As somebody passionately interested in politics, I despair how our politicians get distracted by keyboard warriors who plague them with opinions which so often are misguided. I well remember as an elected politician that there were people who knew what they were talking about and who gave me excellent advice. These people, who believe in democracy, are not who I’m talking about. I’m talking about people who have probably never had to make a hard decision in their lives.
In an article in Stuff recently the CEO of Local Government New Zealand, Susan Freeman-Greene, wrote about trolls writing nonsense to elected reps:
toxic behaviour has festered for some time, triggered perhaps by the convergence of challenges facing Kiwis such as the impact of the pandemic, rising house prices, smearing headlines, and messy reforms. Furthermore, it seems to be emboldened by the outrageous behaviour that has become normalised on social media – online trolls have become street trolls and they’re dividing our society.
The abuse is certainly not limited to local government, but they’re increasingly a target.
Communities often take for granted the services local government delivers, until something goes wrong. We’re a key player at the heart of our communities, but yet strangely invisible in public consciousness until there are headlines about political infighting or infrastructure failures. The negative reputation belies the critical role councils plays in our communities – and the talent and integrity with which local body politicians approach their role.
In Spinoff last week Toby Manhire wrote:
Post-Christchurch, post-Capitol-riot, no one can seriously argue that online attacks are some peripheral blurs of keyboard hyperbole, something to be shrugged off or scoffed at as if it were a scene from The Fast and the Furious. As recent history has evidenced around the world, often with tragic consequences, violent intimations online foment violent actions in real life. Reasonable New Zealanders who wish to protest the vaccine mandates have an urgent responsibility today: to actively, vocally disavow and denounce the violent cheerleaders they find themselves marching alongside.
When you have public calls for politicians to be lynched, when you have a polished speaker loud hailing from the grounds of parliament to a crowd of thousands in person and tens of thousands more online that the media are terrorists, when you have something like an avalanche of graphic, violent threats becoming par for the course, they must be taken completely seriously. A lot of people are on edge. All it needs is for one or two of them to get swept up, to take these incitements seriously, and suddenly things could turn very, very nasty
I recently read the following quote by John Maynard Keynes (one of my heroes in economics, I understood what he was on about) when he was referring to people who get in the way of necessary change:
“There is no reason why we should not feel ourselves, free to be bold, to be open, to experiment, to take action, to try the possibilities of things. Over against us, standing in the path, there is nothing but a few old gentlemen tightly buttoned-up in their frock coats, who only need to be treated with a little friendly disrespect and bowled over like ninepins.”
Let’s bring that quote a little up to date and take out the phrase “a few older gentlemen” and replace it with “ keyboard warriors who have never had to make a decision in their lives” and we have a useful quote.
I am grateful I was not in elected office when the internet had got to the level it has now. It is not helpful that elected reps must struggle on their own fighting their way through what must be soul destroying social media. Day in. Day out. It must be soul destroying. And most of it is just rubbish
I do wonder why elected reps have such poor resources as they handle this epidemic of troll vile. Is it in the administration’s interest for elected reps to be distracted? They then have less time to focus on being the eye and ears of the ratepayers of this city monitoring the city administration. It is time for proper assistance to be supplied to our elected reps to handle their jobs.