Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Targeting vulnerable has no place here

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Fernando Pereira was killed when secret agents blew up Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior. Photo / NZ Herald
Fernando Pereira was killed when secret agents blew up Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior. Photo / NZ Herald

How do we comprehend the evil of the massacre of innocents by a deluded political nutcase?

As parents, most of us have sent our kids to camps and sleepovers and rightly assume they will return with happy memories.

Hundreds of Norwegian parents would have sent their teenagers on their week-long stay with their greatest fear being that their kid might get into dope, or sex, or fall in love with some loser.

There can't be many nightmares worse than a parent having their child phoning and texting them in real time as they are being hunted down and murdered.

Norway is a country in some ways very much like ours, priding itself on being politically moderate without extremes.

The left is genuinely non-violent. They have restricted themselves to peaceful protest over the years and in my experience any physical violence tends to be the result of an inexperienced cop getting carried away.

Even our hard right-wingers seem to be content ranting on kiwiblog and other similar outlets.

Hate crimes against minorities by the extreme right are given no political credit by our police and are treated merely as the criminal acts they are. In New Zealand we are lucky to have had only three political murders - all against the left.

In 1912, miner Fred Evans was gunned down by a police-organised mob at the Miners Union Hall during a strike at Waihi.

It wasn't until 1984 that we had our second political assassination. Custodian Ernie Abbott was killed after a bomb exploded in his union's office during public protests against big food-price rises. A year later, Fernando Pereira was drowned when French secret agents blew up Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior in Auckland.

We were lucky no one was martyred during the 1951 waterfront lockout or the Springbok tour in 1981. All these occurred during civil upheavals initiated by political opportunists on the right.

Waihi was a deliberate union-busting move by the Massey Government; Abbott was killed after a red-baiting campaign by the Muldoon Government; the 1951 lockout and the Springboks tour were also initiated by conservative governments for cynical electoral reasons.

The right-wing parties in Europe that ride anti-Islamic fears distance themselves from any responsibility for what happened in Norway. But they are complicit.

These politicians appeal to prejudice and fear. They identify a target minority group, enhance the differences, dehumanise them and then whip up hateful hysteria against them. It's framed that these people are different and are "a threat to us and our way of life". The latest target is people of Muslim faith wanting to make better lives for themselves. Once it was Jews.

Over the years in New Zealand we have had our share of organised race scaremongering over Asians, Pacific Islanders and Maori. But gays, unionists, the unemployed and other beneficiaries have been regularly included too. We will always have among us psychotics with murderous intentions. They seem to poke their heads up when the political climate is heightened by politicians creating a space for these nuts to think of their delusions as justifiable.

One of the things I'm proud of about New Zealand is that most Kiwis consider themselves fair-minded and accepting of others. Consequently, these sorts of hate campaigns have never gained a permanent hold of our body politic.

That is a way we can honour those poor murdered and broken kids on the island of Utoya, who were only there because they wanted to make a contribution to the democratic life of their world.

We have an election in a few months. Any politician who demonises a vulnerable sector of our society for expedient political gain should not receive our vote.

I'm sure that would be the legacy the Norwegian dead would want to leave us.

- Herald on Sunday

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