OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: On Freedom of Speech

328 Responses

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  • giovanni tiso,

    Aside form how utterly depressing the metaphor "marketplace of ideas" is (which is a discussion for another day I suppose), you need to stretch the definition of "idea" quite a bit to include both what Henry said and your gynaecological rejoinder.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7412 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    I should probably just let Craig answer this, but I really don't think KiwiBlog is in any way representative of National or its supporters.

    I think it's representative of a subset of National supporters, in the same way that The Standard represents a subset of Labour supporters, and the Tea Party represents a subset of Republican supporters. However, a subset is not the same thing as the entirety, nor are supporters the same as the party hierarchy, and those distinctions are worth maintaining and maintaining often.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    If we really start holding advertisers to account for the content of programmes or channels on which their ads appear, then they will be more circumspect about placing ads, and some voices may be lost.
    ... it will be bad for free speech.

    Um I think I have trouble with this. Ultimately the advertisers pay Paul Henry's salary. A little indirectly true but certainly the argument has been used by TVNZ that the have to have certain programs to get ratings in order to get advertising dollars.

    If you provide the money that pays the salary of someone who speaks publicly, using your money to get a broadcast audience, then I believe you have some responsibility for the content of what is said. You may not have control but you have responsibility.

    So yes if Paul Henry is deeply offensive then it is appropriate to communicate that to both his employers TVNZ and to the advertisers who provide the money to employ him.

    You seem to be arguing that the advertisers should be immune from responsibility for what gets done with the money. If you provide money to allow someone to speak freely you still have responsibility for what they say. Or at least that's what I believe.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3472 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Graeme: sponsors already set the boundaries of speech in a sponsored broadcast. They can enlarge or move those boundaries as well as constrain them. In fact, we can urge sponsors to hold firm or to change their minds in favour of some threatened voice if we have a mind to.

    It seems to me that you are on the verge of advocating that all views be given equal access to the resources currently offered by sponsors. If not, on what basis is it bad to lobby for my particular preference for allocation?

    Picking up what Gio said about the unsatisfactory notion of a marketplace of ideas, the offerings we currently enjoy are already arbitrarily limited and homogeneous.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2977 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    Well, I believe that freedom of speech is a good thing that should be protected at a constitutional level by the state.

    hmmm... still not convinced. i believe you mean "i think that freedom...".

    or "i reason that freedom...".

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    you need to stretch the definition of "idea" quite a bit to include both what Henry said and your gynaecological rejoinder.

    Which is not far from (one of the things) I was saying: calling Paul Henry names is not the marketplace of ideas in action.

    The marketplace for ideas doesn't discriminate between rational, constructive ideas and batshit insane ad hominem attacks.

    I happen to think it does. Or at least, distinguishes between those things that are ideas, and those things that are not. And perhaps neither o what you have posited, nor Henry, qualifies, but I think his was closer.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3012 posts Report Reply

  • Kilbirnium,

    I've suspected for a while that 'cunt' as an insult was making a move into the acceptable NZ cusswords list. In my experience it's been off the menu for respectable liberals like myself, a notoriously prudish group. At uni, it was always tricky using it around the OUSA.

    When one of the Phoenix Foundation recently used it in a Twitter post, I know we where making headway on it. I attribute this to UK pop culture, as the US seem to use it mainly anatomically.

    Since Oct 2010 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    People were calling for a complete boycott of TVNZ for what Paul Henry said. If something like that ever works, or even looks like it might work, TVNZ will become much more conservative.

    Not very many people, and I don't think the idea makes sense at all. But people have a right to say it, naturally.

    The idea of lobbying sponsors as a response to offensive broadcast speech is always going to be tricky -- do we want Family First targeting our favourite edgy hipster TV shows in the same way?

    And, of course, there was a sweaty little clutch of Kiwiblog mouth-breathers yesterday discussing a revenge fantasy involving taking down a left-wing host -- me, personally, by name -- as a means of revenge. As it happens, I don't feel comfortable publicly demanding the sacking of someone in a somewhat similar position to myself -- let alone telling people to boycott the network my damn show's on.

    But it is a flat-out commercial reality that sponsors may decide their brand is no longer served by a particular association. That's a consequence. And I do sometimes think that people arguing in favour of free speech are really arguing for speech without consequences.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Brian Murphy,

    The Dikshit thing and the Satyanand thing both actually seemed well summed up, by Phil Wallington I think, as the behavior of a bully.

    He had a forum/platform that others did not, and did not use it wisely.

    I myself was evidently one of the minority to communicate "Good riddance" to TVNZ about this.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 44 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    But it is a flat-out commercial reality that sponsors may decide their brand is no longer served by a particular association. That's a consequence. And I do sometimes think that people arguing in favour of free speech are really arguing for speech without consequences.

    And it may also be some commercial reality that lead facebook(?) to delete photos of women breast-feeding their babies, but just because you can still breast-feed, and send photos of yourself feeding to your friends by email, doesn't mean free speech isn't implicated (particularly if, for example, the photo was intended to be used to push for policy change around breastfeeding).

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3012 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    Picking up what Gio said about the unsatisfactory notion of a marketplace of ideas, the offerings we currently enjoy are already arbitrarily limited and homogeneous.

    You might enjoy the internet, it is somewhat less limited.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Angus: fer sure. I was more thinking about broadcast media and print.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2977 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    And it may also be some commercial reality that lead facebook(?) to delete photos of women breast-feeding their babies, but just because you can still breast-feed ...

    They were accountable for that twitchy decision -- and were flayed for it -- and sponsors are accountable for any decision they make in pulling out of an agreement. There would have been a provision in the sponsorship contract allowing them to do so.

    I'm intrigued though Graeme, that you raise objections to anyone calling Henry a rude name, when the controversy in part is about Henry leeringly pronouncing the name of an Indian government minister as "Dick-in-shit". Why is Henry's rude name a good in the market of ideas and someone calling him a cunt in response not?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Why is Henry's rude name a good in the market of ideas and someone calling him a cunt in response not?

    It's not. I was thinking more of the comments about the Governor-General. Probably not an idea either, but closer than what Keith said.

    On the pronunciation of Sheila Dikshit's surname: I wonder what people disappointed with the Government for not acknowledging the winner of Nobel Peace Prize (presumably for fear of offending the Chinese Government) think of the Government's official apology to India.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3012 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    Why is Henry's rude name a good in the market of ideas and someone calling him a cunt in response not?

    I suspect it's because the Henryites/Teabaggers think they have a monopoly on 'political incorrectness'. When they find their monopoly under threat, they'll often resort to Reductio ad (insert scapegoat here).

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4431 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I wonder what people disappointed with the Government for not acknowledging the winner of Nobel Peace Prize (presumably for fear of offending the Chinese Government) think of the Government's official apology to India.

    Not seeing the relationship. I thought it was more sad nobody felt it necessary to acknowledge the new Nobel laureates in physics, chemistry, medicine and literature. Guess we should change out global brand to "100% philistine", or was the real point a shit-load of meaningless political posturing?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12073 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    It seems there are some people disappointed that the Government has not congratulated the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize - basically kowtowing to China. I don't see how our kowtowing to India by officially apologising for something over which the Government has (and should have) no control is all that different.

    p.s. I note that John Key has now congratulated the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3012 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    It's not. I was thinking more of the comments about the Governor-General. Probably not an idea either, but closer than what Keith said.

    Actually I agree with Graeme in that "the GG [and by inference, people who look like him] isn't a New Zealander" is part of the marketplace of ideas and "Paul Henry is a cunt" isn't.

    There clearly is no guarantee of quality in the marketplace of ideas - it's factually and morally wrong. But certainly an idea.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6227 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    It seems there are some people disappointed that the Government has not congratulated the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize - basically kowtowing to China. I don't see how our kowtowing to India by officially apologising for something over which the Government has (and should have) no control is all that different.

    I don't see an equivalence. Just because both involved 'kowtowing' doesn't make them equivalent.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6227 posts Report Reply

  • Petra,

    Graeme Edgeler

    ...punishing Heritage Hotels for something Paul Henry said over which they had no control (and shouldn't have control) isn't fundamentally different from arranging a boycott on Canwest/TV3/C4 for airing an episode of South Park about the abuse by Catholic clergy, or someone else for airing pro-homosexual something propaganda something like Queer Nation or The L Word.

    Damn. I thought I knew what I thought on advertiser boycott tactics, but I see your point.

    I'd like boycotts to force dialogue and mediation until understanding and fairness are achieved, in public and open fora - such as town halls and public television.

    But what I'd like isn't what actually happens *in real life*, is it? I'm dreaming.

    Damn. It's been a bugger of a week for waking up to the real world.

    Rotorua • Since Mar 2007 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    It is not a guarantee of employment - especially when the substance of the employment *is* speech. Paul Henry is not a drycleaner. He gets paid to say things. To suggest that what he says should not affect his employment is nonsensical.

    Now THAT I DO like!!

    Can we use the Consumer (or Employer) Act to nail the bastard? Just like my electric jug crapping out after 3 boils???

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1510 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    On the pronunciation of Sheila Dikshit's surname ...

    Let's be clear: He repeatedly mispronounced it, then rendered it as "Dick-in-shit" and then declared it was an appropriate name for an Indian. It was pretty bad.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Petra,

    So yes if Paul Henry is deeply offensive then it is appropriate to communicate that to both his employers TVNZ and to the advertisers who provide the money to employ him.

    No, this disturbs me. I think it is treading on very dangerous ground.

    It would create a tyranny of either the "sqeakiest wheels" or the deepest purse. Or worse, both.

    Rotorua • Since Mar 2007 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • Petra,

    ...sponsors already set the boundaries of speech in a sponsored broadcast.

    Then that needs to be made very clear - not just in some small print, or rapidly read "afterthought" in a small voice at the end of the broadcast.

    And we need a public register of lobbyists in the political realm, too.

    Rotorua • Since Mar 2007 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • Petra,

    Well, I believe that freedom of speech is a good thing that should be protected at a constitutional level by the state.

    hmmm... still not convinced. i believe you mean "i think that freedom...".
    or "i reason that freedom...".

    Oh, I dunno. I think we can be a bit sensitive about people using the word "believe".

    It is quite possible for an atheist to declare that they "believe" that human rights are not relative; they are absolute, for example. They use the word "believe" quite appropriately, imo, because for them it is an inalienable "truth" and is an integral part of the speaker's core values.

    "I think" and "I reason" however, is likely to be more mutable.

    At least, that what's what I believe anyway. :-p

    Rotorua • Since Mar 2007 • 317 posts Report Reply

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