Anti-Government activity, protests 'not going away anytime soon', says disinformation researcher Byron Clark

It's been an active and wild week for the anti-Government movement with a Parliamentary protest and a new political party formed. 

And a disinformation researcher has said this sort of activity isn't going away "anytime soon" and Kiwis should get used to it over the next 12 months leading up to the 2023 election. 

At the anti-Government protest in Wellington on Tuesday, Freedom and Rights Coalition founder Brian Tamaki announced a new political party between the New Nation, Vision NZ and Outdoors & Freedom Party (Outdoors Party). 

This week also saw two people being arrested in relation to alleged offences under the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993.

A man was charged with two counts of distributing an objectionable publication and one charge of failing to carry out obligations in relation to a computer search. A woman was also charged with distributing an objectionable publication and failing to carry out obligations in relation to a computer search and obstructing police. 

Supporters of the far-right Counterspin Media claim those arrested were hosts Kelvyn Alp and Hannah Spierer.

Disinformation researcher Byron Clark told Newshub Nation on Saturday the anti-Government activity New Zealand has seen over the last week will be sticking around. 

"It's definitely not going away anytime soon. I'm not sure it's growing at the rate that perhaps it was a year ago but there's a significant number of people now who have really disengaged with mainstream media, often disengaged with their traditional social networks of friends, and whānau as well," he told co-host Rebecca Wright.

"[They're] really committed to these conspiratorial worldviews where they believe the Government is becoming tyrannical and various conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and the vaccine and things related to that." 

He said Kiwis should get used to this as a new part of their society. 

"I think that, in a way, we need to as a society confront that it's not really a fringe anymore.

"It's still a fringe but it's not a few hundred people. It's a few thousand people or possibly even tens of thousands of people."

Clark said the arrest of the pair in Christchurch was "somewhat surprising but not entirely unexpected".

He said supporters of the far-right group Counterspin Media are using these arrests to fuel their conspiratorial ideas. 

"They are seeing this as the state cracking down on critical voices or critical journalists, as they call themselves when the state is not arresting them because of what they're saying, even though some of what they're saying is quite abhorrent. It's the specific, objectionable material that has resulted in these arrests.

"But for many of their supporters, it's reinforcing their world view the Government is becoming tyrannical and is cracking down on free speech." 

Clark said overseas influences like American alt-right, radio show host and prominent conspiracy theorist Alex Jones are having an impact here in New Zealand.

"What's happening in the United States and other countries has an influence on people here.

"So the talk of civil war may originate overseas but the people who are watching Counterspin are likely watching Alex Jones and others from the US and elsewhere and getting these ideas and spreading them further in this country."

Watch the full interview with Byron Clark above.

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