Wednesday, August 29, 2018

What on earth was Woodhouse thinking?

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 ( – 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.


hilary531 said...

I see it in very simple terms. She's applied to work here, as others have before her and some of those others have been declined entry on account of criminal convictions...Chris Brown comes to mind. Was Mike Tyson allowed in?? Individuals are turned away at the border all the time for their criminal convictions. Not sure why Woodhouse decided to pick this battle for I just don' see it as a 'free speech' one at all. If Immigration let her in then that's to tout her wares. Also, is she a 'whistle-blower' or 'leaker'? She was convicted of espionage et al, no??

Karl du Fresne said...

There are precedents for allowing people into New Zealand in the past despite their criminal convictions. Nelson Mandela and Jordan Belfort (the so-called Wolf of Wall Street) have been cited as examples. Besides, Woodhouse's comments indicated it was all about wanting to stay onside with the US, and his timing seemed spectacularly inept. Did he really need to make an issue of Manning when the dust has barely settled after the debate over the Canadians? It was bound to be played as a free-speech issue.
Re my use of the term "whistle-blower": fair cop. It does make her sound like a hero. To be honest, I still can't decide about the morality of what she did.

hughvane said...

Let's speculate. Let's suppose Ecuador manages to get rid of Assange, and he applies to come and peddle his verbal wares in NZ. Anti US conspiracists will celebrate, the morally sanctimonious will wring their hands, and US sycophants like Woodhouse will howl their outrage. Most couldn't care less what Assange has to say, and I imagine that applies to Manning as well.

Trev1 said...

I too was shocked by Woodhouse's comments. Yes Manning has a serious conviction but she is most unlikely to offend while here during her short visit. I am pleased to be a "free speech zealot". Free speech is under serious threat around the world. New Zealand has a chance to lead again on a matter that is vital to democracy.

kenh said...

Karl, I have been following your Dominion Post opinion pieces for years and have read and enjoyed your book on US song titles (loaned by a mutual friend). I also fully support your strong advocacy for free-speech as put forward in your blog here, which incidentally, I just discovered today. I encourage you keep up your articulate and reasoned approach to confronting the insidious assault on the core values of our society by the SJWs/Cultural Marxists/Far Left.

Karl du Fresne said...

Thanks Ken. Good to know my book is still finding new readers.