Pages tagged "Hate Speech"

  • The speech censors given a free media pass

    David Seymour’s proposal to abolish the Human Rights Commission reflects widespread suspicion that is has become a taxpayer-funded nest for people plotting to end the freedoms it was established to protect. As Janet Albrechtsen explained last week in The Australian, the same problem afflicts Australia. Instead of defending free speech the Australian Human Rights Commission has been among the institutions trying to punish people who challenge politically correct views.

    The Australian is behind a strict pay-wall, so Janet has authorised the Free Speech Coalition to reproduce her article below. Unfortunately we cannot reproduce the long list of comments the article attracted.

    Janet is a highly qualified lawyer but is best known for her journalism, having been a published commentator in most of Australia’s quality news media.

    Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four has been described as a handbook for difficult times. In a week that marks its publication 70 years ago, please open the handbook for some guidance, for these difficult times.

    Last week Australian Federal Police officers rifled through the home of a News Corp journalist and the offices of ABC journalists. Nothing flashy, no brown-shirted stormtroopers kicking in doors. Just a team of polite civil servants, ordering sandwiches and coffee while they rummaged through homes and workplaces, armed with slippery words in laws to justify them infringing our freedoms.

    Outraged journalists said it was chilling. Alas, many of these same journalists have not been doing their job if they haven’t noticed this is how free speech is silenced today. In the past decade a growing cadre of civil servants, from human rights commissioners to university vie-chancellors, all good mannered, nicely dressed people have used crafty works in laws and other instruments to curb out most fundamental right to speak freely.

    Many of the same journalists who, last week, held up signs for the cameras saying that it is not a crime to be a journalist having not raised so much as an eyebrow about other dismally illiberal events. That makes them complicit in a stifling culture that gave rise to last week’s AFP raids. After all, a free press is only one part of our basic right to speak freely. If you don’t defend the latter, expect to lose the former soon enough.

    Orwell warned us to watch out for New Speak, Thought Police and the Ministry of Truth; their common denominators is slippery language to control speech in order to control how people think. So it came to pass. More than 10 years ago, the Alberta Human Rights Commission in Canada investigated a complaint brought against commentator Ezra Levant for publishing the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. The complaint was dropped, but not before a bureaucrat questioned Levan about his intention in publishing the cartoons.

    Levant described it like this: “No six-foot brown shirt here, no police cell at midnight. Just Shirlene McGovern, an amiable enough bureaucrat, casually asking me about my politcal thoughts, on behalf of the government of Alberta. And she’ll write up a report about is and recommend that the government do this or that to me.

    “I had half-expected a combative, missionary-style interrogator. I found, instead, a limp clerk who was just punching the clock … In a way, that’s more terrifying,” he wrote about the process that reminded him of Hannah Arendt’s banality of evil.

    While a handful of journalists in Australia recognised the early danger signs, many of those outraged by last week’s AFP raids showed little interest. Even when the same thing happened here a few years later, they fell silent.

    In 2011, Andrew Bolt was prosecuted under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act for causing offence by pointing out the foibles of claiming indigenous ancestry. In passing, the judge frowned over the tone of his writing. The Australian Human Rights Commission used the same laws to investigate The Australian’s Bill Leak in 2016 for his powerful cartoon about the complex issues of individual responsibility and the dismal plight of indigenous people. Liberal MP Julian Leeser once said of the UN Human Rights Council: “We read Orwell as a warning; they read Orwell as a textbook.” His observation applies equally to the AHRC: as race commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane encouraged complaints to come forward over Leak’s cartoon.

    The AHRC toyed with students from Queensland University of Technology too after they made innocuous comments on Facebook when they were kicked out of an indigenous-only computer lab. One student wrote: “QUT stopping segregation with segregation.” What part of that was untrue? Yet it took two years of complaints, investigations, interviews and mounting legal bills before the complaint was thrown out. And the chilling effect of those laws remains intact.

    Some of us have reported extensively on the creeping, and creepy, mission of the AHRC. It needs to be renamed; its name is an insult to genuine human rights. And these dismal events need to be laid out, over and over again, until we defeat an illiberal culture that is strangling freedom of expression, the single most important piece of machinery that drives a robust marketplace of ideas. It is the centrifugal force of Western progress.

    Last year, physics professor Peter Ridd was sacked by James Cook University for raising questions about the quality of climate research by some of his colleagues. The university used a code of conduct and claims of “collegial behavior” to get him off campus. ABC HQ showed no interest in asking why the university didn’t encourage a debate about Ridd’s claims or even why it shut him down.

    During the federal election, the ABC’s senior journalists showed no interest when Greens leader Richard Di Natale said he wanted hate speech laws to regulate the media to hold the likes of Bolt, Alan Jones and Chris Kenny to account. This proposal would kill a free, independent media in Australia. Hate speech, as defined by the like of Di Natale, will be defined by the media they hate. Orwell warned us about this, too. The ABC gave Di Natale a free pass.

    There was no ABC outrage, only nonchalance, when the Gillard government proposed an Orwellian regime of government oversight to make the media “balanced” and “accountable”. As James Paterson, now a Liberal senator, wrote then: “The last time that media outlets were subject to press licensing in the English-speaking world was 1693. What was too tyrannical for the English in the time of William and Mary is apparently acceptable in 21st-century Australia.”

    Note the manipulation of subjective language to curb free speech: the AFP relies on “national security” to search a journalist’s underwear drawer, the Gillard government wanted to legislate for a “balance” and “accountable” media, 18C prohibits people saying things that “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate”, the Greens want to outlaw “hate speech”, and a university relied on “collegial behavior”.

    It is critical that we constantly check where society, governments and bureaucracies draw lines to restrict free speech. Journalists want buffer zones around themselves to protect a free press. Fair enough. But where the heck they been when it comes to defending the rights of other Australians to speak freely?

    High-profile hosts at the ABC paid taxpayers to report and comment on this country should be been at the frontline, championing out rights to speak, to draw and to debate freely. As Canadian commentator Mark Steyn famously said about free speech, it is not a left-right thing. It is a free-unfree thing. And therein lies the curse of the modern left: a pusillanimous attitude towards a core piece of intellectual machinery necessary in a healthy democracy.

    By Janet Albrechtsen

    Opinion columnist for the Australian

  • Journalists have an interest in free speech

    John Drinnan says "There is a tendency to accept that people with unorthodox views in the current milieu must be policed and punished. It goes against the notion of objectivity and balance that some of us still expect from media."

    News media and journalists have a vital interest in maintaining freedom of speech. Yet we cannot rely on them to challenge the current push for expanding current hate speech laws.

    Some media and journalists are sleepwalking into more censorship.

    This goes beyond the “What Me Worry” approach to the government review and the attempt to expand the laws surrounding hate speech. There is a tendency to accept that people with unorthodox views in the current milieu must be policed and punished. It goes against the notion of objectivity and balance that some of us still expect from media

     

    After the Christchurch massacre, Justice Minister Andrew Little brought forward his review of the Human Rights Act. Activists and the Human Rights Commission have long argued the Act should ban criticism of groups and not just individuals.

    My problem is not with the debate about hate speech – but the ‘one-sidedness’ and the lack of interest in fighting for freedom of speech. Many journalists depict goodies and baddies in politics, religion and ideology. Most media companies go along with that. I see few moves to regulate bias and ensure balance or fight for freedom of speech.

    The outrage over Israel Folau is a case in point. Some journalists were outraged by the notion of a Rugby player with a deeply conservative view of Christianity warning that under scriptures, homosexuals were bound for hell. Ironically, similar views to Folau are common in the Muslim community, but these are beyond reproach in the current mood.

    Folau’s commercial obligations to Australian Rugby and sponsors is relevant, but many journalists love talking morality, and presenting the (partisan) argument that he should not be able to say things that offend.

    Likewise, Act leader David Seymour saying that Green MP Golriz Gharahaman comments made her a menace to freedom of speech. Green Party and other activist supporters of controlled speech are entitled to take the view that this is inappropriate. But in the past news media would’ve inserted some centrist logic, pointing out that politicians are, in fact, allowed to criticise one another. The Media, instead, promote the outrage on both ends of the debate, totting up the online clicks. I am arguing for some context that freedom of speech is a foundation of our politics. This idea seems to be beyond news media in the current zeitgeist.

    At a personal level, I hope that media companies can challenge the mood and actively promote freedom of speech. Some journalists I have spoken to - such as Radio New Zealand media commentator Colin Peacock – say that the proposed changes under the review have not been decided. There is nothing for media to challenge yet. But the argument for controlled speech is established and circulating. It is dangerous for media to wait until it is a fait accompli.

    Justice Minister Andrew Little has claimed he is profoundly in favour of free speech. But there is an authoritarian streak in this Government. National has not yet expressed an opinion. Ironically, New Zealand First may be the only political party prepared to protect this liberal value. Media companies have a few opinionated ‘outsider’ journalists who have fought the good fight. Magic FM's Sean Plunket and Dominion Post columnist Karl Du Fresne – have provided smart prescient opinions. So too have left-wing commentators Chris Trotter and Martyn Bradbury. But I struggle to think of any high profile journalist under 40 years who is concerned by the push for more controls of speech. Do New Zealanders care? Not if the debate is restricted to only academics and politicians. Maybe more people would be animated if the Media connected the topic of free speech to our core values.

    The government, human rights lawyers and activists are trying to tell New Zealanders what you can and cannot say when debating ideas. There is an argument to have around human rights. But it works both ways – for the assigned victims, and for those that want to keep talking. And the media has an obligation to present that.

    An opinion piece by journalist John Drinnan.

  • Stuff Article: Mass shootings predate social media, so let's focus on the real problems

    With permission from Stuff's editors --

    Selected parts of an Opinion piece by Damien Grant, contributor to Stuff and supporter of the Free Speech Coalition

    "If you need evidence of why governments should not be trusted with regulating social media companies you only need to flick through the twenty four page advertorial masquerading as a report produced by the freshly minted Helen Clark Foundation last week."

    "It isn't a long read, being mostly stock photos and images of Clark and Ardern, but its message is clear: new regulations are needed to prevent online hate speech in order to combat terrorism."

    "Which may strike some readers as odd, as the west has been subjected to decades of terrorism that wasn't instigated by Neo-Nazis nor transphobes."

    ...

    "Last year, Mark Zuckerberg outlined his view before the US Congress. "I think part of the challenge with regulation in general is that when you add more rules that companies need to follow, that's something that a larger company like ours inherently just has the resources to go do, and that might just be harder for a smaller company getting started to be able to comply with."

    "The Facebook chief executive is exactly right. Regulation provides barriers to entry. Once the new rules are in place no one will be starting a new social media company in their dorm room."

     

    You can read the whole of the article on Stuff.

  • Is New Zealand a Racist Country? | NZ, racism, hypocrisy & free speech

    - Dr David Cumin

    I was asked to answer an important question at a recent event hosted by the Indian community in New Zealand: Is NZ a racist country?

    The question was clearly based off a comment that Taika Waititi made in 2018 - calling New Zealand "racist as F*ck" - but the terror attacks in Christchurch on March 15th that have shocked our nation mean it is more important than ever to address the question.

    It is very easy to point to historical examples of egregious racism in New Zealand. The poll tax on Chinese, banning Te Reo Maori from being spoken at schools, and preventing all but a few Jewish refugees from Europe are all examples of state-endorsed racism; not to mention the other crimes of colonialism against Maori.

     

    It's also easy to point to modern examples of racism that would suggest Taika is spot on:

    And I could go on - the list is seemingly endless.

    However, the historic, discriminating laws have been revoked and we've even repealed our blasphemy law. Each of the examples I gave above is just that - an example. They don't prove that NZ is a racist country; all they prove is that there are racists within New Zealand. And which country is without racists?

    Taking a step back, the response of Kiwis to egregious racism and bigotry is almost always overwhelmingly positive. Just consider the outpouring of Aroha (love)- in the form of mountains of flowers left at mosques, millions of dollars in donations, and countless tears shed at events - after the Christchurch terror attacks.

    And consider that New Zealand is one of only 88 nations considered to be "free" in the world. And within those free nations, we are consistently found to be one of the most tolerant people, according to the World Values Survey. Though, it's not only the goodwill of most Kiwis that puts us there - we also have good laws against discrimination and a proud tradition of debate and self-reflection.

    In the words of the late, great, John Clark's character Fred Dagg, "We don't know how lucky we are".

    There is clearly room for improvement but let's not lose perspective and throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Unfortunately, however, there seem to be increasing calls for exactly that - for radical changes to our country's democracy in order to combat a sense that the entire system is somehow racist.

    The people leading the charge have two major flaws that I can see beyond the flimsy premise of their activism. The first is the dangerously misguided focus on laws to censure "hate speech", and the second is obvious hypocrisy that undermines their messaging.

    The hypocrisy is best exemplified in three examples: The Human Rights Commission has been at the fore of seeking "hate speech" legislation as a means to sanction "disharmonious speech targeted at the religion and beliefs of ethnic minority communities", yet the HRC doesn't seem able to stand up to hate speech when it's present - the Chief Human Rights Commissioner refused to condemn antisemitismpresent in his former political party despite being given four chances in a RadioNZ interview by Kim Hil.

    The Green Party of New Zealand has also been calling for restrictions to speech and yet their most vocal proponent of new stifling legislation, Golriz Ghahraman, made comments at a rally in Auckland that the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand called a “grotesque distortion… inaccurate, inflammatory and fuelling hate speech”. Golriz and the Green party have refused to engage with the Jewish community to address the issue and seek to control the speech of Kiwis.

    And one more example of hypocrisy is the lack of any challenge or statement from "Love Aotearoa, Hate Racism" organisers when a community leader at one of their events blamed Mossad and "Zionist business houses" for the Christchurch terror attacks. Such a blatantly antisemitic and dangerous conspiracy theory must be condemned, especially at a time when tensions are hightened. Yet a rally organiser told reporters that it was "just one speaker out of 30".

    Even if we accept the hypocrisy and accept that, to paraphrase Orwell's Animal Farm, some "hate speech" will be more hateful than others, the call for legislation against "hate speech" is deeply flawed. It's not only because of the theoretical arguments around how to define it or who gets to decide what is punishable and what is not - there are actual examples from overseas we can learn from.

    Oxford academic, Timothy Ash, found that countries with "hate speech" laws did not have lower rates of discrimination or abuse. The conclusion is clear - the laws don't do what proponents claim they will do. Furthermore, "hate speech" laws have been used to punish bad jokes, teenagers quoting rap lyrics, a mother "misgendering" someone online, and many other examples of good citizens being punished for their words. The scope for politicians abusing the law to shut down opposition to them as "hate speech" is also a serious concern, as it happens in some of the majority of countries not rated “free”.

    We must be able to have robust debates and to challenge ideas and be challenged by them. It is this process that led to the repeal of the Chinese Poll Tax, that underpins the Treaty Settlement Process, that has us discussing compulsory Te Reo Maori classes now, that helped New Zealand lead the world in giving women the vote, and that eventually gave homosexuals the right to a civil union here in Aotearoa. The debates must continue without the spectre of arrest or fine for "hate speech".

    New Zealand will always have its racists and we all have a responsibility to stand up to racism and bigotry when we see it. We must be able to join together and call them out and challenge them - even when they claim to be "anti-racist". That is how we move from "Kiwi Experience" being a not-so-subtle racist code to just a good-time bus tour of our beautiful land.

  • Why Golriz Ghahraman should not be the guardian of our speech

    For a first-time list MP who made it into Parliament by the skin of her teeth, and is in a minor party that maybe is or isn’t in government (depending on what day it is and who you ask), Golriz Ghahraman sure gets a lot of attention. I’m loathe to add to it, but her self-appointed role as chief champion of hate speech law reform demands it.

    Now, to pre-empt those who apparently consider skin pigmentation determines credentials to comment on this subject, I confess that my skin is some shade of white, though Hitler and his henchmen considered my people most definitely not white, as did the white supremacist gunman who massacred 11 of my people in a Pittsburgh synagogue last year. For those who can see past skin pigmentation, it’s worth remembering Jews (my family included) have a history of persecution and discrimination and that they are still vulnerable; in every Western country where hate crime statistics are maintained, Jews are increasingly disproportionately represented, more so than any other group. I’ve had quite a bit of hate mail (both snail mail and social media) and for those who think lived experience matters when discussing this issue, I believe I have enough of it.

    But enough about me. Let’s talk about Ghahraman. There is no doubt she is the target of bigotry. As a country we should all be proud that we have our first refugee MP. The idea that a person who came to the country as a refugee decades ago should be beholden to its beneficence and not participate in democracy in a way other citizens can is repugnant. New Zealand is her home, not her host. It’s abhorrent to suggest she’s a “plant” for Iran, or should return there. It is her democratic right to criticise this country, including its foundational values, if she so chooses, and to argue for a dilution of democratic rights, as she does in championing new hate speech laws.

    It is possible, and important, to challenge her ideas on this subject without attacking her because of her identity. If we are to have a mature, nuanced debate about this, a touchstone for the health and robustness of our democratic society, it is incumbent upon those on both sides of the debate to distinguish between attacks on people because of their race or gender and a critique of ideas and actions.

    We should have this debate with the presumption that its participants all want the same outcome – for New Zealand to be a safe and inclusive place for all people, and to minimise the chances of such a heinous attack occurring again. But there is a legitimate debate to be had about how to achieve that outcome. It should not just be readily accepted that the best way to protect vulnerable groups is through new restrictions on speech. Questioning that proposition does not mean you worry about or are affected by racism any less than Ghahraman, or are complicit in it, or are a less worthy person than her. Unfortunately, however, those who disagree with and challenge Ghahraman are often attributed with the worst motives, demeaned and smeared.

    If Ghahraman wants to engender the public’s trust that this isn’t a censorship exercise, she will need to avoid accusing her critics of white supremacy or privilege, and refrain from threatening defamation with the elitist reminder that she has “a LOT of free legal resource to draw on”. Rather than shutting down debate, she will need to show that she can engage in good faith with the arguments as to the philosophical underpinnings of freedom of speech and the practical problems with further restricting it.

    Thus far, Ghahraman’s articulation of her ideas do not withstand scrutiny on even the most superficial level. Perhaps this is why she decided that the best medium to communicate them is in an infantile comic strip. Her statements are not considered, consistent or credible and she provides scant evidence or robust reasoning.

    For a start, her conclusion that our liberal laws on hate speech were at least in part to blame for the mosque attacks seems somewhat premature, given that she announced this before the investigation is completed as to how, when and where the gunman was radicalised, let alone before the victims had even been laid to rest.

    Also, if you are hoping to persuade people that hate speech should be criminalised, you might first want to offer a definition of hate speech. When Ghahraman was interviewed on Newshub Nation, she was asked upfront how to define hate speech. She waffled around for some time but did not offer a concise definition. She seemed to equate hate speech with group defamation, omitting the crucial point that hate speech laws criminalise speech, while defamation is a civil action with defences of truth and honest opinion.

    Personally, I have some sympathy with the view that there is a lacuna in the Human Rights Act (which essentially prohibits incitement to violence against racial groups), and I agree with undertaking a review to see whether it should be extended to protect faith-based and gender-based groups, for example. But if she is thinking that the prohibition should be expanded beyond that, she needs to make the case. Is there any evidence that restricting hate speech works and reduces racism?

    I feel sickened when I see comments that Hitler should have finished the job or “jokes” about ovens and lampshades, but there is a legitimate argument that racism and bigotry can only be combatted if it is in the open, where it can be seen, challenged, and monitored. Banning the expression of hateful ideas does not make them go away. It just means they’re festering in a dark fetid basement. And attempting to suppress them provides fertile ground for the conspiracy theories, resentment and victim mentality that they seem to thrive in.

    Historically, freedom of speech applied to enable the oppressed and the disenfranchised to achieve emancipation and equality. It gave those in the civil rights, gay rights and feminism movements a chance to speak truth to power. Any time we are told by those in power that we must cede individual rights for the greater good we should be very suspicious. And we should tread very carefully before we allow those who have the privilege of being in power – like Ghahraman – to determine what identity groups require protection (do Christians, white men and gender critical lesbians?), and to erode the rights of those who are not considered worthy of such protection to say what they want.

    Last year, Ghahraman accused Israel of genocide at an anti-Israel rally following a particularly violent day on the Gaza border. Now, plenty of people have accused Israel of a disproportionate response, and had she done so, it wouldn’t rate anything more than a passing mention. In fact, given her self-proclaimed role as the first woman in New Zealand to hold the defence portfolio, I would have been keenly interested in hearing her proffer her expertise on how the IDF should respond proportionately to armed Hamas and Islamic Jihad members hiding behind smokescreens and human shields, attacking a border with the stated aim of breaking through and murdering Jewish communities living close by.

    But accusations of genocide are quite another matter. Of course, Ghahraman has no evidence that Israel is committing genocide against Gazans. It would be the first genocide in history in which the target population is increasing rapidly, child mortality has fallen, and life expectancy has increased. She also overlooks that Israel is fighting a war against a terrorist regime that oppresses Gazans and whose stated mission is Jewish genocide. She sees genocidal intent where it isn’t, and ignores it where it is.

    While it wasn’t direct incitement to violence, it potentially endangers the Jewish community, who would likely be associated with complicity in genocide. So from what I can decipher about Ghahraman’s views on what constitutes hate speech, based on examples she’s cited and accusations she’s made, she would seem to have fallen foul of her own definition.

    The New Zealand Jewish Council, the representative body of the Jewish community, wrote to her about this, and got no reply. Two months later it wrote again, copying in her co-leaders, and still got no reply. This is a deliberate marginalisation of the Jewish community. According to Phil Quin, she also ignored the entreaties of a young Rwandan survivors group, except for one dismissive tweet. It’s hard to imagine a more persecuted people than survivors of genocide. This pattern would seem to suggest her concern for vulnerable communities is rather more selective and politically expedient than she might like people to believe.

    It’s hard to take someone seriously who wants to criminalise people for their harmful words, but is not prepared to be held to account for her own harmful words. Such is the far left’s belief in their own moral superiority that, while they point the finger of blame at others with alacrity, they appear to lack the self-awareness and self-reflection that would lead them to at least wonder whether they themselves are complicit in contributing to a divisive and hateful society.

    The renowned Jewish American constitutional lawyer and civil libertarian, Professor Alan Dershowitz, who defended the right of neo-Nazis to march in Skokie where many Holocaust survivors lived, posits the “shoe on the other foot” test. It’s much easier to be nonchalant about the importance of freedom of speech when you’re smug in the belief that it’s only speech you disapprove of, and not your own, that will be censored.

    NZ has a proud history of stable and long-standing democracy and robust rule of law, but are we prepared to trust that we will always have a benign, moderate government, authorities that do not overreach, or courts that apply a high threshold before they rule that speech should be censored? We now know for sure that our little islands are not immune to the ugly and violent forces sweeping the world, and we take our democracy, the rights that go with it and the institutions that uphold it, for granted at our peril.

    – This article was written by Juliet Moses, an Auckland-based lawyer and originally published on Shalom.Kiwi

  • How Hate Speech Laws Violate Equality

    Since at least 2017, the New Zealand Human Rights Commission has sought to broaden the definition of hate speech, seeing that existing laws had been "unable to be utilized in respect of religious hate speech directed at Muslim New Zealanders, who, for the most part, belong to a variety of ethnic minority communities in New Zealand”.

    In the wake of the Christchurch terror attacks, Justice Minister Andrew Little has now pledged to work alongside the HRC to “fast-track” (a term you never want to hear when freedoms are at stake) a widespread review that would include deciding if hate speech (including the aforementioned religious hate speech) should be established as its own separate offense.  

    It was interesting (and potentially telling, regarding the HRC’s unhelpful ideological bent) that Jews weren’t mentioned in the 2017 HRC text considering how vulnerable we currently are to demonization from both the Hard-Left and Right. Internationally, more than 50% of the hate crimes recorded against a religious group are directed at Jews, who often make up less than 1% of a country’s population.

    If the government wants to protect Islam, with the reasoning that religious hatred attacks the dignity of a community, why not afford this to Judaism?

    Or even Zionism?

    Anti-Israel protests are carnivals of hate. Full of open taunts such as swastikas scrawled across Israeli flags, symbolic blood on hands in a perverse pantomime of the blood-liberal conspiracy and demands for the destruction of the Jewish homeland from the “river to the sea”, activists nevertheless dismiss allegations of racism outright. Criticism of Zionism, as we’re told, isn’t antisemitic, as Zionism has nothing to do with Judaism or even Jews per se. But this is not true, as the more seasoned agitators well know. The biblical “prophets” fill literally hundreds of pages in the “Old Testament” with their lamenting the loss of Israel and the promise of return. The early political Zionists may have been more influenced by the nationalist fervor of the late 19th century than their religious tradition, but Theodor Herzl (author of “The Jewish State” 1896) understood the importance of tying the concept to the biblical narrative. Use of the term “Zion” (a synonym for Jerusalem) that first appeared in the Davidic saga (Samuel 2) where the seeds for the messianic promise of return are sown, is quite deliberate. Only the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) could give the idea of a Jewish homeland legitimacy and a sense of permanence. As Chaim Weizmann would later say to the UN Special Committee on Palestine in 1947 -

    “(Moses) might have brought us to the United States, and instead of the Jordan might have had the Mississippi. It would have been an easier task. But he chose to stop here. We are an ancient people with old history, and you cannot deny your history and begin fresh."

    Do “anti-Zionist” protests, an attack on a Jewish religious concept, undermine the dignity of our local Jewish community? Considering that “Zionist”, which formerly meant a supporter of Jewish self-determination in historic Israel, to many now means a militant, or even heartless and murderous Jew, a colonizer, thief and manipulator of foreign governments, what should save its misuse, a misuse clearly designed to vilify Jews and supporters of Israel, from being part of new religious hate speech laws?

    The honest answer is there is no good reason why you wouldn’t include Zionism if this is the direction the government wants to take. But you could bet that the very same people pushing for restrictions now would be the chief force opposing any penalty for the criticism of Zionism. And herein lays the inherent corruption of hate speech laws and why they will always violate equality: in choosing which group deserves privilege, a far greater statement is made about those whose dignity they’d deny.   

    Dane Giraud

  • 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: Keeping The Devil Down In The Hole.

    By Chris Trotter -

    HOW SHOULD New Zealand respond to the Christchurch Mosque Shootings? What should the Government do? A powerful consensus has formed behind the Prime Minister’s call for gun control. Subsequent initiatives may not, however, be so universally affirmed. Voices are already being raised in favour of restricting the public expression of “harmful” ideas. Clearly, the question of what does, and does not, constitute “harm” is going to be hotly contested. The national unity forged out of shock, grief, compassion and solidarity, is unlikely to survive any attempt to aggressively limit free speech in New Zealand.

    Already, the Leader of the Opposition, Simon Bridges, has indicated his intention to resist strongly any attempt to extend the limitations on citizens’ freedom of expression. This should give Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern serious pause. A straight Left/Right battle over “hate speech” would place her principal coalition partner, NZ First, in an impossible position. Already in a parlous situation, poll-wise, aligning itself with what its electoral base would almost certainly construe as weaponised political correctness would undoubtedly compromise still further NZ First’s chances of making it back to Parliament.

    Not that the Prime Minister’s worries are located exclusively on the right. Already, she is reported to be casting anxious glances to her left. The radical wing of the Green Party is in the process of staking out an aggressively uncompromising position on hate speech. This has earned them much respect on Twitter, but it is unclear how favourably the hard-line stance of Marama Davidson and Golriz Ghahraman is being be received by the broader electorate. Labour will be keen to avoid the perception that they are being led into the ideological long grass by its “woke” allies.

    The Labour Party’s other big concern should be the extent to which a free speech fight will be seized upon by the Far Right as a Hades-sent opportunity to get back in the game. Being seen to take a stand for the nation’s traditional political values will win their more respectable avatars all sorts of useful invitations to join the genuine defenders of liberty on a multitude of respectable media platforms.

    As the theme-song from the TV series “The Wire” puts it: “You gotta keep the Devil way down in the hole”. Transforming the free speech issue into a vicious Left/Right knife-fight would be a particularly effective way of hauling the Devil all the way up to the surface.

    A less divisive and potentially much more productive course of action would be to put this country’s already existing limitations on hate speech to the test. Section 61 of The Human Rights Act (1993) clearly prohibits: “matter or words likely to excite hostility against or bring into contempt any group of persons in or who may be coming to New Zealand on the ground of the colour, race, or ethnic or national origins of that group of persons.”

    A more proactive Human Rights Commission, by allowing the courts to flesh out the purposes – as well as the limitations – of Section 61 of the Act, could establish with much more clarity what it is – and is not – permissible to communicate about race and identity in New Zealand.

    More controversial, but in light of the Christchurch Mosque Shootings, almost certainly worth debating, would be a proposal to prohibit religious vilification. Any such measure would, however, need to be very tightly circumscribed in terms of its scope. Vilification must not, under any circumstances, be construed to mean that any particular system of religious belief can be rendered legally immune from all forms of criticism and/or challenge. Such legislation should restrict its application exclusively to statements and/or images communicated with the clear intention of inflicting emotional pain and humiliation on believers.

    The key question posed to New Zealand by the awful events of Friday, 15 March 2019 is the degree to which it is possible to mount an effective defence against terrorist violence.

    The proposition being advanced by Davidson, Ghahraman, and many others on the left, is that terrorist acts are the by-products of societies steeped in racism and xenophobia: that they constitute merely the awful apex of a much larger pyramid of prejudice. By discouraging the expression of the milder prejudices embedded at the base of this grim pyramid, they argue, their transmission upwards to damaged individuals like the Christchurch shooter can be interrupted, and lives saved.

    The problem with this argument is that the level of intervention in the lives of casual racists and xenophobes required to make such a regime effective would, almost certainly, engender considerably more resentment and hatred than it was intended to suppress. Not only would racism and xenophobia not disappear, but the promoters and enforcers of the state’s anti-racist and anti-xenophobic policies would find themselves added to the terrorists’ target list. It should not be forgotten that the Norwegian white supremacist terrorist, Anders Breivik, did not target Muslim immigrants directly, but the young Labour Party members he held responsible for Norway’s multicultural policies.

    Perhaps the most difficult thing to accept about societies such as our own is that there is within them an irreducible quantum of malicious prejudice. No matter how much energy is devoted to persuading our fellow citizens to embrace their fellow citizens, there will always be some for whom the messages of love and respect are interpreted perversely as threats to themselves and their culture.

    To stem the flow of reinforcing information to such individuals, we would not only have to censor the news media and shut down the Internet, but also close every library in the country. Anders Breivik and the Christchurch shooter drew their inspiration from the annals of Western history: from the Crusades and the expansion of the Ottoman Empire into southern and eastern Europe. History itself would have to be suppressed – along with huge chunks of the Western cultural canon. The game is simply not worth the candle.

    What we can do, is use the legislation already on the statute books to curtail the expression of sentiments intended to inflict harm. New Zealanders can thus be made more clearly aware of the distinctions to be drawn between the fair and reasonable expression of political and religious opinion, and communication intended to achieve no higher purpose than gratuitous vilification and insult.

    Will a proactive Human Rights Commission, dedicated to enforcing Section 61 of the Human Rights Act, prevent another massacre? Sadly, no, it won’t. Will it make New Zealand a better country to live in? Yes, it will.

    So, let’s do that.

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