Our political and social revile

The horrible acts of terrorism in Norway have stirred up political emotions in New Zealand. That has highlighted some things that are common here, especially noticeable on blogs – the degree of violence and vitriol in posts and comments. Norway was an extreme example, but the political discourse in New Zealand is often terrible.

Extreme blogs and extreme comments on blogs are far more prevalent in right wing forums, there’s no doubt about that. This includes proposals of violence, some of it extreme violence, and also abusive and intimidating language. When it occurs it should be confronted and questioned – this is not trying to shut down free speech as some people claim, those who confront violence speech have as much right to speak as the abusers.

Violent speech is one symptom of our often abrasive and divisive political landscape, where the normal reaction is far too often to oppose, shout down  and to try and marginalise any comments deemed to be critical or at odds with one’s own ideology.

The left don’t use obvious violence anywhere near as much – but they can be just as divisive and antagonistic in their own more subtle ways. They are fooling themselves if they think it is a right wing problem – one of the left’s biggest faults is to blame everything on the right and to deny their own faults.

Blaming “the right” for political violence is as bad as blaming “the Muslims” for world terrorism. Blanket smears will do nothing to resolve problems, it’s lazy politics at best, and often deliberately provocative.

Violence in politics is part of our far too violent society in New Zealand. And violence is not a right wing problem.

Maori are over represented in our violence statistics. Maori are not considered to be “right wing”.

Violence is prevalent on TV and movies. The media and Hollywood are not considered to be “right wing”.

Most violence is not political, it’s just bad behaviour from people who don’t know how to resolve problems and frustrations any other way – and despite the Hollywood message violence is most often a very poor way of resolving anything.

Violent, antagonistic, inflammatory, divisive  speech and behaviour is prevalent across the political spectrum in New Zealand. If we learnt to behave better towards each other then we are more likely to work better with each other to make New Zealand a better and less violent place to live.

Rather than revile we should learn to reconcile. We are much more alike than different, we should act that way.

Leave a comment


  1. nasska

     /  27th July 2011

    There are a very few people on Right leaning blogs who lose the plot & threaten all sorts of mayhem. From what I’ve seen they usually lack the skill to communicate effectively & the rhetoric merely mirrors their frustration at not getting, what they see as a core message, through to the opposition. A small minority like Redbaiter warrant accommodation in a padded single bedroom but thankfully there are few of them.

    Personally I’ve seen little restraint in Left orientated blogs. They may tone down innate threats of violence but they showcase commentators with a disturbing hatred of the Right.

    Blogs of the Left are far more heavily moderated (censored) than say Kiwiblog or Whaleoil.

    I agree that we can well do without threats or acts of violence but this is politics. The lack of vigorous debate would worry me more than an occasional outburst of emotion.

    • Fair comments.

      I agree that it’s essential that vigorous debate is not squashed, but we should be able to debate vigorously without resorting to so much hate and vitriol (which detracts from useful debate anyway).

  2. nasska

     /  27th July 2011

    You’re on to it but there is another point worth considering & that is the medium. Commenting on, or running, a blog is different from writing an opinion piece in a newspaper & differs again from having a political argument with a few mates in the pub.

    It is a relatively new medium & younger people who text everyone they know on a five minute cycle or tweet the contents of their breakfast are comfortable with it.

    When blogging, dinosaurs such as ourselves lack the ease to express opinions to effective strangers & bumble between a style suitable to formal letter writing & chatting with friends & family. We are more used to a medium where it is easy to say something inappropriate & equally easy to retract it if it doesn’t fly with the group we are currently associated with.

    Blogs are quick, fun & often informative but they are an imperfect tool for communication.


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