Thursday, December 28, 2017

If you want to see what real hate speech is like, check out the attacks on Don Brash

(First published in the Manawatu Standard and Nelson Mail, December 27).

Don Brash could be excused for feeling a little bruised as 2017 draws to a close.

The former leader of the National and ACT parties used his Facebook page to criticise Guyon Espiner, one of the presenters of Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report, for repeatedly showing off his fluency in Maori.

Brash objected because, as he pointed out, hardly any listeners to the programme would know what Espiner was saying. According to Brash, the presenter’s use of te reo is an example of “virtue signalling” – in other words, flaunting his moral superiority.

It was a legitimate comment about a high-profile figure employed by a publicly owned institution, but Brash’s Facebook post was the signal for one of the most brutal media gang-ups I can recall.

As the former leader of two right-of-centre political parties and the founder of a supposedly racist pressure group called Hobson’s Pledge, he’s considered fair game by the so-called “liberal” Left. And predictably, they piled in.

I put that word “liberal” in inverted commas because many of these people are angrily intolerant of opinions they don’t approve of. In other words, they are illiberal.

Many of the attacks on Brash were striking for their sheer malice and venom, and I’m not just talking about those that appeared in the Wild West of online social media. Some of the most vicious were published in mainstream media, where editors normally keep a check on spiteful and gratuitous personal attacks.

One columnist who makes his primary living as a comedian – a word which now seems interchangeable with “smug moralist” – harrumphed about Brash creating a “storm in a teacup” over te reo. But if there was a storm in a teacup, it was entirely due to the furious, over-the-top reaction from Brash’s attackers. All he did was write something on his Facebook page.

Brash was also subjected to an openly hostile interview (for want of a better word) with Kim Hill on Radio New Zealand – a rare example of a state-owned broadcasting organisation publicly exacting utu against a critic – and was subsequently ridiculed for not pronouncing “whanau” correctly. If your name is Don Brash you can’t win, even when you try to play the game.

Brash, of course, has been a marked man ever since he delivered what is routinely described in the media as his “infamous” Orewa speech in 2004, when he was National Party leader. In that speech he espoused one rule for all New Zealanders and an end to special treatment in law for people of Maori descent.

“Infamous” it may have been in the eyes of some journalists, but it struck a chord with many New Zealanders. Brash took the National Party from its worst-ever defeat in 2002 to near-victory in 2005, which the Left explains by insisting that the 890,000 New Zealanders who voted for National were all racists. Yeah, right, as they say.

Since then, Brash has made himself even more unpopular with politically correct thinkers by forming Hobson’s Pledge, which has the mantra “one law for all”. The organisation takes its name from a statement attributed to Captain William Hobson at the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi: “He iwi tahi tatou” – “We are all one people”.

In the eyes of his critics, Brash’s stance makes him a racist. But how do you define “racist”? A racist, to me, is someone who believes some races are inherently superior or inferior to others and discriminatory treatment is therefore justified.

By that definition, Brash could more accurately by characterised as anti-racist, since he opposes special treatment for a racial minority.

He mounts perfectly cogent arguments against racial privilege on the basis that it runs counter to the principle that everyone in a democracy should have equal rights. The most obvious example of Maori being treated differently is the anachronism of Maori seats in Parliament, which become very hard to justify when there are 23 MPs of Maori or part-Maori descent representing general electorates.

That’s not to say that Hobson’s Pledge doesn’t have members who are truly racist. It’s possible some are, although I would guess that many of the organisation’s members (I’m not one, incidentally) are simply older New Zealanders who are struggling to come to terms with the prevailing spirit of biculturalism. That may seem quaintly out-of-touch, but it doesn’t make them racist.

That raises another striking aspect of the attacks on Brash. A recurring theme was that he should shut up because he’s old, male and white, which apparently disqualifies him from having any right to express an opinion. We hear a lot of talk about the need to embrace diversity, but apparently it doesn’t extend to Pakeha men of a certain age.

We also hear a lot from the Left about the need for tougher laws against “hate speech” to protect vulnerable groups such as ethnic minorities and the gay community. But ironically, the closest I’ve seen to hate speech in 2017, by far, was the outpouring of loathing for Brash.


Barry said...

Another great post Karl. Thank you.

Craig said...

Good post. I'm glad I was not the only one thinking that our comedians all seem to be riding a Tsunami of left-wing smug. Brash is the only politician in recent memory who unambiguously stands up for classical liberal ideas, they must see him as a threat, otherwise they wouldn't get so worked up when he opens his mouth.

Unknown said...

The reason the left are up in arms is because they are not on solid ground.
Eg this morning I heard Manying Ip on Chinese New Zealanders talking about a New Zealand identity, her moral being that Chinese ("new citizens") are New Zealanders. She said that started in the 1970's when the government introduced a merit based "points system". What she didn't say was that there was a lot more to it:

The attitudes of New Zealanders in the mid-1990s towards immigration may not have reflected the positive perspective on the value of diversity in our society that is contained in the Review of Immigration Policy August 1986. But this does not mean that the globalisation of immigration to New Zealand was an “unintended consequence of policy changes in 1986”. It was a deliberate strategy, based on a premise that the “infusion of new elements to New Zealand life has been of immense value to the development of this country to date and will, as a result of this Government’s review of immigration policy, become even more important in the future” (Burke 1986:330) The Globalisation of International Migration in New Zealand: Contribution to a Debate

New Zealand was too white and therefore racist. Michael Reddell discusses economic thought at the time and it certainly wasn't unanimous that a larger population will make us better off and it hasn't. That put's the left on the defensive since maybe, just maybe they are to blame for high house prices, low wages, traffic and a lower quality of life.

Then there is "biculturalism". Biculturalism is (frankly) weird (compared to say, bisexuallity).
Quoting Spoonley:
For much of the twentieth century it was assumed that the state operated on behalf of a single nation that the two (the nation and the state were indivisible) The state represented all New Zealanders. It deserved their undevided loyalty and in return the state was neutral with respect of the ethnic identity of it's citizens. The identity politics of Maori challenged all of these elements. The nation was made up, it was argued, of two groups and the operation of the state ought to recognize the particular circumstances and the rights of Maori. Something which it had not done previously. In fact the state had seemed to operate in ways that had directly disadvantaged Maori. The state was hardly neutral. According to Ranginui and others the state preserved Pakeha interests even if it continued to claim universality and neutrality. It was a radical rethinking of what the nation state of NZ ought to be. It required a de coupling of the nation now defined as Maori and Pakeha or Moari and the Crown and required the state to operate in new and different ways. A new understanding and a new social contract needed to be established . But of course there was no compulsion for the state to acknowledge these new expectations. It was left to the good sense and sensitivities of some key players: Maori, Pakeha and representatives of the state to explore what this means.

While some people were fixing cars and designing toasters, radicals in the universities were having a "radical rethinking of what the nation state of NZ ought to be". Was this discussed? Perhaps we did discuss it as in Brash's Orewa speech, but did people understand the deeper theory? This is not an idea unique to Maori/Pakeha New Zealanders, it is also part of Will Kymlika's multicultural theory and is a warm up act (in our case). Do Maori really want to give up that warm blanket of being one people for one where they are just another ethnicity? The new policy has created a Maori bureaucracy where being Maori is a paid profession within a closed society. Proponents claim that they are bridging a gap. That gap opened when neo Marxist, post modernists and revisionist historians did the opposite of what modern psychotherapy would do to make a bad assessment better.

Unknown said...

If you want an example of entrenched ideology in the media, check out RNZ's Smart Talk at The Auckland Museum - Immigration where the arguments against immigration are "unsustainable" and "a group of great thinkers" (Matt Nolan on the makeup of The Savings Working Group)

Karl du Fresne said...

I mentioned Smart Talk in my earlier column 'Dominatrix versus Dinosaur', when I said you're more likely to see an aardvark driving a tractor on The Terrace than hear a conservative voice on Smart Talk. Its all-pervasive sense of leftist moral certitude is nauseating.