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Time called on the Chch Call

Yesterday it was announced that the Christchurch Call is to evolve into a new non-governmental organisation called the Christchurch Call Foundation.

As such, New Zealand taxpayer funding of the initiative will end on June 30, although the new outfit will be headquartered in NZ and Dame Jacinda Ardern “will remain an integral part of this initiative, as Patron of the Call”.

The Christchurch Call [CC], as you’ll recall, was formed by the governments of NZ and France on May 15, 2019, two months to the day after the mosque terror attacks in Christchurch.

Its creation was initially prompted by the Christchurch gunman live streaming his horrific shooting spree to online platforms and the way in which this video was then widely distributed around the internet.

“The March 15 terrorist attacks saw social media used in an unprecedented way as a tool to promote an act of terrorism and hate,” then-prime minister Jacinda Ardern said on April 24, 2019, when she announced the intention of NZ and France to create the CC.

“We are asking for a show of leadership to ensure social media cannot be used again the way it was in the March 15 terrorist attack.”

A month later, the summit in Paris that was co-chaired by Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron and formally kicked off the initiative stated that the organisation’s aim was to “bring together countries and tech companies in an attempt to bring to an end the ability to use social media to organise and promote terrorism and violent extremism”.

As previously noted in this column, that goal is almost impossible to argue with – on the face of it, at least.

However, as also earlier observed, ZB Plus editor Philip Crump reported in February that Official Information Act documents indicated the CC has expanded its brief beyond countering terrorist content online to being “committed to looking specifically at gender-based [including anti-LGBTQIA+] violence/hatred as a feature of the radicalisation journey” and thus appeared to have been engaged in ‘mission creep’.

“Given how, on the avowedly ‘progressive’ end of the political spectrum, wondering whether it’s fair for trans women to compete against natal females in sport is decried as ‘hatred’ and many insist that ‘words are violence’, one might be tempted to conclude the CC has drifted into dangerously politicised waters,” this column said at the time.

Taking another squiz at the CC – in particular, exactly what it defines as “violent extremism” [let’s assume we all agree on the meaning of “terrorism”, although recent events suggest this is increasingly in the eye of the beholder too] suggests an organisation that’s far from transparent, because it’s very difficult to find such basic information – the christchurchcall.com website doesn’t even have a search function.

An admittedly cursory perusal of the CC site didn’t turn up any foundational definition of “violent extremism”, and the only definition of the term [provided in a compilation of supporting materials for the CC’s November 2003 Leaders’ Summit] makes pretty clear that the “violent” does not necessarily mean “violence” in any real world sense and can indeed be interpreted as ‘hurtful words’.

That seems like a worryingly long way from the CC’s original purpose, and one fraught with the risk of subjective overreach. And presumably, now that no NZ tax money is being tipped into the outfit, it will become even more opaque in its aims and operations as it seeks to preside over what it’s permissible for the hoi polloi to utter.

1 COMMENT

  1. Smoke and mirrors Mr Grant. Luxon should have walked right away from her and the CC – a journalist should ask why he did not. As an opinion writer you have done well to flag the problems that we are yet to encounter.

    Adern has no mandate from New Zealanders and neither does the CC network that is now international and out of the effective control of New Zealanders. Censorship on subjective grounds is neither appropriate nor required by a free society. The coalition government should have walked away.

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