Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Another contender for the free-speech Hall of Shame

I’ve suggested to the Free Speech Union that they establish a Roll of Dishonour. This would consist of an “Enemies of Free Speech” list that could be updated as and when required (probably daily, given current trends).

I proposed that they start the ball rolling by naming and shaming the recently established sports broadcaster SENZ for firing a new recruit over an opinion piece he wrote before he even joined the station. Great start, SENZ.

Sam Casey (no, I hadn’t heard of him either, but then I’m no sports aficionado) upset a few people – including political journalist Barry Soper’s rugby-playing daughter Alice – with a column in Rugby News in which he criticised Rugby New Zealand for spending too much money on the women’s game. Casey also took a swipe at the Black Ferns for “always putting their hands out”.

Alice Soper, who was singled out in Casey’s piece as a vocal advocate for women's rugby, fired back on Twitter, as she’s entitled to do. She probably didn’t expect that Sports Entertainment Network NZ would oblige by terminating Casey’s contract only three weeks after he had joined the station.

SENZ’s justification consisted of the usual tiresome weasel words. The tone and language in Casey’s column, it said, “were inconsistent with the company’s values of equality, respect and inclusiveness among all sports and athletes”. This is the standard copout from companies that jump at the sight of their own shadow and cower in fear of social media witch hunts.

You’d think a media company’s values might also say something about commitment to freedom of expression, given that the media can't function without it; but no. Like Magic Talk, which dispensed with the services of Sean Plunket because he was prepared to swim against the prevailing ideological current, SENZ appears to have the spine of an earthworm.

I haven’t read Casey’s Rugby News piece. I don’t need to, because it’s irrelevant. The fact that it passed editorial scrutiny at Rugby News, a long-established publication, indicates that it conformed with Media Council principles covering legitimate expressions of opinion.    

In any case, whether or not you agreed with the column is immaterial. Casey may have expressed bigoted, ignorant and oafish views, but in a free society people are allowed to be bigoted, ignorant and oafish. In other words you don’t have to agree with what he said to support his right to say it. You’d think this principle was settled and understood in 2021, but here we are fighting for it all over again.

Besides, big egos and loudmouths are not exactly unknown in that strange blokeish fraternity whose members earn their living talking and writing about sport. Good luck to SENZ if it thinks it can succeed without having at least a few of them on its payroll.

Footnote: Speaking of loudmouths and egos, Casey’s column was the subject of a sneering critique on The Spinoff by a rival sports broadcaster, Scotty Stevenson. But Stevenson didn’t confine himself to criticising Casey for his views; he went a step further by arguing that women’s rugby would be in a better state “if only opinions like [Casey’s] had the good grace to just fuck right off”.

The fragility of free speech is strikingly demonstrated right there. Stevenson wants to deny Casey a right that he asserts for himself. But that’s okay, you see, because Stevenson is right and Casey is not. His moral superiority would have ingratiated him with The Spinoff’s woke readers, but it’s just a form of bigotry and intolerance in disguise.


Max Ritchie said...

I wonder how much money Netball NZ commits to men’s sport? Actually I hope it’s none but that’s not the point. According to people like Stephenson they should be spending at least 50% of the budget on encouraging netball for men. Well, at least the men would be able to put on a competitive show vs the women, unlike women playing rugby.

Ricardo said...

On a related example I see that Stuff gratuitously commented that the Defence Force was trying to eliminate extremism from its ranks. This was in an article reporting the removal of a prize winning essay from a defence website because it advocated less woke diversity and more exclusive warrior focus.

A less warrior like Army will do marvelously I am sure.

B DeL said...

So Scotty will now publicly express disapproval of locker room talk?

Yeah, right.

Ricardo said...

And I meant to add that if having a warrior focus in an infantry battalion is extremism, then going too fast at the Indianapolis 500 is dangerous driving.

Eamon Sloan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CXH said...

The editors at Spinoff are part of the new age debaters. Abuse or what they consider a witty put down has taken the place of debate or discussion. Unless it is someone they disagree with dishing out abuse, then it is just hate speech.

Karl du Fresne said...

The F word used to be used (a) to affect an air of toughness and (b) signal contempt for bourgeois values, but it has lost any force it once had. Now it's just tiresome and puerile. As you say, Eamon, it tends to be deployed when valid arguments have run out.

Brendan McNeill said...


Good suggestion regarding the "hall of shame" for those who despise free speech, particularly when exercised by others with whom they disagree.

I'd encourage readers of your blog to make a personal submission to regarding their views about the proposed "Hate Speech" legislation. The Government has clearly misread public opinion on this matter, however the more we can do to reinforce our commitment to Free Speech, the better.

The Ministry of Social Development is also taking submissions on ways to improve "social-cohesion" in New Zealand, as though some Government program can remove racism and bigotry from the human heart. If you would like to make a submission, their response questioner can be found here:

Doug Longmire said...

I agree Karl.
Scotty Stephenson's abusive rant told us more about him and his nasty character than it did about the subject of his incoherent tirade.
Apart from that idiot, the theme of your article is very relevant. Namely the shutting down of any non-woke or critical comment, or even any comment that might be perceived to be non p.c.
One excellent example of this occurred a few years ago, when the Australian, Jan Thomas, VC of Massey University, to her shame, banned Don Brash from speaking at Massey, because his views that all citizens should be treated equally, were "racist".

Hilary Taylor said...

Yes. Here we go again...again. I don't go near the Spinoff for it's ocean of Smug fair carries me away...screaming, in the opposite direction. But I'm pretty sure our kids think it's all gospel. Good to know it's Scotty Effing S...apt.
The army essay? And what 'values' precisely does it not adhere to? Can't imagine how it's remotely controversial. Ha!

Doug Longmire said...

I heard a very apt comment from Kate Hawkesby today on ZB talkback. Kate was commenting on the current trend towards woke cancel culture and hate speech etc.

Kate said "It is becoming a badge of honour to be a victim."

What a sad state of affairs!!