Free speech and the ‘right to listen’ (freedom to receive information)

A lot has been spoken about free speech lately, what it is and what it means. But Matthew Hooton looks at at different angle – the right to listen.

The more I reflect on the issue of recent weeks, the more I think it’s worth suggesting it should be reframed as a .

That is, it’s not S+M’s right to speak that’s so important (they can speak on the side of the road if they want) but the rightsof those who invited them here and those who may want to attend an event that count more. Similarly, we should worry more about the political society students who asked Brash to , who were deprived of listening to him about the topic they were interested in, than about Brash himself who, as pointed out by many of his critics, has many platforms to express himself

Similarly the debate. It was good the protestors were able to express themselves and also that they then let Brash (and others) speak, not for the benefit of Brash but or those who attended the debate.

An interesting and valid point.

Many of those criticising Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern, and protested against them being able to speak at different venues in New Zealand, presumably chose to listen to (or read) speech from the two Canadians in order to form an informed opinion about the sort of things they spoke about. They had a right to listen.

They also had a right to criticise and protest.

But did they have a right to try to prevent others from listening?

Yes, as has been proven this week Don Brash is given many opportunities to be heard. As an ex prominent politician the media give him that advantage – as they give John Key and Helen Clark.

But people who bought tickets to the S&M event, and students who wanted to attend the Massey political studies event, were denied the right to listen to what would have been spoken at those two events.

People guessed what they might say and based their protests and opposition to them being able to speak on what they thought might be said – or probably more commonly, on what they had said in the past – rather than what was going to be spoken in the future.

Brash has had his speech notes published since his event was cancelled by the Massey Vice Chancellor so we have a good idea what he would probably have said, but those denying the students the right to listen did not know what he would have said. The acted on vague threats of disorder simply because Brash was going to participate and speak.

Freedom to seek, receive and impart information

The freedom to listen is actually a part of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990:

14   Freedom of expression

Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.

(Hat tip @GraemeEdgeler)

So the freedom to seek and to receive information (to listen) is enshrined in New Zealand law.

So it is a concern when the Mayor of Auckland (Phil Goff) and the Vice Chancellor of Massey University (Jan Thomas) denied people the freedom to receive information at planned events, as well as denying S&M and Brash the freedom to impart information at particular venues.

Both Goff and Thomas cited threats of disruption to justify their stances. Those grounds could be used to deny the freedom of expression to many politicians and of many political events.

Fortunately many people have spoken up voicing their disagreement with what Goff and Thomas (and others involved in cancelling venues) have done.

The freedom to listen (freedom to seek and receive information) is not only part of our Bill of Rights Act, it also has widespread popular support. This support was almost universal in Brash’s case, but concerningly less supported in S&M’s case.

People have a right to hate things that are spoken, but have no right to dictate to others and to deny others who don’t hate what they think will be spoken to receive, to listen.

Leave a comment

25 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  August 12, 2018

    Basically it is an outside interference and disruption to a contract between speakers snd audience. It is only justifiable when there is a conspiracy to cause serious harm to others.

    Reply
    • Chuck Bird

       /  August 12, 2018

      Alan, I believe that is the law and how it should be. I had a discussion with someone yesterday who thought there was already a law against hate speech. I asked them to come back to me with the statute.

      I understand some want what they call hate speech laws. Can any name the legislation that bans talk someone considers hateful. Say I something like homosexuals do not procreate but recruit. Can I be banned from saying that? I do not think so.

      Reply
      • Human Rights Act 1993

        61 Racial disharmony
        (1) It shall be unlawful for any person—
        (a) to publish or distribute written matter which is threatening, abusive, or insulting, or to broadcast by means of radio or television or other electronic communication words which are threatening, abusive, or insulting; or
        (b) to use in any public place as defined in section 2(1) of the Summary Offences Act 1981, or within the hearing of persons in any such public place, or at any meeting to which the public are invited or have access, words which are threatening, abusive, or insulting; or
        (c) to use in any place words which are threatening, abusive, or insulting if the person using the words knew or ought to have known that the words were reasonably likely to be published in a newspaper, magazine, or periodical or broadcast by means of radio or television,—
        being matter or words likely to excite hostility against or bring into contempt any group of persons in or who may be coming to New Zealand on the ground of the colour, race, or ethnic or national origins of that group of persons.

        http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1993/0082/latest/DLM304643.html

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  August 12, 2018

          That’s broad it could actually do with a bit of tightening up.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  August 12, 2018

            Actually on second thoughts, it’s pretty specific & it’s ok. Colour, race, national origins or ethnicity shouldn’t be assumed to say anything about how any individual thinks, acts, or behaves & those are the areas where there can be grounds for criticism.

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  August 12, 2018

              Are statistical probabilities outlawed then?

            • Gezza

               /  August 12, 2018

              😳

              Have you been drinking? 🤔

            • Gezza

               /  August 12, 2018

              Of course they’re not. Statistically speaking you are more likely to be a white supremacist than an African American is.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  August 12, 2018

          Presumably you are therefore allowed to insult them on the basis of what they have done rather than their ethnicity?

          Reply
  2. Gezza

     /  August 12, 2018

    These days it’s so easy throwing up a video on YouTube that denying anyone a right to listen probably just increases their audience.

    Reply
    • David

       /  August 12, 2018

      This week and recent months has shown YouTube, Facebook et al are no better and actively restrict conservative voices but as private companies they have that right.
      I dont like the idea that a public forum is denied because of having hurty political views and saying well just pop it on YouTube.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  August 12, 2018

        Have they restricted conservative voices? I don’t think so. They’ve banned Alex Jones & Infowars. I’m surprised it’s taken so long. He’s been making false allegations & hate speech & effectively encouraging attacking people for so long. I’ve treated his OTT extremist rants as a joke, & so have most, I imagine – but he’s just being told do it somewhere else – so he is. He’s got his own websites & found other online sites.

        Plenty of other conservative voices still on YouTube.

        I don’t like the idea that a public forum is denied because of having hurty political views either. My point is that those who vociferously shout them down or make threats that results in their being denied a venue end up achieving the opposite result & actually increasing the number of people who want to listen – if only to find out what all the fuss is about.

        After all the racket & ruckus the protestors caused – at Massey Brash’s speech would have been innocuous, & at Auckland it was the least interesting. The only thing I found interesting was his gratuitously chucking in an odd reference to the Jews being a successful culture, which told me he was just stirring. But the raucus rabble won the debate for him.

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  August 12, 2018

          You are wrong. Simon Wilson’s speech was the least interesting. It was turgid and misrepresented issues and analysis. I thought it was bad when I saw him delivering a bit of it and it was worse when I read it. In contrast, Brash was clear and to the point.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  August 12, 2018

            No you are wrong. But it’s not your fault. It’s just the way you are. Possibly genetic. I’ll leave that up to thumbsta tho.

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  August 12, 2018
            • Gezza

               /  August 12, 2018

              Folk could make up their own minds watching it live and on video. Reading it is too one dimensional. Communication is not just about the printed word.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  August 12, 2018

              Sounds as though you are losing again. Actually Simon Wilson’s presentation was as dismal as his text.

            • Gezza

               /  August 12, 2018

              Yes, ok – that’s true. I wasn’t really listening to Simon. Anyone who had to debate against the proposition that PC is shutting down free speech had a hard ask anyway because everybody with a rational brain knows it is. And even the against speakers were effectively conceding from the outset. But Brash hardly had to work to win that one once the protesters made his case.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  August 12, 2018

              A shame the other speakers didn’t get reported. Surely their efforts were better – especially the university debaters? You expect some wit and sparkle in a debate.

  3. David

     /  August 12, 2018

    I like the right to listen approach as it better encapsulates all the folk being denied a right.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  August 12, 2018

      I agree.

      Reply
    • PDB

       /  August 12, 2018

      The protesters in Auckland brought a loud speaker and screamed into it as they only wanted to hear themselves. The footage of them doing so only served to make them look more foolish and childlike.

      Reply
  4. Blazer

     /  August 12, 2018

    seen in the audience at the Brash speech….Corky is…that you?

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  August 12, 2018

      Yes, you know it’s me in the background. I was trying to whisper the tape at the back of your ”wife proof” armour had come loose…and that you should really be wearing undies if you are going public.😃😃😃

      Reply
  1. Free speech and the ‘right to listen’ (freedom to receive information) — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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