Democracy or Hooliganism? Vandals on Campaign Hoardings

Part 2 of New Zealand Elections Blog Coverage

 One of the ugliest part of the election season is seeing the inevitable vandalism that hounds campaign hoardings of the different candidates.

From John Key being painted a Hitler mustache, to Colin Craig being drawn as Count Dracula and the irresistible urge to add the letter ‘T’ to David Cunliffe’s last name – we have all seen these predictable, immature jokes cast on campaign signs.

I would call it vandalism, but others prefer to call it democracy in action – people are unsatisfied with how things are and this is their outcry for ‘change’, whatever that means.

This round of election’s vandals however, has taken democracy a bit too far, I would argue. We have heard news of hoardings being burnt down, obscenities being drawn on them and some vandals give us a glimpse of people’s racism.

In another part of the world, these features are nothing new. Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party capitalized on Germany’s dislike for its’ Jewish community and won on a platform of depicting the Jews as money-hoarding, country-wrecking sewer rats. (Literally, the Jews were drawn with exaggerated long noses in the fashion of rats.)

But this is New Zealand – the country that prides itself to be among the most progressive nations on earth. The country where the friendliest city in the world can be found. If there was a country in the world today that is closest to being an egalitarian, it would be New Zealand. 

Which is why seeing this entirely new level of mischief was appalling.

This blog is not the first to notice such a trend happening, other writers have noticed it too. (Read thisthis and this.) It’s hard not to, one such case even bordered on arson.

Just a few days ago firefighters had to put out a blaze in front of the house of Conservative Party candidate Steve Taylor. Arsonists had set alight a campaign hoarding attached to a trailer in front of his house, and if not for an alarmed neighbor’s frantic call to emergency services the blaze might have caught on to Mr. Taylor’s house which was only a few feet away.

Down south in Palmerstone North, party campaigners are being frustrated by the costs the vandals on their hoardings are inflicting on their campaign funds. In the first few weeks they put up over 100 National Party hoardings and all were defaced or destroyed. Palmerston North National Party stalwart and former candidate Malcolm Plimmer remarked that “the hoarding damage this year was greater than he had seen in his 47 years of political campaigns.”

In Dunedin North, another National Party campaign hoarding with John Key and candidate Michael Woodhouse’s images on them were contorted to show Key having devilish-horns on him and the words “casual fascists” tagged across the board.

And in another burning incident, in Hamilton a National Party hoarding depicting the images of John Key and candidate Tim MacIndoe was set alight by arsonists. 

National Party party hoarding being burnt down in Hamilton.

As it stands, harsh penalties await those who are caught vandalizing. Sadly, there has been no reports of the perpetrators being caught and receiving so much as a fine for the troubles they caused.

It is also bizarre that not a lot of reactions has been drawn from across the Parliament, as those who protested belonged to the party victimized by these vandals. Keeping mum on this issue is arguably as good as a discreet approval of the actions of these hooligans.

To make matters worse, an influential supporter of the Green Party and True Blood actor Stephen Moyer publicly expressed his satisfaction at seeing a National Party hoarding vandalized. Moyer posted photos of the said vandals on a social media account and accompanied it with the caption: “One of the great joys of driving down to Wellington town every day is seeing how the National Party posters have been defaced.”

And the Green Party, whose campaign slogan reads: “Love New Zealand” has not issued an criticism of the actor’s careless and insensitive remarks. 

Reading comments on websites that feature pictures of these vandals I get the impression that people are passive towards these actions. They view it as an act of democracy, a sign of people’s discontent with the current government. But let’s remember, democracy also guarantees our right to stand for office and contest elections.

These campaign hoardings are vital parts of a candidate’s right to have a fair chance at winning an election. Defacing these hoardings essentially defaces them of their democratic rights and in turn, it is these arsonists and hooligans – who fancy themselves to be the democratic freedom fighters – who are putting a stain on New Zealand democracy in the process.

So enough with all these shenanigans, if you can’t stand a particular party the best smear job you could legally inflict on them is to go out and vote for their rival parties. 

(Here are some photos of campaign hoardings being vandalized)

JohnKey1 JohnKey2 JohnKey3 JohnKey4 JohnKey5 JohnKey6 JohnKey7 JohnKey9

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