The day after the mob assault on the US Capital Building I listened to a number of commentators comparing the rough treatment of Black Lives Matter protesters by Federal and State authorities to their soft approach to the Pro Trump rioters and thought – yes, the authorities are colour blind . Only dark- skinned people aparrently are a threat to social order and stability.
I think the same was true of the events leading up to the Christchurch mass murder on March 15th 2019. Yes – our police and border authorities were on the lookout for terrorists – but not white ones.
Hate has no colour.
You find it in every society. The idea that ‘they ‘ are not ‘us’ is the story of war – whether it be civil or international.
Those of us who lived through the violence surrounding the Springbok Tour of 1981 know
that we , here in New Zealand , are not immune from turning on each other and fighting in the street over strongly held beliefs.
We don’t have a specific Hate Law in our country . I think we should, but it needs the political will to put it on the table and carefully worked through because I don’t pretend that crafting a viable Hate Law will be easy. Hate Speech, for example , in my view, needs to be treated as a separate legal issue because of the way it intersects with the principle of freedom of speech and opinion which I, for one, hold dear.
But Hate Crime – actually attacking someone because of their race , religion, sexual preference or whatever – needs to be separated from Hate Speech.
Yes Hate Speech if often the precursor to the committing of a Hate Crime and I would put inciting people to riot at the high end of offending under a Hate Speech law, but as I say any Hate Speech legislation needs to be carefully crafted so it does not impose unreasonable restrictions on Freedom of Speech.
How hard would that actually be?
In my view, not very.
I’ve never believed the right to free speech include the right to abuse or threaten people socially, mentally or physically and regular readers of my page will know that from time to time I have to publish the rules of my page which includes no name calling and no bad language.
Our bias, if bias it be, should be towards respecting – not disrespecting – each other.
In other words to tackle the topic, not the person expressing their opinion and that remains the No 1 rule of my page because I believe we cannot have a decent society if we do not treat each other with decency in our daily lives.
Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.