“THE BATTLE FOR FREEDOM OF SPEECH is only expected to intensify in 2022 (if) the Labor Government persists with its plans to eliminate ‘hate speech’” and, “The risk will be nothing less than the right of New Zealanders to speak and write freely about their beliefs.
So began Chris Trotter’s recent op-ed about what he sees as an impending “epic” battle to preserve free speech in New Zealand. And he might be right
But let’s face it. The very fact that Chris’s opinion, and that of most of the other Daily Blog contributors, can only be read on this platform and nowhere else, is in itself positive proof that censorship is already alive and well in this country, and, as any reading of our history will attest, has been from the beginning
Chris goes on to describe how; “In all societies, there are customs, conventions and laws whose non-respect and/or violation inevitably lead to consequences. And then, as if to underscore how lucky we are, Chris writes; “there are however societies in which the articulation of certain ideas risks the most disastrous consequences, citing the examples of pious Muslim countries that execute those who insult the Prophet, and of Belarus where questioning the legitimacy of its leader could result in a disturbing sanction.
But why use these examples when there are plenty of examples right here in New Zealand that involve sanctions, the effect of which can be just as deadly, but which, in my view, are all the more insidious we don’t see them.
Chris went on to say this; “In such contexts (like these authoritarian examples), it is simply absurd to talk about the existence of freedom of expression. No one is free who, when trying to exercise his freedom, is subjected to some form of punishment.
And to emphasize its brutal nature, he added; “Stalin’s and Mao’s intolerance of free speech rested squarely on the proposition that their variant of communist ideology was the closest approximation to the truth of which humanity was capable.
Well, if so, can someone tell me what is our society’s pervasive and suffocating insistence on capitalist ideology? “the closest approximation to the truth of which mankind (is) capable”, is all about. And please also explain what were the sanctions suffered by those who for millennia opposed it, if not the application of a brutal authoritarian sanction.
And if we are so enamored with FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION and its associated principles, why does our media so strenuously avoid any mention of Julian Assange and the torture he endures, in order to practice it?
If we insist that free speech is essential to the preservation of our democracy and world peace, why have we only ever nurtured a view of world affairs that mirrors that of the United States? and who, at this very moment, has us on the verge of acquiescing in wars with Russia and China?
The point is that while the “truth” of our society cannot be enforced in the same way as the “truth” of so-called “authoritarian states”, it is nevertheless just as self-serving, rigid and brutal in its execution.
In our schools and in our universities and institutions, and especially in our media, we are so skillfully programmed to accept that our system is “the closest approximation to the truth of which mankind (is) capable”, that sometimes even our best commentators can’t see it.
And so it’s good that we have others to remember, like HL Mencken, one of America’s greatest journalists and social commentators, who said;
“The object of public instruction is not at all to spread knowledge; it is simply a matter of reducing as many individuals as possible to the same level of security, of engendering and forming a standardized citizenship, of knocking down dissent and originality. That is its goal in the United States, whatever the claims of politicians, educators and other such charlatans, and it is its goal everywhere else.
Indeed, if our society is so well served by the principles embodied in the idea of freedom of expression, why do we need the Daily Blog?