If I’m going to die in a ditch over something then free speech is that ditch.
Likely it would not be a pleasant ditch all filled with green spring grass, fresh watercress and random flowering bulbs.
I suspect it’d be more of a watery ditch overflowing with the detritus of the 21st century - Coke cans, dead birds, used condoms - all serving to remind me, as I take my last gurgling gasp, that death isn’t so bad.
I'm not scared of death. I’m scared of a life where speech is watched, surveilled, curtailed, sanctioned, and therefore totally skewed because of it. Kind of how things are right now.
I’m a writer. Of course I feel this way.
To observe the New Zealand media vilifying and reputationally destroying those who dare to go against the Covid/vaccine narrative has been sobering. Except that it takes a gulp (or seven) of high-proof booze to make that particular medicine go down, and even then I’m left gagging.
STUFF’s Paula Penfold released her Fire and Fury “documentary” - I use the term loosely - to deservedly bad reviews, and to an unhappy cohort of “anti-vax, fascist, conspiracy theorists”. It smelled like pure revenge.
I forced myself to watch but it was a tough task. Seeing something so amateur, blatantly biased, and borderline defamatory from a journalist who was once respected, wasn't easy. The gleeful “othering’ of her fellow New Zealanders was also deeply nauseating, and the emotive music steered you decisively towards the “bad guys”.
The same week Fire and Fury came out, hit piece after hit piece appeared alongside it on STUFF’s pages. The targets were candidates standing for local government who had shown the unmitigated gall of ever once questioning the Covid response, or the vaccine, or the mandates. Shark-like journalists had clearly spent hours trolling through their social media accounts looking for any traces of blood in the water - no matter how tiny.
These candidates may sometimes listen to Counterspin or be involved with Voices for Freedom - or once just emailed them, or commented on a Facebook post. They may have ‘liked’ a comment deemed devilish by the arbiters of all things pure. The threshold did not appear all that high as to who would be ‘targeted’ by media drones.
Journalists keep repeating some strange heady brew about how these “right wing fascists” are trying to infiltrate democracy and overthrow it. Last time I looked democracy was about encouraging diversity of viewpoints and civic duty. Wasn’t it?
I mean, if their views are as heinous as they keep saying, they simply won’t get voted in. Right? Or, if they do, are they somehow more hateful and radical than, say, the Greens or the Maori Party? Or even Labour? Believe it or not, not everybody views Labour as “kind”.
Does media no longer trust voters to make up their own minds because we’re all as thick as planks?
Do they not see how this looks? It’s divisive, elitist and arrogant. It portends the end of legacy media, and it’s entirely deserved because ‘hate’ is a two-way street. Asserting that democracy should be available solely for people who think like them is not really a winnable strategy for the cohesion of a tiny fractious country at the bottom of the world. What’s the end game here?
Media now openly cheer the pin being pulled on Chantelle Baker’s Facebook page, or Avi Yemini of Rebel News not being allowed to enter the country, or any act of free speech cancellation/censorship that fits their current political sensibilities. I mean, if journalists don’t understand free speech and all that it underpins in a democratic society, then I don’t know what to tell you.
Things cannot go on like this. If media keeps using their fast-expiring social licence to continually tell a sizeable chunk of the Kiwi population that they’re “loony tunes” - rather than rationally trying to find out why so many feel so deeply disenfranchised - then they’ll be blood in the water alright. And not just tiny traces, but bloody great globules.
Me? I’ll be lying in that watery ditch somewhere. Or maybe, just maybe, winning on a hill. If I were a gambling person, my bet’s on the ditch.
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Indeed! Things are inside out, back to front, and upside down. I'm even sure we'd quite like each other in person.
And since the Herald days, I have awakened to the dire straits we find ourselves in. Thanks for your comment. Best to you.
Thank you for watching Fire and Fury so others don't have to.
Sadly I do think it can and will go on, like some eastern bloc country where everybody knows they're full of it but nothing changes. Life goes on but things suck and stay stucking.
Until somebody does something about it, anyway.