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.Read more
By Dane Giraud -
The anti-speech mob ignore a simple fact; there is incredible diversity within minority groups. Therefore, we must keep society as open and as liberal as possible. The idea that our right to free speech must be tested against “competing rights” comes out of a worldview that minority rights conflict with that of the majority, when the most contentious battles far often happen within minority groups.
The UN Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR) preamble recognizes that humans have an “inherent dignity” (women who sleep with me being a notable exception) and “equal and inalienable rights”. So, what’s with the bunk peddled by so many now that “rights” aren’t inalienable and that some rights are more equal than others?
We must give up the right to freedom of opinion and expression, because, for example, the “right to dignity” is more important (never mind that dignity is not a UNDHR right). If we allow for this “trade-off” we’re giving the state the power, not just to take away our freedoms and a fundamental right to express ourselves, but to “define” minority groups by deciding upon limits on how we can and can’t be spoken about, even potentially by ourselves! What constitutes a suitably “Jewish” Jew could end up defined by the state. You don’t believe me? Follow a few liberal Muslim reformers on Twitter, then imagine their detractors, many of whom are non-Muslim, having free rein to write speech laws.
But free speech can erode the right to “life, liberty and security”? Security and its synonym, “safety”, have developed into somewhat nebulous and politicized terms today, and their usage has often proven brazenly hypocritical. When Far-Right political activist Lauren Southern and Racial IQ peddler Stefan Molyneux came to New Zealand to give some public talks, many were concerned about the potential violence they would encourage against members of our Muslim community. Yet, anti-Israel protests are often completely gratuitous displays, full of racist dog whistles and thoroughly dodgy rhetoric. Hezbollah flags flew in Aotea square only weeks before Auckland Mayor Phil Goff helped create the furor around Southern and Molyneux. Hezbollah is a group that openly calls for genocide, yet this didn’t seem to register as a safety issue for many of the prominent commentators voicing concern over the Canadian speakers. Why are calls for genocide against Jews not as outrageous as anti-Muslim speech? The fact is many calling for speech restrictions also have a dog in the anti-Israel fight (An Alsatian perhaps?) meaning free speech is the only way to guarantee any sort of consistency.
Not that I would be happy to see such protests suppressed. While I don’t share their views, some Jews are anti-Israel. Vehemently so at times. And while the anti-Israel movement often points to these Jews as a type of proof for their own legitimacy, their inclusion doesn’t say much beyond the fact that Jews, like all groups, minority or otherwise, are incredibly diverse.
If you accept this fact, why should we indulge the idea of a contest where free expression is pitted against other “rights” when we couldn’t possibly hope to fairly determine unified interests without first dismissing a range of voices within minority communities? Nor, for that matter, could we even properly settle on interpretations of these “rights” within groups. At my shul we’re yet to settle on how to best set up the picnic tables!
Experts, I hear you say. Experts will decide for us!
The idea that any contest between free speech and competing rights would be a cool-headed and mature process is fanciful. We cannot ignore that we are only even talking about speech restrictions again, not due to any spikes in racism or attacks on minority groups, but because a new illiberal fringe seeks to censor those they view as the opposition. If we could guarantee that identitarians would have no place at the table, that might be somewhat consoling.
But this is their crisis.
It’s their table.
Here is the problem — the inescapable and irredeemable problem — of contemporary identity politics: it is fitting groups around a series of narratives to create a singular vision of our people-hood's. And while individual groups have common historical events and upheavals and issues unique to their experience, it hasn’t meant that the people themselves have homogenized into a cohesive single organism.
No group does.
No group can.
For me the focus on minority rights should start with a sensitivity to the struggles of minorities within minority groups. For these groups protection relies on freedom of expression. It’s conservative voices within minority groups that tend to lobby for speech restrictions, and not out of fear, but to establish their views as what the majority should consider mainstream.
Allowing the government to define what can and can’t be said about us is an illiberal imposition that denies members of minority groups our individualism, and would instantly throw minorities within minorities, some of the most vulnerable people in our societies, under the bus.
This opinion piece appeared on Medium.com
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.
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.
Here is a good analysis written by the Free Speech Coalition's own David Farrar on Stuart McCutcheon's comments on the principles of free speech in the university environment in New Zealand.