Let’s not embrace fascism

Image credit: www.punch.photoshelter.com

Ardern, Davidson, Ghahraman, Goff, Nippert and Canterbury University, to name but a few, are part of a growing gang of ?hate speech? police. They are donning jackboots and stomping through social media to rid the country of ?racism?. Or so they think. What they are actually doing is forcing ?racist? ideas underground to fester and grow before they come back with a bigger voice.

Following Christchurch, a Facebook conversation about Muslims drew a comment that stopped the conversation dead in its tracks. ?You people realise you are bordering on hate speech don?t you? Who are you people and where are you??

Bordering? Either something is hate speech or it isn’t. It wasn’t, so I assumed this was trolling. But, because I felt threatened (were they actually going to find out where I lived?), I engaged further and invited them to join the conversation. They didn’t, retreating and deleting their previous criticisms. That was the end of the discussion.

Words are easily misunderstood, especially when you don’t know who you are talking to or exactly what their beef is. How do you know the person you Facebook-banned doesn’t have a genuine misunderstanding or grievance?

Dialogue, however unpleasant, is a much better option than making someone retreat in frustration only to emerge later with weapons in hand and intent on making a point no one will forget.

This thought did not occur to ?hate speech? police advocate Nigel Latta recently. Quote.

….the suggestion of any islamaphobic stuff gets you deleted and banned. I?ve banned two people already. End of quote.

Good on ya Nigel! The mere whiff of people like you trolling through Facebook pages is definitely scaring people off. I hope those people you banned didn?t have genuine grievances or latent terrorist tendencies that you just fueled.

Amos Chaple uses his home town of Prague in the Czech Republic to demonstrate how shutting down free speech is counter productive. He says there is ?low-level resentment towards foreigners in Prague.? Quote.

Now, let’s say the Czech state, in the interest of not scaring off the tourists who make up 60 per cent of Prague’s income, began to urge a crackdown on anyone criticising the foreign presence in their city. Let’s imagine a Czech official got the ear of a Facebook executive, or someone in Twitter’s ?Trust and Safety? department.

If new rules were imposed, and people who complained online about the behaviour of tourists and wealthy foreigners in their city online suddenly had their social media accounts suspended or deleted for breaching social media guidelines. Would that make my wife and I safer here?

Let’s take the next logical step ? what if a law was imposed in which ?hateful? language against foreigners like my wife and I was made illegal and we could walk around as a legally protected class, impervious to anything but the meekest and most generalised criticism?

Frustration would be driven underground, where it would become dark and hidden anger, then become hatred, and would eventually morph into something monstrous. Far-fetched? It was just over two decades ago, in Kosovo and the surrounding states once known as Yugoslavia, that Europe watched exactly that sequence unfold.

The people calling for ?hate speech? to be banned have to realise it is effectively impossible to define what that means and apply it to everyone equally. I get that people want to see some kind of change after the Christchurch massacre that stained the image of our once relatively innocent country, but can they name a place where speech is policed and where they want to live?

A newspaper end quote.

Of course we don’t tolerate racism but it?s equally unpalatable and ineffective to embrace fascism. There is another way and it’s called talking.