Massey University compromises free speech

by Don Franks

Former National leader Don Brash, invited to address a Massey university student club, was stopped by vice-chancellor Jan Thomas.  She canned the event after club members voiced concerns about safety. The university considered putting on extra security, then decided the risk of harm to students, staff and the public was too high.


Were anti-Brash protesters going to rock up with guns?

Going on past New Zealand student protests, noise, a burning in effigy, maybe an office occupation is the worst that could be expected. Perhaps a few water bombs, or glitter might be thrown along with the invective. What half-trained security guard couldn’t cope with that? As additional justification of her position, Thomas said she supported free speech on campus, but totally opposed hate speech.

It’s past time to get shot of this “hate speech” mantra. It’s bullshit . I have used the expression myself in the past, to describe attitudes I disagreed with; I realize now I was wrong.

Now that I think about it, I need to employ “hate speech” myself, quite often, because I hate quite a few things and I want the right to say so. I hate workers being bossed around and underpaid, I hate air pollution, I hate owners of uncontrolled dogs, I hate warm beer, I hate capitalism. I hate the smug well-heeled people who perpetuate capitalism. I hate Don Brash, because I hate just about everything I’ve heard come out of the guy’s mouth. Nevertheless, I believe Brash should be allowed to address the Massey students if they want to waste their time listening to him.

Why not? Can’t students be trusted to weigh the worn out words of a reactionary old has-been? Ideas should contend and clash freely, out in the open. That exposes false ideas to the light and gives sound ideas a chance to take root. Isn’t that a better option for working people?

Wasn’t a prime objection to the TPPA the fact that if was “being negotiated in secret”?
ACT and all the rest of them are up in arms about Brash being denied a gig at the student club. They are hypocritically selective. When our side gets no platformed the libertarian right stay silent. The education workers’ union at Auckland University just had the police called to shut down their information stall, because it was rightly critical of the vice chancellor. No fuss made about that from Seymour and his buddies.

Brash may be remembered for a while, as a little footnote in history, for his notorious “Orewa speech”. His opportunist racist anti-Maori campaigning at Orewa appealed to a few but was rejected by the mass of New Zealand people. Had the Don Brash Orewa rant been shut down before it happened, would we really be politically better off?

Further reading: From the vaults: Political correctness and social control (1995)


  1. Agreed! It would be much better for us to use situations like this to say: “while we talk about why closing down free speech is a bad idea, let’s also address the principal people affected on a daily basis by draconian restrictions on free speech: workers.” Surely that would be more productive than the present practice of congratulating ourselves for phyrric victories over “hate speech” being stopped when in fact we just add oxygen and amplify their ideas to a larger audience.

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