When Black Shirts Frighten Us
by Jim Peron
Mobs of fundamentalist Christians militaristically marching through our streets, outfitted in black and giving scary extended arm salutes scared a lot of people.
It was reminiscent of something more sinister which just shows how out of touch Brian Tamaki and his followers really are when it comes to political reality.
The PC Left (which has never been a friend of freedom) has been in an uproar and is gearing up to engage in a frontal assault on freedom of speech yet again. And no doubt they¹ll find allies on the Right.
The erosion of freedom has been a joint project with Right and Left equally being able to take credit for extending state power and trampling individual liberty in the process.
Now the Left is ready to force freedom of speech into the boxing ring. The religious crowd landed the poor victim with a Right hook and now the PC elite are hoping for a knock out punch with a hard Left to the jaw. They are proposing so-called hate speech laws.
The very concept of legislating speech is reprehensible and a violation of the basic principle of human equality. If all people have equal rights then how is it that some people have the right to tell other people what opinions they may express?
The mere process of defining what speech may be uttered is inherently fascistic. It reeks of the ubermenschen. The Fascists thought of themselves as super men with the right to rule others. As in Orwell¹s Animal Farm they hold to the view that ³all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.²
Every advocate of hate speech censorship is convinced that their speech should be protected. It¹s their opponents whose tongues must be shackled because their speech is ³bad², ³incitement², ³criminal², ³group libel² or any other of a dozen excuses to act like mini-Fuhrers of the mind.
Hate speech censors are like the man described in a poem in Ambrose Bierce¹s ³The Devil¹s Dictionary²: ³It is hardly fit/ To censure freely and fault to find/ With others for sins that I¹m not inclined/ Myself to commit.² Advocates of such laws know that hate speech is the speech which they don¹t commit. It¹s their opponents they want to stifle.
So the Right thinks that vicious and bigoted speech about homosexuals ought not be defined as hate speech. The Left‹which rankles with hatred for businessmen, capitalists, fundamentalist Christians, the West, etc.‹believes their speech should be left untouched while their critics are gagged.
The hypocrisy of censors, Left and Right, is that invariably they always want to censor someone other than themselves. And they always start with the unpleasant extremes first.
Recently we saw gleeful faux ³civil libertarians² using badly drafted legislation to keep controversial historian David Irving from visiting. Under the law anyone who has violated any immigration law in any nation can be excluded from coming here. So the most tyrannical nations in the world are the criteria by which visitors to New Zealand may be judged.
Of course most of the time it is not done this way. The law is selectively enforced and reserved for those times when the government finds it advantageous.
It¹s tempting to want to drag in Nanny State with her coercive powers to put these people down. But real civil libertarians can¹t do that.
H.L. Mencken wrote: ³The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.²
Mencken was right. If we want to defend the freedoms of decent people we have to defend the freedom of scoundrels. If I want to make sure my freedom of speech is secure then I have to defend the freedom of speech of the Irvings and Tamakis of the world.
The well known publisher Victor Gollanz, a Jew and a man of the Left, wrote in his book ³Our Threatened Values² that fascism is ³not some separate and isolated phenomenon, which can magically be brought into existence by appealing to people¹s reason or playing on their prejudices². It is the ³logical development of certain traits that are in human nature². By censoring those we see as fascists we strengthen those traits and ³make fascism more probable.²
Gollanz wrote: ³The strongest of all the antifascist traits is the passion for spiritual and intellectual freedom; and by so much as you restrict its play, by so much as you nourish instead the sado-masochistic elements in our nature, by so much as you introduce the first thin wedge of authoritarianism, by just so much do you bring a little nearer the very peril you are anxious to avoid.² Those are words that we should remember when black shirts frighten us.
Jim Peron is the executive director of the Institute for Liberal Values.