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April 15, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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No Sympathy for the Devil’s Advocate

Every week in the pages of our regional newspapers and indeed in the pages of the Dom and the Herald, one is sure to find something offensive. More often than not we find offence coming in the form of a column by Rosemary McLeod, Bob McCroskie or one of the many other ‘commentators’ who fill the column inches of print publications to placate the bigoted masses.

Much of this content purports to be political. In the minds of the columnists, it is up to Parliament to do something about these perceived societal ills. Luckily, Parliament isn’t beholden to keyboard warriors with a God complex. However, as much as we like to dismiss these people as unrepresentative of New Zealand as a whole, a wee read of the letters to the editor may show you otherwise. In continuing to air hateful views and misinformation, these commentators are adding venomous vitriol to the New Zealand political discourse and giving life to issues that most people would like to see put to rest.

With each column condemning abortion, claiming homosexuality is a choice and a sin, and moaning about Waitangi Day, there comes the inevitable slinging of mud. The left throw their arms up in horror, while others harp on about free speech and living in a democracy. After a few days the Facebook posts and hashtags drift off the end of timelines and the anger of white urban liberals shifts focus to the next outrageous comments.

Perhaps the sad, attention-seeking musings of our less liberally inclined friends should simply be treated as nothing more than ink on paper and ignored. As your mother said to you when you complained of playground taunts, maybe reacting is just what they want, and maybe it spreads their offence further than it would otherwise reach. If they are ignored, they will lose the will to plough on with their agenda of hate.

While tempting, ignoring these publications is sadly not a viable option. Hate does not exist within a vacuum. Outside our liberal, Wellington bubble, there are closeted kids in Whangarei and Tokoroa who might just believe that homosexuality can be “prayed away” and scared teenagers who might believe that “no abortion can be done safely”. To those people, we owe taking a few moments to make an injection of truth into the discourse.

Of course, we need to take a step back and question the editors who make the decisions to spread these harmful messages. Sure, everyone has freedom to express themselves, but there is no right to a microphone or weekly column in the Hawke’s Bay Today. Maybe the retaliatory rage of lefty tweeters and bloggers should be directed towards those who are deciding to publish these provocateurs for profit.

No one is entitled to spend their days free of offence. But if there’s one golden rule for life, it is this: Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. Try not to be a cunt.

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