Pages tagged "Censorship"

  • Free Speech Union Academic Advisory Council Statement on the Listener Letter

    The Free Speech Union unequivocally supports the free expression of seven distinguished New Zealand academics who recently authored a letter to The Listener, titled, In Defence of Science as well as the free expression of their critics.

    We neither support nor oppose the argument in question, but instead defend the right to express honestly-held views, free of individual or institutional attempts to diminish or suppress them. In this regard the authors and some of their critics differ: Whereas the letter to The Listener comprised only a reasoned argument – whether or not it is deemed valid and sound – some critics have resorted to ad hominem attacks on the authors, in particular accusing them – both directly and by implication – of racism. We encourage critics to engage in a constructive, evidence-based way, rather than making allegations that seem intended to damage reputations or careers.

    Indeed, one of the defining characteristics of New Zealand universities (under s 268(2)(d)(i)(E) of the Education and Training Act 2020), is that they perform “a role of critic and conscience of society.” This, in turn, requires universities to provide an environment in which academic staff can express ideas without fear of retribution or persecution – where they can question and test received wisdom and to state controversial or unpopular ideas [s 267(4)(a)]. It also creates an expectation that university authorities will tolerate a broad variety of views, and will defend staff from any pressure they may face as a consequence of expressing those views.

    It is, therefore, deeply concerning that among the critics were Professor Dawn Freshwater, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Auckland – where all of the authors of the letter are resident – and the Tertiary Education Union, to which many academics belong. The criticisms levelled by these organisations warrant especial comment.

    In a public statement, Professor Freshwater affirmed the authors' right to express their views, but also implied they had disrespected mātauranga Māori, asserting that "mātauranga Māori [is] a distinctive and valuable knowledge system". There is nothing, however, in letter to The Listener that contradicts that assertion, and by making this a caveat to her affirmation of the authors right to free expression, Professor Freshwater risks impugning their reputations unfairly. In their letter, the authors argue that mātauranga Māori and science are epistemically distinct, and that "indigenous knowledge is critical for the preservation and perpetuation of culture ... and plays key roles in management and policy". A charitable reading of their letter would therefore suggest that the authors agree with Professor Freshwater that mātauranga Māori is valuable.

    It is worth noting that The Science Learning Hub – Pokapū Akoranga Pūtaiao, an integral component of the New Zealand Government’s Science in Society Plan seems to agree with the authors, stating that "Mātauranga Māori is a knowledge base in its own right. It is Māori knowledge, including values and culture. It is different from modern science" (emphasis added).

    Scholars within a university frequently disagree, and the role of university itself is to maintain the ground on which that disagreement can take place, in good faith and in a scholarly fashion. That means that the university, like the FSU, ought to take a neutral stance, to defend unequivocally the right and duty of its academics to make good-faith arguments, and to defend them from unfair attacks on their reputations. Instead, Professor Freshwater’s statement has made it more difficult for academics at her university to voice honestly-hold views on contentious topics in the future.

    Dr Barry Hughes, also at the University of Auckland, wrote a letter on behalf of the TEU to the authors. Like Professor Freshwater, he opened by affirming that the authors are entitled to express their views, but informed them that “[TEU] members found your letter “offensive”, “racist”, and reflective of a patronising, neo-colonial mindset in which your undefined version of “science” is superior to – rather than complementary to – indigenous knowledge”. Dr Hughes went on to accuse the authors of being confused about what science is, of taking it to comprise “a set of indisputable facts about the world” and of “[presuming] that nothing is really known until it is known scientifically”. He concluded by asserting that “[the authors’] letter was damaging without being enlightening”. There is nothing in the letter to The Listener that, to our reading, justifies any of those acerbic accusations. It is outrageous for a representative of an organisation with a duty to protect academic freedom to make such baseless claims, and in such heated terms, in response to an argument put forward in good faith. Like Professor Freshwater’s statement, such a missive can only serve to make academics feel less safe to venture honestly-held views on contentious issues in the future and to render statements affirming free expression as lip-service only. We are not confident that the TEU would wholeheartedly fight for the free speech of members they disagree with should they need to.

    It is lamentable that the Vice Chancellor of the University of Auckland and the TEU have taken such strong stances against the letter to The Listener, rather than encouraging respectful debate. In this context their comments about free expression come across as hollow platitudes. The net effect of the comments will be to chill scholarly debate, not to promote it.

    The Free Speech Union is committed to supporting all academics to freely engage in debate. If you would like to join us at the Free Speech Union, go to fsu.co.nz.

  • Unconvincing Excuses: What Will the Left Say When the Right Starts Cancelling Its Speakers?

    HERE’S ONE for the “We told you so!” file. Ever since Auckland Mayor, Phil Goff, personally declared Stefan Molyneaux and Cheryl Southern personae 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?

    TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

    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.

    Unconvincing excuses.

    Originally posted on www.thedailyblog.co.nz 9th July 2021

  • Defence Force's Pulling Of Anti-woke Essay Shows Lack Of Moral Courage

    8 July 2021

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Defence Force's Pulling Of Anti-woke Essay Shows Lack Of Moral Courage

    The decision by the Chief of the Defence Force to remove an essay which had been selected as the best written in an essay competition because he didn’t like what it claimed is chilling, and a troubling attack on free speech.

    Spokesperson for the Free Speech Union, Dane Giraud says "Our society was built on a commitment to free and fearless debate — a value that countless troops have laid their lives down for. The Defence Force should be steadfast in its defence of this sacred tradition, not seek to undermine it."

    “Diversity must also mean diversity of thought. The essay should not be buried, it should be debated. To gag one of our soldiers in this way, removing what had already been acknowledged as a well-articulated point, simply because the optics of the well-articulated point confronted some who do not share the views espoused, must have nations overseas bending in laughter.”

    “Ironically, pulling down the essay means that countless more people have now read the essay than would have otherwise.”

    “The essay is available on the Free Speech Union website, and we encourage anyone interested in its contents to read the essay themselves and make up their own mind as to whether it warranted removal.”

  • Chief Human Rights Commissioner Should Stay In His Lane

     

    24 June 2021

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Chief Human Rights Commissioner Should Stay In His Lane

    The Free Speech Union says that Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt wasn’t hired to tell artists what work they can and can’t produce. He should start defending human rights, not stand against freedom of expression.

    A spokesperson for the Union, Stephen Franks says “The Commissioner calls for a proposed film of the March 15th atrocity to be cancelled due to its potential to upset members of the Muslim community. A petition to have the production cancelled has garnered 70,000 signatures but whether a film is made, or how it is made is absolutely none of Paul Hunt’s business.”

    “Both Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and National party leader Judith Collins expressed their own reservations about the taste and timing of the film, but both also said that it was not their place to tell the filmmakers they should cancel the project.”

    “They were respecting freedom of speech. Yet Hunt thinks he has the right to call for a piece of art to be stopped.”

    “Hunt is quoted as saying ‘As a country, we have a responsibility to do all we can to ensure that Muslim New Zealanders are represented accurately in stories’. We have no such responsibility to effectively police artworks. The opposite is true. Hunt wouldn’t even know the script and intentions of the filmmakers. His stance recalls members of the Evangelical Right who protested outside screenings of Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ while proudly admitting they hadn’t seen the film, had no intention of seeing the film, yet still demanded that it be banned.”

    “It is telling that Hunt would release this statement, but when a feminist group was banned from several council-run venues only a week ago, an openly discriminatory and unlawful act in clear breach of our bill of rights, his office was silent.”

    “Hunt is perfectly entitled to the view that a film representing the attacks is premature, has the potential to upset victims, and that it should not be made. But this is a personal view. I happen to share it. But in his capacity as Chief Commissioner he should take care to reinforce, not undermine freedom of expression. He’s a disgrace to his office, acting in complete opposition to what he is paid to do."

  • Quilliette article - Banning Evil: In the Shadow of Christchurch, Quasi-Religious Myths Can Lead Us Astray

    With permission from Quillette's editors--

    By Michael Shermer, contributor to Quillette and publisher of Skeptic Magazine. 

    On March 15, a 28-year old an Australian gunman named Brenton Tarrant allegedly opened fire in two Christchurch, New Zealand mosques, killing 50 and wounding 50 more. It was the worst mass shooting in the history of that country. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who was rightly praised for her response to the murders, declared: “While the nation grapples with a form of grief and anger that we have not experienced before, we are seeking answers.”

    One answer took form a week later, when Ms. Ardern announced legislation that would ban all military-style semi-automatic weapons, assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. Will such gun-control measures work to reduce gun crime? Maybe. They did in Australia following a 1996 mass shooting in Tasmania in which 35 people were murdered. A 2006 follow-up study showed that in the 18 years prior to the ban, there had been 13 mass shootings. But in the decade following, there had been none. Gun culture is different in every country. But there is at least an arguable case to be made that the newly announced controls will make New Zealand a safer country.

     

    But banning certain tools that may be used to commit murder is one thing. Tarrant’s rampage also has led to calls to block ideas that allegedly fuel murderous extremism. In the immediate aftermath of tragedy, it is understandable that every conceivable means should be employed to prevent a recurrence. But censorship is almost invariably the wrong response to evil actions. You cannot ban evil.

    * * *

    Before the killings, Tarrant authored a rambling 74-page manifesto titled The Great Replacement. The document is difficult to find online, as most platforms took to blocking it as soon as its appearance was flagged. I was quick to grab a copy early on, however, because such documents inform my longstanding research into extremist groups and ideologies.

    The Great Replacement was inspired by a 2012 book of the same title by the French author Renaud Camus—a right-wing conspiracy theorist who claims that white French Catholics in particular, and white Christian Europeans in general, are being systematically replaced by people of non-European descent, especially from Africa and the Middle East, through immigration and higher birth rates. The manifesto is filled with white supremacist fearmongering. “If there is one thing I want you to remember from these writings, it’s that the birthrates must change,” the author tells his audience (whom he presumes to be white). “Even if we were to deport all Non-Europeans from our lands tomorrow, the European people would still be spiraling into decay and eventual death.” The result, he concludes apocalyptically, is “white genocide.”

    Like many cranks and haters of this type, Tarrant has a weakness for codes and slogans. He references the number 14 to indicate the 14-word slogan originally coined by white supremacist David Lane while imprisoned for his role in the 1984 murder of Jewish radio talk show host Alan Berg: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” Lane, for his part, explicitly extolled the writings of white supremacist William Pierce, who in turn inspired Timothy McVeigh to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, killing 168 people.

    Accusations of racism and white supremacism are thrown around so casually these days that the meaning of these terms has become diluted and ambiguous. So, for clarity, I will state the obvious by emphasizing that the writings of Tarrant, Lane and Pierce all reflect attitudes that are completely racist and hateful, as such terms are properly used.

    And yes, there is a connection with Nazism. The number 14 is sometimes rendered as 14/88, with the 8’s representing the eighth letter of the alphabet—H—and 88 or HH standing for Heil Hitler. Lane, who died in 2007, was inspired by Mein Kampf, in which the Nazi Party leader declared: “What we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and reproduction of our race and our people, the sustenance of our children and the purity of our blood, the freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that our people may mature for the fulfillment of the mission allotted it by the creator of the universe.”

    But even here, the bibliographical trail of hatred doesn’t end—because Hitler copied much of his anti-Semitic conspiracism from The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, a tragically popular hoaxed document purporting to record the proceedings of a secret meeting of Jews plotting global domination. Nor was the Protocols itself conceived out of thin air: It was plagiarized from Biarritz, a luridly anti-Semitic 19th-century novel; and a propaganda tract called Dialogues in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu, which had been written by a French lawyer as an act of protest against Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte; both of which, in turn, drew on anti-Semitic tropes going back to Roman times. So if you’re looking to root out and ban the political ideology that produces Jew hatred, you’re going to have to purge whole library shelves. The same goes for Islamophobia, anti-black racism, and virtually every other kind of bigotry you could name.

    And yet, there are those who argue that mass censorship is justified in the name of heading off hateful indoctrination. That group apparently would include leaders of the Whitcoulls bookstore chain in New Zealand. Late last week, the company announced it was banning one popular book, “in light of some extremely disturbing material being circulated prior, during and after the Christchurch attacks.” Yet the book wasn’t Mein Kampf, which you can still buy on the company’s site for $44.95—or anything of its ilk. Rather, the chain is boycotting Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life, a self-help book that has no connection at all with the mosque attacks or their perpetrator.

    What is the “extremely disturbing material” in Peterson’s book? Whitcoulls doesn’t say. I’ve read the entire book, along with much of the University of Toronto professor’s 1999 massive first book, Maps of Meaning. And I’ve watched many of his YouTube videos and media interviews. I have yet to find anything remotely reminiscent of white supremacy, racism, anti-Semitism or Islamophobia.

    On Twitter, I suggested that those who think Peterson is the ideological culprit behind the New Zealand massacre have lost their minds. I added that I’m no toady for Jordan Peterson, inasmuch as I disagree with him on many subjects—including his theory of truth, and his largely uncritical endorsement of religious myths as an organizing principle for human cultures. But the banning of Peterson on any theory related to preventing mass murder doesn’t even rise to the level of wrong: It’s demonstrably absurd—akin to banning spoons and skateboards as a strategy to stave off prospective arsonists.

    When I asked my social-media followers for examples of anything Peterson had said or done that could be construed as inviting mass murder, the only remotely relevant responses I got pointed to photos that random fans had taken with Peterson, one of which featured a guy sporting a t-shirt proclaiming himself to be an “Islamaphobe,” and another (more ambiguous) example of someone holding a Pepe the Frog banner. But this proves nothing. Peterson has taken photos with tens of thousands of people at public events in recent years. In a typical fan-photo cattle call, fans are cycled into frame with a celebrity roughly every five or six seconds—typically by handlers, not the celebrity acting in his or her personal capacity. I’ve done a number of these during book tours and can attest to the fact that it’s completely unrealistic to think that Peterson could screen the clothes worn by all these legions of photo seekers for ideological purity—even if this were something he aspired to do.

    On March 23, I received an email from Change.org, the left-leaning political action group whose stated mission is to “empower people everywhere to create the change they want to see.” In this case, the change users wanted to see in response to the New Zealand massacre was… to ban PewDiePie from YouTube. “One of the largest platforms for white supremacist content is PewDiePie’s YouTube channel,” the petition informs us. “PewDiePie has on many occasions proven once and again to promote and affiliate himself with white supremacist and Nazi ideologies.” The petitioners then list the YouTuber’s alleged sins, including using the N-word, playing videos of Adolf Hitler’s speeches, and giving the Nazi heil in a video.

    For those unaware, PewDiePie is a Swedish comedian and video game player named Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, whose YouTube channel has a massive following and whom Tarrant referenced in his manifesto (along with Candace Owens, Donald Trump and others). It is true that PewDiePie once used the N-word during a video game competition (and then apologized profusely for doing so). He also has used brief audio and video snippets of Nazi imagery as part of satirical responses to attacks against him that he lampooned as melodramatic. The idea that any of this betrays PewDiePie as a closet white supremicist is absurd. Even without Change.org’s urging, YouTube already has demonetized the videos of such avowedly anti-racist and anti-supremacist moderates as Dave Rubin and Gad Saad, as well as anti-anti-Semite conservatives such as Dennis Prager. YouTube is acting on an ideological hair trigger: If there were any evidence whatsoever that PewDiePie had expressed real Nazi sympathies, he would have been axed from the platform long ago.

    Responding to evil by banning random controversial authors or YouTubers is completely irrational. But that doesn’t make it inexplicable. Manifestations of great evil provoke a desire to do something—anything—to reestablish moral order. Remember when millions of people tweeted #BringBackOurGirls after the terrorist organization Boko Haram kidnapped dozens of Nigerian students in 2014? Murderous rapists don’t give a fig about being mobbed on Twitter. But it made people feel useful for an instant—as if they had done something. We all entertain some version of this instinct in times of tragedy—a reflex satirized by The Onion in the days after 9/11 with the headline Not Knowing What Else To Do, Woman Bakes American-Flag Cake.

    Intertwined with this instinct is the idea that there is some abstract force called evil that exists in the cosmos, a force that we are all called upon to confront and defeat. As I argued in my 2003 book, The Science of Good and Evil, this belief—that pure evil exists separately from individuals—is a myth. “Evil” makes literal sense as an adjective, but not as a noun (except in a figurative sense), because there is no quantum of something called “evil” that exists in human hearts, or, indeed, anywhere else.

    Thus concluded social psychologist Roy Baumeister, as reported in his 1997 book about serial killers and other career criminals, Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty. Ironically, Baumeister found that the myth of evil existing as a standalone force may, itself, lead societies to become more violent: “The myth encourages people to believe that they are good and will remain good no matter what, even if they perpetrate severe harm on their opponents. Thus, the myth of pure evil confers a kind of moral immunity on people who believe in it…belief in the myth is itself one recipe for evil, because it allows people to justify violent and oppressive actions. It allows evil to masquerade as good.” 

    This helps explain the grimly bizarre manner by which violent criminals and terrorists find ways to justify even the most horrifying and nihilistic acts. Consider this 1994 police record of Frederick Treesh, a spree killer from the Midwest who explained, “Other than the two we killed, the two we wounded, the woman we pistol-whipped, and the light bulbs we stuck in people’s mouths, [my accomplice and I] didn’t really hurt anybody.” After killing 33 boys the serial killer John Wayne Gacy explained: “I see myself more as a victim than as a perpetrator. I was cheated out of my childhood.”

    Modern campaigns aimed at shutting down this or that speaker implicitly present evil as something that may be communicated from one person to another, like bacteria. By this model, censorship is akin to quarantine. But Baumeister tells us “you do not have to give people reasons to be violent, because they already have plenty of reasons. All you have to do is take away their reasons to restrain themselves.” It is absolutely true that some extremist ideologies can encourage adherents to abandon the sense of restraint that Baumeister describes. But the campaign to ban the likes of Jordan Peterson and PewDiePie—individuals whose work bears no relationship at all to the extreme forms of hatred we should be most concerned about—suggests that censors aren’t actually thinking through such propositions. Instead, they seem to be operating on the idea of evil as a quasi-mystical force akin to Satan. In this conception, Peterson and PewDiePie are seen as carriers of evil, much like witches channeling demons from below, no matter that they never actually say or do anything evil in nature.

    As Baumeister argued, this mythical idealization of evil as being an actual force in our universe, rather than a descriptor of human motivations, isn’t merely harmless ersatz spiritualism: It causes people to act worse, sometimes murderously so, by allowing them to imagine the locus of evil as lying completely outside their own intentions and actions.

    Which gets to the (necessarily political) question of who should be identified, stigmatized, and even punished for being a “carrier” of evil? Who gets to define that class of people? Me? You? The majority? An evil-thought committee? The government? Social-media companies? We already have law enforcement and the military to deal with evil deeds. Controlling evil thoughts is far more problematic.

    Campaigns aimed at banning evil in its own (mythical) right almost always include efforts to ban evil speech—or even, as in the aftermath of the New Zealand mass murder, speech from someone who has not said anything remotely evil, but is seen, in some vague sense, to be contaminated by evil. When western societies were religious, evil speech was tantamount to anti-Christian speech. In a secular age, we call it “hate speech,” a reformulation that does nothing to solve the always contentious issue of distinguishing between evil speech and free speech, and the problem of who gets to decide where one ends and the other begins.

    It is my contention that we must protect speech no matter how hateful it may seem. The solution to hate speech is more speech. The counter to bad ideas is good ideas. The rebuttal to pseudoscience is better science. The answer to fake news is real news. The best way to refute alternative facts is with actual facts. This is just as true now as it was in the moment before 50 innocent Muslim lives were taken in New Zealand—even if our emotionally felt need to put a name and form to evil now makes this truth harder to see.

     

    A link to the original article.

  • Opinion: Government should not sign UN Migration Compact

    Next week, New Zealand is expected to sign the United Nations’ Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. While it is non-binding, the protocol could still damage New Zealanders’ right to free speech and debate.

    The Free Speech Coalition is indifferent on immigration policy matters; reasonable people can agree to disagree. However, the Government should not be signing an agreement that says it will seek to restrict free speech on immigration matters.

    Objective 17 of the Compact looks to prevent critical speech of immigration policies in an attempt to combat xenophobia and racism. The problem with this is that many legitimate and genuine concerns about immigration are framed as ‘racist’ by some people. The Compact says that governments should defund media which report “intolerant” views. It goes further and says they should be denied “support”, which seems to mean the government should interfere with private funding. Almost any unwelcome truth can be termed “intolerant”, so the Compact will be a tool to suppress New Zealanders speaking their minds.

    The Compact encourages signatory nations to "enact, implement or maintain legislation that penalizes hate crimes...". The problem here is there is that common definitions of "hate crime" may extend to so called "hate speech" which can often mean "hearing truths we hate". The Compact will therefore support interpretations of existing law that give authorities the power to suppress unpopular opinions and be used to claim that we must get new law to restrict unwelcome discussion of politically awkward or embarrassing information. The Compact will be used to claim that we must have such law to retain international respectability

    Probably well-intentioned hate speech laws have been implemented in Sweden, Britain, and France. As they have worked out citizens have been prosecuted for merely speaking their mind or highlighting issues the authorities would rather not debate, or have debated.

    FSC supports out traditional law against incitement of violence. The Compact says we must seek to go much further. FSC says New Zealand must remain free to have open frank debate about immigration. The Compact says the state should strongly promote one side of the argument and gag the other.

    It is claimed that we should not worry because the Compact is not binding, only aspirational. It should not be an aspiration of New Zealand to align with forces that threaten free speech. Immigration is a core issue for nation states. In democracies like ours, there is a legitimate expectation that all sides can be heard on this complicated issue. This agreement says the state’s powers and resources should weigh in on one side, against the other. 

    The compact threatens the independence of our fourth estate. The Compact says the state must encourage ‘independent’ and ‘objective reporting’ on migration issues. It is easy to fear the opposite intention in a country where the media are presently independent without any coercive restrictions on objectivity. The Compact seems to mean the opposite. It calls for ‘sensitising’ and ‘educating’ reporters on terminology and appropriate message. State sanitising the fourth estate is dangerous to democracy, and not compatible with a free society.

    The provisions seems to seek deplatforming of views inconsistent with the Compact’s view of objectivity, by defunding outlets which convey them. Given the pervasive role of government in our society, if the Compact justifies discrimination by all state connected advertisers against outlets that convey the side of a debate that the government considers to be not objective or helpful or tolerant, that could dramatically affect New Zealanders’ practical ability to seek and to impart views and information. Our current broadcasting regulations require “balance”. Will they be amended or reinterpreted to reflect a view that it need not extend to views unwelcome to the United Nations on immigration and immigrants?

    The compact is legally non-binding but that does not mean it has no effect. The New Zealand judiciary often interprets New Zealand laws in light the non-binding treaties our Government has signed. We should not sign up to agreements if we do not intend to honour their spirit. And this compact includes provision for stifling free expression.

    Twenty countries have already rejected the Compact, including Australia and the United States. The New Zealand Government should do the same.

    Patrick Corish is a coordinator at the Free Speech Coalition - a bipartisan group protecting and promoting the rights of free speech in New Zealand.

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