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.

 

 

 


NZEI tramples on mana

March 28, 2014

Iwi leaders are incensed by NZEI’s latest publicity stunt:

The proposed protest by the Primary School Teachers Union (NZEI) to deliberately coincide with the International Summit on the Teaching Profession to be hosted by Aotearoa New Zealand will not be tolerated and left unchallenged, say prominent iwi leaders from throughout the country.

We as iwi leaders stand together in strongly condemning the NZEI. We call on them to cancel their protest for the greater good of Aotearoa New Zealand. We also issue a strong call to all Maori members of the NZEI to withdraw their membership at once. Their mana as Tangata Whenua must surely count for something and take precedence over their unionship.

The tikanga of mana is at stake. We will not stand idly by and allow the mana of the Minister of Education, the Honourable Hekia Parata, her people, our people to be manipulated and trampled on. We, Dr Apirana Mahuika, Sir Toby Curtis, Sir Mark Solomon, Raniera Tau, Willie Te Aho, Awanuiarangi Black, Tiwha Puketapu, Naida Glavish, Sir Tamati Reedy and Pem Bird caution NZEI that they are putting their hard earned excellent reputation earned over a sustained period of time on the line and for what purpose?

The International Summit is the most prestigious educational event on the world calendar, a huge coup for our Minister of Education, Hekia Parata. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Aotearoa New Zealand to showcase all aspects of our fabulous education system to renowned educational leaders from throughout the OECD community of nations.

It should be an occasion when all diverse sectors of Aotearoa New Zealand, our cities, our towns, rural communities, whanau, hapu and iwi join together as one, putting any differences we may have aside and focus instead on the positives that make us a great nation in which to bring up our children. We have much to be proud of, indeed we have much to celebrate and share.

Ideas and innovations will be discussed. Inspirational addresses will be delivered and all for the express purpose of advancing not only our national educational interests but also those of the global community. And yet despite all of this, we are going to have to witness the deeply offensive and cynical spectacle of a once honourable union exploiting this event for their own selfish needs, whatever they are.

It is not to late to exit with dignity. NZEI we urge you to come into the whare.

I presume the protest being referred to is the rally in Queen Street this Saturday.

The teaching summit is being held in Wellington so it is unlikely anyone going to it will be troubled by or even know anything about the rally.

However, the timing is a coincidence which suggests a deliberate attempt by NZEI to emphasise the negative while the positive is being celebrated at the other end of the island.

It also suggests they are more interested in politics than education.

UPDATE – one rally is going to be marching on parliament.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said she was disappointed with the protest timing, especially given NZEI’s involvement in the organisation of the summit and being part of previous delegations to New York and Amsterdam.

She would continue to have a relationship with the union, which was one of the objectives of the cross-sector forum that was set up following the first summit.

“We will continue to try to work together but it does take two.” . . .

Nga Kura-a-Iwi, a federation representing Maori schools, has also spoken out against the NZEI and the “disrespect” it has shown the summit.

Co-chairwoman Arihia Stirling said it was an “inappropriate time to be airing dirty linen”.

“It’s wrong to do this now, we don’t have people dying in the street, we don’t have people bleeding at the hands of the education sector . . . it’s poor judgment of the leadership of the union to do this at this time.

“Why would you air your dirty linen in front of the world when it’s imperative we get the rest of the world down here to learn and strengthen our education system?” . . .

The timing and venue mean it’s not less about education and more about politics.

It’s far less about making a point about poverty, it’s directly aimed at embarrassing the Minister while she’s hosting an international event.

 


%d bloggers like this: