What we need right now is for politicians to stop trolling

Judith Collins and David Seymour.
Stuff
Judith Collins and David Seymour.

OPINION: Describing the mood in Auckland as ‘flat’ this past week would be euphemistic.

The shrunken, month-old, purple onion half on the top shelf of my fridge is perkier than the super city is right now. As are the brown, brittle beetles lying belly up on my balcony and the faint black mould in the windowsill. (I keep meaning to clean it up, but I’ve been saving up all the small cleaning jobs as a Sunday treat.)

There’s also a faint edge of insanity to us right now. Like we’re all one dropped mug of tea away from screaming “screw it all!”, painting ourselves blue, donning a post-apocalyptic head-dress made of lion skulls and toilet paper, and entering the Thunderdome.

When concerned friends ask what I need, there’s a million things I could say: real coffee, glamorous loungewear options that don’t have elasticated ankles, animal skulls to start fashioning my said post-apocalyptic spring-summer collection ...

READ MORE:
* Covid-19: Donations fly in for Dr Siouxsie Wiles' research after Judith Collins calls her a 'hypocrite'
* Covid-19 NZ: 'Low-life move' - David Seymour under fire for tweeting out Māori vaccine access code
* Covid-19: Dr Siouxsie Wiles warns of 'disinformation' after claims she was caught breaking lockdown rules

But what I really, really want after last week is for politicians to stop being needlessly provocative and exacerbating our frayed tempers in efforts to score cheap political points.

Basically, stop trolling.

Trolling is being deliberately antagonistic in order to get a rise out of people. And that’s exactly what it feels like Judith Collins, and earlier in the week David Seymour, have been up to.

ACT leader David Seymour is being cynical and needlessly provocative to get tweets and air time, says Verity Johnson.
ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff
ACT leader David Seymour is being cynical and needlessly provocative to get tweets and air time, says Verity Johnson.

Seymour kicked it off, leaking the access code allowing Māori to get jabbed if they walk up without an appointment, and acting like a pasty, petty Batman fighting the end of egalitarian society one morally outraged tweet at a time.

Now, obviously everyone wants a fair and equitable healthcare system. But the problem, which he knows, is that the “let’s approach every group in exactly the same way” method doesn’t work. Māori are deeply under-represented in vaccination statistics, and if we’re to change that we need Māori targeted vaccination efforts.

But he’s smart, he knows this, and it’s not about that. He’s being cynical and needlessly provocative to get tweets and air time by rarking everyone up.

Vertiy Johnson says Judith Collins legitimised a smear campaign by her comments about Dr Siouxsie Wiles.
ROBERT KITCHIN/Stuff
Vertiy Johnson says Judith Collins legitimised a smear campaign by her comments about Dr Siouxsie Wiles.

Likewise, Judith Collins descended into Twitter-rant-provocateur when she tore into Siouxsie Wiles over the weekend for being a hypocrite. She really should know better before accepting some dodgy ass vigilante-paparazzi video on right-wing smear blogs as fact.

But she didn’t care, launching into a weirdly personal, vitriolic attack on Wiles and legitimising a smear campaign, painting her as a hypocrite. (When really Wiles’ sole crime was, heaven forfend, not stopping a mate from going for a paddle in the sea.)

It’s obvious what Collins is doing. She’s trying to rile up her supporters who’re chafing against lockdown restrictions (she went on about how she hated Wiles telling her what to do) and also exploit our collective irritation with Covid rule-breakers.

So she’s stirring us up, trying to open up that furiously pulsating vein of public irritation, and use it to take down a pesky, lefty pink-haired scientist who’s apparently in Jacinda’s pocket.

Verity Johnson: ‘’What I really, really want after last week is for politicians to stop being needlessly provocative ... ‘’
Supplied
Verity Johnson: ‘’What I really, really want after last week is for politicians to stop being needlessly provocative ... ‘’

And we are irritable right now. Social media has already created a culture of vicious, everyday bitchery. But add in lockdowns, and it feels like someone’s put a hook up our nose, dragged out all of our patience and compassion through our left nostril, and left us desperate to start a fight with anyone and everyone just to relieve the pressure. And she’s trying to use that to get a bit of limelight.

Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy when opposition parties hold the g​overnment to account on sensible, important topics. Like Chris Bishop does. But not when it’s a grubby grab to exploit public exhaustion and frustration at the pandemic to get air time and profile.

This is politics, not Twitter.