Should free speech rights protect those who knowingly disseminate false stories designed to cast aspersions upon people of other ethnicities, gender preference, religious or political belief?
New Zealand is not immune from fake news. MP Judith Collins recently tweeted a news link which falsely claimed that the French Government had voted against having an age of consent, as part of a global attempt to normalise paedophilia. Collins went further and challenged the Prime Minister to condemn this. When it was pointed out to Ms Collins, that the story was fake news, Ms Collins, dismissively shrugged her shoulders. Whether something is true or not, was of little moment.
The right to free speech is a right to think whatever you like and even say what you like, without fear of government recrimination. While I believe that, I do not believe that that right includes the guarantee of a platform. There is a risk that falsehoods promoted on a large scale, gain a credence beyond their tenuous link with reality by virtue of the megaphone by which they are broadcast.
As with all authoritarian regimes, the right to freedom of expression is advanced as a tool to gain a platform to broadcast their alternative reality, to gain credence. However, once in power these freedoms can be dispensed with. Once Hitler assumed power, those papers that had reported against him, were shut down with many reporters shipped off to death camps.
Fascism and here I also include the ‘alt-Right’ use the hallowed rights that are the foundation of democracy, against it. Thus Hitler, Putin, Erdogan and now Trump et al assert the right of free speech for themselves as a tool for gaining power and having done so seek to wrench that right away from everyone else.
Now Fascism seeks to stand on a public platform, asserting equality and being but one side of the argument – in which they argue for race-based theories of intelligence etc. This is not because they love free speech, but because they wish to eventually do away with it.