“Free speech” must always have limits

Dominion Post. 9 August 2018

“Free speech” must always have limits.   The issue in a liberal and democratic society is where those limits should be.

I think there is unanimous agreement that “free speech” can never be used to justify shouting “Fire” in a crowded theatre.  It cannot be acceptable to incite violence against person or property.  And personally, I would prohibit the publication of material likely to directly threaten public safety, such as explaining how to use 3-D printing to make a hand-gun which can pass through airport security systems undetected (an issue which has caused debate in the US recently).

But the recent controversy about my being banned from speaking on the Massey University campus suggests that some people, certainly including the Vice Chancellor of that university, want to place much more draconian limits on free speech.

Her press release stated that my opposition to racially-based political representation – a position agreed by the great majority of New Zealanders whenever the issue has been put to the vote – came dangerously close to hate speech, and that was fairly clearly a major reason, perhaps the major reason, why I was banned from speaking on the campus.

In a free society of the kind that New Zealand aspires to be, it has to permissible to debate whether the Treaty of Waitangi created a society where all citizens have equal rights – as Article III quite explicitly states – or whether it created some kind of preferred constitutional status for those who, nearly 180 years later, chance to have at least one Maori ancestor (always with many others today).

In a free society, it has to be acceptable to ask whether those who believe that gays should be executed and adulterers stoned to death have values consistent with modern New Zealand.

In a free society, it has to be acceptable to point out that children brought up with their two natural parents have, on average, a much better prospect in life than those who aren’t.  That is not to “hate” single parents, or to deny that some people brought up by one parent do extremely well in life.  It’s just to state the obvious.

Let’s protect our right to discuss and debate the really important issues in life.  That right was bought for us over generations by many brave people, Maori and Pakeha, men and women.

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Copyright © 2020 Don Brash.