Sometimes I haul on the hazmat suit and read the Daily Blog. This particular bloviating pontification by Chris Trotter caught my eye on the whole business with that Canadian dollar store Tomi Lahren, Lauren Southern, and that creepy Renfew thing, Stefan Molyneux, being denied use of the Bruce Mason Centre by Phil Goff and Auckland Council for their little Nuremberg Rally Lite, and I felt I had to respond. I quote Trotts in italics.
THAT THE INSPIRATION for this posting came from a man who spent his life studying grizzly bears is entirely fitting. The free speech debate of the past fortnight has seen more than a few angry grizzlies come galloping out of the woods. The question in most need of an urgent answer is – why? What is it that leads the Right to defend the principle of free speech so vigorously? And why has the contemporary Left departed so dramatically from Noam Chomsky’s free-speech absolutism?
Well, Chris, the answer to that is because the Far Right overlapping with the Alt Right (not so much the common garden-variety Centre Right) have weaponised unfettered free speech as a way of justifying and disseminating blatant propaganda and hate speech into the mainstream. The contemporary Left haven’t abandoned Chomsky as much as I would like, but we are talking about a man so blinded by his own intellect that he completely ignored that nice Mr Pol Pot’s side line in torture and genocide and played silly revisionist games with Bosnia and Rwanda. You may not care to take my word on it, but maybe you’ll take George Mionbot’s.
Anyway, the Sage of Bowalley Road goes on to draw a not-unreasonable parallel with the way climate change denialists have used and defended unfettered free speech as a way of manipulating public opinion. That in itself is true enough, although there really isn’t a Left/Right dichotomy at play there. When he says “denialism is a manifestation of reactionary capitalist fear” he ignores the well-documented tendency to several generation’s worth of apologism or outright obliviousness to the atrocities of the Soviets, the Khmer Rouge etc etc by factions of the Left in the West. No side has a monopoly on denial – see the Garden Noam above – and indeed, on might wonder if imposing a Left/Right binary on it is redundant.
The proposed visit to New Zealand of Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux should be viewed in the light of the Right’s on-going mobilisation … “increasingly disadvantaged white males”. An important element of this mobilisation process involves persuading its target audience that “the powers that be” are determined to suppress information which they have a right to know, but which the “liberal elites” don’t want them to hear. In this respect, the Mayor of Auckland’s decision to deny Southern and Molyneux access to Council-owned meeting-halls, played directly into their hands.
It's a bit bloody rich for Trotter to be scolding people from on high for bien pensant elitism – that’s exactly what he’s hypocritically doing himself. Nor is anyone supressing anything – as many have stated before the denial of use of Council property (on the reasonable grounds of safety concerns, well founded given Southern’s propensity for provocative publicity stunts where she can play victim – she got booted from the UK for handing out leaflets in Luton proclaiming “Allah is a Gay God” with predictable results) does not prevent Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber hiring a private venue, or performing their nonsense as a Gregorian chant on K’ Road until they’re hoarse if they want to. It’s not like one really has to go further than YouTube to find out what they’re all about, so Chris can unclutch the pearls for a minute.
Obviously, the most effective strategy for defeating the Right’s strategy of mobilising fear is by countering its lies with the truth. This may not be as difficult as many opponents of the Right would have us believe.
It is in relation to this group of voters that the Left comes to grief over free speech. Climate change denialism and free speech denialism both being born of fear.
Oh dear me, that is naïve. Many people on social media have tried to point out the truth, but were shouted down by xenophobes, and Useful Idiots like Trotter. Surfing that wave, Trotter (along with strange bedfellows like Don Brash, who doesn’t like free speech if it’s in te reo or in books by Nicky Hager, the Tax Payer’s Union, and a bunch of people waving “Free Tommy” placards and complaining about non-existent sharia) raised an obscene amount of money to mount a legal challenge to Auckland Council. This goes to show that few things motivate a certain kind of older white person to part with their disposable income than the persecution of white supremacists, and one wonders where they were when Bob Jones sued Renae Maihi. Now, though, they’re giving every impression of trying to back out of it, leaving one to wonder, whither the cash?
The Right is terrified of ordinary people learning the truth about capitalism and its causal relationship with environmental devastation – hence its determination to destroy their faith in science and social progress.
The Left, or at least a distressingly large part of it, is equally terrified that ordinary people are either incapable of absorbing, or unwilling to accept, the implications of the scientific research into climate change. Worse still, many leftists believe that ordinary people (white working-class males in particular) are equally unwilling to absorb and accept the Left’s arguments in favour of equality and diversity. That, in Hillary Clinton’s catastrophic characterisation, they are “a basket of deplorables”. Ignorant rubes who must, at all costs, be kept away from the influence of the Right’s agitators – even if that involves reducing freedom of expression to the status of “collateral damage” in the culture wars.
Um no. Here’s the problem – Trotter doesn’t really understand what’s going on. He doesn’t understand social media. He doesn’t understand people like Southern and Molyneux aren’t touring to spread their views (the internet does a far superior job of that already) – they’re touring to raise profile through provocation and energise and mobilise their already extant fan base. They’re not interested in listening to alternate points of view, nor are their followers. Unlike climate change, the facts of which become hard to ignore after a while because of the weather) it’s really hard to prove a moral point, especially to idiots. And anyway, why should we offer a platform to an ideology that has an historically established teleology that ends up in ethnic cleansing? They had their big free speech moment in the 1930s and 40s – they haven’t got anything new to say, it’s just gift-wrapped differently. It’s not an ambiguous point at all – “Nazis are bad” isn’t a particularly low bar.
Nothing could be more helpful to the cause of the Right than a Left which has lost its faith in the people. What, after all, is more likely to cause the people to lose faith in the Left than a nagging suspicion that their self-appointed liberators regard them as being either too vicious or too stupid to grasp the arguments in favour of individual freedom and social justice without instruction from above?
No, the Left hasn’t “lost faith in the people” – the vast majority of people don’t even come into it. The “Left” and anyone else who has been paying attention and thought about it for a few minutes, is worried about the hard core white supremacists, that already exist in Aotearoa, getting overly excited and doing stupid, dangerous things. I mean, Trotter is a sanctimonious and increasingly redundant old fart, but I am astonished that he, instructing from above (at least in his own mind) himself, doesn’t get the bigger picture.


Popular posts from this blog