ACT is responsible for Stuart Nash’s departure. The former Police Minister’s primetime radio boast that he rang up the Police Commissioner to try and interfere in a prosecution decision was wrong and also breathtakingly stupid.

THE HAPS

ACT is responsible for Stuart Nash’s departure. The former Police Minister’s primetime radio boast that he rang up the Police Commissioner to try and interfere in a prosecution decision was wrong and also breathtakingly stupid. Yet it would have been missed except for David Seymour’s alertness. He heard it, nearly choked on his cornflakes, spelled out that Maurice Williamson resigned in similar circumstances, and Nash had to go.

WE WON'T SAY WE TOLD YOU SO... BUT

A series of recent reactions to public speakers has shown why we could never trust any Government to enforce so-called ‘hate speech’ laws. ACT campaigned for years to defeat Labour’s ‘hate speech’ law, and Free Press argued many times that free speech is the foundation of a free society, because the first thing dictators do is shut down free speech.

Putin is a good example. There is a small group of New Zealanders who believe Vladimir Putin is bravely defending Russia and Ukraine against the West. The difference is they can openly express their views and the only consequence they’ll suffer is people think they’re nuts. They should try going to Moscow and wonder aloud if this whole thing’s a good idea. In fact, Free Press will buy the first willing volunteer a (one way) ticket.

Tyranny can’t co-exist with free speech, but once free speech goes, other freedoms are sure to follow because you can no longer defend them. As Free Press has argued many times, the problem with hate speech laws is that they’re inconsistent with the rule of law.

Labour’s proposed hate speech laws would outlaw speech that was ‘threatening, abusive or insulting.’ The problem was, who decides what’s insulting? It’s one thing to ban incitement, saying things that encourage people to break a law in the Crimes Act. Ditto threatening someone with violence. Those are a question of fact, you either said so or you didn’t.

But ‘insulting?’ Well, one person’s joke is another’s intolerable insult, and whether charges are laid or guilt is established is entirely a matter of taste. It would be impossible to look up the law and find out what would break it, or use the law to prove your innocence if charged, because whether a crime has been committed is entirely a matter of opinion.

That brings us to recent events. Event one: Tusiata Avia’s poem about stabbing James Cook, his decendents, and ‘white men like him,’ who, after all, might be thieves, rapists and murderers, too. Just a bit of incitement to violence and casual racism, nothing to worry about, right?

It received $107,000 in taxpayer funding from Creative New Zealand, and a glowing review on Stuff. There no condemnation from the Human Rights Commission despite hundreds of complaints. Only when Sean Plunket from The Platform dragged Meng Foon kicking and screaming did he condemn it. The whole interview is priceless. We’ve always believed Meng Foon was not up to the role.

Meanwhile, the democratically elected Mayor of Invercargill in a speech to artists about artistic freedom used the N-word to make a point about free speech. It was a rhetorical exercise, with no malice intended, let alone threatened or incited. Of course, you know what’s coming next. Meng Foon jumped on this immediately, saying it was all terrible.

Then there’s the case of the activist speaker talking about gender identity. This is an area that a lot of people are very interested in. There are people who genuinely believe their sex at birth doesn’t match their gender. We should take them seriously, and try to accommodate their wishes.

However accommodating transgender people raises all sorts of interesting and important questions. Are there times when sex at birth still matters and sex separation is justified, such as in sports like boxing or segregation in prisons? How early, if at all, should state schools teach children that some people may wish to identify as a different gender? Are terms like ‘pregnant people’ and ‘chest feeding’ a necessary and reasonable accommodation to make transgender people feel more included, or are they just reality-denying insanity?

These are all questions that in a healthy society people should be able to debate. However a woman, Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshul, wishing to speak on the topic may well be blocked from entering the country. The media have gone berserk, reporting the Green Party line that this speaker is somehow a danger to trans New Zealanders.

It looks possible, if not likely, that Immigration New Zealand will invoke Section 16 of the Immigration Act, saying the woman is a threat to public order (because people expressing neo-Nazi views attended her meeting in Melbourne, she claims to have and want nothing to do with them).

Three examples of speech. Clearly the worst, which incites murder, got glowing reviews, taxpayer funding, and only hesitant and minimal criticism from the Human Rights Commission. The second, a genuine attempt at rhetorical discussion, condemned with the democratically elected Mayor called on to resign. The third, highly questionable but looking likely to go the way of the second.

After watching all this there are two conclusions. The Human Rights Commission’s selective criticism is in itself discriminatory. The Commission is now acting against human rights and needs to get gone. Second, because the public, media, and government organisations are so selective in their condemnation, we will never have free speech if we rely on them to apply subjective standards like ‘insulting‘.

Hate speech laws can never achieve their stated purpose, but they can seriously damage the foundation of a free society. That is why we must always oppose them.


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