OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: On Freedom of Speech

327 Responses

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  • WH,

    I don't see how free speech cannot come with the corollary of freedom to criticise that speech; freedom of expression and freedom to criticise that expression are just two sides of the same coin.

    I think that's right, but wouldn't want to say that every possible response we could make to Paul Henry would be equally worthwhile.

    I'm just think we should respond to people like Paul Henry in ways that are consistent with our ideas about how public discussion should be carried out, and how people should be treated. For me, that means abuse and vilification should generally be refined into something more constructive. I think that applies to discussions about credibility.

    I think it's why Jon Stewart is quick to emphasise that he runs a comedy show rather than a news show. It leaves his free to make the kind of criticisms he made about Crossfire.

    I think the resignation was warranted. Whether Paul is also a c*nt is neither here nor there.

    Since Nov 2006 • 526 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    I don't see how free speech cannot come with the corollary of freedom to criticise that speech; freedom of expression and freedom to criticise that expression are just two sides of the same coin.

    I think that's right, but I wouldn't say that every response we could legally make to offensive speech would be equally worthwhile. If we're trying to promote positive discussion, we need ideas about how people should conduct themselves, and how people should be treated. I think the case for Henry's resignation can be made on that basis. I'm not sure that debasing public discussion really helps to promote the kinds of public discussion we say we want.

    Since Nov 2006 • 526 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    Sorry Russell - could you remove these duplicates - my script blocking software has gone crazy.

    Since Nov 2006 • 526 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    I don't see how free speech cannot come with the corollary of freedom to criticise that speech; freedom of expression and freedom to criticise that expression are just two sides of the same coin.

    I think that's right, but not every response we're permitted to make to offensive speech is equally worthwhile. If we're trying to promote positive kinds of public discussion, we need ideas about how people should conduct themselves in public, and how people who participate in those discussions should be treated. I don't think that undermining the principles that we say we're trying to protect really helps, unless we're prepared to have everything sound just a bit like talkback.

    I'd accept that's pretty humourless, and I suppose it's more complicated when we're making assesments of personality and credibility. Social feedback is probably important in maintaining group norms, and I guess Henry has got plenty of that recently.

    Since Nov 2006 • 526 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I'm not entirely sure if parsing out the exact connotation of insults and insisting on correctness there is ever going to fly. The point is: Insulting people is insulting.

    Up to a point, Ben. But isn't that what everyone who doesn't live in a cave does a hundred times every day? I hope Megan won't mind me using her as an example, but I'd quite gleefully talk filth to my dear chum Frau Fifi Von Spangle-Bling over a caffeinated beverage. My colleague at Radio New Zealand during a staff meeting - not so much. Times and places; contexts and socially appropriate tones.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I'd quite gleefully talk filth to my dear chum Frau Fifi Von Spangle-Bling

    See, now you put me in a good mood for the whole day, and I had it pencilled as "grumpy". This is just going to mess with my schedule.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7315 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    See, now you put me in a good mood for the whole day, and I had it pencilled as "grumpy". This is just going to mess with my schedule.

    Darling, Fifi is all about putting you in a good mood.

    [ETA: Just to rather prove Craig's point about filth]

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1268 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    I think it's why Jon Stewart is quick to emphasise that he runs a comedy show rather than a news show. It leaves his free to make the kind of criticisms he made about Crossfire.

    Actually, his criticisms were sound independent of who made them, comedian, newsman, etc That's the defining characteristic of truth, after all-it's not just "true for you", it's actually, objectively true.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 838 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Up to a point, Ben. But isn't that what everyone who doesn't live in a cave does a hundred times every day?

    I don't. Unless people consider my very existence an insult. Mind you, I do call my office my cave sometimes....

    Talking filth isn't necessarily insulting.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8015 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    Talking filth isn't necessarily insulting.

    Not necessarily.

    But, it pays to be careful.

    I walked past 2 (male) friends talking the other day, having a conversation that included the words "Great tits. Nice legs."

    As I walked past, I jokingly said "thanks". But I also gave one of them a talking to later about describing women in those terms, and how it probably wasn't appropriate for certain places.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1268 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Talking filth isn't necessarily insulting.

    No it isn't -- but my point is that what would be entirely appropriate between Megan and I in a social setting would not be at all if we were co-workers in a staff meeting. Believe it or not, My Margaret Thatcher-meets-Joan-Rivers-on-crack persona can, and often does, get dialled all the way back. Partly because I'm trying to be a little less scatter-shot when it comes to my powers of oral emasculation; mostly, though, because I've done a lot of temp work where a bad reputation hits your bottom line. Hard.

    Even socially, there are plenty of women of my acquaintance who couldn't handle even PAS levels of urine extraction. It would just gratuitously upset and offend decent people who don't really deserve it.

    [ETA: OMFG, this is going to shred my carefully cultivated reputation as a vile sewer-mouthed bully. Never mind.]

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    I generally operate on the "my mother" rule: any insult or slur can be justified by a context of an obvious loving history between the speaker and the subject. For example, I can call my mother a retarded gadfly whenever I want, because listeners will be aware that she is my retarded gadfly. On the other hand, were a vague aquaintence of mine to use the same terms to describe my mother, it'd be on like Donkey Kong.

    See also a white American vs a black American's use of the word "nigger"-history matters.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 838 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    No it isn't -- but my point is that what would be entirely appropriate between Megan and I in a social setting would not be at all if we were co-workers in a staff meeting.

    Naturally. That's actually what I was getting at, that it's not credible to decode insults "context free". The same words are not insulting in different contexts, and there are no words that can't be insults if put in conjunction with others to form an insulting proposition.

    Your own lurid metaphors have always entertained me, Craig. I'd be sorry to see them go, TBH. Context was important, they were clearly hyperbolic at times, familiar and friendly in others. Very seldom were they direct rags calculated to insult particular individuals.

    And I'm sorry, Megan, but when I'm with my male friends, female anatomy is always and forever going to be a favorite subject. It's been a lifelong preoccupation.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8015 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    And I'm sorry, Megan, but when I'm with my male friends, female anatomy is always and forever going to be a favorite subject. It's been a lifelong preoccupation.

    And I understand that. But while it might be fine around a table at the pub, it probably isn't in a public, professional hallway. And certainly now within earshot of several women.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1268 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Yes, context is all. They sound like they were pushing their luck. Their crime wasn't what they said, but where and how loud they said it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8015 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn,

    My mother told me about walking towards her work, following a very tall, very shapely young woman who worked in the same building. Sauntering along towards them were two young blokes, muttering to each other and looking very appreciatively at said young woman. As my mother passed them, she heard one say, "Yeah, but think of the climb up!"

    Deepest, darkest Avondale… • Since Jul 2010 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • sally jones,

    What do socialists look like?

    New Zealanders

    In my experience, they are very handsome.

    And varied. And closer to social democrats than socialists proper. Very few hard core socialists in NZ (me thinks. Could be wrong...)

    Kracklite:

    How I have missed you

    Where have you been, Babel?

    Jeremy:
    I believe the great GG had hers photographed - full Monty fashion - for some magazine (cough) spread. She was hoping to dispel the mythology. Didn't really work, eh?

    Auckland • Since Sep 2010 • 179 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The penis is very ugly.

    I am assured that some people find them highly attractive.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17939 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Given that hardcore porn is predominantly consumed by men and is obsessively focussed on the penis, I would say that most people do.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7315 posts Report Reply

  • sally jones,

    The penis is very ugly.

    I am assured that some people find them highly attractive.

    Very sensible keeping your enemies close. Indeed, on that note, might I proffer that up close the penis is, well, a different animal than when seen...at arms length. I wouldn't like to say different good, or different bad, or...

    Auckland • Since Sep 2010 • 179 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Depends on the light, I guess, as they come and go..

    I was recently reading some lad's mag at the barber's (sort of the male equivalent of reading No Idea) which had a feature on Things Blokes Do. Along with practices such as using your girlfriend's best shampoo on your pubes ("They never looked so shiney...!"), they suggested that, that at least once in their life, all men have tucked their apparatus between their legs, to see what they would look like as a girl. Hmmm...

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Eade,

    Given that hardcore porn is predominantly consumed by men and is obsessively focussed on the penis, I would say that most people do.

    and that's why the penis is used to sell cars,c'mon hardcore porn is not penis porn.The Penis is not loved by the camera, it really is an organ that probably should be on the inside of your body.

    auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 1112 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan,

    it really is an organ that probably should be on the inside of your body.

    Must. Resist. Urge. To. Smut

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1268 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    hard, I know

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15715 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Sorry to interrupt such conversation. I am in Suva (dial up) not the conventional freedoms of speech, but the sky didn't fall down. I'm thinking seriously about emigrating. I particularly like the Fiji governments yellow ribbon philosophy.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2277 posts Report Reply

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