Nonsense to suggest Brash speaks on behalf of Pākehā

@MorganGodfery: “pākehā should stop letting don brash try to speak on their behalf”

Don Brash obviously speaks for himself. He may speak for Hobson’s Choice, at times at least. But it’s ridiculous to suggest that he speaks on behalf of ‘Pākehā’.  As a number of people on Twitter pointed out in response to Godfery.

I could agree with some things he has said and says, but I also disagree with things he has said.

I see myself as Pākehā but he certainly doesn’t speak on my behalf. He never has. I opposed him when he lead National and specifically voted against National getting into Government when he was their leader.

And it’s even more ridiculous to suggest that Pākehā should stop letting Brash try to speak at all. But Godfery reiterated this nonsense.

This seems to be increasingly common from younger people – demanding that people they don’t like be shut down or shut up.

It shows an alarming lack of awareness of the importance of free speech in a democratic society.

But it’s not just younger people.

Anti-climate change comments no longer allowed

Anyone arguing against climate change happening can’t comment any more – don’t worry, not here, but that seems to be what Stuff are imposing on comments there.

I think that climate change is potentially a major problem facing our planet, and facing humankind. We are having a significant impact on the planet, and most probably on the climate.

I largely disagree with those who say there is nothing to worry about. We should be concerned, and we should be doing more to reduce the human impact on the climate and on the environment.

Not all climate change effects will be negative, some areas may benefit. But overall it poses a major risk, especially considering the huge and expanding human population and the need to feed everyone.

However we should not, must not close down arguments against climate change, or for natural climate change, or against doing anything. For a start, a basic premise of science is that it be continually questioned and challenged, no matter how strong the evidence is one way or another.

And there is a lot to debate about what we should be doing in response to our impact on the planet.

So censoring one side of a debate is a major concern to me. There are whacky extremes on both sides of the arguments. Why target just one side with censorship?

From The Standard: Stuff is banning climate change deniers from articles and comments

Congratulations to Stuff.  Instead of the endless on the one hand but on the other hand reporting, where on the other hand is nothing more than incomprehensible babble from the anti science right, they have adopted this policy:

Stuff accepts the overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is real and caused by human activity. We welcome robust debate about the appropriate response to climate change, but do not intend to provide a venue for denialism or hoax advocacy. That applies equally to the stories we will publish in Quick! Save the Planet and to our moderation standards for reader comments.

The change in policy is accompanied by the announcement of a new series of stories and opinion pieces under the title of Quick! Save the planet which is described in this way:

Quick! Save the Planet – a long-term Stuff project launching today – aims to disturb our collective complacency. With insistent, inconvenient coverage, we intend to make the realities of climate change feel tangible – and unignorable.

This project accepts a statement that shouldn’t be controversial but somehow still is: climate change is real and caused by human activity.

Mature adults can disagree about the impact of climate change and how we should react. We’ll feature a wide range of views as part of this project, but we won’t include climate change “scepticism”. Including denialism wouldn’t be “balanced”; it’d be a dangerous waste of time. The experts have debunked denialism, so now we’ll move on.

There were 268 comments to the editorial written by Editor in Chief Patrick Crewdson, mostly supportive, but a few were clearly testing the boundaries.

Well done Stuff.

It is great that the tide of opinion is flowing towards accepting climate change as a reality and working out what needs to be done.  The question will be is this too little too late.

Maybe, but it is not great to see a banning of opposing views. That is bad for debate, bad for democracy, and bad for science.

This is just one of a number of very concerning developments in trying to shut down free speech that are happening right now.

Two contrasting comments early in the Standard discussion:

Robert Guyton:

Stuff’s sidelining of deniers is bold and decisive – good on them. I made this point at our regional council meeting yesterday, with any closet deniers who might be sitting around the table, in mind. There was a squirm 🙂

Chris T:

Totally and utterly disagree.

Deniers of climate change are blind, but to censor differing views that are being put foward (that aren’t breaking swearing rules etc), no matter how stupid they are, or no matter how they may differ from yours, on topics that are as contentious as this, is ridiculous.

There is another argument currently about whether media should provide ‘balance’ by giving a voice to whacky extremes, or at least whether they should provide a forum for minority views with significant slants – Bob McCoskrie comes to mind.

Media articles should be balanced towards factual and scientifically backed information. They shouldn’t give anyone a voice who wants to spout nonsense, or extreme views. Media can choose what they publish.

But when they start to censor comments – free speech – I think they are getting into worrying territory.

Chris T: Is there a master list of topics people aren’t allowed to disagree with or do we just make it up as we go along?

mickysavage: Claiming that climate science is a Soros funded attempt at world government would be a start, saying that scientists are engaged in scare mongering for money is another and claiming that ice cover is actually increasing and that temperature increases have stalled for years is a third topic.

Wayne: Your list, especially the last two, looks indistinguishable from censorship.

Banning arguments against “ice cover is actually increasing” is a particular worry.

Ice cover actually increases every winter. Obviously it decreases in summer. It always varies with seasons. Most science generally suggests that ice cover is decreasing overall, but even with climate change (warming) it can increase in some areas.

Students’ Association: “Massey Vice-Chancellor has broken our trust”

The Massey University academic Board has acknowledged that two motions of censure have been lodged against Vice Chancellor Jan Thomas, but they won’t be voted on for a month.

In the meantime the New Zealand University Student’s Association has put out a press release:

Massey Vice-Chancellor has broken our trust

The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) is outraged by recent revelations that a Vice-Chancellor threatened to cut funding to a students’ association due to actions they disagreed with.

In emails released under the Official Information Act, Massey University Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas considered cutting funding to the students’ association and clubs if they decided to proceed with an event involving Don Brash speaking on campus.

‘We should be able to have robust debate on campus with people we disagree with, including our university leaders. But to consider cutting funding to a group that disagrees with your actions is just foul play,’ says National President Jonathan Gee.

‘While we do not agree with Don Brash’s views on race and many other issues, we support the right to free speech. As the critic and conscience of society, universities should be the bastions of that, not undermine it,’ says Massey University Students’ Association (MUSA) President Ngahuia Kirton.

Gee says that these tactics have stemmed from Voluntary Student Membership, where tertiary institutions’ management now hold all the cards.

‘Students’ associations have for too long been silenced from criticising our institutions for fear of ‘biting the hand that feeds us’. These emails from the Vice-Chancellor are the purest example of the silencing effect that Voluntary Student Membership has had on student voice.’

Voluntary Student Membership (VSM) was passed by Parliament through the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill in 2011, despite strong opposition. Since VSM, students’ associations have had to negotiate their core funding with their tertiary institutions, as opposed to receiving levies from students directly. The revenues of students’ associations have since reduced dramatically, some by over half since 2011.

‘Two wrongs do not make a right. Threatening cuts to funding key student services in order to get what you want is not fair game. Everybody loses,’ says Jason Woodroofe, Albany Students’ Association President.

The Vice-Chancellor has also broken the trust of staff and students through assuring them that her main consideration in preventing Don Brash from speaking was security, when this has clearly not been the case. She has misled the Chair of Academic Board, who are in part the guardians of the university’s role of being society’s critic and conscience.

‘We join Massey’s students’ associations in their call for their University Council to clarify its stance on funding independent students’ associations. The Vice-Chancellor has broken the trust we have with our institutions, and we want to rebuild that.’

Massey Vice Chancellor appears to have lied over Brash ban

The controversial cancelling of a student political club event at Massey University due to the scheduled inclusion of Don Brash kicked up a lot of discussion about Brash’s views (strongly criticised by some), about free speech, and about free speech at universities.

The issue has been raised again by David Farrar, who through emails obtained through the Official Information Act shows that Vice Chancellor Jan Thomas was not being truthful to the public or to the Massey academic board in her explanations for the cancellation of the event.

She had explained on Newstalk ZB (8 August)

Massey University defends barring Don Brash

Larry Williams: What were the reasons for cancelling?

Jan Thomas: The reason we cancelled was because the students who had booked the venue and had agreed to terms of use had come to us and identified their concerns around their ability to maintain security at the event, and so on the basis of that we took another look at things and based on some things we were observing on social media I became concerned that there was a genuine threat to the safety of our staff and students and members of the public.

And so unfortunately it’s a really tough decision and I don’t like making these decisions but based on the safety of our community I chose to cancel the event.

Larry Williams: Was this more about your personal views though, you don’t like Dr Brash?

Jan Thomas: Ah, I made the decision on the basis of the safety of our staff. In fact the venue had been booked um for some time and the students association, the politics society, had done a terrific job of setting up a programme of speakers who were going to be discussing their particular perspectives on politics. That of course is the mandate of the student association and I supported that and that had all gone through the normal processes.

So he would have spoken along with other current and future leaders of ah the National Party in a sequence of talks past current and future, ah and ah I think that was, these are precisely the sorts of things that should and do happen on university campuses, and it wasn’t until we became aware of ah concerns around security ah that I made a really difficult decision to cancel the event.

But the emails show that Thomas wanted the event cancelled because of what she described as Brash’s racist views, which she described a month prior to the above ‘explanation’ as “I do not want a te tiriti university to be seen to be enoorsing racist behaviours” (9 July):

After a series of emails on 13 July what Farrar describes as the “smoking bullet”:

Farrar comments:

Here the VC says allow Brash to speak will clash with the te Tiriti led ambition and affect their Maori colleagues. She asks if funding can be used to pressure the student associations. And she concludes:

She says she wants the event stopped, and “if it proves impossible” suggests modifying conditions of use of facilities and student funding to make it easier to stop similar events in the future.


There is no doubt that Massey University is lying and treating us as fools when they now try and claim it was purely about security. They have become a university without integrity and without free speech.

And here she talks about refusing entry:

And all this is before any security issues were raised.

The OIA release shows that Massey University has leadership that is hostile to free speech and believes that anyone who has a view different to them on the Treaty of Waitangi has no place at Massey University.

Not only did Thomas mislead the public over this, she appears to have lied to the Massey academic board. Farrar says that “This is what the academic board chair e-mailed colleagues”:

Distinguished Professor Sally Morgan Chair of Academic Board Meeting with the Vice-Chancellor. In light of the public accusations that Massey University is not committed to the Principle of Free Speech, I asked to meet with the Vice-Chancellor in my capacity as Chair of Academic Board, to gain reassurances that this is not the case, and to discuss the recent controversy caused by the cancellation of the Don Brash lecture which was to be hosted by the Students Political Club. I did this because I wanted to fully understand the facts of the case and what, if any, impact it might have on the business of the Board. I was not finding the public debate and the emotional speculation on social media and in the press very helpful and needed to know more before I could happily form an opinion.

The Vice-Chancellor agreed to meet me and to answer my questions. She began by assuring me that she was committed to free speech and the notion of the University as well-informed and scholarly, Conscience and Critic of Society.

I asked the Vice-Chancellor how long she had been aware of Dr Brash’s proposed lecture before she took the decision to cancel the lease of the room to the students. She told me that she had been aware of the event for many weeks and had been invited to attend. The students had also informed her that their planned programme of talks would include politicians from all New Zealand’s major political parties.

My understanding from what Professor Thomas told me, is that she had not considered cancelling the event at any point during that period, because she had no pressing reason to do so. She did not deny that she does not agree with Dr Brash’s views, but she pointed out that she had not at any stage banned him from campus nor insisted that the students disinvite him.

Professor Thomas told me that the situation changed when she was shown a thread on social media where there was a discussion of a plan to violently disrupt the talk, making mention of bringing a gun.

There certainly seems to be some discrepancies in what Thomas said publicly and what she discussed with university staff, and what she told the academic board.

What is said in the emails is certainly different to her explanation to Newstalk ZB.

More detail at Kiwiblog: Massey lying over cancellation of Brash speech

Free speech and ‘deplatforming’

‘Deplatforming’ (also known as ‘no platform’)has become a prominent issue in relation to free speech. “Canceling or disinviting someone to speak at an event” (but ‘no platform’ may also be a means of trying to stop controversial speakers have platforms generally).

Deplatforming is a new term to me, that came up in recent controversies over opposition to allowing Canadians Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern speak first at Auckland Council owned venues, and then more generally – the Power Station cancelled an event the afternoon before the duo were due to speak there.

And it also arose when Massey University cancelled a student political event that Don Brash was scheduled to speak at.

It is a big issue in the US:  Attitudes to free speech are changing, and Steve Bannon has something to do with it

Two widely read magazines made two different decisions about Steve Bannon this week. The New Yorker on Monday announced it was disinviting Bannon as a speaker at its October festival, while the London-based Economist on Tuesday defended its decision to keep him on at its own event this month.

The magazines received a torrent of criticism that the media is giving a megaphone to a dangerous white nationalist of waning relevance.

The New Yorker’s editor, David Remnick, went the other way, saying that while he had hoped for “a rigorous interview” onstage with Bannon to challenge his views, he conceded there were better ways to achieve that scrutiny than by giving Bannon yet another platform.

The growing number of these “disinvitations” — many of them at universities in both the US and UK — shows a shift in attitudes to free speech, and even a desire to move its goalposts.

It may not be taking hold in New Zealand after widespread criticism of the Massey banning of Brash. A visit this week by Nigel Farage attracted only minor protests (and scant interest over what he said), and Chelsea Manning was granted a visa to come and speak here despite her criminal record.

What some people pointed out to the New Yorker about Bannon was that his presence at the festival was not just a matter of the freedom to express one’s views. It was also about his track record in distributing false information through Breitbart, the website he co-founded in 2007.

Breitbart has run stories that support climate change denial, despite overwhelming scientific evidence that it’s real. It has also run stories alleging the Obama administration was supporting al Qaeda in Iraq, an accusation that has no basis in fact.

It gets quite contentious when known perpetrators of ‘fake news’ are involved. Major online platforms have recently restricted Alex Jones from using their platforms. Facebook, Twitter and others have enormous power over speech and have been under pressure to clamp down on being exploited by activists deliberately spreading false news, especially where foreign countries try to influence elections.

But what if Donald Trump had the power to shut down platforms that he claims spread fake news about him?

A claim of ‘fake news’ does not mean the news is fake, with people like Trump it is synonymous with  ‘news I don’t like’, or critical commentary.

Attitudes to free speech depend on age. Forty percent of millennials in the US — where free speech is enshrined in its constitution — think the government should be able to prevent people from saying things that offend minority groups, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. That drops to 27% among generation X respondents, 24% among baby boomers and just 12% for “silent generation Americans,” aged 73 to 90.

It is quite alarming to see as many as 40% of a younger age group want their government to prevent speech that they think is (or may be) offensive to someone. Is that a sign of where ‘free speech’ is going to go?

Inciting hatred with speech is illegal in some parts of the world, and privacy can also place limitations on what you say.

Some millennials say they want to see these restrictions widen. This desire is most visible in the growing number of “no-platforming” cases at universities, where people are denied invitations to speak, or their invitations are rescinded.

In the UK, radical feminists with views that students consider transphobic have been no-platformed.

Free speech versus ‘safe spaces’

Shakira Martin, president of the UK’s National Union of Students (NUS), said students valued free speech, but stressed that freedom must be balanced with creating safe spaces, particularly for minority groups.

The problem with free speech as we know it is that the playing field is uneven, she said, with some groups given the opportunity to shout louder than others.

“So many of the misunderstood and maligned practices that students have deployed to readdress that balance, such as safe space, are actually about extending free speech to those groups whose voices may not have been traditionally heard,” she told CNN.

‘Safe spaces’ is a very contentious thing. There are a real risk that rules enforcing ‘non-offensive speech’ will neuter free speech.

This is especially a problem in politics, where opponents can claim offence to try to shut down views they are ‘offended’ by – which in reality is often just political ideas and policies they disagree with.

Evening the free speech playing field is also highly contentious. Who gets to decide what is even? How can you rule on evenness before the event, before someone has spoken?

Brash was effectively banned by Massey based on anticipation of what he might say. Some claimed he had had ample speech platforms in the past, had offended some people some of the time, so should be deplatformed.

I have seen people online claiming things like white males should shut up because white males had dominated power and speech in the past and now it was the turn for other groups to have the power and the platforms.

Free speech won’t be balanced by shutting up some groups, by censoring some. It will be enhanced by encouraging and enabling a wider range of speakers and views and politics.

You can’t improve inclusiveness through exclusive rules and pressures.

The debate leaves universities with a difficult balancing act. The UK’s Department of Education is working on creating a clearer set of rules for universities to follow.

In May, Minister for Higher Education Sam Gyimah described the restrictions of free speech at universities as “chilling.” His predecessor, Jo Johnson, said universities should be fined for banning speakers.

Fining universities who don’t comply with no-ban rules sounds like a silly idea to me. Apart from it being a bad approach it would be to easily open to abuse.

Free speech in the digital age

It may not be surprising that a generation that grew up with the internet and social media has different ideas on free speech.

Social media was once hailed as the savior of free speech, offering a platform for marginalized voices. That’s still true, but with it has come more hate speech.

The Internet has enabled as many problems as solutions for free speech.

Laws around the world have not kept up with this major change in the way we communicate, according to Monica Horten, an expert on internet governance policy. At the heart of the problem is scale.

“What you’ve got now are millions of pieces of content going up online by individual people, and that immediately alters the scale of the problem, because the percentage of the content seen as problematic is going to be higher,” Horten told CNN.

After years of backlash from their own users, social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, are now regulating problematic content, such as fake news. But that poses its own set of problems, Horten said.

“The whole question of whether private actors should be able to make these kinds of decisions — governments are asking private companies that run these platforms to make decisions about which content should be removed — they are acting as censors and not always within the law.”

Private companies controlling online speech have enormous power of enabling speech, restricting it and censoring it.

Kate O’Regan, director of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at the University of Oxford, agreed that the world was still grappling with how to legislate online content, but said she was concerned at the changing attitudes to free speech.

“I understand people who don’t want to share a platform (with Steve Bannon) — they have the right to make those decisions. But at the end of the day we have to debate the ideas and let that conversation take place,” she said.

“I do think democracy by definition are places where we must allow deep-seated disagreements to be aired and they should be done in a civil manner.”

That highlights some major problems that aren’t easily resolved.

I have found from experience on a range of online forums, especially in the seven years I have been running Your NZ, that the only way of allowing deep-seated disagreements to be aired (that is one of the primary aims of Your NZ) in a civil manner is by human intervention, and that is an ongoing challenge as spats and attacks keep erupting.

I think I have proven that it can be sort of be managed ok, on a tiny scale.

I don’t know how this can be done effectively on a large scale let alone a world wide web scale. Too few people have the inclination or balance, and far too many people want to deliberately upset the balance and upset opponents.

Bridges on Woodhouse and Collins on Chelsea Manning

Simon Bridges was asked whether he backed Michael Woodhouse saying as Immigration Minister he would not let Chelsea Manning come to New Zealand to speak, and whether he backed Judith Collins promoting what some have claimed is fake news.

Morning report (RNZ):

Suzi Ferguson: On Chelsea Manning, Michael Woodhouse said he would have denied the visa if he was the minister. Do you back his comments that Chelsea Manning shouldn’t have been able to come to New Zealand?

Simon Bridges: He’s got strong views on that and he’s entitled to them. What I would say is pretty simple. Actually I don’t care where you are on the spectrum, whether you’re hard left, hard right, freedom of speech matters and you should be able to do that. Al of that said, I do think there’s an issue of the immigration rules here.

Now if Chelsea Manning is allowed too come to New Zealand on the rules, good for her. She should get out there and say what wants from the rooftop.

If though what the Government has done is bent the rules for her, I would like to understand why that is, I think it’s a slightly different issue to the free speech one, but look, I feel strongly about, um and I’ll stake my claim on.

Suzi Ferguson: What about Judith Colins comments that Chelsea Manning was a traitor whose actions led to people losing their lives or having them put in danger? That’s not actually true, so do you support her using fake news again?

Simon Bridges: Well I haven’t gone through and read Chelsea Manning’s Wikipedia page, I don’t know the ins and outs of everything that she done.

My basic sense of it is though, she was convicted of very serious crimes. Now President Obama commuted those sentences, but serious matters and that’s really my point.

Bridges trying to divert and seeming to avoid answering.

Free speech is incredibly important, but you also have to have rules…

Suzi Ferguson: Do you back her using fake news though, because it’s not the first time in the last few weeks?

Simon Bridges: I would argue it’s not fake news actually if you look at what Chelsea Manning’s history is and what has happened there. Judith Collins is entitled to say what she said.

Suzi Ferguson: Ok, that’s not actually what was every proven in court.

Ferguson moved on to another topic (identifying the leaker of Bridges’ expenses) and Bridges also left it at that and moved on.

That’s some fairly tame questioning and some vague and weak responses from Bridges.



Free speech – left, right want it for people they agree with

Free speech is being freely debated again.

Political Roundup: Chelsea Manning visit exposes hypocrisy on left and right

The latest free speech debate – ignited by the National Party opposing Chelsea Manning coming to speak in New Zealand next month – illustrates that many on the political left and right are actually in broad agreement in their desire to severely limit free speech when it suits them.

All they differ on is who should be allowed the right to speak. In the case of the left, they generally want the likes of the recent Canadian alt-right speakers suppressed. The political right wants anti-war dissidents like Chelsea Manning kept out.

There has been some criticism of this on Twitter:

@MJWhitehead :

Gosh it’s almost like people told you the entire time that this was bad-faith political partisanship from the right-wing and not a genuine concern for frozen peaches, Bryce. Come off it.

You’ll also note that the locus of the left-wing debate was “should they have a right to a platform through a venue,” and largely not “should they be turned away at the airport.” National has no such qualms.

And, I do actually believe right-wingers when they say they care about free speech, I just don’t believe they’ll prioritize it as much as we do when it comes into conflict with other values- Woodhouse has shown that even *respectability politics* trumps it for them.

“I just don’t believe they’ll prioritize it as much as we do” suggests that Matthew sees himself as a spokesperson for ‘the left’.

But he is generalising somewhat claiming “the locus of the left-wing debate” and “largely not”.

While Edwards is also guilty of over-generalising he is largely correct in saying “All they differ on is who should be allowed the right to speak”.

I’ve seen a lot of people from the left (notably Golriz Ghahraman) who speak strongly againts peeople they don’t agree with from being allowed to come to New Zealand to speak, while staunchly supporting people they agree with.

Michael Woodhouse has merely highlighted that it is often people getting confused over championing free speech versus championing their politics and preferences.


Trump supports “sick behavior” online

In a series of tweets Donald Trump says:

  • that Republican/Conservative voices are being unfairly discriminated against online
  • that “Censorship is a very dangerous thing & absolutely impossible to police”
  • he supports “sick behaviour” being able to continue,
  • everybody should be able to participate, “good or bad”

He keeps condemning ‘fake news’ – information online that he doesn’t like or doesn’t want published – but suggests that favourable fake news be able to continue unfettered.

What happens online across the political spectrum is bad enough without the president – someone in an extraordinary position of power and online reach – effectively promoting a war of words that presumably he thinks he can win.

He may end up being a big loser personally (he is aat risk of that at least), but the online community loses out bigly with the sort of behaviour he is defending, promoting, and doing.

Misogyny only a part of online abuse problem, and ‘sorry’ isn’t enough

Online abuse that can reach extreme levels is rife online, in New Zealand and internationally. Some label it things like misogyny or sexism or racism or anti-religious or political – any of these things can be involved, but the motives can vary, and can often be difficult to define.

Abuse can be nasty, it goes to the extent of threatening the well being and even the lives of targets – and to an extent reflects awful levels of real life abuse and violence.

In part abuse is an attempt to discredit people, to shut them up, or to drive them off public media platforms.

Most of the abuse comes from people acting anonymously.

Anna Connell (RNZ) ‘I am sorry you can’t freely express yourself’

I feel that same frustration and anger about what Lani Wendt Young has gone through. An LGBT rights advocate and author, and survivor of child sexual abuse, she has used social media to openly discuss these issues. She has also filed over 800 screenshots of abuse and threats she’s received for doing so.

Despite going to the police and asking Facebook to remove these comments, there haven’t been any real consequences.

Theoretically, those on the receiving end of online abuse are offered some protection here under the Harmful Digital Communications Act. Netsafe is the approved agency responsible for dealing with complaints made under the Act but are not an enforcement agency.

After a complaint is investigated, a court order can be sought. In response to Ms Wendt-Young’s complaints, New Zealand police said they took the issue seriously. However, based on her experience, it seems they feel pretty powerless in the face of the swelling volume of online abuse.

Facebook has made noises about wanting users to feel safer and have reportedly hired 10,000 more moderators to review reports of abuse – but they don’t have a great track record on this issue.

Facebook is one of the worst platforms for abuse, largely due to the huge number of people using it and the ease with which anonymous people can use it.

It seems no one is resourced or equipped to deal with the speed and volume at which abuse can be hurled and threats laid bare online. Not the creators of the platforms, the agencies tasked with investigating complaints, the police, nor the courts.

It seems an insurmountable problem – perpetrators can number in the thousands and, in many instances, hide behind anonymous or fake profiles. It seems beyond regulation and the reach of the law.

It is largely beyond regulation and the reach of the law. Vexatious and malicious litigation is used as a form of attack, as I have found out with no misogyny or racism or sexism involved, it was just nasty arses taking a misconstrued grudge against me and abusing legal processes. One of them was recently convicted of other abuses (criminal harassment) but that took over three years to get through the courts, and attacks and harassment continued against myself and others while they faced charges.

For a long time people used to say, ‘It’s all about the conversation,’ on social media. Many of us had an idealistic view of the force for good it could be in our world. But I think we’ve laboured under that misapprehension for too long now.

When presented with a smorgasbord of opinion and content, and given the tools to say what we like, to whomever we like, when we like, we can’t behave or control ourselves. We can’t conceal our hatred because we have been enabled by an almost unstoppable juggernaut to express it without thinking.

I object to the use of ‘we’. Like in offline life, most people don’t hate on others and don’t abuse others. There is a minority who abuse the openness and easy of online communications. As is common in many things, a small minority can spoil things for the majority.

It is made worse when prominent people engage in online abuse – especially when the president of the United States abuses his power and media reach in attacking people he disagrees with. This extremely poor example is widely condemned, but it is also fervently supported by a large minority.

To Ms Wendt Young, I say sorry.

I am sorry you can’t freely express yourself without being subjected to a torrent of hatred and abuse. I am sorry the law can’t protect you adequately. I am sorry a force exists in our world that now seems impossible to regulate. I am sorry for not having something more constructive to say. Most of all I am sorry that when asking our fellow humankind to regulate their behaviour, they cannot.

Saying sorry may make Anna Connell feel like they are at least providing support for a solitary victim of online abuse, but it will take far more than that to confront the levels of abuse that are rife online.

In part I was attacked because I confronted abusive behaviour – in response they turned on me. Eventually it has backfired on them in a number of ways and they now face some repercussions – sentenced to home detention, bankruptcy and other financial costs – but it has been costly for those who have stood up to them, It took some up to eight years to get the legal system to deal to the worst abuser only, and that has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But for online abuse and abuses to be dealt with it takes a lot more than saying sorry. Despite an inadequate NZ legal system – an appeal I’m currently involved in has just been adjourned, which favours the abuser – people who can have to make stands against the abusers.

What isn’t happening yet to any extent is for the legal system to make appropriate signals of disapproval of online abuse. In my case the abuser hasn’t said sorry, he is not only unrepentant, he (and associates) continues his ‘lawfare’.

A review of the New Zealand legal system was recently initiated. Getting involved in that is one way of trying to deal with the problem. It’s better than just saying sorry.

Free speech battle brews between feminist and trans-activist groups

From Gezza:

A company has pulled posters commemorating women’s suffrage after pressure from LBTGI youth groups who say the feminist blogger behind the poster campaign holds transgender exclusionary beliefs.

Phantom Billsticker’s managing director Jamey Holloway says the company previously hung posters for Wellington writer and activist Renee Gerlich as part of women’s suffrage projects. This year marks 125 years since women gained the right to vote in New Zealand.  At issue this year were complaints triggered by the tagline “suffragists worked for the female sex – stop rewriting history” that appeared on Gerlich’s posters – a statement some see as denying transgender women’s right to identify as women.

One of Wellington activist Renee Gerlich’s posters commemorating women’s suffrage. The tagline has been criticised by some as promoting the rejection transgender women’s right to identify as women.

Tabby Besley, national co-ordinator for InsideOUT – a group that advocates for young people of minority genders and sexualities – says the tagline displayed a subtle transphobia.

Phantom asked InsideOUT for advice after receiving complaints about Gerlich’s posters. Her understanding was the posters were harmful to trans and gender diverse people. “It’s a platform for what we see as hate speech … her blog is full of incredibly harmful words,” Besley says.

Trigger warning: feminism, women’s rights

Holloway says many posters had been ripped down around Wellington and a “large number of people” had asked the company not to poster Gerlich’s campaign – but there were also calls in support of Gerlich.  Holloway says while it was not his job to “police a fight between marginalised groups” quashing anyone’s right to free speech was something the company was loathe to do.

“It’s an easy decision with clear hate speech or denigration, this is a lot more difficult – and I don’t necessarily think I’m best placed to make the call, but someone has to,” Holloway says. Gerlich had said she would take the matter up with the Human Rights Commission – a move the company welcomes.

The core issue was not the posters themselves, but Gerlich’s blog, Holloway says. In it Gerlich criticises a lack of voices in media from gender critical feminists on gender identity, while saying the promotion of gender self-identification was constant.

Questioning trans-activism often resulted in a backlash especially the use of the label TERF – trans-exclusionary radical feminist. “This slur is today’s ‘witch’ and is often accompanied by other insults as well as threats of violence, ostracism and loss of livelihood,” Gerlich said.

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For heaven’s sake. The RadFems & The Intersexers collide. I guess Jordan Peterson would have some predictable views on all of this.

Now the latest Gender Fluid fad is starting to run smack bang into the Pro-Fem/Anti-Men fad AND Transgender Rights AND the Free Speech thing!

Gawd luv a duck ! Stop the world. I want to get off.

⚔ Sir Gerald 🛡