RNZ reports that three people were arrested during clashes between supporters and opponents of Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, also known as Posie Parker, in Melbourne yesterday. That was the cue for Green MPs Ricardo Menendez-March and Elizabeth Kerekere, tireless free speech champions both, to insist that the government deny Keen-Minshull a visa.
Failing that, Kerekere thinks Keen-Minshull should be denied access to speaking venues, as happened to the Canadians Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux in 2018. (Still unsure what hateful ideas the Canadians supposedly intended to disseminate? Me too. We were prevented from hearing them, so couldn’t judge them for ourselves. The protesters made sure of that.)
Here’s a radical suggestion. Anti-Vietnam War protesters in the 1960s used the slogan “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came”. The same idea could be applied to speaking tours by people the woke Left dislike. They could just ignore them. But of course that would deny the woke Left a chance to parade their outrage in the front of the TV cameras. Publicity opportunities like that are just too good to pass up, especially when sympathetic media are always keen to frame the confrontations as a fight against the dark forces of the far Right.
From a broader perspective, the denial of a visa or speaking venues to Keen-Minshull would again signal to the enemies of free speech, as with Southern and Molyneux, that they can shut down people they don’t like simply by threatening disruption. What could be simpler than to orchestrate a confrontation with the other side and then blame them for any unpleasantness that eventuates? In the meantime, freedom of speech has taken another hit – which of course is the objective.
Here’s another radical suggestion. Is this whole furore essentially a contest between two sets of noisy exhibitionists? I suspect both sides are immensely gratified by all the attention. I know nothing about Posie Parker, but the cute moniker suggests that she’s not averse to a bit of self-promotion. Then of course there are the tut-tutting media, who are part of the problem. In an ideal universe, they would all be locked in a room together. The rest of the world could be left to get on with things that matter.
Now, one more radical idea. LGBTQIA+ activists bombard us constantly via the media with their breast-beating laments about how oppressed they are. They are endlessly inventive in creating new definitions of sexuality or minority status – QTBIPOC, MVPFAFF, BBIPOC – that no one previously knew existed. I have even read one activist complain - seriously - that even now, there are not enough terms to capture all the variants of sexuality that queer people might identify with.
A tiny but very vocal minority have succeeded in capturing the institutions of power with their bullying diversity agenda. They have done this so effectively that they have co-opted mainstream society whether we want it or not.
But here’s the thing: I don’t think most New Zealanders give a toss about how their fellow citizens identify sexually. They rightly regard it as none of their business. On the rare occasions when a person’s sexuality has become a matter of wider interest – for example, Georgina Beyer – the public attitude has been one of acceptance and tolerance.
This, apparently, is not good enough for the activists. It’s not sufficient that the rest of us consider it their right to adopt whatever identity and lifestyle they choose and just get on with it – preferably quietly, as sexual minorities did in the past. They insist on being noticed.
Call it exhibitionism, attention-seeking, whatever. “Look at me – I’m different.” Ultimately, that’s what a lot of the activism over sexual identity seems to be about.
ADDENDUM: To his credit, Nathan Rarere on RNZ's First Up this morning invited Kerekere to explain why Tusiata Avia, author of a so-called poem (ejaculation of bile would be a more appropriate description) encouraging retribution against the descendants of white colonisers, had a right to free speech, yet Keen-Minshull didn't. There was an awkward (I hesitate to say pregnant) pause before Kerekere replied that the latter was guilty of "clear and obvious hate speech". Then she sought refuge in a string of standard woke cliches ... marginalised people blah blah ... rainbow communities blah blah .... that totally failed to substantiate her answer.
Hate speech? Really? We don't even know what Keen-Minshull has been saying at her rallies (the media don't bother to tell us), but as far as I'm aware she's a feminist who insists that men can't be women - a proposition that the vast majority of New Zealanders would consider harmless and unremarkable. Avia's poem, on the other hand, can't be interpreted in any way other than as an explicit approval of racially motivated violence. But there are no prizes for guessing which one of the two will be on the guest list at the next round of literary festivals.
Karl du Fresne, a freelance journalist, is the former editor of The Dominion newspaper. He blogs at karldufresne.blogspot.co.nz.