Thursday, 7 August 2014

Election graffiti: anger is one thing, hate speech is another

Content note: racism, NSFW language
It’s election season here in New Zealand. We vote in six weeks. There are election billboards going up all over the place, and naturally some people are taking matters into their own hands.
Party Vote Act(ual Racism): One Country, One Law (One Dillusion)
(Ab)Use Your Party Vote to keep the government on a short leash: Vote Conservative
Vote (Batman) Labour
There’s a collection of them over at Vandalized NZ Political Billboards on Tumblr, which is where I found these images. It’s dominated by attacks on National Party billboards,
Nicky Wagner (Muppets) Christchurch Central: Party Vote National
Working for (Rich People): Party Vote National
some comparatively subtle,
Carter, Port Hills: Party Vote National (The Rich Deserve More)
some very much not.
Working for (Fuck Off)
All the politicians tut-tut over this, of course, you can’t be the one party that doesn’t tell people off for vandalizing billboards. I doubt anybody’s really all that upset when it’s not their own side getting defaced. Election hoardings are temporary structures of no great beauty in themselves, it’s hardly vandalism. If the artists’ aim is to actually influence voting choices, I suspect it’s a strategy doomed to failure. But in a democracy it is the people’s sovereign right to express their political opinions publicly as they see fit.
However, I think the right to express one’s opinion stops before it becomes hate speech. This is hate speech:
(Lying Jew Cocksucker)
I wish I could dismiss that as a right-wing attempt to make the Left look bad. Unfortunately, when I ran the Vote Out National page on Facebook an election cycle ago, a handful of the tens of thousands of people who joined did make anti-Jewish comments about the Prime Minister, which I had to remove. The Occupy movement, which peaked around the same time, was turned against world capitalism in general and big banks in particular, and there were a few voices in the crowds saying that the problem was they were all run by Jews.
First of all, this is racist. If you don’t see what’s wrong with that, I give up. Second, it’s ridiculous – the idea that the National Party’s nasty plutocratic policies are less of a reason for progressive and liberal people to vote against them than the fact that their leader comes from the same religious-cultural tradition as Noam Chomsky, Andrea Dworkin, Bob Dylan, Albert Einstein, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Nan Goldin, Emma Goldman, Tom Lehrer, Natalie Portman, Carl Sagan, Alan Sokal, George Soros, Joseph Stiglitz, and Naomi Wolf.
Someone on Facebook called me “anti-Semitic” because I hadn’t condemned this image yet. (I don’t use that phrase because I think it’s a euphemism for something that shouldn’t be euphemized, namely people hating Jews.) This is the same person who has been flooding my news feed with apologia for the violence in Gaza, so I told him I’d condemn it when I saw him condemn the hatred directed against Palestinians and Muslims that keeps coming up in the links he posts. But I’ve changed my mind. Racism is wrong whoever’s doing it, and nobody should wait before they say that.


  1. Agree I do detest John Key and his policies but let's debate the issues and not turn on the man

    1. TBH, because Key's persona is so much of the campaign, I kind of feel like ad hominem stuff is relevant - it's just the racist nonsense (which isn't even remotely related either to National policies *or* to Key's repugnant "smirky" persona) that needs to stop.