biased standards the intellectual ascendency is held by those who oppose the United States involvement.
And Quel Horreur! Mr. Quennell, you may even find some of these men get a little emotional when they attack the United States for what it is doing in Vietnam! A lot of reporters have been saying for a long time that those Vietcong death lists jubilantly produced by the USIS actually include a hell of a lot of men, women and children who were silly enough to be in the way when the "Freedom fighters" drooped in on their campaign to keep the world clean for the USA. I don't know what "Democracy" means and I'm rather doubtful that many Vietnamese, or for that matter. Vietcong know, or care what "Communism" means. Maybe in your more euphoric moments, Mr. Quennell, you like to think of yourself as a Liberal—a man with an open mind, even. Maybe you were well-intentioned when you wrote this article of yours, but couldn't you have done a little better than the best sub-editorial style of the Dominion and Evening Post?
Most of us who have demonstrated on the last two occasions against President Johnson and Marshal Ky are only too aware of the danger of the demonstrations becoming a meaningless ritual. We are not, as you would imply, so naive as to think that the politicians, seeing a large and perhaps vocal group of demonstrators will thereupon reassess their policies. We demonstrate reluctantly, because all other popular public forums have been denied us. The censorship is covert and it is continuous. We have offered to call off demonstrations if we are given a chance to state our case over the broadcasting network. We have been refused without any reason. A full page statement, over the names of 1000 professional men and women in this country, which was already set up in type ready for publication in the Dominion on the morning of President Johnson's visit to Wellington, was refused at the last minute.
Editorial policy in both Wellington papers, as with the majority of papers throughout this country, has been generally unsympathetic and at times even openly hostile towards the various Vietnam committees and other groups and individuals who oppose Government policy. A Government-dominated Broadcasting Corporation has consistently underplayed and often avoided the fact that any opposition exists at all. Thus all camera shots of the arrival of President Johnson at Parliament were edited so that only the first few rows of demonstrators appeared on the screen. Sounds of clapping were dubbed in, whereas, in actual fact, an estimated 1500 demonstrators directly in front of Parliament steps, shouted then disapproval so loudly that no sound of clapping could ever have been recorded. Our letters to the editor are rarely published. A request to the City Council for a suitable spot for soap-box speakers and an audience to gather was finally met—we were given an obscure spot behind the Public Library where few members of the public ever pass. Only by subscribing to overseas journals and newspapers are we able to read the news and comment which, even in the United States, in such conservative papers as the New York Times and the Washington Post, the average citizen takes for granted.
We feel forced to demonstrate because in this "democracy" called New Zealand, other normal avenues are denied us. We demonstrate our opposition because if we didn't the New Zealand Government would be able to happily say to Messrs Johnson and Ky: "Look, all the people of New Zealand are behind you." We demonstrate with the memories of the war crimes committed by the Nazis 22 years ago and the principle underlined first during the Nuremburg War Trials, which followed, and later, in the United Nations Charter, that no Government can substitute for individual human responsibility.
Finally Mr. Quennell, perhaps you could clear up for your readers just now one does resign from the NZ Security Service.