Freedom to offend and outrage

April 4, 2017

Auckland University of Technology’s History Professor Paul Moon has written an open letter rejecting “forceful silencing of dissenting or unpopular views” on university campuses.

“Freedom of speech underpins our way of life in New Zealand as a liberal democracy. It enables religious observance, individual development, societal change, science, reason and progress in all spheres of life. In particular, the free exchange of ideas is a cornerstone of academe,” the letter said.

“Governments and particular groups will from time to time seek to restrict freedom of speech in the name of safety or special interest. However, debate or deliberation must not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most people to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed.

“Universities play a fundamental role in the thought leadership of a society. They, of all places, should be institutions where robust debate and the free exchange of ideas take place, not the forceful silencing of dissenting or unpopular views.

“Individuals, not any institution or group, should make their own judgments about ideas and should express these judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas they oppose, without discrimination or intimidation.

“We must ensure that our higher learning establishments are places where intellectual rigour prevails over emotional blackmail and where academic freedom, built on free expression, is maintained and protected. We must fight for each other’s right to express opinions, even if we do not agree with them.”

Not even when we disagree, but especially.

Freedom of speech doesn’t mean the freedom to say only the innocuous and uncontroversial.

The letter was in response to Human Rights Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy’s call for a review of “hate speech” law. Police are suggesting it be looked at as a specific crime

Mr Moon, told the New Zealand Herald free speech at universities should be defended.

“The trouble is we often don’t know the difference between free speech and hate speech,” Mr Moon said.

“Usually, if people are offended by what is said it’s seen as hate speech. That’s dangerous.

“It is dangerous to silence someone just because we don’t like what they say.”

Mr Moon said such views are a threat to the right to free speech.

“It puts the definition of free speech at the whim of people pursuing that line,” he said. . . 

Freedom of speech, Mr Moon said, was the foundation of a modern, diverse and democratic society.

It protected religious freedom and individual expression, he said.

Mr Moon said kneejerk calls from police and the Human Rights communision to introduce hate-speech laws will have the unitended consequence of suppressing free speech.

“It will create a culture of fear,” he said.

“What we need is open debate, which will change racist and intolerant views, not censorship.”

Mr Moon said freedom of speech was intimately connected with freedom of thought. . . 

The letter was signed by: Assoc Professor Len Bell, Dr Don Brash, Dr David Cumin, Sir Toby Curtis, Dr Brian Edwards, Graeme Edwards, Dr Gavin Ellis, Sir Michael Friedlander, Alan Gibbs, Dame Jenny Gibbs, Bryan Gould, Wally Hirsh, Professor Manying Ip, Sir Bob Jones, Professor Pare Keiha, Assoc Professor Luamanuvao Winnie Laban, Dame Lesley Max, Gordon McLauchlan, Professor Paul Moon, Sir Douglas Myers, Assoc Professor Camille Nakhid, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Professor Edwina Pio, David Rankin, Philip Temple, Dame Tariana Turia and Professor Albert Wendt.

More than 100 years ago, Winston Churchill said: So we must beware of a tyranny of opinion which tries to make only one side of a question the one which may be heard. Everyone is in favour of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.

Freedom of speech is not just the freedom to say what people want to hear. It is the freedom to say what they don’t want to hear, to offend and to outrage.

The answer to offensive and outrageous speech is not to silence the speakers but to let them speak and counter the offence and outrageousness with reason or ridicule.

 

 

 


So?

November 7, 2011

MMP campaigner Philip Temple has found 20 writers who support that electoral system:

As support continues to grow for keeping MMP in the referendum on November 26, a group of top New Zealand writers have added their voice to the campaign.

Author Philip Temple, a spokesperson for the Keep MMP Campaign, says “It is brilliant that so many of our best known and loved authors have been willing to support the campaign to keep MMP. . .”

Twenty writers, 21 if you count Temple too, support MMP – so?

They are entitled to their view and to campaign in support of it but 21 writers supporting MMP is no more than a media opportunity, whether or not they’re best known and loved.

It probably wouldn’t be hard to find 21 people in any other occupation group across the country who support that electoral system nor to find a group of 21 who don’t.

They might not be so well known as the writers but being well known doesn’t make their opinions on the electoral system any more valid than those of people who aren’t public names or faces.

MMP, like all the alternative systems from which we’ll be able to choose in the referendum, is not perfect. There are valid arguments for and against it and the other four – First Past the Post, Preferential Vote,  Single Transferable Vote and Supplementary Member.

Finding 21 people who happen to do the same thing in support of or against one of them doesn’t make it any better or worse and is neither an argument for or against supporting a particular option.

Voters should be considering how each system works and which is more likely to give them the sort of government they want, not whether or not a system has a fan club of people from this occupation group or that.

I will be voting for change because MMP’s shortcomings outweigh its advantages for me and “celebrity” endorsement of that system isn’t going to make it any better.


If we call it home it is

October 8, 2010

After the contretemps started by Paul Henry this week we should all be quite clear that our Governor General, Sir Anand Satyanand, is a New Zealander.

He was born here, after all, but is being born here the only thing which makes us New Zealanders?

I don’t think so.

Children who are adopted have all the rights of children born into their family and that seems to be a good rule for citizens too.

We’re all descended from immigrants or immigrants ourselves.

It doesn’t matter if our forebears paddled here in waka, came here under sail, by steam or air, of if we were born somewhere else and chose to settle here.

If this is our land by birth or by choice, we’re New Zealanders.

As Philip Temple put it in his memoir, Chance Is A Fine Thing:

. . . the ceremony was telling me in a tangible way that I belonged. Perhaps it had been absurd to doubt it, after almost 50 years. But I had needed to come to terms with the inheritances and loyalties of my own whakapapa and what I felt had been challenges to my right to be here by those who claimed greater precedence. Now it had become clear that, while I was proud to be rooted in the values and traditions of British and Western European culture, I was defined by New Zealand . . .

Defined by New Zealand, that’s what makes us Kiwis.

Regardless of  where we came from or how long ago, if we call New Zealand home it is; and if we do that we’re New Zealanders.


Beak of the Moon

October 31, 2009

Not long after I started my first job on a newspaper the chief reporter told me an author was coming and I was to interview him.

The author was Philip Temple who was on a promotional tour for his newly published novel, Beak of the Moon.

It must have been one of those interviews authors dread because I hadn’t read the book. However,  I had heard of the author and was an admirer of his pictorial books like Mantle of the Skies, with its amazing photos of the bush and mountains.

He gave me a copy of Beak of the Moon which I read and then reviewed enthusiastically.

It’s an anthropomorphic story, giving a kea’s eye view of the arrival of people in the high country. The plot is absorbing and the story reflects the author’s knowledge and love of the high country.

Temple is one of New Zealand’s most prolific writers and has won several prizes including the Prime Minister’s Literary Award.

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Post 31 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge

book month logo green

Over at In A Strange Land Deborah’s final post for the challenge is The Best Loved Bear by Diana Noonan, illustrated by Elizabeth Fuller.


Tuesday’s answers

October 20, 2009

Monday’s questions were:

1. What does fiat panis mean?

2. What is a Kārearea?

3. Who said: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid of misinformed beholder a black eye.”?

4. Where is Timbuktu?

5. Who wrote Beak of the Moon?

Samo is this week’s champion with a clean sweep.

Gravedodger got three right, a half for knowing where the motto came from in #1 and a bonus for extra information in answering 2 & 4.

Lilacsigil got three right and a bonus for getting the whole answer to #1.

Cactus Kate gets a point because it was inevitable someone would make the suggestion she did.

PDM got 2 and a bonus for reasoning, albeit wrongly, with #3.

Paul Tremewan got two, a half for his answer to #2 (not wrong but not the whole answer) and a bonus for remembering school Latin.

The answers follow the break:

Read the rest of this entry »


Tuesday’s answers

June 16, 2009

Monday’s questions were:

1. What did Simon & Garfunkel call themselves when they recorded their first top 50 hit, Hey Schoolgirl, in 1957?

2. Who said:  Too often the desire for peace has been expressed by women while the stewardship of the mechanisms which are used to attempt to secure peace in the short and medium term are dominated by male decision-making structures and informal arrangements. This must change.

3.  Who wrote Chance Is A Fine Thing?

4. Which city would you be in if you were standing in the Plaza de Mayo and looking at the Casa Rosada?

5. Which is New Zealand’s deepest lake?

Paul Tremewan gets an electronic bunch of flowers for a perfect score  – the second week in a row someone’s got the lot.

Swinestein gets a point for one right and a bonus for additional information.

Gravedodger gets two points for correct answers and a bonus for making me smile with the response to question 2.

Ed gets two correct and also gets a bonus for more information.

PDM – if you follow the link below you’ll find more about Lake Hauroko which is in Western Southland and it’s 463 metres deep.

Tuesday’s answers follow the break. Read the rest of this entry »


Shambles needs Royal Commission

November 3, 2008

Dunedin author and electoral commentator, Philip Temple, says our parliamentary system is a shambles but he doesn’t think a referendum on MMP is the answer.

What we need is not an ill-defined, ad hoc referendum but a new Royal Commission on the Electoral System, a generation after the last, to enable a considered examination of all aspects of the voting system, the electoral cycle, electoral financing, the Maori seats etc . . . so that all sectors of the community can have input and influence in bringing about much-needed reform.

He supports MMP and I don’t but I agree with him about the need for a Royal Commission.

We would be far better served by the measured and detailed consideration commissioners would bring to the many issues which need to be addressed in our electoral system than by the blunt instrument of a referendum.

Once the commission had concluded its deliberations a referendum could be held on its recommendations, but it shouldn’t be the starting point.


Party not seats give Maori voice

October 23, 2008

When she appeared on Agenda in June  Tariana Turia said:

I think what our people are starting to realise though is that when they voted Maori people into Labour they never got a Maori voice, they got a Labour voice and that was the difference, and they’ve only begun to realise it since the Maori Party came into parliament, because it is the first time that they have heard significant Maori issues raised on a daily basis.

That’s a pretty damning indictment on the dedicated electorates because she’s saying it’s not  the Maori seats but the Maori Party which give Maori a voice.

Given that, do we need the seats?

Dr Lachy Paterson  says we do:

However, any moves to abolish the Maori seats are likely to provoke an outcry from Maoridom. The fact that all the main parties select Maori for electable seats is irrelevant.

Maori now have their own effective and independent voice within parliament, and the thought of all its representatives returning to the control of Pakeha-dominated parties would be galling.

Maori also see the Maori seats, and the Maori Party, as an expression of tino rangatiratanga, of embodying their tangata whenua status. Perceived attacks on Maori as a whole, such as the fiscal envelope or the Foreshore and Seabed Act, have galvanised Maori opposition in the past and abolishing the Maori seats would no doubt provoke a similar response.

The Maori Party MPs have, for the most part, been moderate and effective representatives.

Their presence in parliament, providing a Maori voice, has defused much of the anger and protest previously expressed by Maori who felt marginalised within the political system and society’s institutions.

Philip Temple, disagrees:

What would most likely happen to the Maori Party if the Maori seats were abolished? Dr Paterson believes that those currently on the Maori roll would vote for Labour with both their votes.

What is much more likely is that their voting pattern would reverse: ex-Maori rollers would give their electorate vote to a Labour candidate and their party vote to the Maori Party.

Even if I am no more than half right, the number of ex-Maori roll voters who would support the Maori Party would almost certainly carry it over the 5% threshold, giving it six or seven seats.

So there would be no fewer Maori Party MPs and possibly several more than they are likely to get while keeping the seats without significantly increasing the party vote.

. . . The number of Maori seats is based on the number of people on the Maori roll.

After the last Maori roll option in 2006, the number of seats did not increase.

Maori leaders expressed disappointment that more Maori had not shifted across from the general roll, despite heavy promotion.

Many Maori roll voters shifted the other way, cancelling out about half the Maori roll increase.

The number of Maori seats is unlikely, therefore, to increase in the future, and certainly not by more than another one or two.

Given that these will almost always be split between the Maori Party and Labour, it is severely limiting for the Maori Party to depend on the Maori seats alone.

In other words, they are shooting themselves in their collective foot.

They should be aiming to take pakeha with them, not remain planted in a fortified political pa shouting threats of civil disobedience across the palisade in response to calls to come out.

Dr Paterson’s thinking seems to be rooted in 19th and 20th-century resentment.

No other country with similar democratic traditions – Australia, UK, Canada, USA – uses race-based separate rolls and electorates for elections to their national parliament.

The MMP electoral system has increased Maori representation in Parliament regardless of the separate Maori seats.

It was one of the key arguments for having MMP in the first place.

It is now entirely legitimate to ask why there should continue to be a separate Maori roll and electorates that distort MMPs democratic and proportional representation.

It is no longer appropriate or fair in the 21st century to sustain racially separate electorates established in the entirely different political, social and demographic circumstances of the 19th century.

Nor is it appropriate to leave the decision on the future of the seats up to Maori.

Whether they stay or go is a constitutional matter which affects us all so any decision on their future should be a matter for us all.

 No group of people speaks with a single voice, but the Maori Party does speak for many of what Tariana Turia calls “her people”.

So when she admits it’s not the seats but her party which give Maori a voice, she’s effectively sabotaging any arguments in favour of keeping them.


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