Mitch Harris: Apparently we are a laughing stock - but I can’t find any evidence of it

Opinion 03/04/2018
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Credit: File.

By Mitch Harris, Night Talk host. 

OPINION: You know the old aphorism, if you tell a lie often enough it becomes the truth.  Boy, have we had a first class example of that over the past week.

Virtually every main media outlet and plenty of small ones have repeated the falsehood that New Zealand is an international laughing stock because we have not got any spies to kick out in solidarity with the U.K.

“We are being laughed at in the international media,” said National Leader Simon Bridges.

The trouble is that I cannot find a single story in any newspaper around the world confirming that we are some sort of laughing stock.  

The New York Times had a small piece reporting on the controversy in New Zealand saying, “New Zealand had been faulted (within NZ) for not expelling Russians.”

Other international outlets reported that there were no spies here but I couldn’t detect a mocking tone in any of them.

So how did this falsehood happen?  My good friend and regular contributor to my show, Paul Buchanan, started it.

Paul is very hawkish on security matters. He wrote an article for the Guardian and Newshub and repeated his opinion on RNZ that we were an international laughing stock for being so naive as to think we do not have Russian Spies operating here. His Guardian article is the only mention that I can find outside New Zealand about us being a laughing stock, so it is hardly an international view.

The Prime Minister consulted Foreign Affairs who consulted the SIS and they couldn’t confirm that there were Russian diplomats operating as “undeclared intelligence officers.” For repeating that advice she is called naive. Perhaps the SIS is “naive”.

Who can say?

But it does not seem such a stretch to me that the Russians would not bother stocking their embassy here with spies. I know we are in the five eyes network but that is all cyber stuff. They do not need to have feet on the ground in New Zealand for that.

And here is another thing. I have not had a single caller complaining that the Government was not doing enough in solidarity with the UK.  New Zealanders like it that we now think for ourselves and let’s face it, we did not feel the love from the UK after the Rainbow Warrior bombing. New Zealand’s response is entirely proportionate for our part in response to the alleged offence against the UK.

There has been a kind of bi-polar attitude to Jacinda Adern. To begin with, she was fawned over as if she was the second coming of Christ. Now the slightest sign of difficulty is interpreted as a Government in crisis.

The spy falsehood along with Mark Mitchell’s beat up on NZ First MP Jenny Marcroft in which the former mercenary and dog cop claimed that Ms Marcroft was bullying him has been offered up as evidence of a Government in crisis. Admittedly the Clare Curran saga is a little more serious but hardly Government toppling stuff.

I am glad to live in a country that is so unimportant that the Russians might not have any spies here.  That is a good thing and I imagine that most people around the rest of the world would share that view.

Mitch Harris is the host of Night Talk, 8pm - 12am on RadioLIVE.