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Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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It’s a special kind of stupid

I’d intended to dedicate today’s editorial to one of two three-letter acronyms – either GST [off the back of the claim Labour is planning to recategorise fresh fruit and vegetables as a bread and butter issue, and remove the 15 per cent impost from them] or UFOs [prompted by the way in which the US government, after decades of denials and sneering at ‘the tinfoil hat brigade’, suddenly seems very keen to promote the idea it’s had the remains of flying saucers and their alien pilots in its possession for many years].

Depending on what happens in the next few days, I may return to one or both of these topics next week.

But right now, it’s once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more … on the topic of freedom of speech.

Yes, I know I’ve already expended many hundreds of words on this subject but, based on a survey released this week by the Free Speech Union indicating only 25 per cent of New Zealanders even know about the major government censorship proposal on which public submissions close on Monday [July 31], it bears repeating.

In a nutshell, the Department of Internal Affairs [DIA] is proposing a radical overhaul of the way the online and media content Kiwis can access is regulated. If passed, this new law will result in an unelected, unaccountable ‘regulator’ getting to decide – without legislative scrutiny – what you and I are allowed to read, watch, listen to, and even write, in order to minimise largely hypothetical undefined “harm”.

I assume those pushing this proposal don’t have nefarious intentions and are promoting this approach with the best of intentions [it’s always best – to begin with anyway – to take what people say in good faith, the tendency to interpret motives in the worst possible light being one of the reasons we find ourselves in such a divisive environment].

If that is the case, though, those good intentions are coupled with a special kind of stupid.

At least in part, this push for more state control of the internet and general media appears to be born of a desire to suppress the alleged rise of radical right-wing hatemongers [you may have noticed a big uptick in ‘news’ stories about this apparently clear and present danger, matched only by a complete absence of objective evidence to back up these alarmist claims].

Unfortunately, the ahistorical acolytes of this initiative appear unaware of a pertinent precedent: in Germany in the late 1920s and early 1930s, due to concern about the rise of the Nazi Party, the government passed laws mandating more state control of media.

But all this succeeded in doing was to hand the Nazis the infrastructure to completely control the flow of information when they were elected anyway.

And more generally, it’s a long-established principle that when it comes to good governance, sunlight [ie, transparency] is the best disinfectant.

As such, I urge you to submit on the DIA’s ‘Safer Online Services and Media Platforms’ before it’s too late.

To quote Dylan Thomas, “Do not go gentle into that good night / Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

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