Sunday, September 10, 2006



"Hate speech"

The Exclusive Brethren are complaining about being subjected to "hate speech" in Parliament. And what were the anti-Green and anti-Labour pamphlets they produced last election then? Swiss cheese?

If you give it out, you get it back. You can't participate in politics in a dirty and underhanded manner and then get upset when people point the fact out or call your motives into question. To do so is purest hypocrisy. But then, "hypocrisy" pretty much describes the "we won't vote because its dirty" Brethren's attempt to buy election victory for their friends in National. Or indeed, their squealing "hate speech" when they oppose any attempt at extending such protection to, say, gays.

Quite apart from that, this is setting the bar rather low. The comments the Brethren are objecting to include being labelled an extremist group, a weird sect, and a bunch of "chinless scarf-wearers". The first two comments are entirely true - the Brethren are extremist, and they are weird; there's just no other way to describe people who think government is "ordained by god". The latter was gratuitously insulting, and the member in question was forced to withdraw and apologise. But if that's "hate-speech", then you really have to wonder what isn't...

35 comments:

I/S:

WEll, if we're talking about pure hypocrisy perhaps Trevor Mallard will care to share his view of weird Christian cults exerting disproportionate (and less than entirely open) influence on secular politics next time he visits Ratana Pa. I won't hold my breath waiting though...

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 9/10/2006 05:39:00 PM

It will be very interesting to see the HRC's rulings. Does the HRC believe that they can look into matters that happen under Parliamentary privilege?

Posted by Anonymous : 9/10/2006 06:48:00 PM

Craig: indeed. Though its worth noting that its not just Labour courting Ratana now.

Anon: I doubt it; what would be likely to happen would be for a commissioner to issue a mildy-worded warning to politicians about he need to avoid villifying anyone. But here, I think the Brethren are being a little bit too precious, particularly given their willingness to sling the shit around themselves.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/10/2006 07:12:00 PM

I/S:

To be fair, I've got a fair number of Ratana in the whanau and they'd all be quite happy if all politicans were elsewhere next time they gather to celebrate their founder's birthday, and the Ratana movement formally disengaged from party politics. Despite the snark, I respect their beliefs and they're as free to exercise their political freedoms as anyone else. But if they're going to drag the ballot box into the pulpit there are consequences to be worn.

Having said that, the EB aren't being subjected to 'hate speech' but the tantrums of a more than usually childish and vindictive politician. (FFS, Trevor - "You're weird and your Mummy dresses you funny." What is this, your audition for Bitchy Cheerleader #1 in an episode of Veronica Mars?) Just like various whingers in the Catholic & Anglican Churches, Muslim religious leaders etc., they've got to suck it up and stop expecting religious deference in the public square.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 9/10/2006 08:05:00 PM

I/S:

To be fair, I've got a fair number of Ratana in the whanau and they'd all be quite happy if all politicans were elsewhere next time they gather to celebrate their founder's birthday, and the Ratana movement formally disengaged from party politics. Despite the snark, I respect their beliefs and they're as free to exercise their political freedoms as anyone else. But if they're going to drag the ballot box into the pulpit there are consequences to be worn.

Having said that, the EB aren't being subjected to 'hate speech' but the tantrums of a more than usually childish and vindictive politician. (FFS, Trevor - "You're weird and your Mummy dresses you funny." What is this, your audition for Bitchy Cheerleader #1 in an episode of Veronica Mars?) Welcome to secular politics. Just like the storm of faith-based whinging about South Park from various Christian and Muslim clerics, they've got to stop expecting religious deference in the public square just because they decide to exercise their civil rights.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 9/10/2006 08:08:00 PM

Campaigning aside, I do find it rather weird that the EB spend so much time watching from the public gallery, given their so called aversion to politics...but I guess the cat's out of the bag now so they might as well run with it.

Posted by Xavier : 9/10/2006 10:14:00 PM

Xavier: how else are they going to find out what their party is doing? Watch TV?

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/10/2006 10:19:00 PM

That is the surrealist irony: The Exclusive Brethren having to attend Parliament to watch the political party they have bought off because their religion prohibits the watching of Television.

Posted by Xavier : 9/10/2006 10:33:00 PM

Craig,

If it was a bunch of hard-left Maoists (a la Pol Pot) who were funding the Greens or Labour Party to the tune of millions of dollars you would have a problem with it, no?

Take the time to examine some real history and background of the EB's. There is much more to it than some quaint technophobe beliefs and scarf-wearing. These guys ARE our own home-grown Taliban, and just as dangerous. Are you REALLY happy for them to be backing National as powerfully as they are? Freedom of speech yes, but these guys are buying a LOT more "free speech" than you or I have.

Posted by Logix : 9/10/2006 10:38:00 PM

I'm pretty sure that the HRC has no jurisdiction over what happens in Parliament. Parliamentary Privilege (when it kicks in) is pretty much absolute.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 9/10/2006 11:07:00 PM

Logix:

I do know quite a bit about the Exclusive Bretheren - including their views on homosexuals and the Roman Catholic Church. (Cliff Notes version: Not a lot, squared.) I've also taken some time to find out a bit about the Taliban, so pardon me if I think that, however distasteful I find their beliefs, any equation with the Taliban (who I've also found out a lot more about than I really want to know) is offensively cheap rhetoric.

Here's a notion, Logix, and it appears to escape certain elements of both the left and the right. Citizens of this country enjoy civil and political rights that aren't conditional on their race, gender, sexual orientation, income, occupation, political beliefs... or how fucking weird and offensive I happen to find the religious beliefs of the majority of New Zealanders who aren't Roman Catholic.

And for the benefit of Tristan, there are many professed Catholics (including myself)who use condoms or take oral contraceptives in contravention of the Church's clear teachings on their use. Is any Muslim with a mortgage or a credit card breeching the Koranic prohibition against riba (usury)? Enormously controverial question that can depend on who you speak to. Perhaps you shouldn't be too disingenuously outraged that not every person of faith lives in perfect conformity with doctrine.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 9/11/2006 12:32:00 AM

Logix: I think the reason any sensible right-winger would be upset about the Brethren so openly backing National is because the mixing of religion and politics is pure poison in this country now, and frightens a lot of people.

Craig: Citizens of this country enjoy civil and political rights that aren't conditional on their race, gender, sexual orientation, income, occupation, political beliefs...

Absolutely. But that doesn't mean we have to approve of what they say, refrain from criticism, or from noting that the intrusion of religion into politics is both unusual and unwelcome.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/11/2006 01:55:00 AM

I/S wrote:
Absolutely. But that doesn't mean we have to approve of what they say, refrain from criticism, or from noting that the intrusion of religion into politics is both unusual and unwelcome.

Not at all, but I hope those citicisms will be careful, temperate and avoid demonising adherents of certain religions because, well, you don't like them. Otherwise, we're on the path back to the really nasty strain of anti-Catholicism that muttered that the Labour Party and union movement was full of Irish Catholics who, everyone knew, would overthrow the King and have us all kissing the Pope's ring by lunchtime given the chance.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 9/11/2006 07:35:00 AM

Craig: Otherwise, we're on the path back to the really nasty strain of anti-Catholicism that muttered that the Labour Party and union movement was full of Irish Catholics who, everyone knew, would overthrow the King and have us all kissing the Pope's ring by lunchtime given the chance.

Wheras I was going to compare the link between the Brethren and National with Reform and the PPA, who were the people who did that vile muttering (except they hate the "godless" - meaning people who aren't like them - rather than Catholics). That sort of politicisation of religion and sectarian warfare is not really something I want to see return.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/11/2006 08:31:00 AM

I/S wrote:
That sort of politicisation of religion and sectarian warfare is not really something I want to see return.

Certainly not, and as a Catholic with a sense of my own church's history I've come to the conclsion that such "politicisation" poisons faith as much as the body politic. But there's a difference between asserting that, and saying there's no place for people to inform their politics with faith. As I've said elsewhere, was the civil rights movement in the United States (or the abolitionist movement) less worthwhile because so much of it was explicitly framed as not only a political injustice, but an offence against any properly understood Christian values? I'm not saying you're wrong, but that I think we've all got to be careful not to respond to extremism by lurching all the way to the other extreme. There's got to be a sensible middle ground.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 9/11/2006 09:18:00 AM

Insofar as the Exclusive Brethren go, what I really object to is their repeated covert operations and dishonesty on prior occassions.

It's not only last year's New Zealand general election, but also the Tasmanian state election, and using front groups to lobby against same-sex marriage in Canada that I strongly dislike.

Granted, the EBs do have a right to lobby on behalf of certain governments. Go right ahead, in fact. Historically, New Zealanders have been quite resistant to the Christian Right writing cheques for the centre-right over the last two decades or so- 1987, 1996 and 2005 demonstrate they scare off mainstream urban liberal voters.

Ironically, the Exclusive Brethren factor may have insured a Labour victory last year...

Craig Y.

Posted by Anonymous : 9/11/2006 09:36:00 AM

So what you're saying, I/S, is that it's legitimate to attack the EB messengers because they have strange beliefs and customs, and ignore their message.

Does that mean it's legitimate to ignore the message of Maori because many Maori are criminals? Or since physical abuse is so prevalent in Pacific culture--and there are often "cultural excuses" for that--political commentators should ignore what they're saying?

The EBs are unusual, yes. But either they've got the same rights and privileges of the rest of our diverse society, or they don't. You either accept them as part of our diverse society, or you don't. On the extremity scale, they are no more extreme than many muslims, hindus, Chinese, Green Party supporters, atheists, lesbians, or persons over the age of 65.

The great irony is that a party that claims it embraces diversity so vehemently attacks one group for being diverse, simply because this diverse group opposes the Labour Party.

Posted by Insolent Prick : 9/11/2006 10:04:00 AM

IP said:
The great irony is that a party that claims it embraces diversity so vehemently attacks one group for being diverse, simply because this diverse group opposes the Labour Party.

Talk about making me laugh so hard I fell off my chair! The EB described as "diverse"?!? Sure, if by diverse you mean very different from a lot of other people. But if by "being diverse" you meant that their is diversity within the group, or that they are tolerant of diversity in others, then the EB most certainly isn't "being diverse".

Should we tolerate intolerance? I'm not suggesting we go out and give wedgies to anyone who ever said "sheesh I'm not sure about those homos", but shouldn't we at least call people on their intolerance? Otherwise things all get a bit too post-modern for me.

Posted by Span : 9/11/2006 10:38:00 AM

Craig: I'm not trying to argue that people's politics shouldn't be informed by their religious beliefs. Your values are a core part of you, and as you point out, people motivated in this way have caused a lot of progress (I'm also reminded of IIRC Walter Nash, who responded to the claim that the first Labour government's policies were "applied socialism" with the reply that they were "applied christianity"). But when people start screaming about "godless" government, as if that somehow makes it bad, or trying to impose their religious views on areas which simply aren't part of the domain of public policy (such as what people do in bed), then those among us who have read about previous sectarianism, or the seventeenth century, or who pay attention to US politics and its toxic religious strain tend to get a little twitchy.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/11/2006 10:53:00 AM

I examined the EB Green leaflet in detail I/S. Fuck knows why you think it qualifies as hate speech. It pointed out Green policy. It was reasonably factual. Just because Jeanette says it wasn't, didn't make it so.

The "eviction notices" sent out by Labour (or a Union lackey?) were far far worse.

That aside, being called "chinless scarf wearers" is hardly hate speech, but comments like that (and others the P.M. made) does show that Labour's "tolerance" is mainly window dressing.

Posted by ZenTiger : 9/11/2006 10:54:00 AM

IP: No, I'm saying that they are being just a bit too precious and hypocritical, given what they've done, to complain when they get it back.

As for the Brethren themselves, I don't really give a rat's arse what they do, provided they keep their god from pissing on my lawn.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/11/2006 10:55:00 AM

Is the irony of the EBs complaining to the HRC lost on everyone? I am glad, hopefully the HRC will look seriously into the activities of this cult and expose it for what Nick Smith described as a "sinister, abusive, anti-family" organisation. Then we can judge National and IP for their strange bedfellows.

Posted by noddy : 9/11/2006 11:11:00 AM

Craig,

The legal and ethical right for the EB's to hold whatever whacked out fundamentalist views they choose is not at question. It never was. However the moment they chose to involve themselve in such a high profile manner in public political life, then examination and criticism of those beliefs is absolutely fair game.

OK so comparing them to the Taliban is a cheapshot. At the same time consider the outcome IF the EB's were ever to achieve the same power here in NZ that the Taliban managed to seize in Afghanistan. A hypothetical question for sure, but one with an uncomfortable answer however you spin it.

Posted by Logix : 9/11/2006 12:06:00 PM

I/S:

"But when people start screaming about godless" government... SNIP ...tend to get little twitchy."

I think it's important that "twitchy" doesn't end up as a demand that values steming from religious belief are silenced in the public sphere.

One way of silencing people is through mockery. Not sincere criticism or throughtful debate, but a campaign of bullying under the guise of free speech is a form of silencing public engagement.

So for example the chinless scarf wearing comment is a prime example. It adds nothing to the policitical discourse.

Posted by muerk : 9/11/2006 12:11:00 PM

people, could i state for the record that this is the most well-argued, balanced and reasonable comments page i've ever read?

for what it's worth, my 2c on the matter is simple. "EB, if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas".

which part of the political spectrum that applies to is up for interpretation.

Posted by che tibby : 9/11/2006 12:33:00 PM

"One way of silencing people is through mockery."

True. Another way is through blackmail , taking children away from their parents, ripping families apart in the name of God. Some things *are* relative.

http://www.caic.org.au/biblebase/brethren/ricksmith%20speech.htm
Site down right now)

Google cache here:
http://66.102.7.104/search?q=cache:l-ACmIhAeikJ:www.caic.org.au/biblebase/brethren/ricksmith%2520speech.htm+%22nick+smith%22+exclusive+brethren+site:.au&hl=en&gl=nz&ct=clnk&cd=2

Posted by noddy : 9/11/2006 12:38:00 PM

Noddy: Damn, that URL really interferes with the formatting.

The speech is in Hansard here.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/11/2006 01:24:00 PM

I/S sorry. Feel free to delete those links given your Hansard reference...

Posted by noddy : 9/11/2006 01:34:00 PM

Noddy:

I don't think you're going to find anyone here carrying water for the EB; but, quietly, I think you'll also find many people in Labour who are a wee bit "twitchy" about the attitudes of some of the religious networks you better be on speaking terms with if you want to get support from the Maori and PI arms in particular. If you're brown, queer and living in Labour's electoral heartland south of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, Ponsonby and Otara might as well be on different planets.

The really annoying thing about being involved in a broad-base political party is nobody is going to be on the same page as everyone else all the time, and they'll quite happily repay the courtesy.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 9/11/2006 01:51:00 PM

Craig - agree with all you say but you know there are plenty Nat supporters and MPs carrying water for the poor, defenceless EBs right now.

When Don ("Mr. gays are not mainstream") Brash went on 95bFM to finally fess up to the connection with the EBs he said he would "accept support from *anybody at all* who wanted to get rid of this lousy government".

Do you have any concerns at all with that statement?

Posted by noddy : 9/11/2006 02:09:00 PM

Hmm I too saw the brethren in the gallery on Wednesday last week. Apparently they have been there every sitting day, often late into the evening on Tuesday and Wednesday

And it seems the press gallery have begun to notice their presence too. I wonder if any journo worth their salt will pull one aside and start asking some questions…

Not a good look for the National party who of course had nothing to do with them.

If I was a Nat strategist id tell them perhaps parliament isn’t the best place for them to be hanging around enjoying the debates and that I would promise to send them the Hansard ?

(fyi, the brethrens I saw were 8 in number, most of them all little older than 16 year old females, all wearing head scarves).

Posted by me too : 9/11/2006 03:14:00 PM

Me Too: Parliament is the people's House, and anyone is allowed to show up to watch it. It looks bad for National, but as Che said, "if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas".

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/11/2006 03:25:00 PM

I/S:
"noting that the intrusion of religion into politics is both unusual and unwelcome."

Craig:
"as a Catholic with a sense of my own church's history I've come to the conclsion that such 'politicisation' poisons faith as much as the body politic. "

I disagree. Mostly in NZ's history religions influence on politics has been a good thing.

One main reason why New Zealand's liberal welfare state came about it was because of support by our liberal churches. The irish-roman-catholic + labour alliance of the 20s, for example.

The mainstream NZ churches opposed the free-market ideas of the 80s, and spoke out against them. The right-wing religious-monetarist alliance that Reagan saw in the US did not occur here because NZs churches just didn't buy it. Roger Douglas's govt passed the homosexual law reform bill, and he voted for it.

Any attempt to impose a set of unwelcome and unnecessary moral constraints on others is something to oppose. But that's not the same as opposing religions being involved in politics.

Posted by Icehawk : 9/11/2006 03:36:00 PM

Icehawk: The mainstream NZ churches opposed the free-market ideas of the 80s, and spoke out against them.

Yes, but you expect Christians to speak out for social justice and a kinder, gentler society. And so it gets stuck in a different mental box from when they start blaming the ills of society on "godlessness" and sinful women in power, or telling people what they can and can't do in their own bedrooms. Though part of it is probably because our Christians doing good works tend not to talk a lot about god while doing so. They didn't oppose the Revolution because it was "ungodly", but because it would result in human suffering. Ditto with their various positions on repealing section 59. I have no doubt that these positions are driven by their Christian values, but they avoid triggering the Capill-detectors and the "keep your religion out of my life" response because its not a big part of their rhetoric.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 9/11/2006 04:08:00 PM

Noddy:
"Another way is through blackmail , taking children away from their parents, ripping families apart in the name of God. Some things *are* relative."

I just think that snide mockery is damaging and negative to public discourse. I think it shuts people down rather than opens people up to understanding or indeed, reform.

Believe me, I am not defending the EB as a Christian sect. I just don't agree with bullying whoever it is directed at.

I/S:
"they avoid triggering the Capill-detectors and the "keep your religion out of my life" response because its not a big part of their rhetoric."

It may not be part of the public rhetoric, but is is the basis for their values. So eg. I say that the economy should be directed towards the general good of society and that individuals should have their rights protected from unscrupulous or cruelly arduous employment. (And I think you agree).

The reason I hold these ideals is because I believe that all people are made in the image of God and that treating people well is a Gospel value preached by Our Lord Jesus Christ. And that as the mystical Body of Christ, the Roman Catholic Church has a God given duty to teach and preach the inalienable dignity of all individuals.

Now at this point, I ask, are you twitchy?

Posted by muerk : 9/11/2006 11:16:00 PM