A Silence Resembling Stupidity
A short account of a little known political death in New Zealand. In 1982, an anarchist punk rocker attempted to blow up the Wanganui police computer. He blew himself up in the process
Neil Roberts, the son of a wealthy Auckland family, was a popular and respected figure in the early punk scene playing in several bands. He was a peaceful and non-violent person driven to his final act by what he saw as the inevitable "police state". He tattooed on his chest "This punk won't see 23. No future."
By 1982, there was a real climate of fear of a police state in NZ developing under PM Robert "Piggy" Muldoon. Muldoon was a complete authoritarian, a proto-fascist, a more rabid version of the ultra-conservative post-war generation that ruled NZ politics in the 1960s. What was scary is that he was popular with a large chunk of the population. Many people seemed to lap up his left-bashing, union-bashing, sexist, racist, law-and-order policies. Muldoon did things like dawn raids on Pacific Islanders (the accusation: "Over-staying"), and allowed the 1981 Springbok Tour by the apartheid South African rugby team to go ahead. The Tour was very brutal. Tens of thousands of kiwis got out on the streets and tried to stop the thugby games from going ahead, and the police beat many up in a massive operation. Many suffered severe injuries.
Neil was part of the anarchist punk rock scene at the time, which was then in its infancy. A very loose community of anarchist punks throughout Aotearoa was being formed by the early 1980s. Punk is often dismissed as negative and nihilistic, but in the early 80s it was a child of its time: not only a protest against the stifling and boring cultural conformity in Aotearoa, but also an understandably pessimistic reaction to the state of the kiwi society at the time. The recession in the economy from the 1970s created a new political mood that things in godzone were getting worse and worse. New Zealand slipped from being one of the richest countries in the world in the 1960s to one with unemployment and a recession and a severe authoritarian law 'n order government under Muldoon to boot.
. In 1982, a year after the Springbok Tour and the climate of fear and polarization that the tour had created, Neil targeted the police central computer at Wanganui because it held all the national police records: it was a symbol of the creeping fascism of Muldoon and sections of the ruling class at the time.
On November 18, 1982 at 12.35 a.m., Neil Roberts, a 22 year old punk anarchist, walked up to the entrance of the building which housed the Wanganui police computer. Two security guards in the building saw Neil approach with a carry bag on his shoulder. As the guard reached to activate a remote speaker in the foyer and ask him what he wanted, Neil bent over and there was a flash and a huge explosion. The blast could be felt for miles, and buildings were rocked up to 400 meters away.
Neil was killed instantly when the gelignite bomb he was carrying exploded. Pieces of his body were found up to 65 meters away. Nobody else was hurt, and damage was described as "confined to mangling the armored glass main doors and the foyer of the building."
Before he died, Neil spray painted a slogan on a public toilet block near the computer building: "WE HAVE MAINTAINED A SILENCE CLOSELY RESEMBLING STUPIDITY" followed by the anarchy is order sign and the words "anarchy - peace thinking".