ACT Party, Freedom of speech and Stephen Berry

Before starting this blog post I have to make two points. The first point is that I am a former member of the ACT Party but I’m no longer a member but when I was a member I fit into the socially libertarian wing of the party (with other side being angry ex-National Party members/Maxim Institute fanboys/those who romanticised the tea party from the US). The second point is is to differentiate between condoning an action vs. passing a law to make an action illegal – if you view the legal system to fix societal ills then you’ll take one position where as if you view it (as I do) as way to ensure that one persons freedom does not impede another persons then you’ll take a different position. I’ll write in a point based post because it allows a clear set of statements I want to make without the messy interpolating that can occur when jumping between subjects resulting in ambiguity in interpretation:

1) The question that was posed to Stephen Berry was in regards to the scenario of a transgendered person being told to go ‘kill themselves’ on the internet and although I agree with the principle and underlying thrust of his argument the reply was said in a rather flippant and uncaring manner. Personally I would have started off condemning the action of the hypothetical person who said such a thing online but I would have then followed up with a carefully worded explanation of what I see the legal system is for, the problems faced when you start prosecuting people for ‘mean things’ said on the internet etc. That being said, having been at such an event when I ran for Parliament in Wigram in Christchurch the amount of time afforded for a exhaustive answer is rather limited – terse and snappy replies are sometimes the only way to get complex ideas across (see the abysmal interview with Sue Bradford over the anti-smacking bill – I’m no Sue Bradford fan but the interviewer spent no time actually unpacking a complex philosophical issues regarding the relationship that a child has to their parents vs. the state).

2) Regarding the critics talking about the ACT Party’s opposition to the Human Rights Act (or in same cases, the belief by some MPs that certain things shouldn’t be covered by the law such as sexuality or in 2008 where a business didn’t want mothers to breastfeed their baby in their establishment), it isn’t that the party supports discrimination but the belief that firstly as a private individual (and in turn, organisation you own such as a business) have a right to decide who you wish to associate with or serve, and secondly that the best way of dealing with such discrimination (we’re talking about within the private sector, anti-discrimination as so far as the public sector is something that pretty much most libertarian leaning people support) is allowing the private marketplace, through rational self interest, deal with it.

When I talk about rational self interest I am referring to the business owner’s desire to make money will override any prejudice because he or she values money over upholding their prejudicial views. Keeping in mind that it is ‘in theory’ – something I don’t agree with given that people are quite prepared to cut their own nose off to spite their face especially if there is communal retribution for failing to tow the generally accepted line by the community at large or simply that they’ll claim ‘religious beliefs’ as a mask in justification of their discrimination.

3) Although one should wary of the slippery slope fallacy (if we do X, what is next? Y? Z?) it is important to understand that you cannot just simply go after a person who makes a single ‘mean post’ on the internet or otherwise there will be hundreds of police hours wasted on something that quite frankly can be resolved by the complainant blocking the person in question. That was the question being posed – not an active campaign of harassment but a single once off remark online. When dealing with a ‘mean comment’ where is the line drawn? I don’t agree with your assessment of the so-called ‘earnings gap’ between men and women you then go Chanty Binx (aka ‘Big Red’) by labelling anyone as a misogynist and harasser? That the boundaries of freedom of speech are dictated by your feelings and whether your emotional instability makes you do something stupid which therefore makes the person posting the said comment responsible for the actions you take? is it uncaring to actually say that the receiving party in question also has responsibility for the actions they take or are they just automatons that run on external stimuli?

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