The right to be an idiot

November 29th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Michael Forbes at Stuff reports:

Justice Minister says it is important that Kiwis retain the right to be idiots and make fools of themselves.

Ms Collins made the comment during her speech at a NetSafe conference in Wellington today, where she reinforced the her view that a hard line should be taken on cyber-bullying and harassment.

In doing so, she pointed to reports out of Britain this week where a woman was found guilty by a jury of racially abusing her New Zealand-born neighbour by calling her a “stupid fat Australian” during a drunken tirade.

Ms Collins said that while the Government was considering a range of initiatives and law changes to stamp out cyber-bullying, she did not want to see people’s freedom of speech restricted to that extent.

“I don’t think that’s something we want to see in New Zealand. I do think it’s important to retain the right to be idiots and to make fools of ourselves,” she said.

“But when it goes too far, particularly the sort of bullying that ends with young people committing suicide, that’s where we need to be very-much focused.”

There definitely is a case for some law changes. But we do need to be aware that the proposed Communications Tribunal with proposed powers to order material to be taken down does pose significant issues – and it is important we get the balance right.

In August, the Law Commission released its report on harmful digital communications, which recommended a new electronic communications offence for those aged 14 and over and the establishment of a Communications Tribunal to enforce apologies, take-down and cease-and-desist orders, and unmask anonymous offenders.

has a blog post on anonymous bloggers. He says:

More contemptible by far than the anonymous correspondent is the anonymous blogger, particularly in a democracy like New Zealand where freedom of speech is limited only by the laws of defamation.  Such lack of spine contrasts starkly with the courage of those anonymous bloggers and pamphleteers who are the advocates of freedom and democracy in totalitarian societies.

The irony is that those who blog under their actual names tend to be much better and effective for it. When you know that your words will be linked to you, you tend to take greater care in what you say.

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30 Responses to “The right to be an idiot”

  1. Nick K (913 comments) says:

    Judith Collins is a lawyer and so she should know there is no such thing as a right to be an idiot. It is perhaps a freedom or a privilege, but it isn’t a right.

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  2. Ross Miller (1,624 comments) says:

    Nick … I suspect that in this case she wasn’t using the word in a stricly legal sense but rather as you suggest.

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  3. liarbors a joke (1,069 comments) says:

    The sooner Collins becomes PM the better…shes awesome.

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  4. Harriet (4,001 comments) says:

    “…..But when it goes too far, particularly the sort of bullying that ends with young people committing suicide, that’s where we need to be very-much focused…..”

    Here comes the totalatarian, pink jack-boot, facist pig government.

    The gay sex lobby will use suicide to have the government outlaw any talk about homosexuality – racism and sexism will coincide with this. It will not be ‘abuse’ that will be outlawed – but anything at all as it will be seen as being ‘negative’.

    Smoking takes 10yrs off your life – the gay sex lifestyle, 20 – so gays will soon be NZ’s most protected species, and YOU won’t be allowed to say ANYTHING!

    NZ’S almost fucked! :cool:

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  5. Pete George (21,790 comments) says:

    Brian’s post has a long thread of comments, some quite interesting, and there’s been some parallel posts with Standardistas defining anonymity strongly…

    QOT: The privilege of real-name blogging
    RedLogix: Media Medicine
    And me: Blog pseudonyms and anonymity and Redlogix – not

    …and there’s a few examples of people exercising their right to be idiots.

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  6. Harriet (4,001 comments) says:

    Pete George#

    “….Brian’s post has a long thread of comments, some quite interesting, and there’s been some parallel posts with Standardistas defining anonymity strongly…”

    Are these the VERY SAME NAMELESS ONES who are feminists, gays and other minoraties who work in the public service and/or involved in social ‘advocacy’ groups ?

    ……….I bet they are! :cool:

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  7. Grendel (873 comments) says:

    i thought this was a post about Abu Lucy and Hamidiot when i first saw the title.

    in a way it is, i doubt either have the guts to post their bile under their real names.

    and yes i know i post under a pseudo like a lot of people, but also most people under a pseudo or even their real name dont post as much inane crap as those two (and milky most of the time).

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  8. PaulL (5,774 comments) says:

    I come at it differently – which is that I usually ignore a lot of what those who comment under pseudonyms say. They don’t need to live with those comments. Whilst there are legitimate uses for a pseudonym, many of the people on here who use one are using one because their comments are embarrassing and stupid.

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  9. Sam Buchanan (498 comments) says:

    I’d say a post made under a pseudonym slagging off people for posting under a pseudonym counts as ‘inane’.

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  10. Harriet (4,001 comments) says:

    PaulL#

    Some people have business and families to protect.

    Jews who have chocolate shops in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane had their shops ‘picketed’ by the pro-Palestine nutters…shutting down there businesses during lawful trading hours.

    Gays, feminists and racists do the same to us if we speak out against their beliefs, but that is ALL we do…..we don’t protest and shutdown or ‘defame’ their business activities.

    The Greens are notorious for the same uncivil, unlawful and undemocratic behaviour.

    Protesting with the aim to be disruptive of what is ‘legal’ should itself be made illegal, then the only thing left is debate……which of course is what adults USED to do…..before the ’70′s!]

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  11. Grendel (873 comments) says:

    you probably would Sam, but sadly some of us have seen what happens when you end up on the wrong side of nasty lefties, and i dont want my business to get the same treatment erin lee or madeline setchell got from nice tolerant lefties.

    or look at the vitriol from the left towards the mad butcher or peter jackson from the left. the day i either retire from my business or lefties stop being so prepared to play the man and not the ball i will happily post under my own name.

    when you have nothing to lose like yourself, your name is worth nothing.

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  12. PaulL (5,774 comments) says:

    Your views are reasonably extreme Harriet, even if you don’t see that.

    In the ’70s, there were consequences for your views – people told you that you were an idiot, they avoided you etc etc. Social pressure is a great normaliser, it makes people accountable for their statements. When that social pressure is removed people’s views become more extreme. Which is exactly the thing you’re complaining about, but you’re defending the exact thing that allows that extremism to flourish.

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  13. hinamanu (2,352 comments) says:

    UN conference on internet oversight raises concern over censorship, restriction

    An upcoming UN conference on internet oversight has drawn concern from tech giants like Google, Facebook and others.

    Tech giants and internet advocates are raising concerns ahead of the meeting of the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union (ITU) next week in Dubai.

    Critics are concerned that changes proposed at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) could lead to efforts to censor the internet and stifle innovation, according to the Associated Press. Google raised the point that the conference’s structure itself is flawed.

    http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/business/technology/121126/un-conference-internet-oversight-draws-concern

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  14. ross69 (3,637 comments) says:

    “Jews who have chocolate shops in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane had their shops ‘picketed’ by the pro-Palestine nutters”

    It seems you’re against lawful protests. Fortunately, the Courts don’t agree.

    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/158198

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  15. scrubone (2,971 comments) says:

    More contemptible by far than the anonymous correspondent is the anonymous blogger, particularly in a democracy like New Zealand where freedom of speech is limited only by the laws of defamation. Such lack of spine contrasts starkly with the courage of those anonymous bloggers and pamphleteers who are the advocates of freedom and democracy in totalitarian societies.

    That’s fine for Dr Edwards – he was best mates with Helen Clark, an insider within Helengrad.

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  16. Elaycee (4,057 comments) says:

    Hey, ross69… Thought you’d feel at home here – this is a thread all about you. :D

    The right to be an idiot

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  17. scrubone (2,971 comments) says:

    Ah, found the link I was looking for.
    http://insolentprick.blogspot.co.nz/2006/09/sinister-elements-petes-story.html

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  18. Rex Widerstrom (5,124 comments) says:

    When you know that your words will be linked to you, you tend to take greater care in what you say.

    While there are notable and noble exceptions to this rule, in the overwhelming majority of cases it’s right on the money. Unless you’re a whistleblower come to the blogosphere to reveal secrets that may affect your personal safety or that of your family, or jeopardise your job (in which case you’re better off elsewhere in any case) I can’t see legitimate reasons to make anonymous comments. Either you believe what you say and are prepared to stand by it, or you’re not.

    If as potentially divisive figures such as David Garrett and Brian Edwards (to choose, pretty much at random, two from opposite ends of the political spectrum and thus most likely to attract abuse) have the cojones to post material and take ownership of it, then Mr or Ms Anonymous Suburbanite can surely do the same?

    It would certainly lead, IMO, to an over all improvement in the standard of debate. Not only because people would not be able to confect an online persona and use it as some sort of caricature through which to express what may be genuinely held opinions, but in a deliberately inflammatory way. But also – for most people at least – because hurling an insult at a person who has a name and maybe a face is a big step up from dismissing an anonymous correspondent, who almost doesn’t seem real, if you understand my meaning.

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  19. RRM (8,988 comments) says:

    I love the little status updates about this thread, in the sidebar on the homepage :-D

    They are delightful – like a catalogue of books with amusing titles:

    Elaycee on the right to be an idiot

    Rex Widerstrom on the right to be an idiot

    Ross69 on the right to be an idiot

    Harriet on the right to be an idiot

    etc

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  20. Pete George (21,790 comments) says:

    Posting under your own name does have risks because it does attract more abuse, inevitably from people posting anonymously.

    There was any interesting comment at The Standard:

    Te Reo Putake 6.4
    27 November 2012 at 9:16 pm

    A comrade once told me never to say anything on a telephone I wouldn’t want to hear repeated in court. Good advice. Blogging without identifying yourself allows a freedom to comment that is denied to us in the ‘real’ world. It is the most honest commentary to be found in any kind of media available today.

    I choose to use a pen name because of that freedom. And also because it drives Pete George crazy. But that’s just a bonus, it’s really about the freedom.

    That particular person has changed their pen name at least once (about a year ago).

    And yes, they like the freedom – they have the freedom to troll and harrass and and disrupt and abuse and discredit and drive away as much as they like at The Standard with a free pass from lprent. Which they have done extensively – I often saw people appear at The Standard and quickly give up because they didn’t think it was worth the hassle.

    Some of their actions could have been classed as defamatory, they targeted me because they knew my identity and what I did openly, and they knew they could get away with it. Cowardly of course.

    But they didn’t drive me crazy, they drove themselves crazy trying to score hits. I drove them crazy because I stood up to their crap time and time again, and they weren’t used to their attempts at bullying not working, because they held all the power.

    And they blinked first, when lprent banned me. And I’m still not crazy, as they continuing knawing their teethless.

    And ‘Te Reo Putake’, and whatever other dishonest disguises they might use and have used, was a delegate at the recent Labour conference.

    It’s the ‘Te Reo Putake’s that give users of pseudonyms a bad reputation.

    “It is the most honest commentary to be found” is laughably hypocritical – doubly so when they call themselves the ‘voice of reason’.

    And The Standard wonders why people like Brian Edwards calls them on their crap.

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  21. Manolo (12,607 comments) says:

    P.G., why do you bother, why do you waste your time at The sub-Standard?

    They are a mob of intolerant left-wingers, and the censorious Lynn Prentice would’ve made a proud prison guard had he lived in 1930′s Germany. Dissent is hardly tolerated and any opinion/comment against the omnipresent Labour-adoring mentality is quickly suppressed by the little tyrant with the girly name.

    Not worth neither the effort, nor the time. Let The sub-Standard fans stew in their own filth.

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  22. thedavincimode (6,102 comments) says:

    RRM
    :lol:

    Edit: Damn, me too. :)

    Edit edit: You too :)

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  23. Pete George (21,790 comments) says:

    Nah Manolo, too much fun holding them to account. Lynn has just commented…

    Even so we get people dancing on the head of a pin in other sites arguing that Eddie has some kind of split personality because of his persistent blandness.

    http://thestandard.org.nz/name-journalism-voter-dis-engagement/comment-page-1/#comment-556477

    He keeps trying to defend The Standard’s use of pseudonyms, but he has carefully fudged that one, and deliberately avoided answering this when I put it to him:

    1. Do multiple people use the pseudonym ‘Eddie’ at The Standard?
    2. Are you aware of known commenters at The Standard who use multiple pseudonyms?

    He has referred to the questions without answering them, and keeps dancing around it.

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  24. Viking2 (10,688 comments) says:

    “Fair? You want me to be fair?

    Listen, fair is a place where you go to ride on rides, eat cotton candy
    and corn dogs and step in monkey poop.”

    Blogging is about what I think. OK

    Don’t like it, Don’t read it.

    Grow up

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  25. Pete George (21,790 comments) says:

    Good grief, the MSM versus blogging is building into the nonsensical. Chris Trotter has chimed in:

    The tone of these attacks leaves little doubt that not only do these political journalists consider bloggers to be unwelcome and illegitimate contributors to the nation’s political discourse, but that nothing would make them happier than to see them tightly regulated and controlled. I

    He says that immediately after claiming…

    with many eagerly accusing their blogs of playing a sinister role in David Cunliffe’s alleged “attempted leadership coup” at the Labour Party’s Annual Conference

    … the MSM were involved in conspiracies. And…

    It’s an attitude that should send a shiver down every New Zealander’s spine. A genuine “Fourth Estate” would welcome the democratisation of the gathering and distributing of news which the Internet has made possible. That so many MSM journalists have greeted the competitive spur of the blogosphere with a mixture of self-serving patch-protection and outright authoritarianism is cause for considerable concern.

    Oh, I guess they have to have some sort of class struggle on the go. Maybe he can het lprent to join him in a campaign against authoritarianism.

    He goes on, and on, too much to quote.

    http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.co.nz/2012/11/islands-in-mainstream.html

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  26. lprent (95 comments) says:

    He has referred to the questions without answering them, and keeps dancing around it.

    Oh PG. The explanation is quite simple

    A. I think you are an obsessed idiot.
    B. We don’t answer questions about authors.
    C. I didn’t see whatever you were referring to.
    D. I was actually referring to a post or comment that (I think) I saw here.
    E. Thank god we don’t have you boring everyone on the standard any more.

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  27. Lee C (4,516 comments) says:

    Except when Judith encounters idiocy she takes them to court.

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  28. Rex Widerstrom (5,124 comments) says:

    Viking2 says:

    Blogging is about what I think. OK

    Don’t like it, Don’t read it.

    Which is absolutely, perfectly fine. Unless you stop saying what you think and start saying what you think about what I (or someone else) think, and do so in derogatory terms.

    I should clarify that I’m not accusing you of ever having done so – indeed you’re one of several who maintains anonymity without abusing it – but the issue arises when those with poor impulse control start flinging their excrement about in the direction of others.

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  29. scrubone (2,971 comments) says:

    lprent’s comment really gets into the spirit suggested by the title of this post :D

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  30. Pete George (21,790 comments) says:

    lprent – I was querying how pseudonyms are used, not who any authors are. You could easily clear things up, that would improve the credibility of authors without revealing who they are.

    It would back up what you said ” “But folks, now you know why I insist on making sure that pseudonyms are respected.”

    Can you confirm multiple authors haven’t use a single pseudonym?

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