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Friday, December 17, 2004

Seditious axe-wielding maniacs? 

In today's reporting on the charge of sedition laid against Timothy Selwyn, the person alleged to have planted an axe firmly in the window of the Prime Minister's electorate office, the NZ Herald and Stuff run a near-identical comment on his "having made the headlines four years ago after writing an article in Craccum in which he denied that suicide was a selfish act." Blah, whatever, our Mr Selwyn is a more exciting character than that.

I recall him writing something else in Craccum about "an interactive Once Were Warriors themepark." Which was pretty evocative....

Update: for commentary on this issue more informed than you'll find anywhere in the mainstream press, see the comments of norightturn. A few choice excerpts:
The man responsible for the axe attack against the Prime Minister's electorate office has been charged not just with criminal damage, but also with "seditious conspiracy". For a taste of the dubiousness of this law, it was last used in 1914, to prosecute conscientious objectors who refused to fight and die in a struggle between two German monarchs.

"Seditious conspiracy" is an explicitly political crime, criminalising people gathering or planning to "excite disaffection against... the Government" or encouraging "violence, lawlessness, or disorder" in the abstract. It is a ridiculous and archaic law, as can be seen from its underlying assumptions: "exciting disaffection" is a crime, so by implication we should all feel affection towards our rulers. But since when the fuck have we been expected to love the government?!? And why, other than sheer naked self-interest on behalf of our rulers, should it be any sort of crime to encourage people to be discontented or resentful towards them?

Yes, I recall trying to "excite disaffection" against the Bolger/Richardson/Birch/Shipley governments with some regularity. Not that I ever had much success. But I'm not sure I would have slowed down if I saw Ruth Richardson crossing the road. Community service and all that...

Norightturn ends on this note:
Sticking an axe through a window is a crime, and can be prosecuted under laws against property damage. It should make no difference who the window belongs to, or what political opinions the attacker espouses or propagates. Otherwise, we open the door for the police to engage in political persecution (which is exactly what they are doing here). It's a timely reminder of the danger of letting such archaic laws survive; their existence is an invitation to use, which is why they must be repealed.

Take a note, blowhards of the world (Murray McCully, Gerry Brownlee, Stephen Franks, and others who I am sure are big fans of this sort of legislated nonsense.)


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