A technical glitch at Kiwiblog stopped this post on Paula Bennett et al's crusade against Wicked Campers from appearing. Fortunately I've managed to retrieve it and post it for you to read.
[Updated: For the real deal, see here.]
Yesterday's Herald on Sunday carried a big splash story from David Fisher about three National Party cabinet Ministers - Paula Bennett, Maggie Barry and Louise Upton - ganging up to try and force Wicked Campers to stop putting puerile, misogynistic slogans on their camper vans.
The news had me wondering, as every right thinking person does, "What Does David Farrar Think"? After all, as a committed classical liberal and ardent defender of free speech values he must have some concerns about the Government threatening legal sanction against a private business based purely on the fact it offends some people. So I went over to Kiwiblog to have a look and was surprised to see ... nothing.
Well, of course, maybe DPF is a wee bit busy and somehow missed the story. Sure, he noticed that Tim Wilson - "a fearless defender of classical liberal values, and was a Human Rights Commissioner dedicated to free speech" - got the Liberal nod for the Sydney seat of Goldstein. But maybe a really big free speech story in NZ somehow slipped right past him?
But that seems a bit less likely today, as the Wicked Campers story (and some really stupid responses to the Ministers' position) made the NZ Herald editorial and then the RNZ website. Yet still Kiwiblog appears to ignore the issue, despite having time to note how crap Labour is, and how crap Labour is, and how the only thing criminals understand is the iron fist.
What could be going on, I wondered? Surely the issue wasn't being ignored on NZ's best read blogsite just because the Ministers proposing the action against Wicked Campers - up to and including legislation, no less! - happened to be of a distinctly blue tinge? I mean, let's take a second to ask "What Would David Farrar Think?" if this proposal had come from (say) Helen Clark, Margaret Wilson and Lianne Dalziel in 2008.
No. That couldn't be it. So I approached a certain blogger whom we couldn't name even if we wanted to (for reasons we all know of but cannot talk about), and that certain blogger put me in touch with people who have some mad hacking skillz. They then got to work on Kiwiblog's laughably inadequate security system and discovered the following post, which for some technobabble reason failed to appear publicly as planned. And so I give it to the New Zealand blogosphere.
March 21st, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar
From RNZ News:
The Chief Censor is considering whether to ban some of the slogans painted on Wicked Campers vans after a complaint from police.
The company's controversial slogans have previously been the subject of numerous complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority.
Wicked Campers have built up a highly successful brand marketing themselves to young people with edgy humour. I'm not saying that I find all of their slogans funny. Some of them are pretty tasteless, in my opinion. But if they want to push the boundaries of taste with their slogans and people want to travel in vans that have those slogans on them then why should the fact other people are offended by them be a reason for them to stop?
As I said in 2013 when reviewing Richard King's On Offence: The Politics of Indignation in The Listener:
King’s book is an excellent insight into the growing culture of intolerance. He does not defend those who give offence. He says they are often zealots, bigots and badmouths who should be condemned as fools. But he implies the larger fools are those who don’t condemn the threats (or actions) of violence from those offended, and those who demand censorship to prevent offensive views.
So if people are offended by the slogans, stop reading them! The problem is you, not Wicked Campers.
But back to RNZ's story:
Police said in a statement that they were also looking into the controversial slogans.
"While police understand the public concern about this issue, there are a number of complexities involved from a law enforcement perspective.
"A message may be widely regarded as offensive and inappropriate, but this does not necessarily make it a criminal matter.
Exactly. People - including Wicked Campers and the people who hire from them - have a right to be offensive if that's what they want to do. As I've said before, "We have a growing group of people who think they have a right not to be offended. All comedy has a degree of offensiveness." If the Police could arrest everyone who offends anyone else, then I'd be in a lot of trouble! After all, I do like me a joke about dwarves, Hamilton and abortion.
Associate Minister of Tourism Paula Bennett told Morning Report she would not rule out legislating against the company, but would rather the Chief Censor dealt with the problem.
"I'm pretty determined to find an avenue to close these slogans down," she said.
No! No! No!
This is just so wrong. As John Key said back in 2008 when in full cry against the disgraceful Electoral Finance Act: "New Zealanders are sick of being told what to do. They are sick of having [Government] control every part of their life ... ."
Having Government ministers dictate what is and what is not acceptable to write on the back of a private motor vehicle is PC run mad. It's the Nanny State treating us like children. It's like being in North Korea or communist Cuba. It's the sort of thing that would drive someone to raise money from other activists and put big billboards all over the place.
If one were so inclined.
If the company did not stop using the slogans soon, it could affect its business in New Zealand, Ms Bennett said
That should be the test. If people don't like these vans and the slogans on them, they won't rent them. But just because other people don't like reading them is no reason for the Government to try ban speech!