The political establishment from all sides have rallied this week against freedom of speech and expression. Wicked Campervans, a holiday van hire company, graffiti their vans with ‘offensive’ art and slogans for marketing purposes to distinguish themselves from the other players in the field. Admittedly the slogans are sexist, crass, and might even say, rude. In other news apparently government ministers from both sides of the aisle received memos from the North Korean regime instructing them on how to crush differing opinions that do not fit within the narrow band of white middle-class discourse.
New Zealanders think they are supporters of freedom, a centre pillar of which is the freedom to say and express whatever they will. It’s a shame though that New Zealanders wouldn’t recognise a political principle if it were a grain of sand on a beach. “Freedom of speech, but only in certain circumstances, and only for me”. Those that defend the company’s right to have these slogans on their vans generally say that it’s funny and people need to get a sense of humour. While this might be true, all one needs to do is point to the principle of freedom of speech. Voltaire has been misquoted as saying that, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” This doesn’t just apply to political rhetoric. All speech is protected, even the most heinous and odious.
People who disagree with the company’s rhetoric say they should be censored, and forced to change their vans because it offends them. One woman worried about the kids! Always the kids! Their precious little minds if exposed to such words might shatter into a thousand tiny pieces. Guess what fucktards your shitty arguments offend me, and my mind might explode in second if you don’t shut up. Does that mean I should censor you? No. Of course not, because that would be ridiculous. I’m being hyperbolic to get my point across. Since people disagree on what is and isn’t offensive in different times and places, the principle of freedom to express whatever one wishes, has the added bonus that we don’t have to decide. Everything is on the table, we all free to say what we will, and no one has the right to censor any other.
But how then do we stop an anarchic state of mud-slinging from developing in public discourse. Through reason. Liberal ideas that most of us all agree with in the 21st century have come about because they have been argued for with stronger reasoned arguments, not because we forcibly shut our opponents’ mouths. If you think sexism is wrong, have some reasons for that, not just because you were told to think that way. Censoring people like Wicked Campers does nothing to educate the young people of the difference between acceptable and unacceptable public discourse. If parents are worried that their children will be exposed to such content, they should do their jobs as parents and teach their children to think for themselves critically and to recognise of their own fruition that sexist comments are wrong.
The involvement of the government in all of this demonstrates firstly that they don’t give a crap about freedom of speech, and second, they will swing on the pendulum of public opinion in order to appear as though they are expressing the will of the majority. Some things are off the table for discussion for a reason; to stop dipshit governments from attacking fundamental rights. The worst part of the government’s role in this however is the crackdown on fun they are so hell-bent on pursuing. The vans’ slogans are intended as jokes, and are meant to be a bit of fun. As soon as anyone has fun outside the narrow band of middle white New Zealand the sky falls in and people go into a nervous meltdown worse than any Fukushima or Chernobyl.
New Zealanders like the person who wrote this article (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11608638) need to grow up, and maybe read a book or two on political rights. There are more important things happening in the world than some words on the backs of some vans. Instead of writing easy fluff pieces about how the nation is outraged at some “not very nice looking vans”, how’s about they do their job and critique the government.