Dr Don Brash
Founding Member
Free Speech Coalition

As you know, last week the Free Speech Coalition were finally in court – standing up to the ‘thug’s veto’ enabled by Phil Goff and Auckland Council caving into protesters who threatened to disrupt a totally legal speaking event that was scheduled at a Council-owned venue.

But without any sense of irony, a comedian whose career has been based on jokes about racial stereotypes was leading the charge against us.  Apparently we picked the wrong cause…

In an opinion piece published across New Zealand in Stuff newspapers, comedian Raybon Kan opined:

Don’t help white supremacists by fighting their legal battles

I’m not against free speech. That would be odd for a comedian. What I’m against is the Free Speech Coalition.

It is amazing how many people say they ‘support free speech’ but…

A year ago, when Canadian white supremacist trolls Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern were denied a venue booking by Auckland City Council, the Free Speech Coalition’s response wasn’t to giggle, or applaud, or high-five. Instead, this brought the Free Speech Coalition into existence. Politically disparate individuals – well-known, educated people – suddenly danced in sync, a flashmob, assembling as if Avengers for the Canadian pair.

The first of many errors.  It wasn’t that the council wouldn’t take the booking, the council de-platformed the Canadians after “Auckland Peace Action” kicked up a fuss and the Mayor got involved.

Don Brash. Chris Trotter. Stephen Franks. Jordan Williams. Lindsay Perigo. Paul Moon. Ashley Church. David Cumin. Melissa Derby. Rachel Poulain. I hope I didn’t leave anyone out.

Literally overnight, these people managed to find each other’s phone numbers, incorporate an organisation, hire a web developer, open a bank account, and set up a crowdfunding site – all to raise money to sue Auckland Council over a couple of cackling white supremacists. Overnight.

This ‘name and shame’ tar brush of ‘white supremacy’ isn’t even advocacy.  I am proud that a dozen or so of us got together for a worthy cause, and that such a broad range of Kiwis have financially supported the coalition and made this work possible.

To the Free Speech Coalition, a venue cancellation for white supremacists was a moral emergency. It couldn’t think of anything more urgent.

The coalition didn’t spend this time making a sandwich for a homeless person. It didn’t plant a tree.

It didn’t even bake a cake, just so a dog nearby could perk up at the scent. Instead, the group went and bought fresh art supplies to paint a dollar-sign smile on the faces of white supremacists.

In my view, the Free Speech Coalition would have contributed more to society, this entire year, if it had just got in a room, cranked up Pornhub, and gone for it ambidextrously till exhaustion.

Unlike Raybon Kan, you and I understand that this issue was never about the controversial speakers.  I can honestly say that I had never even heard of Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern prior to Phil Goff getting up on his high horse and claiming that he had banned them.

The Free Speech Coalition and the litigation effort was always about protecting the principle: we can’t let the protesting mob, or opportunistic politicians, be the decision-makers about who you and I can (and cannot) hear from.

Let’s talk about free speech. Fine, OK, whatever – racists, white supremacists, Nazis – they probably, maybe, do have the right to free speech.

But don’t tell them that. And certainly don’t pay a lawyer to tell them that.

Helpful tip: whenever the opportunity arises to be of assistance to white supremacists, look away, cough, and cross the street. That’s the least you can do, morally.

This is the cheap shot in the article.  The whole point of defending free speech is defending the rights of the very speakers you do not necessarily agree with, or even find repugnant.  Otherwise, you’re not really defending free speech at all.

Raybon goes on:

[…] On TV, Chris Trotter quoted Voltaire: “I find what you say repugnant, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

I say: pick something better to die for. The Amazon is on fire. Kids are hungry. Berms need mowing. My to-do list is a three-volume trilogy, and even so, the financial and emotional sponsorship of white supremacists doesn’t quite make the cut.

If you find someone’s views repugnant, don’t help them plug in speakers and turn up the volume.

If you find someone’s views repugnant, don’t buy them ink to print out their manifesto.

Don’t search for the most repugnant deplorables, to lend them moral support.

Don’t make their victory your victory.

Pick a side.[…]

Radio NZ’s coverage of the court case was equally disappointing in playing the politics rather than the principle. Having sat in court for two days listening to interesting legal arguments, our state broadcaster took similarly cheap shots:

NZ’s right-wing turn up in force for controversial free speech case

For the past two days room eight in Auckland’s High Court has been home to some of the country’s notable right-wing figures, who are bent on affirming the speaking rights of two controversial Canadians.

The man behind the Orewa speech, Don Brash, made an appearance yesterday, and Jordan Williams from the Taxpayers’ Union has been listening intently in the public gallery, a few seats down from a man in a MAGA (Make Ardern Go Away) hat.

Old Conservative Party leader Colin Craig also poked his head around the door at one point, although he was in the building for another reason – to face defamation action brought by a former party colleague.

On the court documents, University of Auckland anaesthesiology lecturer David Cumin is listed as one applicant, would-be Dunedin Mayor, climate change denier, Donald Trump supporter and rare books dealer Malcolm Moncrief-Spittle the other.

So what? If someone was taking objection to Raybon Kan’s jokes about race, it would probably be left-wing figures at the back of the court. And of course, I am taking a keen interest in this case – I was stopped from speaking at Massey University on the same sort of ‘health and safety’ excuses grounds that the Auckland council and mayor are trying to use.

Raybon says pick a side: Pick protecting free speech over mob rule

As you can see we’re up against a media and establishment that just don’t get it.  They prefer cheap shots to try and bully and marginalise our cause, because they are confident (I would argue, very naively!) that they themselves will not be in the gun.  

So protecting free speech relies on our work continuing and your financial support so the Free Speech Coalition can continue to fight for free speech in New Zealand.  We will even stand up for people we disagree with – like Raybon Kan.

So I am asking you to take up Raybon’s invitation at the end of his article and pick a side.

Pick the side of free speech by making a donation to the Free Speech Coalition so we can continue our work fighting for the cause.