Does Susan Devoy favour censorship by prosecution? Apparently so – with her suggestion of involving the police to charge those she fancies have committed “hate speech”.
While in every society there are undoubtedly individuals whose form of expression is extreme, unfair, or thoroughly objectionable, there is very good reason why we have not in the past moved towards a more totalitarian society – by removing the right to free speech.
What our Race Relations Conciliator does not seem able to take on board is the fact that New Zealand can no longer claim to be a free society if she achieves her apparent wish – to have individuals charged with the crime of using speech she and others may find offensive.
This is a horrifically dangerous move for any government to embark upon – a new form of censorship which would have been completely unthinkable to our parents and grandparents. Only in times of war, when loose tongues could cost lives, has any Western society risked the damage done to one of the most important of human freedoms – people’s very basic rights to speak the truth as they see it.
But there is no doubt now that individuals are under threat today, even vilified, or virulently attacked for speaking the truth as they see this – for pointing out the growing dangers threatening our society. The form of Muslim extremism, for example, sweeping across Europe, tolerates no opposition, the least form of which is name-calling and disparaging its opponents – those with the courage still to try to warn about what is actually happening to this now troubled continent.
It has always been recognised that whether individual opinions are considered right or wrong – an open society is the only one compatible with Western freedoms – and the underpinning of democracy. Open debate and free comment are the best remedies to counter extremism. And we should be questioning why, if Devoy has any real knowledge of what happened to those societies in the 20th century (and today) in which the climate of intimidation allowed dictatorships to flourish, she has not taken the lessons on board.
It’s happening again. From one of the best informed website journals, The Gatestone Institute, comes this reminder of what happens when the State begins to censor speech. It contains a reminder by Spiked Online editor, Brendan O’Neill, that “politically correct speech does not need protecting. The United States first Amendment exists precisely to protect the minority from the majority – and to protect unpopular opinions from those who would silence them.” https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/12008/france-le-pen-free-speech#.WrNlggLKBas.gmail
There seems little doubt that Susan Devoy, with her aim of having suppressed speech or opinions which she finds unpalatable, thinks these should be silenced.
This is not only an aim incompatible with democratic freedoms – (regardless of the creeping activism we have seen for some time, in relation to even our court decisions). It flies in the face of that most important reminder from The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
We have already in this country seen the rise of bullying and name-calling whereby radical activism uses the tactics of badmouthing thoughtful critics by targeting them as racist, or homophobic, for example. As it works by silencing all too many worried about the repercussions ensuing from standing up for their beliefs, we have started on the first step of a very slippery slope.
Ms Devoy arguably needs to think much more deeply of the consequences of her wish to involve the police to target individuals whose utterances she disapproves of. This will undoubtedly take us even further down the road of a virtual Police State that some maintain, with reason, we are already embarked upon.
© Amy Brooke, Convener. See my book “100 Days – Claiming Back New Zealand …what has gone wrong, and how we can control our politicians.” Available through www.amybrooke.co.nz, Kindle, or HATM Publishers.