OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: On Freedom of Speech

328 Responses

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  • Bart Janssen,

    You know what should really offend people about Henry's snide bitch about Satyanand not being a "real New Zealander"? By any sane measure, it was a flat out lie.

    Really? I should be offended by a lie on TV and not be offended by promotion of racsim? Cause like if I was offended every time someone lied on TV ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    And honestly, I don't see much evidence that Henry was more or less of a douche-dildo towards Key than he was when Helen Clark was in the same seat.

    I think Henry has a markedly more matey and convivial on-screen relationship with Key than he ever did with Clark, but I don't think that equates to him being a "National Party supporter" -- I don't think that's the issue.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22759 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Really? I should be offended by a lie on TV and not be offended by promotion of racsim?

    Deal with the text, Bart, and please don't put anything in my mouth without asking. (I will also require a nice dinner and dancing afterwards. Foreplay, I can do without.)

    Yes, I think we should be offended by lies. We should be very fucking offended by the LIE that someone who is a distinguished and law-abiding citizen (and born in the exotic climes of Grey Lynn, no less) is not a "real New Zealander." I am hideously offended by the LIE that over half the people in my neighbourhood (according to the 2006 census) don't "look and sound" like "real New Zealanders" in his Bizarro World.

    I am damn offended that I've had to waste far too much of my meatdrive unpicking such a super-dense singularity of falsehood.

    What I'm definitely not interested in is drawing up a league of table of offensiveness for Henry's (or anyone else's) "truthiness" when they crap on brown people, "Asians", teh gayz, those with ladybits, or anyone else. The common denominator is they're full of crap.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    That's an argument -- but without kicking over that particular hornets nest, wasn't that exactly what so folks were saying about Boobquake? That's not serious "political speech" - it's adolescent exhibitionism to give the blokes a thrizzle.

    But there clearly was political thought informing Boobquake. It expressed ideas. It was written down and everything. Henry's series of comments were more like an ADHD run than an offering in the marketplace of ideas.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22759 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    I'm saying that manifesting that dislike by calling up sponsors telling them you'll boycott their hotel/whatever is bad for free speech,

    Perhaps the very notion of sponsorship is bad for free speech. Ideas with majoritarian appeal are privileged over other ones by a tiny cabal of capitalists who hope that the emotions stimulated by that speech will accrue to their brands and ultimately their bottom lines.

    But if we are going to accept the notion of corporate sponsorship, why should we in the least worry about sponsors being told that their money is not yielding the result they wanted?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I think Henry has a markedly more matey and convivial on-screen relationship with Key than he ever did with Clark

    I'll grant you that -- I think Key has a "markedly more matey and convivial on-screen relationship" with everyone. Suspect that has more to do with their respective temperaments than anything else.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Bennett,

    I'm saying that manifesting that dislike by calling up sponsors telling them you'll boycott their hotel/whatever is bad for free speech, and that Keith's use of the marketplace of ideas to defend that manifestation is misplaced.

    I don't agree. Henry has a platform that magnifies his speech. If he often uses that platform to promote ideas that you find abhorrent, you are justified in hoping that he no longer had that platform. All sorts of 'ideas' are automatically beyond the pale of mainstream TV for this reason. And this is the reason that some might wish that Glen Beck somehow quickly fades from sight.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    wasn't that exactly what so folks were saying about Boobquake? That's not serious "political speech"

    It was a deliberately frivolous, well thought-out, response to something that, as Lucy said of PH, was so utterly obviously stupid it felt wrong to dignify it with a serious response.

    And yes, I think saying "I dislike this so much that I will boycott the businesses who sponsor it" is a perfectly legitimate form of expression in a battle that is not, let's remember, on a level playing field. Ordinary consumers cannot speak back to Paul Henry on the same level that he gets to speak to them. That's one of my problems with pure Free Speech arguments; they tend to assume that everyone has the same power to speak and to be heard.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Cecelia,

    Henry's series of comments were more like an ADHD run than an offering in the marketplace of ideas.

    That's good.

    But don't his comments arise from his beliefs and values? And if you look at Kiwi Blog, aren't certain beliefs and values more aligned to National? Isn't the discussion on Kiwiblog indicative of that?

    I'm not trying to make you angry Craig. I'm just interested in the idea of free speech and the role of a state-owned broadcaster.

    Hibiscus Coast • Since Apr 2008 • 559 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    There are a number of good reasons for attacking people directly, and for attacking Paul Henry in particular, but such attacks are the antithesis of the marketplace of ideas.

    Eh, I'm not so sure. If Paul Henry had made a structured, well-formed argument about why Sir Anand didn't look and sound like "a New Zealander" then sure, it'd be perpendicular (at best) to the idea of free expression of ideas to simply call him a cunt. (It certainly wouldn't be "antithetical", but it would be irrelevant.)

    But he didn't do that. He made a statement, based solely on his authority as Paul Henry, that Sir Anand wasn't what a New Zealander was like. As a result, attacking who Paul Henry is and what makes him believe he has the authority to make a statement like that is central to the whole issue. It's entirely in keeping with a free and frank dialogue of ideas to point out that Paul Henry's authority as to who is and is not "a New Zealander" is worthless because he is, objectively speaking, a cunt.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    And if you look at Kiwi Blog, aren't certain beliefs and values more aligned to National?

    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.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • FletcherB,

    As to Henry's on-air partisanship....

    In the very same interview with the PM that he's got into hot water over and we are all talking about...... he was also heavily biased towards John Banks... He spoke to the PM about how Len Brown seemed to be leading the polls and asked how "we" (him and the PM? TVNZ?) could overcome this issue and help the "correct" person (ie. Banks) win.... (paraphrased, of course).
    (Key rightly demurred, and said it was up to the people of Auckland)

    Not what I expect from a state-brodacaster's "news" presentation.

    West Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 887 posts Report Reply

  • jo kerr,

    He was just being rude.
    But don't forget the "level playing field" and "competition". Paul Henry's free speech came with TVNZ's collateral power given with some implicit trust that his speech would be within the bounds of their editorial policy.
    He still has his free speech rights, he's just not the twatcock with the mic anymore

    Since Apr 2010 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    KiwiBlog is in any way representative of National or its supporters.

    Farrar is a former National party staffer.

    His media treatment is based on his status as a National insider.

    National feed Farrar with talking points.

    His company, Curia, largely subsists on government and party funding to do polling.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I'm not trying to make you angry Craig.

    You're doing a splendid job of it, nonetheless. I don't think it would be terribly fair to tar every Labour supporter with the same brush as the little charmer who called me a Uncle Tom house nigger over at the Standard. Lynn Prentice should cut out the battery troll farming, but I don't think it says anything about some moral contagion on the left.

    Farrar is a former National party staffer.

    His media treatment is based on his status as a National insider.

    National feed Farrar with talking points.

    His company, Curia, largely subsists on government and party funding to do polling.

    Is there a point in there somewhere, Rich?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    And as Petra posted about on the other thread, do the comments on Paul Henry's Facebook support page push the limits of free speech, or break them outright? Maybe the answer lies with those who survived Auschwitz or Bosnia or Rwanda.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5423 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    But if we are going to accept the notion of corporate sponsorship, why should we in the least worry about sponsors being told that their money is not yielding the result they wanted?

    Because of the other ways this can be used. Because 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.

    We have ad-supported television. While there might be a place for a real public broadcaster, most of the television we have will continue to be ad-supported. I like that there is a variety of things to watch (most of which I don't). 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.

    I think liberal non-racists outraged about Paul Henry should be able to call for a boycott of him, and all of TVNZ, and the advertisers who support TVNZ. I think Christians should be able to call for a boycott of The L Word, and the channel it appeared on, and every advertiser who supports that channel. But I think if they do, despite being an exercise of free speech, it will be bad for free speech.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    But ... you didn't get the memo about Public Address Newspeak, where hereafter "cunt" => "twatcock"?

    Interestingly, to me Paul Henry isn't a 'cunt', which implies some sort of competent cunning and nastiness. He's absolutely a 'dick', as it's kind of incompetent, childish behaviour. I get no association at all with 'twatcock', other than it sounds like a sort of small bird.

    What this all says about my associations with the words we use for sexual organs undoubtably requires further analysis.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    I get no association at all with 'twatcock', other than it sounds like a sort of small bird.

    Which sounds like spatchcock, which is a poussin, which sounds like ...

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    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.

    The counter-argument is that these businesses probably did quite well out of being associated with Henry and his somewhat nasty success.

    Having benefitted from it previously, it would seem strange not to pay the price once he finally went too far for enough people.

    I have to think more about whether that's bad for free speech.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    The counter-argument is that these businesses probably did quite well out of being associated with Henry and his somewhat nasty success.

    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.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    But ... you didn't get the memo about Public Address Newspeak, where hereafter "cunt" => "twatcock"?

    Truth be told, I am a conservative swearer. Liberal, perhaps, only in quantity.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 543 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    you believe in the tooth fairy. or santa. this whole "i believe" thing kind of gives me the shits

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

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 543 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Deal with the text, Bart, and please don't put anything in my mouth without asking. (I will also require a nice dinner and dancing afterwards. Foreplay, I can do without.)

    mmmkay but I just don't dance.

    Fair cop, you didn't say you weren't offended by the racism and it's pretty clear you are.

    What I was saying is that lying on TV is standard operating procedure. And for me there just isn't enough time in my day (what with dinner dates and all) to bother being offended each time some talking head on TV speaks - er I mean lies (forgive me it's so hard to tell sometimes).

    But I do have the time and interest to be offended when one of those talking heads promotes (by example) racism.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4451 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    Just don't defend those personal attacks as being the marketplace of ideas in action.

    Of course my argument isn't *actually* "Paul Henry is a cunt". My point is that "Paul Henry is a cunt" and Paul Henry's comments have the exact same status.

    Both are stupid personal attacks, but freedom of speech applies equally to both. The marketplace for ideas doesn't discriminate between rational, constructive ideas and batshit insane ad hominem attacks.

    You can't judge whether ideas are worth protecting or not. They need to be protect - that's why it's important to use those same avenues to challenge them.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 543 posts Report Reply

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