by Ivan Dobsky
White supremacists love to invoke 'freedom of expression' as a defense for hate speech. They don't have a leg to stand on, legally speaking, and we'll look at that in a minute. Before that, though, we need to consider a question of public safety.
Below you will find some comments that were made by Philip Arps. He posted these on his GAB page, from which they were visible to anybody and everybody with Internet access. A complaint was made to the Police but under current legislation they chose not to act. Really??
Think about that while you read these quotes, one of which says "I will do what I can soon with live rounds". We clearly need new legislation that allows people to take a stand against this kind of threat. After all, we have seen how bad it can get.
Note: Excuse us… we blanked out that word above, thus denying Phil Arps his freedom of speech. We also chose not to include several other examples from his GAB account.
White ISIS – Men with Manifestos
Philip Arps is not alone in openly inciting violence. The Christchurch killer produced a manifesto that he hoped would: “show the effect of direct action, lighting a path forward for those that wish to follow.”
Sure enough, in August a man in El Paso murdered 22 people, describing himself as a “supporter of the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto”. Soon afterwards a man who shot up a synagogue in Poway said: “I think it’s important that everyone should read it.” Then a man walked into a mosque in Oslo and opened fire: “It’s my time, I was chosen by Saint Tarrant after all”. The manifesto is now available in 12 languages and has been printed for sale in paperback form.
Prior to this, the Christchurch killer accessed manifestos by Anders Breivik and Dylan Roof. Such documents are being deliberately written to inspire more attacks. These are the far right equivalent of ISIS beheading videos.
Freedom of Hate Speech?
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Article 19, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations 1948
When this Article was being drafted the Soviet Union proposed an amendment to deny the same right to Nazis and fascist groups. After all, this was 1948. This resulted in a significant change; two universal rights were established: the right to free speech (limited by Article 29) and the right to be protected against hate speech (per Article 7).
“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.”
Section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990
In line with the Declaration of Human Rights, our own Bill of Rights provides for certain limitations on the freedom of expression (see Section 4). For example, Section 61 of the Human Rights Act makes it unlawful for anyone to publish or distribute threatening, abusive or insulting words likely to excite hostility or bring into contempt any group of persons… on the ground of the colour, race or ethnic origins of that group of persons. Section 131 deals with more extreme acts of offensive speech, making it a criminal offence to publish or use threatening, abusive or insulting words. And the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 also provides protections against hate speech (more).
So, were the Police justified in deciding not to act, after receiving a complaint? (it wasn’t from us, by the way). The fact is, we can’t tell. We don’t know what their rationale was because the complainant never received a response. Nor did the Ministry of Internal Affairs reply when they were sent the same material.
Impunity for a guy who openly calls for the extermination of all jews, muslims and gays? Because he believes jews are flooding the country with muslims?
A tolerance for poisonous fictions comes with a price tag we can no longer afford.Dr David Grimes
Where to now, as a country?
Freedom of speech is a human right and we need to protect it. However, abuse of this right can affect the rights of others.
You won't see the far right trying to legalise defamation and libel, for instance. Nor are they seeking protections for fraud, incitement to violence, obscene language or threatening to kill. We can assume they don't support verbal assault, the emotional abuse of children, crimes of dishonesty and/or harrassment. What about false contract declarations? Do they want the freedom to commit perjury and/or make bogus bomb threats and emergency reports? What about false advertising? Nope, they're not lobbying for the relaxation of these laws. But hate speech? All good.
Minister of Justice Andrew Little has said he hopes to develop a proposal in relation to hate crimes by the end of this year (more). The Human Rights Commission has said they want the government to consider changing the law to protect religious groups against hate speech (more). And this country has already signed the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, by which: "all Member States have pledged... to promote and encourage universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion." (emphasis added).
Let's be honest: in the age of YouTube, FaceBook, Twitter and Gab, our current legislation is not fit for purpose. It wasn't much use before that either: there hasn't been a single prosecution under the 'racial disharmony' provisions of the Human Rights Act since 1979! (more). So, are we going to fall for the simplistic slogans of the far right and do nothing about the rise of hate speech?
Is the legal system going to ignore Philip Arps, a man who would gladly tear it to shreds?