GUEST BLOG: Damon Rusden – Freedom of speech does not negate the freedom to protest

By   /   September 12, 2018  /   31 Comments

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It’s strange to see that the infamous British politician Nigel Farage didn’t set the internet aflame in New Zealand, but I guess there’s no algorithm to the fickle beast of social media.

It’s strange to see that the infamous British politician Nigel Farage didn’t set the internet aflame in New Zealand, but I guess there’s no algorithm to the fickle beast of social media.

Although, unlike Don Brash or Canadian duo Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern, Farage wasn’t banned from speaking at a venue. This seems to be evidence that ‘no-platforming’ is a counter-intuitive strategy for those who disagree with someone’s perspective. The backlash alone gave them far more oxygen than they would naturally occur, while Farage barely had a mention.

While Farage did not get the back-to-back coverage from media like his similarly-minded predecessors, he managed to gain the attention of a few groups who protested outside his speaking venue. And they have every right to do so. .

I hesitate to support ‘no-platform’ because highlighting stupidity and bigotry in an open forum is more conducive to lessening public impact than suppressing it. Suppression only breeds contempt and the self-righteousness of supporters, with vindication later being used as a (successful) recruitment tool.

However it is worth keeping in mind that often these speakers are not actually challenged. There is no opportunity for live rebuttal; they are simply reinforcing their views to ardent supporters. This why I support freedom of expression and protest, which acts as a proxy for proper debate.

Everything said is judged by the public and standards of today. And the public does not have to accept it unconditionally. Just as someone has the right to speak, others have the right to denounce.   

Freedom of speech is a great principle. But let’s not pretend that it’s realistic. What is considered acceptable changes with society and the mistakes of history. If you can genuinely say you would always defend anyone’s right to say (literally) anything, no matter how disgusting or morally repugnant, then you’re either kidding yourself or dogmatic.

Chelsea Manning, who is likely to be allowed to speak here soon, is a perfect example. She is a convicted felon, but her actions were certainly in the public interest. There are legitimate arguments for sides. What it highlighted to me was the malleability of freedom of speech and its limits. The most ironic event was to see the National Party suddenly flip on their position of free speech (enthusiastic supporters of Don Brash a few weeks ago) when it was tested against someone they disagreed with. It may be argued that she is a felon, and should not be allowed entry under those grounds; but freedom of speech should be sacrosanct, right? The principle of freedom of speech seems to be fragile when confronted by something people are uncomfortable with. Either that or it is easily moulded to score points.

Ultimately, let’s hear what people have to say. We should be strong enough in our convictions to be able to persuade people we are right. That’s the fundamentals of a debate. However if genuine and authentic debate is not an option, don’t be surprised when people turn up at the doorstep of a venue to provide a counter narrative. They don’t have to whimper while someone they find objectionable is preaching. It’s their right to be there just as much as anyone else.


Damon Rusden is a chef, journalist and law student with an avid belief in civic education and accountability. He was also a Green Party candidate. 

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  1. Andy says:

    Nigel Farage’s main claim to fame is getting the EU Referendum in front of the UK public, and winning the referendum.

    Some may dispute that he had much to do with it, and I know of many Eurosceptics who cannot stand the man

    I’m not sure why the NZ public need to protest the man, unless they are fervent Europhiles

    • Sam Sam says:

      My grand-parents are the same way. You wouldn’t believe how quickly my they back pedaled from “Trump is a bad business man” to “Trump is actually just brilliant smart at playing the system—and he’s the exact sort of guy you want figuring out your trade laws o.O once he realized he was going to be the Republican candidate. The facts are malleable to them and everyone who says contrary to Mike Hoskings or the daily fail just don’t understand.

      Or in this case, you’ve just been reading questionable stuff online.

      • Andy says:

        I’ve been following EU referendum stuff long before it became a thing in the public eye.
        Why do you think I have been reading questionable stuff online? Which bit of my statement do you disagree with?

        • Sam Sam says:

          I’m not sure you actually know what a europhile is. I’m actually guessing they’d have some weird infatuation with Europe which kind of contradicts your idea being “not sure why the NZ public need to protest the man.”

          Like I said. Questionable.

    • Cemetery Jones says:

      Oh you should have seen the videos they posted on their Antifa wannabe twitter page. They were chanting and waving signs about genocide, colonialism, eugenics, and god knows what else.

      What I *didn’t* see was a single sign actually relating to Brexit or the EU, which is surely the only issue on which one can actually protest Farage while possessing any discernible grip upon reality

      Also, the ‘Nigel Farage is full of shit’ posters confirmed a global truth: the left can’t meme.

    • Mjolnir says:

      “I’m not sure why the NZ public need to protest the man, unless they are fervent Europhiles”

      Thats not for you to question, Andrew. The right to protest, to expression, is every bit as valid as the right to free speech. You are not in a position to decide otherwise. The same could be said of that bigot, Farage, “I’m not sure why the NZ public need to hear a man who is full of prejuduce unless they are very extremists”. It cuts both ways, chum.

  2. Bully Beef and Chips says:

    A hollow, partisan hit-piece that makes no mention whatsoever of what is supposedly “objectionable” about Mr Farage.

    • Cemetery Jones says:

      Don’t worry, I’ve seen the protest footage. Two dozen at most.

    • Sam Sam says:

      Farage is a little Don Brash really. Can’t Handel seeing immigrants doing jobs white peoples used to do.

      • Andy says:

        Handel as in the German composer?

      • Gosman says:

        When has Don Brash EVER came out against immigration?

      • Andy says:

        If you are pro-EU then presumably you’d be OK with NZ being governed from Singapore or Beijing.

        • Sam Sam says:

          I’m like, really pro New Zealand.

          • Andy says:

            So you are a racist then? Because anyone who claims to be pro-UK, or more importantly pro-England, is automatically labelled as such

        • Mjolnir says:

          Fuck me, thats the longest bow I’ve ever seen, Andy. You left out Kazakhstan and the Canary Islands. What do those 2 countries have to do with the issue? NONE WHATSOEVER.

          • Andy says:

            Yes it has a lot to do with the issue. Farage is known for his anti-EU stance

            He is not known as a racist, bigot, Nazi or any other random insult that NZ leftists want to throw at him

            Anti EU

            Get it?

            Maybe the retards from the Green Party haven’t heard of him, and just shout “racist” at anyone they perceive to be “right wing”

            Let’s face it, that’s about the only thing the left have left in their quiver. Shouting “racist” at people.

      • Cemetery Jones says:

        Sam, my dude, I don’t agree with that. The EU is after all mostly white people, and he’s pointing out quite rationally that what leaving the EU does is stop having workers from continental Europe drive down British wages. Brexit doesn’t affect the ability of someone from Pakistan or Kenya to seek work in Britain, it affects Europeans – most of whom happen to be wypipo.

        Farage on domestic policy isn’t my thing, he’s too much of a low tax/small gov type. While I do think western social democratic parties need to review how generously they’re trying to cut their cloth and be more realistic, Farage is a bit too economically conservative for my tastes. But on Brexit, I think he actually has a better grip on reality than the British left about exactly how bad things are getting with intergenerational employment in working class communities whose living standards were once the envy of the industrial world.

        • Bully Beef and Chips says:

          Cemetery, a post so good that it’s bound to either go straight over the faux-left’s collective head, or trigger an apoplexy of ideological denial.

          • Sam Sam says:

            For along time the UK thought it could Benifit from the single market with out the paper work and some still think they can salvage this part of the agreement. Hopefully if they salvage BREXIT they can move back from snow to solids.

  3. LOLBAGZ says:

    you should learn the difference between counter intuitive and counter productive, and use the correct term next time.

  4. Gosman says:

    What about Golriz Ghahraman? She flipped on the use of Immigration laws to stop people coming in to a country. She was all for them being used with Southern and Molyneux but when the Aussies did it for Chelsea Manning she jumped up and down about it?

    • Mjolnir says:

      Becausd there is a world of differencd beteeen Southern/Molyneuex and Manning, which you well understand Gosman. Conflating the two isn’t very honest. It’s like comparing the right oF The Pope to come to NZ with the leader of ISIS.

  5. David Stone says:

    The article and not surprisingly the comments seem to me a bit like a game of blind man’s buff. What exactly is the author criticising him for?
    The only specific insult was that he is stupid. Well you might not like his beliefs ( if you have any idea what they are) but to say he is stupid has to backfire on the accuser . There was coverage of some of his speeches to the European Parliament . He doesn’t mind that every soul in the assembly detests him, he gives it to them straight , as he sees it. Very articulate, very intelligent, very courageous. You wouldn’t like what he said if you loved the EU. But stupid? Surely you can find a weaker point to attack Farage than that.
    D J S

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