Q+A – free speech or hate speech?

Stephen Franks: New Zealanders don’t have to welcome, we didn’t have any desire to welcome, we just wanted people to be allowed to make up their own decision as to who heard, not have politicians make it for them. I think that countries where politicians decide who you can hear and who you can’t, who you can question and challenge…Phil Goff said repeatedly that he had the power to do it, and a whole lot of people jumped in behind him.

We’ve had holocaust deniers, we’ve had scientologists, we’ve had a lot of very very unpleasant people speaking, and we should be able to see them and decide yes that’s unpleasant.

Stacey Morrison: It’s not unpleasant speech, it’s hate speech. Do you not admit it’s hate speech?

Stephen Franks: there’s no difference. Hate speech is just a way for people to try and say ‘I don’t believe in free speech, but i can’t say that, so I’ll call something hate speech – and that’s not free. That’s all it is.

Anjum Rahman: That is absolute nonsense. there’s a lot of research that’s been done on hate speech, and what it does, hate speech, it silences it’s victims, it causes them to withdraw because of fear, it causes them to move from their jobs, leave neighbourhoods…

Corrin Dann: Let’s be clear about the bit that you’re arguing is hate speech, we’re talking about they argue on the IQ thing, on the racial superiority.

Anjum Rahman: It’s not just that. They argue that, for example, their comments around aboriginal culture and that white people have done more in two hundred and fifty six years than aborigines did in forty thousand years and therefore it was a good thing you took the land away.

Stacey Morrison: We need to look at that in the context of this country, and in terms of our bi-cultural framework for our country, and therefore if they’re talking about multiculturalism as a danger and trying to make people feel threatened so that they fight back, that’s when you incite hate.

So telling people that they are threatened is where it becomes dangerous, whereas it’s not true in terms of whether they face danger.

Stephen Franks: I am threatened, I am threatened when Amjun and the Islamic Federation says we don’t want someone coming here who doesn’t like Islam.

Anjum Rahman: I didn’t mention Islam, I’m talking about people, no I did not, I’m talking about the fact that what these people do…what I am saying to you, these acts of hate speech have an impact on people’s daily lives, and what I’m saying to you is whenwould you draw the line? When there are people with tiki torches on the street, and driving cars into people, and killing them, would you stop the line when we start wearing yellow stars, would you stop it when they’re on cattle trains…

Bryce Edwards: We can clearly see that we’ve got this looming culture war, and it’s happening on this panel…it’s actually happening throughout the globe at the moment…it’s an escalation of new debates, and we’re seeing over the last five years that there’s been this rise of radicalism, and we’re seeing it with these Canadian duo, it’s a reactionary version of it.

We’re seeing it on the left, we’re seeing it amongst gender politics, ethnicity politics, it’s happening everywhere.

Corrin Dann: Is New Zealand hostile to that free speech?

Bryce Edwards: I think everywhere’s having to deal with these radical views, especially when they’re pushing the boundaries, to find a way of dealing with it. At the moment the way of dealing with it is to try and ban it, and there will be consequences if we go down that route. I mean it is a logical way to do it, but it means that I think other groups, marginalised groups, suppressed groups will end uip being banned as well.

Stacey Morrison: You don’t need a stage to have a platform, and what they’ve done is performed an excellent PR opportunity. We’ve been talking about people that I didn’t know about a month ago, and therefore in terms of their free speech, that is welcomed on other platforms, you don’t need to be at a particularly privately owned venue like the Powerstation.

Stephen Franks: The question though about rights of assembly and association is that you actually do, because you’re getting a filtered message through almost all media. People actually want to go and say, can I look at, what sort of body language do I see, they want to hear other people’s questions in the meeting. I didn’t want to go and hear them because our researchers said some of it’s quite offensive, it’s set out to be agent provocateur,

Corrin Dann: They don’t have filters on a Youtube channel, you can go and watch half an hour lectures if you really really want…

Stephen Franks: It’s structured the way he wants it. The thing about meetings is that they’re not structured. They’ll get questions and challenges…

Anjum Rahman: Did you see the rules of those…

Stephen Franks: …at a meeting you actually get a chance to make up your mind directly, you see body language, but more importantly you see the other people at the meeting, and you make up your mind how are they feeling…

Corrin Dann: And you think the people going to that meeting were there to be open minded about what was going to be said?

Stephen Franks: As I said, we’re there for the right to do it. I don’t actually care about that meeting. It doesn’t worry me that it was stopped except that it’s a trend that changes our society dramatically. I didn’t like Phil Goff saying…

Anjum Rahman: I just want to go back to what Bryce was saying. This is not new. It happened in the 1930s and 1940s in Germany, it’d happening in Myanmar with that Royhingyas, it happened in Rawanda, it’s happened all around the world and it’s happening all the time. And what the research on hate speech shows is that acts of racist violence are preceded by vilification in speech.

That we create the atmosphere that makes violence acceptable, because victims of that speech are so vilified that people then act it out. And that’s what I’m saying, if you were living in the 1930s at what point would you have said ‘right we have to stop this’. We can’t have this language that’s going to end up at this place.

Bryce Edwards: There are all these offensive things that are being said, and I think you’re right, it’s increasing, but it’s a question of how do you deal with it. Do you suppress it? And does that work? I think we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks it doesn’t work. It’s had the counter effect, that we’ve had more…

Anjum Rahman: I disagree with you, I think it’s really worked. If there had been no protests…I’ve been to a speech like this that was real vilification, I’ve sat through it, there was ov er a hundred people in the room, there was no question and answer session, there were strict rules to their meeting, and there would not have been a debate…

Stacey Morrison: In terms of free speech, whose freedom of speech do we always protect, and in terms of say for instance Taika Waititi as a Maori man saying that New Zealand is racist, no one responded in terms of  that was his freedom of speech to express his opinion, it was more about how dare he say that.

So in these experiences it is important that we look at what we think about this, where we stand, and what we support and at what point we define this as hate speech.