Events like the Christchurch earthquake bring out the best, and the worst, in people.
Amid the tales of destruction and tragedy have emerged stories of heroism and sacrifice that give hope, not just to the survivors of this horrible disaster, but to the cynics among us in general.
But of course, human nature being what it is, we’ve also had to endure the thoughtless opining of the morally and tastefully defective. While our people attempt to rebuild their city, and their lives, in the wake of this dreadful disaster, some are taking this opportunity to broadcast their perverse agendas, divert attention from recovery efforts to themselves, and to twist events to reflect their one-eyed, just-world delusions.
One such extremist, owner of a fundamentalist Christian website, christchurchquake.net (hosted in Utah USA), felt that, given the destruction and loss of life in Christchurch, the time was ripe to promote his homophobic, apocalyptic visions, and to taunt New Zealanders with the idea that the tragedy that had occurred was divine retribution for, among other things, Gay Ski Week (www.gayskiweeknz.com).
We are, of course, outraged by the suggestion. New Zealanders are rightfully proud of their open and tolerant society, and resent the implication that they should feel otherwise. In New Zealand we accept and welcome diversity; we practice tolerance and expect the same in return.
It’s hard to know what to make of christchurchquake.net and the motivations behind it. Some even think it may be just a prank designed to stir up anti-American sentiment. Whatever the case, the site’s host, Bluehost, appears to have bowed to public pressure and taken christchurchquake.net offline. Without a doubt, the internet is a nicer place for it.
techliberty.org.nz however has raised a very good question: "[W] hat does it mean about the Internet when a site can be removed this easily because some people disagree with the content?”
As appalled as I am by christchurchquake.net, I share Techliberty’s unease in this instance.
Of course, every thoughtful New Zealander condemns sanctimonious gloating in the face of suffering, but sometimes that’s what the internet gives us. With the freedom we enjoy - to say what we want - comes the burden of having to endure the thoughtless, useless, hurtful rantings of an alienated few.
Whether it’s for the best that one dumb site got removed because enough people complained about it is open to debate. But it’s a slippery slope when words can be removed from the web because some don’t like what’s being said, regardless of how justified their anger is.
Better, I think, to respond to ignorance with reason, and use our freedom to think, and write, what we want for good cause. To drown out those lone, hateful voices, with the voices of reason, tolerance and support, en masse.
Because, at times like these, those are the voices we need the most.