Unforgiving nation vents fury on the Beast and Burstyn

RICHARD SWAINSON
Last updated 07:27 11/09/2012
BEAST OF BLENHEIM: Stewart Murray Wilson.
FAIRFAX
BEAST OF BLENHEIM: Stewart Murray Wilson.
Filmmaker Sumner-Burstyn's Facebook post about Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker attracted a considerable amount of online rage.
FAIRFAX
Filmmaker Sumner-Burstyn's Facebook post about Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker attracted a considerable amount of online rage.

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Richard Swainson

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We New Zealanders can be a small-minded lot. It is a moot point which is the more dismaying commentary on the state of the nation, the hysteria stirred up over the release of the so-called Beast of Blenheim, or the torrent of abuse directed at film-maker and journalist Barbara Sumner Burstyn by service personnel or otherwise war-mongering citizens after she unwisely criticised our fallen soldiers in Afghanistan.

The former has all the sophistication of the lynch mob. Michael Laws is the self-appointed, self-righteous rogue sheriff, looking to run Stewart Murray Wilson out of town by fair means or foul if not put him in the stocks for an overdue public humiliation or string him up from the nearest tree. Even the SPCA has got in on the act, getting their 15 minutes of fame by speaking up for the rights of any innocent cats and dogs the rapacious bugger might have listed in his little black book. With the Beast unleashed, the world is suddenly a more dangerous and fraught place, transformed overnight into the devil's playground. If the official justice system and 18 years of formal punishment have not effected a change upon the satanic predator it is time for the frontier variety to be given a chance. Like some uppity, drunken Indian in a 1930s western, Wilson is to be denied retail service and shunned at every turn. Let no opportunity be lost for his fellow New Zealanders to demonstrate their moral superiority, let no hand be unrung in outrage, let no nose be cast in any direction but skyward or fist unclenched lest there be a chance to give the Beast a swift, surreptitious dust up on the side. It is our collective duty to teach the filthy deviant a lesson.

There can be no denying Wilson's criminal record and his continued protestations of innocence indicate some propensity for reoffending. A measured vigilance as to his whereabouts and activities makes sense and that is what the authorities are providing. However, what has happened to our common humanity or sense of proportion? There are far worse folk loose upon our streets than lonely, self-deluded 65-year-olds. How many murderers are released every day from prison? And what of the utter failure of the system to effect rehabilitation? It is no endorsement of either contemporary psychology or existing statutes that a man can walk free after nearly two decades of incarceration as mentally disturbed as his first day behind bars. If forgiveness continues to be an inappropriate response can we not at least attempt some understanding?

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Reaction to Burstyn's Facebook rant has been more vitriolic. Everything from accusations of treason to rape and death threats have been levelled at the pacificistically inclined feminist after she accused the late Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker of crimes against humanity.

Burstyn's rhetoric is that of the Vietnam war era protests, her ideological position one that sees the Afghanistan campaign as nothing but imperialism. The language took no prisoners: "Oh, so fallen soldier Jacinda Baker liked boxing and baking - did they forget she also liked invading countries we are not at war with, killing innocent people and had no moral compass . . . We are not at war. We are helping America invade another country for their oil”.

Upon reflection Burstyn has apologised and for good reason.

The accusations are without factual basis and do a gross disservice to a soldier whose duties were humanitarian and service record unimpeachable. There's also the small matter of Afghanistan's lack of oil.

While Uncle Sam's motives go well beyond the bringing of "freedom" to the world's greatest producer of heroin they are not directly related to the pursuit of black gold. It's hard to accurately recall but I think the invasion had something to do with finding Osama Bin Laden, who was later discovered in a neighbouring country, ironically enjoying the hospitality of one of the United States' closest allies.

However much Burstyn spoke ill of the dead, the blood-thirsty response went a way towards proving her wider point. If "peacekeepers" are threatening to rape and kill their critics it is just possible they are capable of doing as much on the ground. While the likes of Baker and her colleagues were working to rebuild a war-torn nation, forlornly if pure of motive, let us not forget that our SAS soldiers have been implicated in American atrocities. We are far from innocent players in Afghanistan.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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