Will taking the Union Jack off New Zealand's flag "open the gates of hell" and give John Key absolute power? No. No it won't.

So last night I had a bit of fun on TV3's Story, commenting on the conspiracy doing the rounds in cyberspace about the real reason behind the push to change New Zealand's flag. Go have a watch here, if you're interested. And if you've somehow missed having the original conspiracy emailed/facebooked to you, you can read it here.

I've actually had emails asking me about this for a few weeks now, but had thought addressing the subject beneath such a lofty and prestigious blogsite such as Pundit. I mean, we're not No Right Turn, for heavens sake! But once you get the Attorney-General Chris Finlayson discussing the matter, then it takes on a gravitas that justifies some attention. So here goes.

This theory is nonsense. And by that I mean it literally makes non-sense. It's a collection of words that when put together sound like they might mean something, but when you try and parse that meaning they turn out to reference only invented concepts.

It is the legal equivalent of The Jabberwocky:

T'was brillig, and the slithy toves
did gyre and gymble in the wabe.

Unless you have some Humpty Dumpty figure to decode the special meaning of the words used in the conspiracy theory, you end up like Alice:

"It seems very pretty," she said when she had finished it, "but it's rather hard to understand!" (You see she didn't like to confess, even to herself, that she couldn't make it out at all.) "Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don't exactly know what they are! "

And that is, I think, what underlies the theory. To co-opt Colbert's maxim, it feels truthy. Those who really, really don't like John Key and believe he'd do anything to achieve his (nebulous) evil aims are told by their gut that it must be correct. And so the fact that the words used are literally non-sense is irrelevant.

It is the opposite end of the spectrum from the theory concocted by a certain (morally) bankrupt blogger whom we do not name that the left-liberal support for the Red Peak flag is because it reflects the red triangles that the Nazi's required political prisoners to wear in concentration camps. Yes, really - there are people that crazy out there.

However, here's a couple of reliable pointers to bear in mind next time you see a theory like this and wonder, "could this be true?"

When the key concept referred to throughout the theory - DUE AUTHORITY - is capitalised, you can be pretty sure there is a reason the person writing it feels it necessary to lexilogically shout at you. Because what they are shouting means nothing.

And when you are told that the effect of this change will be to overide key constitutional legislation that doesn't even exist - the purported Bill of Rights Act 1981 - you can be pretty sure the person writing doesn't know what they are talking about.

And that is all.

[Update: The highly readable Matthew Dentith heroically attempts to unpick the actual claims in the conspiracy here.] 

Comments (11)

by Rich on September 09, 2015

I guess pseudo-science has been joined by pseudo-law, the former being distinguished by terms that sound "sciencey" or are actual scientific concepts, like anti-oxidants or strawberry ketone. Pseudo-law has terms that sound "lawyerish", I guess.

Also, there is a cargo-cult pathology behind this, related to the similar pseudo-legal concept that because the term "Crown" is widely used to designate the government of New Zealand, the Queen is able to act personally like a magick fairie and right any wrongs our government might perpetrate. Why she would do this, even if she could, and indeed why she never has actually done so is not explained.


by Anne on September 09, 2015

I saw the item last night and noted you were having a bit of fun Andrew Geddis. Yes, it made for amusing viewing, however I gained the impression there was also a little bit of mischief-making on the part of the hosts. This conspiracy theory is an extremist version of anti -TPPA sentiment and warranted, at best, a minute of negative commentary only - not almost an entire programme.

There are some serious issues surrounding the TPPA and the efforts of people like Professor Jane Kelsey to brings these issues to our attention are worthy of much respect - whether you agree with everything she/they say or not. It seems to me this could have been a slightly snide attempt to denigrate those prominent individuals who have denounced the signing of this agreement.

Dear God a conspiracy theory?  I will have a cup of tea and a lie down. Promise.


by Wayne Mapp on September 09, 2015
Wayne Mapp


I can't believe that you actually think Key Derangement Syndrome actually exists.

Surely there are too many conspiracy theories that are grounded in fact for such a syndrome to really exist?

Or have you spent too much time reading Kiwiblog?


by Andrew Geddis on September 09, 2015
Andrew Geddis


TV3 didn't just pull this out of thin air. If you are concerned about how the conspiracy theory makes credible opponents of the TPPA look, then maybe you should direct your ire at all the people who have been espousing it! 

by Andrew Geddis on September 09, 2015
Andrew Geddis


I think that KDS is a bit like ADHD - it probably is a real thing in some small set of individuals, but gets overapplied as a label for convenience purposes (i.e. avoids having to discuss other possible alternative explanations for actions).

Having said that, I'm happy to use belief in the "removing the Union Jack is intended to make John Key all powerful" theory as a preliminary diagnostic indicator for real, actual KDS.

And as for these conspiracy theories that you mention, as former Minister of Defence you surely are in a good position to spill the beans?!

by Wayne Mapp on September 09, 2015
Wayne Mapp

Hi Andrew,

Given that KDS is now a proven medical condition (on the authority of Dr Farrar) is it treatable - perhaps aversion therapy?

As for conspiracy theories, well naturally I know the truth given my former role, but then again I can hardly tell you, or anyone else, what the truth is.

by Andrew Geddis on September 09, 2015
Andrew Geddis


I'm reliably informed that actually spending time with John Key helps to assuage the worst symptoms of the condition.

Either that, or elect a Labour-Green Government in 2017 ... .

by Anne on September 09, 2015

@ Andrew Geddis.

"... maybe you should direct your ire at all the people who have been espousing it!" 

That was, in part, the point I was attempting to make. They are at the extreme end of the TPPA spectrum and represent a very small number of people, so therefore they are not worthy of too much attention. A bit of amusing banter is fine - and maybe warranted- but devoting nearly half a programme to it? 

Btw, there was an element of ironic, tongue-in-cheek humour directed largely towards myself, but since that would appear to be the prerogative of only 'those in the know', I will desist in making the odd comment on this site.

by Andrew Geddis on September 09, 2015
Andrew Geddis


Sorry to have struck the wrong tone.

But like I say, I've had people emailing me about this, TV3 have had people approaching them about it, and most people reading this post will have been exposed to this "theory" at some point. So yeah - TV3 covered it in a light hearted, humorous fashion. I don't think we really need to go looking for deeper reasons, even (dare one say it) conspiracies, as to why they chose to do so.

by Anne on September 09, 2015

Here is a conspiracy worth a ponder or two. No, nothing to do with the darned flag which is becoming really, really boring:

The reason John Key said NO to Syrian refugees  - then was forced to bow to public pressure and came up with the barest minimum over a two year period - was because he's planning more tax cuts in 2017 for the comfortable middle class and he wants to keep the fiscal kitty full. The same reason he won't build enough social housing and wants to sell thousands of existing state houses.

Conspiracy?  Nah... merely John Key doing what we know he does best - wheeling and dealing for political gain with no empathy or compassion for those who are and will continue to be negatively affected - the disadvantaged and less well off in our society.

Now I will leave well alone. :)



by Alex Stone on September 11, 2015
Alex Stone

Conspiracy theories or not, there is one freakish accomplishment in this sorry exercise.

With the four finalists for the new flag, we have achieved a remarkable design feat. Every one can be instantly parodied - which is more you can say for most national flags in the world.

The fern can so easily become the skeleton of a Maui's dolphin, the 'keep-out' fence of xenophobia, a ponytail (!), a forked tongue, or the white feather of cowardice (for whenever the 'get some guts' speech comes back to bite). The black koru readily becomes a going down the gurgler (although this could have been saved by using some of the distinctive natural colours of New Zealand).

There's plenty of material ahead for cartoonists. So a triumph of black humour, then.

Post new comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.