A new low

Too right!

A regular column by John Black.

Rightminds.nz


So, the ‘Alt-right’ rabble rousers Mr Molyneux and Ms Southern have departed our shores and we the impressionable populace have been spared exposure to the bacillus of their ideas, that our betters in the media felt sure would have sent us into the streets foaming at the mouth seeking minorities to abuse and harass. The multicultural mantra repeated by bien pensant tongues throughout media, academia, and at Golriz Ghahraman’s dinner parties has droned a little louder, drowning out all criticism, all questions.

Equilibrium has returned. All is calm. All is good.

Bollocks.

The turmoil is just beginning. The majority of kiwis cherish their birthright of liberty, incubated in the British Isles and exported to these islands, the same liberty that allows them to question the direction of their country regarding such fundamental matters as immigration and cultural change. A Left-wing elite that seeks to disregard such popular feelings, scolding with furrowed brows any critique of multiculturalism as ‘hate speech’, is on a collision course with the majority.

We haven’t had our Trump or Brexit moment yet, but it’s brewing.

An unforeseen tragic consequence of the cancellation of Mr Molyneux and Ms Southern’s talk is that we have been beaten by the Australians. Again. That the two were able to hold sold-out evenings in five Aussie cities and we couldn’t manage one should be a source of national shame.

Painful as it may be to acknowledge, perhaps the Aussies are more vigorous in defending our common traditions of liberty than we are.

Sir David Low

One of my prize possessions is a copy of the autobiography of the cartoonist Sir David Low, pilfered from the Auckland City Library’s stack room one summer when I worked there (sorry ratepayers).  His obituary called him “the dominant cartoonist of the western world”. In a pre-internet age when the only source of news was the daily newspaper, this really meant something.  Sir David was born in this country but found fame across the Tasman (that old familiar story) and was able to ply his trade of satirist and sacred cow slaughterer only through the freedoms common within the British Empire.

Cartoon: Rendezvous by Sir David Low

He was clearly a man of fearless opinion.  He quarrelled with Winston Churchill at a dinner party over colonial independence and had harsh opinions on Gandhi and H.G Wells among others.

But of current relevance is his 1920 clash with ‘the Moslems’. Low had innocently included Mohammed amongst historical figures in a cartoon unrelated to Islam. Although not published in that country, Indian Muslims were outraged.

‘The cartoon has committed a serious offence, which had it taken place in this country would almost certainly have led to bloodshed’ thundered one Calcutta correspondent. There were ‘meetings, resolutions and prayers’ as well as diplomatic appeals, but Low notes, ‘the British Government was unresponsive’.

Oh, how things have changed.

Now the same government won’t even give Lauren Southern a Visa.

Low saw no reason, he writes, for ‘respecting widely held beliefs […] (there are) no definite limitations to the subject matter suitable for caricatures or cartoons[…]the very essence of satire (is) disrespect and irreverence’.

If he talked the talk he also walked the walk; he mocked Hitler mercilessly and stayed in Britain, cartooning, during the war years despite the knowledge that with a German invasion (that seemed likely at the time) he would be in the hands of the Gestapo. It was discovered after the war that he was in the infamous SS ‘Black Book’ containing the list of people to be imprisoned or shot if a Nazi invasion of the U.K had succeeded, the only Kiwi so honoured.

Low knew he could only flourish in a society that welcomed self-criticism and had a free press. Fascism, real fascism wouldn’t tolerate any of that.

Having spent much of his younger life in Australia, Low still strived to make it clear in his autobiography that he saw himself as a New Zealander. Given that the Aussies are honouring his legacy of fearless critique more than we are, maybe he shouldn’t have bothered. In 2015 the New Zealand Herald refused to publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons in obeisance to the local Muslim community. Across the ditch ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’ and ‘The Age’ had no such reservations.

And now they have successfully hosted controversial speakers that we could not. As Mr Molyneux himself has pointed out, prior to multiculturalism there were few challenges to the concept of free speech in Western nations. The hysterical reaction to his visit validates this criticism. Now that our common heritage of liberty is being eroded, fearless free thinkers in the tradition of Sir David Low (such as Molyneux) are facing a battle just to share their thoughts publicly.

And Australia seems to have more guts for the fight than we do.

 


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