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Hate Speech Laws by Another Name?

Submission by Speak Up for Women for the DIA Consultation on Safer Online Services and Media Platforms

July 30th 2023

Information about the consultation and how to contribute can be found on the Department of Internal Affairs website here.

Attacking democratic norms

Speak Up for Women (SUFW) opposes the undemocratic nature of the proposed regime, which intends that unelected bodies will write the codes that regulate what is permissible. There is a very real risk the codes will reflect the current ideological preferences of the government, civil service, legacy media, and professional-managerial class which has increasingly shown itself to be out of touch with the wider public on the issue that concerns SUFW, gender ideology. Under this regime ideological opponents will have no recourse.

SUFW is concerned that the proposed approach and structure will effectively empower the “usual suspects” in the gender debate to shut out science realist views. This is in effect hate speech laws via the backdoor. The proposed regime is ripe to be gamed by people who claim moral superiority and who want to exert their own political, philosophical and religious beliefs.

The proposed approach and structure will further enable and embed ideological zealots to shelter themselves and influence policy based on the insular, “Wellington bubble” worldview and assumptions, including the bizarre truth claims and language forms of gender identity believers.

It appears an idea has taken hold in officialdom in Aotearoa New Zealand that the democratic process is only good if the political/media/professional-managerial class can be assured of the outcome, and information should only be permitted to flow freely if it conforms to boundaries set by that same group.

Fears of “harm” are continually talked up by the political and media class, and activists, because in spite of efforts to stop discussion on certain topics and deem some opinions beyond the pale, a true democratic consensus has not been reached on a number of issues important to the public, including gender ideology – rather a false consensus has been imposed. Curia polling commissioned by SUFW shows that most New Zealanders don’t accept gender ideology truth claims. The opinion-shaper class senses this and they don’t like it.

Suspicious that its dogmas are not shared by the wider public, the professional-managerial class and activists are showing increasing

paranoia over the plebs engaging in wrongthink. This strengthens the desire to root out any evidence of ideological non-compliance and maintain the fake consensus lest more people are exposed to the “wrong” ideas. In the minds of our self-appointed moral betters, democracy is only good if it gets them the outcomes they want.

Increased ideological capture

As the concept of gender identity has no material reality and exists only in language, our ideological opponents many of whom are in government, the civil service and NGOs that contract to government, are unstinting in their efforts to demonise, de platform and otherwise silence and declare beyond the pale the expression of doubts about gender, and the expression of science realist beliefs. (Of relevance is the investigation now underway with the IPCA related to the failure to enable a gender critical public event to proceed in Albert Park in March 2023. Also of relevance is the new BSA guidelines which show that the BSA is captured by gender ideologues; also the recent census which shows that the Department of Statistics is captured by gender ideologues).

SUFW is extremely concerned that given the existing ideological capture , the proposed regulator will become an enforcement mechanism for the essentially illiberal claim that there is a “right” to be perceived in a certain way i.e. according to one’s asserted gender identity. We are extremely concerned about the introduction of any structure, process or tool that will enable gender ideologues to implement their demands that other people should be conscripted into the self-perception of those who claim a gender identity, and that the speech and writing of others should be compelled based on this. Again we point out, of relevance is the recent guidance issued by the BSA which asserts genderist concepts such as “mis-gendering”.

SUFW and their supporters have already faced harassment, abuse, mis-representation and deplatforming in our efforts to enable public debate around gender ideology, we have been forced to go to court to access public meeting spaces, we have been denied advertising services. Gender ideologues will certainly utilise a content regulator to attempt to stop gender critical individuals and groups from publishing and organising, and potentially to punish us for wrongthink.

SUFW supporters have received threats, been warned by employers, and been investigated by professional bodies for asserting science-realism.

Leaked draft Cabinet Office guidance from the UK states that people are entitled to say that “biological sex is immutable”, and that “Employees who hold this belief must be treated with respect and dignity and protected from bullying, harassment and discrimination. However New Zealand seems to be moving in the opposite direction with genderism receiving full-throated support from officialdom along with the belief that dissenting views are harmful and dangerous and should not be aired. Many of our supporters do not express their views publicly using their own name. Ours is not a healthy democracy if people cannot openly discuss issues they consider important, and openly dissent from the official line.

Creating a self-perpetuating “harm” industry in Aotearoa New Zealand

SUFW notes a concerning pattern of fear-mongering and catastrophising coming from the pro-regulation voices in Aotearoa, including from the Disinformation Project which enjoys the uncritical support of government, and legacy media. This includes the a-historic and hyperbolic claim that gender critical views are genocidal. It appears that gender enthusiasts and activists want criticism of their beliefs to be made beyond the pale and SUFW is extremely concerned that a mechanism will be put in place via the proposed regulation regime, that will enable gender ideologues to use bureaucracy to hound gender-critical groups and voices out of the digital public square as well as the real world public square.

As well as a concern that “harmful” ideas will spread, pro-regulation officials apparently believe in a type of “harm” relating to how people feel emotionally as a direct result of being exposed to online content. This concept is too subjective and vague for officials to be empowered to decide. Abuse and threats are already illegal, the concept of “harm” as something to be developed, defined or described by policy makers is a dangerous cultural direction - “harm” will undergo concept-creep and will be weaponised to shut down debate.

The Disinformation Project is a good example of the way in which enthusiasts for this framing operate. The Disinformation Project and its supporters, and like-minded political operators and activists spread the claim that there is a growing threat from speech and online content, thus making some people afraid. Those fearful people become anxious and hyper vigilant, and demand that authority intervenes. Authority then introduces further concept-creep and new definitions of harm, and following this more “threats” are (of course) found. In effect, a self-perpetuating harm-identifying industry is created, driven by an ever expanding definition of harm, paranoia, and escalating claims of victimhood.

An example of the way in which gender ideology implements this framing is by making the claim that “mis-gendering” harms trans-identified people because such language allegedly “says trans people do not exist”. The use of the word “exist” implies a physical threat. This conflation of words with physical harm is then used to compel other people’s use of language, for example, the new Broadcasting Standards Authority guidance.

Everyone who disagrees with me is a Nazi

Those who would impose restrictions refuse to accept that their ideological opponents also have the common good in mind and instead deem people “dangerous” based on what they believe or say regardless of whether those people have used abusive or threatening language.

A tactic has emerged used by those in favour of regulations and restrictions, whereby the most extreme content that can be found online is conflated with any view along the spectrum other than complete ideological lock-step with the political and media class. This is held up as evidence that a range of views must be deemed “harmful”, threatening, dangerous etc.

With regard to content included in a Disinformation Project report, one blogger, a critic of SUFW, wrote that:

“…comments below are quotes from the report, shared on social media by your fellow New Zealanders, who you live beside, you work with, and who share your democracy.”

This very paranoid worldview asserts that neo-Nazis are everywhere – a modern re-working of the C20 “reds under the beds” fear. It is true that science-realist views are held by the majority of New Zealanders. The public is not persuaded of the truth claims of gender ideology no matter how much this blogger would wish it. She doesn’t like that, so in an attempt to justify calls for state intervention and narrow the parameters of what it’s acceptable to write and say, she claims Nazis are everywhere and that those who don’t agree with her ideological dogmas are Nazis.

Socio-economic class discrimination

Efforts to control speech and online content stem from class snobbery. Would-be thought-reformers are looking for ways to cut corners as the plebs may decide to ignore the “correct” message. In the name of protecting social cohesion, the would-be information-controllers ruin social cohesion by infantilising the wider public, and restricting the rights of other citizens.

Speech and information control regimes such as the one proposed stem from a mindset that does not treat other adults as adults; a mindset that is paternalistic and implies Nazism and other forms of extremism are contagious. Ordinary people are given no credit for being able to think, rationalise and respond to information. Instead credentialed experts and officials are appointed to be gatekeepers and the wider public is deemed too suggestible to be exposed to certain content. Another way of looking at it is, the self-appointed experts very much hope the public is suggestible - as long as it’s the self-appointed experts doing the suggesting. This shows a shameful disdain for one’s fellow citizens and is very much the “bubble” mindset.

Fundamental values

It seems that establishment authorities, officials, and fearful people who like to appeal to authority, have talked themselves into a crisis mode. From this fear-mongering they have formed the belief that the proper response is to empower themselves to gate-keep information. Handily this approach will also enable a power grab by the self-appointed grown-ups and “usual suspects”, and the expansion of the bureaucracy and associated career opportunities.

SUFW calls for the proposed content regulatory regime (and “hate speech” laws and similar) to be once and for all abandoned. Instead we call on the government, the media and the wider public to commit to upholding core democratic values and ideals, centering free speech, and free and open discussion and debate.

Suzanne Levy

Spokeswoman for Speak Up for Women


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