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Cows and cowards

Rachel Stewart: Until grownups stand up to this crazy culture war we’re all going to be ‘cancelled’ at some point
Rachel Stewart
Contributing Writer
May 3rd, 2022

OPINION: I like cows better...

Not much and a whole heap has happened since I wrote my last missive exactly one year ago today.

For me, long languorous lockdowns were punctuated by the odd high drama. Let me explain. We need to go back a couple of years for some context.

In 2019 I was contacted by the producer/director of a forthcoming documentary about New Zealand’s dairy industry. She asked if I’d be willing to be interviewed, and after some general to-ing and fro-ing, we finally managed to get together in Auckland.

For those who may be unaware, I made my name as a columnist by questioning the logic and power of the dairy industry - given the environmental damage being wrought on the country, and particularly on our waterways.

My voice was especially wanted by the documentary makers (they said) because it was coming from a strong background of both dairy farming and agri-politics - I was the president of Whanganui Federated Farmers from 1999 - 2003. In other words, an insider’s voice.

I felt some reluctance because I’d ostensibly moved away from the negative dairy narrative for a number of reasons - not least being that, by this time, I was writing regularly for the NZ Herald about a wide range of topics. Nobody likes to feel typecast.

Anyway, the deed was done, the film was in the can, and I basically forgot about it. From time to time the producer/director would check in with me about some aspect the film’s legal people were looking at, and then it was suddenly premiere time and would I like to attend? Yes! But Covid quickly made that impossible.

Nevertheless the film made it to the NZ International Film Festival and was seen around the country in November/December last year.

It featured (among others) me, Dr Mike Joy, economist Peter Fraser, Ex-Green MP Gareth Hughes, and the illustrious Dr Jane Goodall. She happened to be in the country at filming time and they somehow got her to participate. What a score!

I heard various reports about the film - now titled ‘MILKED’ - and looked forward to one day seeing more than just the trailer. So far, so good.

The first crack appeared when I received an email from the producer/director about a bad review. A very bad review. Essentially it attacked the movie by attacking me. It was below the belt, juvenile, and libelous on the part of a Newshub child journo named Daniel Rutledge.

His ‘shallow as a paddling pool’ thesis was to say the film was essentially flawed by the mere fact that I was in it and therefore the film couldn’t be trusted on any level. At all.

He never mentioned my backstory re dairy - only referring to my firearms being taken by the police for a tweet. Of course, he also never mentioned the police also returning them once they’d figured out it was an orchestrated and targeted campaign by trans activists who’ve had it in for me since I wrote a column about the proposed trans self-ID Bill in 2019.

It was nasty, unprofessional and entirely unfair to both me and the filmmakers who were spooked, and let me know it. It was clear that the producer/director had had to talk around the film’s presenter, allay his extreme ‘woke’ fears, and forward ho. On we go.

Until a couple of weeks ago. I got the call. The previously mature and professional producer/director had turned into a quivering wreck. As best she could, given her emotional state, she explained how “everyone had been at her” about my presence in the film. Everyone.

The words “funders” and “distributors” were thrown about and they were putting enormous pressure on her, and how the suggestion was that the movie would be better going to national release on March 19 without me in it. So, my appearance was to be cut out like I never existed.

Apparently, my support on Twitter for the rights of the protesters at Parliament had meant that I was now seen as “unvaxxed”, a “Nazi”, a “conspiracy theorist” and, oh yeah, “alt-right” (according to David Farrier) for actually thinking that Antifa might exist in New Zealand and may have helped with a bit of agitation in Wellington. He has a lot of followers.

I asked if she’d name names but, between the crying and justifications, it was clear that wasn’t gonna’ happen. Her woe was deep and she just couldn’t handle the chance that her film “could be cancelled too”. I totally get it. Who wants that?

We parted on reasonable terms, but not before I let her know that acquiescence to the ‘woke’ was part of the problem, and that until grownups stand up to this crazy culture war we’re all going to be ‘cancelled’ at some point.

So, here’s the thing. Firstly, I don’t give a tinker’s toss about being cut out of the film. It’ll save me from the wrath of dairy farmers - those who bother to watch it. And the industry will be delighted. Good work! Well done!

Also, while I wish the film all the luck, the climate around our nation’s biggest earner right now is one of untouchability. Covid has put paid to most public criticism of the industry, and I get that. The country needs the dosh like never before. When the economics are bad, the dairy industry finds itself worshipped. That’s just the way it is. The way it’s always been.

Here’s what I do care about. That a bunch of trans activists can twist and writhe their way like snakes into convincing the police to take my guns for a tweet, then sow even more seeds to create a terrible review for a film I’m in, and then even succeed in getting me cut from said film, is a testament to the power of cancel culture. 

Like the existence of Antifa, the left will tell you cancel culture isn't real. It’s just “consequences for bad ideas”. They will gaslight, torment, hunt in packs, and generally try to make the life of anyone holding a different opinion a living hell.

I think this latest cancelling is the last thing they can get me on - you know, apart from the expected hating I’ll get for this article - because my public life is actually over. 

My death wouldn’t even appease them. They’d feel compelled to dig me up all rotten and maggoty and have another crack. This is how they roll. They must have someone to hate, for what are they without it?

Until my dying breath, I will keep speaking out about women’s and girl’s rights. They are far more important than a man’s desire to simply call himself one. Women have the right to their own sports, their own spaces, their own female-centric world. Only females bleed, only females breed. Biology 101.

For my beliefs, I am considered too hot to handle. My life is reduced down to that one topic. I am a “transphobe”, when I’m actually not. No conversation, no debate. Call me Voldemort. Except my life- indeed everyone’s - is way bigger and more nuanced than that. Sorry, but it just is.

But even bigger than all of this is that boring old chestnut called free speech. The most fundamental tenet of a democratic society, No good comes from not having it. And while I will always speak up about what I care about, many are too scared to.

They’ve seen what’s happened to me - and heaps more like me. Our producer/director admitted it. She simply couldn’t handle the thought of her film being cancelled so capitulation to the ‘woke’ was easier, and the world has been spared my evil screen presence and any knowledge that came with it.

All I know is this; snakes have a way of eating their own tails.

This article was originally published on rachelstewart.substack.com and re-published on The Platform with permission

Rachel is a Whanganui farm gal. She has been a train driver, a musterer for hire, an agri-politico, a private investigator, and a journalist. Rachel used to write for the Taranaki Daily News, Manawatu Standard and New Zealand Herald. She also had a regular gig with NZ Fish and Game Magazine.