Sunday, August 5, 2018

Sick to the pit of my stomach

Where should I start?

Perhaps with the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern. She told reporters on Saturday that she was proud her fellow New Zealanders didn’t share the views of the Canadians Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux.

But how would she know New Zealanders don't share their views? We never even got a chance to hear what their views are, still less decide whether we disagreed with them. That’s what this whole shameful episode was about.

In any case, I’m not aware of any opinion poll that showed what New Zealanders think about Southern and Molyneux. Does the prime minister claim some preternatural insight into what’s going on inside New Zealanders’ heads?

Then there’s Newshub’s Patrick Gower. Perhaps I should have started with him.

Gower interviewed Southern and Molyneux (it wasn’t screened, but you can see it online) and afterwards told newsreaders Samantha Hayes and Mike McRoberts that it was one interview he wouldn’t forget for a while, “and not for any good reason”.

Er, quite so. Gower complained that the Canadians’ response to his questions was “attack-like” and that they indulged in “intellectual nitpicking”. But it was Gower who set the tone of the interview with a needling, aggressive approach which seemed to proceed from the assumption that the two were purveyors of hate speech, whatever that might mean.

He can’t blame the Canadians if they fought fire with fire and left him floundering on more than one occasion. Interviewers who throw punches can’t complain if their subjects strike back.

It was not Gower’s finest moment. At one point he accused Molyneux of indulging in a rant – “rant” now being the favoured New Zealand way of dismissing any expression of opinion that someone else doesn’t like.

The Southern-Molyneux furore cried out for some sober, dispassionate journalism that sought to explain to New Zealanders why the Canadians have aroused such fury.  Well, Gower was not the man to provide it. In fact throughout this saga, the media generally have made little or no attempt to probe beyond the hysteria and the simplistic name-calling. (An example was Newshub’s panel show The Project, where “racist” – a word rendered almost meaningless by misuse – seemed to be the juvenile insult du jour.)

It’s not good enough to tell us, as Gower did in his news report, that Southern and Molyneux had made “controversial comments’” about indigenous Australians. What were these comments, exactly? If we knew, we could decide for ourselves whether they deserved to be called controversial, and whether they justified the hysterical hostility the Canadians encountered in Auckland.

Similarly, it was not good enough for Radio New Zealand to say they made “disparaging” remarks about Aborigines. Tell us what they were, for heaven’s sake, and let us decide whether they were “disparaging”. I don’t trust journalists to pronounce that something is “disparaging” or “controversial” and expect us to meekly accept their word that whatever was said was reprehensible.

A few facts would be helpful, rather than shallow, subjective judgments. But throughout this affair we have repeatedly been expected to accept unquestioningly that Southern and Molyneux are “fascists”, “racists” and purveyors of “hate speech”, as if there were settled definitions of what those overheated terms mean.

Now, where else could I have started? Oh, yes – that placard carried by a protestor at Saturday’s “Rally against Racism” in Aotea Square. “Fascist trash”, it said, in a clear reference to the Canadians. Another placard depicted a swastika with the word “Nazis”.

Pardon me, but who are the real purveyors of “hate speech” here? I have yet to see or read anything said by Southern and Molyneux that could be construed as hateful. Objectionable to some people, perhaps, but not hateful.

But to call someone “fascist trash”or a Nazi – now that strikes me as crossing the boundary between robust attack and crude, unreasoning abuse. It is, however, entirely consistent with the many other derogatory labels that have been promiscuously hurled around over the past couple of weeks as if undergraduate insults convey some immutable and settled truth.

Then there’s Shane Te Pou. Gower reported a verbal exchange in the reception area at MediaWorks involving Te Pou, who just happened, by a strange coincidence, to be standing at the reception desk when the Canadian visitors left after their interview.

Te Pou is a Labour Party activist and former Labour candidate, although Gower’s report omitted to mention that (which also seems a bit odd). Te Pou later told RadioLive that he had suggested to the Canadians that they catch the next flight home, “and don’t let the door hit you on the backside on your way out” (although I suspect that “backside” was not the word he used).

It was uncouth and unprovoked, but typical of the febrile rage that has spread like a contagion as the hard left mobilised and rarked itself up over the Canadians.

There are other players in this ignoble affair who deserve a special mention. One is the idiotic NewstalkZB talkback host Marcus Lush, who told callers on Friday night that the denial of a venue for Southern and Molyneux was a victory for free speech.

In Lush’s tortured logic, the people who bullied the owners of the intended venue into cancelling the Canadians’ engagement with only a few hours’ notice were exercising their right of free speech. ouseSomeone should try to explain to him that free speech actually doesn’t triumph if it deprives someone else of the opportunity to speak. That’s the triumph of the baying mob, pure and simple. And the lesson is that if you make enough noise, if you threaten violence and boycotts and disruption, then you’ll bully people into backing down.

I don’t know whether I agree with the views of Southern and Molyneux, and I suspect I might not like them much as people. Molyneux in particular strikes me as a bit strident and dogmatic for my taste. But New Zealanders are entitled to hear them and decide for themselves whether their views are poisonous. Our democracy isn’t so fragile that we need protecting from mere opinions. The Bill of Rights, after all, guarantees not only the right to express all manner of views, but for others to hear them.

Not that this matters to the smug, myopic prigs who celebrated in Aotea Square. It wouldn’t occur to them, in their overweening self-righteousness, that they are hypocritically insisting on their own right to free speech while denying it to others. Neither would it occur to them that a dangerous precedent is set for everyone – them included – if society decides it’s okay to silence anyone with unpopular opinions.  Who’s to say that couldn’t be used against the left in future? The sight of them congratulating themselves on suppressing someone else’s rights made me sick to the pit of my stomach.


Mark Hubbard said...

Pretty much agree with your points here, Karl. One further point about the dreadful Gower interview, however, that goes directly to the heart of why our journalism seems on such a low point.

But first, note that while I donated to the free speech campaign on that principle - free speech - I was never going to see Southern and Molyneux after checking them out. Especially Molyneux, and it's regarding him Gower dropped the ball so badly. If you go back and look at the interview Molyneux was just starting on his (debunked) pseudoscience views that race (which he conflates wrongly with culture, as does Southern too much) determines IQ, and there is a hierarchy of races with Asians at the top, blacks at bottom - that's what makes him a racist, without a doubt in my mind. And he is seriously wrong in the science. In other words, he was about to hang himself on his own rope, which is such an important function of free speech, but that's when Gower closed him down because it was 'disrespecting' his readers. Ie, Gower seems to think journalism is not about putting out the facts, but a nanny state propaganda styled operation to protect people from views he doesn't seem to think they can handle adultly. Or that Ardern finds hateful.

That's the gutter for a free press. Gower needs some serious retraining and thinking about what his job is. Because it's an important job that once carried my respect.

Abyssus Invocat said...

Quite so. People call Molyneaix and Southern Nazis or fascists have never met the real Nazis or fascists. If you drive fringe views into dark places they don’t die, they come back as something much worse.

Wallace Westland said...

Well there was this one poll...

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Karl

I haven't heard or seen much of these two, other than Southern being prevented from walking past a Mosque in Sydney by the police because her presence would cause 'disruption'. One might have imagined the role of the police was to enforce the rights of citizens to walk the public streets unmolested, but apparently in heavily Muslim populated parts of Sydney Australia that's not the case.

With respect to race and IQ this is a fraught subject, not least of all the difficulty surrounding the definition of someone's race. Professor Jordan Peterson reluctantly addresses this question in the interview below. I raise it for two reasons:

1) To confirm that there is an apparent link between race and IQ, and assuming this is a fact, then facts of themselves are not racist. And...

2) That Peterson is at pains to make it clear that IQ while a reliable indicator of intelligence, is no indicator of human worth or value. He points out that intelligent people can be extremely disagreeable, or worse. A useful perspective.

I don't know how Southern and Co. chose to leverage the question of IQ and race - perhaps they are being racist in their use of these facts, I simply don't know, but lets not make facts themselves racist.

And when it comes to free speech there are over a 1,000 of us Kiwis' who believe it is a western civilisational bedrock and who were happy to financially support the cause. If Labour and its supporters are keen to see the birth of a free speech political party then by all means, work with the Orwellian Human Rights Commission to introduce laws against 'disharmonious' speech in this country and see how well that works out for you.

Grantus said...

A good wrap up on this thanks Karl. I have seen some of their stuff and its not all that offensive. Personally I simply dont like their style and thats why I wouldnt bother to see them. However we should have that option if we wish to. Those that use their free speech to shut down others free speech probaly think irony has something to do with taking creases out of clothes.....

Hamish Bartle said...

@brebdan McNeil.. The question of ethnicity and iq test scores is not fraught, but it does need to be properly addressed by the media when this tired trope raises its head. IQ test scores are influenced by a range of factors including gender and age. In recognition of this the tests provide different norms for these groups. The test content is culturally situated in the culture of the test makers, and as such being from a different cultural background impacts scores. The 'debate' presented by SM and his ilk conflates a number of ideas, not least the gap between any psychological test and the thing it seeks to illuminate.

hughvane said...

By admission in your brief bio, Mr du Fresne, you have “been in journalism for more than 40 years”, so we can safely assume that you know what you’re talking about.

I would really like you to write an expansive piece in one of your blogs about what constitutes genuine journalism vs the onrush of what I choose to call Opinionism, written by Opinionists. I do not consider them to be journalists, despite your charitable definition.

Many, if not most, interviewers go into an assignment with an agenda predetermined by the show’s - and show it is, be it audio, video or print - producer(s) or editors, and themselves. Objectivity and impartiality have long gone, therefore Southern & Molyneux didn’t stand a bolter’s of being interviewed in a fair and dispassionate manner, especially by someone as innately obnoxious as Patrick Gower. As for Marcus Lush - spare us!

hilary531 said...

It's SO depressing, this whole sorry business...topped off by the PM with her profoundly patronising, point-missing remarks. Colours, mast, nailed. Speaking of topped, top piece Karl, and commenters. Couldn't bring myself to watch the Gower piece, the Sunday piece, and as for the illiterate & confused (and plain vile, online) activists who lack any shred of insight..there is no arguing with fools. The one glimmer on the TV1 cover on Sat night, after activists faced off with some free speech souls, was a woman from the HRC, yes, the HRC, who calmly said allcomers should be heard, in NZ, used attending a Buddhist temple as an analogy..well, OK. Point is she was calm, moderate, fair, embracing. The irony when compared to the hysteria was exquisite.

RAYMONDO said...

Well said Hillary531

Trev1 said...

Thanks Karl for this reflection on the very sad state of our freedoms in this country, which you no doubt wrote before the truly appalling "Sunday" programme aired last night. That was a total travesty of journalism, straight out of Dr Goebbels' playbook. The events around the Canadians' visit have clearly demonstrated that our media are unscrupulous enforcers of the modern hard left's dogma of the "multicultural project". Even worse, no politicians have spoken up unequivocally in defence of free speech. Indeed the Prime Minister made remarks on her return to Wellington on Sunday that could be construed as endorsing the threats of violence which shut down the Canadians. The prison door is closing slowly but surely on New Zealanders' freedom of speech and expression, and they seem to lack the moral fortitude to do anything about it. I am ashamed to be a New Zealander.

will said...

I think I can help with the IQ question. The Left are ginning up an idea that the reason the West is so advanced compared to other places is because evil white people colonised, enslaved and stole the resources of other races. So White People owe reparations to non-whites in perpetuity, also all races have a right to come live in our lands because of this. I'm told this is actually being taught in some Universities. It is easily disproved but you need to offer an explanation for why the West did get so far ahead. If you find 'Guns, Germs and Steel' as absurd as I did then the correlation between average IQ and civilisational success becomes interesting. That is the position Molyneux is advancing. There is more to the West than IQ of course. The ability to challenge dogma, something the Alt-Right call Faustian Spirit and so on, but that is the general idea.

It has nothing to do with supremacy or putting people down, just a defensive argument.

Palmerston North said...

Thank you, Karl, for sticking it to the thought police. NZ is not the free society it claims to be neither is it corruption free. I speak from experience. There is a simmering fraud which the 'bien-pensants' are desperately trying to keep a lid on. The Turitea wind farm fraud has the judiciary and the elite who lord over us with their backs to the wall. Check out yumchar on Twitter and visit for excruciating detail.