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By Olivia Pierson
[First published on Insight@theBFD 24/10/19]
Politics is essentially philosophical in nature for it addresses the ethics of a social system by posing the question: how ought men to be governed?
This question of how men relate to each other has lain at the very heart of all human civilisations, from the ancient Sumerians to the modern American Republic and everything in-between, instructing us that above all things, ideas matter, since getting them wrong can wreak destructive havoc on the human spirit, to say nothing of human lives.
But this question of a social system also draws on other philosophical disciplines, specifically the nature of reality (metaphysics) and the nature of how man acquires knowledge (epistemology). If a civilisation believes that in ultimate reality man is the play-thing of the gods, gods who demand propitiations to be appeased in order to stave-off plagues and pestilence or cause man’s crops to grow, then bloody human sacrifices can be rationalised, as they have been in many early civilisations, such as the Sumerians, the Carthaginians, the Incas, the Aztecs and the Native American Indians.
If some leaders believe as the communists do: that individuals exist for the sake of the State (or the collective, or society) instead of for their own independent happiness, then individual human rights are worth nothing and such leaders will sacrifice – without a moment’s hesitation – whole groups of individuals to be slaughtered for their own “more noble” aims, as we saw in the 20th Century under the regimes of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Tojo and Hitler.
The individual rights of citizens furnish a civilisation with the principles of liberty. At their most essential these rights are:
-the right to freedom of speech and the open exchange of ideas,
-the right to a fair trial and due process under the laws of a sovereign nation (not the UN),
-the right to defend oneself and one’s property against force and theft,
-the right to practise one’s own religion (or not to) without interference,
-the right to create an honest livelihood and keep the fruits of one’s labour.
Without these important rights, our civilisation would be just another shit-hole. With them intact and jealously guarded, we inherit a cultural climate of incomparable value.
But these rights are now constantly under bombardment.
There are many examples of this constant attack, but to cite just one: in New Zealand last year, two speakers from Canada, Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern, were blocked from speaking to a paying audience when Phil Goff the Mayor of Auckland arrogated himself to the position of Lord and Master presiding over which ideas New Zealand citizens can and cannot hear in a council-owned venue, the Bruce Mason Theatre.
When a privately owned venue was on the agenda for the two speakers, as it had done with the original public venue, Auckland Peace Action (NZ’s version of Antifa – a thuggish, fascistic, activist group of the Left) threatened noisy blockades and protests, which turned the proposed event into a “health and safety” concern. Leaders from the Muslim community had already called on Immigration NZ to ban the pair from entering the country to speak, so Peace Action stood in solidarity with them.
In other words, bullies threatened chaos and possible violence, and everyone cowered to them. Molyneux and Southern never got to speak.
Though not one single member that I know of either agreed with, or even liked Molyneux and Southern (I actually do, though had no intention of going to the event), the Free Speech Coalition then formed in order to uphold an important cornerstone principle of our democracy by taking Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA) and the mayor to court for:
The appalling upshot of this High Court case was decided a few weeks ago.
Regional Facilities Auckland won on the basis that they operate as a “private” commercial concern rather than as a public one. Their clever-dick ownership structure shielded them from public and legal accountability, despite the fact that RFA are subsidised by citizen ratepayers to the tune of 24 million dollars per year in order to serve the public via its venues.
Member of the FSC, Dr. David Cumin, wrote:
“This High Court decision sets a dangerous precedent for free speech and provides a blueprint for other public bodies to control public platforms by hiding them under the guise of trusts and CCOs. The High Court basically said that because the venues weren’t owned directly by the Council, they don’t have to consider freedom of speech or the rights of Aucklanders to hear from whom they want to.”
The Free Speech Coalition is appealing this decision, seeking to have it overturned in recognition that this legal precedent in our country bodes extremely poorly for the future of one of our most precious civilisational principles.
Disgustingly, some libertarians came down on Goff’s side.
Peter Cresswell of NotPC blogspot (who ought to change its name to VeryPC), wrote that this debacle was never about free speech, then doubled down on that line of argument on the basis of “property rights" after the High Court case was decided.
The great irony of Cresswell’s argument is that he tries to draw on an example laid out by Ayn Rand in the 1960s (these people can’t fart without a written doctrine prescribed by Rand) when the Berkeley University free speech protests erupted on campus. Cresswell parrots Rand’s view that in a “mixed economy” - as opposed to a fully privatised one - the principle of ownership is “unresolvable” when it comes to the use of a public venue which is funded by the rate-payer. Ownership in these situations is deemed ambiguous.
Foolishly then, in this shady copse of ambiguity, Cresswell came down firmly in favour of less free speech, rather than of more, which is very sinister when one considers that Goff was hysterically petitioned by the Federation of Islamic Associations of NZ (FIANZ) to have Molyneux and Southern decidedly muzzled. The culture of Islam is hardly famous for its tolerance toward freedom of speech, but we ought to have seen a much more vociferous stand for liberty from so-called libertarians, not hair-splitting quibbles about ownership ambiguities in the face of threatened violence.
To make matters much worse, Cresswell’s multiple posts writing in agreement with Goff having the two speakers de-platformed said not a word about the "thug’s veto," which saw the pair shut-down from speaking in the private venue of Auckland’s Powerstation.
The thug’s veto was always the most ominous factor in this whole controversy, but a leading libertarian didn't see fit to pass any public comment on it until October this year, after the FSC lost the case. What really beggars belief is that I’ve just seen a post on his website in which Cresswell recently writes Free Speech Under Attack: “The Thug’s Veto” where he promotes a new book that he has written some chapters for and cites the Molyneux/Southern debacle! I guess this was about free speech all along, and the very peecee NotPC blogspot happened to be AWOL on it in real time.
It is up to every free man and free woman to demand that our representative politicians stand up for our essential rights – and more than that – we must each stand up for them ourselves whenever they are disparaged, overridden or not understood, for the world can only ever be what we as individuals make it.
If silent acquiescence is the default position of many peaceful folks who think about liberty enough to know they’re lucky to have it, but flaccidly shrug “whaddya do?” when they see it squelched, then get used to speaking about our civilisation in the past tense as it dies a quiet death from passive neglect. The price of liberty has always been eternal vigilance – and vigilance is the very antithesis of passive apathy.
If exhortations to vigilance are not enough, about the only thing I can repair to is a line of poetry, in this case from the heart of Dylan Thomas, who contemplated all things pertaining to death quite a lot – as poets have a tendency to do:
“Do not go gentle into that goodnight. Rage, rage against the dying of the light!”
If you enjoyed this article, please buy my book "Western Values Defended: A Primer"
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