I could scarcely believe my ears yesterday when I heard that National Party immigration spokesman Michael Woodhouse was urging the government to ban the American whistleblower Chelsea Manning from entering New Zealand to give two speeches. For heaven’s sake, did this Womble pull a Rip Van Winkle and sleep through the recent debate about free speech?
I was pleased that the Free Speech Coalition, of which I’m a member, promptly spoke out in favour of Manning’s right to come here and be heard. Our credibility would have taken an irreparable hit if we had remained silent.
Over the past 24 hours Woodhouse has taken a richly deserved hammering from commentators on both the left and right. There’s nothing left to be said, other than to make the point – as political scientist Bryce Edwards does today in an excellent opinion piece for newsroom (pro.newsroom.co.nz/articles) – that the attempt to shut down Manning should be a lesson to the illiberal lefties who wanted to keep Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux out of the country. Having argued that the Canadians should be barred, they are in no position to object when the same intolerance is exercised against someone they want to hear.
The point is that the right of free speech must apply across the board, ideologically, or it’s meaningless. Or as I put it in a blog post two weeks ago, an attack on one person’s right to free speech is an attack on everyone’s.
Unfortunately the National Party has demonstrated that its support for free speech runs out the moment there’s a risk of upsetting an important ally. And this is the party that champions individual freedom? Pfft.