Rodney Hide: Actor wrong to revel in billboard attack

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Anna Paquin and husband Stephen Moyer are in New Zealand to support the Green Party.
Anna Paquin and husband Stephen Moyer are in New Zealand to support the Green Party.

Stephen Moyer, 44, is a British Hollywood star who plays a vampire on TV. I looked up his Wikipedia entry.

What prompted me was news reports of his posting pictures of defaced National hoardings and declaring: "One of the great joys of driving down to Wellington town every day is seeing how the National Party posters have been defaced."

Moyer is in New Zealand with his wife, Anna Paquin, to "lend some heavyweight celebrity endorsement to the Greens".

Mr Moyer, welcome. I hope you are enjoying your stay and learning a thing or two about New Zealand. Politics is a great way to get to know a people.

Just one thing: we don't like vandals destroying and defacing political hoardings. Yes, the hoardings are messy and it irks to have politicians we disapprove of staring at us.

But these hoardings are a powerful display of our political heritage. Yours and mine. Anyone can stand for office. Anyone can put up a hoarding. Our forebears fought hard and sacrificed much to ensure we have what these hoardings represent.

In much of the world they are outlawed. Down through history the likes of you and me were not allowed to stand for office or offer political opinion. Blood and sacrifice made those political hoardings possible.

I have put up a great many over the years. They are expensive. They are hard work. But it's the most wonderful, exciting and frustrating experience to be a part of our democracy. I am sure you are finding that out.

What's heartbreaking, though, is having to repair and replace them. It takes time and money. I always fixed them even though I knew the repairs, invariably done in the dark and often in the rain, wouldn't bring one extra vote. I did it because I wouldn't let those trying to shut down free speech get the better of us.

I remember night after night repairing one particular hoarding. We dubbed it the battle for Mt Eden Rd. Residents helped even though they didn't vote for me. They knew such vandalism wasn't right. With their help, the culprits were eventually caught.

The purpose of my column is to ask you, respectfully, to think a little before taking joy in the defaced, damaged political hoardings of your opponents. Think about what that vandalism means.

It's damage to someone else's property. It's an attack on free speech and open democracy. It harks back to darker times.

I know you are passionate about the issues this election, and good for you, but there are bigger, more important values in play: our freedom and democracy. They are what you should be taking joy in, not the work of vandals.

- Herald on Sunday

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