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Pink vests for taggers – shame as a sanction

  • June 4th, 2008

The DomPost headline suggests more than one Wellington City councillor has attacked Constable Gommans’ initiative in dressing taggers in pink. But the story mentions only Iona Pannett, and it does not explain how the Constable ensures his offenders accept the ‘punishment’.

It is probably a condition of diversion or otherwise dropping formal charges.  We need to know more, because progressive mayors all over the country are seeking effective powers for their local police, so that these experiments do not depend on the leadership of a few brave community constables.   TV 3’s “Make or Break” programme on Monday evening about the Wairoa ‘boot camp’ left the same unanswered question.

I’ll follow this up, but let’s consider Iona Pannett for the moment.

She demeans the Nazis’ victims. She equates their uninvited and undeserved suffering before horrible deaths, to minor embarassments for ferals who deliberately set out to make our city uglier and more crime inducing. I’m familiar with that Labour/Green technique in Parliament. Instead of arguing the merits they accuse their opponents of moral leprosy. For years it worked, to scare off support for their opponents.

On this issue it has ceased to work. Those of us who support Constable Gommans’ initiative need not and will not apologise.

On the collapse of civility the left have no answers, and no moral compass to look for answers. Ordinary people are fed up with the results of our 30 year criminal justice experiment in apologising to feral people. Shame is the first and most effective and mildest defence of every culture  against those tempted to take instead of making. Cheats and bullies are routinely discouraged in healthy societies by the shame they bring on themselves and their families. With name suppression and secret youth courts we’ve abandoned that first level restraint. So of course we’re now forced into debating more formal and harsh punishments in an attempt to restore respect for others as the prevailing norm.

Still, the insults will work for Pannett. She defeated the hard-working and sensible Alex Shaw by remorseless attention to name recognition. Enough voters will remember at the next election only that they’ve heard of her.

I wonder, nevertheless about her values. I’d hoped more of her. Many leftists consciously or unconsciously shrilly accuse others of their own fault (authoritarianism) to drown their self doubt as well as their opponents’ arguments. Their contempt for ordinary values is camouflaged by upping the rhetorical stakes, with a technique that simultaneously avoids engagement with the argument. Wasn’t it the national socialists who raised to an art the strategy of turning their opponents into moral lepers before eliminating them? She’s working in that fine leftist tradition though I’m sure she’s hoping for no more than an electoral elimination of her targets.

[For a sustained thread on this topic see Kiwiblog’s post and comments. I should have looked there first]


  • Paul Williams
  • June 4th, 2008
  • 3:55 pm

Stephen you refer to ferals and to their punishment, is tougher penalties the entire scope of your justice policy.

I think the Councillors did seriously mispeak, and it’s wrong to equate this situation with Nazi Germany, but you might also want to reconisder dismissing people as “ferals”.

When will you be in a position to do more than venture personal views on the news and instead reveal policy? And perhaps you might elaborate on your “collapse of civility” claim? It seems a little over-wrought to me.

  • jcuknz
  • June 4th, 2008
  • 4:40 pm

I support the constable for what he is attempting to do but it is a sad reflection on our society that the obvious solution is to accept that the indivoiduals are worthy members of our society expressing their creative skills in an inappropriate way.

The simple solution ignored by the red-neck right and left is to provide a venue for these artists. THEN we throw the book at those irresponsible members who continue to damage private property .. elsewhere I suggested castration or amputation of the drawing hand.

The trouble with our society is that while we appreciate the concept of a responsible society, ours has still quite a way to go, we ignore the fact for it to work its members have to act in a responsible manner to it.

That applies to the upper crust as equally at to the lower. On the roads for example I note much of the bad or inappropriate driving comes from those with recent registration plates.

So really it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

  • Matty Smith
  • June 5th, 2008
  • 8:02 am

But jcuknz, can you imagine the public outcry if taggers were given such a venue? Who will fork up the land for this? “It’s dragging our property prices down and bringing crime into the neighbourhood/CBD!” How many tagging venues will we need – I imagine unless they are easily accessible they won’t go far to stopping illegal tagging. Moreover, NIMBYism prevents such a sensible proposal from being really viable.

I think providing skate parks with large “tagging walls” could be part of effective strategy to defend people’s homes from vandals, but I doubt we, as a society, have the gumption.

(P.S. Mr Franks – Thank you for your comment on Kiwiblog).

  • jcuknz
  • June 5th, 2008
  • 9:10 am

I don’t see that any land is needed just a sensible council with some nice walls on their buildings. Properly organised it would an asset with regular painting over following photographing of images to provide room for fresh works of art. I remember coming out of Chicago on AMTRAK and seeing some graffitti about five stories up a derelict building Surely not only art by a daring climbing accomplishment. I think the trouble is that people do not understand the meaning behind these peculiar scriblings, I certainly dont, but am prepared to accept them as worthwhile creative effort as I see in art galleries.

  • Matty Smith
  • June 5th, 2008
  • 10:21 pm

jcuknz, true enough! That does sound workable. Thank you for correcting me on that point, I did sound a bit … morose.


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