Justifying hate and violence

06:35, Aug 29 2012

It's difficult to care much about Stewart Murray Wilson, the sex offender released into essentially house arrest in Whanganui yesterday. So horrible were his crimes, so many were his victims and so callous his indifference to them, that any degree of charity feels seriously out of order. What he did, what he still stands for, represents the ugliest side of human behaviour. That he doesn't want forgiveness is neither here nor there. He doesn't deserve any.

On the other hand, it's not at all difficult to feel concerned about the health of our community, especially when you listen to some of the reaction to Wilson's release. It's really quite something, to hear the lynch-mobs and vigilante types baying and inciting; all, apparently, in the name of creating a safer environment. Threats of violence and blood-letting; calls to "drive him out of town". Evidently this is acceptable if directed at our worst offenders.

Seems the irony is lost on many of those venting; that it's a bit rich expressing horror about Wilson and wondering where he came from, and at the same time taking to the streets with pitch-forks, spewing hatred and malice, and discussing all manner of cruel and brutal reprisals. God knows what these people are telling their children at home but if that's any indication we should steel ourselves for many more nutcases down the line.

What seems clear is that we don't accept Wilson as one of us. The ease with which we've embraced the absurd and counter-productive title, the Beast of Blenheim, speaks volumes of that. Much more comfortable to make him out to be inhuman, I guess; to find some sort of dodgy moniker that turns him into a storybook villain. Excuses us of any association. Allows us to forget he grew up among us; that he's a product of our own making.

That most of the outrage over Wilson's release is coming from Whanganui is hardly surprising. The "not in my backyard" approach underpins most complaints when it comes to releasing sex offenders back into the community. We've discussed this in earlier blogs, most recently regarding a case in Piha. The hypocrisy knows no bounds. And especially when the rest of country has to accommodate some of Whanganui's worst offenders.

Spare me the scaremongering about Wilson's risk. This isn't about risk, it's about hatred and revulsion. The man's all but under house arrest; living on prison grounds, fitted with a GPS transmitter and unable to leave the property unless accompanied by two adults. Quite apart from that, he's now a household name and his face is one of the most recognisable in New Zealand. He can't make a move without being noticed.

No, this is about the politics of fear and loathing. It's about justifying behaviour we otherwise consider reprehensible in order to sate our base instincts. We're hiding behind the risk argument, or at least some of us are. When you consider 70 per cent of child sex offenders in prison are first-time offenders, there's probably a greater risk among those complaining about Wilson. If we think he's the biggest risk walking around Whanganui, we're kidding ourselves.

That's the only concern about Justice Minister Judith Collins' plans to introduce a retrospective Public Protection Order law that could land Wilson back in jail. To be clear, I couldn't give a rat's arse about how fair or unfair it might be on him. He's not entitled to my concern. Having said that, not only does the proposal seem unnecessary, it also feels as if it's pandering to our worst emotions; that it's offering a nod to those who seek to justify hate and violence.

And that's more of a concern than Wilson is.


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