Free Speech Union spokesperson Dane Giraud takes with stalwart unionist Matt McCarten on the importance of free speech in the labour movement, his perspective on this vital issue from the Left, and the dangers in the proposed changes.
Free Speech Update: Dictionary definition of "woman" = hate speech 🤬 | Army defeated by essay 👀 | Speakeasy invite 🗣️
This update is a little longer than usual – the team has been busy with both the 'hate speech' campaign and the new attacks by New Zealand's would-be censors. As you'll see below, even the NZ Army has gone woke – censoring an essay competition winner that, well, argued that being able to fight as an army is as important as diversity. We're also inviting you to our first "Speakeasy" event on Thursday 22 July.Read more
If embed does not work, access the briefing paper by clicking here.
HERE’S ONE for the “We told you so!” file. Ever since Auckland Mayor, Phil Goff, personally declared Stefan Molyneaux and Cheryl Southernpersonae non grata in his city, or, more accurately, in the venues controlled by his city, the Editor of The Daily Blog and I have been warning that such bans can, and will, be used by authoritarians of all stripes to suppress freedom of expression.
Daily Blog Editor, Martyn Bradbury, also warned that such a heavy-handed example of censorship by the Left would be seized upon by the Right and turned to the electoral advantage of its principal representatives – the National and Act parties. In this regard, he has been proved entirely correct. Act’s leader, David Seymour, in particular, has emerged as Parliament’s most effective standard-bearer for Free Speech – a cause formerly associated, almost exclusively, with the Left.
At the time of Goff’s ban, I waited impatiently for the New Zealand Civil Liberties Union to come out swinging on behalf of this most precious of civil liberties. When no such defence of free speech was mounted from that quarter, I felt morally obliged to throw in my lot with the Free Speech Coalition – the group of mostly conservative activists summoned into existence by Goff’s high-handed intervention. That “coalition” has now become the Free Speech Union, an incorporated society modelled on the British interest group of the same name.
Right on cue, just as the FSU had finished putting on its armour and was in the process of sharpening its sword, the Labour Government released its proposed legislative remedies for “hate speech”. Something tells me that the drums of a full-scale propaganda war will soon be beating on this issue. The government and its friends should be looking to their own harness. The fate of the Left seems likely to turn on the outcome of this looming ideological encounter.
And if the Left loses? If issues like Hate Speech and He Puapua carry the Right to a stunning victory? What should the Left expect then?
One possible version of the future was played out this week in the US state of Texas.
According to the left-wing American publication/website Mother Jones, two radical historians, Chris Tomlinson and Bryan Burrough, were supposed to give a talk at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin about Forget the Alamo, a new book they co-authored with Jason Stanford.
Written in the same anti-colonialist spirit as our own proudly revisionist New Zealand history curriculum, their book “sets out to dispel the myths of the Republic of Texas’ founding”. [The Republic of Texas was founded in 1836 by land-hungry American settlers seeking to add another slave state to the USA, and to get around the highly inconvenient problem that in the newly independent Republic of Mexico, of which Tejas was still a province, slavery had been abolished.]
But, when news of this event reached the ears of the Republican state government of Texas, its representatives on the “Preservation Board” of the museum peremptorily cancelled the authors’ talk.
“I think we’ve been censored”, Tomlinson told the media. Texas’s Lieutenant-Governor, Dan Patrick, was only too happy to confirm the author’s suspicion. “As a member of the Preservation Board, I told staff to cancel this event as soon as I found out about it. Like efforts to move the Cenotaph, which I also stopped, this fact-free rewriting of TX history has no place”, Patrick tweeted.
Now, if this story is ringing your memory bells, then so it should. In its shape, the Texas incident not only conforms neatly with the behaviour of Mayor Goff in response to the visit of Molyneaux and Southern, but also with that of the Vice-Chancellor of Massey University who “cancelled” Don Brash, and also with the local authorities that denied their venues to the trans-gender-sceptical group “Speak Up For Women”.
Were the New Zealand equivalents of Tomlinsin, Burroughs and Stanford to be denied access to Te Papa by a right-wing New Zealand Government, similarly citing the authors’ “fact-free” re-interpretation of New Zealand’s colonial history, their supporters would be outraged. They would not, however, find it easy to mount a credible objection. Their failure to speak up for freedom of expression in the cases of Molyneaux and Southern, Don Brash and SUFW, would undermine any objections they attempted to make, and expose them to charges of inconsistency, double-standards, and the most rank hypocrisy.
No doubt they would find reasons why “their” case was different. No doubt “progressive” speech must always be considered exempt from censorship. The right-wingers de-platformed by mayors, vice-chancellors and local authorities would all, I’m sure, be dismissed as “hate speech” criminals with no rights worthy of protection. What’s more, in the ears of their comrades such defences would sound entirely convincing.
Alas, in the ears of those who still believe in that classic defence of free speech (customarily attributed to Voltaire) “I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” my guess is that the Left’s self-serving justifications will sound a lot more like excuses.
Originally posted on www.thedailyblog.co.nz 9th July 2021
We've been following the events of the NZ Army's decision to pull one of the winners of its essay competition from its "KEA" website. We approached NZDF earlier in the week and received the apologetic response (no, not apologizing for the de-platforming, but for publishing it in the first place! 🤦) on behalf of NZDF. We've copied it at the end of this post.
Your humble Free Speech Union is republishing the article so you can judge for yourself. If the NZ's armed forces won't defend our human rights, we need to! We hope you'll support us - and invite members of our armed forces to exercise their rights and sign up as a supporter.
New Zealand Chief of Army Writing Competition Winner of the New Zealand Defence Force Private Writing Category May 2021.
Can the Army Afford to go Woke, Benign Social Progress or National Security Threat
By Mr N. Dell
I write this essay fully aware of the backlash and, at times, real world consequences afforded to the authors of similar documents in the current socio-political climate. Nevertheless, I would invoke the NZ Army ethos ‘3CI’ – particularly ‘Courage’ and ‘Integrity’ – in defence of the opinion I will express herein. The open discussion of any issue must be possible without fear of repercussions on both sides of the debate if the best outcome is ever to be reached. That is the fundamental value of free speech that permits the free enquiry, self-reflection, self-criticism and peer review that underpin our scientific and academic edifices and, in fact, our entire civilisation.
I will argue that the NZ Army cannot reconcile a more diverse and inclusive workforce with the maintenance of a warrior ethos and war-fighting culture or at least, it should not try. Further it should redirect as little energy as possible toward creating a more ‘inclusive’ culture in the way that this kind of language is understood in the politically-charged parlance of the present day. On the contrary, I will argue that, if anything, the Army should instead endeavour to become more exclusive.
I was only made aware of this writing competition by my chain of command today, the final day for submissions, so my essay will not contain any academic citations or supporting material but will instead be my own opinion based on my own observations and experience. This opinion may be unpopular, especially with that vocal minority in the civilian world who have become so enamoured with so-called ‘Woke’ culture. However, I suspect that many of the arguments I put forward will resonate with the quiet majority, especially in the military.
The Right Kind of Diversity:
In the present discourse ‘diversity’ is generally read as diversity of race, gender and sexual orientation – that is diversity based on ‘identity’ (I will demarcate this conception of ‘Diversity’ henceforth with a capital ‘D’). Ironically, I believe the Army has actually done a good job in terms of racial inclusivity with Maori over-represented, relative to the population (according to a quick Google search). During basic training we are taught that the cultural foundation of the Army is built upon a proud tradition of Maori warrior culture being interwoven with regimental British military doctrine. This is further expressed in the iconography and ceremony of the Army with Haka performed alongside traditional British-style military drill, as one example. This synergy of cultures is one of the unique features of the NZ Army that I am sure has contributed to its reputation for ‘punching above its weight’ in theatres of war across the globe.
This may seem like a ‘slam-dunk’ against my argument. However, increasing focus on these identity-based notions of Diversity only sews greater division and dischord in society and would, I fear, within the Army too. This is not meant to diminish the value of the fusion of cultures, the merits of which I just laid out. Rather, I argue that a deliberate effort to engineer diversity will do more harm than good. In fact, to focus on identity goes against the well-known Army maxim of colour-blindness: ‘we are all green’.
The trend over the past five to six years to increasingly focus on race, gender and sexual orientation feels like a return to a pre-social revolution era where these arbitrary features of a person were given so much more weight than they deserve. Their return to the spotlight has been undeniably corrosive to society and the political sphere, which appears to have grown to encompass everything. Instead, the kinds of diversity that should matter to an organisation like the Army are diversity of opinion, experience, attitude, class and background. Again, in my experience, the Army already excels in this area.
The Threat from ‘Diversity’ and ‘Inclusion’:
The ‘Woke’ culture that has led to the popular preoccupation with Diversity and inclusion is antithetical to the Army’s ethos and values. It is built on the notion that feelings are more important than facts. It asserts that everyone is the same while promoting the merits of Diversity. It shuns notions of excellence and meritocracy. It diminishes personal responsibility and erodes resilience, even rejecting the notion that resilience is a virtue. Social media has been the vector for this intellectual contagion and evidence has even surfaced that this has been cynically aided and abetted by belligerent foreign governments with the explicit goal of weakening western democracy. We must not capitulate to our enemies’ efforts.
The primary threat of any effort to be more ‘Diverse’ and ‘inclusive’ is opportunity cost. Put simply, every resource that we divert toward programmes aimed at improving Diversity and Inclusion is a resource that is not available to be used for the Army’s only responsibility: to protect New Zealand. Whether that is in preparing for wars or fighting them (or civil defence). Every man-hour that is spent on ‘cultural awareness training’ or similar programmes is a man-hour that is not spent training for combat or monitoring our enemies. How are they spending their man-hours?
The second key area where Diversity and Inclusion could harm our effectiveness is in recruitment. Recruiting based on a concerted effort to increase Diversity necessarily comes at the expense of recruiting the best candidates. If the current policy of (presumably) recruiting the best candidates for their roles does not produce the desired Diversity outcomes, then the conflict is self-evident.
While these considerations are at the discretion of private companies and individuals in the civilian world, there is no room for them in the military where performance is, by definition, a matter of life and death. As the Defence Force we have sworn an oath to defend New Zealand and compromising our ability to do so, to any degree, is a violation of that responsibility. We must not be lulled into a false sense of security by the relative peace which we enjoy and succumb to the luxury of being able to concern ourselves with these issues. A peace which was bought with blood by those men and officers that went before us. In fact, it is our duty not to.
Where the Army should be more inclusive:
Despite what I have written so far, there are some areas where I believe that the Army could be more inclusive so as to better uphold its duty to the nation. The first is to relax or eliminate some of the somewhat arbitrary ‘defects’ that disqualify a prospective recruit from joining, in spite of the net balance of qualities that that candidate may bring to the Army. For example, certain medical or mental health conditions or even histories may be automatically disqualifying. Especially as medical technology and understanding improves, it would seem that many of these conditions may no longer effect a soldier or officer’s ability to perform their duties and could go the way of ‘flat feet’.
Though the role of the Army has never changed, many of the roles within the Army are changing. Especially with the advent of cyber warfare and increased reliance on technology in general. Thus, the soldier of the future is not only the fighting soldier – for whom strength and endurance of body and will are paramount – but also the computer technician. There is also a role for civilians employed by the Army to play in this. As roles continue to expand and evolve, a different culture will evolve alongside them. This must be a culture that is hospitable to the kinds of people that will be needed to fill roles behind computer terminals rather than behind guns. However, the still-present maxim of ‘soldier first’ necessitates that everyone who wears the beret must also be prepared and able to fight the enemy in the traditional sense. Therefore, the standards must never be lowered to accommodate inclusion, ‘the lives of the people to your left and right’ depend on it. The Army will never be for everyone and that is not a bad thing.
Where the Army could be more exclusive:
As the use of technology increasingly comes to dominate the battlefield, required numbers of personnel may decline. A commensurate improvement in the quality of those personnel may be desirable. Rather than being more inclusive, standards should be raised to maintain effectiveness with this smaller force. Budgetary constraints may also play a role as capital replaces labour. Personnel capable of operating the technology being deployed will be required and it could be an opportunity to double down on the small, elite nature of the NZ Army. Special operations forces have consistently shown that a small number of highly trained, highly motivated and well-equipped soldiers can have a disproportionate impact on the battlefield. Additionally, with fewer numbers, higher pay could be offered to attract ‘higher quality’ recruits. This could make the Army a career that young New Zealanders aspire to, rather than resort to.
I appreciate that if this piece were to win the writing competition, the optics may not be as desirable as one expressing the opposing viewpoint. I also understand that attracting recruits, public opinion and therefore, potentially, funding may depend on those optics. These considerations may in themselves necessitate the adoption of Diversity and Inclusion policies. However, I challenge the NZ Army to draw on its ‘3CI’ values and to continue to have the courage to do the thankless work of defending a nation that often may not appreciate the security it provides. To allow itself to become embroiled in these ‘culture wars’ would be an embarrassment, especially to the older generation of veterans and to the memory of those who paid the ultimate price. The Army should stick to fighting real wars.
Response to our request for comment and explanation of the take-down:
Please attribute the following statement to the Chief of Army, Major General John Boswell.
Soon after announcing the winners of the Chief of Army’s Writing Competition, I asked that this essay be taken down from the KEA website. I made this decision when it became clear that publishing it was being seen as endorsement of the views contained within it, which could not be further from the truth.
The New Zealand Army is one that strives to be inclusive and values diversity. The views that were expressed in the essay are not compatible with the Army’s values and the culture we are building, and I unreservedly apologise to anyone who saw publication of the essay as endorsement of the views that were contained within it.
There were two entries in the Private Soldiers’ category. All entries are considered by a panel and a recommendation was made to me for which essay should be awarded winner in each category. The final decision however, was mine. I made that decision solely because I believed it the better written of the submissions received within that category, exclusive of the subject matter. I accept the error in that determination.
The Free Speech Union is pleased to welcome aboard its newest member, National Party Leader, the Hon Judith Collins, and believe it is the first time a serving leader of the National Party has joined a registered trade union.
Since our launch a few weeks ago, hundreds of New Zealanders have signed up to our trade union to promote free speech. We welcome the Leader of the Opposition, as we will every MP who subscribes to our values.
As far as we know, this is the first time a serving National Party leader has ever been a member of a registered trade union. Traditionally, it has been left-wing unions who fought for the idea that employees are not servants 24/7 - that what you do and say in your private life is of no business to employers. That’s the value we need to reestablish, and something we encourage other unions to reassert.
Whether it be ‘values’, overreaching ‘codes of conduct' or ‘health and safety' excuses - employers cannot force employees to subscribe to political views. That’s why we created this trade union to protect freedom of speech.
Even for politicians, freedom of speech is under threat. Private American owned corporates are blocking what our political parties can say online, MPs are still subject to the ‘Waka Jumping laws’ - which can see list MPs sacked for not towing the Party line - and in local government, some councils are asserting that elected officials are only allowed to talk to the media with permission from council officers."
It’s time to return to freedom of speech being the default. We can’t have a healthy democracy without people being willing to disagree respectfully, and promoting tolerance - even accepting the risk of being offended.
Ms Colin’s politics do not align with many members of our Union Council. But that is the point of free speech, isn’t it?
Politicians of all political stripes are encouraged to stand for free speech, and join the Free Speech Union at www.fsu.nz/join
We've had a number of enquiries over recent weeks about events involving controversial YouTuber Lee Williams (no relation) – who first came to our attention after media reported on apparent "white supremacist statements" and a campaign by the Twitter "community" to have Mr Williams sacked and more.
I saw a few minutes of a clip in which he mocks one of the Maori Party Co-leaders. I personally found it unsophisticated and offensive, but free speech advocacy will always mean defending views you yourself may find objectionable. I would’ve appreciated the opportunity to view more of Mr. Williams material but, as many of you are aware, YouTube has removed his videos.
Our Union was also contacted by Mr Williams some weeks ago via Facebook. I went back and asked some questions. That is standard. We need to assess the risk of being blindsided with properly unlawful expression. The response I got was a link to another video (long, and not related to the questions I was asking). We waited for answers. We do not consider going into bat for someone’s rights without trying to know the low-water mark of what will be disclosed in response. Those we assist have an obligation to help us protect and strengthen the Union’s reputation.
So, any further action couldn’t progress. If we had been properly satisfied, we would’ve most likely partnered Mr Williams with an employment lawyer. But nevertheless, I was shocked to subsequently learn that Westpac had apparently revoked Lee Williams' bank accounts (and will refuse to provide any banking services whatsoever from the end of the month) because Mr Williams was giving his account details out so that people can fund his defence.
This development is of serious concern to the Free Speech Union for two major reasons.
Even if Mr Williams was deservedly as unpopular as his opponent’s paint, it is deeply unsettling that a foreign bank feels entitled to withdraw services on the basis of an online campaign to, effectively, ruin this man's life because of his political opinions. The least the bank might want to do is respect NZ law which forbids discrimination in the provision of services, on the basis of political opinion. If we were to mount no challenge to this, it could set a seriously worrying precedent.
It's also a potential recipe for disaster. If Mr Williams really is 'far right', a conspiracy theorist, or at risk of ‘acting out’ inspired by an extreme ideology (as the Twitter mob claims), what better way to send someone over the edge than by removing him from the internet, culling his job, and now even his access to banking services? The behaviour of the mob in this case could very well be creating a security threat. If we allow them to get into the habit of this style of harassment, we may end up seeing tragedy.
So, we decided to act. I was asked to prepare a letter to Westpac asking for clarification, but our recent support for ‘Speak Up for Women’ meant that the letter sat on my desk for a few weeks in draft form. But it is now sent. In my emailed cover note to CEO Simon Power, I gave the bank a week for a response before we would make a public comment (over and above to our supporters, on this website) or speak to the media about Westpac's behaviour.
In defending free speech, we are never defending individuals but arguably the central liberal principle. I shared my own views on Mr Williams material, but ultimately my personal views are immaterial to the defence of free speech. If activists have the power to close their political opponents' bank accounts and prevent them from supporting themselves, this is a development that will have disastrous consequences for this country. After mounting a successful "campaign", who will they have their sights on tomorrow?
Obviously, we need more facts from Westpac, and should have them soon. When we do, we will report back to you. If we are confident the closing of these accounts is discriminatory, we will fight it for the benefit of all New Zealanders.
Update: A supporter has flagged this piece of PR put out by Westpac: Westpac offers bank accounts to help newly-released prisoners re-integrate into society. So Westpac are actively helping (and rightly so) convicted criminals reintegrate into society yet are doing the opposite for Lee Williams who is guilty of saying stupid things.
Joint media release issued by the Free Speech Union and Speak Up for Women
Today, Justice Gerald Nation granted Speak UP for Women interim relief against Palmerston North City Council, meaning their meeting to discuss the controversial sex self-identification clauses within the Births, Death, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill will go ahead tonight in the Palmerston North Central Library at 6:30pm as planned.
In handing down the decision, Justice Nation noted: "Having considered the evidence and submissions of counsel, the Court grants the applicant the relief sought and makes an order that the licence to occupy created by the agreement to hire the mezzanine meeting space at the Palmerston North City Library between 6.30 pm and 8.00 pm on 25 June 2021 continues in force. Reasons will follow in due course."
Speak Up For Women had also issued proceedings seeking an order that Auckland Council allow a booking for the Ellen Melville Centre on Sunday to proceed, for a similar meeting to be held. During the legal proceedings, it was disclosed by Auckland Council that they had identified a unique critical risk with the event proceeding at that location. Given this risk, Speak Up For Women agreed to the offer of a new location, and Auckland Council agreed to make a Public Statement which will be released before 5 PM today.
The event in Auckland will now be held in a room within the Council owned Town Hall complex at the original time and date of 6:30pm on Sunday 27 June.
"This case was important as it vindicates our group - believing that biological sex matters and should not be replaced by the idea of ‘gender identity’ in law is worthy of respect in a democratic society, and so entitled to protection under the right to freedom of expression" says Beth Johnson, spokeswoman for Speak Up For Women.
In the hearing, counsel for both Auckland and Palmerston North City Councils acknowledged that it was neither Councils’ position that the case was about "hate speech".
Rachel Poulain from Free Speech Union says "we’re delighted by this result - it’s a win for free speech in New Zealand, at least when it comes to Councils trying to deplatform views or groups they don’t like."
Ms Johnson says: "As we are a grass-roots women’s group made up of volunteers, our funding comes solely from small donations. With the help of the Free Speech Union, we are crowdfunding to cover our legal costs. We hope to find support beyond feminist circles from New Zealanders who value freedom of speech as we do and who share our concerns about censorious public officials bowing to pressure from activists.
New Zealanders who wish to support this effort to stand for free speech are encouraged to donate to the litigation fund at www.fsu.nz/speak_up or to 06-0323-0706649-01. Donations to the fund will remain confidential to Speak Up for Women and the Free Speech Union.
Media release from the Free Speech Union
The Free Speech Union is reacting with concern to the Government's plan to make speech criminal and says the proposals will go no way towards making New Zealand a safer and more tolerant society.
The law would change so that a person who intentionally incites, stirs up, maintains or normalises hatred against any protected group of people, would be liable for up to three years in prison if they did so by being threatening, abusive or even insulting.
Spokesperson for Union, David Cumin says, "The government claims these changes to hate speech laws will promote social cohesion. The opposite is true - legislating hatred out of existence is a hopeless expectation. What's more, the government is yet to provide examples of the speech they intend these provisions to capture."
"The ambiguity of certain words in the legislation such as ‘insulting’ imports a real risk that speech may fall within the ambit for prosecution that was never intended to be criminalised by those envisioning the proposals."
"Free speech has to mean the ability to insult. Democracy can’t work if the powers at be can deem certain arguments or speech as illegal."
"Alarmingly, being found guilty of hate speech would carry a higher penalty than some violent offences. In any event, a lengthy prison sentence is unlikely to be the best mechanism to make an intolerant person rethink their views, if anything, it will push them into dark corners that would make violence a more tangible possibility."
"New Zealanders should prepare for the very real possibility that those who take offence to tweets, crass statements or unsavoury protests will run to law-enforcement to have their offence indulged. The Union has already been contacted by members of Police concerned about having to enforce these proposals. While the ambit for successful prosecution may be high, overseas experience has shown that the introduction of such laws has resulted in law enforcement consistently missing the mark, and has created a structure allowing for legal harassment of the state against citizens, even if they are ultimately found not guilty."
"The Free Speech Union will be fighting these proposals and invite all Kiwis who value this human right to join us."