The Human Rights Commission & Free Speech

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Submitted by Olivia on Wed, 2018-06-13 09:24

By Olivia Pierson

Last week on Tuesday 5th June, Chris Lynch of Newstalk ZB took on the topic of free speech, and specifically the Human Rights Commission’s stance on it. Chris had as his guests two Kiwis who write regularly and penetratingly on the topic: Lindsay Perigo and Professor Paul Moon.

It was most heartening to hear this issue dissected so directly by a host who has the rare ability to listen attentively and ask intelligent questions. No issue is more important in this country, or indeed in any Western country, than this one. It simply cannot be discussed enough at this time when it is under such open attack.

Professor Moon, in reference to the Human Rights Commission’s report last year to the UN, says what it represents is a “damaging change to our society,” since it wants to impose penalties in NZ law for criticising certain religions of ethnic minorities, yet the only religion that is mentioned in the report is Islam. Moon points out that the Commission is acting in a discriminatory way and is potentially in breach of its own act.

“It’s tying itself up in knots in order to not look like it’s trying to achieve what it’s trying to achieve,” Moon said.

The report seeks to outlaw what it refers to as “disharmonious speech” directed at the religions of minorities.

Professor Moon’s main contention with the Commission’s report is that it is “hugely dangerous” and damaging to a society when power is given to one particular group which feels that someone has spoken in a “disharmonious” way about them.

What exactly is the definition of disharmonious speech and how would it be applied? Moon emailed one of the solicitors at the HRC to ask this specific question. The response was: “the question doesn’t make sense.”

Chris Lynch said that he had invited the HRC to be on the broadcast and be part of the discussion, but they had declined to be involved while at the same time saying they were happy to be part of the debate.

Lynch quoted one of the recommendations of the report to Lindsay Perigo:

The committee urges the NZ government to review the adequacy of the current structures and processes to respond appropriately to NZ’s changing demographics…. the provisions are therefore unable to be utilised in respect to religious hate speech directed at Muslim New Zealanders, who for the most part belong to ethnic minority communities in NZ.

Lynch asked Perigo what he made of that, while quickly adding that for over a hundred years people have subscribed to Christianity with no problem, “but all of a sudden we are saying that criticising Islam will be off-limits to any critique, what is your view of that?”

Perigo responded:

And that is exactly its purpose, it’s preferential treatment of Muslims. It’s protecting Muslims from having their feelings hurt and Muslims will say their feelings are hurt if you say anything critical of their religion, or even draw their prophet because you’re not allowed to depict him visually.” Perigo continued, “So it takes nothing at all to offend a Muslim and we’ll end up in a situation where people are jailed for having an opinion.

Perigo opined that all that is necessary to fix all this is that we uphold what we already have in law, and not let it be negated by any other legislation.

Article 14 of our Bill of Rights says:
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, to receive and to impart information and opinions of any kind, and in any form.

Salmon Rushdie’s famous dictum, Perigo suggested, should also be emblazoned across the sky, “There’s no such right as the right not to be offended,” along with Voltaire’s “I disagree with what you say but will fight to the death for your right to say it.” This is the spirit that has guided us in our civil discourse – and our not so civil discourse – for over a century and it should continue to be that way.

Chris Lynch wondered aloud if the HRC and the Susan Devoys of this world have been influenced too much by Generation Outrage, a generation which needs outrage for a sense of identity, since “everyone wants to be noticed and to be outraged is to be noticed.”

While that insight happens to be quite true, personally I think the situation is the other way around and much more sinister. As Perigo recalled in a conversation he had a few years back with Susan Devoy, she referred to an attitude (which he couldn’t quite remember the details of) as “stale, male and white.” Those were the words she actually used. How racist, not to mention sexist, is that?

And that is the essence of what all this implementation of the United Nation’s agenda is all about: the attempt to dismantle “white male” civilisation, which is an attempt to dismantle Western civilisation itself.

If we lose freedom of speech, we will lose all of our precious freedoms and without them our civilisation will be over.

I commend Chris Lynch for caring enough about free speech to keep the topic alive on radio and talkback, especially after what has happened to Tommy Robinson in the UK.

I want to add: may that never happen here! But I know it will happen here unless we aggressively fight back and unrelentingly not let this nonsense pass!

If you enjoyed this article, please buy my book Western Values Defended: A Primer