“We’re All Behind You.”

By   /   April 12, 2019  /   23 Comments

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THE 720,000 SUBSCRIBERS to the “Neighbourly” social media platform recently received a letter from the Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Paul Hunt. In it he offers advice on how to call out racist behaviour and who to call if you think it crosses the line.

Paul Hunt: Chief Human Rights Commissioner

 

THE 720,000 SUBSCRIBERS to the “Neighbourly” social media platform recently received a letter from the Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Paul Hunt. In it he offers advice on how to call out racist behaviour and who to call if you think it crosses the line.

Apparently, the Human Rights Commission (HRC) was specifically invited to address Neighbourly’s subscribers. The manager of the platform explained to Magic Talk’s afternoon host, Sean Plunket, that her invitation was an attempt to do something about racism in New Zealand.

Hunt’s letter encourages New Zealanders to offer racist behaviour nothing:

“If you witness casual racism, giving nothing to it means refusing to stoop to its level and give it any positive reaction to feed off and grow. A blank face can speak volumes to someone who seeks a response, as can the non-confrontational words ‘I’m giving that nothing’.”

Those wishing to confront racism directly are reassured that “we’re [presumably the HRC] all behind you too”. Otherwise Hunt advises the victims of and/or witnesses to serious racist behaviour to call the Police.

The question that immediately arises when presented with these facts is: by what right does this public official call upon New Zealand citizens to confront one another over the content of their speech?

One possible answer is: Section 61 of The Human Rights Act (1993) which clearly prohibits: “matter or words likely to excite hostility against or bring into contempt any group of persons in or who may be coming to New Zealand on the ground of the colour, race, or ethnic or national origins of that group of persons.”

Curiously, Hunt’s letter contains no direct reference to the Human Rights Act. He does, however, inform his readers that:

“New Zealand Police encourages all members of our communities to be alert to, and to report, instances of hate speech to them. If you can, record it. Report it to us at the Human Rights Commission.”

This is, on the face of it, an extraordinary and potentially highly misleading statement. New Zealand does not, currently, have any laws prohibiting hate speech. Indeed, in the aftermath of the Christchurch Mosque Shootings, whether or not New Zealand should enact such laws has become a hotly debated political issue. In this context, it is difficult to characterise Hunt’s statements as anything other than a direct intervention in that debate. An intervention, moreover, which was made “under the radar” via Neighbourly: registering in the public domain only because the Whaleoil blog and Plunket placed it there.

At this point, it is probably worth noting that the Neighbourly platform is owned by Stuff, one of this country’s largest media organisations. Curiously, at the time of writing, there was no sign of the story on the Stuff website.

The Chief Human Rights Commissioner’s letter to Neighbourly subscribers is likely to make a great many New Zealanders uneasy. Inviting citizens to report one another’s opinions to a state agency is a new and deeply troubling advance on the much more acceptable request by the Police for them to report the commission of crimes. While Section 61 of the Human Rights Act does define an offence, the NZ courts have set the bar very high when it comes to limiting citizens’ freedom of expression. On its face, Hunt’s action represents an aggressive expansion of the HRC’s remit: to the point of encouraging people to turn in their neighbours for what are, in essence, ideological crimes.

While some might object that racist behaviour is easy to recognise and that, for this reason, fears of the anti-racist Left creating a Stasi-like climate of fear, suspicion and persecution are wildly exaggerated. That said, in situations of gross misbehaviour, the Crimes Act offers an extensive array of offences against public order and decency. Threats to the person, similarly, fall under the ambit of legislation designed to protect citizens from physical harm. People behaving badly, abusing their fellow citizens in an offensive, disorderly or threatening manner, are likely committing criminal offences. They should be reported to the Police – not the HRC.

The crux of the danger here lies not with individuals hurling racist abuse at persons in ways which give them cause to fear for their physical safety. Such people can be easily dealt with by charging them with crimes already on the statute books. Where the danger actually lies is in people being reported to the authorities for honestly and soberly expressing unpopular beliefs. Denouncing these ideas as “hate speech” and demanding that those who espouse them be rebuked, shamed and, if they persist in their error, prosecuted and punished, is behaviour that has absolutely nothing to do with upholding human rights. It is the behaviour of people for whom the protections of democracy are seen as an unconscionable limitation on the pursuit of virtue.

But if virtue can only be pursued by limiting the liberty of those who refuse to recognise its claims, then the virtuous must become tyrants: extinguishing in their zeal the very ideals they seek to protect. As Nietzsche so wisely said: “Have a care when fighting dragons – lest ye become a dragon yourself.”

 

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23 Comments

  1. Castro says:

    Fighting racism in which language, I wonder? English only? That sounds kinda, um… racist 🙂

  2. Keepcalmcarryon says:

    Report to the police? The guy nutting off at the mosque the other day right in front of police went unimpeded until someone decided later to try and find him!

  3. David Stone says:

    While Julian Assange is arrested for exposing war crimes. Go George Orwell . He got his timing a bit wrong didn’t he.
    D J S

  4. Sam Sam says:

    Well I think white supremacists ought to have free speech so we can win the argument. Up until 15/3 no one payed any attention to white supremacists. Now it’s all over the front pages which is just a way of advertising white supremacists. So if it’s a climate denialist we can pretty easily dismiss those claims, win the argument no difficulty. But if it’s a white supremacist we can’t really forget it. Tactically it isn’t even the right way to deal with white supremacists. And now we are giving them an argument because they can claim freedom of speech.

  5. Nick J says:

    Damn right Chris, the key to this is a long tradition of civil and criminal law. We don’t need additional organs of state sticking their nose in.

  6. saveNZ says:

    Woke Groupthink spreading.

    If human rights spent more time on actually increasing human rights rather than memo’s on neighbourly to self censor aimed at (my guess) middle class english speakers coffee club conversations…

    Was Tarrent a fixture on Neighbourly I wonder? I doubt it! Maybe targeting human rights advice on the publications where Tarrent posted might be a bit more effective (but probably harder and less visible to the middle class) than little memos aimed at middle class soccer mums.

    The whole world has been impressed with the reaction of the Kiwis in response to the mass murder/terror attack which the politicians like to bask in, but apparently it (as usual) is not good enough for the Kiwi officials and woke who are now apparently trawling neighbourly in the hope of finding more terrorists and human rights abuses amongst the soccer mums who probably spend hours of their time raising money for the victims!

    The human rights commission is not exactly looking very effective in the Bradbury case with the Police request to present secret evidence to them.

    In NZ the human rights commission has become just a toothless tool supporting the state and not getting their hands dirty on real human rights abuses around the world and actually encouraging by their silence on the issue human rights abusers to come and spend their money in NZ and use our zero interest tax havens to hide their ill gotten gains.

    The woke seem desperate to try to blame the Tarrent attack on the middle class soccer mum’s and Kiwi’s in general (weird because for Rainbow warrior attacks, don’t remember the push to blame the Kiwis instead most people in NZ felt victimised by the attack).

    Under neoliberalism not only are the public not allowed to feel victimised by having this guy blow away 50 people in cold blood under security forces noses, but apparently the public are being subtly blamed for Tarrent in particular by the woke, maybe to avoid government responsibility for the spy agencies or to take away from the yet to be examined poor immigration practises, that NZ is attracting (aka labour, education, fraud and human rights abusers now living here)?

    The human rights commission like all the other government officials and most of the commentators seem blind to actually cleaning up where the biggest threats are coming from for ongoing racism and social disorder, which is our no questions asked immigration policy where you buy your way into NZ with known frauds on labour and education or just get waived through after 11 day marriages or relative entries and can do what you like once here under the NZ passport or geographical cover and believe what ever you like.

    Our government does not care about good character or even investigating the people’s ability to fit in or long term social fit, before they become a kiwi on paper or just allowing OZ’s weiro’s to live here instead of booting them out like OZ do to the Kiwis who break their laws.

    There are no human rights advice on for example the social cleansing of our cities where poorer folks born here are unable to live and the construction is booming with government help but not exactly catering to the poor…https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12221217

    Apparently that human rights abuse is not a worry! Nor is hundreds of thousands of open work permits for years when we have a housing crisis, education and health crisis, infrastructure crisis, wage crisis and our job seeker payments are increasing.

    The resources which could be spent on improving Kiwi lives for housing and health and education is being stretched thinner and thinner with our ever increasing poor government choices of letting so many people into NZ who are criminals, racists, opportunists and those who will be a burden on others in NZ but not a peep from our officials who now have so much time on their hands that soccer mums now seem to be their targets for human rights abuses and self censoring.

    • Marc says:

      Now is this not ‘hate speech’? Or is this not one of others calling for a NZ version of Trump now? Such one is being created with all that goes on now.

      • saveNZ says:

        Increasingly there is worry about ‘micro aggressions’ by the NZ woke and media and officials to high paid jobs are being erased by neoliberalism and locals being replaced in housing, jobs etc.

        Tax reform is ‘investigated’ by the neoliberals and aimed only at the ‘taxable income’ middle class while the super rich and global interests paying a fraction of everyone else are left to get more and more profit and power around the world.

        The world has massive racial conflicts and human rights abuses, however it is business as usual, signing trade agreements with questionable partners and kowtowing to exports and power interests while appearing in magazines and media around the world for our politicians, capitalising on the kiwi reputation of fairness and honesty which the wokies and neoliberals are keen to promote internationally while nationally destroying that identity of in favour of their preferred micro aggression racial focus aka the soccer mums being targeted by human rights commission….

        some of our business partners activities..

        https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2018/country-chapters/china-and-tibet

        https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2018/country-chapters/india

        https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2018/country-chapters/australia

        https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2018/country-chapters/united-states

        Go human rights commission! Keep an eye on the soccer mums just like the security forces worrying about Maori, 1080 and Earthquake victims rather than the mass murderers coming here for their 2+ years planning on slaughters!

  7. Marc says:

    And then the question is: What resembles ‘hate speech’?

    I presume we will have attempts to amend the law by inserting also ‘religion’ and ‘culture’ as grounds for discrimination, so then we will not even be able to talk critically about any religion anymore, or aspects of culture, and the merits or not of such, adhered to by certain people, whatever race they may have.

    New Zealand appears to be about to lead the way again in social experiments.

    We already have had mass immigration into Auckland for a couple of decades or more, and the existing residents and citizens never get asked much about whether they want this or not. While most seem to shrug it off or withdraw into their own private social circles (see the divide between suburbs and income and with that often ethnic groups), the face of society is changing.

    Immigrants increasingly influence elections, while the old are ‘dying off’, some may cheer about the ‘values’ being buried with them.

    We have people adhere to religions that claim they are the ‘only true faith’, coming also with ethical rules, regulations, etiquette and other attachments, whether this is based on Christian, Muslim or whatsoever teachings as a religious faith.

    I fear ‘racism’ and ‘hate speech’ are now being concepts and activities that are interpreted with a wider scope, thus saying anything that one person or group may interpret as being negative against them, that is about to become a kind of crime soon.

    The powers that be, the ones holding the control of the economy and of society as a whole, they are tightening their control and use divide and rule in the most sophisticated manner now, any critic will be shut down immediately.

    And ‘the left’ appears to cheer this on.

    Welcome Gorge Orwell’s 1984!

  8. Marc says:

    “matter or words likely to excite hostility against or bring into contempt any group of persons in or who may be coming to New Zealand on the ground of the colour, race, or ethnic or national origins of that group of persons.”

    So when we have certain people from a certain country come here, perhaps with particular cultural behaviour, strong religious or other beliefs, social rules and ideas that may not fit in well, and who may even otherwise have a dim view of NZ law, we are not allowed to mention them critically, as this could be seen as ‘discrimination’, then?

    I ask, where is the line to be drawn, this what Mr Hunt says does not give me any clearer ideas about what the law means.

    We are having forced upon us a ‘chill’ re what we may dare think or say, and STASI methods appear to be suggested now.

    This tells me the ones in power and the ones upholding the present pro neoliberal system, they are in fear, to lose control, to face a revolt by sections of the population.

    Perhaps this will lead to an underground movement of dissenters soon, as there will be many New Zealanders very ‘uneasy’ about what is going on.

  9. Marc says:

    “This is, on the face of it, an extraordinary and potentially highly misleading statement. New Zealand does not, currently, have any laws prohibiting hate speech. Indeed, in the aftermath of the Christchurch Mosque Shootings, whether or not New Zealand should enact such laws has become a hotly debated political issue. In this context, it is difficult to characterise Hunt’s statements as anything other than a direct intervention in that debate. An intervention, moreover, which was made “under the radar” via Neighbourly: registering in the public domain only because the Whaleoil blog and Plunket placed it there.”

    Comrade Trotter, have you considered that the Human Rights Commission may have the intention to gather such responses from the public with the intention to use this, to present a submission to the government, or a Select Committee, supporting a law change to include more criteria for possible discrimination?

    There appears to be an attempt by some to introduce ‘religion’ and perhaps ‘culture’ into the Human Rights Act, so to in future not allow any discrimination on those grounds. But religion should already be covered by the Bill of Rights Act, as part of freedom of speech, kind of.

    We do have over ambitious PC zealots at work, wanting to stamp more social engineering onto the population. That is my impression, reading about all this.

    I recommend Neighbourly subscribers to ignore this call by Mr Hunt, and rather consider more careful or cautious action, in serious cases rather report it to the police, that is, where there is true reason for alleged illegal expressions or actions.

  10. Ada says:

    Paul Hunt is going to be a gift to the Right wingers come election time because they are going to do everything possible to spin him into the example of the moralistic, UN staffing, meddling, woke-Left activist given a big budget and legal powers by the current government so as to bring his vision to reality.

    Unfair, but that’s how National and ACT will spin it.

    https://www.newsroom.co.nz/@politics/2019/04/01/515122/we-live-in-a-dangerous-world-human-rights-commissioner#

  11. Nick J says:

    Strange and disturbing things are going on. Tasmania just passed a law that makes gender on birth certificates optional and fluid.

    In Canada women from a rape crisis centre were sued by a transgender person for their refusal to have biological males in their women’s only safe place.

    This stupidity is global. I am all for inclusiveness and live and let live. This is however coercion, Orwellian. It would seem Hunt is very unaware of the danger his stance poses. You cannot do good with bad means.

    • Keepcalmcarryon says:

      Wise words.
      So many on the left seem completely unaware of these further, well intentioned steps to authoritarianism.
      Freedoms are only taken away, never given anew.
      Whether it’s inching the speed limits lower, giving agencies powers to spy on us, censoring the internet , censoring free speech, or taking firearms from the law abiding this is a one way street.
      The root cause of the breakdown in society that spawned the shooter- globalisation, mass migration and inequality from unchecked capitalism, are the same forces who now benefit from further control of the little guy at the bottom of the heap.
      The best reaction to this atrocity is not to further limit freedoms but throw off capitalism and take our lives back.

    • Keepcalmcarryon says:

      It won’t happen of course (revolution)- the Right gains strength from inequality and the woke left get warm and fuzzy taking other people’s freedoms for their own protection and from thoughts of mass migration.
      There is no political saviour for our malaise at present.

  12. Spoon says:

    A flash point I found recently is saying the victims were chosen for being immigrants more so than Muslims.
    A diverse immigrant community had a common interest, in a religious building.
    Hate Speech..?

    Tarrent’s ramblings/manifesto claims such a point, be it not in the most concise form of expression.
    But being his only explanation to events so far, it’s has some relevance.

  13. let me be frank says:

    a curious occurrence on RNZ the other morning, now apparently unavailable…a spokesperson commenting on Israel Folau’s biblical quote determined his instagram contribution was hate speech…the slope has become very slippery indeed

  14. Michael Wynd says:

    Chris,

    This remains me if the Bill Leak affair where the Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane touted for complaints against a cartoon. That was wrong then and this is wrong now.

  15. D'Esterre says:

    “THE 720,000 SUBSCRIBERS to the “Neighbourly” social media platform recently received a letter from the Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Paul Hunt. In it he offers advice on how to call out racist behaviour and who to call if you think it crosses the line.”

    This is a puzzle. I don’t subscribe to Neighbourly (I backed out when Stuff bought it: information requirements too intrusive for my taste), but a family member does.

    Said family member hasn’t seen any such letter; and most certainly would have read it, had it come through the usual notifications. I know nothing about how Neighbourly works, but I’d assume that it would be difficult to miss a communication of that sort. Obviously it hasn’t gone to everyone.

    “….he offers advice on how to call out racist behaviour and who to call if you think it crosses the line.”

    So. This can be glossed as “how to inform on your neighbour, your work colleagues, your best friend, your siblings, parents; and we’ll back you up if you do.” This is creepy in modern-day NZ, isn’t it? Modern-day anywhere, come to that.

    I’m certain that I’ve seen on this blogsite, commenters complaining about the PRC government’s overly intrusive surveillance of its citizens. And one of the means by which that government is said to do this is by citizens informing on each other. How on earth if this any different?

    I challenge the HRC’s unreflective use of the term “racism”. When I was a young adult, racism was what governments do; citizens could be biased or prejudiced, but that wasn’t the same thing. It really irritates me that the term “racism” has been generalised out to include individual prejudice and bigotry. It’s become a reductio ad absurdum. The term is now used by – in particular – the woke Left, as an epithet with which to beat people about the ears when they say thing that others don’t like.

    Bias is part of the human condition: it’s futile to try and expunge it. In any event, what is of moment is what people do, not what they say. Our legal system doesn’t privilege – or discriminate against – people on the basis of their ethnicity. In other words, this isn’t a racist society.

    I’d be grateful if the HRC would keep its worthy but wrongheaded nose out of this aspect of our society.

  16. Lone Comet says:

    Quite agree Chris, in fact very odd that the HRC would take such an obviously wrongheaded approach as to encourage people of a particular group likely Neighborhoodly to snitch to the authorities! Actually, I don’t know if people have noticed but our society encourages people to snitch on each other constantly, through encouraging people to submit to surveys on everything, from how well the checkout person did their job, the banker on the phone, your doctor”s performance through to airbnb hosts hosting. I hate this and never do it, the insidious creep of surveillance society. And let’s not forget our smart phones.

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