Wallace Chapman nails it

Wallace Chapman nails the whole Paul Henry issue in a very good post on the back Benches Website.

Now before all you pinko bleaters get all angry about his post, think that Wallace is actually a kaiviti, from Fiji, like me.

On my Facebook page I have only one quote. There will always be just this one quote. For me it is the ‘Rosetta stone’ of thinking, the golden crucible of thought that dates back to 18th Century Enlightenment thinking. It is the DNA of a free society. And it’s a quote that I’ve lived my life according to, since I was in my early 20’s. It is penned by the one of the most quoted people, not just in our time, but in any time  – alongside Marx, Shakespeare and the Bible. The quote is by U.S. academic Noam Avram Chomsky, and here it goes:

“If freedom of speech doesn’t apply to those that we despise, than the term has no meaning at all.”

Freedom of speech means hate-speech, love-speech, speeches we adore and speeches that fill us with contempt. It applies to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s rants at the UN, as much as it applies to Bill O Reilly’s violent outbursts on Fox TV (The Dixie Chicks need to shut up and be slapped around). As Chomsky points out, even Himmler and Goebbels in Nazi Germany were in favour of “free speech”. As long as you agreed with them. Stalin was in favour of free speech that was inoffensive to the State.

Wallace is right on the money. It is a pity the left wing don’t believe in free speech like their hero Noam Chomsky.

Interestingly, Chomsky himself has been at the brunt end of much sustained verbal abuse and vicious personal attacks and open slander. And yet he has never, over 50 years, sued for libel, preferring to write letters in an open forum, refuting and rebutting the attacks. The Jewish-American professor even defended the right of a neo-Nazi to stand up in a community hall in Battersea and say his piece while the rest of the crowd booed.

The United States, according to Chomsky, has set an extremely high bar in regards to freedom of speech since the 1960’s. Violent acts are not protected, but the Supreme Court has even upheld the principle of freedom of speech for Ku Klux Klan members.  In a revealing paragraph Chomsky states:

“In the US, freedom of speech is protected to an extent that I think is unheard of in any other country. This is quite a recent change. Since the 1960s the Supreme Court has set very high standards for freedom of speech, in keeping with a basic principle established by the 18th century Enlightenment. The court upholds the principle of free speech, the only limitation being participation in a criminal act. If I walk into a shop to commit a robbery with an accomplice holding a gun and I say “Shoot”, my words are not protected by the constitution. Otherwise there has to be a really serious motive to call into question freedom of speech. The Supreme Court has even upheld this principle for the benefit of members of the Ku Klux Klan.”

And this is exactly where we are at with Paul Henry, there was no criminal act and yet he has been effectively sacked for little more than having thoughts that differ from a vocal rabid mob out to get him.

I thought about all this in light of Paul Henry’s general broadcasting style. Personally I don’t find Henry funny but I don’t hate it. I just don’t give enough of a shit to turn on morning television so I never watch. But doing live unedited television and making it entertaining is an absolute skill, which is why all the fill-ins have come up short. And Paul Henry is a star at it. It’s a fairly predictable show often with a dog whistle to bullies, but it can also be funny in the way that ‘Beavis and Butthead’ can be funny. Or in the way that someone will fart in a lecture and everyone will split their sides. But more often I grimace and pretend to crack up when a friend tells me about a little Breakfast moment. The ‘retard’ routine wasn’t funny, nor the fake fan email at the awards, nor the moustache routine. The Dikshit name-calling was so unfunny I just felt sad. I felt sad for him, sad for me watching it, and sad for the huge community of Indian and Fiji-Indians in our country.

Do I defend the right to say what comes out of Paul Henry’s mouth? Do I defend the ugly humourless little tirades of Michael Laws? Do I defend the right for David Garrett to suggest, with a straight face, the sterilisation of women on the DPB? Do I defend what comes out of Lindsay Perigo’s mouth or Leighton Smith’s mouth or Hone Harawira’s mouth? Absolutely. As vigorously as I’ll defend the right to say what comes out of mine.

The principle of free speech is very simple: we either defend opinions that we find hateful, or we do not defend them at all. Public broadcasting or private.

Wallace Chapman has provided us with the most significant commentary on the whole sad sorry Paul Henry affair so far. He clearly says he doesn’t like what paul Henry said, yet he clearly says that Paul Henry had the right to say it.

Our country is poorer for the way Paul Henry has been effectively sacked from television by a bunch of rowdies being offended on someone else’s behalf.


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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