VANGUARD. I've heard that word a few times over the past week.

It means a group of people leading the way in new developments or ideas, or a position at the forefront of new developments or ideas. But it seems some of those who have appropriated this word in recent times are either stark-raving mad or at the very least range quite high on the delusional spectrum.

The first mention of the word this week was in relation to a fascist group in the United States called Vanguard America. By way of background, a "Unite the Right" rally was planned for last Friday in the university town of Charlottesville, Virginia, protesting the removal of a statue of Confederate icon General Robert E Lee. They gathered again on Saturday and were met by a group of counter-demonstrators.

It got ugly and a State of Emergency was declared, before a speeding car rammed into the counter-demonstrators, killing one and injuring over 30 others. The 20-year-old driver, James Alex Fields Jr, was charged with multiple offences, including second-degree murder. Two state troopers were also killed when their helicopter crashed as they were monitoring events from the air - the cause of the crash is being investigated.


Fields has been linked to the group Vanguard America. They claim he has nothing to do with them, despite the fact he was photographed with them - he was wearing the same attire and was brandishing one of their shields.

The group's website is a weird and vitriolic little speck of cyber space, telling readers democracy has failed this once great nation and calls for a new Caesar to revive the American spirit.

Most of the world would scoff at the thought of Donald Trump being that Caesar they so desperately crave, although most of us scoffed at the idea of him being president as well.

It's not clear whether they think Trump is the answer to their prayers (they do a lot of that) but the amount of pressure that needed to be applied before the President actually condemned racism and white supremacy would suggest he may very well be the best candidate for the job.

But he's got his supporters and some of them even listen to The Country.

Jamie and I were called "left-wing liberal fairies" this week by an unnamed texter after we questioned Trump's stance on neo-Nazis. That triggered a small wave of text abuse from the good god-fearing folk of Aotearoa - the type of people who think Bill's boot camps are a great idea for our most serious young offenders.

Despite military-style boot camps being roundly debunked by international studies and the evidence of his own science adviser Sir Peter Gluckman, the Prime Minister wants to rehash this old failure to appear tough on crime for the party faithful and maybe snaffle a few New Zealand First votes.

It was through this cacophony of criticism that I heard the word again - a lone voice of support squeaking like a mouse in the midst of a symphony; vanguard - the name adopted by New Zealand's military-style high school.

It's clearly a popular word for fringe anarchists who are of the belief their ideas are new and revolutionary, that their methods are raw and anti-establishment and that most of all they can be the saviour of lost souls as they protect the world from despots, monsters, foreigners and left-wing liberal fairies.

Among all this politicking and violence we do have examples in this country of people leading the way in new developments and ideas. Not the fascist military fringe with warped views on everything from science to religion, but rather the scientists and innovators themselves, many of them involved with agriculture.

For example, Kim McAulay and wife Janice Atkinson from Hawke's Bay whose Tow and Blow portable wind machine is revolutionising the fight against frost for our valuable vineyards, not to mention being sold all over the world, from Saudi Arabia to Hollywood, for a variety of purposes.

Or what about the Harwood family in Takaka who built their own power station using the water from a small river running through their farm in Golden Bay?

Let's hope it's these type of people who form New Zealand's predominant vanguard in the future, not by those who feel so threatened by the things they don't understand they feel the need to shoot it.