Does freedom of speech extend to far-right voices?

POLITICAL ROUNDUP

Dr Bryce Edwards

Lauren Southern's event has been cancelled.

New Zealand has largely escaped the escalating debates and conflicts occurring in the US and elsewhere about whether to allow or ban offensive political speech. Until now. Two controversial Canadian speakers who have cancelled their NZ appearance after being banned from Auckland Council venues have ignited debates over “hate speech” and “freedom of speech.”

Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux had been due to appear next month at the Bruce Mason Centre in Auckland. But on Friday, Auckland Council, which owns the venue, pulled the plug on the event, due to “security concerns” involving the “health and safety” of the presenters, staff and patrons of the event. This is all covered by Anna Bracewell-Worrall in her news report, Auckland 'alt-right' event cancelled due to 'health and safety'.

The article explains that the issue was sparked when “Auckland Peace Action (APA) called on the government to not allow the speakers entry to New Zealand.” The group also threatened to disrupt the event, saying: “If they come here, we will confront them on the streets. If they come, we will blockade entry to their speaking venue.”

Mayor Phil Goff fronted the issue, and explained the decision: “I just think we've got no obligation at all – in a city that's multicultural, inclusive, embraces people of all faiths and ethnicities – to provide a venue for hate speech by people that want to abuse and insult others, either their faith or their ethnicity.”

Event promoter David Pellowe then announced that the show was cancelled, saying “there were no other venues available at this late stage” – see the Herald’s Mayor bans controversial Canadian pair from talking in Auckland Council venues. He complains that Mr Goff’s decision is political, and that “Far from being willing to engage in a robust contest of ideas, he finds it far simpler to shut down any ideas he disagrees with.”

A victory against 'hate speech'?
The other group attempting to prevent Ms Southern and Mr Molyneux from speaking was the NZ Federation of Islam Associations, which says the pair is spreading hate about Muslims. The federation has been lobbying the Minister of Immigration and Immigration New Zealand to deny them entry to the country.

Federation president Hazim Arafeh explained that one of the two, Ms Southern, should not be afforded the right to free speech, because she “abuses her right of freedom of speech. She's just going to give a talk in which she's just going to insult all of us … I don't think insulting Muslims comes under free speech, that's an abuse of freedom of speech” – see Emma Hatton’s article, Controversial speaker Lauren Southern ‘going to insult all of us’ – Islamic community leader.

This article cites Massey University’s Paul Spoonley categorising the pair as being “white supremacists” and their message as “hate speech.” But he is also reported as believing that “banning people entry to New Zealand would need to meet a high threshold and the decision warranted a public discussion.”

Many on the political left believe that threshold has been met by the couple. For example, writing at The Standard, Greg Presland argues Ms Southern’s message falls into the category of “hate speech” and “Freedom of speech does not require us to let her in to insult local communities” – see: The extent of the right to free speech, and Far right Canadian activist wants to come to New Zealand to insult local communities.

Saziah Bashir has an interesting opinion piece in favour of the clampdown on the Canadians, saying in her RNZ item that Southern’s “actions are actually physically and emotionally harmful” – see: Hate speech more than just 'an unpopular opinion'. Therefore, any decision to deny them entry to New Zealand is quite straightforward and uncomplicated, especially because their presence here “risks the safety of an entire community” – Muslims.

She argues the “right to freedom of expression is not unfettered” and, because Ms Southern and Mr Molyneux, have other ways to distribute their message (YouTube), their rights to freedom of speech would not be harmed by any ban on them.

Some of these debates about hate speech might sound esoteric but for Oscar Kightley it’s very straightforward, because the concept of freedom of speech should include the freedom to ban people from coming to speak to others: “Of course, freedom of speech is an important principle but that isn't one way. Surely people have that same freedom to have their own reactions to any speech. Including the freedom to say:  'Yeah nah, you can't actually come into New Zealand and say that stuff.'” – see: We have the freedom not to stand such divisive speech.

Suppressing “free speech”?
The decision to ban the Canadians from council venues is A triumph for left-wing bigotry and intolerance according to Karl du Fresne, who says “July 6 was the day when extreme left-wing bigotry and intolerance triumphed over the democratic values”. He says “Mr Goff has betrayed us all” by capitulating to “fringe extremists like Valerie Morse” of Auckland Peace Action. It “sends a signal that all the extreme left has to do in future to deny a platform to people it doesn’t like is to threaten violent disruption.”

He also draws attention to the “irony” that Ms Morse has previously escaped conviction for “burning a New Zealand flag in a protest gesture at an Anzac Day service in Wellington in 2007” because the Supreme Court ruled – rightly in Mr du Fresne’s view – that “Freedom of expression quite properly allows New Zealanders to engage in acts that other people find deeply objectionable.”

Mr du Fresne believes freedom of speech, even for offensive speech, is highly desirable: “We live in a liberal democracy that depends on free speech and the free exchange of ideas and opinions” – see his second column on the matter: Let's hear the Canadians for ourselves and decide then whether it's dangerous.

He argues New Zealand should be and is robust enough to deal with fringe views: “New Zealand is by world standards a remarkably tolerant and moderate society, and stolidly resistant to inflammation by extremists of any stripe. Perhaps even more importantly, it’s a robust democracy that is perfectly capable of being exposed to rancid opinions without being swayed.”

This view is shared by leftwing blogger No Right Turn, who says “the answer to speech you don't like is more speech, not less” – see: The cost of a free and democratic society.

He argues the threshold for banning something should be incredibly high, and this has not been reached: “Unfortunately, being insulted is just something people have to put up with in a free and democratic society, and our Supreme Court is on record (in Brooker v Police) as saying so. We have a right to freedom of speech in New Zealand, which covers not just the right of these racists to speak, but also the right of their racist audience to listen. Restricting that right pre-emptively requires a very high test: basically an announced intention on the part of the speaker to incite a riot. If that test isn't met, there's no justifiable reason to prevent them from speaking.”

The Dominion Post has a similar view, publishing an editorial that says a healthy society has to put up with some offensive views, and that “Without the possibility of offence we would be a bland, totalitarian state devoid of interest, imagination and ideas” – see: Tolerance is a virtue.

It argues a ban on such views are counterproductive, as it “plays into the hands of those seeking publicity and profile.” Furthermore, New Zealand needs to distinguish between what is “truly damaging and hateful” and that which is “merely offensive and comfortably dismissed.” The editorial believes Ms Southern and Mr Molyneux fall into the latter category.

There’s also the problem of giving politicians such as Mr Goff the power to make the decision on which political views to ban. This is the argument put by David Farrar who says “the mayor now personally decides whose speech is acceptable, and can use an Auckland Council facility. Governments tend to own many large speaking venues so this in fact does massively restrict the ability of someone to do a public session” – see: Phil Goff the new commissar of speech.

Mr Farrar wonders if future speakers who allegedly stir up religious tensions will also be banned: “Now Goff has unilaterally announced his own test, let’s keep him to it. If you ever see a booking for a council facility which has a speaker from an organisation with a history of anti-semitism or supporting terrorism, then make sure we all know so we can demand Goff be even-handed.”

TV comedy writer Dane Giraud also gets serious, explaining why he’s baffled about “progressive” opposition to free speech, saying dangerous ideas only become more dangerous when they are suppressed – see: Progressive opposition to free speech is completely baffling.

Finally, could Auckland ratepayers end up with a costly bill from the decision to cancel this event? Blogger No Right Turn has just blogged to say that the decision looks to be illegal, as it breaches the Bill of Rights Act, which includes “the right to freedom from discrimination on the basis of political opinion” – see: The cost of a free and democratic society II. He also says the decision sets a dangerous precedent: “Because if we let the mayor of Auckland decide what speech is acceptable in public facilities, then a future mayor may decide that they don't like speech that we approve of. Like union meetings, or speeches in favour of reforming drug laws, or political movements against landlords and the rentier economy. Or speeches in favour of racial justice.”

This is supplied content and not commissioned or paid for by NBR.


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43 Comments & Questions

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More evidence the left has lost the plot in the race to introduce a state of totalitarianism. Ultimately the left need to fallback on coercion and control which is a prerequisite to implement their crazed policies that go against basic human nature, and freedoms.

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Maybe they can host the event at your house instead

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Does freedom of expression extend to far-right voices? Not in this Socialist Worker's Paradise they don't. It's time to wake up New Zealand and take a cold hard look at the country you actually live in.

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You can blame your mates BE and JK who opened the floodgates and now these groups all kick up a stink any time anyone dare says anything about the effect it is having on NZ society, a situation that they (yes the past govts) have created, and accelerated.

JK and BE don't give a damn now, they have exited to their land and property portfolios, generously bolstered by said immigration policies.

The NZ people did not vote for the floodgates to be opened, but your mates BE and JK didn't care less. They only cared about keeping the banks, big businesses and their overseas masters sweet, short term at the cost of the ordinary NZ citizen long term.

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So your idea is that there were no minority pressure groups in NZ prior to 2008?

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Immigration existed in this country long before Bill English or John Key showed up on the scene.

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Immigration was not at the rate your mates BE and JK have been letting in. At 2 x's the per capita rate of Australia, and 3 x's the per capita rate of the UK, whose people voted to brexit because of the issue.
Immigration has been at all time record numbers for the last 4 years BE and JK were in.
With all the problems in housing logic would have said it was time to reduce the numbers but for the last four years they deliberately went the opposite and put immigration on steroids.
They allowed it to increase year after year for their last 4 years despite obvious issues in housing, obvious extremely dodgy overseas education sector, which was known as THE backdoor pass to residency. They didn't care about the growing OBVIOUS problems it was causing NZ's. They only cared about pandering to big business with a continuous supply of cheap low skilled labour, landlords with a continuous supply of rent slaves, filling ever increasing dodgy education sector numbers, and giving the real estate and property industry an endless supply of buyers at ever increasing prices.
As you say take a "cold hard look at the country you live in" AND the policies that are changing it for the worse for the average NZ, and which appear to make it a ground fertile enough for the "right wing" speakers organisers to think their would be an audience to make it worth their while to come all the way down here.

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Your complaint appears to be that they didn't close the gate. Maybe fair comment but the main change was less NZers leaving their country. Is that a bad thing?

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What exactly did they do to 'open the gates'? Maybe they didn't shut the gates as more people poured in but there was no deliberate relaxation in immigration policy as you misleadingly allege! Repeat a lie often enough and some people think it is true!

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Not
This a Mayor acting as a dictator
Thought nz a democracy where we have right to do things

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The average hard working National voters views are right, but they are not allowed free speech in the media except for News Talk ZB and here on the lovely NBR,

Left wing media where you can not oppose the constant housing media beat up and despising of landlord housing providers.

Interest .co site is pro Labour and pro housing crisis and you will be blocked if you state your views with the truth that there is no evidence of crisis for example" record low mortgagee sales and Low Interest rates" are ignored and if you say that National was good you are blocked !

NZ Herald is pro Labour and extremely negative on housing with no real evidence about their so called housing crisis.

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So if I wanted to call a public meeting at a council centre to discuss the ratepayers concerns about Goff's mgmt. of the council or the prospect of a new stadium he could ban it? Not comfortable with Goff being able to make these kind of calls unchecked.

Also not comfortable with the crowd 'Auckland Peace Action' threatening to confront them in the street and blockade the entrance. Hardly peaceful. You may not agree with their views but seems to me this stance is inciting violence.

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yes the idea that all you have to do is threaten violence to stop a voice you don't like is abhorrent. But of course they wouldn't apply that policy if the speakers were saying something they personally agreed with. It is those threatening the violence who should be suffering the sanction not those exercising their legal right to free speech

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If what a speaker says is true,then how can it be a hate speech.

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Freedom of speech was the first casualty of Erdogan in Turkey. Democracy is under threat. Wake up New Zealand.

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That 's the most striking things. So called left wing progressives aren't interested in truth. Evidence based decision making doesn't fly with them. They follow a belief system which at times is based on blind faith. It's the new religion and like any religion it doesn't like the competition much so works hard to discredit it at every opportunity

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"In order to think you have to risk being offended" Jordan B Peterson

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George Orwell once said, “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.”

The new rule of thumb seems to be this: If I don’t like what you are saying – even if it is true – I will simply dismiss you as a hater and your words as hate speech. There you go – simple. Now we no longer have to deal with truth – we just dismiss it as hate.

I can see why there are so few willing to take a public stand from truth nowadays. It is a very risky thing to do so. Most people would rather just remain silent, and live a quiet and peaceful life. But they of course are only kidding themselves. As we remain silent, the enemies of freedom and democracy are rolling along, crushing all opposition.

We will all be impacted by this new totalitarianism. When thoughts and speech become “hate crimes” then we will all be adversely impacted. So the moral of the story is this: better to speak up now while we have the freedom to do so, than to sit back and hope all this blows over. It won’t.

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Everyone complaining about a venue being closed off. Why don't you just host them at your house? From the sounds of things not many people were going.

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With respect Karl, I think you are completely missing the point here.

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While I am being slightly facetious, no freedom of speech has been blocked here. Have them around at yours - they can speak as freely as they want on private property

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Keith, you miss the point.

The New Zealand Bill of Rights guarantees more than freedom of expression. There is a logically corresponding guaranteed right to seek and receive 'information and opinions of any kind in any form'.

Such rights are generally required by the Courts to be interpreted in the most expansive manner possible and indeed the Supreme Court has made it clear (in Booker v Police) that in the absence of an actual call to violence the rights under the Bill of Rights cannot be limited.

This move by a part of the government performing a public function and therefore legally subject to the Bill of Rights that limits the ability of citizens to seek and receive information is therefore chilling indeed.

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I assume you mean me, and assume you mean Brooker v Police.

In Brooker the decision was based more so on Brooker's disruption of an individual not being disruptive of public order as well as the tendency to annoy others is not seen a disruptive to the public order so I'm unsure why you're using this case to prove a point. Phil Goff isn't banning anybody from Council venues because they annoy him as an individual, then of course I would be up in arms

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You have no idea how many were going! Certainly more than could be accommodated at anyone's house - so a totally pointless comment!

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Karl, Perhaps it escaped your notice. The rate payers have already paid to have a venue built and made available at commercial rates so that groups can gather and hear what people have to say.
Please explain (a) why rate payers should then pay twice to host such events at home and (b) when will rate payers get their money back for a facility that is apparently not going to be used?

Or are you suggesting that rate payers fund venues only for the use of the far left?

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In banning
Rereading animal farm
So bad & dictator
$50m+ pr & spin costs + 3rd world water + sewerage (actually the same now where they get water from)

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Stop referring to these speakers as "Far Right" or "Alt Right" it's actually got NOTHING to do with that is going on here. What we are talking about is local government restricting free speech in a public place/council property.

What is worse and very concerning is Goff said there's a risk to public order which is also why he didn't allow it to proceed. Big fat red flag! That is what the police are for, if extra security is needed to keep people safe while speaking & listening then that is what needs to be done.

Goff & Auckland Council need to be taken to task IMMEDIATELY.

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In addition it would be a misuse of rate payers funds for the council to pay for Phil Goff's political decision. He should deal with the legal consequences of his actions personally, given his title and office does not give him the power to select who uses council facilities.

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Time to send Goff an extra large Brown Shirt in exchange for his chain of office. So when he leads his Brigade they will know him as a leader of their fascist thinking and not our city. Can Cristal Nagt be far behind?

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Well it seems free speech doesn't exist at the NBR either. Fancy having your comment deleted for linking to full translations of the quran, mentioning historical FACT about it's founder, and questioning why it is 'alt-right' to examine these facts.

The NBR & Phil Goff - is there a difference? Apparently not.

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I'm way more afraid of those that want to use 'administrative' abuse to stop them speaking at public venues than I am of the speakers.

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If i remember a council building (ANZ Viaduct EC) was used for the armaments conference a few years back. I was down that way at the time and there was plenty of 'aggro' going on outside.

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Free speech has no ‘buts’ or it is not free speech

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I'm not saying everyone's missing the point, but everyone's missing the point. 

No one is trying to limit free speech - you can say anything you want (within reason: crowded theatre and fire, blah, blah, blah). The point of political correctness is the same as heresy laws. Its goal is not to remove the chance of offence, it is to remove the mental tools (words) necessary to construct thoughts outside the accepted doctrine.

Because, if you can do that it's only a small step to think about building a new constitution of government. And so the true motivation for limiting speech is revealed: to avoid the organisation of people the establishment believes are dangerous to their grip on power.

Goff probably feels like he's won something, but he's actually just proven to those who think they have better ideas for a government that a) their ideas are actually threatening and therefore powerful and b) the internet is entirely out of the jurisdiction of people like him.

Can mayors cancel the organisation of their political enemies forever in a world of decentralisation and digital communications? We'll see...

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I agree.
It's like totally double plus ungood. Man.
God forbid somebody draws a cartoon...

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I have a proven track record in defence of freedom of expression (particularly under former Auckland City Council at Town Hall and the former Ak City Council Building).

I don’t accept Mayor Phil Goff has the lawful right to decide who has access to Ak Council venues.

Which section of which Act gives Mayor Phil Goff that LAWFUL authority.

I support the Judicial Review into Mayor Phil Goff’s decision.

#WhosNext ?

Penny Bright

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Goodness gracious. Never thought I would whole heartedly agree with Penny. A very dangerous decision by Mayor Goff and needs to be debated.

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Don't forget he's Labour trained after all.

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If the matter goes to court and if the court decides the Mayor Goff does not have the right to decide who can or cannot use a Ratepayer owned facility then the cost of his illegal action should be borne by Mayor Goff and ratepayers reminded frequently especially come next election what their Mayor does in their name so they can decide if he is a suitable person to represent them.

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In my experience Labour party supporters are totally against free speech. At every meet the candidates meeting I have ever been to Labour party supporters have screamed down every candidate, except their own of course. Absolute silence must be observed when their candidate stands up. They seem to have the mindset that their candidate must rule by divine right.
There's no such thing as a democracy in their world.

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Several countries have denied this couple from speaking. We shouldn't blindly follow other countries but when there is justification and thought behind the process we need to accept that it is a well thought out decision.

We elect these representatives to act on our behalf, if you don't like their decisions then consider this next time you vote for Mayor.

These people are travelling around riling people up and making money off it, plain and simple. Lauren Southern is another incarnation of Tomi Laren - young, easy on the eye and seriously under qualified to talk on stage - she didn't even finish her political science degree.

She's 23 and a "know it all". You should really watch some of her talks to get an idea for the type of production these talks are, because they are a production.

Free speech is very much alive, well and kicking in NZ, stop making a mountain out of a mole hill.

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There are lots of opinions in the media and requoted that claim Lauren Southern is racist and guilty of "hate speech", is of the far-right and takes "dangerous actions" and so on and so on.
Only thing is, that all these intolerant people can't identify a single specific thing Lauren has said or done that justifies these allegations.
Given that Southern has 600,000 subscribers and over 44 million views on thousands of videos on YouTube over several years, am I the only one that finds it more than coincidental that all these intolerant people can't give us a single factual quote from Southern that justifies all these intolerant labels they put on her?
Millions of words published on the internet by Southern and these intolerant bigots can't find a single sentence to prove their allegations about Southern? Not one?
My! Whyever would that be?
In fact the best they seem to be able to do is make false allegations about things she has done and present those as facts. Shades of radical feminism all over again.

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Islamic communities in the Western World, have developed a habit of protesting anyone or anything they feel may 'offend' them'. As the late Christopher Hitchen's explained very eloquently when the Danish newspaper published the cartoons of Mohammed, media outlets chose not to re-publish them out of respect but out of fear.

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