On being ‘a member of Don Brash’s club’

Don Brash

Kia ora koutou,

I’ve never actually published a written article on Whaleoil before, just a few vlogs and satire videos. I’m currently working on a much longer article covering such topics as identity politics, victimhood culture, ‘privilege’, oppression and ‘allyship’, as they pertain to Aotearoa. Fun stuff.

I’ll be back to making YouTube content in no time — I have a copy of Lizzie Marvelley’s new book beside me as I type this and I’ll be doing an in-depth review of that (if ‘depth’ is the right word) so watch this space!

But for now, I’d like to take the opportunity to address a serious accusation that has been made about me on social media. Because this is not just about me, but every member of the New Zealand Free Speech Coalition (there are hundreds of us), and more broadly, it’s about everyone who believes in and defends the principle of free speech.

Twitter user Kera Sherwood-O’Regan (who I’ll introduce properly in the aforementioned upcoming article) has repeatedly brought up my involvement with the New Zealand Free Speech Coalition (“Don Brash’s club”, as she calls it), as though this is somehow supposed to reflect poorly on my character, or is evidence of some kind of ill-intent.

She’s publicly accused me of  “advocating for people to be given a platform for violence”. Quote.

Sorry but if you don’t want to be aligned with Don Brash then I think you need to re-evaluate your club membership. I’m not saying you have the exact same views as him, nor am I saying that yours are quite as problematic, but you’re a member of a group whose actions, as it stands so far, have been primarily to throw support behind a duo who came to NZ and spread racism, sexism, transphobia and other hate. Particularly given their attacks on indigenous people, it’s hard to reconcile your claimed support of us while you’re also advocating for people to be given a platform for violence.

— Kera Sherwood-O’Regan End quote.

When the controversy over Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux first arose, I knew very little about either of them. Now that I’m more familiar with who they are and what they’re about, I find myself in varying states of agreement and disagreement with each of them on the many issues they discuss.

I can’t think of a single human being I’ve ever met or heard of that I agree or disagree with 100% on every single point they’ve ever made, can you? That sounds a bit cult-like.

The suggestion that I would ever support someone who promotes violence is more than a critique of my politics — it’s a total mischaracterisation of who I am as a person. Other members of the Free Speech Coalition who might be reading this may be able to relate.

I would never directly or indirectly support the promotion of violence. Anyone who knows me — actually knows me — knows that. They’re the ones who matter, but it’s still disconcerting to see accusations like this being thrown around on social media by someone with Kera’s influence.

There is no evidence that I’m aware of that either Lauren Southern or Stefan Molyneux has ever called for violence. If there were, I would not have supported their right to speak. I wouldn’t have needed to, even if I’d wanted to — there are clear laws against that.

We went through all this when the controversy was hot. I’m probably preaching to the choir, but it’s important to get this out there.

I’d like to correct another inaccuracy: The New Zealand Free Speech Coalition is not, and was never, “Don Brash’s club”. It is an apolitical advocacy group for defending the lifeblood of democracy, creativity and dissent in Aotearoa. 

I was part of the original steering group; I offered my support in the early planning stages — it’s quite possible that I was on board before Dr. Brash was. 

Don Brash is not the leader of the group or even the frontman. It was the media that insisted on putting him in the spotlight to serve their own agenda — that is, to mischaracterise the Free Speech Coalition as a right-wing organisation. 

It’s not. We’ve been consistent in our principles: people should not be discriminated against on the basis of their political views, whether that’s Southern and Molyneux, speakers from the International Humanist and Ethical Union, a councillor in Rotorua, Don Brash or Chelsea Manning.

The left’s desperation to mislabel the Free Speech Coalition as a right-wing group is an indication of how threatened they are by the idea of civil discourse. 

Since publicly voicing my support for freedom of speech, I’ve been called conservative, right-wing, hard-right, far-right, and of course, “alt-right”. Again, this reeks of desperation. I’m a socially liberal, left-leaning former Green Party supporter. Last year I voted for Labour.

I even paid five bucks for a non-waged Labour Party membership, though somewhat tongue-in-cheekedly:

I have since misplaced the card.

I shouldn’t have to provide evidence of my personal politics to prove that I’m not “right-wing” (as though the mere fact of being right-wing would immediately discredit me if I were), but given that I’ve also been accused of being secretly employed by conservative Canadian news outlet Rebel Media (what the…?), it seems like that’s what it’s come to.

Also, this is irrelevant, but here is my dog:

As I said to Chris Lynch on Newstalk ZB (you can jump to 3:20), Don Brash and I have very little political common ground. This was a polite understatement, but in any case, it’s totally irrelevant in the context. 

A coalition, by definition, is not a group of individuals who agree with each other on every single topic. It’s about uniting for a common purpose. In this case, the purpose is defending freedom of speech. I may disagree strongly with Dr. Brash on any number of issues (and probably agree with him on others), but what he and I do agree on is our right to disagree.

It may be an overused and often misattributed quote, but the old classic: “I disapprove of what you say but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” really does sum it up. 

Dr. Brash is free to say, for example, that he doesn’t want to hear te reo Māori on taxpayer-funded media. I’m free to say that I’d like to hear more reo, not less. 

Dr. Brash can say he thinks the All Black’s haka promotes domestic violence. I can say that, while the haka obviously conveys aggression— its purpose is to be a fierce challenge, after all —I see it as a proud cultural icon which, done properly, sends a patriotic tingle down my spine. 

Dr. Brash and I can each put forward arguments for our positions. Others can do the same. This kōrero happens on a national scale. Ultimately, the best arguments will win. 

In this scenario, I suspect Dr. Brash’s views on te reo are widely considered to be outdated, and we will likely continue to see an increase in the use of te reo in radio, television and print. The haka will continue to chill Kiwi spines and intimidate rival sports teams.

This is the ‘marketplace of ideas’ concept in practice.

Right now, there are people who want to burn that marketplace down. 

I don’t know what they hope to re-build in its place, but I for one am choosing to defend the principles of free speech and non-violence. Kōrero herekorenga ko te tumu o manapori.

Thanks for reading.

Tena koe.

Rahera


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Artist/writer type. Classical liberal. Aspiring human, sometimes. Free speech and animal welfare advocate. Interests include violent crime and children’s books.

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