Thursday, October 07, 2010

Not another Paul Henry post! [updated]

I’m astonished that people are still--still!—talking about Paul Henry. About a breakfast host most of them don’t even watch (and why would you when there’s much better things to do over breakfast), but whose bad-taste quips they’ve gone out of their way to be offended by.

But at least people are now talking about free speech. Albeit wrongly.

The principle of free speech require that speakers be free from government censorship. It does not require that the taxpayer provide anyone with a microphone.

It’s a guarantee that you can say what you want on your own dime or your employer’s dime (if they’ll back you up). It’s not a guarantee of freedom from criticism or consequences.

You should be as free to air your views as I am to ignore them.  If I don’t like it, I can always turn it off.

You should be as free to air your views as your advertisers are to withdraw from them. If they don’t like it, they’re free to try to turn you off.

There is a right to free speech.  There is no right not to be offended.

People say stupid things.  They say things that are wrong. But parading around wearing an "I'm offended" sign is not an argument. It's just a whine.

Music reviewer Simon Sweetman reminded his readers the other day that lots of people in his field said stupid things. Sometimes people cared. Sometimes people didn’t.

Elvis Costello told fellow musicians Ray Charles was a "blind, dumb nigger."

John Lennon told Americans the Beatles were bigger than Jesus.

Bryan Ferry told German journalists he was a fan of the work-ethic, architecture and artistic flair of the Nazi.

Eric Clapton told his audiences he supported hardnut anti-immigration Tory Enoch Powell, called England “overcrowded,” that it was becoming “a black colony and suggested England “get the foreigners out, get the wogs out, get the coons out.” All at the time he was enjoying fame and fortune for covering a Bob Marley song.

Donna Summer told journalists that Aids was punishment from God for homosexuality.

And South Park made fun of Catholics and showed Mary menstruating on screen.

Some of them took a hit to their careers. Some of them didn’t. For some of them it was a calculated career move.  For some of them, it wasn’t. But win or lose, the issue was between their fans and themselves--an issue only for those who bought and produced their records and shows to decide, not for anyone else.

Because speech is speech, it’s not violent destruction.

Ridicule is better than bans.

Moral persuasion is better than force.

Laughter is better than “multi-cultural legislation” to stop people saying things other people don’t like.

When tyranny occurs, it can be challenged from a thousand presses -- but not if speech has been silenced and the presses have been closed down for being “offensive.”

Free speech has always been more valued in the abstract than in reality. "Freedom but..." is not freedom. “Freedom to … ” is.

Forcing ideas underground does not eradicate them, it incubates them. Bad ideas are anaerobic -- the oxygen of free inquiry kills them.

Bad ideas can only be fought with better ones.

So if you don't like Paul Henry, turn him off.  Maybe you could find something better to do over breakfast.  Like, maybe, talk to your family about why free speech is important.

RELATED POST: Some propositions on free speech

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10 Comments:

Blogger ZenTiger said...

Whilst people are free to speak their opinion, they are not free of the consequences, and those consequences are that they may offend some people, so there must be an element of respect and empathy in exercising our freedom of speech in a responsible manner.

However, I absolutely agree that "there is no right not to be offended".

Equally, we all have the freedom to take offence. How far we take this freedom to be offended is often the real issue.

We see all too often that the consequences therefore may be out of proportion to the offence.

I personally find what Henry said to be appalling, and I'm not afraid to say so. In this regard I'm simply expressing my opinion.

However, I am not calling for his head like much of the left are.

What becomes frustrating is that my opinion gets lumped in with the PC crowd that would bleat in any event. So I bleat too, but I'm not joining them in the stampede.

10/07/2010 11:43:00 am  
Anonymous Michael said...

Whilst people are free to speak their opinion, they are not free of the consequences, and those consequences are that they may offend some people, so there must be an element of respect and empathy in exercising our freedom of speech in a responsible manner.

Responsible to whom ?

10/07/2010 02:12:00 pm  
Blogger Owen McShane said...

The debate about the Paul Henry questions reveals how much political correctness is anchored in a failure to understand the difference between the norm and the specific.
Lets fast forward to the next Commonwealth games and imagine someone interviewing the Chef de Mission.
He or she might well say “Back in Delhi we made a nice gesture of having Irene van Dyke carry the flag in front of the team even though she is a recent immigrant from South Africa. Will you find a similar foreign born athlete for these games or will you revert to someone born and bred in New Zealand?”

Now surely that is a legitimate question and I would like to think it would not generate a torrent of rage and fury.

However, in the following discussion what if the interviewer said “Of course, selecting Irene Van Dyke was a comparitively uncontroversial call because she looks like a New Zealander.”

I wonder what would happen then.
The fact is that Irene Van Dyke does look like “a New Zealander” in that if you saw her walking down the street you would not wonder where she came from. She fits the normal profile of New Zealanders. So does a Maori such as Shane Jones.
However, if you see someone from say Korea, or Somalia walking down the street it is not unreasonable to wonder if they are a tourist or a New Zealander. After all, every individual tourist can point to a New Zealander of the their ethnicity regardless of whether they are Scandinavians, Mongolians, Indians, Japanese, Africans or whatever.

So it seems that if have in your mind the statistical concept of the Norm you may be at risk of losing your job if you are a broadcaster.

10/07/2010 02:59:00 pm  
Blogger peterquixote said...

Yes and following Owen’s argument:
Lets say we had had a long line of male Governor’s General , and Henry says
“ I think its time we had a woman NZer for GG:”
complaints maybe two or three unacknowledged by TV NZ

but lets say we had had a long line of female Governor’s General , and Henry says
“ I think its time we had a bloke for GG:”
complaints and hysteria from thousands and a rebuke from TV NZ

and so on
Henry’s statement was for the average kiwi, and as TVNZ noted,
reflects an average reasonable New Zealander

10/07/2010 04:18:00 pm  
Anonymous Marcus said...

"John Lennon told Americans the Beatles were bigger than Jesus."

Lennon didn't actually, he told that to a reporter in the UK. And his comment was that it was as if Beatles were bigger than Jesus.

Although even if he had said that to Americans, it wouldn't have been a stupid thing to say.

The US god squad were the stupid ones.

10/08/2010 01:44:00 am  
Blogger Craig Ranapia said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10/08/2010 02:12:00 am  
Blogger Craig Ranapia said...

And South Park made fun of Catholics and showed Mary menstruating on screen.

Except it didn't -- it showed a cartoon representation of a statue gushing blood out of it's arse, until the Pope declared it couldn't be a miracle because "chicks bleed out of their vaginas all the time". (Which is factually accurate - but we're still talking about a cartoon representation of a statue not bleeding anything from anywhere.) As I said at the time, it was hard to tell what was more disturbing about the New Zealand Catholic Bishops' Conference: Their double-shot idolatry (which was considered a sin when I was a Catholic schoolboy) or their rather peculiar misapprehension about where the human uterine lining is located.

And unless Mary was actually a Cylon, she menstruated. Deal with it.

10/08/2010 02:19:00 am  
Anonymous Terry said...

"Forcing ideas underground does not eradicate them, it incubates them. Bad ideas are anaerobic -- the oxygen of free inquiry kills them." - absolutely brilliant Peter! This has been added to my list of prime quotes (that's my very 'special' list...)

10/08/2010 09:51:00 am  
Anonymous Michael said...

Equally, we all have the freedom to take offence. How far we take this freedom to be offended is often the real issue.

Our freedom to be offended can never trump the right of someone to free speech. Offence just like speech can never legitimately cross the line into force.

10/08/2010 10:05:00 am  
Anonymous MFasher said...

Paul Henry's fans are mostly women , you know, those vain ones who read women's magazines. They also love him because they're infatuated with him. I would go further and suggest that some women fans want to have babies with Mr Henry.

10/08/2010 11:07:00 am  

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