New Zealand’s 23-day Parliament siege: QAnon and how social media disinformation manufactured an ‘alternate reality’


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By David Robie in Pacific Journalism Review

Fires burned across Aotearoa New Zealand’s Parliament grounds, and violent clashes broke out between protesters and police on the day the law enforcement officers moved to quell a 23-day anti-vaccination mandate siege of the House in February-March 2022 in scenes rarely witnessed in this country.

The riot climaxed a mounting campaign of disinformation and hate speech on social media fuelled by conspiracy theorist New Zealand activist media such as Counterspin, which emulated their counterparts in the United States.

Vitriolic death threats against political leaders and attacks on journalists and the media on an unprecedented scale were a feature of the protests.

Anti-government messages were imported alongside white supremacist ideologies. Researchers have described the events as a ‘tectonic shift’ that will have a significant and lasting impact on Aotearoa New Zealand’s democratic institutions

This article introduces three perspectives about the protests and disinformation ecology framed in the journal’s reflexive series Frontline.

David Robie
David Robie
Dr David Robie was previously founding director and professor of journalism at AUT’s Pacific Media Centre (PMC). He worked with postgraduate student journalists to edit Pacific Media Watch - a daily digital archive of dispatches about Pacific journalism and media, ethics and professionalism. The PMC also jointly published the high profile independent Pacific Scoop news website with industry partner, Scoop Media, and Asia Pacific Report, which David now edits independently in partnership with Evening Report: David is also the founding editor of Pacific Journalism Review (PJR).
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