Friday, April 21, 2023

We are no better than Putin's Russia or Xi's China

Someone using the name Jordan Heathcote has submitted provocative comments on my two most recent posts. I doubt that the name is genuine but I’ve published the comments because I welcome alternative perspectives and because I think there’s some truth in what the commenter says, although he (I assume it’s a "he") over-eggs the pudding somewhat – for example, by treating all journalists as liars. I worked in the media for more than half a century and can’t recall any instance when a colleague knowingly reported something untruthful. (Bias and distortion are another matter.)

Should I have published comments from someone I suspect is hiding behind a pseudonym? That question forces me to revisit the vexed question of anonymity. But it also raises a far bigger and more disturbing issue – namely, the climate of fear that obviously deters many people from exercising their democratic right to say what they think, using their own names.

I have said before that I greatly value comments on this blog. The comments section provides a platform for people who have something useful to say and perhaps only limited means of expressing themselves publicly. But last month, in a rush of puritanical fervour provoked by the Posie Parker affair, I declared I would no longer publish pseudonymous comments – my rationale being that anonymity endangers rather than protects freedom of expression. When people are too timid to assert their right to free speech, its power is diminished and it becomes more vulnerable to attack. At least that’s my reasoning.

But obviously not everyone got that memo, because anonymous comments have continued to come in and a substantial unpublished backlog has accumulated. Now Jordan Heathcote, whoever he/she is, forces me to reconsider the whole issue.

The most obvious problem is that I have no practicable way of verifying that commenters such as Jordan Heathcote are who they purport to be. Most newspapers require writers of letters to the editor to provide an address and phone number so they can be authenticated if necessary – a precaution not available to me.

But there are other arguments – far more compelling ones – in favour of allowing pseudonyms, some of which were covered in feedback from readers responding to last month's post and explaining why they felt unable to comment under their own names.

Some of their comments follow. It’s hard to read them without experiencing the chilling sensation that New Zealand is no longer the free and open society many of us assumed it to be.  

■ Someone using the pseudonym Lucia Maria said: “It is far easier for people to be brave when their income is protected. Those that are still working and have families to support and mortgages to pay will self-censor themselves out of the conversation if anonymity (even under a pseudonym) is removed as an outlet for their thoughts.”

■ “Anonymous” wrote: "I understand your view on names but I can’t provide mine. Unfortunately what you see in the media is endemic in corporations. The ability to hold alternative views on The Treaty, identity, climate change has been snubbed [perhaps he/she meant snuffed] out.

“I accept that you will consider me by my omission of a public response to be complicit in what is happening. But I need to protect my family’s wellbeing. Yes, an argument used by many over the years as they stood by and watched bad things happen. But like many I don’t have the luxury of putting it all at risk.

“We don’t need the jackboots of a physical oppressor, we have the modern equivalent. The Twitter mobs, the paid-by-government media and their self-selection of complicit 'reporters' and our politicians who are too scared like me to act. We have a society that enables the tyranny of the minority.”

■ Phil Blackwell, a frequent commenter who uses the nom-de-plume Tinman but is prepared to be identified, urged me to cut pseudonymous commenters some slack. He wrote: “The commenters here are largely intelligent, thoughtful and erudite (although often wrong) and I hope you give some leeway for those who need that anonymity.”

■ “Nicola” wrote that she and her husband supported the Free Speech Union, but her husband relied on the Wellington Beltway for his income, and economic reality demanded that they keep their views to themselves. If they wanted to join a public protest they would go somewhere they were unknown, such as Palmerston North. “It … feels like a copout but within the Beltway today, it is hellish for any NZer who isn’t at least as left as the Greens.” 

(Well might Nicola and her husband support the FSU; their moral quandary shows how desperately it’s needed.)

■ Trevor Hughes, who posts comments as Trev1, is another who defends anonymity. He wrote that disallowing pseudonyms risks throwing the baby out with the bathwater. “As some posters have noted, without anonymity their free speech may put them at serious risk. Yet they may also have insights to share that are particularly illuminating.”

■ Tom Hunter mentioned a regular commenter on Kiwiblog who, using his own name, had criticised a government department. “Eventually this led someone to identify his partner, who worked in another government department, and threaten to out both of them as ‘far Right extremists’. He had no choice but to leave the forum, although it's suspected - judging from [his] writing and debating style - that he has returned with a [pseudo]nym.

Tom continued: “I get your point that people may have to put their careers on the line to stop this thing and that's what you're trying to force, but I don't think that's going to work when you've got people like those above who have to take care of their families and provide for them.”

There was further comment on Muriel Newman’s Breaking Views website, which also published my post.

■ Dee M wrote: “Many people are too scared to identify themselves for a variety of reasons, often connected to their employment. We have plenty of examples of people being hounded out of their jobs for expressing their unfashionable opinions openly. And look at Thomas Cranmer!” [Thomas Cranmer is the nom de plume of a senior lawyer who appears unwilling to admit authorship of his authoritative and influential articles, presumably for fear of professional repercussions.]

■ Chris Morris: “I agree with the general policy of standing by what you write, but there have been so many instances of people doxed and ‘punished’ that I am more than a little concerned at the practicalities of its application.”

■ Peter Ness: “I have to agree with Dee M and his comment re blogging anonymously. Many people stood up for free speech on the lawn of Parliament and were mandated out of their jobs, homes and livelihoods. If you’re Mike Hosking … you can say what you like, within reason, because it’s going to be a big call to fire him for what he says and watch your ratings sink like a stone. Very different if you’re a policeman or doctor, nurse etc. An anonymous voice, small and tiny is worth listening to (that’s courtesy of Horton hears a Who).”

■ Another anonymous commenter on Breaking Views said he stood to lose a 40-year career and his home if he spoke out. He went on: “Equity is where everyone has to have the same outcome no matter their circumstance. It seems you want everyone to speak out immediately no matter their circumstance. I didn’t think you pushed an equity barrow. Maybe you should focus more on equality of opportunity – giving everyone the chance to speak out in the way that is best for them. Do Aesop’s fables carry less weight because the original author is anonymous?”

The striking thing about all this is that if the commenters are to be believed, and I have no reason to doubt them, freedom of speech in New Zealand is far more precarious than most of us imagined. When people are afraid to speak their minds for fear of adverse consequences, we are effectively no better than Putin’s Russia or Xi Jinping’s China. You could be excused for wondering how long it will be before people start circulating New Zealand-style samizdats - the clandestine newsletters published by dissenters in the Soviet Union.

Things may not be so bad here that people risk arrest or imprisonment for speaking out, but the chilling effect is no less real. The threat of ostracism, career derailment or denunciation on social media can be almost as powerful as the fear of a knock on the door from the secret police in the middle of the night.

In fact in some ways it’s more insidious because it’s not declared or overt. Limitations on free speech are imposed not by statute or government edict, but by unwritten rules policed by vindictive zealots determined to make an example of anyone who challenges the dominant ideological consensus.

This is something new. Even during the prime ministership of Robert Muldoon, which is generally considered the high-water mark of authoritarian government in modern New Zealand history, people didn’t feel this intimidated. You have to go back to the Public Safety Conservation Act, which was used to criminalise pro-wharfie comment during the 1951 waterfront dispute, to find a more oppressively censorious political environment – and that legislation was invoked on that occasion in response to a singular and relatively short-lived event. This time it’s open-ended. There’s no fixed time frame beyond which we can assume free speech will be permitted to flourish again.

All this is a long-winded way of saying that I’ve reversed my decision to disallow anonymous comments on this blog. Comments such as those reproduced above have persuaded me that allowing people a voice is more important than taking the moral high ground on whether they identify themselves.

I still lament that many people hide behind pseudonyms for no better reason than they lack the courage to stand up for opinions they are legally entitled to hold. I also deplore the tendency for anonymity to result in commenters engaging in cheap shots and puerile slanging matches – a fate that has befallen other blogs (though not this one), and which wouldn’t happen if commenters had to be named. Accordingly, people who identify themselves are far more likely to get their comments published here. Opinions carry far more weight when there’s a name to them.

But what’s even more lamentable than people sheltering behind pseudonyms for reasons of timidity is that many commenters are genuinely fearful of repercussions if they identify themselves. Freedom of expression is not served by denying them a voice – and ultimately, freedom of expression must take precedence over secondary concerns.




Doug Longmire said...

Well said, Karl.

When you initially proposed to not accept anonymous blogs a while ago, I agreed totally with that.
At the time I recall that I posted a blog saying that you and I (Doug Longmire) identify ourselves, with our personal details, so why can't all these other people do likewise ?

Wow !! Since then, and after the Posie Parker mob gang assault, and hearing the stories like you have quoted in your article above, I have changed my opinion. I can see how expressing an opinion that is apposed to the woke Left can bring all sorts of retribution on that person and his or her family.
The woke mob p.c. rule is now mainstream. Any critical or dissenting voice is [SHOCK HORROR!!] "Far-right" or "racist" or "transphobic", etc. etc.

Truly, 1984 is actually here, now.

Andy Espersen said...

Good on you, Karl. Accepting anonymous comments again is the completely right decision - for the very good reasons shown in your many examples.

And very particularly because a supplied name does not mean a comment is not anonymous - except if accompanied by an address and a phone number.

Chris Nisbet said...

Your final sentence hits the nail on the head.
I'm pleased you've changed your mind.

Ken said...

Hi Karl
I know where all these people are coming from. One of the many reasons I've got so involved in the biological men (transwomen) in women's sport issue is because I've seen the pressure and threats that have been brought down on any young female athletes who've spoken out. Cycling New Zealand and Sport New Zealand are amongst the worst.
As a boomer aged bloke (61) who one way and another has had a lifetime in sport and is pretty much retired, I can speak out without comeback other than the virtual mob. I owe it to sport and the life I've had from it to speak out.
Other issues are much the same.
I reckon the best way is just to shrug at the lables - now when I'm labled a transphobic, racist, mysogynistic, nazi, terf (apparently you can be all of the above at once). I'll just say 'and your point is'. They're so meaningless these days.
Dare I say it but there does seem to be just the smallest turning point on the trans sport issue. The NZ Herald published a letter from me in response to their editorial about letting biological boys play girls sport at youngsters Saturday sport (because they feel vulnerable if they don't). Stuff published a piece on Australian Women's Basketball not allowing a biological bloke to play in the women's league.
I don't think either would have seen the light of day a year ago.
Cheers Ken Maclaren

Jordan Heathcote said...

I am happy to explain if you'd like.

The reason for anonymity is the terror we live under. If you are found to have thought wrong, the media run state will come for you, whether in the form of the internet antifa, the leftist journalists seeking to use the victim hierarchy to punish you for transgressions or the state itself.

If you have a mortgage you have to pay, especially the eye watering debts of contemporary people, speaking up is impossible. Even the cost of rent is bankrupting for all but those who have state housing. You can not afford to lose your job and be thrown to the wolves. The only people who are free to speak are the independently wealthy or the already ostracized. In either case, once you fall out of the ever tightening noose of political opinion, you will be unable to access the platforms of surrogate society (facebook, instagram, twitter etc)

The reality is, many people have tolerated the cultural revolution which has been imposed on this country because it didn't affect them. Polling still suggests many people disagree with the cultural matters which are now rubbed in your face, like the emergent cult of sodomy worship. The reason people tolerate it is because it doesn't directly affect them. They can just move one more exit down the highway, pay for a private school and hopefully keep their children from being included amongst the new bolsheviks. The reason you had the protests at parliament for example, was because there was no way to ignore or pass on that. You either took the vax and kept your job, or were implicitly forced by the tort laws governing corporate responsibility to prevent harm and therefore to terminate employees who were not vaxxed. It caused a subset of the population to face a hobson's choice, which was substantial enough to break the government into giving up its efforts.

We live in a far worse society than China. In China, the rules of discourse are clear. Do not criticise the CCP in such a way that it undermines or delegitimises the government. In the West, we have this faux criticism which is endlessly repeated about the government since it is a faceless blob which only requires a bureaucrat's head to roll every day or two, no different to a human sacrifice to make the sun rise every day. Yet there is an endless and ever growing list of taboos which you can not touch.

Free Speech, in the context that it was used in during previous revolutions of Englishmen (English Civil War, American revolution etc) was explicitly in regard to political speech. This included plenty of anonymous and pseudonymous argument, the American Founding fathers used Romanesque Pseudonyms for public debate regularly. Revolutions occur in the mind far before they occur in the physical world. They come through alternative platforms and seep into the discourse of ordinary people slowly. The soviet dissidents wrote samizdat in the same way.

My email is if you would like to confirm my identity for future posts.

Karl du Fresne said...

For the record, I invited "Jordan Heathcote" to re-submit his comment minus the email address so as to avoid being bombarded. (I can't edit comments - I can only publish or delete them.) But he hadn't kept a copy of his comment and he explained that the email address was a throwaway one anyway, so it didn't matter. Readers will form their own conclusions.

rouppe said...

The striking thing about all this is that if the commenters are to be believed, and I have no reason to doubt them, freedom of speech in New Zealand is far more precarious than most of us imagined.

Well, I'm not sure we should be at all surprised. I don't know how long is been since you've been in a corporate environment, Karl, but this has been going on for at least a decade.

Manifested via things such as the annual mandatory training modules:
* "Bullying" training where you're basically told that all it takes to be a bully is for someone to say they feel like they were bullied.
* diversity and inclusion training where you're a racist or a misogynist or a phobe of some sort if someone takes any offence to what you say, or what you do - or sometimes don't do - or the way you look at someone.

There have been quite a few times on nights out that includes work colleagues where they say that I'm completely different to when I'm at work. Well, of course. I have to severely curate my presentation at work, because if I don't, someone will take offence and jump on the nearest outage bus.

It appears, certainly from that Kiwiblog experience, that there are people who consider it their mission to destroy the livelihood of anyone with a strong set of views.

And despite a political candidate losing their nomination for comparing Ardern to Hitler, starting around 1933, a decade before the Holocaust, Hitler's supporters started a boycott of Jewish businesses. The aim was to intimidate, financially ruin, and weaken.
Aren't those objectives on display here, and now? Feminists are being physically attacked. Scientists are being discredited. Public servants are being doxxed, the modern version of painting "Juden" on a shop window.

History is repeating itself albeit with a different face.

Trev1 said...

Hi Karl, good call. I celebrate my 71st birthday on Tuesday, born on ANZAC day 1952. I remember well my uncles and grandfathers who fought against the most wicked tyranny in Europe and the Pacific. One lost an eye to shrapnel, another was horribly scarred psychologically by having to throttle a German soldier on Crete to save his own life. When he and his family came to stay, we would hear him screaming and shouting in his sleep at night.

These people are today often portrayed as having volunteered for the excitement of foreign travel. Not so. Two of my forebears were professional military and ready to go The others left their jobs and families behind to fight fascism. Each wanted to confront the destruction of individual liberty. Believe me, they felt about that very strongly. I talked with them about this many times.

I don't know how Hipkins can show his face on ANZAC Day, the day sacred to remembering those who fought for the freedoms which are now being stolen from us.

Anonymous said...

Yes I meant "snuffed". In many corporates today we have "ethics" policies. These are admirable policies, but usually embedded in this or another policy (which under your employment contract you must obey) will be a nice little section on social media and the need to be careful about your personal views being too easily "confused" with the company.

In modern society with Facebook, twitter, Linkedin, instagram, comments on blogs etc how do you achieve this separation? I have a personal linkedin account, but it says where I work. If I comment, like or dislike a linkedin post how do I separate this from my company? My account is mine, not the company's, but if someone does not like what I like or say and they complain to my company, then "clearly" my personal comments are linked via the fact that I state where I work.

So on linkedin I never make "personal" comments, I am careful about what I like etc. Twitter is for twits, so I don't go there. The rest are either locked down "my own circle of disinformation and conspiracy" some on the left may argue or are private, like via wattsapp. So my conversations are either deliberately private or anonymous. So much for free speech.

Equally, as one achieves a level of success, your "trophy" value increases if you have an alternative view to the vocal orthodoxy. Your scalp is worth a whole lot more once they know who you are.

So I appreciate the anonymity, I engage with an inquiring mind and I am happy to have my view debated and yes, I even change my views.

The weapons of oppression have changed, they are often subtle, twisted from their intent, but equally effective. They are also much harder to fight.

Ian Penrose said...

Isn't it ironical that the NZ universities used to be the bastions of free speech and in general, encouragement of questioning attitudes in students? They have now become the diametric opposite, particularly in social areas, and now teach students what to think rather than how to think. They are now the source of many of our problems, in a parallel manner to the concerning loss of integrity in our mainstream media. These are the swamps that need urgent attention - 3/5/10 waters 'problems' are nothing compared with these societal declines.

K said...

Hi Karl, Thanks for opening the door again.

Alex said...


A well put idea is worth publishing and discussion regardless of who expressed it.

I'm sure that our historical despots would have some ideas in common with our historical liberators.

Attribution can taint the idea with the character, good or bad, of the originator. This can lead to the death of a good idea if it comes from an unpopular person.

As an aside, your mention of R Muldoon made me realise that criticism of him was assisted by the comedians of the time. They gave the public an opportunity to experience humourous ridicule, based on truth, of a man with enormous power.
The public joined in and had a release valve for their frustrations.

Today we have a bunch of unfunny, third rate woke political toadies pretending to be comedians while walking the smooth and level path of banality and compliance.

A bit like the media come to think of it.

Trevs_elbow said...

Ahhh - Interesting post Karl. I think the quotes from other posters on other blogs demonstrate something this anonymous poster said a number of months ago.

Revealing your name or your job when espousing a centre right position is dangerous; but challenging identity politics, questioning man made climate change or even a simply saying your support free speech is inviting an attack on your income source.

I am glad you are recognising how far things have moved in the world over the last decade.

The Woke, radical Left are very dangerous - they have allies deep inside the apparatus of the State and they are infecting the corporate world from the HR/Culture/People departments out...

The changes in the corporate world will, I suspect, be very outside of your personal experience over the last few years - after all as you state in your bio, your office is down the hall from the living quarters.

I can tell you woke madness is well established in Government Agencies and the large businesses are going the same way.

Free Speech is dying and your former colleagues in the Media seem to be onboard with Free Speechs demise

Brendan McNeill said...


I reluctantly support your decision regarding the use of pseudonyms for all the reasons you outline, but I remain concerned about where the rush to self-censorship will lead us. Speaking publicly under the guise of anonymity only provides temporary protection against the forces of tyranny.

At what point do we decide along with Benjamin Franklin that "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

Sooner or later we must speak up against ideological tyranny in the workplace, in the public square and elsewhere otherwise the freedoms we once enjoyed will be permanently lost.

We need to start discussing about how best to push back against the soft totalitarianism we are living under, and how to support those legally and financially who are punished by their employer for wrong think.

We cannot expect politicians to do this on our behalf.

I encourage all your readers who engage in some form of self-censorship to keep their employment to begin that discussion with like-minded peers. Woke is more brittle than it appears and will not survive a courageous, and determined push back.

Gary Peters said...

Another issue is the "moderation" by blogs of opinions that however well reasoned or factual do not support their personal beliefs so get deleted.

The Daily Blog is a good example and occasionally Chris Trotter removes posts that point out serious issues within the current government. I think most of us here would struggle to get a post through moderation at the Standard.

Now that is the right of any blog owner but when a train of argument is permitted and contrary opinions quashed it does tend to appear that the "wrong" opinion is not "right" 😎

Hilary Taylor said...

Striking indeed!
I'm retired and nobody gives a tinker's cuss what I think or say, and I revel in that. Firing off emails of the bouquet variety or the reverse is something I enjoy, as well as remarking here & on twitter, keeping my nose very clean there and choosing my twitts very wisely.
When facebook started it was a fun and safe place to air a few views. I wouldn't dream of using it like that now as I got my fingers very mildly singed over the men in women's sport issue, Lia Thomas, that American swimming cheat who monstered females in the pool. So I only use it in an anodyne way now and rarely...better for the BP.
This blog is the safest, most satisfying local blog I know & I treasure it. The big 'chilling'is chilling across the board nowadays...

Odysseus said...

Alexandra Marshall, one of the Australian Spectator's finest writers, has this to say about the ramifications of Elon Musk's liberation of Twitter:

"Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter represents a fundamental breaking of this well-ordered social prison.

Musk wrestled all the keys off the digital slavers and opened the gates on the pens. The twisting of the keys and clicking of the lock echoed – even in Australia.

He sacked the ‘community safety’ security force and sat back to see what would happen to the former prisoners. There were a few weeks of confusion, marked by period of rage from those who were terrified of unlocked gates (what if the wolves get in?), and others who wandered around in a daze – unaware that they could leave their pens.

It’s been months, and the liberty Musk gifted Twitter has already returned a measure of power to the people. The Covid vaccine narrative was the first victim of free speech, with major Big Pharma companies and government authorities facing a legal backlash against their pandemic actions.

There will be more ideological empires felled by open criticism. Climate Change is losing public confidence, with a general murmur running through the crowd that the apocalypse is nothing more than convenient corporate lies. One day soon, this will turn into shouting and booing until the eco-fascist cult is disbanded.

Another ideology close to unravelling is that of radical gender activism – the sort of ideology that openly attacks biology as ‘fake news’ and creates a new patriarchy where men are once again asserting themselves over women.

Musk himself said: ‘Any parent or doctor who sterilises a child before they are a consenting adult should go to prison for life.’

He has picked up that red flag of collectivist thought and waved it at the bulls, taunting them into the fire of free speech to see if they survive.

Western Civilisation cannot save its children by trying to talk to them. Its pseudo parent – social media – has to be reformed. Musk is doing that. As kids are exposed to free speech on their phones and within their digital safe spaces, the hold of toxic ideology will start to slip. The need to be popular is the strongest force in their lives – and idiocy isn’t popular.

When their ideological positions are mocked and ridiculed, our kids will get the message and finally grow up."

I hope she is proved right.

Eamon Sloan said...

I don’t have a good or instant answer to your conundrum. Apart from continuing to appeal to the ideals of common sense and fair play etc.

If the comments are well written in plain English, sensible, balanced, to the point, non-ranting then you might have to just accept those that fit the criteria. And to have blog viewers returning in the hope they will eventually name themselves.

pdm said...

Karl apologies for doing this but I have not seen this guy for over 30 years.

Peter Ness are you one and the same Peter Ness who I used to work with in Gisborne in the late 70's and early 80's. Flick me an email if that is so to:

Donald MacDonald

hughvane said...

I think we're all adult enough to tolerate the use of colourful language heard from the show, so I urge responders to watch Bill Maher and The Cojones Awards.

For those who don't know, 'cojones' is a Spanish word .... well, you can do the rest.

No spoilers from me, just watch it. You can find Bill Maher's show on YouTube.

Hugh Evans

Tom Hunter said...

BTW Karl, "Lucy Maria" is a real person. I've met here and her husband and she blogs over at No Minister.

I see a number of commentators above are pointing how all this has even got into the private corporate scene and may be wondering how that could happen with outfits that have to face the reality of the market place. There are two answers:
“The phenomenon of corporate leaders not caring as much about their customers…”:

... and shareholders as they care about their standing with fellow CEOs at the literal or figurative country club. All of whom are presumed to be liberals. Not just that, but liberals who follow all the latest fads, like transgenderism…
If they don’t inflict woke advertising campaigns on us, they’re liable to do damage to their Corporate Equality Index (CEI) score, which could be disastrous for their business. Watching corporations and tallying up their CEI score is the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which the Post describes as “the largest LGBTQ+ political lobbying group in the world”….

HRC gives corporations points for being gay-friendly and subtracts them for daring not to toe the woke line. It does this based on “rating criteria” that award up to 100 points for workplace features such as a “gender-neutral dress code….The main CEI categories include “Workforce Protections,” “Inclusive Benefits,” “Supporting an Inclusive Culture,” “Corporate Social Responsibility,” and “Responsible Citizenship.” According to the Post, “businesses that attain the maximum 100 total points earn the coveted title ‘Best Place To Work For LGBTQ Equality.”

And compliance is strictly enforced with reps visiting the corporations every year to check up on them.

So now you know the two things driving this.

David Cohen said...

Is there a single documented case of somebody losing their job in New Zealand as a direct consequence of expressing a genuinely held opinion online? Other than individuals whose work contracts expressly forbid it — those normally being high-profile figures who are required to keep a nonpartisan public face — I can't think of any case where this has happened.

I also agree with Karl that anonymity, whether on the left or the right, is the single-biggest factor in coarsening the current culture. If people can't or won't put their names to something, they generally shouldn't enjoy a public platform to advance a view. We would be better off without it.

David McLoughlin said...

Karl, I think a major difference between us and China and Russia is that in those countries, it is the state that dictates what people can say in public, and the state that punishes people who criticise the official line.

In New Zealand and in many other Western-style democracies now, it is the Twitter Mob that declares what we are allowed to say and believe. It is the Twitter Mob that punishes heretics by demanding that they be sacked from their jobs, and the like, and exposing them to hatred and ridicule both online and in the mainstream media. The state in New Zealand seems cowed before the Twitter Mob, and I am beginning to worry that even the courts are becoming unwilling to stand up against the baying of that mob.

The standout feature of the Twitter Mob is its huge power compared with its small size. It comprises only a small minority of people, but wields huge power because its members include almost all journalists, academics and other opinion-dominators who control what is allowed to be said and believed in the public realm. It is quite a sinister development, IMO.

Phil said...

There have been a couple of reasons I have not been so keen on supplying my full name. About 5 years ago a prominent media organisation said their journalists were investigating the commenting history on right wing blogs which caused the BFD and Kiwiblog in particular to warn readers to make their commenting histories private and also they greatly increased moderation. Also more recently it seems the BFD was under police surveillance for having an anti government agenda. That is one we know about but easy to assume other blogs were getting the same treatment.

Bill Moore said...

Far from an expression of puritanical fervour, your courageous decision to rule out anonymous contributors was a rare and admirable attempt to bring traditional standards into the blogosphere. As always you make a strong case for your new stance, but you have omitted to cover the key point that a key reason newspapers sought contact details from contributors to the letters column was precisely to encourage reasonable comments and opinion rather than unsubstantiated facts and cheap shots. It is human nature to be more daring and extreme when under the cloak of anonymity. The repetitive comments from others in this case are couched in reasonable language. Their fear is, however, only convincing if their real wish is to abandon calm and balanced argument in favour of bigotry and prejudice. To your lasting credit, Karl, you stand behind your opinions and take the consequences. Those who wish to support you with their anonymous comments (or take you to task, although it seldom happens in reaction to your blog) should do the same. It seems they are more interested in venting than debate. - Bill Moore

Tom Hunter said...

I somehow missed this...
You could be excused for wondering how long it will be before people start circulating New Zealand-style samizdats - the clandestine newsletters published by dissenters in the Soviet Union.

Heh! That's how I've seen blogs from the start. In that case you may appreciate Samizdata from Britain. Almost always good stuff.

Russell Parkinson said...

Hi Karl

A person who reflects on their own decisions, listens to others advice, weighs it all up and changes his mind is to be greatly admired. There is not a lot of that happening in todays society.

Tom Hunter said...

And an academic weighs in, A falling out of love letter to the university (….we need to talk):

I want to let you know if you haven’t set foot in a New Zealand university recently, or as most of us these days attend a Zoom or Teams meeting on a University account, then you might not be aware that we are no longer a place for debate. We are no longer centrists. We have drifted to the political left, way left. And that leftist view which has many merits, and many downfalls cannot be debated with impunity.

We are strong on virtue signaling. We are strong on stating opinions rather than facts. We are weak on confrontation, but strong on behind the scene bullying.

R Singers said...

Hi Karl, can I make a suggestion, or if you like propose an experiment. Create yourself a Substack ( Post the same articles to both Blogger and Substack. Switch off commenting on Blogger and allow it on Substack.

The reason I suggest it is Blogger is not a platform designed for writers, and it is very long in the tooth. Substack is a platform designed for writers, and it has tools specially designed for the readers to communicate with the writer.

And if you could get the likes of Graham Adams and Bill Bennett to join you, you'd effectively have a modern newspaper.

Huskynut said...

Hi Karl
I'm heartened by your change of perspective on anonymity.

Re: You could be excused for wondering how long it will be before people start circulating New Zealand-style samizdats - the clandestine newsletters published by dissenters in the Soviet Union, and the comments on dissent in Russia/China..

People like Matt Taibbi - who spent many years publishing a quite outrageously subversive newspaper in Moscow and more recently has been a leading figure in the Twitter files - are explictly saying the climate of media suppression is *worse* in the currently media press than what they experienced in Soviet Russia.
Just this week he was threatened with jail by a senior US senator for a trivial misquotation of an acronym in a submission to congress.

I respectfully submit that the media landscape you've internalised from your past has not existed for some time now, but you're only just beginning to realise that.

Karl du Fresne said...

How long have you been following this blog? Judging by your last sentence, not long.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

The cancel culture, per se, is fostered by a hypocritical and cowardly sector of society who work anonymously, and this anonimity is invariably deliberate. The sector follows the maxim, 'what's sauce for the goose is never sauce for the gander', and they act out the maxim in the way they go about dealing to those whom they wish to destroy. Their existence is as a band of silent terrorists who put the fear of destruction into those who dare to speak out boldly for all to hear.

Joanne Wilkes said...

I think there are two other sides to this issue. One is that a lot of commentary on the internet is scabrously abusive, and not the kind of stuff people would necessarily want to have visible to all and sundry under their own names, and especially not their employers. The people who hold forth saying Jacinda is a c*nt or Luxon is a f*ckwit like being keyboard warriors with no consequences. The other point is that as a leftie, I get banned from right-wing sites from time to time, such as the National Party, Judith Collins, The Spectator Australia, and even my local MP, free-speech warrior Simon O'Connor. I think the last, in 2020, was for a crack about that married National MP who was sending dick-pics to several women (I was apparently the problem, not him). And if Muriel Newman's supporters are aggrieved, then hey, I can't even access the site anymore. Noticed after I'd been blocked that someone had actually started a Fb page called 'New Zealand Centre for Political Research is Just a Rant Group for Racists'. Ha! Who knew that a Jane Austen specialist could be so terrifying....

John Hurley said...

Is there a single documented case of somebody losing their job in New Zealand as a direct consequence of expressing a genuinely held opinion online?

Anna Penn
It is the show trial and people who fold (her father) who put politeness in front of principle. Mind you he WAS a policeman (I recall).
Politeness assumes we are on the same page when really by passive acceptance we are signing on the dotted line.
Since Anna Penn we had a different type of Press editor. Eg "We're so proud to be a city of love and cultural change"