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‘Free Speech Under Attack’

by Peter Cresswell, Jeremy Fisher, David Round, Robert Stanmore, and Tim Wikiriwhi

Four books from the same publisher which are briefly outlined in the fore pages appear to take approaches commensurate with those found in Free Speech Under Attack though there is little overlap in authorship.

In chapter one Jeremy Fisher describes the appalling punishments inflicted on people for speech that offended the authorities in Britain and New Zealand up to 1840, in the latter case before British justice intervened. In chapter two he makes a controversial assault on “political correctness” and in chapter three deplores any limitation on “hate speech”. How far would you go with him?

In chapter four Peter Cresswell reminds us of the distinction between speech and violence and of how this has become blurred or worse and how to fight back. Chapter five is about “identity politics” and how that too threatens free speech.

The first five chapters take up close to half the book. The other authors are Robert Stanmore, Tim Rikiwhihi, and David Round.

In chapter six Stanmore castigates Ardern for wearing a (face free) veil on camera soon after the Christchurch massacre. While I understand his views this was not a time to lecture Muslims on giving up the hijab. The veil was a profound symbolic expression of empathy. Stanmore objects even more vehemently to Ardern saying “We are one”. Of course she didn’t expatiate on exactly what she meant by that but I take it to mean something like we are all New Zealanders, we are all deeply shocked by this massacre and we feel for all those affected. Nonetheless I agree with much in this chapter, and in the rest of the book. Like the authors I regard free speech as fundamental to a healthy society. It seems to me however that passionate appeals for free speech are sometimes used in covert support of political and social views with which I have no sympathy. Perhaps the authors should have made their views on such questions as immigration and biculturalism explicit.

This book will make you think and I recommend it whatever your position on the illustrative issues. But read it with sceptical spectacles.

Graham Jackson is a member of the Franklin Writers Group, which meets weekly on Tuesdays, 12:45 during term time, in Pukekohe. Contact Barbara 027 5606 777