The Totalitarian Impulses Driving “Consequences Culture”.

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THE BATTLE OVER FREE SPEECH is only likely to grow more intense in 2022. If the Labour Government persists with its plans to eliminate “hate speech”, and if its allies continue to expand that highly contentious term’s definition, then the conflict promises to be epic.

At risk will be nothing less than right of New Zealanders to speak and write freely about their beliefs. Should the year end with a broad definition of hate speech written into New Zealand law, then the 2023 Election will be a particularly vicious and unforgiving affair. Regardless of who wins, the essential fabric of civility that protects the practice of our democracy will be rent beyond repair.

Already that fabric is showing signs of serious wear and tear. In a recent comment, uploaded to the Bowalley Road blog, I read with dismay the following sentences concerning “Cancel Culture”:

“Perhaps we should call it consequences culture instead of cancel culture. You say something people don’t like using your freedom of speech, people can react in various ways using their various freedoms to criticise or punish you for it. Grow a pair and suck it up.”

What makes this statement so concerning is the framing of political and/or cultural debate as a rule-free zone, in which participants should not only expect to be criticised, but also punished, for expressing opinions with which others disagree.

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Ominously, the gratuitous addition of the unabashedly sexist taunt “grow a pair and suck it up” makes it clear that the incoming “criticism” is much more likely to consist of the sort of vicious personal abuse that typifies contemporary social media, than the rational, informed and elegantly-styled offerings of traditional critical literature.

It is, however, the word “punish” that is most concerning. The idea that one should expect to be punished for expressing oneself honestly and forthrightly, is one that strikes at the very heart of our democratic culture. But, before attempting to flesh out what is meant by that term, let us take some time to examine the philosophical parameters of a “consequences culture”.

In one sense, all cultures are consequences cultures. In all societies there are customs, conventions and laws, the flouting and/or breaking of which inevitably entail consequences. The taking of another’s life without just cause brings retribution in all human communities. Expecting anything else would be entirely unrealistic.

Societies also exist, however, in which the articulation of certain ideas risks the direst consequences. To insult the Prophet Mohammed in a devoutly Muslim country will almost certainly result in the blasphemer being put to death. Attempt to use your freedom of speech in Belarus, especially by questioning the legitimacy of the current President, Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko, and punishment will come hard and fast.

In such settings it is simply nonsensical to speak about the existence of freedom of expression. No one is free who, the moment they attempt to exercise their freedom, is subjected to some form of punishment. Historically, the only leftists who subscribed to such a notion tended to be Stalinists and Maoists of the most extreme kind.

Stalin and Mao’s intolerance of free speech was based squarely on the proposition that their variant of the communist ideology was the closest approximation to the truth of which humanity was capable. To suggest otherwise constituted a crime against the truth, and against all the benefits that flow to humanity from the truth. To  attack and defame the disseminators of the truth was tantamount to attacking and defaming humanity itself. To speak thoughts and articulate beliefs in contradiction of the “party line” identified oneself instantly as an “enemy of the people” – deserving of the most severe punishment.

Did the Far-Right behave similarly? Of course it did. Most of the twentieth century was terribly scarred by the horrific human consequences of regimes which arrogated to themselves total power and total control over their peoples’ lives. To suggest that it is somehow okay for the Left to punish people for exercising their freedom of expression – because that is what the Right did, and does – is not only nonsensical ethically, but it also strongly suggests that not too far below the surface of the individuals making such a claim there lurks some disturbingly totalitarian tendencies.

The moral superiority of liberal-democratic nations over authoritarian and totalitarian states is manifested in the political tolerance and civility that constitute their core.

With the obvious caveat that no government is obliged to remain inactive in the face of speech and/or behaviour posing an imminent and direct threat to the physical safety of the persons and property of other human-beings, the democratic state declines to designate certain ideas, beliefs and attitudes as either compulsory or forbidden. With the faith in reason and science which their forbears inherited from the Enlightenment, democrats remain firm in their conviction that the truth is what emerges from the free and frank exchange of ideas by people unconstrained by the fear of saying something that will result in them being locked-up – or worse.

This all-important faith in the truth-revealing power of free discussion and debate imposes upon the citizens of democratic states a very particular code-of-conduct. People are to be heard respectfully. Any rebuttal of their arguments should be delivered civilly and on the basis of evidence and reasonable conjecture. Under no circumstances should abusive or threatening behaviour be tolerated by those either engaged in, or observing, such debates. Crucially, in the twenty-first century, the rules that apply to these flesh-and-blood debates, apply with even more force to debates conducted on-line.

Consequences culture, or cancel culture? The distinction is more apparent than real. To claim that the most appalling and psychologically damaging personal abuse is nothing more than “criticism”; and to punish those who take an unpopular point of view by pressuring their employers, or boycotting their advertisers; is to identify oneself not only as an enemy of the tolerance and civility our democratic system must uphold to survive, but also as a common-or-garden bully.

The haters and the bullies can protest that their motivations are pure and uplifting until they are hoarse. The perpetrators of terrible deeds always justify their actions by claiming they were carried out for the long-term benefit of someone or other. But we have heard these “you can’t make an omelette without cracking a few eggs” arguments forever. At best they signal a we-know-best infantilisation of the very communities they are purporting to assist. At worst, it’s the cracking of a few eggs that drives them forward. They’re either condescending snobs or psychopaths.

Those are the labels Labour’s caucus risks pinning on themselves if they fail to step back from their ongoing assault on New Zealand’s democratic culture. Only power, and the lust to retain it – at any cost – are located at the top of the social pyramid. Truth, and the freedom it makes possible, are always to be found further down. Forget that, and the consequences for any anti-democratic government are certain to be very serious indeed.

 

35 COMMENTS

  1. Great article Chris – now let us hope your correspondents take this clarion call for civility and tolerance to heart.

  2. Great comment again Chris.

    Your paragraph “Stalin and Mao’s intolerance of free speech was based squarely on the proposition that their variant of the communist ideology was the closest approximation to the truth of which humanity was capable. To suggest otherwise constituted a crime against the truth, and against all the benefits that flow to humanity from the truth. To attack and defame the disseminators of the truth was tantamount to attacking and defaming humanity itself” it’s haunting when we compare the govts insistence that they are “the sole source of truth” from what is now laughingly called the “podium of truth”

    And this is only made worse by the media, who’s independence is highly suspect in the first place being on the govt “journalism of interest” payroll, only use govt approved ‘experts’ to explain the technicalities to the masses. To disagree with the Wiles, Baker’s and Hendrys of the world is to quickly get labelled a far right anti-vaxxer, even when their modellings have been wrong time after time.

    There is hope though. I see that, that “far right anti-vaxxer” Joe Rogan* is now more listened to than practically all other taking heads in the USA combined, perhaps because he does something no one else does, “he listens”.

    * I only called him that, even though he voted for Libertarian Jo Jorgensen, because he is unvaccinated and so must be (according to TDB) a far right anti-vaxxer

  3. The problem Chris is when you get drunk on power it’s addictive. The last 2 years in Western liberal democracies have shown when the so-called governing class get a little power they are loathed to give it up. This power is ironically politically colorblind as we have seen whether governments are left or right leading adopt the same types of restrictions.

    We live in a sad state of being at the moment

  4. Very timely Chris. Here is a well-known cheerleader for our current government, instructing academics on the correct use of their freedom of speech: https://www.stuff.co.nz/science/300480580/academics-use-your-mana-to-aid-colleagues-not-fight-them

    Her closing sentence in particular reveals more about herself than she seems to realize:

    “Yes, those professors have freedom of speech, but wouldn’t it be great if they used their voices to help break down the systemic barriers that exist within our institutions rather than fighting so hard to, perhaps unwittingly, uphold them?”

    This same cheerleader showed her ignorance of (or is it disdain for?) principles of natural justice by accepting a role as one of the judges in the Royal Society of NZ’s investigation of the seven academics who published the notorious letter asserting that maatauranga Maaori isn’t science. Apparently Siouxsie and her fellow wokester Shaun Hendy did not understand that their role as accusers-in-chief of the Listener Seven is not compatible with a role as arbiters of the investigation.

    I’m alarmed by NZ journalists’ lack of interest in the Royal Society’s trial of Garth Cooper and Robert Nola – it’s picked up more overseas than here. Apparently it’s more important that we learn about “how to get more women into coding”, or endless stories about “systemic racism” in education, health etc.

    We are in serious trouble.

  5. Have you had a look at the ‘hate bill’? Maybe you should. As for your either or scenario, they are both, condescending arrogant snobs and psychopaths. So vote for them again in 2023 cause the others will be sooo much worse. Lol.

  6. I don’t understand half of what you just wrote. And yes I’m a bit thick, and so is half of NZ. However your good self and Bomber are experts on the subject and also deeply involved, but why should we give a flying fuck about this?
    I have just been personally insulted and accused of hate speech on another blog for saying anti vax protesters
    that intimidate mum and the kids are scum. Is that what your on about? If so, your way too late because the AV lunatics are well ahead and their whole mantra is based on “hate speech” and I hope the Govt stops them.

  7. Your second to last chapter says it all @ CT.
    In my opinion Neoliberal capitalism has stained our humanity with narcissistic psychopathy.
    The slang that you drew attention to; ” Grow a pair” …”suck it up” That’s swaggering, barrel chested, gun toting U$A soldier talk.
    We’re being bleached of the nuances that make us spirited, elegant, intelligent, rational human beings and are, instead, being prepped to become cannon fodder.
    And if you think that’s not chilling enough in its own right, lets ponder the labour party and its role in [all of this]?
    Labour, National, ACT, The Maori Party and The Greens are all the same thing. They’re merely different heads of the same Hydra.
    Lernaean Hydra.
    Wikipedia:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lernaean_Hydra
    At a fundamental level all of our major political parties are one and the same.
    Perhaps for the first time in my life I’m beginning to feel genuinely anxious about our immediate futures.
    It’s not love, hate or indifference that destroys countries, it’s censorship.

    • “….for the first time in my life I’m beginning to feel genuinely anxious about our immediate futures.”
      You must be getting old @Countryboy – which is a good thing, or should be.
      Unfortunately, in the neo-lib and 3rd way ‘ecosystems’, experience, compassion and (one or two other things) means nothing. It was trumped long ago by ego and pride

  8. Its already here as those on the other side of the Covid divide can attest. The powerful will get what the powerful want, even more so now that the Left are largely supportive of any act of power.

  9. the problem is on both sides people lip off but don’t have the arguments to support their position, usually because it’s a bumper sticker, they become confused so reach for ‘cancel’ ‘censor’ ‘blasphemy’ ‘ban books’ because they don’t have the personal intellectual resources to back their position.

    there’s a million vids out there of numpties on all sides lipping off and failing to back up..

    I don’t know if it’s education internet culture or what but it’s a thing

  10. awwww is ikkle wikle AO feeling bullied within his ranks of of pretend macho hardnuts by a girly girl like jacinda….for shame AO for shame

    • you just did the very thing you spoke out against in your previous comment! got all lippy and infantile Sheesh.

      • yes but as you know I can back my position, rightards being all hurty wurtyin the butt doesn’t phase me one bit…

        if you go back and try to read my post again..I pointed out the issue, I never claimed to be above it, so you make my point for me

    • You must be talking for me, gagarin, given I kinda see my moniker mentioned. Fine, be my guest, but remember to add that government consists of more than just Jacinda and Labour. And money influences government more than we the people get to do. Meaning, my beef is with the money – that’s the power – because said money rarely benefits, we the people. My other beef, more an observation really, is that my side of the political divide – the Left – now supports, rather than fights against, the powerful.

  11. Great column again Chris

    However Labour are currently full of hubris and I can’t see them being reasonable or moderate about anything right now and instead they will carry on pushing through their agenda regardless to public opinion as with 3 waters etc

    • Absolutely they believe they are the only source of truth and openly say so.
      They are a threat to democracy in NZ and therefore must be voted out.

      • Agreed Jeremy. BUT will that change ANYTHING??? Take a good look at the Opposition. And ACT! (shudder) A handbrake party is needed. Would be good if Labour stayed under 30% of the vote in this year’s polling. I may even change my mind and vote in the next election.

  12. Forget that, and the consequences for any anti-democratic government are certain to be very serious indeed.
    Chris, you mean like not being re-elected? Hardly a serious consequence.

  13. loved this bit: “The haters and the bullies can protest …They’re either condescending snobs or psychopaths.” but I’d add a third. “Nasty little control freaks” – there’s always some prick who wants to micromanage everyone else to make themselves feel like they are in control, or else tear them down to feel superior.

  14. ” the consequences for any anti-democratic government are certain to be very serious indeed ”

    Its here and happening right now.

  15. And now the great U-turn that we knew was coming has arrived:

    ‘180º. Do we get apologies?

    • WHO: Lift International Traffic Bans, Proof Of Vaccination Not Needed (G.)

    The World Health Organization has recommended lifting or easing international traffic bans, citing the ineffectiveness of the measures to suppress the spread of the Omicron variant. The UN health agency recently updated its international health regulations recommendations during an emergency committee meeting on Wednesday. Recommendations included to “lift or ease international traffic bans as they do not provide added value and continue to contribute to the economic and social stress” of some countries. Implementing blanket travel bans are “not effective in suppressing international spread” and “may discourage transparent and rapid reporting of emerging variants of concerns” the agency said in a statement.

    The failure of travel restrictions introduced after the detection and reporting of Omicron variant to limit international spread of Omicron demonstrates the ineffectiveness of such measures over time. Travel measures such as masking, testing, isolation/quarantine and vaccination should be based on risk assessments and avoid placing the financial burden on international travellers, according to their recommendations. The WHO also said the requirement to provide proof of vaccination against Covid-19 for international travel may not be needed as “the only pathway or condition” permitting international travel.

    Do not require proof of vaccination against Covid-19 for international travel as the only pathway or condition permitting international travel given limited global access and inequitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. State parties should consider a risk-based approach to the facilitation of international travel by lifting or modifying measures, such as testing and/or quarantine requirements, when appropriate, in accordance with the WHO guidance.”

    Read more …

    The fun is in the details: no more mask in one week’s time. But you can still be fined for not wearing one till then.

    • England Ends All COVID Passports, Mask Mandates, Work Restrictions (ET)

    Restrictions including COVID-19 passes, mask mandates, and work-from-home guidance will be removed in England, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday. Johnson also suggested that self-isolation rules may also be thrown out at the end of March as the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic becomes endemic. Effective immediately, the UK government is no longer asking people to work from home. The COVID pass mandate for nightclubs and large events won’t be renewed when it expires on Jan. 26. Also from Jan. 27, indoor mask-wearing will no longer be compulsory anywhere in England. The requirement for secondary school pupils to wear masks during class and in communal areas will be lifted on Jan. 20.

    The Department for Education is expected to update its national guidance soon. Health Secretary Sajid Jajid will also announce plans to ease restrictions on care home visits in the coming days. Roaring cheers from lawmakers could be heard in the House of Commons following Johnson’s announcements on masks. People who test positive for COVID-19 and their unvaccinated contacts are still required to self-isolate, but Johnson said he “very much expect[s] not to renew” the rule when the relevant regulations expire on March 24. “As COVID becomes endemic, we will need to replace legal requirements with advice and guidance, urging people with the virus to be careful and considerate of others,” the prime minister said.

    220,000 U.S. employees. Many companies must follow.

    • Starbucks Says Will No Longer Require Vaccine Or Testing For Employees (JTN)

    Starbucks has opted to do away with its COVID-19 vaccine requirement following a decision last week by the Supreme Court that blocked the Biden administration’s attempt to mandate vaccine requirements for large U.S. companies. “We respect the court’s ruling and will comply,” John Culver, chief operating officer for the major coffee shop chain, said Tuesday. The company will continue to encourage employees to get vaccinated, but the shots will not be a requisite of employment.

    They basically came out and said: the vaccines don’t work: “32% effectiveness against Omicron infection, which wanes to in effective zero 20 weeks later..

    But dismissal letters are ready to get sent in 2 weeks.

    • Health Department Warning Over Vaccine Mandate For NHS Staff In England (G.)

    Ministers have been issued with a stark warning over mandatory Covid vaccines for NHS workers in England, with a leaked document saying growing evidence on the Omicron variant casts doubts over the new law’s “rationality” and “proportionality”. Two jabs will become compulsory for frontline NHS staff from 1 April after MPs voted on the legislation last month. But the document, drawn up by Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) officials and seen by the Guardian, said the evidence base on which MPs voted “has changed”, creating a higher chance of objections and judicial review. The effectiveness of only two vaccine doses against Omicron, and the lower likelihood of hospitalisations from the milder variant, are cited. More than 70,000 NHS staff – 4.9% – could remain unvaccinated by 1 April, the document says. NHS trusts in England are preparing to start sending dismissal letters from 3 February to any member of staff who has not had their first dose by then.

    [..] The document prepared by DHSC officials noted that two vaccine doses provide up to 32% effectiveness against Omicron infection, which wanes to in effective zero 20 weeks later. At the time the policy was developed, two-dose effectiveness against infection with the Delta variant was substantially higher – 65% with Oxford/AstraZeneca and 80% with Pfizer/BioNTech, the DHSC memo said. Booster jabs have since been shown to be highly effective but are not part of the law for NHS workers. The document says: “While Omicron is more transmissible there appears to be a substantially lower risk of hospitalisation and mortality for those vaccinated vs Delta. “The low VE [vaccine effectiveness] against infection (and consequently effect on transmission) plus the lower risk posed by Omicron brings into question both the rationality of the VCOD2 policy and its proportionality and makes the case for vaccination requirement weaker than when [ministers] decided on the policy.

    “..It’s the scariest time to be an American, and thank goodness half of Americans didn’t take it.”

    ….McCullough believes that eventually people will break out of the jab trance and realize that the answer isn’t these injections, while the handling of the pandemic, including mass jabs, will become a course in violation of human ethics and the Nuremberg code. With fear, isolation, hospitalizations and deaths still occurring, however, it may take years before the fog is lifted.The vaccinators are deranged lunatics, and whatever happens with Corona, we now face a prolonged, multi-year struggle to retain control of our bodies and our bloodstreams. This is what I get from COVID-19: What’s Next?, a World Economic Forum panel discussion featuring Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel. Like everything produced by the WEF, it’s stultifying, boring and terrifying all at the same time. Below the fold, I’ve transcribed the key moments for you, but the takeaways are simple enough:

    —Moderna, just one of multiple pharmaceuticals eager to exploit our new vaccine mania, are expanding their manufacturing capacity to produce as many as 6 billion mRNA vaccine doses per year. —Moderna will have an Omicron-specific vaccine as early as March, and they won’t be the only ones. The compliant triple jabbed can look forward to having their fully vaccinated status revoked once again. —Moderna are working in close collaboration with “Dr. Fauci’s team” and with public health experts to develop an annual combined mRNA flu, RSV and Corona vaccine to reduce “compliance issues.” —The industry more broadly has targeted about 20 pathogens for vaccine development, from Zika to Nipah, with a view towards being able to rapidly deploy mRNA vaccines against future virus threats.

    Social distancing doesn’t work: The MIT study came out in April, 2021 that showed social distancing makes no difference.
    https://stevekirsch.substack.com/p/the-narrative-is-falling-apart-piece

    CJ Hopkins, The Last Days of the Covidian Cult
    ​ ​This isn’t going to be pretty, folks. The downfall of a death cult rarely is. There is going to be wailing and gnashing of teeth, incoherent fanatical jabbering, mass deleting of embarrassing tweets. There’s going to be a veritable tsunami of desperate rationalizing, strenuous denying, shameless blame-shifting, and other forms of ass-covering, as suddenly former Covidian Cult members make a last-minute break for the jungle before the fully-vaxxed-and-boosted “Safe and Effective Kool-Aid” servers get to them.
    ​ ​Yes, that’s right, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, the official Covid narrative is finally falling apart, or is being hastily disassembled, or historically revised, right before our eyes. The “experts” and “authorities” are finally acknowledging that the “Covid deaths” and “hospitalization” statistics are artificially inflated and totally unreliable (which they have been from the very beginning), and they are admitting that their miracle “vaccines” don’t work (unless you change the definition of the word “vaccine”), and that they have killed a few people, or maybe more than a few people, and that lockdowns were probably “a serious mistake.”​ …

    ​https://www.theautomaticearth.com/2022/01/debt-rattle-january-20-2022/

    So there it is: everything LINO has been saying (and still) say is absolute bollocks ad in defiance of the scientific evidence.

    When do they come clean? Never?

    Face masks no longer required because they don’t prevent the movement of coronaviruses.

    Social distancing no longer required because coronaviruses are killed by exposure to air and sunlight.

    International travel restriction removed because they make no difference to the spread of coronaviruses.

    The last domino of the entire government-promulgated bollocks narratives to fall will be the fake messenger RNA ‘vaccines’, which have no efficacy in reducing infection, no efficacy in reducing transmission and little or no efficacy in reducing symptoms.

    However, once the entire government narrative has fallen apart (in a few weeks time?) we will have the legacy of a large portion of the populace walking round with spike protein generators in the cells of their bodies; we might hope that their bodies will be able to eliminate these contaminants; some scientists believe tis will never happen and that irreparable damage has been done to a large portion of the populace by all the totally unnecessary jabbing.

    We do know for certain that every day LINO (or any other government that serves banks and corporations) remains in power, the worse everything will be made [by them].

    And the best that LINO can manage is to waste time and resources on ‘Hate Speech’ and other counterproductive legislation as we enter the Great Collapse that is due to government ineptitude, corruption and plain stupidity over many decades.

  16. I’m afraid ‘afew’ I really don’t care if antivaxxers want to use a million and one facile arguments to justify their stupidity….I only have sympathy for the people they infect and possibly kill….

  17. Hate speech laws are only obstacles for bad writers. Good writers can always say whatever they want in clever ways

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