Friday, July 13, 2018

"I'm all for free speech, but not right now"


The left is performing all sorts of elaborate intellectual contortions to justify the banning of Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux. Simon Wilson, who naturally leans sharply to the left, has made a sincere attempt in the New Zealand Herald today to write a balanced analysis of the issue, and he nearly pulls it off. But his ideological convictions ultimately come through and sadly it becomes just another apologia of the “I’m all for free speech, but …” variety.

He gives himself away early in the piece with his casual use of the loaded term “white supremacists” to describe Southern and Molyneux and by dismissively referring to the Free Speech Coalition as an “outfit”. I note that Simon apparently doesn’t view the NZ Federation of Islam Associations as just an “outfit”, with all that word’s negative connotations.

He drags a few red herrings across the reader’s path: flaming crosses on the lawn, that sort of stuff. There are ample remedies under existing law for people who directly threaten harm or violence, so I’m not sure whether that type of emotive imagery gets us any further. 

There is also scope under the Human Rights Act for prosecution of anyone who is found to have incited hostility or ill-will against people on the ground of colour or race. But there has only ever been one such case in New Zealand and the courts quite rightly set the bar quite high for successful prosecution, recognising that freedom of expression is a fundamental pillar of democracy. I make an attempt to explore these issues in a piece about hate speech that will appear in next week’s Listener.

Simon also implies that the Canadians will “stir up hatred”. But how can he know that? And how much respect does he have for his fellow New Zealanders if he doesn’t believe (just as Goff obviously doesn’t believe) that we are perfectly capable of resisting attempts to “stir up hatred”, if indeed that’s what Southern and Molyneux intend to do?

Simon quite rightly says free speech is not absolute and that the argument is about where to draw the line. Precisely. I sharply disagree with him about where that line should be drawn, and so do many, many New Zealanders: not white supremacist New Zealanders, nor racist New Zealanders, nor Islamophobic New Zealanders, but New Zealanders who worry that free speech is under concerted attack, and who believe they’re mature enough to hear Southern and Molyneux for themselves and make up their own minds about whether they are hateful white supremacists.

What strikes me, reading Simon’s rather confused piece, is that he’s trying desperately hard to convince himself that the right of free speech can justifiably be suspended in this instance. He says repeatedly that free speech is meaningless if it doesn’t encompass the right to express views that some people find offensive, but then seems to argue that it would probably be best if we didn’t hear Southern and Molyneux because they express views that he and others, um, find offensive.

But to give him credit, he gets it right at the end. After wandering all over the shop, he says: “If they [Southern and Molyneux] do come, maybe they present an opportunity: we can whack these horrible people with some free speech of our own.”

Isn’t that pretty much what free-speech advocates have been saying? The contest of ideas is what democracy is built on. At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, I can do no better than quote Milton yet again: “Let truth and falsehood grapple; who ever knew truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”  



4 comments:

Unknown said...

What is a white supremacist? To answer that question you have to consider the theory and assumptions behind multiculturalism.

1.Immigration is beneficial.
2. Homogenous societies are bad.
3. Some people know better than others and in order to improve society they have to ignore democratic process to bring about a multicultural society.
4. Multiculturalism requires a new national identity that isn't based on the people whose society is to be turned into a multicultural society.
5. Multiculturalism requires a consistent discourse in media. Therefore we learn a lot about anti-Chinese sentiments but never that China is a closed ethnic state. The migrants homelands (generallY) remain intact while European New Zealanders become just another ethnic group. If you look around and don't think it is fair or that life has been made better you are a white supremacist.

Ruaridh said...

The last post appears to be the work of someone who is averse to multiculturalism and I can understand that. I can also understand why others are in favour of multiculturalism which, I guess, has the goal of creating a world that is one big happy family. Mission impossible. May be the debate would be more productive were we to get rid of all the labels - white supremist included. Labels are lazy and foment discord rather than rational debate. They encourage a dismissive rather than a thoughtful and measured response. Take for example “s/he’s just a rascist!”

Ruaridh said...

As.a postscript to my original comment on this piece where I questioned, if not decried, the use of labels, might I add this:
I was in part reacting to the critique of Simon Wilson’s piece commencing with his identification as of the left. Well if I have to wear a label it would say, rather wordily, right leaning, never voted for the left in 50 and more years, but willing to respect and even adopt what seems like good thinking from whatever direction it comes. Hence I paid attention to Mr Wilson’s views - which I found sensible - while attending not to the label attached to him at the beginning of the critique.

david said...

So we have people from all parts of the spectrum lining up to say that they don’t agree with the hateful things Southern and Molyneux are saying but they defend to the death their right to say it. As they should. And of course supporting something you disagree with is going to be a lot more convincing than saying you want them to come because you agree with them. But is it really hateful? Most, at least, of what Southern and Molyneux say should not even be controversial. That it is, is the most important reason why we need them here. Southern quotes statistics to support her argument that men, women and children are happiest in stable relationships. She tries to draw attention to the appalling situation of white farmers in South Africa. She draws attention to the strange way European governments are handling the insurgence of Islam. Ok her approach to Islam might be controversial, but so, I would hope, is a policy of ignoring ethnic rape gangs.

The only thing I have heard of Molyneux is a Rubin interview where he discusses IQ and race. Controversial? Only because some misguided people want to suppress it. Now I read "the bell curve" and I found it informative but unsatisfying because it didn’t posit any helpful solutions and I did feel Molyneux failed for the same reason. It's not good enough to say, oh yes but we have to treat people as individuals. But what the figures do do is indicate clearly that the current policies aimed at equal outcomes are just not going to work. We have bloody stupid laws and policies just because we fail to recognize that people are inherently different. If criminality is essentially genetic, Andrew Little is probably right that we shouldn’t necessarily be locking these people up. I don’t know what the alternative is, but if we are going to find one, the best place to start is by recognizing that the underlying cause is low intelligence and that this is genetic. Similarly if some races have anger management problems under the influence of alcohol, the best way of addressing this is likely to be by recognizing it as a genetic issue rather than restricting the supply to everyone.

An important issue with IQ is earning ability, and here you can see clearly that misrepresenting the situation is going to lead you to policies like equal outcomes that create more problems than they solve and will ultimately fail. Surely the answer lies in finding occupations that suit the various different interests and abilities of different people, not in quotas for jobs to which people are unsuited. That might need more research, but the research is never going to happen unless we listen to the likes of Molyneux.