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Has the free speech tide turned again?

  • August 9th, 2018

Let us give thanks for Massey University’s sacrifice.  It has devalued its brand and revealed laughing stock leadership quality (Chancellor Ahie and the cringing Council members who have failed to respond to their earned ridicule). But it has managed to stir resistance to the “hate speech” movement from a range of people. Without this incident too many might have continued to wait for others to defend the four freedoms until too late.

Three outstanding contributions appeared in my internet feed today. I will not excerpt any of them because they are all easy reads, and all worth clicking, though the last is to me the most significant.

Former Canterbury Law School Dean Chris Gallavin who is now a senior figure at Massey has published a dignified reminder of the virtues/necessity of debate for a university. I hope he does not pay dearly for it.

Pol Sci Prof Bryce Edwards has published on Newsroom a well considered reflection on the outcome of the controversy so far. And he is not sitting on the fence.

But for me the most welcome sign of resistance is in The Standard.

The NZ left has broadly capitulated to identitarians. Dialectic has become an exchange of allegations about discovered totem words and symbols which indicate relative degrees of Wokeness.  Once an author has been categorised  “analysis” thereafter is essentially collective ad hominem assertion. Logic is immaterial. What matters is how closely an argument hews to the Woke line of the day.

But today,  “Advantage” has published a powerful reminder of what New Zealand and the left owe to decades of adherence by NZ establishments to free speech principles,  despite abhoring radicals.

I assume many on the left know who writes as “Advantage”. Will the neo-clericals of the left now mount a furious Inquisition to hunt down this sinful heretic?

There is a long way to go before the four freedoms are safe from their enemies. The National Government’s Harmful Digital Communications  Act 2015 was reckless with civil rights. It was either a cunning early fired round toward the death of free speech, or terribly bad drafting.

The Human Rights Commission and Minister Little are reported to be plotting a “hate speech” regime. But the long memory and crisp writing of Advantage from the left is a significant step. He or she may help left aligned New Zealanders to regain their courage, to withstand the neo-clerics who are stealing their movement.



  • Hilary Taylor
  • August 10th, 2018
  • 9:38 am

Thank you again Stephen. It occurred to me yesterday that the current protesters are like the new Puritans of our times…sort of chimes with your term neo-clerics. On a purely instinctual level, the very idea that a debate or a talk to students by the likes of Brash requires security considerations for even a truly bizarre. This is the climate..where the mainstream has to be defended, not just the lunatic fringe.

  • Daryl Petersen
  • August 10th, 2018
  • 11:26 am

I searched for a “report” of this but can only find a weak-ish response from HRC to the contrary, back in June. Has something changed?

  • Graham
  • August 10th, 2018
  • 7:19 pm

The new Italian government is proposing to repeal its hate speech legislation because of weaponising the concept for lawfare.

In response to Hilary Taylor’s comment, in the 1990’s Renee Denman published a book called The New Victorians which was expressly directed at the moral puritanism. It is right to refer to present matters as a new religion: prophecy, apocalypse (in its original sense) soteriology, redemption from alientaion and eschatology all exist in history. The secularisation of the Christian paradigm was effected by Rousseau and Wordsworth et al. Marx merely bought into it all.

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