Police are investigating a complaint from controversial columnist Rachel Stewart after a threatening hand-written message was left in her letterbox and her social media account was inundated with abusive posts.
Stewart says she has been subjected to a string of malicious messages this week, including threats to rape and kill her, following the publication of her fortnightly opinion piece in Fairfax papers, among them the Manawatu Standard, on Monday.
This week’s article, headlined “That high-pitched whining must stop”, talked about irrigation schemes, water quality, the low milk payout, workplace regulations, suicide, stress and farmers complying with the law.
However, the backlash to the article turned sinister, and Stewart says “sexist, standover tactics and personal slurs” were posted from accounts using pen-names and then circulated via Twitter by prominent members of New Zealand’s farming community. A hand-written anonymous note saying: “See we not so DumB we Don’t No where u live. Bitch.[sic]” was also delivered to Stewart’s house, prompting her to lay a complaint and for police to launch an investigation.
There is a difference between online abuse (which is rather common) and an actual note delivered to your home address which is stalkerish and scary. There is no room for such threats in our country – and it has been rightfully referred to the Police.
Stewart’s column was puerile and offensive. Dealing with the issue of farmer suicide by saying “Can’t stand the heat? Get out of the kitchen” reflects badly on her. However you don’t respond to such crap with purported threats to rape or kill, which is also entirely unacceptable.
A better response to Stewart’s column would be to invite her to come work on a farm for a month or so, and deal with getting up at 5 am seven days a week, than abusing her, and especially threatening her.
UPDATE: A commenter claims that Stewart is a former office holder of Federated Farmers. Regardless, my point stands that outreach and dialogue is preferable to abuse.