by Daphna Whitmore
Not a single person has spoken in favour of the gunman who carried out the horrific massacre in Christchurch, yet there is talk of cracking down on free speech, and mostly it is coming from the left.
For instance, Green MP Marama Davidson has told political commentator Chris Trotter to be quiet, listen and not speak, because of his involvement in the Free Speech Coalition. According to Davidson the Free Speech Coalition defended a platform for hate speech. Similarly, political commentator Morgan Godfrey wants journalist and talkback host Sean Plunket taken off air for being “a hate monger who plays to the alt-right”. This was in response to Plunket’s claim that “the neo nationalist right are the result of the virtue signalling exclusionary left”. Godfrey also wants David Farrar’s Kiwiblog to shut down its comments section.
So who decides who can speak, and who can have a job on radio, or share an opinion? Who is to be the arbiter of this new cultural conformity, all the while chanting ‘diversity and inclusiveness’ of course? Plunket was one of the few willing to interview the campaign group Speak Up For Women and discuss the encroachment on women’s rights by transactivists. The transactivists have denounced SUFW as spouting hate speech and bigotry and demanded they be no-platformed, and had posters taken down, and tried to shut down meetings. The hate and bigotry in this case came from the accusers not SUFW.
The same people and politicians who mouth platitudes about love and inclusiveness are so often hardline authoritarians and thoroughly intolerant. What’s more, their censorship and control-freakery would not have prevented the Christchurch massacre.
The entire establishment have condemned the massacre. The gunman appears to have acted alone and was not even part any white supremacy group. The claims that there is a significant white supremacy movement in New Zealand doesn’t stack up. Kyle Chapman, the best known white nationalist in NZ, had his most successful march ever in 2012 when just 115 people turned out to demonstrate with him. Most times a small handful is all the National Front can muster.
That is not to deny there is anti-Muslim sentiment in NZ. There is, and it has been sown, watered, fed and kept alive by the western interventions in the Middle East. The interests of NZ capital are served by those interventions and Labour and National governments, in tandem, have taken NZ into these wars time and again. The current government is just as committed to protecting New Zealand’s place at the imperialist table. There is also NZ First which has played a role specialising in xenophobia and racist politics. Its leader Winston Peters has made his political career on whipping immigrants.
The prime minister Jacinda Ardern spoke with compassion following the massacre and her message resonated with many. Yet how real is the compassion when the New Zealand government admits just a tiny number of refugees each year, and none taken directly* from the Middle East or Africa?
Much of the left today is thoroughly committed to censorship and policing public discourse. The authoritarian left do not direct their anger at the capitalist state when they call on it to exercise more power against people who have committed no crimes. Such thought policing and censorship would also prevent people within minority communities being able to speak out against practises they abhor or want to challenge.
The Christchurch massacre was hideous. The response of thousands of people turning out to show solidarity with the victims, and the tens of thousands of people who over three days donated over $5.4 million dollars to support the families, shows that fascism is not alive and well in New Zealand. We need to keep it that way and an essential ingredient for that is maintaining the widest possible freedom of speech.
*NZ doesn’t take any refugees directly from the Middle East. They have to spend time in other countries, usually Malaysia. That makes things easier for NZ officials but doesn’t help refugees when their need is most desperate. It means many spend years in Malaysia unable to work (no work visa) and being stuck in limbo.