Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons

A "free speech coalition" is planning a judicial review of Auckland mayor Phil Goff's decision to ban a pair of visiting Nazis from speaking in a council venue. A judicial review is welcome: I think Goff has behaved illegally, and should be forced to obey the law. At the least, it will clarify the law on freedom of speech in New Zealand in a useful way. At the same time, this "free speech coalition" looks a little odd:

It was being supported by former Labour Party minister Dr Michael Bassett, former National Party and ACT leader Dr Don Brash and business leader and Property Institute chief executive Ashley Church.

Also in favour was Auckland University senior lecturer Dr David Cumin, Canterbury University academic Melissa Derby, lawyer Stephen Franks, AUT professor Paul Moon, broadcaster Lindsay Perigo, writer Rachel Poulain, political commentator Chris Trotter and Taxpayers' Union executive director Jordan Williams.

If you were wanting to run a principled free speech campaign, then simply as a matter of PR, it might be a good idea not to have so many outright racists in it. Or people who have been outright hostile to free speech in the past. And be led by someone who hasn't called for critics of the government to have their arts funding cut. And OTOH, at least this time they're doing the right thing, if almost certainly for the wrong reasons.