Could we end up like Sweden?

Geoffrey Miller writes:

A long thin country, marked by its diversity of landscapes. A small population, outflanked by bigger and more powerful neighbours.

An increasingly multicultural society with a significant indigenous group.

It could be New Zealand.

But it’s Sweden.

Like New Zealand, Sweden long had a tradition of personal, retail politics in which politicians rub shoulders with voters as apparent equals. That’s what one expects in a small country.

But there is one big difference between Sweden and New Zealand.

Sweden has suffered not one, but two political assassinations. The first, in 1986, was the murder of then Prime Minister Olof Palme.

The second, in 2003, was the killing of foreign ministerAnna Lindh.  Had it not been for her untimely death, Lindh was in line to be Prime Minister.

We should keep Sweden’s experiences in mind when reflecting in the increasingly dangerous level of political vitriol that New Zealand has seen in recent months.

This vitriol is backed by John Minto and Sue Bradofrd who have backed the protester who poured stuff over Brownlee. Their view seems to be that so long as you are on the side of “right” (ie agree with their politics) then it is legitimate to assault politicians.

And it is easy to think that we would never end up like Sweden with an assassination. But reflect that we currently have a trial on for the murder of two WINZ staffers. The disgruntled person could well have decided to shoot a Cabinet Minister instead of local WINZ staff.

Miller continues:

But another, more deep-seated reason for anger is John Key’s continuing popularity. Anyone who has dipped into the comments section on The Standard, or who follows left-wing activists on Twitter, or reads comments on the various activist Facebook pages knows how central John Key to the discontent. …

There is plenty of legitimate criticism of John Key and the government.

But anyone who has visited the left-wing blogosphere, or Twitter-verse, or the many Facebook pages know that there is a nasty underbelly.

The right calls this “KDS” – or “Key Derangement Syndrome”. …

Another reason for the desperation is the continued failure of parties on the left to succeed. Labour and the Greens’ share of the vote is going backwards, according to opinion polls.  The left’s champion, Hone Harawira, was voted out of Parliament in 2014 amidst the utter debacle that was Internet Mana.

They’ve given up on winning the contest of ideas, so they are resorting to the contest of violence.

On Monday, David Cunliffe tweeted “I’m no great Brownlee fan, but politics is a tough gig and most people try to make a difference.  Doesn’t deserve it”.

Cunliffe’s tweet was in reaction to a tweet by scientist and Green Party activist Dr. Sea Rotmann, who had tweeted: “I’m just glad that NZs proud tradition of throwing things at senior politicians stays alive and well”.

Rotmann is not just an activist but was a candidate for the Green Party, and she endorses these acts. But if they occurred to a Green Party MP, she would be outraged I am sure. Again it is the belief that it is okay to do it to the other side.

When someone made threats online against Sue Bradford, I immediately contacted her office and said I had some information (IP address) that could help identify him. And gave that info to the Police also.

There is nothing wrong with a peaceful protest.

But hurling objects at MPs is not peaceful.

So far, the incidents have been harmless.

But what if the next time a minister is attacked, it is with a bullet?

Impossible? That’s what Sweden thought.

In hindsight Josie Butler should have been charged by the Police. We all enjoyed the humour in her choice of thing to throw, but overlooked the bad precedent it sets. Don Brash makes the point:

Former National Party leader Don Brash says a Christchurch nurse who threw a dildo at Government minister Steven Joyce may have avoided a criminal charge because she was Maori and a woman.

Josie Butler, a nurse at Hillmorton Hospital in Christchurch, was not charged after she threw the dildo at Mr Joyce on Waitangi Day, in protest against the Government signing the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Dr Brash tonight said her actions were “totally inappropriate” and he didn’t know why she wasn’t charged.

“The guy who threw mud at Gerry Brownlee has been charged but the woman who threw the dildo at Steve Joyce hasn’t.”

He said both acts were hugely inappropriate.

“Was she not charged because she was a woman or because she’s Maori? I don’t know, but she thought it was a huge joke and was delighted when she wasn’t charged.”

If it is not too late, she should be charged.

He said the only consolation was Kiwis who were opposed to the TPP may now be supporters due to her actions.

“Most people thought ‘Well, if that’s what the people who opposed the TPP acted like, I’m in favour of the TPP after all’.”

Yep.

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