Don’t study at Massey University if you like free speech

An Orwellian column which pretends to support free speech, but in fact opposes it. And written not by a junior academic, but the Vice-Chancellor of Massey University. So much for universities being bastions of .

Let’s look at what the VC said:

While I support Mr Goff’s decision, it has kicked off a tide of controversy and has again raised the issue of what differentiates free speech from hate speech.

She supports the Mayor of Auckland deciding what speech is acceptable. And she does a false dichotomy of claiming free speech is not the same as hate speech. This is wrong in law, and in practice. The Supreme Court has ruled that even speech as hateful as burning a NZ Flag is protected speech. Holocaust deniers are hateful but their speech is protected also.

The only speech not protected is basically direct incitements to violence.

The recent debate that swirled around the proposed establishment of Māori wards in parts of New Zealand including Palmerston North and the Manawatū District – home to one of Massey University’s campuses – came dangerously close to hate speech, mobilised in large part by the Hobson’s Pledge network.

This shows how repressive the VC’s views are. She says that opposing special wards on the basis of race comes dangerously close to hate speech. Outrageous.  Is opposing same sex marriage also dangerously close to hate speech?

So, when does free speech become hate speech and why should universities care?

When it directly incites violence. Not when it debates matters of public policy.

Freedom of expression is one thing, but hate speech is another. As a concept that has now entered common parlance, hate speech refers to attacks based on race, ethnicity, religion, and increasingly, on sexual orientation or preference.

A nonsense definition. If I attack Scientology as a crackpot religion, is that hate speech? If a feminist says that only biological females should be able to use a womens only room, is that hate speech? Is an MP saying we have too many Asian immigrants hate speech? If so, then she’d better ban the Acting PM from campus.

All of the above types of speech may be offensive to various people. But that doesn’t mean it is not protected speech.

Let me be clear, hate speech is not free speech. Moreover, as Moana Jackson has eloquently argued, free speech has, especially in colonial societies, long been mobilised as a vehicle for racist comments, judgements and practices.

So the VC thinks free speech is tool of colonialism and must be restricted.

Hate speech is repugnant, or as one American legal academic has stated, hate speech is “a rape of human dignity”.

Hate speech should be called out for what it is, especially when it incites violence against minorities.

Can the VC give an example of what sort of speech occurs in NZ that incites violence against minorities? She seems to think arguing against race based wards in local government almost qualifies.

The VC does make some good points in her column about universities are about making students safe for ideas, not ideas safe for students. But overall her column comes across as someone opposed to free speech, as she ludicrously considers debate on Maori wards to be dangerously close to hate speech.

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