Free speech at universities, unless someone says they hate it

Free speech versus hate speech discussions continue, with the Vice-Chancellor of Massey University joining with a promotion of free speech at universities – as long as it isn’t deemed hate speech.

A key question that again isn’t answered – who gets to decide what should be banned as hate speech, and who gets to decide who might say something at some future event that someone else may claim is hate speech?

Professor Jan Thomas (NZH): Free speech is welcome at universities, hate speech is not

An “alt right” speaking event in Auckland has been cancelled after Mayor Phil Goff made it clear the two speakers, Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux, were not welcome and the council would not provide a venue for “hate speech” by people who sought to abuse and insult others.

While I support Mr Goff’s decision, it has kicked off a tide of controversy and has again raised the issue of what differentiates free speech from hate speech.

Issues such as this are increasingly common in New Zealand. Last year a group of high-profile New Zealanders put their names to a statement supporting free speech on New Zealand university campuses.

The open letter warned that freedom of speech was under threat at our universities following the demise of a student group promoting white supremacist beliefs.

If anything threats to free speech have become more pronounced since then.

Let me be clear, hate speech is not free speech. Moreover, as Moana Jackson has eloquently argued, free speech has, especially in colonial societies, long been mobilised as a vehicle for racist comments, judgements and practices.

She is not clear at all about what could constitute ‘hate speech’.

How racist could speech be before it is deemed hateful enough to ban?

Hate speech is repugnant, or as one American legal academic has stated, hate speech is “a rape of human dignity”.

Some hate speech can be repugnant to most people, but no clear line can be drawn between hateful and simply hated, or disliked.

Hate speech should be called out for what it is, especially when it incites violence against minorities.

I think that the law covers inciting violence, in theory at least. But again, it’s difficult to pin down what exactly ‘hate speech’ is.

Beyond the reach of the law, however, the battle against hate speech is fought most effectively through education and courageous leadership, rather than through suppression or legal censure.

Yes, to an extent. It is probably better fought by the weight of condemnation from many people. But that can only be done if the hate speakers are allowed to speak in public in the first place.

And this is where universities can take positive action by providing a venue for reasoned discussion and cogent argument.

After all, the Education Act 1989 compels us to act as “critic and conscience” of society.

This does not just mean protecting the values of academic freedom, it also means standing up for what is right.

Standing up for the freedom to speak, even if some people may not like or agree with what is said, is the right thing to do, isn’t it?

Academics have a responsibility to engage with the communities we serve, to correct error and prejudice and to offer expert views, informed by evidence, reason and well-informed argument.

Speech correctors? By all means speak against crap speech, but not by becoming the speech police.

Academics are not the only ones who can provide expert views, informed by evidence, reason and well-informed argument. And they are also susceptible to being unreasonable, ill-informed poor arguers.

Given the current dominance of wall-to-wall social media and the echo chambers of fake news, universities are in many ways obliged to make positive societal interventions.

Interventions? Sure, any positive input into discussions should be welcomed, but becoming arbiters of what is positive and what is negative, and what is valid discussion versus what is what could be hated or damaging, and what is good to go and what should be banned, is a very tricky thing for university academics to get too involved in.

In this regard, I am guided by the University of California’s former President Clark Kerr’s oft-cited maxim that “the role of universities is not to make ideas safe for students, but to make students safe for ideas”.

That could be interpreted in different ways. When does edgy commentary and debate become unsafe for students?

Public universities have an obligation to uphold our civic leadership role in society and our first responsibility, I would argue, is to do no harm.

Being too heavy handed on what constitutes safe or reasonable speech has the potential to do a lot of harm.

Universities are characterised by the academic values of tolerance, civility, and respect for human dignity.

They may be a self characterisation, but somewhat idealistic and superior.

And that is why it is important to identify and call out any shift from free speech towards hate speech. The challenge we face is to clarify when that shift occurs and to counter it with reason and compassion.

Speaking up against speech you disagree with or dislike is good.

Hate speech has no place at a university.

Any sort of definition is still absent from the discussion.

I have some concerns about what the Vice-Chancellor of Massey University seems to be angling at.

We should be debating  free speech versus hate speech.

But there are signs of major problems and difficulties, where hate speech is often no more than a subjective view on hating what someone says (or could say). Or increasingly, deciding that others might hate what is said or could be said.

Whatever hate is. It is a grossly overused word. It’s common to hear people say they hate all sorts of trivial things.

And protecting free speech is not a trivial thing.


Police disappointed in scrapping of mental health pilot scheme

National’s spokesperson on the police, Chris Bishop, has uncovered the scrapping of a pilot project that would have added mental health expertise to front line policing.

The Government’s decision to axe a universally-supported pilot to improve the response to 111 mental health calls is nothing short of disgraceful, especially after Labour pledged to make mental health a priority, National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“It has been revealed that Labour has scrapped a pilot in which a mental health nurse would attend mental health incidents alongside police and paramedics to ensure that people in distress receive timely responses that are tailored to their needs.

“Police spend around 280 hours a day responding to mental health calls. They do a good job, but are not mental health professionals so having a mental health nurse deployed to incidents with police would make a real difference.

“The increasing demand on police to respond to mental health crises is set to continue. That’s why the National Government set aside $8 million for the pilot as part of our $100 million mental health package.

“Police Minister Stuart Nash confirmed in answers to written questions the day of the Police Estimates hearing that the pilot would be canned, yet Police Commissioner Mike Bush told the hearing that police were very hopeful it would continue – in front of Mr Nash.

“Mr Nash has admitted that police are dealing with more and more mental health cases. The pilot would have eased pressure on police and improved the quality of the response for those experiencing mental distress.

RNZ: Police disappointed after mental health pilot dropped

Police officers are upset a proposal to improve 111 callouts has been dumped and mental health advocates hope it may yet be salvaged.

The former National government last year announced an $8 million pilot scheme where mental health workers would attend crisis calls along with police and ambulance staff.

The trial was due to start in September, but police headquarters said the new government had “re-allocated” the funding and so the pilot had been dropped.

Police Association president Chris Cahill said the decision was “disappointing” and officers needed practical support “sooner rather than later”.

“It’s all good to have inquiries and to have think-tanks, but people need help now. They’re crying out for it.”

Front-line officers were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of calls relating to mental health, he said.

“Police aren’t the best equipped to do this. It needs to be people in mental health services who look after them. It’s a medical issue, not a policing issue.”

Health Minister fobbed off queries.

Health Minister David Clark turned down an interview request, but in a statement said the proposal “was never fully developed” and it appeared National had cobbled it together in a hurry.

He expected the government’s mental health inquiry, announced in January, would include advice on how to improve the emergency response, he said.

How long will that take? What if that inquiry recommends the pilot project or something similar? Labour said there was a mental health crisis, but they are not acting like it is a pressing problem now.

The Mental Health Foundation…

…had been supportive of the scheme and its chief executive Shaun Robinson said it was a shame to see it fall by the wayside.

“The police have unfortunately been left to be the mental health service of last resort.”

Mr Robinson said he would be keeping a close eye on the inquiry’s findings and was hopeful it would come up with a similar or even better idea.

“We would really hope to see that there’s something significant in the crisis response area,” he said.

“It may be a short-term loss for a longer-term gain.”

Fiona Howard, from Mental Health Advocacy and Peer Support in Christchurch…

…also hoped the inquiry would report back with a similar project.

She said she empathised with police frustration, but understood the government’s approach to first assess the entire mental health system.

“What I hope is that we can sort of pause – even though I know it’s hard to wait – to make sure that we get all the results from that inquiry in to make sure all parts of our system that are under stress get the resourcing and new initiatives they need.”

Reporting back with a similar project, and then implementing it, will take some time. Scrapping the pilot scheme seems very strange.

Hard work not enough, Bridges a link over muddly water

I wonder how many voters could name the leader of the Opposition? Simon Bridges has been leader of the national Party for a few months, but he is not making much of an impression, especially not a positive impression.

Newstalk ZB – The Soap Box: If Simon Bridges fails, at least he’s tried

That headline on it’s own has quite negative connotations.

You can say plenty of things about National’s leader Simon Bridges and plenty of people have. Of the aspirants for the party’s top job, Bridges was probably the least known but was considered shrewd.

His own biggest problem though is prominence. He’s not well known by the electorate, and with the last opinion poll putting him at nine per cent, he knows he has cause for worry.

So there was only one thing for it: to get his mug out to the masses.

By Saturday, he will have held 66 public meetings through the length and breadth of the country since May.

No one can argue that he’s work shy, even if a number of the meetings were at inconvenient times in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

While he’s been putting himself out there glad-handing, he’s also become a social media warrior, hitting all the platforms, some of the time telling us stuff that we don’t really need to know, like how good he is at changing nappies or how obsessive he is with the laundry.

Who has heard? Who cares?

But it’s away from Parliament that Bridges really needs to make his mark and if he can’t make it there, his 55 National colleagues will become restless.   But at least they won’t be able to say he hasn’t put in the hard yards.

Andrew Little put in some hard yards as Labour leader – like Bridges he toured the country meeting as many people as he could. I went to see him at a Dunedin promotion, and he looked lame. Most of his hard yards were limping down hill.

David Cunliffe worked hard as Labour leader, as did David Shearer, and Phil Goff before him. All failed to impress voters.

Bridges still has time to find out how to step up, but at the moment his yards are going in small circles, nowhere politically.

At the moment his best chance of success in 2020 is if the media and voters get over-babied and over-Arderned.

National still has a chance if the current Government continues to misfire and if it makes major mistakes, or if there is a financial crisis.

But Bridges is far from being a tower of strength. He looks more like a link over muddly water between national’s past and their future.

Winston Peters slams ‘multiculturalism’, wants single NZ culture

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters has slammed ‘multiculturalism’, saying he stands for “a New Zealand culture”.

What is ‘multiculturalism’? According to Oxford:


The presence of, or support for the presence of, several distinct cultural or ethnic groups within a society.

‘our commitment to the values of multiculturalism’

‘the schools promote multiculturalism and inclusiveness’

So that would accept that Māori culture could thrive along side various Pākehā  cultures as well as accepting Pacific Island cultures, Chinese, Indian and other Asian cultures, and smatterings of Scottish in Dunedin (and elsewhere), retain a French flavour in Akaroa, some Englishness in Christchurch and Dalmatians in the north.

It would accept the overlaps and merging of various cultures but accept some distinctiveness would be seen as acceptable.

It would accept that Anglicans and Catholics and Methodists and Jews and Muslims and Buddhists could retain their religious cultures without prejudice or discrimination.

But Peters panders to populism: Winston Peters compares multiculturalism to ‘rising up mushrooms’

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters told talkback radio this morning that he stands for a “New Zealand culture”, not a “multitude of cultures”.

Speaking on whether multiculturalism has “failed”, Mr Peters appeared to argue it has.

“Well, let me tell you. There is one cultural thing we want developed in this country and that’s the New Zealand culture. That’s a unique culture that’s New Zealand,” Mr Peters said.

“It’s not a multitude of cultures and a plethora rising up like mushrooms in this country.

“No, we want a New Zealand culture. That’s what I’ve always stood for.”

It’s a similar message to one he shared on Q+A in 2016.

Back then, he said, “[Immigrants] can come from anywhere in the world. It’s not race-based. We want them to salute our flag, respect our laws, honour our institutions and don’t bring anti-women attitudes with them.”

How many Kiwis salute the archaic flag dominated by the flag of another country and often confused with Australia’s flag?

Of course every New Zealander should respect our laws in general (but have the right to criticise ass laws).

Obviously we shouldn’t want immigrants to bring anti-women attitudes with them, but we have plenty of sexual equality issues that linger in Māori culture and have immigrated long ago from the patriarchal England.

We must be able to choose our own cultural mix without being pigeon holed by populist pandering old politicians. I don’t identify with the legendary pissing up at the Parrot culture apparently favoured by some.

Mr Peters has long stood against so-called “mass immigration”, but has been much quieter on it since becoming Deputy Prime Minister.

That’s probably because he isn’t seeking ignorant votes since the election. New Zealand has nothing like ‘mass migration’, it is strictly controlled, made easy by our remoteness and our very large moat.

‘Mass migration’ seems to have become a deliberately misrepresented and exaggerated euphemism for ‘Muslim migration’, something we don’t have any disproportionate problem with in New Zealand.

Mass migration refers to the migration of large groups of people from one geographical area to another. Mass migration is distinguished from individual or small scale migration; and also from seasonal migration, which may occur on a regular basis.

There is nothing like that here. Peters has repeatedly and deliberately falsely claimed we have mass migration in new Zealand – we haven’t had that since the influx of mostly Europeans in the 1800s.

New Zealand has long been a mix of many immigrant cultures.

There is one ‘New Zealand culture’ I would support – a culture of tolerance of different flavours of cultures, and an easy co-existence with people with different cultural practices and beliefs.

Claiming “a New Zealand culture” may pander to some who want their particular cultural mix to dominate, but it’s a nonsense.

I have never seen any definition of what “a New Zealand culture” would look like, especially from Peters.

Trump backs Putin over US intelligence on Russian interference in US elections

There has been widespread shock and condemnation after Donald Trump accepted Vladimir Putin’s word that Russia did not intefer in the US election in 2016. This is contrary to the views of the entire US intelligence community and most US politicians.

Fox News: Trump blasts Mueller probe, Putin denies meddling as leaders tout summit as ‘success’

President Trump and Vladimir Putin tackled allegations of election meddling in unprecedented terms following their one-on-one summit Monday, with Trump opening the door to an unusual offer of cooperation in the special counsel probe and the Russian president suggesting he indeed favored the billionaire businessman in 2016.

But Putin, emphatically and repeatedly, denied meddling in the U.S. election, saying there’s “no evidence.” And Trump, while saying they spent a “great deal of time” discussing the allegations, blasted the ongoing probe as a “disaster for our country.”

The two leaders spoke at a freewheeling joint press conference following a pair of meetings — one private — in Helsinki, Finland. Trump and Putin both touted the summit as a success, vowing to improve ties on a range of issues.

“I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics,” Trump declared.

NY Post: Trump refuses to accuse Putin of election meddling

President Donald Trump on Monday refused to accuse Vladimir Putin and Russia of interfering in the US election after their one-on-one sitdown in Finland.

Asked directly if he believed Putin or his own intelligence community, which concluded that the Russians were behind the hacking and other interference, the president did not directly answer.

“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” he said as Putin stood several feet away.

Trump then said he saw no reason why Russia would interfere in America’s elections.

Putin, meanwhile, admitted he had been rooting for Trump to beat Hillary Clinton.

“Yes, I did, yes I did, because he talked about bringing US-Russia relations back to normal,” Putin said.

Trump also praised the Russian strongman for offering to help special counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigate the well-documented Russian meddling. “And what he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators. I think that’s an incredible offer,” he said.

Trump then launched a stunning series of political attacks on Democrats and Clinton while standing on foreign soil — and suggested that he believed Putin’s denials.

“So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server, why haven’t they taken the server. Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee. I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying?” the commander-in-chief said.

“What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails, 33,000 emails gone, just gone. I think in Russia, they wouldn’t be gone so easily. I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails.”

He also said the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election was poisoning relations between the US and Russia.

“It’s kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. People are being brought out to the fore. Virtually, none of it related to the campaign,” he said.

Trump then defended his campaign and hailed his surprise victory.

“They will have to try really hard to find something that did relate to the campaign. That was a clean campaign. I beat Hillary Clinton easily and, frankly, we beat her and I’m not even saying from the standpoint, we won that race,” he continued.

Fox News – Media slams Trump following Putin summit: ‘One of the most disgraceful performances by an American president’

The media came down hard on President Trump following Monday’s joint press conference in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, with pundits and anchors on both sides of the political aisle bashing the American leader’s performance.

Trump was primarily criticized for the way he handled questions about allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S., claims that have been paired with allegations Russia and the Trump campaign colluded to win the election. Trump said he raised the issue of election meddling during their one-on-one meeting prior to the press conference, but ripped Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe during the news conference, declaring there was “no collusion.”

Trump also passed on a chance to side with the American intelligence community, which claims Moscow meddled in the election.

Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire and Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason were both praised by journalists for asking tough questions, but Trump’s answers drew scorn.

“Trump, finally asked whom he believes on Russia interference, gives a vague and rambling non-answer, with renewed complaints about Hillary’s server. Says he trusts US intel but made clear he takes Putin’s denials seriously. Lame response, to say the least,” Fox News’ Brit Hume tweeted.

NBC News’ online headline said Trump’s performance “advances conspiracy theories,” pointing to him bringing up 33,000 Hillary Clinton emails that the president said are missing.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper called it “perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president” immediately after the press conference. Cooper’s name immediately began trending on Twitter after making the comment, which resulted in a variety of media members agreeing with the CNN star.

Former CIA John Brennan:

Reuters – U.S. Rep. Schiff: Trump comments give Putin OK on 2018 interference

The top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence panel said President Donald Trump’s comments in Helsinki on Monday essentially gave Russian President Vladimir Putin permission to interfere in November’s midterm election.

“President Trump just attacked our intelligence agencies and law enforcement for doing their jobs while standing next to a dictator who intervened in our election to help elect Trump. Putin will take this as a green light to interfere in 2018, and it is. Cowardly and shameful.”

It’s hard to find support or praise of Trump’s post-summit performance, but Rush Limbaugh manages to go against the flow: Comedy Gold As American Journalists Beclown Themselves

Hey, folks, parts of this joint press conference here between Trump and Putin were comedy gold. Parts of this press conference were some of the funniest stuff that’s been on American television since Trump was elected. I mean, I have been laughing myself silly. I don’t laugh out loud much watching television anymore. It’s a sad reality, but watching TV does not make any laugh anymore. But I have been laughing out loud — uncontrollably at times — watching this joint presser. What makes it is that the United States media regularly beclowns itself, makes fools of themselves because they really have it in their heads…

I don’t know what to make of it. I don’t know if they really do believe that Trump and Putin colluded to steal the election, if they’ve been reporting that for so long that they actually now believe it. Because even with Mueller, there isn’t any evidence of it. Which reminds me, Mueller’s indictment… Wait ’til you hear what the Drive-Bys are trying to do with this indictment! It is craziest thing! It is laughable, because our media has become a collective joke.

That sounds like a manic sort of defence of Trump, resorting to the old ‘attack the media’ approach with a few conspiracy theories thrown in.

BBC: Trump sides with Russia against FBI at Helsinki summit

US President Donald Trump has defended Russia over claims of interference in the 2016 presidential election.

After face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Trump contradicted US intelligence agencies and said there had been no reason for Russia to meddle in the vote.

Mr Putin reiterated that Russia had never interfered in US affairs.

The two men held nearly two hours of closed-door talks in the Finnish capital Helsinki on Monday.

At a news conference after the summit, President Trump was asked if he believed his own intelligence agencies or the Russian president when it came to the allegations of meddling in the elections.

“President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” he replied.

US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scale of the US election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.

In a strongly-worded statement, US House Speaker Paul Ryan said Mr Trump “must appreciate that Russia is not our ally”.

“There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals,” he said, adding that there was “no question” Moscow had interfered in the 2016 election.

“The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.”

Senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Mr Trump had sent the Kremlin a message of US “weakness”.

He tweeted: “Missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections.”

Fellow Republican Senator Jeff Flake – a staunch critic of President Trump – called his words “shameful”.

Trump succeeded in dominating the headlines, but he has been dominated by Putin and savaged by most in the USA. Including the Director of National Intelligence.

Media watch – Tuesday

17 July 2018


Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

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“Is there any way we could have a thread for the more lightweight stuff like music and general chat?”

Do it here. Please no personal attacks or bickering. Anything abusive, provocative or inflammatory may be deleted.

Open Forum – Tuesday

17 July 2018


This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you. 

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Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts.Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

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World view – Tuesday

Monday GMT


For posting on events, news, opinions and anything of interest from around the world.

Putin-Trump meeting

One of the criticisms of Donald Trump’s meeting in Singapore with Kim Yong Un was that Trump was legitimising Kim and giving him significant international exposure and credibility.

The same is being said of the Trump-Putin meeting.

How Russia’s relationship with the rest of the world will be affected by the meeting.

But there is pressure on Trump to confront Putin:

Somehow I don’t think this is likely.

Trump is more likely to come away from the meeting saying that it was a great meeting, he got on very well with Putin and they would work well together in the future somewhat more embellished probably).