There’s been a lot of squawking and hand-wringing over white supremacist Philip Arps’ bid for election to a Christchurch high school board. But why the fuss?
Yes, Arps seems a loathsome character. A texter to Morning Report used the word despicable, which I thought was a pretty apt description. But in a robust democracy, there are ways of dealing with despicable people.
The best way to signal to Arps that he’s despised is to let him stand for office and see how much support he attracts. My guess is none.
To bar him from running, as a lot of people are urging, would be an attack on free speech. As the great British commentator Bernard Levin wrote, “free speech is for swine and liars as well as upright and honest men”. (You’ll have to excuse the sexism, which I’m sure was unintentional.)
Poisonous opinions, as Levin pointed out, are less dangerous promulgated than banned. Arps would probably relish the fugitive mystique of being cancelled.
The problem here is that many people on the Left – apparently including those who are huffing and puffing over Arps – don’t trust democracy. They don’t think their fellow citizens can be relied on to make the right decisions. They prefer to put their faith in state decrees that restrict people’s freedoms. In this respect they reveal their essentially elitist, authoritarian leanings.
As an aside, it’s almost comical to hear people accuse Arps of using the school board elections as a ruse to promote his supremacist ideas, then do him the enormous favour of going on TV and radio saying he must be stopped. He couldn’t have wished for more exposure, which is what he craves.
Let Arps stand, I say, and put his support to the test. Provided the school community exercises its right to vote, I believe he’ll make an even bigger clown of himself than he is already. The votes of right-thinking people – and that means most New Zealanders – are the obvious antidote to extremists.