“Free speech” – The Rules according to the Right

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The passionate debate  over free speech for two visiting Canadian alt.right Polite Fascists drew (at times near hysterical) comment from everyone who cared sufficiently about the issue to proffer an opinion.

For many, it was a litmus-test determining how far our beliefs extended to preserving the right of free speech. Free speech extended to those whose views we despised.

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For many others, free speech was not absolute. Spreading racist, homophobic, sexist, and transphobic vitriol belittled already-marginalised and disempowered people in our society.

For others, their Care Factor was zero. Faced with an empty refrigerator, or sleeping in a garage or car, or choosing whether to pay the power bill or medication for a child with rheumatic fever, was a closer reality for many New Zealanders.

If you were white, male, and straight – you would be right to feel safe from the bigotted chauvinism of two alt-right Polite Fascists .  A White, Male, Straight could countenance violence as a price for “free speech”.

If you were a person of colour, gay, a woman with a career and a baby, or transgender – not so much.  You might feel less inclined to welcome people into our country whose main purpose was to denigrate you; deny you your equality; your inclusivity in society; your very identity.

A Free Speech Coalition quickly sprang up to defend the right of the two Polite Fascists to be allowed to speak freely.  The group consisted of;

Dr. Michael Bassett – Former Labour Party Minister
Dr. Don Brash – Former leader of the National and ACT Parties, and former Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand
Ashley Church – Business Leader
Dr. David Cumin – Senior Lecturer University of Auckland
Melissa Derby – University of Canterbury Academic
Stephen Franks – Lawyer
Paul Moon – Professor of History Auckland University of Technology
Lindsay Perigo – Broadcaster
Rachel Poulain – Writer
Chris Trotter – Political Commentator
Jordan Williams – Lawyer

The spokesperson the the so-called Free Speech Coalition, Don Brash,  was very, very, very vocal in defending the right of the Polite Fascists to speak freely in New Zealand.

The same  Don Brash  who last year called for Te Reo to be removed from Radio NZ;

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It seems that Free Speech is fine – as long as it’s in The Queen’s English.

The debate raged in every on-line forum  and became – in most instances – a license for some pretty vile racist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, islamophobic slurs to be uttered. It was as if the Free Speech debate suddenly gave every bigot with internet access a free pass to vent their darkest hates.

For the more rational angels on the  side of the Free Speech debate, it was a necessary price to pay for a free society.

Unfortunately, it could be said that ‘price’ was paid mostly by those minorities and women targetted by our Polite Fascist visitors.

Meanwhile right-wing commentators and bloggers rallied to defend the rights of the Polite Fascists to speak unhindered. Which, in the case of Karl du Fresne is rather ironic, as five years ago he criticised Radio NZ as being too “left-leaning” and called for direct political intervention to “to take a tougher line against the editorial bias that still permeates some RNZ programmes“;

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Said du Fresne;

RNZ is a national treasure, but it’s a flawed treasure, and that makes it vulnerable. By correcting the most obvious of those flaws, whoever takes over from Mr Cavanagh could help protect the organisation against political interference.

[…]

So what might the new RNZ chief executive do to enhance the organisation’s standing in a political climate that is less than favourable? One obvious step is to take a tougher line against the editorial bias that still permeates some RNZ programmes.

[…]

But on some programmes, a stubborn Left-wing bias persists.

Kim Hill is the worst offender. This is a problem for whoever runs RNZ, because she’s also its biggest name.

Chris Laidlaw lists to the Left too, as does Jeremy Rose, a journalist who frequently crops up on Laidlaw’s Sunday morning show. Rose appears to be on a lifelong mission to convince people that there are humane alternatives to nasty, heartless capitalism.

He’s perfectly entitled to believe that, of course, but he has no right to co-opt the resources of RNZ to pursue his fixation.

[…]

An editor-in-chief who was doing his job properly would crack down on such abuses…

None of it was true, of course, as I pointed out at the time.

The National Party – that bastion of personal liberty – chimed in,  staunchly on the side for free speech;

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Said current National Party leader, Simon Bridges;

“I disagree strongly with what these activists are saying but I think it’s a dangerous thing to say ‘because we don’t like what you’re saying we won’t let you in’.”

That was on 9 July.

Seven weeks passed.

National’s staunchness for Free Speech is now… well… not quite so staunch;

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National’s immigration spokesperson, Michael Woodhouse, demanded Ms Manning be banned from entering New Zealand;

“She was convicted and sentenced to a 35-year prison term and as a consequence has no good reason to be coming to New Zealand.”

When pointed out to Mr Woodhouse  that this bore an uncanny similarity to the debate over the recent visit of two Polite Fascists, he countered with this;

“This is not a question of free speech. [Ms Manning] is free absolutely to say whatever she wants but she’s not free to travel wherever she wants.”

Which, strangely enough, was precisely the same point made by opponants of the two Canadian Polite Fascists.

On pure principle alone, left-wing bloggers like Idiot Savant at ‘No Right Turn’ and  Martyn Bradbury and left-wing commentators such as Chris Trotter have led the charge to preserve free speech.  They supported the right of the two Polite Fascists to vent their bigotry  in New Zealand.

Shamefully, the same – it seems – cannot be said of the Right-wing.

If we wait for the likes of Karl du Fresne, David Farrar, and the National Party to defend Ms Mannings’ right to speak unhindered in New Zealand – we will be waiting till the sun goes nova (in roughly five billion years time).

Yes, the Free Speech Coalition has come out in support of Ms Manning’s right to speak unhindered in New Zealand.

The spokesperson issuing the statement was Chris Trotter. Don Brash’s name was nowhere to be seen anywhere in the media release. For someone who loves lots of free speaking, Mr Brash was suddenly not so very, very, very vocal.

The reason was blindingly obvious.

As Danyl Mclauchlan pointed out with crystal clarity;

The upcoming visit of the US intelligence whistleblower appears to have some on the right reassessing their commitment to free speech and open debate. How quickly they forget…

… So Manning is an ideological enemy of the National Party. Two weeks ago it was, we were told, vitally important that we cherish free speech so that New Zealand could hear what Don Brash, Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux had to say. Now that they’re faced with the spectre of a high profile speaker with values critical of the defence and intelligence establishment, free speech is suddenly far less important to National. A cynic might say it was never about free speech at all, but the defence of racially charged speech under the guise of free speech.

For the Right-wing, free speech is fine. It just depends on who’s doing the speaking.

Did anyone seriously believe even for a nanosecond that it would be otherwise?

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References

TVNZ: Free speech or hate speech? Both sides of the debate sparked by the appearance of alt-right Canadian speakers Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux

Southern Poverty Law Centre: Stefan Molyneux

Fairfax media: Southern and Molyneux good test for our free speech tolerance video

Mediaworks/Newshub: Jacinda Ardern ‘simply can’t’ be both a mum and Prime Minister – Stefan Molyneux

Fairfax media: Oscar Kightley – This free speech victory tastes a little strange

Free Speech Coalition: Home

Facebook: Don Brash – Te Reo – Radio NZ

Karl du Fresne: Let’s hear the Canadians for ourselves and decide then whether it’s dangerous

Kiwiblog: More anti speech fascists

Fairfax Media: RNZ’s bias needs to be tackled

NZ Herald: Bridges backs free speech for far-right writers banned from Auckland Council venues

Radio NZ: National wants Chelsea Manning banned from NZ

Change.org: Stop Lauren Southern from entering New Zealand

No Right Turn: The cost of a free and democratic society II

The Daily Blog: How the Woke Left lost the free speech debate and gave Southern and Molyneux a marketing victory

The Daily Blog: Free Speech Denialism Is Fascism In Action

Scoop media: Coalition condemns campaign to bar Chelsea Manning

The Spinoff: Chelsea Manning and the limits of free speech absolutism

Additional

Fairfax media: Why self-proclaimed ‘free speech champions’ aren’t helping the cause video

Newsroom: Emma Espiner – The threat of Te Reo

Previous related blogposts

Karl Du Fresne has a public baby waa-waa cry-session

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= fs =

18 COMMENTS

  1. There are no words to describe the idiocy and hypocrisy of National’s position on Manning.

    The issue here is with the false dichotomy of left vs right.

    Both are profoundly regressive and anti-free speech, and both represent “the establishment”. As we have seen this week with Jacinda’s arse-kissing of business, there is little to separate the two tribes.

    Those who genuinely support free speech are best described as classical liberals, or in some instances, cultural libertarians.

    Lumping everyone together as “the right” is wilfully misleading.

  2. NOooo. Not for a second. Personally I didn’t believe for a second that any one on the right had any conviction in their free speech arguments. None. Yes, it’s awful when a group of people can’t be reasoned with and renders the only solution to the problems they create to wait for them to openly display said lack of convictions. It was just a matter of time. The point for me was that immigration authorities when denying Lauren a visa shouldn’t have, and quickly issued a visa with an apology anyway. Then Phill Goff chiming in with censorship.

    When you end up with a persistent 40% opposition polling between young and old (which has become the norm in the 21st century, but unheard of prior) then you are going to hear lots of murmuring among the minor parties about establishment politics. The middle classes and above groups don’t work as much or pay much in taxes, but has government provid universal healthcare and basic income grants at taxpayer expense. Despite that they are determined to cut government welfare, but only for people that aren’t them. They are unconcerned or willfully ignorant of the effects of their actions, and needn’t bother as they’ll be dead before things like climate change take their bloody toll in earnest. They despise the social lifestyles and demographic coloration of the young and are determined to punish them for it. What precisely are we supposed to negotiate with people who don’t have to worry about consequences, don’t share any of our interests, and see things in zero sum terms with a hypocritical helping of “I got mine”? People who have outsized electoral influence because they don’t have to worry about missing workdays or getting their life together getting in the way of voting.

    The point is that authorities should censure budding fascists, but didn’t, because they didn’t meet the thresholds. The radical left shouldn’t have summarily censured, and the free speech coalition wouldn’t have either.

  3. Well, Frank, it’s been nice to know you, because the Sun must be very close to going nova. David Farrar was among the first members of the Free Speech Coalition to urge support for Chelsea Manning’s tour going ahead.

    Sometimes, comrade, people can surprise you.

    Oh, and BTW, when contacted by the media, Don Brash quite rightly referred journalists to the person over whose name the FSC’s media statement was being released – which was me.

    Now, where are my dark glasses?

    • Oh, and BTW, when contacted by the media, Don Brash quite rightly referred journalists to the person over whose name the FSC’s media statement was being released – which was me.

      The question stands, Chris; why has Mr Brash not spoken out on supporting Ms Manning?

      We know your name was on the PR. We know the media spoke to you. What is unclear is why Mr Brash has not spoken out as vocally as he did on behalf of Ms Southern and Mr Molyneux.

      David Farrar was among the first members of the Free Speech Coalition to urge support for Chelsea Manning’s tour going ahead.

      Mr Farrar’s name does not appear amongst the list of those “involved and backing” the so-called “Free Speech Coalition”. (See: https://www.freespeechcoalition.nz/about)

      I hope your glasses aren’t too dark, Chris. They might hinder clear vision.

      • “If we wait for the likes of Karl du Fresne, David Farrar, and the National Party to defend Ms Mannings’ right to speak unhindered in New Zealand – we will be waiting till the sun goes nova (in roughly five billion years time).”
        Seems pretty clear Frank.
        D J S

    • Chris: your response doesn’t answer why Brash has not spoken on this issue.

      He was very outspoken on those 2 Canadian alt-right fascists, so why the silence now??

  4. Yeah it’s an encirclement technique. By bending the political spectrum into a horseshoe shape the ends become closer to each other than to the middle of the spectrum. They then both attack political speech but from different sides, pinching a circle wherein you are a prisoner. A ring fenced free speech chilling mind trap

  5. I don’t get or agree with the ‘Free Speech Coalition’, it is ideologically stupid and conflates freedom of speech with hate speech and consequently muddies the issue of freedom of speech completely. And the leftwingers who belong to it are in bad company, who also are not consistent as you rightly point out.

    • > “conflates freedom of speech with hate speech”

      This issue was debated and resolved hundreds of years ago. Read some Voltaire. He’s the one who said that famously paraphrased thing about vigorously disagreeing with what you say but defending to the death your right to say it.
      Freedom of expression is enshrined as Article 19 of the *Universal* Declaration of Human Rights (not the “universal” not “when we decide it’s ok”). Rowan Atkinson speaks eloquently and powerfully on this issue here:
      https://www.invidio.us/watch?v=h3UeUnRxE0E

      The whole point of freedom of speech is that governments and other powerful organizations (eg corporate social media platforms) must not be allowed to decide what is or isn’t legitimate speech. That’s what the Soviet bloc did, and as it happens, also what the Nazis did. The real ones who ordered the invasion of Poland and started WW2. They, like any other entity who tries to limit freedom of speech, claimed they were doing it to protect the vulnerable from dangerous elements. But the only way to know whether that’s true or not … is to be able to hear or read the arguments from both sides, which is exactly what censorship prevents, and why it cannot be tolerated in any form in a free society.

      Anyone who demands their ideological opponents be censored is basically admitting that they’ve already lost. They either don’t have the arguments and evidence to back up their own position in an open debate, or they lack confidence in their ability to organize themselves and get those arguments and evidence out to the population. Demanding censorship is likely to backfire, since even if they win and get their opponents censored, this only creates a precedent for the same authoritarian entity that did the censoring to turn around and censor the would-be censors. Like suicide bombing, it’s a losers tactic.

      > “And the leftwingers who belong to it are in bad company, who also are not consistent as you rightly point out.”

      It’s very early days to be claiming this. Chris wasn’t the spokesperson defending the alt-right trolls, because that would be a bridge too far for his allies and supporters, so Brash drew the short straw and did it. This time, Chris is fronting for the coalition. This is how coalition politics works. You put forward a spokesperson for each issue that comes up relevant to your coalition’s goals. It will indeed be interesting to see if the right-wingers in the Free Speech Coalition do make public statements about Manning’s visit, and whether they run the Woodhouse line, or cleave to principle as they did with the trolls. I truly hope it’s the latter.

  6. Isn’t it amusing how Righties demand free speech for their alt-right ‘warriors’, but when it comes to leftwing activists, they’ll find reasons to make exceptions to the rule. I just read Mike Hoskings tired rant on the NZ Heral website and he, like Michael Woodhouse, invokes Chelsea Manning’s conviction for leaking military secrets.

    Hosking’s rationale is that Ms Manning ” shouldn’t profit” from her “crime”, ignoring the fact that people like Alexander Navalny, Aung San Su Chi, Nelson Mandela, etc, have all been arrested by the State for resisting authority. According to Hoskings’ reasoning, none of those people should ever be admitted into NZ.

    Any excuse will do, I guess when it comes to double standards.

    • Mjolnir isn’t it amusing how you were quite happy to see others de platformed and now you’re complaining about righties. Mike hosking is entitled to his opinion. It’s not as though he’s the government or the mayor of Auckland, taking action. Or like the mob of left wing nut jobs threatening violence. For the record I am totally indifferent regarding Manning. You’ll likely see no protests and no fuss from the right. Sorry fo the lack of incivility.

      • Mike hosking is entitled to his opinion.

        He is.

        And we’re entitled to criticise that opinion as garbage. You complain about neo-fascists being “de-platformed”. Well, newsflash for you bucko, no one “owes” them a “platform”. In fact, no one owes them anything.

        If no one was prepared to give them a platform (ie, a venue), that’s the freedom of expression of venue-holders to say “no”. It ain’t a one-way street.

        In which case, Molyneux and Southern have a right to stand in a public park and speak their case.

  7. > “A White, Male, Straight could countenance violence as a price for “free speech”.”

    If you think I would be safe from any real fascist uprising because I happen to be pākeha, a man, and not gay, then you don’t have the first clue what fascism is or how it works. Let’s look at who actual fascists targeted historically; 1) jews 2) gypseys (ie anyone living alternative lifestyles) 3) leftists (unionist, communist, anarchist or otherwise), 4) anyone with disabilities including those with mental illness, alcoholism, or any use of illicit drugs 5) anyone who spoke out publicly in support of those groups. I tick every ones of those boxes except the first one, and though I’m not Jewish (ethnically or religiously), I have good friends that are, and I would fight to the death to defend them from real fascists. That’s one of the reasons I get so furious about being smeared as “antisemitic” for pointing out the obvious parallels between historical fascism and the treatment of the Palestinian people by the state of Israel, but I digress.

    I don’t defend the free speech rights of people I despise because I’m not bothered by the consequences of their ideas gaining traction. I defend free speech because I’m terrified of how much more likely that gets, if activists in liberal societies lose our freedom of speech, by helping to create precedents for its removal.

    Also, despite the relentless enthusiasm with which some activists leap to describe anything vaguely illiberal as “fascist”, most of it isn’t. Laura Southern and Stephen Molyneux don’t have para-military cadre, they have YT channels, followed by a fickle swarm of base-dwelling mouth-breathers. Calling them fascists gives them both gravitas and attention they don’t deserve. If you want to understand real fascism, get yourself a translation of “The Mass Psychology of Fascism” by Wilhelm Reich, or read this article by US Politics Professor Dominic Green, which lays out the difference between real fascists and right-wing populists in this article:
    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/12/fascism-populism-presidential-election/510668/

    • > “A White, Male, Straight could countenance violence as a price for “free speech”.”

      If you think I would be safe from any real fascist uprising because I happen to be pākeha, a man, and not gay, then you don’t have the first clue what fascism is or how it works.

      Danyl, I have referenced the comment which backs up my statement. Please check the link provided.

      Laura Southern and Stephen Molyneux don’t have para-military cadre, they have YT channels, followed by a fickle swarm of base-dwelling mouth-breathers. Calling them fascists gives them both gravitas and attention they don’t deserve. If you want to understand real fascism

      Laura Southern and Stephen Molyneux “don’t have para-military cadre”. They are far cleverer than that. Their fascism is more subtle, less overt, and cloaked with pseudo-“intellectualism” (for Mr Molyneux, at least).

      That is why they are Polite Fascists. They use thought. They leave the fists for their followers. Very polite.

  8. Why am I not surprised to see the name of attention whore Ashley Church on the list. His craving for a position on National’s list is making him careless.

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