Thursday, 26 April 2007

Scum on Anzac Day

Phil at Pacific Empire explains why the scum who were burning flags at yesterday morning's Wellington's Anzac commemoration were short-sighted, ignorant and arrested -- and deserved to be arrested. Says Phil:
Both my grandfathers and one great-grandfather served in the World Wars, and I place the highest value on the freedoms that they fought for. The protesters were:
  • Denigrating the fight against fascism and militarism, and introducing a sick kind of moral equivalence. Forget Bush = Hitler, they were implying that Churchill = Hitler.
  • Metaphorically pissing on the graves of over 30,000 New Zealanders. Comparable to what the Westboro Baptist Church does at funerals in the US.
  • Disturbing the peace. We were all engaged in silent, personal reflection and the interruption was an unwelcome violation of the ceremony.
  • Resisting arrest. (A 29-year old man (pictured) and a 35 year-old woman were arrested, the man shouting in a cowardly and undignified way as he was hauled off)
  • Accusing all New Zealand soldiers - ever - of being mercenary tools of the evil state.
  • Finally, they devalued freedom itself by using their freedom of speech to attack those who made it possible for them to have freedom of speech. And that freedom was not violated. Loudly disrupting the speeches and lighting a fire in a public place does not constitute free speech.
... Some people in defense of these protesters have claimed that they are actually honouring the soldiers who were killed in war, by calling for peace. This claim is false. The protesters, as is shown by blog posts and website comments they have authored [which Phil cites], accuse New Zealand soldiers of various crimes, even murder and contributing to terrorism. How can you honour soldiers killed in war by calling them murderers?
Read on here to see who these scum were, and who's paying their wages.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Did you also notice the Patea vandalism?
    I heard on NatRad early yesterday (25th) that crosses and poppies laid out in preparation for the dawn service at Patea had been vandalised overnight.

    (Not sure if Simon and Wendy, mentioned this one.)

  3. I disagree with these people's views but believe they should have the right to be this stupid. I do not believe flag burning should be illegal, and if they have done nothing more than express a misguided opinion then they should not have been arrested. The greater danger is not with these opinions but in the government being allowed to stamp out minority viewpoints.

    If there is an insult for ANZACs here, it is in the decision to suppress the rights of those protesters and the freedoms our soldiers fought for.

    I have no sympathy for their views at all, but isn't freedom not to toe the line something our soldiers fought for?

  4. "I have no sympathy for their views at all, but isn't freedom not to toe the line something our soldiers fought for?"
    It's a fair point, Matt but these people have all year to do that.
    To be deep in contemplation, in memories of one's father and the awful price paid by so many and to have that solemn moment interrupted for any reason is unconscionable.
    That protest had nothing whatsoever to do with the exercise of free speech and everything to do with pig-ignorance and selfishness.

  5. If there is an insult for ANZACs here, it is in the decision to suppress the rights of those protesters and the freedoms our soldiers fought for.

    I don't think so. The arrests pleased me greatly - a shot across the bow in warning to those who indulge in hate speech/crime - a clear sign that endless hatemongering is reaching its limits with the public.

    Conservatives have traditionally bleated about hate crime/speech being about political correctness and shutting down opposing discourse, making free-speech martyrs out of bigoted, bullying (and often homophobic and misogynistic),cretins. That is changing.

    People are ready to begin reining it in. Even on blogs.

  6. taverknuckle choir, if Peter Cresswell is a conservative, by which you imply, then Insolent Prick & Ian Wishart are social-liberals.

    As for the protestors ? White trash I'd call them all quite frankly.

  7. How interesting. Even for a libertarian a free speech is suddenly no longer a free speech and deserves arrest if it is too insulting.

    No reference to anybody's rights being violated. Just "too unbearable too insulting to hear".

    I guess cartoons about Muhammed were much more insulting to muslims, so perhaps those danish publishers should have been arrested too.

  8. So called "hate speech" is free speech....and trying to ban it is wrong for the same reason as banning the latter.It may be unpleasant and disturbing but that doesn't give anyone the right to use force to prevent it...

    Need I quote Voltaire to anyone...?

  9. This was not banning free speech, any more than it is banning free speech to have your stereo shut down at 3am because it's keeping all your neighbours awake.

    They were arrested from disturbing the peace, not (as far as I'm aware) for burning a flag (which they're entitled to do, but not at that time and that venue).

  10. They have the same right to this time and this venue as the ANZAC day commemorators. It was not on a private property, as far as I know. Just like counter-protesters are entitled to heckle at protest marches.

    "disturbing the peace" is a very convenient way to ban/prevent anything unpopular. just like "sedition".

  11. Commenting for the second time since Blogger ate my previous comment...

    Cheers for the link, PC.

    Tavernknuckle/Ruth: Hate speech should not be banned. The arrests pleased me too, but not because I was offended by their speech. It was their disruptive, unwelcome and dangerous actions that got two of them arrested. The banners and the shouted comments by 10 or so other protesters did not lead to arrests and was not against the law.

    Matt: as said above, this was not about free speech. Police moved in about 2 seconds after the match hit the flag, and about 20 seconds after the guy with the horn started trying to drown out Graham Fortune's (free) speech. Nothing the protesters said or wrote on banners was illegal and the protesters who did nothing but hold a banner and shout comments were not arrested.

    As for flagburning: there is a law on the books about desecration (I think it should be repealed), but the last prosecution failed, and it is basically legal.

    Lighting a meths-soaked flag in the middle of a crowd is dangerous. And blasting a horn in the middle of someones speech does disturb the peace. These actions are not "speech". And public property - or university property, which some of the protesters were on - is not fair game. You can do what you like on your own property, on anyone elses property there are rules.

  12. I should add that while they had the "right" to speak and protest it wasn't "right" that they did so on that occasion.It was boorish,insensitive and counter productive, not to mention factually wrong.

    The crux of the issue is that it happened on "public property", which is just asking for conflict between collectivised "owners".

  13. Phil (Pacific Empire) said...

    I didn't know that Ruth $500,000 Annual Salary has re-invented herself as Tabernacle Choir. Ruth, when did you convert to become a Mormon? Did Mai Chen advise you to do so?

  14. Is there only one person against hate speech in NZ?

    This arrest in significant...right-wing ideologues in particular have repeatedly engaged in profoundly ugly, threatening, and bigoted speech, topped with a helping of misogyny and homophobia, and society - if you will - has consistently rebuffed any efforts to hold them accountable. Until now.

    We even have the flagrant use of public airwaves to foster ugly and bigoted public discourse -- this incident really does pose a threat to what many right-wing ideologues have built their entire careers around.

    You don't have to like it.

  15. I've thought about this on and off all day after all the thoughtful comments. I need to repeat: I do not agree with these protestors at all. The question here is whether they should have to right to express an unreasonable view the way they did.

    Firstly, I don't think this is a hate speech issue. The danger of hate speech is that it incites harm against a defined group, and that isn't a risk here.

    Second, I don't think the very high regard ANZACs are held in is helpful here: what is interesting here is not to define an exception to a rule based on the sacred nature of the event, but to identify the limits to freedom of speech.

    Third, I don't think the merit of the protestors' position is relevant, unless you think it is a sham. The reason is that a) reasonable people will disagree on many things, and b) freedom of speech is rightly extended to the uninformed for many reasons.

    Fourth, there is always a time and place, and if your opinion happens to be about ANZACs or war in general then it seems to me ANZAC day is the appropriate time to voice it. I don't believe a society can call itself free if it excludes genuine dissenting viewpoints, however unpalatable.

    I do think PC's 3am stereo analogy is the right one. I agree that sort of behaviour is appropriately prevented, because the result of allowing it (a war between neighbours) outweighs the benefit of giving people freedom to be that obnoxious.

    The Wellington protestors differs from the 3am stereo example in two ways. First, they were expressing an opinion, and a genuine one so far as we know (hard to believe, but true apparently). That makes this a freedom of speech issue. Second, they were being obnoxious, but arguably caused less frustration than might be caused by being kept up all night by a noisy neighbour (some will disagree with that). In other words, I think the cost:benefit ratio of allowing them the freedom to do what they did is lower than the 3am stereo example.

    After some thought, I still think they should have been allowed to do what they did, because their arrest implies a low and arbitrarily-applied threshold for state intervention in expressing an opinion. Is a lunchtime march down Lambton Quay not disturbing the peace in precisely the same way? What is the principle that sees these two protestors get arrested but not a march down a major public thoroughfare. Popularity? Degree of state sympathy for the argument? Surely not.

    What scares is the apparent arbitrariness of these arrests. It is only a short step from this to being arrested for protesting other issues which the state holds sacred, which might include any government policy such as global warming.

    Freedom to express an opinion without fear of reprise is an exceedingly valuable right and should I think be withheld reluctantly. I can certainly see why many support their arrest, but when I see this sort behaviour I am personally thankful to live in a society that tolerates such ultimately harmless stupidity, rather than wish for rules which would stamp it out.

    This is long and I will close. Again, I do not agree with these protestors, and if their protest was an obvious sham then shutting them up achieved some good at little cost.

  16. Phil - I've just read your post. I agree burning a flag raises a safety issue and therefore a role for Police, and didn't take that into account in my last post.

    Notwithstanding safety issues, I will disagree with PC: I do believe a flag is appropriately burned at an ANZAC day event. Again - not because I agree with those protestors. What is so threatening about a dissenting view, and why shouldn't those dissenters have the right to express that view in front of a group of people most likely to disagree? More than anything, isn't this an expression of freedom to be celebrated?

  17. Sorry - last post: burning a flag *in a crowd* raises a safety issue.

  18. You make a good argument, Matt.

    As James says, I think the issue of 'public' property is what confuses it. With private property, the issue is clear enough - if you went to a private chapel for example and disturbed a funeral service in that way, there's be no question how you should be treated.

  19. PC, yes, you'd have the private owner kicking you out.

    Which raises an interesting question. If the public space the ANZAC service was held in was in private hands and a profit-maximising owner were charging entry, would he let the protestors in?

    I don't think he would.

    Now if you're anything like me, you think profit maximising behaviour is closely related to social welfare maximising behaviour. So does this turn an argument for free speech upside down?

    What is it about private property that should give us comfort that constraints on freedom of speech applied there has little or no cost?

  20. Exactly PC. A lesson for next time perhaps? Hold the ceremony on private property and you won't have a problem.

    Note: in a Libertarian society it is unlikely this would have happened, as obviously all property would be private. Disruptions would not have to be tolerated by the property owner, which would result in ejections of the objectionable person(s).

    Under the current system, individuals MUST be allowed to voice their opinions on "public" land. Otherwise you don't have free speech.

    What evil, ignorant bastards though.

  21. Thanks for the reply Matt. I also agree with PC and Mitch that the issue of public property confuses things a bit. Here are my four main responses:

    1) The "3 am stereo" issue. This is initiation of force via noise pollution, which I think was why one of the two protesters was arrested - for loudly blowing a horn during a speech.
    2) A lunchtime march down Lambton Quay would indeed disturb the peace if the permission of the road-owners - in this case, the Wellington City Council - was not obtained. Having such permission, the recent smacking march was not a problem.
    3) You are mistaken if you think that the protest was "shut up" and that the arrests were aimed at shutting up the protest. There were 10-15 protesters, with two huge banners. Only two were arrested. The rest were left to exercise their right of free speech. I would have opposed the police coming in and breaking up the protest immediately. Waving banners at an Anzac service is tasteless, but it is not illegal.
    4) There were three property rights at issue here, as I see it - the footpath/road owned by the council, the University grounds, and the Anzac day service itself. I think disrupting the quiet service with a loud horn was an initiation of force. Without permission, the protesters would not have had the right to use university grounds, either.

    Public property does present a problem because everyone feels like the have a right to it - a tragedy-of-the-commons situation. But we don't complain about the council requiring permission for marches that disrupt traffic, or about Parliament requiring advanced warning and keeping protesters behind fences. Those are safety and security issues rather than restrictions on political speech. In the same way political speech on this occasion was not restricted, but two specific actions - hornblowing and flagburning - were. I believe that this was not related to the political views of the protesters.

    I must disagree with Mitch's final point. You have free speech on your own property, with your own website, printing press, pulpit, or whatever. No-one else is obligated to provide you with the means to express your opinion.

  22. Phil said "I must disagree with Mitch's final point.You have free speech on your own property...No-one else is obligated to provide you with the means to express your opinion."

    Just to clarify what I meant Phil. Individuals MUST be allowed to voice their own opinions on public land because everybody owns that public land (provided they pay tax of course). You should stay away from phrases like "owned by council".

    Also Phil, are you saying that hornblowing was an initiation of force and so should not be permitted, but the protesters using a louder microphone to make a speech of their own should be permitted?

    At the end of the day the problem is public ownership. To ensure a trouble free ceremony the land needs to be private. Ideally permanent privatisation, but in this instance a temporary lease from Council to the ANZAC ceremony organisers (making it private property for the morning) would have worked because as you say: "No-one else is obligated to provide you with the means to express your opinion."z

  23. To shore up my point - a good essay by Paul Thomas in NZ Herald this morning about sledging which is germane to this discussion.

    As Paul said , the societal implications of speech have to be looked at.

    You can argue about private or public property all you like - the fact remains that the public is sending a strong message: they don't want to hear this stuff any more. That's a hugely positive sign for the longer term, which was my argument.

    Condoning, publishing, or broadcasting irresponsible speech that poisons the public well is now grounds for being barred from positions of influence within the media. That definitely applies to NZ bloggers.

    This is not censorship. This is the free marketplace of ideas at work.

  24. In response to TC:

    "you can argue about public or private property all you like .."

    But that *is* the point. I don't wish to listen to hateful speech either, therefore I am fully entitled to prevent it from occurring on my property. The fact is that these actions occurred on property that is not privately owned, hence the issue.

    "Condoning, publishing, or broadcasting irresponsible speech that poisons the public well is now grounds for being barred from positions of influence within the media."

    An interesting point. Firstly, who decides what's "irresponsible"? My idea of that maybe entirely different to yours.

    And secondly, certain Islamists have reportedly made claims within the last week to target Prince Harry should he be sent to Iraq. One report stated that the group concerned would be lenient if he was caught in that they would 'send him back to his grandmother minus his ears'.

    Delightful, isn't it. They'd be right at home in the Dark Ages. But you would be in favour of the world not knowing this on account of the 'poison'?

    Not me. Let it be known what people are saying, I say. I'll decide for myself if I think they're barking mad.


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