Free speech, even for odd or obnoxious views

Last week the Mayor of Auckland, Phil Goff, announced –  using what powers isn’t clear –  that no venue owned or managed by the Auckland Council would be made available for hire by organisers for an event involving a couple of controversial Canadian speakers, who had been planning to visit New Zealand next month.

I’d never previously heard of the speakers, or the organisers.    When I looked them up, some of the views one or other has apparently propounded seemed, frankly, kooky.  Here, for example, is a (unverified) report of some of Stefan Molyneux’s views.

According to Jessica Roy of Time magazine, Molyneux argued that violence in the world is the result of how women treat their children, and that “If we could just get people to be nice to their babies for five years straight, that would be it for war, drug abuse, addiction, promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases, … Almost all would be completely eliminated, because they all arise from dysfunctional early childhood experiences, which are all run by women.”

Odd, or even obnxious, as some or many of their views might be, they are quite at liberty to hold them, or express them.  And New Zealand audiences should be free to listen to them, whether to cheer, to heckle, or just out of curiosity.

No owner of a private venue should be under any obligation to rent out a venue –  or provide a media outlet – but councils should be a different matter altogether.   Council property is paid for by all the local residents and ratepayers, and when such venues are available for hire or use by private groups, there should be a strong and clear commitment that the political views of those who happen to be councillors, mayors, or council staff at the time won’t influence which groups are allowed to use such facilities for their functions/meetings.  There are plenty of causes around that individual people will count as obnoxious –  stances on a contentious issues such as abortion law is a good example, where either side tends to view the other in a very deeply hostile light –  and it isn’t for those who happen to hold office at a particular time to impose some sort of ideological litmus test on views that can be uttered in public facilities.    Such an approach would smack of the sort of authoritarian semi-democracies of Turkey, Russia, or Hungary –  where elections still take place, but those in power stack the field by denying access to the public square to views/people they find awkward, disagreeable or threatening.

The stance taken by Auckland Council staff and the mayor shouldn’t be tolerated, no matter how odd or obnoxious many of us might find most of views of Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux.  And plenty of views now regarded as mainstream, almost obligatory in “polite society”, would have been regarded as threatening or obnoxious only a few decades back.

A group of concerned people have got together to challenge the Auckland Council’s right to deny use of their venues.  It appears to breach the Human Rights Act, and is inconsistent with the (non-binding) New Zealand Bill of Rights.  I’ve pledged to donate to the fund being raised to seek a judicial review of the Council’s action.  I’d encourage you to think of doing so to, whatever your view (or none) of the substantive views held by Southern and Molyneux.  This issue –  effective freedom of speech –  should be one of those issues that unites people from left and right (and people in open support of this cause range from Don Brash to Chris Trotter), and nowhere in particular on the political spectrum, who care about a functioning democracy, robust debate, and who believe that ideas –  even obnxious ones –  are best debated, not suppressed by government agencies.

The website is……

I have also encouraged the organisers to consider working with a sympathetic member of Parliament to seek to introduce, via the ballot, a private members bill, to require all local authorities and similar public entities (eg school boards of trustees) to adopt a hiring or facilities use policy that does not use judgements about whether those in control of deciding on facilities use happen to agree with any views that would be expressed or not. These are community facilities, and when made available for outside use, it should be clear that no ideological litmus tests can be applied.

21 thoughts on “Free speech, even for odd or obnoxious views

  1. Goff of course was free to run around and expound on his views about Hamas and many other things. No one stopped him or his helpers from hiring halls or getting media time.
    One wonders indeed if he has even viewed the video’s etc.

    You’ve lost the plot Phil.


    • I cannot believe that Phil Goff would waste ratepayer money to defend his personal views. He came out strongly this morning to say that he would defend the ban on white folk having the right to free speech. Ridiculous.


  2. Thousand now know about these two and are also being made aware of the manner in which functionaries of the state are stifling peoples freedom.
    Lets see if Jacinda supports his view.


  3. Thanks for this Michael. I will certainly be donating. Goff has amply demonstrated he is the same egotistical little prat he always was. He is completely unfit for public office.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. While some of Molyneaux’s views might be screwy they aren’t all screwy but what you might call controversial. Eg racial (population) differences and rankings of different racial groups by average IQ. This is the sort of idea many people accept but are careful who they say it to. Molyneaux says high IQ and low IQ societies don’t mix and that the high IQ culture ends up redistributing to the low IQ culture to pacify them (It reminds me of Anton Blank who when addressing child poverty says mentioning higher and earlier fertility is “unhelpful”). Johnathon Haidt, Jordan Peterson and Charles Murray can tighten those arguments. Charles Murray is no “bad actor” (unlike many on the left). Jordan Peterson notes that you have to have an IQ of 85 (?) to join the US army and that some people are unemployable. But it isn’t just a place in the economy it is things like impulse control.

    Consider Paul Spoonley’s definition of racism
    Racism is the ideological belief that people can be classified into ‘races’ … [which] can be ranked in terms of superiority and inferiority … racism is the acceptance of racial superiority … It is often used to refer to the expression of an ideology of racial superiority in the situation where the holder has some power. Thus prejudice plus power denotes racism in the modern sense … racism is essentially an attitudinal or ideological phenomenon. … A dominant group not only holds negative beliefs about other groups but, because of the power to control resources, is able to practice those beliefs in a discriminatory way … This ideological concept structures social and political relationships and derives from a history of European colonialism. The idea of ‘race’ has evolved from its use in scientific explanation (now discredited) and as a justification in the oppression of colonised, non European people

    against evolutionary psychology

    and it leads to a different set of conclusions.

    Young women of Latin and Turkish origin living in Melbourne find it hard to see any Australian culture. Some see a vacuum; others see a bland milieu populated with ‘average-looking’ people. In contrast, they feel that their own migrant cultures are strong. They ‘get through more’. If there is any Australian culture it is, in their opinion, losing ground to migrant cultures.

    Then there is the issue of social capital. Paul Spoonley is an “advocate of high migration” but is also a “socilal cohesion expert”
    Yeah, right?


  5. Yes, Freedom to say one’s view is paramount in our so called democracy. Unfortunately it has been under attack by the “right thinking” drones. Is there any one in NZ parliament who would condemn the suppressioin of the freedom of speech ?


  6. Michael. The main reason for me to not going back to Iraq after I had my degree was freedom of speech. There is no point living in NZ if I lose it again.
    Second, I don’t know the person you are talking about because I am thousands of miles away but the excerpt you have is what James Heckman (Nobel prize) writes about. Early childhood intervention is key solution to many ills in society. I don’t see why the Mayor or people are upset.


  7. Good article. Btw the first 4 year’s old childhood development determine future crime levels by 80%, especially impulse control.
    Likewise boys are 6 time’s more likely to go to prison with a solo parent than a two parent family. Just because it hurts people’s feelings doesn’t make facts controversial. Both speaker’s say uncomfortable truths, like the attacks on whites in South Africa.



    “New Zealand Federation of Islam Associations president Hazim Arafeh said it had written letters to the Immigration Minister, Minister for Ethnic Communities and the Human Rights Commission asking for Lauren Southern to be denied entry.

    “[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,” Mr Arafeh said. “I don’t think insulting Muslims comes under free speech, that’s an abuse of freedom of speech.

    He seems to have missed the point. Critiquing an ideology or religion is not the same as insulting an adherent and in a free country the former should be uncontroversial (I would have thought)? Ironically, I understand the reason Southern was barred from the UK was for a stunt illustrating that freedom of speech allows Christianity and Christ to be mercilessly ridiculed and demeaned, but that a different standard is applied when it concerns Islam, effectively implying that in some sense that Islamic blasphemy laws are being enforced.


  9. One The Panel Amanda Miller was going to throw anything she could in the way. Stephan Franks was “for”. Wallace said he had listened to them and (it) “was racist”. Makes you wonder about the content on is shows.

    This is and interesting test case

    The article is relevant in light of those who would give Aboriginals an Upper House or talk about “Stolen Wealth”. I (personally) believe that people are happier in their native state.

    I had an argument with a friend about that article. He has a BA Hons in Psyc from about 30 years ago and swore black and blue that it was wrong. He wasn’t interested in any meta analysis (IQ wasn’t a reliable measure anyway) While I listened to his rantings I thought about the videos I had watched of Charles Murray, Jordan Peterson etc all who have a hefty price on their heads.

    I think we are seeing a generational shift in thinking from one were individuals are like Lotto balls to a more organic view where people develop their own identities (live in a movie script of their making).

    The Social Psychology of Social (Dis)harmony: Implications for Political Leaders and Public Policy
    Luisa Batalha, Katherine J. Reynolds & Emina Subasic
    Australian National University

    This work thus suggests that for multiculturalism to succeed identities need to be transformed. And, importantly, as Kymlicka suggests, this transformation applies not only to the minority but also to the majority. Indeed, perhaps the major identity transformation is required from members of the majority as their attributes are, as a rule, the same as the ones that define the national identity. Minorities need to be written into the self-definition of the national identity such as to imbue them with existential legitimacy as citizens in parity with the majority.

    Such civic definitions serve to place the majority group as a sub-group within the system of intergroup relations,which allows for a new identity to emerge. Legitimacy and status as members of the new community are then less likely to be defined by ethnicity. Such civic based definitions also shape sub-group relations such that ethnically-defined difference becomes less relevant to the community as a whole.

    [Anyone who resists the legitimacy of the process is a “white supremacist”]

    In a multiethnic/multicultural society, the shift from an exclusive to an inclusive definition of the national prototype requires the emergence of new and consistent discourses about who ‘we’ are (see Kymlicka, 1995). Discourses that do not appeal to ethnic heritage and traditions but to civic values. It is in this context that the role of political leadership comes into place in changing the discourse and creating a consensual view of the national prototype such that it becomes shared by the members of a polity (see Uberoi & Modood, 2013). Moreover, there needs to be an institutionalisation of the public discourse as in line with terms outlined by Parekh (2006).
    Another means is through initiating a public debate about what it means to be, let us say Australian, where representatives of the citizenry are given a voice. The UK is an case in point where political figures have initiated a debate about the meaning of Britishness (Uberoi & Modood, 2013)


    • I just followed a link on that article to Occidental observer. Jordan peterson points out that Ashkenazi Jews punch above their weight in many fields. In fact one of my heros is “Gadfather” (Gad Saad) and then there is Steven Pinker (the Blank Slate) and others prominent in the move away from the Frankfurt School type influences.


    • All from people with too much money and too little empathy.

      This blog sadly degenerates when the topics move away from economics.


      • Luc

        What is the nature of your disagreement? Do you really think it would have been acceptable for phil Goff to have decided which views could be advocated in public facilities? (As it is, it now appears Goff was grandstanding trying to claim credit for a decision made by council staff).

        Chris trotter is one of the more impressive left wingers in nz, and was a key figure in this free speech coalition.


      • Agreed – some tangential comments. Not sure how you deduce too much money other than having the spare time to make comments might imply wealth.


      • Sleeping on it and still disturbed so another comment.
        A simple request that our Mayor should not assume the right to decide what we can and cannot hear has morphed into comments about race/ethnicity and intelligence. Prof Jim Flynn resident in NZ is the world’s leading expert on the issue and a superbly clear writer (and probably NZs most respected living intellectual). Many of the comments would be fair enough in a social setting but are disturbing on this blog where usually comments are thoughtful; the contents on the link to Vdare are troubling – that is troubling morally not intellectually.

        My point is if you are brave enough to tackle intelligence and race do so seriously not flippantly and make the case with examples from ethnicities that apparently are doing better that yourself. This is equivalent to the way an African-American can use the word nigger but it is now very bad manners for anyone else to use it. So concentrate on the evidence collected that indicates Chinese and other Asians have higher IQs. It may be worth dscussing why 3 girls now enter university for every two 2 boys (impolite if Katherine Moody pushed that fact but an interesting topic for the male commentators).


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