How much should we tolerate in the cause of free speech?

A wee while ago I wrote that I had joined the Free Speech Union of New Zealand¹. Like many others, I’m fed up with ‘cancel culture’, and the wokies who pay homage to it. They want to turn the world into a big bland tin of safe grey paint, and it’s boring the tits off me – which is a lot of boredom. Much to their histrionic dismay, some of us just won’t shut up, though. So, anticipating that I could be in the cancel firing line, too, one day, I thought that a little insurance in the form of joining the Free Speech Union might be $50 well spent.

My great sin is that I don’t believe that men can actually become women, and vice versa, no matter what their feelings are or what they do to their bodies. What I do believe is that believing men can become women – or rather, women enough to be classified as women – is compromising women’s and girls’ rights and safeties by allowing male-sexed persons into our spaces and sports. There’s a damn good reason why we’ve had a blanket rule to keep all men out of women-only spaces and sports, irrespective of character or how they might describe themselves, and that blanket rule needs to remain respected. That’s not hate – that’s called not having rose-tinted glasses on, and looking at how this plays out in the real world with real bodies.

Now, anyone who disagrees with me is entitled to do so. It’s called freedom to hold beliefs and express them. However, being free to say anything we want, in any way we want, anywhere we want I consider to be debatable. Free speech purists would give me a good telling off about that, which they’d be free to do. But at 64 years old, one thing I’m not, is pure. To digress a little, funnily enough my name, Katrina, which is derived from Katherine, means ‘pure’ 🙂 I did strive for goodness and purity (in a manner of speaking) along with the legions of other young impressionable woman in the New Age era, but thankfully I eventually got older and bored with that.

Totally free speech is a great concept, but we all have to live together somehow in this big ol’ messy world. As long as human bums point to the ground, we will bicker, scrap, and fight. That’s pretty much what all life on earth does. However, a modicum of manners and civility helps us humans not devolve into beings whose entire language consists of variations of “eff off”. Admittedly, it may be too late for some.

Recently, the Christchurch City Council has taken some harsh measures against a large group who’ve been gathering in Cranmer Square every Sunday morning for the last two months. Cranmer square is a small grassy square with trees lining the perimeter in central Christchurch, and is mostly a residential area. The group, Destiny Church², who oppose the government’s Covid measures, bring in port-a-loos, food trucks, a stage and a sound system, and proceed to hold a church service and make protest speeches. Basically, they hold a noisy event every Sunday morning in a public space for around three hours for which they have no permit. The residents have become seriously p**sed off, and put a flea in the CCC’s ear about it.

This is where the Free Speech Union and I hold differing views. They think that the Christchurch City Council is interfering with Destiny Church’s right to free speech, and I think that the CCC are right to kick Destiny’s Church’s arse for their ongoing disruption. To the Free Speech Union, it’s simple matter of the right to free speech and protest, whereas I think that Destiny Church are being arseholes. If I was living in Cranmer square and have had to listen to a large noisy event every Sunday morning for the last two months, I’d be fit for putting more than a flea in someone’s ear.

So who’s right? Me or the Free Speech Union? Most of the responses – by a handful of mainly male advocates for free speech – to the comment I made on the Free Speech Union’s Facebook page, told me in no uncertain terms, some of which were quite rude and aggressive (it was Facebook, after all), that I was wrong. In their removed world they considered it exactly the same as a Black Lives Matter or a Climate protest taking place. They, including a Free Speech Union admin, saw no difference between a one-off protest march that passes through, to a static one that takes place at the same time in the same place every week. Thank goodness I had them to mansplain my mistake to me.

For some, it’s all about free speech and nothing else. For me, and others, behaviour comes into it as well. Nothing happens in a vacuum without an impact on someone or something. In spite of the fact I believe that Destiny Church can talk about whatever shite they want if they’re not inciting harm, I don’t believe they can behave in any way they want. To me, the saying “your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins” applies here.

In spite of my differing stance on this with the Free Speech Union, I like that they’re here, and that they won’t cancel me for disagreeing with them on this matter. But as with all philosophies, theories, concepts, and beliefs, the question of how they play out in the real world with real people always needs to be asked.

¹Revenge of the ‘cancelled’ – A B’Old Woman (aboldwoman.com)

²Destiny Church (New Zealand) – Wikipedia

12 thoughts on “How much should we tolerate in the cause of free speech?

  1. lettersquash

    You should have joined the Free Speech Within Reason Union. I agree, these things cannot be absolutes, as any absolutist on free speech would soon find out if you stood outside their window telling them how free you are through a loud hailer every day at around 2 am. for a couple of hours.

    I often wonder why the town in my local church is allowed to make such a din for so long practising their bell-ringing (during the day), when I’m working about a mile away and it’s disruptive to me, and there are businesses and living quarters right next to the place. I’m pretty sure I’d get arrested for disturbing the peace if I did anything comparable.

    But yes, there are too many people think they should be protected from any damage that might be caused to the fantasies in their heads by mere words entering their eyes and ears.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha – the Free Speech Within Reason Union 🙂 Interesting conundrum about the church bells, I agree. I wonder if I would feel the same, or rather like them? No accounting for taste, eh?

      I can guarantee that, despite their protestations to the contrary, those free speech absolutists on facebook who disagreed with me would NOT tolerate a loud hailer outside their residence at 2am. The very intolerance they showed to me disagreeing with the Free Speech Union’s stance kind of gave them away.

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  2. It’s tricky isn’t it! I had a vociferous (and for me, enjoyable) discussion with my brother about whether one should be allowed to express racist views. He maintained that some views have to be de-platformed and suppressed (though obviously you can’t stop people being racist in their own living rooms). My case was that it would be better to argue against or laugh at them. But I’m not sure…I always think of those loathsome radio broadcasts exhorting hutus to kill Tutsis in Rwanda. There’s a line somewhere. As is the case with so many human activities, it’s complicated.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, it is tricky. The only benchmarks I can come up with, and they’re not infallible, is to draw the line at inciting actual harm through speech, and to look at how the beliefs a speaker might be advocating play out in the real world with real people. As obnoxious as a racist might be, I think they should be allowed to express their beliefs in public, because at least we can refute them, and we can see and hear what they’re up to. I know of a number of Maori people who slam European New Zealanders with impunity. Their anger may be justified, but if they weren’t allowed to express it, how would that be?

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  3. Yes, I agree with you. It’s one thing to express your views freely in speech and another entirely to trespass or wake the neighbours up at an ungodly hour. I agree with your trans views too and describe myself as gender critical. I read Helen Joyce’s book called Trans last year which was really great.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ditto re: being gender critical. I haven’t read that book, but have only heard good things about it. It’s so easy to see the massive flaws in trans ideology once they’re laid out, it’s no wonder the trans lobby and supporters want all opposing views and those who speak them silenced and cancelled.

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  4. Men allowing themselves access to ladies’ rooms is absurd in my book as well, Katrina. Destiny Church loudmouths sound like arseholes indeed.
    I like the way Nat Hentoff expressed the conundrum: “Free speech for me, but not for thee.” There are quite a few bloodied noses out there and this place is looking more like a bunch of armed camps. Civility is a lost art.
    Speaking of loudmouths, were you able to hear the eruption on Tonga?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, I heard nothing, Bill, but I believe that some people who live near the top of the North Island heard something. It sounds like it was a massive eruption! I’ve been waiting to see if an appeal for donations is set up so I can donate something towards the recovery, but I expect that will come after the immediate emergency is dealt with. Is the USA sending an emergency team to Tonga? I remember that a team from the USA came to Christchurch after our earthquake in 2011. I have a picture (not taken by me) of one of the search and rescue guys lying on the road propped up against an abandoned car, eyes shut, having a rest when and where he can.

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  5. sptownsend

    I like the comment Bill made about ‘free speech for me but not for thee’. That applies to many of the appeals to the right to personal freedom. ‘I want to do what I like, irrespective of the impact on others, but they have to behave themselves so nothing has a negative impact on me’.

    Slightly tangentially, there is an excellent in the latest issue of The Lancet about the concept of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination. It’s worth a read as its treatment of the concept of human rights and freedoms has an important message that is applicable beyond the sphere of vaccination.

    https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)02873-7/fulltext

    Liked by 1 person

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