The Left’s shift from opposing censorship to shutting down speech

Karl du Fresne wrote in the Dominion Post: The snarling and hissing of the illiberal Left

…in the censorship battles of the 1960s and 70s, it was the liberal Left that led the push for freedom to choose what people could see, read and hear.

Ultimately they won the battle against the moral conservatives. But at some point in the intervening decades, something strange began to happen.

The New Zealand Left executed a gradual 180-degree turn. Now it’s the Left who are the self-appointed censors, mobilising to shut down any ideas and opinions that offend them.

It’s not just ‘the left’ who do this, it’s not uncommon to see people from the right trying to censor dissenting and alternate views (like at Whale Oil), and shut down opinions they don’t agree with (like in comments at Kiwiblog0, it’s not all of the Left, but it is a marked turnaround on the left.

The old term “liberal Left” has become a contradiction, because many of the strident voices on the Left are frighteningly illiberal – not on questions of sexual morality, where anything is now permissible, but on matters of politics, culture and ideology. Their antennae twitch constantly, acutely alert for imagined evidence of racism, misogyny and homophobia.

This is especially true of the social media generation, who block their ears, drum their feet on the floor and hum loudly to block out any idea or opinion that upsets them.

More than that, they often actively try to discredit, shut down and drive away opinions and ideas they don’t like – this is common on Twitter – or people they decide aren’t left enough regardless of their views, common at The Standard.

It is sometimes tried here too, but I strongly discourage it.

The threat to freedom of speech and opinion no longer comes from bossy government agencies…but from platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, where digital lynch mobs indulge in snarling, hissing gang-ups against anyone who challenges leftist orthodoxy.

And campaigns and petition are organised to try punish people who say things that aren’t considered ‘acceptable’.

Public discourse has reached the point where almost any mildly right-of-centre opinion is liable to bring forth frenzied denunciations and calls for the offender to be silenced, fired or boycotted. The silly, melodramatic term “hate speech” has come to mean anything that upsets someone.

New Zealand has so far largely been spared the extremes of intolerance shown on overseas university campuses, where violent protests force the abandonment of lectures by anyone the Left doesn’t like.

Could it happen here? Of course it could. Only last year, University of Auckland students tried to exclude a pro-life group from campus activities, Yet 50 years ago, New Zealand student newspapers were at the cutting edge of demands for free speech.

When universities have an intolerance of freedom of speech then we have a significant problem.

I wonder what the old-school liberal Left make of all this. It took generations for New Zealand to mature into a tolerant, liberal democracy and now it sometimes looks as if we’ve not only slammed on the brakes, but engaged reverse gear.

Is it a mix of a new generation, plus the power of social media and ease of abuse?

This has been discussed at Reddit, with an ironic ‘best’ comment from ‘bigfuckingdealm8’:

What a pile of hot stinking rubbish, congratulations.


Should we count your post as snarling and hissing?

HerbertMcSherbert tries some balance:

There’s a case to be made that discussion gets shut down that shouldn’t be, but it’s delusional to claim it’s only associated with one side of the political spectrum. Just recently in NZ any discussion of immigration numbers or foreign house buying has been shouted down by the right as “xenophobia!” Likewise, the conservative right often drives censorship – even up to what consenting adults are allowed to do in their own home.

I’d also agree that in some parts of more extreme leftist circles there are problems with censoring speech or ideas.

I’d agree, but universities are not (or should not be) “extreme leftist circles”.


The left wins the Internet but the right wins the polls

A comment posted at Dim Post.

The Left wins the internet. But the Right wins the polls.

First on “the Right wins the polls”. That’s bollocks.

ACT struggles under 1% in the polls so that is hardly a winning position for them.

National has consistently polled the best for years, but they are hardly “the right”, and they are further left than Labour on some things. Voters are not clearly delineated between left and right, with most closer to somewhere in the middle.

And in the polls currently show the centre right’s hold on power is precarious, which is probably more to do with “the left” – Labour – losing rather than the right winning.

The Left wins the internet

How the hell can anyone claim that? Perhaps some of ‘the Left’ think that they are winning the Internet but they are fighting amongst themselves as much as anything, with the occasional swipe outside their bubble.

Actually it’s common to see people from the left baffled as to why they keep losing, considering how superior they seem to think they and their ideologies are.

Pitching hysterical tantrums on social media

Danyl at Dim Post can be quite insightful when he’s not trying too hard to be a political activist. He commented in the thread of his own Kathryn Ryan sums up 2015 in NZ politics  politics   post:

At least the left enjoys full=spectrum dominance of twitter. When the day that pitching hysterical tantrums on social media becomes the key to political power, no one will stop us.

Rueful truth.