War on words

New Zealand media loves to show the love Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gets from the international media.

There is much less enthusiasm for contrary views of her, like this from Nick Cater in The Australian:

Jacinda Ardern’s pitch to turn New Zealand into the world’s leading manufacturer of bad ideas received fresh impetus last week in an address in New York. Her speech to the UN was a masterpiece of muddled-headed moral equivalence. It wove terrorism, nuclear war, the invasion of Ukraine and climate scepticism into a single threat to humanity demanding global action.

Ardern aspires to turn the country she leads into the conscience of the world. That NZ led the world in nuclear non-proliferation is an established myth within its shores. That it led the world in pandemic management was a myth established by the Economist Intelligence Unit in June 2020, four months before Ardern’s announcement that NZ had eradicated the virus.

Now, Ardern proposes to lead the world in a global response to misinformation on the internet cast in militaristic terms. “The weapons of war have changed,” she told the UN. “They are upon us and require the same level of action and activity that we put into the weapons of old.”

She said words have become weapons of war and has herself declared war on other people’s words through an attack on  freedom of speech.

As with many dangerous progressive ambitions, this one began with the noblest of intentions. The crazed massacre of 51 people in two Christchurch mosques streamed live on the internet by the gunman on March 15, 2019 prompted Ardern to find ways to stop terrorists exploiting the internet. The result was the Christchurch Declaration, which has been adopted by nine countries, the EU, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, YouTube and other major tech companies.

In the days before Covid, limited censorship of the internet might have seemed a reasonable idea to those opposed to terrorism. The concerns about mission creep voiced by some at the time, however, now seem prescient.

Under the guise of fighting the pandemic, the tech giants have launched a dangerous war on heterodoxy that preferences the views of the progressive elite. Seriously credentialled medical academics from leading universities were shut out of the debate over the wisdom of lockdowns and the safety of vaccines by algorithms that bar them from contributing to online discussion or buried their opinions so far down the search engine you’d have to scroll for 50 years to find them. . . 

The problem gets worse when, as is often the case, there’s no opportunity for discourse with those who do the barring for those who are barred.

Even Ardern sounds nervous about where this global war on online misinformation might head. “We are rightly concerned that even those most light-touch approaches to disinformation could be misinterpreted as being hostile to the values of free speech we value so highly,” she says. But to allow the internet content to rip, she claimed, “poses an equal threat to the norms we all value”.

“How do you successfully end a war if people are led to believe the reason for its existence is not only legal but noble?” she asked. “How do you tackle climate change if people do not believe it exists?” Seen through the narrow prism of ideological catastrophism, Ardern’s crackdown on scientific dissent presumably seems reasonable. Speaking in Sydney in July she declared that concerns about the militarisation of our region by communist China “must surely be matched by a concern for those who experience the violence of climate change”.

Claims as far-reaching as these demand debate. Ardern, however, hubristically insists there should be none. Perhaps this is because she is convinced her conclusions on climate change are beyond doubt. More likely, she fears their inability to stand up to scrutiny. Why else would she fear debate?

If her conclusions are beyond doubt, what’s to fear from debate?

Conservatives frequently describe the progressive left’s march through the institutions as if we were facing a blitzkrieg, like Poland in 1939. In fact, the progressive cause shuffles, a centimetre at a time, until it gathers unstoppable momentum. . .

The momentum is growing. People are cancelled because of their views, others are wary of speaking out and stay silent lest they lose their jobs.

Some do speak out, including Brendan O’Neill in Spike Online:

Tyranny has had a makeover. It’s no longer a boot stamping on a human face forever. It isn’t a gruff cop dragging you into a cell for thinking or expressing a ‘dangerous’ idea. It isn’t a priest strapping you to a breaking wheel. No, authoritarianism is well-dressed now. It’s polite. It has a broad smile and speaks in a soft voice. It is delivered not via a soldier’s boot to the cranium but with a caring liberal head-tilt. And its name is Jacinda Ardern.

New Zealand’s PM, every online liberal’s favourite world leader, has gone viral over the past 24 hours following the circulation of the shocking speech she gave at the UN last Friday. Before the assembled leaders of both the free world and the unfree world, Ms Ardern raised the alarm about a new ‘weapon of war’. It’s a ‘dangerous’ one, she said. It poses a grave ‘threat’ to humankind. It threatens to drag us headlong into ‘chaos’. We must act now, she pleaded with the powerful, so that we might disarm this weapon and ‘bring [the world] back to order’.

What is this terrible weapon, this menacing munition, that Ms Ardern so passionately wants to decommission? It’s freedom of speech.

She was talking about words. Seriously. About ideas, disagreement, dissent. Her speech focused on the alleged scourge of ‘mis- and disinformation online’. We must tackle it, she said. She acknowledged that some people are concerned that ‘even the most light-touch approaches to disinformation’ could come across as being ‘hostile to the values of free speech’. You’re damn right we are. But us global elites must nonetheless root out virtual bullshit because it can ‘cause chaos’, she said.

Really getting into her stride, she said speech can sometimes be a ‘weapon of war’. Some people use actual weapons to inflict harm, others use words: ‘The weapons may be different but the goals of those who perpetuate them is often the same… [to] reduce the ability of others to defend themselves.’ ‘War is peace’, said Big Brother. Big Sister Jacinda Ardern sees it a little differently: war is speech. Words wound, ideas kill – that’s the hot take of this globe-trotting luvvie against liberty.

And she really is talking about ideas. Modern politicians who wring their hands over ‘misinformation’ or ‘disinformation’ are usually just talking about beliefs they don’t like. So at the UN, Ms Ardern gave climate-change scepticism as an example of one of those ‘weapons of war’ that can cause ‘chaos’. ‘How do you tackle climate change if people do not believe it exists?’, she asked. Critiquing climate-change alarmism, calling into question the eco-lobby’s hysterical claims that billions will die and Earth will burn if we don’t drastically cut our carbon emissions, is an entirely legitimate political endeavour. In treating it as a species of Flat Earthism, as ‘disinformation’, the new elites seek to demonise dissenters, to treat people whose views differ to their own as the intellectual equivalent of warmongers. Barack Obama also claims that ‘misinformation’ about climate change – which, in his view, includes painting the environmentalist movement in a ‘wildly negative light’ – is a threat to the safety of humanity. Be mean about greens and people will die.

Call me a ‘weapon of war’, but I believe freedom of speech must include the freedom to be negative – even wildly so – about eco-activists. Activists, by the way, whose hype about the end of the world could genuinely be labelled misinformation. But they are never branded with that shaming m-word. That’s because misinformation doesn’t really mean misinformation anymore. It means dissent. Deviate from the woke consensus on anything from climate change to Covid and you run the risk of being labelled an evil disinformant.

Indeed, one of the most striking things about Ardern’s speech was her claim that if the elites ignore ‘misinformation’, then ‘the norms we all value’ will be in danger. This is the most common cry of the 21st-century authoritarian – that speech can have a destabilising and even life-threatening impact, especially if it concerns big crises like climate change or Covid-19. So ‘climate deniers’ are a threat to the future of the human race and thus may be legitimately silenced. ‘Lockdown deniers’ threaten to encourage the spread of viral infection and thus may be legitimately gagged. The spectre of crisis is cynically used to clamp down on anyone who dissents from the new global consensus. Images of Armageddon are marshalled to justify censorship of troublemakers. ‘Chaos’, as Ardern calls it – that’s what will unfold if your reckless, dangerous ideas are given free rein.

She had company for her call to constrain free speech which brings no comfort:

To see how authoritarian the desire to clamp down on ‘misinformation’ can be, just consider some of the other world leaders who likewise used the platform of the UN to call for tougher controls on speech. Muhammadu Buhari, the brutal ruler of Nigeria, focused on his nation’s ‘many unsavoury experiences with hate speech and divisive disinformation’ and joined the calls for a clampdown on the ‘scourge of disinformation and misinformation’. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, bemoaned the ‘disinformation’ against his nation. The chattering classes cheering Ms Ardern for standing up to ‘fake news’ are implicitly cheering Buhari and Lavrov, too. They are as one with that woke kween when it comes to chasing ‘misinformation’ from the public sphere. 

Freedom of speech is in peril. And it isn’t only threatened by obvious strongmen – like the corrupt rulers of Nigeria or the theocratic tyrants of Iran – but also by a smiling PC woman who is feverishly fawned over by virtue-signallers the world over. Ms Ardern’s UN speech exposed the iron fist of authoritarianism that lurks within the velvet glove of wokeness. From her brutal lockdown, which forbade even New Zealand’s own citizens from returning to their home country, to her longstanding war on ‘extremist’ speech, this is a woman who poses as liberal but can’t even spell the word. If you want a picture of the future, don’t imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever – imagine Jacinda Ardern putting her arm around your shoulder and telling you with a toothy smile that you’re going to have to sacrifice your liberty to save the world from chaos.

If freedom of speech is in peril then so too are other freedoms because if we can’t speak out about other constraints how can we fight them?

Dan Wooton disucsses Ardern’s UN call with Neil Oliver  who says she’s nothing less than dangerous :

 

 

 . . . they fantacise about the kind of  totalitarian control that’s available to the leader of the Chinese Communist Party. You can see that they fanatcise about when the day comes that they’re able to round up their political opponents and those that disagree with them and put them somewhere out of sight . . 

That might be a bit over the top but it’s also a warning of what could happen if those wanting constraints on free speech win.

Peter Kurti from the Centre of Independent Studies adds his voice to those concerned:

What we see here, cloaked in the similarly reasonable language of compassion and safety is that there is only one narrative, there is only one version of the truth and you’re right, that is a totalitarian … state of affairs.

You can listen to his interview with Cory Bernardi on Sky News at that link.

The internet has given the deranged and evil a voice but designating words as weapons of war and responding  with attempts to curtail free speech is the nuclear option of censorship with all the dangers of collateral damage that accompany it.

Apropos of censorship, New Zealand media reported Ardern’s speech but while they usually also report positive responses to her utterances in international media, the only coverage I’ve come across was on The Platform where Sean Plunket interviewed Brendan O’Neill.

 

One Response to War on words

  1. Heather Adam says:

    I tire of the popular climate change fear being used by politicians. Climate has changed forever. Greenland in the 3rd century grew grapes. Several centuries of snow and ice followed. Now that it is warming a little, panic, global warming.

    Like

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