Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Free Speech Only For Those Approved

A Pot Calling a Kettle Black

One of the enduring characteristics of the modern liberal is his intolerance.  He demands free speech for himself and censorship for everyone else.  Particularly, those who have contrary views must be silenced.  

There are a variety of ways to silence opponents.  One is to rabble rouse and express paroxysms of anger.  Then, in a clever sleight of hand, one transfers the guilt and responsibility for one's anger to the one who made one angry.   "You make me so angry, the authorities must issue a silencing order, an indictment, a fine, a prison sentence. It matters not, but pay you must."

In a more educated age, such sleights of hand would have been mocked out of existence.

Another way to silence opponents is to ascend a soap box and issue a fatwa against the offensive speaker by presuming to pity those who have ostensibly taken offence.  "How dare you offend so many people!  You are an anti-social bigot.  You are doing great harm to others.  You must be silenced for your offensive speech."

A third variant is to trot out an ultimate mover and shaker: the spectre of "hate-speech".  The problem with "hate-speech" of course is that one's guilt is determined by the perceptions and  reactions of others.  One will claim to be "triggered" by your words.  In this context, "triggered" means jumping off the deep end and alleging that someone's speech had dredged up all kinds of bad memories, fears, and vulnerabilities.  Others will claim to be deeply hurt and offended by one's allegedly hateful speech.  Others will claim not to be offended on their own account, but on behalf of someone else.  And so it rolls.

In New Zealand we have a resident hater who writes opinion columns for the NZ Herald.  Clearly she hates big corporates.  She writes with invective laced passion against companies like Fonterra who, to her  mind, are responsible for most of what ails the human race.  Here's a sample:

Fonterra’s waterways plan requires a bucket.  While some will argue that I do this in most columns, my first inclination this week was to vomit all over the page and submit it to my editor, along with a suggested headline of 'Fonterra spin causes extreme nausea'.

But, no. Ever the professional, I hurled in the privacy of my own home before sitting down to do my job. I have a bucket close by as I write, because the waves of biliousness will no doubt keep washing over me as I relive the farce that is the state of Fonterra's communications.  [NZ Herald]
Now clearly this is triggering hate speech.  We are thoroughly offended on behalf of those who are triggered and are now ourselves incandescent with helpless rage.  Anyone who offends another human being causing such an extreme reaction must be silenced.  [Sarcasm Alert]

The name of the particular bilious correspondent?  One Rachel Stewart.  And now, true to type and form, she has been found guilty of wanting to censor others who fail to comply with her narrow, bigoted, and extreme world-view.
Last week a column appeared in the Otago Daily Times by one Dave Witherow. In it, he expressed his contempt for te reo Māori being spoken in everyday discourse, and on Radio New Zealand. He called supporters of te reo Māori "boring bigots" and argued that "inflicting te reo on the entire population is contemptuous". That's the brief version of an extremely ugly rant.  [NZ Herald]
Clearly Mr Witherow is opinionated.  He has expressed his opinions on the matter of the use of the Maori language on  the taxpayer funded broadcaster.  He finds it distasteful and says so.  Stewart, in response, went the full monty: Witherow, she claims, has engaged in hate-speech!  Which is another way of saying, "look, I am too dumb or incompetent to analyse and refute Witherow's opinion.  I will just go for the jugular and invoke the good old 'hate-speech' technique to silence him."

Stewart knows she is on very thin ice.  But our Amazon is no shrinking violet.
Well, as an opinion writer myself, I'm firmly of the view that free speech is a cornerstone of democracy. Absolutely. But I struggle with what basically amounts to gratuitous hate speech passed off as worthy discourse. It isn't.

It feels like a cheap shot at inviting social media outrage, which in turn means more clicks on the offending piece by people who are curious to see what's causing such wrath. The media knows this. Why change a good thing?
"Gratuitous hate speech passed off as worthy discourse", eh.  Just like Stewart's stock-in-trade tirades against Fonterra and other big-business tyrants indeed qualifies as "gratuitous hate speech passed of as worthy discourse".   How else can the Stewart's verbal vomitous mass be construed?  Poor old Stewart: hoist on her own petard.

Sadly, like most ideologues, she fails to see the irony of her practice as an author, on the one hand, and her protestations against someone with whom she disagrees, on the other.  Too lazy to confront rationally, she uses the shut-up-by-shutdown trick.

Knowing that the ice is thin, she makes the following lame plea:
But surely New Zealanders have the intellectual heft to solve it? Columns like Witherow's will continue to appear with monotonous regularity, and hurt whole sectors of society in the process. It is deeply divisive rhetoric, and the media knows it. But divisive sells.  [Empahsis, ours]
On that at least Stewart can speak out of personal experience.  She herself is full of gratuitous hate speech passed off as worthy discourse.  But to our knowledge no-one has called for her to be silenced.  That implies that those whom she derides are far more committed to human liberty and free speech than Rachel Stewart appears to be.  The Witherows of this world are better, more mature, and more sophisticated citizens than "shut-up-by-shutdown Stewart"

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