The New Zealand (NZ) army has removed a winning essay from a defence force writing competition because it argues against ‘woke culture’ within the army.
Originally published on an NZ army website on July 1 along with winners of other categories, the essay titled ‘Can the Army Afford to go Woke, Benign Social Progress or National Security Threat’ argues that the postmodern concepts of diversity and inclusion are “antithetical to the Army’s ethos and values.”
The essay was removed five days later and replaced by a message from the Chief of Army Major General John Boswell saying he had asked for the essay to be taken down.
“I made this decision when it became clear that publishing it was being seen as an endorsement of the views contained within it, which could not be further from the truth,” Boswell said. “This essay was chosen as the winner of the Private Soldier’s category solely because it was the most well-written of the submissions received within that category.”
Minister of Defence Peeni Henare told Newstalk ZB that he believed it was important to make sure that this incident did not happen again.
He also revealed he wrote to Defence Chief Air Marshall Kevin Short about his expectations of the defence force.
“We’re better than that, and have values that don’t align with the essay,” Henare told Short.
However, the opposition parties, the Nationals and ACT, have both criticised the Ardern government for the removal, with the National party’s defence spokesman Chris Penk arguing if the essay had been chosen on merit, then the Ardern government excuse was not a reason it should have been removed.
Meanwhile, ACT Party leader David Seymour said that while the essay would unlikely “win a Pulitzer prize,” the army needed a culture that allowed healthy discussion.
“The New Zealand Army used to fight for free speech, now it’s fighting against it,” Seymour told the NZ Herald.
A spokesman for Henare told NewsHub on July 8 that the minister was not involved in the decision to remove the essay and explained it had been taken down before he and the Defence Chief spoke.
The author, known as Mr. N Dell, explains that, unlike other entries, his work was entirely an opinion piece and did not contain any sources.
The essay begins by acknowledging his awareness of the backlash and real-world consequences to authors of content with similar views.
“However, I suspect that many of the arguments I put forward will resonate with the quiet majority, especially in the military,” Dell writes.
He then outlines how a diversity of opinion, class, and background should be more important to the army than diversity in race, gender, and sexual orientation.
“Every man-hour that is spent on ‘cultural awareness training’ or similar programmes is a man-hour that is not spent training for combat or monitoring our enemies,” he said.
Dell ends by saying it would be an embarrassment for the army to become involved in ‘culture wars,’ especially to veterans and to the memory of those who paid the ultimate price.
“The Army should stick to fighting real wars,” he said.