Controlling speech in order to keep it free
Attacks on free speech gather apace, even as the Electoral Finance Bill thunders through Parliament like a runaway train with the brakes gone -- and as the title above suggests, the attacks are taking on an increasingly Orwellian tone.
Not content with simply introducing and passing law that muzzles political opponents, there are now signs that, as David Farrar suggests, the Clark Government has plans to muzzle her opponents in the media -- that "her logical next target will be media regulation." Keep that in mind, he says when you look at her words on Monday:
"She said there was little point complaining to the print media’s self-regulatory watchdog, the Press Council.
That just doesn’t get you anywhere."
Sounds like [says Farrar] she would like a system where her complaints will get her somewhere and she doesn’t have to just “shrug and say, ‘Well, that’s life,’ and get on with it.” Her Foreign Minister has labelled journalists as traitors and rails against the media and their owners. If he demanded media regulation as the price of support, do you think Helen would resist?
Do you think she could resist for a moment? Or want to resist? As Phil says at Pacific Empire -- and he backs this up with several examples -- the disturbing truth about freedom of speech is that it’s just not that popular anymore! Phil's critique of Jeffrey Sachs' toe-in-the-water for outright censorship also sweeps up in its net the method by which Clark and her allies have been spinning the Electoral Finance Bill, and describes their likely modus for the future:
Lame collectivism with the pervasive use of an all-encompassing “we.” A call for responsible journalism, which seems to mean nothing more than journalism Sachs agrees with, and a criticism of the unregulated Internet with its “blog sites.” But no call for outright censorship.
That should perhaps read "no call for outright censorship" YET. When it comes, it won't come as an open attack, but as more slippery spin in which the would-censor acts to "protect" democracy, and from attacks upon it by "big money" -- enter stage left this point, Big Nanny, with her big stick.
But wait, we've seen this strategy already, haven't we. With the arguments for the EFB and it's "acceptable corruption," the stage is already being set to argue that in order to protect free speech, free speech itself must be muzzled. It's not a big step from there to where we might be going, and the methodology is precisely the same. Argued Chris Trotter for exaemple in support of the "ownership class" being muzzled by his favourite new law,
when these "owners" talk about the right to "free expression" [inverted commas his] what they're really referring to is the right to restrict ready access to effective mass- communication technologies to people like themselves.
Trotter's cloth cap hatred for those he derisively calls the "ownership class" allows him to believe that what he says is true: that it's "us" against "them"; that "they" hold the commanding heights of press power, and must be muzzled to protect "us" (with "us" being people like himself on behalf of people like the rest of us); that the only way to defend genuine free expression is to "restrict ready access to mass-communication technologies" to people like himself, and to place "limits on the rights to 'purchase' speech" in order ... "to protect our democracy from money politics" and "the machinations of an owning class."
It's slippery spin like this and that of Sachs that is being used to justify crushing free expression, and genuine hatred of free expression like that of Winston Peters and his ilk that empowers it. Wedge politics for speech rationing.
It's slippery spin from a song sheet prepared by the Apostle Al Bore (yes, him again)-- one from which he's already been singing for some time -- a new front he's opened in his war on western civilisation -- and in his book The Assault on Reason: A How-To Manual, he makes it even plainer than Mr Cloth Cap. As Jason Roth summarises (in a review written for the last 'Free Radical')
It's interesting to observe the mind of a huckster -- a dimestore philosopher with the aspirations of a dictator. Gore has already been fighting a war on industrial civilization. He's now opening up a new front against free speech. As can be expected from an aspiring dictator, his war against free speech will be fought under its exact opposite premise. He wants to control speech in order to keep it free.
Taking his title from an old joke, Roth's review is entitled Al Gore Gave Us the Internet. Now He Wants to Take It Away. The first sentence is the joke. Only true vigilance will ensure that the second sentence is too.