Friday, 10 August 2018


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?

During the 2016 US Presidential Election campaign, Info-Wars host Alex Jones reported that Hillary Clinton was sexually abusing children in the basement of a Washington DC pizza restaurant. This concerned Mr Welch, who took it upon himself to rescue these children and armed with weapons including a semi-automatic rifle, stormed the restaurant and having shot open a door lock discovered pizza dough, but no children. Further inspection revealed that the building did not even have a basement. ‘Fake news’ can have frightening consequences. 

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.

Hannah Arendt in Origins of Totalitarianism explained the goal of Nazi propaganda. Rather than promoting refined debate and striving for consensus Nazism strove to present a completely different reality, based upon ideology rather than fact:
“The assumption of a Jewish world conspiracy was transformed by totalitarian propaganda from an objective, arguable matter into the chief element of the Nazi reality; the point was the Nazis acted as though the world were dominated by Jews and needed a counter conspiracy to defend itself.”

These beliefs were articles of faith fashioned to serve Nazism’s goals. They needed to be true to justify the race laws and the concentration camps. These beliefs were not a matter for debate being objectively proven false many times.

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.


  1. "Alex Jones reported that Hillary Clinton was sexually abusing children in the basement of a Washington DC pizza restaurant"

    Isn't that libel or defamation?

  2. "a completely different reality, based upon ideology rather than fact"
    A fair description of this nonsense. Laying the blame for totalitarian atrocities at the feet of free speech is absurd. In every case, the Nazi's or the hundreds of millions destroyed by communism, it was the suppression of free speech that allowed the Big Lie to gain ascendancy. free speech is the only real defense we have, remove it and all is lost.
    There are biological differences between races, must be or there wouldn't be any such thing as race. Why should discussing that be an issue at all? Suppression of discussion is an absurd proposition; right up there with the suggestion that you can say what you want but you can't have a platform to say it from.
    Here's a talk by Jordan Peterson on the divine nature of speech and why it is so very important.

  3. Any evidence for this assertion "This is not because they love free speech, but because they wish to eventually do away with it" or just pure conjecture?
    Would it be reasonable to ban from speaking someone espousing Marxist ideology given it's even more appalling record of murder and tyranny.

  4. Your might like to re-think the role of the University of Otago's proctor and students rights, to take into consideration their neighbours rights. We Dunedin locals have suffered for years from drug and drink excesses yet we have no voice- no authority like the Student Union, the Council, the University, the police etc. We neighbours are nothing like an authoritarian regime but would like to be heard and considered. We value the proctor.