Vigilantes or vigilance?

In response to “March organiser demands action” at the Herald (

There has been a strong response from politicians, local and national, to calls for “vigilante” patrols in South Auckland to protect “Asians” from petty crime.

The Herald quotes Peter Low:

The East Auckland importer said he had vigilantes in training to stop further attacks. Groups of 20 people attend six workshops teaching them martial art skills and how to handle various situations. Women were also being taught how to look after their handbags. He is hoping to have the groups patrolling South Auckland streets within the next few months. If authorities don’t allow the vigilante groups, the AAG will consider hiring Triads, Mr Low said.

In fact, the whole brouhaha turns on a linguistic misunderstanding. Low meant to say “vigilance” – not “vigilantes.” Just like he meant to say that citizens should “forearm” themselves, rather than “arm” themselves against threats to their person and property.

This became clear in the course of Kathryn Ryan’s interview on RNZ’s Nine to Noon programme this morning (though Ryan failed to pick it up and press him for a more idiomatic phrase). “Vigilantes” of course presses public buttons more effectively than “vigilance” – which is, in any case, what the police (and poilticians) would have us display in the face of criminals.

For Ryan’s interview, see her page at NatRad (



One thought on “Vigilantes or vigilance?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s