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Reflections on Aisling

Written By: - Date published: 3:34 pm, October 18th, 2009 - 13 comments
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Two readers offer their reflections on our collective reaction to the Aisling Symes tragedy:

The Best of Us, The Worst of Us, revealed in Aisling Symes Tragedy

Sadly the body of Aisling Symes has been discovered and the means of her tragic death are understood.

During this time of grief and outpouring of public support for her family, there may also be a time for some reflection.

On her shocking disappearance, and at the very peak of the speculation that an Asian woman may have been involved in the Aisling’s disappearance, Winston Peters intentionally used the fear inducing term “human tsunami” to smear immigrants and grab the headlines.

The search for Aisling brought out the very best in many people. Though jumping to wrong conclusions can sometimes expose an ugly side to the New Zealand psyche.

In my view, Winston Peters, hate mongering, against immigrants at the height of this emergency is one of those ugly things that sometimes arise in times of a national crisis, a demagogue who tries to exploit the crisis for their own ends.

The sight of our country’s prime political opportunist, appearing on national TV, attempting to make political capital from this terrible tragedy, was disturbing to say the least.

Scape goating immigrants has worked for Peters in the past, to lift New Zealand First poll ratings whenever they fell into the margin of error. But by preying on the atmosphere of suspicion engendered against Asians, around the Aisling Symes disappearance, Peters may have finally gone to far.

This time Winston Peters may have misread the mood of the public, possibly even further alienating his remaining New Zealand First supporters.

All I can say if this happens, is good riddance.

– Jenny

A Few Thoughts on Child Snatching

The sad outcome to the disappearance of Aisling Symes has left me with some questions about the way New Zealanders responded to the story. The most obvious answer has turned out to be the case; she has wandered away, fallen or crawled into a drain and died. It’s a tragedy and our thoughts go out to the family.

However, what worries me is the reaction in the MSM, on the internet and around the smoko room. Very quickly we abandoned the most likely answer to the disappearance and assumed that she had been kidnapped. Thankfully, the Police were professional in their response and carried on the ground search, while also acting on the possibility of a kidnapping.

The wider community response, however, did not involve much common sense.  The con artist Deb Webber was coopted by TVNZ’s news crew to ‘solve’ the mystery, despite her 100% failure rate in all her previous scams. The McCann’s, the English parents of a missing child, quickly gave their support to the Symes family, as if what is supposed to have happened to their child must have happened to Aisling, too. Parents in West Auckland expressed fears for their own children’s potential to be the next victim, despite no actual crime having been committed. Elderly Asians with dogs were scrutinised as if they were the embodiment of evil.

The rush to assume that Aisling had been snatched defies logic. There have been very few actual kidnappings in NZ, of either adults or kids. When it involves children, it is usual a parent or other relative as part of a custody dispute and these are usually resolved without physical harm to the child. The last child kidnap and murder by a stranger I can recall is that of Teresa McCormack in Napier two decades ago. But I still talk to parents who drive their kids to school because they fear their offspring will whisked away by paedophiles if they aren’t dropped off at the school gates.

Why do we feel our kids are at risk? We live in one of the safest countries in the world. The murder rate is low, the kidnapping rate is inconsequential and Lord knows how much petrol is wasted on short school runs for kids who would be better off getting the exercise a walk to school brings.

Is it the media? Is it the Senseless Sentencing Trust? Is it Minnie Dean? Whatever it is, we need to wake up to the chilling affect our collective paranoia has on our society. We should be sad about the loss of Aisling Symes, but we should also be sad about what we learned about ourselves in the last week as well.

– The Voice of Reason

13 comments on “Reflections on Aisling ”

  1. Ianmac 1

    The Jenny bit gives me a pip because she is using Aisling as a means to make political comment. Sick.
    I do like the piece by Voice of Reason. Sad as it is to loose your child, it does happen all the time. And yes the paranoia about safety of kids excusing parental over-protection has all sorts of flow-on effects. Just one of them means that the everyday mixing and dealing with problems on the street as kids go to and fro, does allow kids to develop strategies and learn to make judgements. Some believe that the problems faced in later teen years, as boy racers or binge drinkers or unsafe sex, may be due to the lack of experience in making better judgements regarding risky behaviour.
    Incidentally the accident rate for kids getting hurt going to school is by far greatest, while in the car in an accident.

    • Jenny 1.1

      Pardon,
      I was under the impression it was Peters who was making capital out of this tragedy.

      I am sorry that you were offended that I dared to take him to task on it.

      Ianmack If you think it is sick to take Peters to task for trying to make political capital from this terrible tragedy. And by inference that Peters made a sane balanced judgement call. Then I might be bold enough to suggest that you are making a political comment yourself.

      However I won’t stoop to ad homonym insults. But gently suggest, that you might like to consider, that like most NZ First supporters you are misguided.

      • Ianmac 1.1.1

        Jenny. I am not a supporter in any way of Winston Peters.
        In Britain during this recession there was a policy change to restrict immmigration during rising unemployment. This seemed like a reasonable position to take. Not racist. In this case I was not aware that Peters had made a direct connection between a missing child and Asian immigration? It seems that those who do make such a connection do so with an axe to grind.
        I do not understand how a few words from Peters can generate such a strong reaction, but respect your right to say so. Cheers.

        • Jenny 1.1.1.1

          Ianmack, the facts are, that the massive rise in unemployment in Britain is due to the recession and nothing to do with immigration.

          Targetting immigrants as the problem is simple scapegoating, and is an indicator of how far to the right Gordon Brown’s government has gone.

          In fact there have been a number of economic reports showing that the reason the recession has not hit New Zealand as hard as it could have, is because, of the increased demand and contribution to the economy of recent immigration.

          That you think restricting immigration “is a reasonable response to rising unemployment” exposes your bias.

          Scapegoating immigrants is a common tactic of the right, that Peters shares with such people as the openly fascist Le Pen of France.

          In my opinion Winston Peters attack on immigrants as a “Human tsunami” at the height of the kidnap scare, was in the same league as Britain’s Enoch Powel’s infamous anti-immigrant, “Rivers of Blood” speech.

          The hidden sub-text of Peters anti-immigrant stance has always been racist, he does not need to specifically mention Asians to get his message across to the gullible.

          Scapegoating of immigrants feeds xenophobia and racism and diverts people from looking at the reckless right wing political and economic policies at the root of the current recession, allowing all the banksters and speculators and other shysters off the hook.

          In pre-war Germany the Nazis also pointed to outsiders and aliens as being the cause of the Great Depression and the resulting mass unemployment.

          In this atmosphere of hatred and fear a german child was raped by a pedophile who happened to be Jewish. In the atmosphere of fear and hatred created by the nazis against all Jews, this man’s whole community men woman and children were detained and later exterminated, this became the start of the holocaust.

          My question for you, Ianmack is this;

          Imagine for a moment, Ianmack, if an Asian woman had been involved in this child’s disappearance?

          • Ianmac 1.1.1.1.1

            Jenny: I am not suggesting that immigration is the cause of recession. But a problem during unemployment is that there are more people than jobs. Surprise! More ex-pats are returning home. Immigrants need jobs too and during a recession this may make the problem worse for now. One way to manage is to slow down immigration until both parties can fill the gaps.
            I fear you read too much into it all. If the Asian woman had been involved? Or a Korean, or a Kiwi or a Brit? So what?
            Cheers.

  2. Rex Widerstrom 2

    Well said both of you.

    TVOR, in particular, raises a point that goes well beyond this tragic case to impact upon policing and criminal justice policy. Where I disagree slightly is in your complete exoneration of police for any role in feeding the media frenzy. There is technology that can be sent up to 150 metres into drains like the one in which Aisling was found, with a camera sending back clear images. Why wasn’t it employed immediately, rather than just a perfunctory visual search? Because, I would argue, the police were excited to be caught up in an international manhunt rather than “just another” tragic accident.

    However that aside, the whole feedback loop of media–politicians–rednecks–media that drives public policy on policing and justice issues needs to be addressed. Our own Chief Justice touched on it recently (and, as I reminded Standard readers only a few days ago, was hardly offered a robust defence by Labour whilst being insulted and dismissed by National).

    But Western Australia’s Chief Justice was even more direct just recently, perhaps because he was speaking to young journalists:

    Chief Justice Wayne Martin said the government was responding to problems that did not exist.

    “Alarm arises from the fact that public perception appears to be driving public policy, and in particular driving the parliamentary branch of government to respond to perceived problems, which do not in fact exist,” he told journalism students.

    “Many in our community consider that our community is being swamped by a wave of crime of tsunami-like proportions, to which the judiciary is responding insipidly with increasingly lenient sentences. Neither of these things is true.”

    I’d urge people to follow the link, not just to read the rest of what Martin had to say but to look at the reader comments — you’ll think you were on the Herald’s “Your Views” page. Even when told something by a senior law officer, a large section of the community, necks aglow, refuse to believe it. Sadly, one of them is the WA Attorney General.

    How to interrupt the feedback loop is something that needs more space and time to discuss than I have at present. But it starts with electing politicians brave enough to be the anti-Garrotte… to say what Wayne Martin is saying and cop the redneck bile that it will draw, just as the Garrotte — for all his other faults — has the guts to push his view despite the derision, mockery and just plain loathing it engenders.

    But alas I don’t see a politician with the required courage… and that’s squarely the fault of the left. Because no right-leaning party — even those who confusedly claim to stand for individual liberty — will ever select a such a person.

  3. Ianmac 3

    Good post Rex. What to do about it. Mmmmmm.
    Ask anyone how many people are murdered each year in NZ and guesses range from 150 to 300+ In fact it has held to be about 50-60 per year for many years. Why do people have the inflated perception that it is so high? Ask around.

    • Rex Widerstrom 3.1

      Thanks Ianmac. Well as I said the other parts of the cycle aren’t about to break it. The media want drama for their leads and in a small country like NZ only the police can provide it, so a very cosy relationship develops.

      The contributors to “Your Views” and fans of Micael Lhaws aren’t about to shift their opinions, especially not when the media are reinforcing them. So the only part of the loop that can be broken is the political link.

      But Lianne Dalziel’s frankly pathetic “defence” of our Sian Elias — one blog post!! — means she’s not the right person to be Labour’s Justice spokesperson if they’re serious about bringing an evidence-based approach to crime policy.

      • Rex Widerstrom 3.1.1

        The above should read “our Chief Justice Sean Elias”.

        I wasn’t implying ownership of her by any group… nor was I hinting that I’m a member of the Freemasons (or that she is either).

    • Belladonna 3.2

      I give up, you win, hope you are happy with your achievements, you deserve it.

  4. Ianmac 4

    Garth McVicar Sunday TV 1 Now 7:40pm

  5. randal 5

    I don not know Aisling nor her parents nor any other members of her family and I resent being told what and how to think by sainsbury and the rest of the meida crew. the blame rests fairly and squarely on the people who left her unsupervised but they seeme to have escaped all scrutiny. this is infantilisation of the poulation at its worst.

  6. This blog is brilliant, I really enjoyed reading your detailed explanation on this subject. I don’t fully agree with it but its good to see so many people commenting on it. I will link your page from mine.

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