From a secretly taped conversation between an officer from the diplomatic protection squad and Salient Editor Steve Nicoll. The officer wished to meet with Steve after concerns were raised by American diplomats after the photoessay “How to destroy the United States of America” appeared in Salient 23.
Police: I’d like to take the opportunity to really as a result of what was in the magazine, basically to build bit of a bridge really. I’m just taking over as an officer in charge of the Diplomatic Protection Squad in the last sort of two and a half months. So I sort of thought, well you know, if you were wanting to put something else again in your magazine and that if you wanted to talk to someone about it, then I’m more than happy to do that.
Steve: Why would we need to talk to you about that?
Police: Look, you may not even want to and that’s fine by me. But I’m just saying there is a contact for you and I’m not trying to say what you should or shouldn’t do. I just thought that it was an opportunity to come and see you and just see what area you are in and what you’re doing. One of the things I was going to ask you was how often you actually publish the magazine, but I see from what I see out there that it’s every week… It’s quite a big ask…
Steve: It is a big ask, yeah definitely, it’s hard work.
Police: I reckon, to try and get that sort of style out every week is pretty good going.
Steve: Do you often talk to media about stories of this nature?
Police: I just started in this role. Having been involved in sort of other operational roles along the way over the years, I’ve talked to media quite a lot for different things over the years, and I’m always trying to at least have an understanding or an opportunity to converse with each other. If… you wanted an opinion…and the ball’s always in your court, and I’m not about trying to even consider restrictions, if that’s what you’re thinking. The question I had in my mind after I read the material in the magazine was, had you thought about what the implications might be if someone had decided to do something silly as a result of that?
Steve: Yeah, we had.
Police: I suppose it’s not different to the Dominion Post putting something in the paper that might or might not cause someone else to do some sort of copycat thing as well.
Steve: So what is the point of this meeting?
Police: I just wanted to put a face to the name after I spoke to you on the phone and to say, well here I am, and if you want to ask a question of us at any time you are more than welcome to.
Steve: Did you receive a complaint about the article in question?
Police: No, no complaint, umm, the umm… the American Embassy people expressed a bit of view in relation to it, nothing that made me sort of… I guess you might say angst, that there had been something put in relation to that, not to say you can’t.
Steve: Did they contact you, did you speak to them?
Police: I do speak to them, but I talk to them about a number of different things. As there are lot of different things going on in the diplomatic community that affect each of them.
Steve: Did they ask you to come and speak with me?
Police: No. But I felt it was an opportunity to build a bridge between you know, that and just to really…(garbled) that’s all there is to it. Basically there are two articles in the magazine, isn’t there. There’s a two page spread when you had your top five things to invade the US Embassy. You had a list of things and the last one was the one that, sort of you know, strapping a bomb on your chest or whatever.
Steve: I guess from our position we are supposed to be critical of things in society that we consider immoral. American foreign policy has, you know, gone into countries, not consulted with them and bombed them without going through what we believe to be moral processes. So we thought we would highlight that with satire…
Police: And that point’s taken too, and it’s understood that it’s a satirical poke.
Steve: I find it funny that you’re coming talking to me now and questioning my values when the American foreign policy is never questioned and they should have more of a burden of proof on them, rather than a tiny student media organisation to show superior moral reasoning.
Police: Well I don’t want to get into a discussion in relation to your moral view or whatever, because I don’t think that’s my place to and you can think what you like, you can write what you like. What I think isn’t relevant, is it? Really? Even the sense that you can, you know, print what you like, but as I say…
Steve: Yeah, we can print what I like, but then you’re coming in here trying to intimidate me.
Police: I’m not! No no…
Steve: Your presence…
Police: No, not, no…
Steve: I mean, do you do this for everyone who writes offensive articles about American foreign policy?
Police: Well as I said I only, no of course not, but…
Steve: Well I just find it strange that you want to meet with me about this article and I find there’s nothing really questionable about the article at all. I just want to understand where you’re coming from.
Police: Ok, well that’s fine. As I said, I just wanted to take the opportunity to come and see you, ok?
Steve: But there has to be a point to that, doesn’t there?
Police: The point is, had you thought about…
Steve: Yeah, but why do you need to tell me that? Why do the Police feel it is necessary to interfere with the media, and tell them, have you considered this?
Police: No, you’re getting it entirely wrong, it’s not about interfering at all. I said that right at the start, it’s not about interfering at all, Steve.
Steve: Well, why have you come here? To build a bridge?
Police: Just to say if, as said to me, if you wanted to get an opinion on something, then I said I’m here and you can ring me to ask me…
Steve: I think the reason you’ve come here is to intimidate us, you’ve come here to say to us, don’t take this line again, and just your presence has tried to do that, and I think that’s really what the purpose of this is all about.
Police: No, not at all. How could I possibly do that?
Steve: Well, why would you take your time out of your day to come up here and have a chat to me?
Police: Well, that’s just the way I operate.
Steve: Yeah, so you like to form a relationship.
Police: Yes that’s right.
Steve: Well ok…
Steve: I just don’t understand why?
Police: That’s all it is. It’s just about building, you know, saying I’m here if you need to talk to anyone about any of these comments and that it’s alright. And if you don’t want to, then that’s ok too.
Steve: That’s cool, I just want to make it clear to you that we don’t appreciate being intimidated…