Hate speech discussion requires calmness, credibility and leadership

Phil Quinn unnecessarily resurrects and old gripe against Golriz Gharaman, but he repeats a concern I have seen expressed quite a bit – she is not the best MP to be fronting a debate on hate speech. This gets in the way of a more general and more important point –  MP lacks credibility in urging hate speech law

As for how New Zealand adapts its hate speech laws in the wake of Christchurch, it strikes me the distinction between the merely vile and the outright dangerous remains important.

And that will be difficult to differentiate.

I’m inclined to the view that the best antidote to bad speech is good speech.

Ideally – but we have a problem when bad speech shouts much louder and attracts more attention than good speech

However, when this veers into incitement – when it reaches a certain fever pitch – the law should step in. While tricky, this isn’t an impossible line to draw. I’m wary of efforts to expand definitions in such a way as to grant the state greater powers to police language unless it represents an identifiable threat to public safety.

I think that personal safety is an important fact as well.

One of the more difficult problems is how deal with ongoing bad/hate speech that doesn’t cross a line, but accumulation of which can amount to inciting or damaging speech as a whole.

The better approach is embodied by our prime minister, which is to overwhelm bigotry with a message of tolerance; hate, with love.

Ardern’s response to the Christchurch mosque massacres was very effective – for a short while. It hasn’t taken long for the hate speakers and dividers and wreckers to find their voices again – this is evident in comments at Kiwiblog (despite what were claimed to be significant moderation changes) and in posts and comments at Whale Oil – the two largest political blogs in New Zealand.

This is where the individual citizen can lead the way in our own domain. Push back against the racist uncle. Don’t stand for homophobic slurs. Don’t be bamboozled by the “anti-PC” crowd who see something sinister in using language in kinder, more respectful ways. We are, after all, our own best censors.

We should do this more, but it is actually much harder than it sounds, both online and in person.

I have written about and confronted bad speech on Kiwiblog, The Standard and Whale Oil for years, and have been attacked, vilified and seemingly have become despised for doing this. I think The Standard has improved, but the other two are still bastions of bad speech.

When it comes to clamping down on social media platforms, I’m more amenable. Nobody endowed Facebook and Google with an immutable right to create digital cesspools that we are forced to wade through in perpetuity so they can better target ads at us. Self-regulation has demonstrably failed.

It’s too early to tell whether the kind of answer proposed in the UK’s online harm white paper represents a viable solution or clumsy overreach, but it’s a debate worth having, and one New Zealand should emulate.

To do so constructively, however, we need leaders both inside and outside Parliament to front the discussion with calmness and credibility. This we do not have at present.

Ardern did very well but seems to have largely moved on. Being Prime Minister demands attention on many different things. Ardern can be a prime example of good speech, but she needs wider support from MPs.

Ghahraman is too divisive and polarising to be an effective front person (the many attacks on her have been as bad as despicable, but she hasn’t found an effective way to rise above that).

What I think would work with the right approach is for a cross party group of opposition and back bench MPs to take on the leadership on how to address bad speech and hate speech.

 

 

 

 

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27 Comments

  1. Corky

     /  15th April 2019

    What the hate speech discussion needs is for there not to be a hate speech discussion..it shouldn’t be necessary.

    Reply
    • But I think it is necessary.

      I have found from experience here that we need to keep talking about how we speak to each other, and how we debate.

      Reply
      • Mother

         /  15th April 2019

        I agree with Corky. I was getting along fine sorting out the hate speech around my presence, until PG dived in to play god with strange censoring.

        Hey, I’m angry again. I was further harassed by clan and community recently.

        I always knew the PCANZ were oppressive. Once out, the problems don’t just automatically cease.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  15th April 2019

          Hey, I’m angry again.
          Sorry to hear you’re upset & reacting that way.

          I was further harassed by clan and community recently. I always knew the PCANZ were oppressive. Once out, the problems don’t just automatically cease.
          I’m puzzled by why you think it’s worth venting on this blog. And in doing so publicly attacking PCANZ, and accusing them of being oppressive, when that might just be your interpretation of the matter, & we have no idea whether that’s how they see it, or whether it’s actually true?

          Reply
          • Mother

             /  15th April 2019

            There is one obvious way for you to ascertain the veracity of my comments.

            Otherwise, why don’t you myob?

            Venting on this blog? Forgive me Gezza, perhaps some people give me the impression that’s acceptable and normal practise here.

            Reply
            • Mother

               /  15th April 2019

              And if I wasn’t angered up again, I would not have commented on this thread, and there would be less clout behind the truth that we don’t want our speech censored. Let the people do it for themselves.

              That was the point of me mentioning PCANZ oppression again Gezza. I wanted you to know that sometimes even gentle people snap and end up talking to strangers who aren’t really good listeners. Some are stupid. Some are abusive. Some are there for a lark. Some are lonely. The host is non religious until he decides to take up Humanism religiously and starts censoring. I’m obviously desperate.

              Do you think it’s acceptable for a follower of Christ to be put out of church? Might it make you angry if it happened to you? Who would you talk to if the leaders had your community all stitched up? If police were useless? If they were corrupt? If your clan were mean?

              A PCANZ speciality is to psychologically abuse until an individual snaps, then the leaders group together in silence. They avoid media and their victim is too distraught and isolated to put best foot forward. No one wants to know the truth.

              But hey, you’re VERY interested. You’re even writing great religious propositions. Why don’t you ask the PCANZ about me?That way, you can kill two birds with one stone.

              I suspect I might be the first PCANZer in their short history to not quit. They can’t throw me out of the Body of Christ. Then where exactly is their position in Jesus’ terms?

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  15th April 2019

              Mother, take my standard advice to everyone: The world is full of idiots. Stay away from them and mix and work with the good people.

            • Mother

               /  15th April 2019

              Small community. Husband’s work here. Children. Trapped.

              You mean well Alan, but your advice is condescending. Do you think I don’t know that?

            • Mother

               /  15th April 2019

              And yes, I believe in positive action taking. Things will come right eventually.

            • Mother

               /  15th April 2019

              And yes, I believe in positive action taking. Things will come right eventually.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  15th April 2019

              Doesn’t sound as though you’ve actioned it, Mother. No-one can trap you but yourself.

            • Mother

               /  15th April 2019

              Ignoramo.
              Not true. Many people in the world, and a significant number in NZ are trapped in bad situations despite their personal great efforts and resilience.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  15th April 2019

              Yes, but barring physical and legal constraints adults have the ability to choose to walk away and start afresh. Not doing so is a choice.

          • Gezza

             /  15th April 2019

            @ Mother

            There is one obvious way for you to ascertain the veracity of my comments.
            It’s not obvious to me.

            Otherwise, why don’t you myob?
            I am. I’m asking why you’re venting about a personal problem on this blog thereby making it other people’s business to know.

            Venting on this blog? Forgive me Gezza, perhaps some people give me the impression that’s acceptable and normal practise here.
            Good point. Hard to argue with that. Not often we someone doing that about a personal life matter & making a serious accusation about other Christian though. I think it’s first. Anything even close to that is usually done with humour, a bit tongue in cheek.

            The host is non religious until he decides to take up Humanism religiously and starts censoring. I’m obviously desperate.
            The host doesn’t have a religion. He & I discussed this briefly privately only a couple of days ago, when considering issues that might arise from having a Religion menu for posts & comments. I have to leave it at that, because he speaks for himself. I think he is rather brave. And generally very sensible. Nobody’s perfect.

            But hey, you’re VERY interested. You’re even writing great religious propositions. Why don’t you ask the PCANZ about me?That way, you can kill two birds with one stone.
            It would feel to me like asking to see a patient’s medical records or to know what was spoken of in the Confession Box. I do not think they would be amenable to disclosing details to someone not involved in the conflict.

            I suspect I might be the first PCANZer in their short history to not quit. They can’t throw me out of the Body of Christ. Then where exactly is their position in Jesus’ terms?
            I don’t know. It ought to be clearer to everyone from what is written in the English translation of the Bible & it appears it is not. This is one of many problems with looking at the Bible as a source of divine advice to humans. It’s not very clear to the average reader. It is perhaps aimed at Theologians & Philosphers. Possibly they are actually the only ones who will be saved, but at least then they won’t have to worry about overpopulation after the day of judgement?

            Reply
      • Corky

         /  15th April 2019

        Here’s the problem. Ultimately there will be no debate..only legislation by a chosen few for
        what is considered the good of the majority.

        An example of this endless conundrum:

        https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2019/04/stay-out-of-our-neighbourhood-couple-chases-man-handing-out-one-treaty-one-nation-pamphlet.html

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  15th April 2019

          GG is not the person to be spokeswoman on this issue. She is known to lie when it suits her, and, what is a worry, tell lies that can easily be refuted like being Minister of Defence (or holding that Portfolio, which is what a Minister does) She lied about her part in the UN trials. How do we know that her claims of online abuse are true ? Has anyone else seen them ?

          Reply
      • harryk

         /  15th April 2019

        Agree Peter. One of Ms Ardern’s mis-steps was her giant ‘we’re all Kiwis love-in, except for the white extremist bigots who are not really us blah blah.’ Except they are you, just as much as we have them in Aust. Just another not too subtle form of Othering by the self confessed intuitive Ardern. Some of these types are amenable to rational argument and can be engaged. Some are not. A blog is a good place to sort them out.

        Reply
  2. Sunny

     /  15th April 2019

    Phil Quinn goes from one specific example, to sweeping generalisations of “bad speech” needing legislation. Who will determine bad speech. We are supposed to call out our Uncles at a bbq – a stereotype suggesting older men’s opinions are likely to be racist. What about woke hipsters at inner city BBQ’s making race based aspersions like white fragility or white privilege? At the the basketball court on the weekend, were some kids with their hiphop blaring with “my b*tches and my n*ggers”, will this be approved content in the new age of censorship. I didn’t call them out. I just left them to it. Words that were once used to oppress now powerful to them. Who will be the thought police. And finally Folau, at least he said it from a place of genuine religious belief quoting the bible and concerned for us “sinners”, but the media have been happy to exploit the scandal for revenue and clicks. Yet only Folau loses his job. Phil thinks that media speech is ok but that facebook is the cesspool. Personally the Herald has been a cesspool also. Amend your facebook friends and followings if you are getting rubbish in your feed. There is lots of excellent content, and better news sources and inspirational pages from friends and businesses.

    Reply
  3. david in aus

     /  15th April 2019

    The problem I have with Hate Speech laws are the definitions.

    Israel Folau posts and reactions to it are cases in point.

    His latest list of sins, that will send you to Hell, are not Hate Speech in my opinion. But the counter-reactions to him border on Hate Speech and can be classified as such.

    Folau list sins from the Bible and says if you do not repent you are destined for Hell. He describes behaviours, however, you can argue about Homosexuality.

    Then you have reactions saying how hateful, archaic, etc………the beliefs of Christian are.

    Imagine if you change the group Christian for another religion, would that be considered Hate Speech? Yes, it would. Is this a case of Christianophobia?

    Hate Speech interpretation follows the Victim/Perpetrator narrative and not on the contents itself. It naturally follows that Hate Speech crimes will be in fact Political Crimes; The Crime of having ‘incorrect’ thoughts.

    1984.

    Reply
    • david in aus

       /  15th April 2019

      The Australian Rugby Union dabbles in double-speak. It lambasts Folau saying his comments breech their ‘inclusiveness’ values.

      Reading between-the-lines: Christians are not welcome in the ARU ‘family’.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  15th April 2019

        Reading between their lines, I get thatthey are, but they mustn’t publicly preach their religion (or, in Izzy’s case, their sect’s).

        Reply
  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  15th April 2019

    My view is there is an immense amount of b.s. spouted about hate speech. The law already draws the line at harassment and incitement to commit crimes. I would only add the need to protect the psychologically unstable and vulnerable from harm – for example encouraging or abusing victims towards self-harm. Likely the law already covers that.

    What needs to be safeguarded, supported and encouraged is the right of reply. I don’t see much mention of that in this current hysteria.

    Reply
  5. The Consultant

     /  15th April 2019

    In the working-class context, in particular, it’s what you physically do, what you make—the observable physical impression—that counts. That is the native language, the one they are fluent in and the one they trust. And that language often conflicts with working-class speech or attitudes.

    I worked in a recycling centre for some years. One of my workmates was a kid (we were all kids) called Ricky. I regarded him as a lowlife brute, and he regarded me as rule-following sissy. We were both right.

    Every week an elderly Chinese man brought his bottles and cans to us. He couldn’t speak English, which tends to frustrate racists, and Ricky was duly irritated. One morning the man—who had difficulty walking—accidentally put his car into gear while he was half out the door and still tangled in his seatbelt. His legs went sideways and dragged on the ground as the car took off, and he struggled hopelessly to pull them in, or to reach the brakes, or to loosen his seatbelt to escape. The car was only a few feet away from me, but all I managed was an incoherent shout and an uncertain jog as it picked up speed and headed for the main road.

    Ricky dashed past me, jumped into the man’s lap, grabbed the steering wheel, and quickly found the brakes. Then he helped the man out of the car, checked that he was uninjured, and knelt with his arm around him as he cried and shook on the ground. When the man was calm enough to stand, Ricky pulled him to his feet, told him to take care, then walked away, muttering, ‘Fucken Asian drivers’. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but it got the job done.

    In Defence of the Bad, White Working Class

    I can easily imagine what many commentators and the host of this blog would say to Ricky at some bbq about his “Asian Drivers” comments. Racist.

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  15th April 2019

      I enjoyed that essay. The author had a sense of equanimity about his roots and upbringing.
      Barry Humphries did something similar a while back describing his upbringing in the suburbs of Melbourne.

      Reply
  6. -D

     /  15th April 2019

    “One of the more difficult problems is how deal with ongoing bad/hate speech that doesn’t cross a line, but accumulation of which can amount to inciting or damaging speech as a whole.”

    I think you are inventing a new calculus here Pete, implying that somehow a series of comments are additive.

    3 + 3 Small Comments = 1 Medium Affront + 1 more Medium Affront = 1 Hateful Incitement ??

    It’s going to be very hard to keep track of all this over time.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  15th April 2019

      Yes, a recipe for arbitrary nonsense. Ok, for those who rule their own empire big or little but not ok for a democracy.

      Reply
  1. Hate speech discussion requires calmness, credibility and leadership — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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