An Open Letter From Closed Minds

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FEW SPECTACLES are more tragic than those in which a community destroys its core values in the misguided belief that it is upholding them. The 400+ academics who put their names to an open letter condemning racism and white supremacy on the Auckland campus undoubtedly did so with the best of intentions, but in signing the document they have either deliberately, or unwittingly, endorsed a document of profound illiberality. They have placed their reputations at the disposal of extremists whose exhortations will only exacerbate the intolerance they purport to condemn.

The Open Letter begins by invoking the idea of the university as a community of scholars and students: a place “dedicated to the creation, preservation and sharing of knowledge”. This fine beginning is marred almost immediately by the jarring claim that the university is also a place where: “We build our collective understanding of the world and ourselves, while nurturing innovation and maintaining what is best in our society.”

This transformation of knowledge: from the fruits of work undertaken by individual scholars; to a collectivist endeavour undertaken for the maintenance of “what is best in our society”; is as sinister as it is tendentious. By this definition, the university is a place where individual insights must be subordinated to those which, in the collective judgement of the individual’s peers, constitute “what is best”. Ignored completely in this formulation is the fact that “what is best”, both in and for “our society”, has been a matter of continuous disputation since at least the time of Socrates and Plato.

In case we were in any doubt, the Open Letter declares it to be the opinion of the 400+ signatories that “racism and white supremacy have no place at the University of Auckland”.

No place? Not even in the disciplines of Anthropology, History, Philosophy and Sociology? Is it truly the case that the ideas and behaviours constitutive of so many of the characters and cultures of the University of Auckland’s students (and staff) are unworthy of academic scrutiny? Is the ideology of white supremacy, potentially so dangerous when driven underground, not to be interrogated and analysed? Is the near ubiquity of racism in everyday human behaviour not something to be investigated and discussed?

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Apparently not.

The Open Letter makes it clear that its authors have already investigated the website of those responsible for postering and stickering the Auckland campus – the casus belli of this little culture war – and, in their own words: “have no difficulty in identifying this group and such displays as white supremacist in nature”.

It is most unlikely that “Action Zealandia”, the proprietor of the website and publisher of the offending posters and stickers, would disagree. These “radical nationalists” (as they prefer to call themselves) make no attempt to disguise their belief that a reassertion of European male supremacy is “what is best” for New Zealand society.

Many New Zealanders would assume that such an obviously anachronistic political organisation would not present much of a threat to a university full of highly-educated men and women. Surely, a group of confused young men, nostalgic for the lost social and political verities of the nineteenth century, are more to be pitied than feared?

That was certainly the opinion of the University of Auckland’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, who upheld the right of those putting up the posters and stickers to exercise their freedom of speech – not matter how distasteful that speech might be. A wiser community of students and scholars would have nodded their agreement and moved on. But, alas, throughout the twenty-first century academic world such expressions of tolerance (and intellectual maturity) are as rare as they are inflammatory. The position taken by the Vice-Chancellor was not to be allowed to stand unchallenged. Into the valley of censorship and suppression rode the four-hundred!

The world-view of the Open Letter’s authors merits every bit as much scrutiny as that of Action Zealandia’s – if only because both display an equal measure of ideological vehemence. Enveloping the academics’ critique is the Tiriti O Waitangi, serving here as the incongruous stand-in for New Zealand’s yet-to-be-written bi-cultural constitution. As such, it becomes the principal tool for delegitimating not only Action Zealandia and its by-right-of-conquest arguments for the hegemony of European males in Aotearoa, but also un-reconstructed Vice-Chancellors.

According to the Open Letter, these colonialist throwbacks are guilty of taking the “absolutist” position that “freedom of speech extends to the right to speak in ways that are hateful.” Hateful to whom? Ah well, that’s not a question that can be responded to straightforwardly. To answer that question required this little masterpiece of what the unkind might call “woke-speak”. (Or, what the even more unkind readers of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four would call “Newspeak”.)

“We also understand that the language of rights is complex and nuanced, recognising that such displays create an environment that brings harm to segments of our community, fraying the cultural tapestry that provides our diverse campus community with vitality and energy.”

Or, to render this unicorns-and-flowers circumlocution into plain speech: “Our students have become so fragile, psychologically and ideologically, that they fall to pieces when confronted by people who do not like them or the cultures they come from.”

Not that the authors of the Open Letter were above fraying a cultural tapestry or two of their own. How about this for a flowery way of calling the Vice-Chancellor a “pale, stale, male”?

“We also note that by virtue of their race, gender, class, country of origin, religious affiliation, sexual or gender identity, many people empowered to judge conduct on university campuses are less likely to be the focus of hate speech, and may be slower to recognise its impact on its intended targets.”

Upon further analysis, however, the humour of this sentence begins to fade. At its heart is the idea that credible political judgement derives purely and simply from one’s identity. Followed to its logical conclusion this variety of “identity politics” accords more weight to the opinions of a 19-year-old undergraduate woman from a non-European cultural background, than it does to a male Professor of Philosophy who has been teaching, writing and publishing peer-reviewed articles and books for the best part of 40 years.

This surrendering of expertise to identity is not the worst of it, however: not when one considers this remarkable sentence:

“However, ‘speech’ has many forms, including gesture and nonviolent protest. If these posters constitute ‘free speech’, the same can be said of the actions of individuals who remove those that they encounter.”

Um, no, actually, it can’t. Action Zealandia, in displaying its posters and stickers, is asserting its right to have its ideas considered, debated, and, if unable to convince its interlocutors, rejected. Bluntly, it is declaring: “We are here – so come and contend with us openly on the battlefield of ideas.” The only honourable answer that “any university worthy of the name” can give to such a challenge is: “Bring it on!”

No such luck. That is not the way the authors of the Open Letter roll. They are not really into contending openly on the battlefield of ideas. The only form of speech they’re willing to defend is the form that rips down posters and tears off stickers. The form that screams “STFU!” at everyone with whom it disagrees.

The anonymous authors of the Open Letter may wax eloquent about an “environment that celebrates free and open enquiry, teaches the lessons of the past, and builds a better future for all”, but their interpretation of “what is best” for society looks suspiciously like the one provided by every other totalitarian ideology: “What is best is what we say is best.” It may be the Academic Left that is ripping down posters today, confident that it possesses the power to silence all those who refuse to toe its line. But, times change.

Those insisting upon ideological conformity and suppressing dissenting opinion today may yet be given cause to look back upon the sentiments contained in this Open Letter and rue the day that the “critic and conscience” of society gave away the chance to expose the Right’s weaknesses in front of those who, 20 years later, are telling them that their left-wing ideas “have no place at the University of Auckland”.

 

89 COMMENTS

  1. Why? Why should a modern liberal society have to waste time “challenging” the arguments expounded by people who are clearly wrong. If there are no boundaries to what can be said – and the only recourse for the rest of us is to engage in a debate – does that mean anything and everything must be heard and allowed to take expression?
    Where does the author draw the line? Should we engage in a debate about restoring slavery? Should we engage with people who want to commit genocide and allow them to put up posters and stickers?
    By writing a letter and signing it are the academics and students not exercising there right to free speech and more importantly expressing solidarity with the historic victims of oppression?
    At a certain point society moves forward and free speech does not give you the right to express ideas that are abhorrent and potentially harmful to your fellow citizens.

    • The crucial phrase in your comment is “clearly wrong”. Flat Earthers are “clearly wrong” – does that mean they should be prevented from sharing their odds views? Society says “No.” In my view, society should also say “No.” to suppressing the free speech of people who yearn for a return to the patriarchal colonial society of the 19th century.

      Now, you may object that such beliefs are harmful. But, I would respond that the propaganda of Action Zealandia only becomes harmful when it shifts from its antiquated social philosophising and begins openly encouraging its followers to inflict violence and/or other injury upon individuals and groups they abhor. Our legal system already outlaws such behaviour. Having perused the Action Zealandia website, I must report that I found no calls to genocide – or, indeed, any other forms of violence.

      It astonishes me that at least 400 academics are willing to sign their names to a document that essentially calls for the suppression of any and all speech which the signatories find objectionable. How that equates with their duty to act as the “critic and conscience” of society leaves me baffled. How are scholars supposed to critique their society without upsetting anyone? It’s a mystery.

      • “Now, you may object that such beliefs are harmful. But, I would respond that the propaganda of Action Zealandia only becomes harmful when it shifts from its antiquated social philosophising and begins openly encouraging its followers to inflict violence and/or other injury upon individuals and groups they abhor. Our legal system already outlaws such behaviour. Having perused the Action Zealandia website, I must report that I found no calls to genocide – or, indeed, any other forms of violence.”

        Chris Trotter: that is one of the most naive comments I’ve ever read from you. You know as well as I doing that White Supremacists don’t have to call for direct genocide. They use coded language. They set fertile ground for others to act, by first dehumanising their targets.

        They create a groundswell of resentment. Then point to others who’ve acted. (Names I will not mention.) Then action, by others, follows.

        i don’t for one minute believe you are unaware of all this.

    • Because it’s how you teach people to reason well. The fact that I have to explain this to you demonstrates how low we have sunk.

      • “Is this “Action Zelandia” proposing restoration of slavery? Are they proposing genocide?”

        That’s not what Peter Bradley said. He asked what the limits were and gave examples

        I’d like to know what limits there are as well

        Are any minorities off limits or areall fair targets for “free speech”??

        Is it not worthy that White Supremacists target non-white minoritioes, and Mr Trotter and his ilk are safe from hate speech?? Just asking. Exercising my free speech

        Just as I’m suggesting that those promoting free speech are rarely targetted by bigots who weaponize free speech and make the lives of minorities that much more unplreasant

        Not that he’s affected. He’s not the target of white supremicist free speecjh. He’s safe. His white skin protects him

        Thats my free speech, that people like Trotter and his groupies here leaving messages supporting him have a priviliged existence so its easy to be philosophical about hate speech, ooops, I mean FREE speech

        Next target, for free speech, gays, lesbians, Maori, AsiaNS, women, etc

        Thats the thiong about free speech, eventually its used against everyone else that bigots want to dehumanise. Doesnt worry usWhite Men though, we’re safe in our own skin

        Might be different though if Mr Trotter was a bit darker, eh? Not much privilege there, I’m afraid folks/

        Ok, carry on with this philosophical chit chat about free speech. Indulge yourselves to the max. You don’t have to pay for the consequences if your white

    • But who sets those parameters? You? Me?

      It sounds like you are one who wants to shut down anyone to whom you disagree with?

    • Peter Bradley: “By writing a letter and signing it are the academics and students not exercising there right to free speech and more importantly expressing solidarity with the historic victims of oppression?”

      No. As Chris Trotter says, they’re trying to squelch opinions that they don’t like.

      “….free speech does not give you the right to express ideas that are abhorrent and potentially harmful to your fellow citizens.”

      Yes. It does. Here’s the definition of free speech:

      “the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint”

      It doesn’t say anything about refraining from saying things that other people find offensive; that indeed is the point of such freedoms. What offends some people is completely unexceptionable to others.

      The response I’d expect from a bunch of academics is what would have happened when I was at uni: argue the toss with them. Whose arguments have the more validity and will prevail? That’s the test: not trying to shut people up.

      • In a cohesive society we do not have complete free speech – by necessity we draw boundaries and limit human behavior to protect ourselves collectively from harm. What I find most disappointing about the anti-woke movement that has sprung up globally is that it is a weak fight to choose.
        Acting as though cancel culture and feminism are terrible threats to our freedom is completely bogus. No-one is being stopped from expressing their views but they are being stopped from having an unlimited platform by people who oppose those views. We have to protect not just our own freedom but ensure that others do not lose theirs – that is a something that non-whites, women, and the trans and gay community have to fight for and protect because they do not have it by birthright.
        UK fascist Oswald Mosley was banned from appearing on the BBC in 1935 for over 30 years – his views and political ambitions were not banned but his platform was removed.
        Was this a bad thing? If Mosley had succeeded politically by being given a platform what would have been the consequences to “free speech” in the UK for Jewish and non-white people?
        In the end we have to make choices about what is acceptable and what isn’t – to not do so is in fact to increase the probability that “our freedoms” (or more likely the freedoms of a minority) will be removed.

        • Peter Bradley -“In a cohesive society we do not have complete free speech – by necessity we draw boundaries and limit human behavior to protect ourselves collectively from harm. What I find most disappointing about the anti-woke movement that has sprung up globally is that it is a weak fight to choose.”

          Y’know what you can do with your disappointment don’t you. Free speech goes both ways. Just because fascism is weak today does not make suppression-of-speech a vital tool in the continued suppression of fascism. Let’s flip it and say that fascism is truely strong as the woke would have everyone believe. Would you still be saying freespeech is harmful? No, of course not you would need free speech to argue your case in parliament especially if it came down to one vote and you needed to convince a 51% majority of the folly of fascism. Under these circumstances if you can’t find one descent human being to make a 51% majority then maybe we deserve to die.

          Peter Bradley-“Acting as though cancel culture and feminism are terrible threats to our freedom is completely bogus. No-one is being stopped from expressing their views but they are being stopped from having an unlimited platform by people who oppose those views.”

          Have you noticed how no one actually says out aloud that anyone hates woman. It’s always implied but no one can actually say oh that person said he hates woman.

          Peter Bradley-“We have to protect not just our own freedom but ensure that others do not lose theirs – that is a something that non-whites, women, and the trans and gay community have to fight for and protect because they do not have it by birthright.
          UK fascist Oswald Mosley was banned from appearing on the BBC in 1935 for over 30 years – his views and political ambitions were not banned but his platform was removed.
          Was this a bad thing? If Mosley had succeeded politically by being given a platform what would have been the consequences to “free speech” in the UK for Jewish and non-white people?”

          Consequences are that bombs start reining down around them and no one really knows why. All of a sudden everyone is deaf dumb and blind as well as dead. The implication being is if you hide fascism behind a wall of silence you give it freedom to operate with impunity.

          Peter Bradley- “In the end we have to make choices about what is acceptable and what isn’t – to not do so is in fact to increase the probability that “our freedoms” (or more likely the freedoms of a minority) will be removed.”

          What ever you may think of my freedoms, I’ll die in a ditch for yours which is more than I can say for the woke.

          • Sam, thanks for responding to Peter Bradley. I was going to, but you’ve eloquently made the points I would’ve made.

            Though I’d add this:

            Peter Bradley: “In a cohesive society we do not have complete free speech – by necessity we draw boundaries and limit human behavior to protect ourselves collectively from harm.”

            This doesn’t in any way resemble NZ society, for which we should all give thanks. Isn’t a “cohesive society” what China is aiming for? And isn’t it China’s want of freedoms – in particular its lack of free speech – that’s criticised by so many commenters on this site?

            This is a multi-cultural society, with the concomitant conflict between varying opinions and ways of doing things that one would expect in such a society. Conflict is part of the human condition, neither good nor bad. I’ll have our current society, warts and all, thanks, in preference to your dystopian vision.

  2. Welcome to the University of Woke Mr. Trotter. The only surprise is that the VC had the guts (and good sense) to resist the call to ban “Action Zelandia”.

  3. Fabulous Post. ( It’s a great pity that your extraordinary thinking and your ability to unpick the unpickable doesn’t extend to farmers and farming. Excluding cowsploiters. Those poor bastards are simply minions to a small cadre of exploitive, perfumed, fancy people on 7 figure salaries plus bonuses. )
    ” Action Zealandia, in displaying its posters and stickers, is asserting its right to have its ideas considered, debated, and, if unable to convince its interlocutors, rejected. Bluntly, it is declaring: “We are here – so come and contend with us openly on the battlefield of ideas.” The only honourable answer that “any university worthy of the name” can give to such a challenge is: “Bring it on!”
    The real reason for the propagation of self righteous indignation is to ‘control’ in my opinion.
    Swooning in revulsion at the sound of the N word, the rise and rise of the #metoo movement, the ever present traffic cone, the God forsaken orange vest worn by the minion as that minion works alone in the middle of a paddock driving a tractor with an orange flashing light. Smoke Free, drive slow, ( After brain disengaged.) watch the calories, eat your greens,fruits,nuts and berries, Those toasters with a sticker that says ‘hot surface’.
    All things to be mindful of and in their own logical-fallacy way, have unarguable merit.
    But if one stands that avalanche of beige, bleached-arsehole correctness and logical-fallacy high wankery against our political system that has ZERO interest in our health, safety and financial security nothing rings true. Since they clearly don’t care? Why the fuss?
    Maybe the link below shows up one of the reasons why?
    We, all of us, are simply a resource to be exploited. White versus colour versus sex versus sport versus preferred V8 versus cat versus dog versus cow versus sheep versus rock versus trance versus booze versus pot …
    It takes a lot of people on the basic wage to make a Kiwi-As billionaire so we must be kept under control. Force no longer works because that leads to rebellion so [it] must be much more subtle and applied with sophisticated finesse.
    Allowing a faction of racist morons to espouse their opinions is far too much like rocking the urban, prozac’d up boat. Might cause troubles and stirrings aye Boys?

    Former PM John Key may have to relinquish banking role
    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/in-depth/400258/former-pm-john-key-may-have-to-relinquish-banking-role

    • Now, see here, Countryboy. I’ll have you know that I was born and bred in the countryside. I grew up around sheep and lambs and tractors and combine harvesters and hand-cranked cream separators and sheepdogs and even a cow called Daisy who gave me my life-long affection for fresh cream. My late father, Tony Trotter, was known as “Mr Country Calendar” on account of his second career (after being a farmer) as a rural broadcaster and television producer. So, enough of this nonsense. I know farmers and farming. I know the countryside. I’m as fond of both as you are. But that does not mean that farmers are without fault. Bankers are by no means blameless, but they’re not the only bad-guys in this movie.

    • Swooning in revulsion at the sound of the N word……

      Your opinion means shit as you obviously have never been part of the group that has been called that…..maybe ask those who have been called the ‘N’ word for centuries, associated with gross dehumanization.

      • Mark: “…..maybe ask those who have been called the ‘N’ word….”

        Which “N” word did you have in mind? The one used to characterise black people? Or the other one: “Nazi”? In this household, we’re all too familiar with the latter: screamed at a family member back in the day, particularly when the screamer had – as the saying goes – drink taken. Completely inaccurate, of course: but hey! just like Americans, NZers weren’t – no doubt still aren’t – geographically or politically literate.

        • Black people

          If any of your family got called a “nazi”, maybe tell us what they said/did to earn that epithet

          If your “family member’ was Bill Anderton, he wasn’t a nazi, he was a communist/socialist

          If that “family member” was Oswald Mosely then yes he’s a nazi

          Questions?

          • Mjolnir: “If any of your family got called a “nazi”, maybe tell us what they said/did to earn that epithet”

            Do you actually read and understand what anybody writes, before you leap to respond?

            We’ve been round this particular gooseberry bush before on the comment threads.

            I say again: it’s none of your business.

            Do I see you blaming brown/black/Muslim/gay people for being abused in the street by random loonies? I do not. So do not do it to anybody else.

  4. It is a pity that the open letter did not say that ANY racial supremacy aspirations are not welcome at the university. Racial supremacy is not just a “white” problem, although it may appear so at present. It has existed, and still does exist, in all areas of the inhabited world and within many cultures other than those of European extract.
    No-one is better or worse than anyone else purely because of their skin colour but the people behind the open letter have narrowed their fields too much, in my opinion.

    • Big difference between garden variety prejudices held by say your typical NZ first voter, and even a bit if xenophobia on the one hand, and white supremacist ideology on the other hand.
      The latter is quite unique historically speaking, uniquely malign that is. There is little doubt this group is a white supremacist group

    • +1 Mike the Lefty, looking around the world, there are quite a few countries that seem to have racial supremacy issues and aspirations and it’s laughable to believe that the weird chestnut being bandied around by the NZ woke. which in Peter Ellis/satanic witch hunt style, that NZ ‘white’ people whoever they are going on some mass world/NZ racial supremacy bid and everyone here is in imminent danger by some posters and stickers from groups nobody has ever heard of… there are quite a few racial supremacist contenders world wide (and expanding their reach and territories with armies, propaganda and war ships), and as expected they are all ethnicities and religions.. not just one group…

    • Mike the Lefty: “Racial supremacy is not just a “white” problem…”

      Exactly. Ethnic chauvinism; there’s a bit of it about at present. Bias in favour of one’s own ethnic group is part of the human condition. We’re a groupish species, so it goes with the territory, so to speak.

      In my view, people – and especially the woke left just now – get far too excited about it. There they go, making mountains out of molehills.

      • There is probably only 600,000 Maori in the world and 3,500,000 (if that) Pakeha’s in the world… both groups are a blip on the world population… hardly a contender to rise up in some sort of militant ethnic supremacy as the MSM seem to be creating a discourse about every week to distract from other issues and keep the NZ resources being redistributed overseas to private interests.

        For what ever reason under Rogernomics NZ MSM and now government seem obsessed with ‘supremacist groups’ aka Maori in the police raids at Urewera in 2007, now the obsession against white supremacists which are probably as prevalent as the Maori terrorists in the Urewra’s… (yep it was an Aussie who was only in NZ for a couple of years who killed 51 people, andI don’t see the government doing anything meaningful to ban Aussies or check their supremacy links).

        Meanwhile there are real genocides happening, past and present involving thousands and millions of people being killed/imprisioned around the world based on their ethnicity or gender or religion.. and NZ is happy to take that money and not a peep about their human rights records as a demographic… nor do MSM or the universities seem very interested in actual racists acts on a government scale going on overseas, nope just take the overseas fees and not say a word…

        So it pretty easy to see it’s yet another dirty politics and distraction tactic… which is why the letter was anonymous in the first place…

        Meanwhile NZ is expected to pay pensions and health care for anybody coming into NZ even if they have never worked here… and it’s ‘racist’ for that public/private transfers not to keep happening https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2019/10/opshop-frontman-jason-kerrison-gutted-over-immigration-new-zealand-s-decision-to-deny-step-father-visa.html https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/376220/10k-11-days-and-one-failed-deportation.

        Ummm pretty sure that it’s more of a humans rights violation to constantly steal from the Kiwi Gen X and Millenials who are expected to pay taxes in NZ all there lives only to find out that there will be no pension or health care available for them, as it will all have been spend on people who did not live in NZ for most of their lives and generous benefits are given to them, that they never contributed to..

        As a Kiwi you can’t go to Africa, China, India or anywhere else and get free healthcare, education or free pensions on the basis of a crap job or marriage… but in NZ obviously our government think we have so much public money they should be (while ignoring their own residents are now going to food banks).

        Of course immigration here is in demand and many groups want to keep the freebies rolling in! Free health care, free education, and 1 million dollars of pensions can be got very easily in NZ without the need to pay any significant taxes or live here a fraction of someones life. Keep the Lotto rolling in until the cupboard is bare!

        Pension: It’s like a Lotto win for Kiwis aged 65
        https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/114320907/pension-its-like-a-lotto-win-for-kiwis-aged-65

  5. You need to analyse and understand history warts and all, in order to avoid making the same mistakes… one of the worst things to create racism is a lack of democracy and authority figures… I once asked someone from Serbia, how the Bosnian war could have happened in the 1990’s and their view was that after Communism the Serbs believed their leader was always right…

    Take a completely different example also from the 1990’s of a bizarre authority figure scam that targeted poorly educated fast food staff in particular in the US, using authority gullibility…

    “A caller who identified himself as a police officer or other authority figure would contact a manager or supervisor and would solicit their help in detaining a female employee or customer who was suspected of a crime. He would provide a description of the suspect, which the manager would recognize, and he would then ask the manager to search the suspected woman.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strip_search_phone_call_scam

    The best way to defend humanity is to both educate the population as much as possible and in particular critical thinking which has been destroyed in NZ after 30 years of Rogernomics.

    It is the NZ identity itself that Rogernomics seeks to destroy. Where else in the world can a political call their nationals drugged out and lazy and people in NZ are so beaten down they just accept it?
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/06/new-zealand-needs-migrants-as-some-kiwis-are-lazy-and-on-drugs-says-pm

    Before not noticing a students body for 8 weeks in his dorm, NZ universities had already been rapidly declining in morality, aka they had started burning and destroying books to save money, while paying it’s chancellor the third highest state sector salary in NZ….https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/354932/no-book-burning-but-some-may-face-shredder-auckland-uni

    Our universities like our cities are being stripped of critical thinkers of diverse views, in favour of a narrow definition that favours getting international students and workers and relatives in for money while pretending it is for diversity. NZ universities also seem to be full of exceptions aka accepting of the ethnic and gender discrimination .. aka Tibetans and Uyghur against Han Chinese groups for example. There is no university chancellor support for Hong Kong protesters, it was quickly cancelled as that might annoy the money coming on from pro Beijing international students.

    Universities should not be forcing people to all think the same views aka worship money while pretending it is for diversity, they should be challenging people to explore a range of views and then looking at history to make society better and more accepting and not look at issues so narrowly and shallowly.

    Universities used to be a place for debate and radical views… now the neoliberal agenda is that everyone has to think the same way, have plenty of money to go to university, and be paid a fortune to be a university chancellor (while of course lowering wages and conditions for the lecturers, staff and students), while looking different but all thinking the same thing is the new diversity!

    There are plenty of local targets who are worse off with that approach, think the worsening situation in South Auckland with measles (which in woke style was initially blamed on the pale, stale anti vaxers) all roads seem to lead to blaming the pale, stale locals many of whom are not exactly that pale or stale, think Pacific Island and Maori, who apparently have less worth now due to their out dated identity, lazy drugged out approach, and need displacing to better workers and capitalists and foreign money, John Key style.

    • SaveNZ: “I once asked someone from Serbia, how the Bosnian war could have happened in the 1990’s and their view was that after Communism the Serbs believed their leader was always right…”

      Here’s an account of what actually happened in Bosnia, as opposed to the outright lies we were told at the time. If the Republicans were to have impeached Clinton on a substantive issue – rather than a bit of rumpy pumpy with Lewinsky in the map room, so to speak – it would have been Bosnia.

      http://thesaker.is/clinton-era-bosnia-war-precedent-to-the-war-on-terror/

      Clinton: another awful US president in a very long line of awful US presidents. These people do not give a good goddamn how many lives are sacrificed to their nefarious schemes. It is incumbent upon the rest of us to know about this stuff. Do not believe what the msm says. About anything….

  6. Excellent column, Chris. I am mystified by why so many academics felt compelled to put up their hand publicly to assert they were against racism, as if we might assume they were in favour of it. The letter seemed to me to be a hasty declaration of moral uprightness.
    They don’t seem to understand that allowing free speech does not mean they or the organisation they belong to necessarily likes, believes or in any way endorses the views being debated or promoted.
    I also noticed the veiled dig at Stuart McCutcheon that implies he is unqualified to understand the issue, which, as you say, is extraordinary. It seems to me to be a very sorry day when a University VC makes the news for defending free speech (and hundreds of his staff publicly criticise him for it).

    • Because it’s the ‘woke’ thing to do, and if they didn’t, the pitchforks and flaming brands would come for them. Say the wrong thing these days and you get dog-piled.

    • “I am mystified by why so many academics felt compelled to put up their hand publicly to assert they were against racism, as if we might assume they were in favour of it. The letter seemed to me to be a hasty declaration of moral uprightness.”

      Maybe they were – checks notes – using free speech to challenge other speech??

  7. A sample of the quality institutions on offer here, offering their wares!

    The invisible college that wants your cash

    “Online it’s the imaginary Auckland campus of the New Zealand College of Education.

    The website of the college offers PhDs for $31,750, a Bachelor of Arts for $5999 and mini-MBAs for $1390. Religious courses are offered free. It caters for domestic, as well as international, students and offers to help arrange homestay accommodation.”

    If only NZ universities were as motivated in protecting the integrity of a NZ education in the same way they collectively collaborate on writing open letters and shutting down some posters and stickers from the Action Zelandia.

    Nor do the NZ police or fraud office seem as interested in this, as it has been operating here for months while no doubt the posters going up were removed promptly with great fanfare from the university zealots who are less interested in those being ripped off by education fraudsters….. whose identity remains unknown and anonymous.

    • saveNZ – I might set one up myself, but I really really need to know what exactly is a “mini-MBA” ? I’m wondering if perhaps now that MBA’s are no longer flavour of the month, whether they’re downsizing to mini ones to keep everyone happy.

      There’ll be no free courses from me – all I need is guidance from that ANZ chairman chappie about setting up a Cayman Islands bank account to get the student loan income paid in directly, and keep the NZ taxman right out of it – in fact that could be a separate course.

      I’ll make all my courses extra-mural – the drop-out rates are phenomenal, and the main thing is to rake in that money upfront first; if some sneaky type goes off to the NZQA, I’ll try to whip up a mind-boggling demo on how to knit heels in sox – that’ll shut them up, but they’re probably as easy as WINZ to bog down in paper warfare, so I’m not worrying too much about them, but I do take myself very seriously.

      What about throat singing ? Russian a cappella ? Is that racist ? I’m not really keen on racism which is why I can’t mention world-leading German philosophers, and Mrs Beaton being another white supremisist English cook – I mean, chef. French cooking -out. Swedish gym exercises – out. Mini curriculum. Could do well.

  8. “We are here – so come and contend with us openly on the battlefield of ideas.” The only honourable answer that “any university worthy of the name” can give to such a challenge is: “Bring it on!”

    Fucking bullshit. So let’s have a debate about your right to breathe? All good eh….’lose’ the debate through lack of preparation say, or nerves, and you die.

    “Debates” with people who question your right to exist, not for anything you have done, or even the views you hold, but simply because of the way you were born, is a complete and fucking waste of time and playing into their hands.

    • Fucking Bullshit. The debate rages, but nobody loses life until people like Hitler’s Nazis take power. That does not happen in open debate at an open forum like a university.
      Try thinking before you write such nonsense. You actually need universities to thrive. Hitler’s Nazis quickly stifled them.

      • The debate rages, but nobody loses life until people like Hitler’s Nazis take power.

        Are you for fucking real? We had the Christchurch atrocity just 6 months ago – and you can draw a direct line to that from the alt-right ideology that is fast becoming normalised due to absolutist free speech morons such as yourself. There is absolutely no doubt about that.

        Not sure how safe you would feel if you were a Muslim, or any other minority student walking around the place with posters advocating for a very very similar ideology to that of the Christchurch shooter. And do you know what…hardly any of these manifestos ideas explicitly call for killing people. They don’t have to ….killing people is just the logical consequence once their ideas are taken on board

        • You maybe able to draw a line, but the cops can’t. One person has been jailed for distributing banned material online. That’s hardly what you could call “fast becoming normalized.”

        • Mark: “We had the Christchurch atrocity just 6 months ago – and you can draw a direct line to that from the alt-right ideology that is fast becoming normalised due to absolutist free speech morons such as yourself. There is absolutely no doubt about that.”

          Er – no, you can’t. And no: it isn’t. Did you not notice how NZ citizens as a whole reacted to the ChCh shootings, both at the time and since? Alt-right ideology, my foot!

          I’d add that calling commenters “absolutist free speech morons such as yourself.” doesn’t advance your cause, such as it is, at all. It’s an insult, suggesting that you’re all out of cogent arguments.

    • Hi Mark. “So let’s have a debate about your right to breath?

      Okay let’s.

      Well it’s arguable that breathing is an involuntary response not a human right. I mean how would you explain to a newborn baby it’s right to breath when they can’t even talk or use Langauge yet (and this is me improvising with no prep time or research). Y’know people who drown are all found to have water in there lungs -that’s the lungs saying screw your humans rights, in gana do my job anyway. Only this time it’s job isn’t just to maintain the white-blood cells it is to maintain the whole reportory system by, for one, challenging anyone to a debate that might want to, Y’know, shut down this involuntary response called breathing.

  9. I wasn’t going to pay much attention to this until I read, ” We build our collective understanding of the world and ourselves, while nurturing innovation, and maintaining what is best in our society.” Isn’t Auckland one of the universities where the VC has to personally approve all research topics ? I wonder why ? If it’s true, then I think he should be fired for that – it is not nurturing innovation, it is a mechanism for suppressing original thought.

    More than ever, our future may lie in the hands of original thinkers. But apart from that they also carry the same spiritual gifts as poetry and art and music and mountains and trees and seas which expand the aesthetic pleasures which help keep us mentally healthy and productive.

    The open letter is complete and utter crap – and dangerous crap. A ‘collective understanding’ = stagnation. Everything is fluid, including ideas, and the moment that anyone suggests that they have an understanding, let alone a collective understanding, we’re walking backwards. Ditto, “maintaining what is best in our society.” Remember Francis Fukuyama ? He maintained that History has stopped, that we have reached ultimate development with liberalism and the free market. Wrong. Fukuyama saw America in the late 20thC as the final culmination of human achievement – something I find profoundly depressing, and obviously wrong.

    These Auckland nitwits are worse – pretentious jargon trying to elevate itself with predictable current buzzwords like “nuanced” and “tapestry” – which I could argue are an oxymoron, but I can’t be bothered.

    Good old Thomas Aquinas said the raison d’etre of the university was ‘the intellect for the intellect’s sake.’
    Try that on Auckland’s VC and the obedient little letter signatories. Good old Steven Joyce seemed to see it as a job training outfit, a bit like the technical colleges which used to adorn our cities, and known as Techs.

    I have a reference which an elderly Pommie Kiwi academic gave me carrying myself to the UK, in which he mentions a university education providing one with a trained mind. Probably I would dispute whether this is necessarily so, and he may have been influenced by the great institutions of history, but looking at Auckland University, it is unpalatable if what they are doing is brain washing people, and if they think that they know what is best in our society, then they are a complete menace.

    Just who do they think they are ? Even Chairman Mao presents greater profundity of thought than these piddling minnows.

    • Assuming you are white, no pun on your blog name, imagine if you were say 10% of the population.

      How safe do you think you would feel for yourself and your family, if debates over your humanity and your right to live here, your full humanity of you and your children, perhaps your very right to life itself, became a topic of routine debate and political parties that questioned all of the above, had a significant following?

      The thing is is it not such a simple task to out-argue any point of view- –particularly against monomaniacs who focus on topics like anti-semitism, race science, Holocaust denial etc.

      The reality is almost ANY position, no matter how horrific, can be argued and won through seemingly rational debate —it all depends on your starting assumptions. Take away those assumptions of human equality, the right of all human beings to basic human dignity, and you inevitably arrive at some very dark places.

      Now that’s all very good if you, like you and Chris are, a part of the group that holds most of the power in society –to you it livens up the political scene and is great for entertainment. But think for one moment, if it was your or your children’s rights to live as full and equal member of society, to even live here, or to live itself, that was contingent on the way a debate swung – like watching a tight football match – with the shit to hit you, if your side loses, but no risk at all to the health and life of the other side, should your team win.

      • Marc
        It’s disturbing that you seem to feel as oppressed as this. Do you really believe that even the members of ” action zelandia” dispute your right to exist? It would be a very small group, and taking such a stance would revolt the vast majority of european originating members of our society. The more often such a stance was expressed the more offence it would cause. But still it is revealing of our society that someone as thoughtful and articulate as you can feel like this in our society and I don’t dismiss it.
        I do point out though that you yourself exercise the right of free speech to the boundaries of what the DB moderator is prepared to print and I am often surprised how flexible those boundaries are. But this is not an open forum. You could say anything on your own blog. And most here would support your right to do so.
        I’m not so impressed by those who express strong opinions anonymously though. Chris writes twice early in the piece of 400 “signatories ” to the letter . But later says they are anonymous . I am confused by this . Are there 400 signatories or not ? Signatories must have names. Is this open letter actually the work of a single individual?

        • David Stone: “I’m not so impressed by those who express strong opinions anonymously though.”

          Of course, Mark comments under a first name only: there’s nothing else to identify him. Or her.

          Some years ago, I used to comment under my own name. I was obliged to adopt a nom de guerre, because my name is very distinctive, and I was being contacted by complete strangers. And some of those contacts were….strange, to say the least.

          I’m made of stern stuff; I have firm opinions and I’m prepared to state them forthrightly, as I always have. But I had to consider my family, who’d become concerned about safety issues. Random loonies that one doesn’t know from a bar of soap can be pretty intimidating. Hence the nom de guerre; I’m unapologetic about it.

          “Chris writes twice early in the piece of 400 “signatories ” to the letter . But later says they are anonymous . I am confused by this . Are there 400 signatories or not ? Signatories must have names. Is this open letter actually the work of a single individual?”

          I believe that one person wrote the letter; I must say that it doesn’t read as if it were composed by a committee. And yes, the signatures are attached. It’s linked here:

          https://thespinoff.co.nz/society/02-10-2019/250-university-of-auckland-staff-sign-open-letter-over-white-supremacist-materials-on-campus/

          • D’Esterre
            Most commenters seem to use a nom de guerre, faire enough. But Chris does;t , nor the other bloggers and I figure they must draw far more heat than I’m likely to . Who cares what I say or think.
            I used to comment sometimes on the information clearing house and sometimes with quite a good reception. There’e a like or dislike function so you get a feedback.
            One day someone used my name to abuse Tom Dispatch , the host. I posted a denial of being responsible and asks the “namesake” to please find another identity. Getting an abusive response.
            Very soon after that comments were shut down for a few weeks and when I tried to reapply to comment I was told my name was already taken. I was presented with having to invent a name in order to continue commenting and I realised that I didn’t want to comment if I couldn’t use my own name. So I think I ‘ll continue to run the gauntlet.
            I agree Snow White should not change her name. I always assumed she was referring to the colour of her hair; just the same as mine.
            Cheers D J S

            • David Stone: “Who cares what I say or think.”

              I’d have said the same about me and my opinions; that is, right up until I began to get weird and unwanted contact. So: a nom de guerre is the safest way for me to go, in my view.

          • “I’m made of stern stuff; I have firm opinions and I’m prepared to state them forthrightly, as I always have. But I had to consider my family, who’d become concerned about safety issues. Random loonies that one doesn’t know from a bar of soap can be pretty intimidating. Hence the nom de guerre; I’m unapologetic about it.”

            It’s easy to demand unfettered free speech when you’re (A) white (B) not the target of white supremacist, homophobic, or racist hate speech.

            You might be made of “sterner stuff”, bully for you, but hate merchants generally aren’t targeting you or me. So, it’s largely an academic exercise for us and Chris Trotter.

            But if you’re nonwhite, gay, trans, Muslim, etc, not so much.

            When you’re on the receiving end of hate speech, you kinda lose interest in the rights of rracists to attack you and your family whenever they feel inclined to do so.

            • Samwise: “You might be made of “sterner stuff”, bully for you, but hate merchants generally aren’t targeting you or me.”

              Wanna bet? My experience says different. I’m assuming that by “hate merchants” you mean random loonies who want to harangue me about my views. And – given that I’m easily located – how am I to know that said random loonies won’t turn up at my door?

              Did you actually read and understand what I wrote about my reasons for adopting a nom de guerre?

      • @Mark. Yes, I’m white – and this blog name was used without thought, and I’ll dump it henceforth. A long time ago, I was university debating champion – we, a (heterosexual oh no oh no) women’s arts team beat a men’s law team. I’ve also a little more recently tutored at another university as a post-grad student.

        One thing I learnt as a debater – and it took me a long time to do so – is that an opposing team can win by making up facts and stats , and because what they’re saying is total fiction – it can be almost unanswerable, as there are rarely relatable reference points for the opposition. Most university debating is fun, but when politicians lie, or state employees lie, then the outcomes can be massively destructive for other people. Unlike them, I also believe I have a moral obligation to myself.

        Not for one moment do I think that Auckland’s vomitous scenario is entertaining, but I think the academics opposing the racist sloganeering are second-rate dipsticks – we hear much more vehement and angrier racism from Hone Harawera and his whanau regularly – Hone’s racism stopped me voting for Mana, which had good social policies. I faced this bitchy racism daily in a bullying Wgtn govt dept, because of my colour.

        The Auckland university staff who signed that letter could make me weep for their own lack of intellectual rigor, and they sound like the sort of shallow preaching Prince Harry (who failed his O levels bar the one his teacher helped him with and faced investigation for) and Meghan Markle, are irritating Brits for on a regular basis by telling them how they should be living their lives, and what life is all about. (PM Ardern annoyed me secretly visiting Meghan Markle in London – but hey – Markle’s head of the Commonwealth Universities, so she and Auckland can all sit on the floor together and utter platitudes to each other.)

        I know exactly what it is like to live and work in another country as an outsider, and did so many years in the UK, and in Asia. The English are probably – and almost comically -more convinced of their own racial superiority, than anyone else. But a long-standing Singaporean Chinese friend, insisted that the Chinese are. He said that on an plane, if the steward’s Chinese, and you’re a paying passenger, the steward will still regard himself as superior to all the non-Chinese on that plane. These are the sorts of dialogues that educated people can enjoy with each other , but the Auckland so-called academics are opting out of what is almost certainly going on here.

        The hatred of some rich for the poor cannot be under-estimated. It is likely worse in families like mine which was never rich, but some became rich, and they hate what they came from. (I also suspect that this explains some of PB’s unpalatable antics ). I know people opposed to all benefits- hence all beneficiaries.
        Opposed to a minimum wage on the utterly wrong grounds, that in any household there is more than one income coming in. They have no idea of how soul-destroying some people’s lives are, nor do they care.

        They are completely unable to comprehend altruism or philanthropy to such an extent that – as I’ve commented before – that they see goodness as an anathema. They are suspicious of it, as it is so alien to their own personas. These are the people who oppose treaty settlements as somehow being unfair to them. Like debaters, they can deliberately lie, and like children they believe their own lies, because those lies are necessary to maintain their deviant self-constructed narratives. They are actually bad people, best ignored.

        NZ Maori can cherish their communal focus as opposed to often harsh Pakeha individualism, as that is superior in almost every definition of the word.

        • Snow White: “Yes, I’m white – and this blog name was used without thought, and I’ll dump it henceforth.”

          Oh please don’t, I beg of you! If you change your nom de guerre, how will I know that it’s you when I respond to a comment of yours?

          • D’Esterre – How about Little Red Riding Hood ? I need to see a shrink anyway about dubbing myself Snow White: having five bros, a father and a husband, the inevitable conclusion is that I see men as dwarves. (Some men are ok.)

            Little Red R H brings wolves into my life, and frankly, there’s enough of them howling away pathetically down in the National Party – and the only way I can cope with wolf imagery are the scenes in Dr Zhivago where the lovers come together tumbling on skins as wolves tumble around in the beautiful Russian snow.(And we know how that ended.)

            Gretel as in ‘Hansel and’ is out – it suggests an affinity to Germany and no way could I publicly suggest my admiration for the great German philosophers and musicians without someone shrieking anti-antisemitism. (Hitler and I share an affection for Lehar).

            Anything to do with music is out as I may never recover from Placido Domingo being outed by the #Me Too movement. That hurt, as I much admired the documentary on the filming of ‘Othello’ where he expressed his horror at any man striking a woman.

            Cinderella would well fit because of one woman to whom you and I have previously referred, and it’s best not to again. She’s here.

            Anything to do with nature may be out, as I am not yet reconciled to some of the Green Party’s happenings, and they’re now out on a limb – where they put themselves, not me.

            How about, “Anonymous ?” I really like “Little Red Riding Hood”, but “red” is asking for trouble, and “pink” just a wee bit twee.

            • Snow White: “How about Little Red Riding Hood ?”

              Hahaha….love it! Red’s ok if it fits with your politics. Little Green (or any other colour) Riding Hood doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

              “….dubbing myself Snow White: having five bros, a father and a husband…”

              Heh! I did wonder if there was something Freudian (as we used to say) in your choice of nom de guerre; now we know…..

              “Little Red R H brings wolves into my life…”

              On the bright side, she and granny got the better of the wolf. Depending upon which version of the story one reads, of course.

              “…no way could I publicly suggest my admiration for the great German philosophers and musicians without someone shrieking anti-antisemitism.”

              Ignore the earnest woke left, say I. All that squawking about anti-semitism is just presentism: a term of which I’m guessing they are ignorant. Celebrate all those Germans, as I do: they are part of our heritage.

              “I may never recover from Placido Domingo being outed by the #Me Too movement…”

              Hmm….I remain to be convinced of the veracity of this accusation. Maybe, maybe not. In this household, we’re dubious about men being convicted on the basis of allegations, without any corroborating evidence being presented. Peter Ellis and all that. Much of it sounds like what Martyn Bradbury refers to as the “cancel culture”.

              Claudio Monteverdi is one of my favourite composers; I couldn’t give a good goddamn if some modern revisionist discovers that he committed genocide – or was a kiddy fiddler, given that he was eventually ordained – he will remain one of my favourites. He was a genius, in my view.

              “How about, “Anonymous ?””

              Nah. If you must change (and I don’t see why you should) I favour Little Red Riding Hood.

        • Snow White (who I hope is still Snow White): “….an opposing team can win by making up facts and stats , and because what they’re saying is total fiction – it can be almost unanswerable, as there are rarely relatable reference points for the opposition….”

          Exactly what many pollies do, as you point out further down. Sometimes little lies, sometimes very big ones, as we’ve seen worldwide over most of my lifetime. This is precisely why we need msm journos who take a sceptical line, and don’t uncritically report stuff until they’ve had a chance to do some fact-checking. But of course we don’t have such creatures. Unluckily for the rest of us.

          “The Auckland university staff who signed that letter could make me weep for their own lack of intellectual rigor….”

          Ditto. I’m both astonished and infuriated by it. Call themselves academics!

          “…more convinced of their own racial superiority…..a long-standing Singaporean Chinese friend, insisted that the Chinese are.”

          Indeed. I can confirm that from the reading I did during my time at uni. I recall one scholar remarking that in imperial times, the Chinese regarded civilisation as being coterminous with China’s borders.

          Bias in favour of one’s own ethnic group is part of the human condition: we’re a groupish species, after all. Though I must say that, at the time of first western contact, the Chinese had some justification for seeing themselves as superior, given what China was like at that stage, compared to Europe.

          “It is likely worse in families like mine which was never rich, but some became rich, and they hate what they came from.”

          My family antecedents were irredeemably middle-class, though circumstances beyond my parents’ control meant that ours was a hardscrabble growing-up. Ditto for my partner. I don’t think that any of us hated what we came from, though we all made damned sure that, financially, we got ourselves back into the middle class.

          Growing up, I went to school with many of the post-war refugees from Europe; an old school friend commented recently that they’d all done well for themselves, despite arriving here with – in most cases literally – nothing except a suitcase of clothing, and facing language and cultural difficulties, along with extreme prejudice from New Zealanders.

          Said old friend made that comment in the context of a bit of a frou-frou at the time, involving the local Maori, who didn’t want more immigrants in their city until the needs of local Maori had been catered for. Which occasioned a salty response from the local refugee association, along the lines of what my old friend had said about the European refugees. It would be fair to say that there wasn’t much sympathy from them for the Maori complaints.

      • Mark: “How safe do you think you would feel for yourself and your family, if debates over your humanity and your right to live here, your full humanity of you and your children, perhaps your very right to life itself, became a topic of routine debate and political parties that questioned all of the above, had a significant following?”

        I’m a long-time follower of the political circus in NZ. I’ve never heard this from any political party here, about any ethnic group, ever. Your full humanity? Perhaps your very right to life? Where are you hearing this?

        I’ve certainly heard Winston Peters inveigh against immigration: he’s been doing that for over 20 years that I know of. But it’s immigration, as in numbers coming in, and the inability of this country to accommodate those numbers. I’ve never heard him call out any particular group; in fact, I’d have said that he’s punctilious in that regard.

        This sounds to me a bit like a straw man you’re putting up here. I don’t think that is helpful in the current febrile climate.

        • “I’ve certainly heard Winston Peters inveigh against immigration…..”

          Where the fuck did I talk about Winston Peters? In fact I said that this group Zealandia is way way beyond the typical NZ First supporter.

          The NZ First supporter entertains prejudices one can find among all groups of people throughout the world – that’s what I mean when I said ‘garden-variety’ prejudices. Heck I even have close friends, believe it or not who are NZ First supporters.

          But this group at Auckland Uni are another level entirely, there are simply no parallels between them and the typical NZ First supporter. Its not about ‘assimilation’ Its about deeming other people completely unfit for ‘assimilation’ based on how they were born.

          • Mark: “Where the fuck did I talk about Winston Peters? In fact I said that this group Zealandia is way way beyond the typical NZ First supporter.”

            And here we go again. Did you actually read anything I wrote? Come to that, did you actually look back at what you yourself wrote? Here it is: “…perhaps your very right to life itself, became a topic of routine debate and political parties that questioned all of the above, had a significant following?” So: it was you yourself who mentioned political parties. And Peters is well-known for being anti-immigration. We have no other parties which are particularly anti-immigration.

            The group at UoA aren’t a political party at all; may not even be anything other than a piss-take, designed to wind up sensitive little souls of the woke left variety. It wouldn’t surprise me at all.

      • Mark, firstly I want to say that I admire your passion for defending the downtrodden. This a healthy political instinct, and one that I’ve seen all the regular commenters on TDB express, in their own way. Dismissing this using patronizing language (whether “woke” or “special snowflake”) is IMHO a mistake.

        However, it’s a mistake of the same type, to write off anyone’s support for the Auckland VC’s defence of freedom of speech on TDB as an expression of “privilege”. The implication being that we would not suffer if a neo-nazi, white supremacist movement grew in power in Aotearoa.

        The German Nazi’s targeted not only non-Aryan ethnicities – notably Jews who tend to be counted now as “white”- but “gypseys”, the disabled, unionists, artists, intellectuals, communists (whether Marxist, anarchist, or other), even the nationalist socialists in their own party (notably in The Night of the Long Knives). I have been physically attacked by neo-nazis, as have many other people I know, for being “race traitors”, or “degenerates”. I doubt anyone who comments on TDB would be safe for long from rising white supremacy, even those who can present as “white”, male, and straight. Particularly because we actively fight it, and will continue to do so.

        I suggest you watch the documentary Taking Liberties. It explains how removal of the civil liberties you seem to regard as luxuries, or “privileges”, was one of the main tools the Nazis used to prevent the majority of Germans who were not Nazis from effectively resisting them. Strengthening civil liberties, not weakening them, is how we curb the resurgence of fascism.

    • Snow White: I agree with everything you say here.

      “Isn’t Auckland one of the universities where the VC has to personally approve all research topics ?”

      I believe so. I’ve also heard that it’s the same at Otago; all research proposals must be assessed against Treaty principles. Or so I’ve heard. I assume that also applies at UoA.

      “If it’s true, then I think he should be fired for that – it is not nurturing innovation, it is a mechanism for suppressing original thought.”

      Yup.

      “The open letter is complete and utter crap – and dangerous crap. A ‘collective understanding’ = stagnation.”

      True. Christ…. I have a relative currently studying at UoA. When this story first broke, said relative remarked that they’d seen nothing of the posters and stickers claimed to have been put up by Action Zealandia; they thought that maybe it was a scam, someone doing a bit of piss-taking.

      My relative is taking STEM papers: perhaps not surprising that they wouldn’t have seen this sort of thing. We figured that it was more likely to be in the humanities area that posters, stickers and the like would be put up.

      When I read that letter, I didn’t expect to see any signatories at all from the STEM faculties; not just because I doubted that there was much of a story, but because I expected that academics from the sciences – broadly conceived – wouldn’t be sucked down into this sort of anti-intellectual rabbit hole. Boy, was I wrong:

      https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/116269672/white-supremacists-at-auckland-uni-staff-sign-open-letter-saying-racism-has-no-place-there

      I suspected that they’d possibly been intimidated into signing it, said as much to relative, whose response was: “What are you going to do? Say that you won’t sign it?” True enough. These are people who in many cases depend upon the good offices of their colleagues for career advancement, tenure and so on. It’d take a brave person to stand out against that sort of pressure.

      I remember when Fran Wilde brought the Homosexual Law Reform Bill to parliament, and the sheer ferocity of the opposition. It seemed that they’d stop at nothing. At that time, a petition against the bill was circulating, and turned up in my work place. The proponents of it had misrepresented what it was actually about; nevertheless, almost everyone had signed it. However, I read the thing properly and refused to sign it, which occasioned some raised eyebrows. It was easier for me: I was obviously not gay, and fortunate not to be dependent upon anyone there for my employment or career advancement. Moreover, there was at that time no such thing as the woke left distorting the thought patterns of so many people.

      “Good old Thomas Aquinas said the raison d’etre of the university was ‘the intellect for the intellect’s sake.’”

      Poor Thomas Aquinas: I doubt that he’d recognise UoA as a uni at all. One of us in this household is a graduate: they’re deeply unhappy at the extent to which it’s deteriorated intellectually in the last 40-ish years.

      In that Stuff article above, there’s this quote:

      ” Acting vice-chancellor Professor John Morrow said he had no doubt vice-chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon would applaud this initiative.

      “Universities are established to be society’s critic and conscience and this is what we would expect from our community,” he said.

      “The open letter demonstrates our staff members’ exercise of their right to academic freedom and makes a welcome contribution to ongoing debate on matters that are central to the University’s values.””

      John Morrow was one of my lecturers, back in the day. He was a terrific lecturer; one of many really good teachers by whom I was fortunate to have been taught, back then. To be blunt, he’s the last person I’d have expected to be making a statement of this sort. Nor would I have thought that he’d be signing a piece of anti-intellectual tosh like this letter. When I last looked – and as far through the signatures as I’d looked – he hadn’t signed it. I do sincerely hope that he doesn’t; I’d like to keep that particular illusion intact.

  10. Big difference between garden variety prejudices held by say your typical NZ first voter, and even a bit if xenophobia on the one hand, and white supremacist ideology on the other hand.
    The latter is quite unique historically speaking, uniquely malign that is. There is little doubt this group is a white supremacist group

    • Mark, This lot will have an agenda. I don’t know what that agenda is, but (a) They’re probably not as smart as they think they are, and (b) They’re looking for attention and (c) They’re best ignored.

      There are enough people who find themselves in trouble through no fault of their own, and then there are others who court trouble, and whether this lot want to play martyr or hero, or whether they have some more sinister sub-plot, to hell with them. Let them spend forever putting up notices until they tire of it.

      If there is evidence of them inciting violence or trying to actively cause harm to others, then it’s a police matter.

      (I once overheard a visiting child tell one of mine how she planned to get a new bike by sulking. Mine tried the same thing, standing dramatically in a corner staring silently at the wall. After about a day of this, I said to her that if she was sulking, it was a waste of time as I never really notice things like that. She gave up. )

      As an ex-debater, I wouldn’t waste my breath on this Auckland lot – they’re probably giant-sized bores for a start. Don’t do bores.

  11. It’s only recently we got rid of a blasphemy law, and it would still be there if National had won the election.

    So let’s not imagine that there has not been restriction on free speech in our tradition. Darwin waited decades to publish a book for fear of being prosecuted for it.

    A few decades back members of a local Anglican Church advertised on campus using a burning cross poster, when I responded by placing a poster alongside it, mine was taken down – they said while they were not against free speech they did not like what I said about their poster.

  12. Left-wing views are about inclusivity and equality for all, Far-Right views are about exclusion, division and hatred.

    The whole agenda of the Far-right is to normalise racism and make it become mainstream, every time their rhetoric or public posting of racist Propaganda goes unopposed, they pat themselves on the backs for yet another success.

    If you don’t believe this, then visit 8Chan message boards or Stormfront to see for yourself.

    Racism and Fascist ideology must never be allowed to become normalised, tolerated or acceptable, people either have a zero-tolerance to Far-Right ideology, or they choose to enable it.

    There’s no middle ground when it comes to White Supremacist Ideology.

    • 100 percent on the money
      Well said!

      Sure, even if things on our side go a bit far at times so what? No big deal.

      Whereas the natural outcome of the ideology of these alt right tossers is christchurch

    • Alison Withers: “Left-wing views are about inclusivity and equality for all, Far-Right views are about exclusion, division and hatred.”

      History worldwide begs to differ. Here’s what was happening just in the US during my childhood and much of my adulthood:

      http://archive.is/WPrYb

      “The whole agenda of the Far-right is to normalise racism and make it become mainstream…”

      No. It isn’t. If you believe that, you don’t know very much about what commentators dismissively refer to as the “far right”. I’d add that racism is the purview of governments. Used against individuals, it’s just an epithet, intended to shut down debate and suggestive of a lack of countervailing argument; the last refuge of the scoundrel and all that.

      “If you don’t believe this, then visit 8Chan message boards or Stormfront to see for yourself.”

      Ooh….surely you don’t go to those sites! You better hope that you haven’t thereby attracted the attention of the spooks.

      In any event, I hear tell that 8chan is only intermittently accessible, and Stormfront is run by the US government. In both cases, it seems that they’re frequented by angry young – mostly American and probably incel – men with a grudge against the world and living in their parents’ basement. They’re letting off steam; they’re not a threat to anybody, except possibly themselves. Americans don’t need that sort of motivation to shoot each other up, I’ve noticed.

      ” Racism and Fascist ideology must never be allowed to become normalised, tolerated or acceptable, people either have a zero-tolerance to Far-Right ideology, or they choose to enable it.

      There’s no middle ground when it comes to White Supremacist Ideology.”

      Perhaps you’ve failed to notice that the calling for zero tolerance and the silencing of such views is every bit as fascist as those you purport to deplore.

      I’d add that, if you imagine that ethnic supremacy is exhausted by white supremacy, you haven’t been paying attention to what’s been going on in the world over the years since WW2. And you don’t have a grasp of history.

      • It’s really grotesque when the University showed a great deal of tolerance to Chinese Supremacists who disrupted the peaceful HK demonstration

  13. Your confusion is entirely justified, D’Esterre.

    The letter posted on The Spinoff is attributed to no-one.

    Yes, 400+ people signed it, but, unless all the signatories had a hand in its composition (unlikely) its authorship is unacknowledged. The Spinoff editor/s have given it the by-line of “Guest Writer” – hence my claim that its author/s is/are “anonymous”.

    The failure of the author/s to clearly identify themselves is curious – and worrying. Critics and Consciences should be made of sterner stuff!

    • Chris Trotter: “….unless all the signatories had a hand in its composition….”

      I’m familiar with documents written by committee: had a hand in one or two myself (though nothing as contentious), back in the day. It doesn’t read like a joint effort, though I could be wrong.

      Nevertheless, whoever wrote it ought to have the courage of their convictions and name themselves.

      It’s pusillanimous in the extreme to hide behind anonymity.

      • If you remember, in one of the best of’m, Pusillanimus was a legionary in ‘Asterix and the Chieftain’s Shield’. Like the fictional Czech fellow who refused to get involved in WW 1 apart from his body. ‘The Good Soldier Svejk’. ‘Pus’ went into coal cellars emerging perfectly white unlike his comrades. Insisted on sweeping half a flagstone and then taking a rest leaning on his broom. At the end of Asterix and Obelix’s assaults he was raised to Centurion.

        • sumsuch: “……in one of the best of’m, Pusillanimus was a legionary in ‘Asterix and the Chieftain’s Shield’.”

          Haha, yes indeed! In this household, we have been fans of Asterix and Obelix since…..well, forever. We still have the books, get them out occasionally to laugh over them.

        • sumsuch: speaking of Asterix and Obelix, one of the many gems we used to quote to each other – and other aficionados – were the words at the end of “Asterix in Switzerland”.

          Getafix (I think): “Tell us about Helvetia, Obelix. What’s it like?”
          Obelix: “Flat”

          • Another of my favourites. Obelix was unconscious most of the time. Re-conjured the idea of an orgy, while also encapsulating it.

  14. I agree with the overall thrust of the argument, but …

    > This transformation of knowledge: from the fruits of work undertaken by individual scholars; to a collectivist endeavour undertaken for the maintenance of “what is best in our society”; is as sinister as it is tendentious.

    .. this is an odd argument for a regular champion of collectivism to be making. It could be argued that the emergence of the university as an institution was all about transforming the lonely solo work of scholars into a collegial effort, and that it is the takeover of universities by neoliberal managerialism that has split scholars up into individual units creating “IP” and struggling to meet KPIs.

    • Greetings Danyl and Joseph, I have coupled you – You may be able to get an ACC payout for that.

      …”is as sinister as it is tendentious.” Absolutely, but they could just be twerps who signed the letter without reading it – it is totally woeful – I read it last night. I was surprised at some of the signatories – and it was also cracking walnuts with a sledge hammer. Undergrads have always done nutty things.

      ‘Europeans in this country have “No Culture”. ‘ This is something I really resent, and it is crude, and untrue.

      I was delighted when Hone Harawira went AWOL in Paris, so that he could see a little of what the Pakeha to whom he is so hostile have in our history. He could also have done what so many of us did when younger, and camped all over Europe on the smell of oily rags – but Hone’s too precious and angry to go seeking out this part of his history – but at least he got to do a bit on the taxpayer and I for one, do not begrudge it.

      I stood, packed my bag, and walked out of a 300 level class at OU once, when the late Kenneth Melvin stated that Christianity was a millstone around a child’s neck. I boycotted him thenceforth, did my last two assignments punctiliously, got no mark higher than C; I later ascertained from the Prof that Melvin failed me, but I was passed by the external assessors.

      European culture in NZ carries tragedies of suffering and deprivation which dwarf everything ever inflicted upon Maori in NZ which some constantly milk for martyrdom, and use to justify personal hostilities towards assumed descendants of baddies whose histories can bring tears to the eyes those reading them.

      In the ghastly govt department where I briefly worked, I unsuccessfully raised the issue of a Maori or Pacifica person always being called upon to say grace before the awful shared lunches. I said this implied that others had no spiritual dimension in their lives. I lost.

      Whenever that section relocated to another building, a kaumatua was called to bless the building, and an email revealed his koha as $300. I said that I could get a Catholic priest much cheaper than that, and another woman said she could get an Anglican vicar for free, but we were brushed aside, it had to be Maori.
      Were I still in the paid workforce I guess I could take this to the Race Relations Commissioner.

      Successive govts choking themselves with political correctness have done their damnedest to make European culture invisible, and there is so much that is totally glorious in our culture – our music, art, science, philosophy, poetry- chappies like Shakespeare and Verdi and Beethoven – and Spike Mulligan.

      Joseph – tell your daughter that at the time the first operas were being composed in Italy, her lecturer’s people were still virtually stone age, and some still are. Her ignorance is a shocker – and it is a shame that she has never heard truly wonderful music, or read poetry which uplifts.

      Currently, in Italy, a woman with my first christian name and continental birth surname, has just been beautified on her first steps towards sainthood. Like me, she had a violent spouse, and I have pondered how I could have her made patron saint of NZ women, to establish some sort of cultural link between we in this cold threshold land, and the northern hemisphere from which so many of our families came.

      Any idea how hard to is to starch and iron a damask tablecloth ?

      • Thank-you. Our universities have gone from casting a critical eye on European culture to downright despising it and treating it as shameful, Whiteness studies being the worst offender.

    • I agree. There have been constraints on free speech in the past (science challenging religion, left wingers seen as a security threat). Which progressives for change (secular and economic) have had to overcome to effect it.

      Free Speech, all one can buy, is the traditional and or constitutional privilege the right will preserve (so they can maximise the power of wealth politically) – except where they cite security imperatives. Of course they have less concern for the security of minority groups – thus the mosque attack under their radar.

      Of course minorites

  15. Well, it’s not surprising there are 400 academics at Auckland Uni happy to sign up for this. My daughter in her second year of Social Work Degree witnessed a Polynesian lecturer asserting to her class that Europeans in this country have “No Culture”.

    Meanwhile at my work this week I had a customer, a new Chinese immigrant, call my Fijian coworker a Nigger and proceeded to have a fit of laughter.

    Racist Supremecy its Everywhere.

    • Joseph ‘Europeans in this country have “No Culture”. ‘ Really ? What about:

      Crowded house/SplitEnz, Dave Dobbin, Lorde, Hayley Westenra, European singers, (And I know nothing about pop music); Michael Houston, European concert pianist; James Baxter, European not-really-dead-poet; Sam Hunt, European poet; Eleanor Catton, European Booker Prize winning novelist; Margaret Mahy, Linley Dodd kids’ writers; European film maker with all his entourage who has put NZ on a global cult map: Sir Peter Jackson; writers who feature regularly in ‘Landfall’; writers in Random House’s story collections (incl me) Katherine Mansfield-forever alive; artists (internationally recognised) Colin McCahon, Peter Robinson, and Sean Kerr -actually a senior lecturer in art at AU; masses of writers actually, but I’d place Maurice Gee at the top, for, “Plumb”, which I think the best NZ novel ever written.

      These are from the top of my head – and I don’t watch television – there’ll be more.

      Because this so-called university lecturer has said that there is no European culture in NZ, I think that she is racist, and that she should be reported to the VC as such pronto, and she should apologise to all of her students for misleading them. If she is so ignorant, she has no place inside any university, and AU has been making it clear that they don’t like racist supremacists. (Wonder if she signed that stupid damn letter ?)

      I can’t do it because I have no standing in the matter, but one of her audience can, and should.

      Obviously I’ve stuck to Pakeha here, as it is white people who this woman is trying to degrade, otherwise Kiri Te Kanawa would be right up the top there too.

      Lloyd Geering is and has always been a cultural trailblazer – I love him – but only a masochist would try and talk about this to ignorant heads.( The most erudite and tolerant thinker I have ever known.)

      (Chinese guy might have been being funny – they do have a good sense of humour, and are keen on correct behavior – fascinating culture – and please don’t say, “cultural Revolution” or I shall start crying.)

      • Lloyd Geering might have signed the letter as a collective work in creating a more progressive God order, one providing a safer space for minorites.

        A Pakeha male making a joke about lesbians before a group of women might have just being funny – they do have a sense of humour, and a proud cultural legacy, and please do not say chauvinism or patriarchy or I will have to laugh.

        • OK, SPC. I’m thinking it unsafe to say anything much now, so I’ll just wander around speaking in tongues; anyone understanding me would be most welcome to tell me what I’m talking about.

      • Plus the Topp Twins. How can anyone living in the Topp Twins country possibly say that there is no European culture ? They are us.

          • Pip: wine; all kinds, but for me personally, especially Gimblett Gravels reds (oh, and, back in the day, Dry River reds – from Martinborough. God, they were divine), Gewurtstraminer and Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Oh the Sav Blanc, redolent of passionfruit! Or cats’ piss, if you prefer….

      • Snow White: in no particular order: Simon O’Neill; Jack Lasenby; Murray Khouri; fish and chips; meringues; pavlova; the NZSO; the ballet; Janet Frame; Frank Sargeson; Fred Dagg; “A Week of It”. Etc…..

        • D’Esterre – Are you sure about the meringues? Richmal Crompton in the ‘William’ books gives the impression that meringues and blanc mange are pretty English and I’m trying to avoid cultural appropriation here – or the sort of law suits that the Brit tabloids are currently facing.

          Eileen Duggan- one of our best not often met poets – Somewhere I have stuff on her, and she was being well reviewed in the UK press when I think she was much less well known here.

          Fleur Adcock and Marilyn Duckworth and Rita Angus and Denis Glover esp Denis Glover, and I prefer not to mention Barry Crump, having known one of his wives, and met another fore mentioned, and Aunt Daisy, who wore her hat while broadcasting – that’s real culture that is.

          Ngaio Marsh – Not just for her detective novels, but establishing a great Shakespearean tradition at Canterbury Univ. (Daresay I’ve got that wrong and that some bastard has now sold off the space for car parking.)

  16. “. The 400+ academics who put their names to an open letter condemning racism and white supremacy on the Auckland campus undoubtedly did so with the best of intentions, but in signing the document they have either deliberately, or unwittingly, endorsed a document of profound illiberality. ”

    Sooo……. free speech is a one way road for you Chris??

    No one is allowed to challenge an opinion??

    And yet, here you are with your opinion

  17. Since you haven’t managed to post my comment, or respond to me by email, I will withdraw my comment. Discard it; do not post it.

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