The fringe popularity of Bill Te Kahika

It seemed a bit odd that when Jami-Lee Ross joined his party with a virtually unknown fringe party and conceded leadership to a dude called Bill Te Kahika, but it turns out that Te Kahika is a lot more popular than Ross (this shouldn’t really be a surprise given the place Ross is in).

The allied parties aren’t likely to get close to the 5% threshold (the threshold imposed by large parties is one of MP’s biggest flaws), and there seems to be close to no chance of Ross retaining the Botany electorate, but could Te Kahika shake up the Te Tai Tokerau electorate?

If he and maybe one or two others made it into Parliament I don’t think there’s any chance either Labour or National would do any sort of governing deal with them (which would allow them to hold the balance of power), but they would be an interesting addition to the mix in Parliament.

Charlie Mitchell (Stuff): The conspiracists’ election: How the farthest fringes of politics are making a play for the centre

Billy Te Kahika is nearly 40 minutes into a two-hour monologue, delivered like a sermon and streamed live on his personal Facebook page.

It is May 17, shortly after New Zealand entered alert level two restrictions. Te Kahika, a 47-year-old businessman and musician, is sitting at a table at his home in Northland, with a pile of hand-written notes scattered in front of him.

Over the course of the video, Te Kahika lays out a theory. It interweaves the Hegelian dialectic, the origins of communism and fascism, satanism, geoengineering, and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic into a sinister global plot to control the population.

To me some of their policies are crazy, but if they get enough votes they will have deserved representation.

Te Kahika is even-tempered and eloquent. He speaks calmly, sprinkling te reo into his speech. He often interrupts himself to say what he’s talking about is not a conspiracy, but a fact.

It came out of leftfield. Before the pandemic, Te Kahika’s Facebook page was free of politics. It primarily documented his career as a guitarist, following in the footsteps of his father, the pioneering musician Billy TK.

His posts started to become politically tinged in late March, in the early days of level four restrictions. Like everyone else, Te Kahika was in self-isolation with his family, which meant he had his days free to research issues online.

Much of this research veered towards fringe ideas, circulated on Facebook and YouTube. His political posts became regular, and increasingly incorporated information from the emerging ecosystem of conspiracy theories related to the pandemic, typically centring on unsubstantiated or outright false claims.

It culminated in his live broadcast, which merged these ideas into a unified theory: That the pandemic had been planned, and the New Zealand Government was at the forefront of a global push to enslave the population.

The video was intended for his Facebook friends, but it spread much wider. Within a week, it had been seen nearly 30,000 times. In the days afterward, Te Kahika continued his live broadcasts, which drew thousands of views each.

In modern politics you have to be outlandish to get noticed. Attempts at starting up moderate modest parties get ignored.

Three weeks after his first video, Te Kahika launched the New Zealand Public Party (NZPP) at Auckland’s Akarana Yacht Club. From there, he took his theory on the road – At an event in Christchurch on July 11, a month to the day after he announced the party, Te Kahika drew a raucous crowd of 500 in Christchurch. A few days earlier, he had spoken to a similarly-sized crowd in Tauranga.

He leveraged his growing influence in conspiracy theory circles internationally, with a long-form interview with Pete Evans, the Australian chef and conspiracy theorist. Perhaps the world’s most notorious conspiracy theorist, David Icke, has shared Te Kahika’s content on social media.

Just seven weeks after it started, the party launched its campaign at the Logan Campbell Centre in Auckland. Thousands of people cheered for Billy Te Kahika, and the hope that he represented. By merging with Advance NZ, the political vehicle for Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross, the NZPP could officially contest the upcoming election (the party had formed too late to officially register).

“The momentum that we’ve got now… New Zealand politics hasn’t seen anything like it, and that’s a fact,” Te Kahika told Stuff this week.

The party’s Facebook page, not yet two months old, already has 20,000 followers, more than the ACT party, which has been online for nine years. Content on the NZPP’s Facebook page is getting engagement levels similar to that of the National Party.

Like them or not they are likely to play a significant part in the election. At least they seem to have popular support that isn’t bought by big money backed parties such as the Colin Craig, Kim Dotcom and Gareth Morgan parties.

With the fading away of small parties in Parliament there was always going to be opportunities for someone with social media savvy to make a bit of a mark.

The stuff article has a detailed look at their policies and conspiracies and their chances.

Leave a comment

26 Comments

  1. artcroft

     /  1st August 2020

    Not sure why you think National or Labour wouldn’t do a deal with these guys if they make parliament. The only reason they’ve never done a deal before is because no conspiracy party (apart from NZF) has made it into parliament. And both Nat and Lab have done deals with NZF.

    It’s the knowledge that 3% to 4% of the population are ardent conspiracists that makes me extremely grateful for the 5% thresh hold. This small percentage still get to vote while receiving the representation they deserve (ie none). It’s a win-win situation.

    Reply
    • Patzcuaro

       /  1st August 2020

      Aka the Crank Party.

      Reply
    • Corky

       /  1st August 2020

      Two points, Arty. Those synthetic chaps you are wearing are believed to have been created using back engineered fabric technology recovered form Roswell.

      Second point: These fringe parties are drawing huge crowds in my area, especially the New Conservatives. I’m picking a new political landscape at the 2023 election. Labour will be a spent force. National will be ready to be elected, but questions will still hang over them. The minor parties will be where the fun is at. A good dose of religion and conspiracy theories may be just what our country needs.

      Reply
  2. Conspiratoor

     /  1st August 2020

    I’m beginning to have these reoccurring nightmares. A delightfully eccentric, spaced out axeman and flat earther from the far north finds himself holding the balance of power

    His appeal to the youth voter is not a surprise though. At that stage, the realities of life are yet to sink in and many younger folk will gravitate toward an antiestablishment message. I recall a fellow called shadbolt attracting a cult following of pubescent anarchists before he settled down and joined the establishment

    Reply
    • Shadbolt may be becoming a bit unsettled gain.

      Shadbolt ‘fighting fit’ despite ‘obscure’ report

      Sir Tim Shadbolt says he is “fighting fit” and remains focused as Invercargill mayor.
      But his latest report to the Invercargill City Council referred to slavery and statues and made no mention of the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter closure.

      Several councillors said the mayor’s report that ran in this week’s council agenda was “different” and one said it was “obscure”, but Sir Tim said it was not strange.

      https://www.odt.co.nz/star-news/star-national/shadbolt-%E2%80%98fighting-fit%E2%80%99-despite-%E2%80%98obscure%E2%80%99-report

      Reply
    • Blazer

       /  1st August 2020

      Shadbolt realised with conformity comes a cushy sinecure.

      The establishment demands …conform or be…crushed,marginalised,ostracised.
      Corporations rule .

      Reply
  3. Reply
    • Many women also call people ‘love’ (or luv) and ‘my dear’. It’s not my favourite form of address, but I wouldn’t make a hoohah about it. I do dislike ‘m’dear’.

      Much depends upon context and intention. As someone said, ‘Look, lady…’ can mean ‘Look, bitch….’

      Reply
  4. Another fringe populist, but this one seems stuck in the past without a future.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  1st August 2020

      Roughan is a national party fan boy, wrote Keys hagiography. Always finds fault with the left.
      I would have thought ‘his time was up long ago… only stayed a Deputy editor after being passed over for the top jobs as Key had his back.
      been a journo since 1974. Even Peters didnt come into parliament till 1979.

      Whos the old timer thats a pest ?

      Reply
      • So all you can do is diss the messenger with no attempt to address the content? That’s a bit of a lame diversionary habit.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  1st August 2020

          I’m mirroring your selection …from Twitter no less that well known in depth source…
          What a strange thing to say as you link to Twitter all the time , nothing wrong with that for buzz words , yet I’m expected to rebut all his points?
          I’d tried with him directly , it’s a waste of time as he’s more dogmatic than Peters could ever be, not what I expected

          Reply
        • Fight4nz

           /  1st August 2020

          Will have picked that up from AW.

          Reply
      • Harry

         /  2nd August 2020

        Both Roughan and Peters are useless pests who belong in a retirement home.

        Reply
        • Jack

           /  2nd August 2020

          Sometimes I cannot believe the vitriol Pete allows. If Mr Peters was my grandad I would hate harry for that comment. Ageism is disgusting. I hope Mr Peters makes it back into Parliament just to prove the nasties wrong. Hardly helpful to political debates.
          I find Mr Peters sensible in many ways eg he speaks up against perpetual Maori victim hood.
          Then again, if Mr Peters was my kin, I probably would have been respected instead of despised by the churches.
          Mr Peters is a ‘useless pest’ is enough Harry. That I can cope with.

          Reply
          • Harry

             /  3rd August 2020

            I am 72, Jack. Take your “ageism” and stick it wherever it is most uncomfortable. I couldn’t care less what you can cope with.

            Reply
  5. Corky

     /  1st August 2020

    Billy does Santana. The mind boogles regarding his maiden speech should he be elected to parliment.

    Reply
  6. duperez

     /  1st August 2020

    We need people to tell us what is really happening with the world, that towers are spreading Covid-19, anyone one with genital warts has got them from some alien insemination and earthquakes are the result of same sex marriage.

    “Te Kahika is even-tempered and eloquent. He speaks calmly, sprinkling te reo into his speech. He often interrupts himself to say what he’s talking about is not a conspiracy, but a fact.
    Over the course of the video, Te Kahika lays out a theory. It interweaves the Hegelian dialectic, the origins of communism and fascism, satanism, geoengineering, and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic into a sinister global plot to control the population.’

    If they get enough votes they will have deserved representation. And I’m going to chop down all power and telephone poles because clearly they have caused enough insanity through the community to see totally deranged people get elected by totally deranged supporters.

    Reply
    • When people were destroying cellphone towers because of Covid’s links to 5G, the PM just giggled and told them not to. So you should be all right.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  1st August 2020

        This has been debunked. Yet you raise it yet again…..what’s wrong with you that you have make things up constantly

        Reply
        • Corky

           /  1st August 2020

          The link to Covid has been discredited, but not the safety of 5G. I have already posted clips showing dying and damaged trees around cell towers.

          Reply

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