13 December 2016

Unacceptable #nlpoli

Finance minister Cathy Bennett did something very brave on Monday.  She did something far braver than carry on without disclosing some of the horrendous abuse she and her family has suffered since last spring's budget.

She talked publicly about the threats and abuse.  One cannot watch the video of Bennett talking about the events and not be touched by the trembling of  her lip,  the quivering of her voice as she discusses hateful comments aimed at her relentlessly.

Well, that is,  not if one is a compassionate human being in any event.  Far too many people took to Twitter to continue the attack on Bennett whether by dismissing the remarks as nothing or to justify the attacks. Just to make sure everyone understands this isn't bile coming from men alone, aimed at woman, take a look at the remarks offered by a prominent artist in the province, herself the mother of three girls.

She fired that out via Twitter.  The kind of abuse people have been heaping on Bennett's kids is okay because of a perceived wrong.  In other words, this individual - her identity isn't important - personifies the twisted worldview that produces the sort of hate-filled attacks Bennett was talking about.

To be clear,  Bennett wasn't talking about strongly word disagreement with Bennett's comments or the budget she delivered last spring.  The messages Bennett got were aimed deliberately at her, personally, and at members of her family.  Some of them called for violence.

And to be even more clear,  these were not caused by social media or in any way made possible by social media.  These types of comments have been around for a very long time.  They just happen to come from social media.  A few years ago, people called open line shows and talked about the need to stuff a politician in a truck, take him out in the woods and beat the shit out of him.  All of that talk still goes on.  Social media has just given people the ability to spray their venom to a wider audience.

What really made the difference in the prevalence of the spiteful comment Bennett has been getting was the endorsement of the behaviour by the breed of politicians who took power after 2003.  It's hard to imagine people would be quite so quick to behave this way if it wasn't for Steve Kent's unprincipled attack on the 2041 group, for example, or the despicable way the entire Conservative caucus treated Tom Osborne.

We should also be clear that the sort of political attack Bennett has faced isn't just men taking aim at women.  Kathy Dunderdale's crew were known to mount smear campaigns using fabricated accusations.  Sometimes the victims were women. Like Gerry Rogers.   Sometimes they were men.

Cathy Bennett did a very brave thing on Monday.  Truthfully, she should have done it a long time ago. The only way to stop unprincipled personal attacks on politicians is to expose the people making them. Not only can you identify the perpetrators, you can also spot the folks like the sketchy artist quoted above who enable them.

Now that Cathy Bennett has taken a stand, maybe we can change the way politics has been going in this province. All it took was one person to say that she'd had enough.