Monday, August 31, 2009


What kinds of people send death threats to Members of Parliament? What kinds of people send death threats to anyone? Is it sheer madness of mind that these people not realise that what they do is wrong? Or is it mischief making, that they know full well what they do is wrong but the anonymous notoriety gives them some sick thrill and misdirected courage? Why is it that threats like these are always anonymous?

Pillory comes with the territory for those who put themselves in the public arena. These public figures be they, celebrities, politicians or activists are targets with neon lights flashing wildly ‘hit me, kick me, whack me, spit at me.’

Activists like Sue Bradford have always been vilified. She has championed that side of society the conservative sector wishes were invisible, her work with the poor and the Unemployed Workers Union in the 70’s,80’s and 90’s, had her beaten, bashed and thrown in jail. Now her work championing the rights of children has again highlighted the rocky road Sue and her whanau travel, in the pursuit of justice. Abuse and threats aren’t just levelled at the individual they also impact on the person’s whanau and when there are children the affects can be catastrophic and long lasting. Hone Harawira’s children took numerous calls from anonymous voices threatening to ‘blow-your-Fathers- head-off’ and ‘bomb your house’. John Minto’s sons got the same messages.

It doesn’t matter whether you believe, understand or even like her politics, Sue and people like her don’t deserve threats of any kind. Of course centre-right politicians have their fair share of intimidation, bullying and terrorising. I Produced a documentary series some years ago for TVNZ called ‘Politician’s Wife’. Mary English, wife of Finance Minister Bill who was at the time of filming the Prime Minister recalled the time she received a bullet in the letter box. While Lady Thea Muldoon said all private household mail was re-directed by the Diplomatic Squad because of the overwhelming amount of threats they were receiving.

My colleagues and I received threats on a weekly basis for almost seven years. I worked for TVNZ and our programme Marae screened live on Sunday mornings. Each Monday we’d arrive at TVNZ and to the phone logs (this was in the ‘olden-days’ before text, emails, twitter, Facebook BEBO etc). Without fail there would be at least a dozen viewer calls abusing Maori. We were barraged with ‘the only good Maori is a dead Maori’, ‘get those niggers off my screen’, ‘tell me when their next hui is and I’ll drop a bomb on them – get rid of them in one hit.’ Some of these threats were laughable, some shocked us, but rather than cower, tremble and shy away, they had the reverse effect. We became bolder, stronger and more unified and determined in our drive to become more visible to give Maori more opportunities to voice issues their way on their terms.

If those that threatened Sue Bradford think she’ll cower, tremble and shy away – they can’t be more wrong. Sue is an activist,a fighter. What the threats did was validate her, authenticate her cause and probably swing previous fence sitters into her camp.

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