Tuesday, 18 December 2012

A Free Country?

How Free? New Zealanders like to think they live in "a free country". But, between the theory of democratic citizenship and its practice in the everyday lives of ordinary Kiwis, the gulf grows wider and wider.
 
“IT’S A FREE COUNTRY.” Ask someone if it’s okay to sit down, make a coffee, or take a squiz at the paper, and chances are you’ll receive this stock response. But just because a phrase is oft repeated doesn’t make it untrue. Ours is a free, open and democratic society, where everything that isn’t expressly forbidden is permitted.
 
Isn’t it?
 
Just a few days ago I was chatting with a group of young New Zealanders and the conversation turned to blogs and blogging. My companions were all intelligent, well-educated and gainfully employed Kiwis, and yet I was staggered to learn that none of them were willing to either post or comment on a blog using their own name.
 
Why were they so unwilling to put their names to their thoughts? What did they think would happen to them if they did? This is New Zealand, I reminded them with a puzzled frown. We’re not living in Putin’s Russia or North Korea. This is still “a free country”.
 
They gave me that weary, gently condescending look which Gen-Xers reserve for members of the Baby Boom generation who just don’t have a clue what life is like for people who didn’t grow up in the 1960s and 70s.
 
“If I apply for a job”, said one, “I don’t want my prospective employer to Google my name and be confronted with a whole series of fiery left-wing rants on controversial subjects.”
 
“It can hurt you professionally”, said another, “if your boss reads something you’ve written on a blog that he or she finds objectionable. It can harm your career prospects.”
 
“Or get you fired.”
 
This was too much. Had none of them heard of the Bill of Rights Act? The Human Rights Act? The Employment Relations Act? All New Zealanders are guaranteed the freedom of expression. It is illegal to be discriminated against on the basis of one’s beliefs. No one can be sacked for having an opinion – no matter how controversial.
 
“Maybe not in your day,” responded my young companions, “back when unions were strong and a civil service job was for life. But things are different now. Everyone’s vulnerable.”
 
And of course they were right. As we argued back and forth I suddenly recalled the extraordinary content of a recorded conversation broadcast on Radio New Zealand’s “Morning Report” on Monday 10 December – just a few days earlier.
 
Todd Rippon, a “Lord of the Rings” Tour Guide employed by Wellington-based Rover Tours Ltd, was fighting to keep his job following the communication of negative “feedback” to his employer, Scott Courtney, by the staff of Absolutely Positively Wellington Tourism. Mr Rippon’s offence? To have spoken in less than glowing terms about Sir Peter Jackson – a charge which Mr Rippon emphatically denies.
 
Listening to the recording, however, it soon became clear that the offence Mr Rippon’s boss objected to most strenuously was his employee’s active participation in the Actors Equity union.
 
“You’re involved with an organisation that is completely at odds with what I do”, Mr Courtney told his employee, even though Mr Rippon’s work as a tour guide was quite separate from his career as a professional actor and his role as the Vice-President of his union.
 
Also clear was that Tourism New Zealand – a body with which Mr Courtney’s firm works very closely – harboured similar misgivings concerning Mr Rippon’s associations.
 
When Mr Rippon asked his boss: “And what about the pressure from Tourism New Zealand? Do you think that it’s harming you that I’m working for you?” Mr Courtney replied: “Yes, I do.”
 
“Because Tourism New Zealand disapproves?”
 
“It will be something that is always at the back of their mind.”
 
This admission by Mr Courtney is deeply troubling. Tourism New Zealand has no legitimate interest whatsoever in the groups with whom Mr Rippon chooses to exercise his statutory right to freedom of association.
 
It got worse.
 
The industrial dispute between Actors Equity and Sir Peter Jackson over the filming of The Hobbit had appalled Mr Rippon’s boss:
 
“I am disgusted with what the Actors Equity union did and what their position is. It affects me, it affects my business. I don’t believe what they did was right. And it’s not something I want my company, or anyone involved with my company, to be involved with.”
 
When Mr Rippon objects: “You can’t set me aside because I belong to that.” Mr Courtney replies: “But I can! You see, this is the point.”
 
“You can’t do that!” protests Mr Rippon. “ It’s a basic human right to be a member of a union!”
 
“No, no, no!” Mr Courtney snaps back. “It’s not!”
 
It is difficult to imagine a better demonstration of the gulf which now exists between the theory and practice of democratic citizenship in contemporary New Zealand.
 
A free country? If only!
 
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 18 December 2012.

35 comments:

Paul said...

Chris, Employees are losing what small amount of power they had, as an employer I get a lot of satisfaction treating my staff the way I like to be treated and consequently they return the treatment with outstanding work. Very sad to see the direction that our lovely little egalitarian country is going. I guess that is why I like many Labour people have been so disappointed with David Shearer"s Labour party and why we hoped that a Cunliffe led Labour had the brain power to reverse some of the damage that Neo Lib Orthodoxy has done to New Zealand.

Anyway, keep up the great work Chris and have an enjoyable Christmas. Your thoughtful posts are my first choice along with The Standard on a daily basis. The lightweight writings of the MSM have moved down my priority list this year. A trend that will get stronger I am sure.

Brendan said...

Chris

This is an important and complex issue, and while I cannot comment on the particular instance you raise, it does strike at the heart of an employers right to employ and retain like minded staff.

I recall many years ago, Eric Sides, a local car dealer being unable to advertise for a 'Christian' employee for a certain position. This was because his staff were primarily Christians, and he wanted someone who would fit in with the culture. It offended the human rights commission of the day.

I note in Canada a lesbian is suing a Muslim barber because he refused to cut her hair. It will be interesting to see if gay rights trump Islam in that geography.

In reality we all discriminate in small ways every day. We choose one supermarket over another, we choose chicken over beef, we choose our friends, our clothes, our music. This is all discrimination.

Have we as a society become too precious on this subject?

Clearly to refuse to house or hire someone simply on the basis of their colour or creed is wrong, but what happens if someone's ideology begins to impact upon their ability to relate to others in the work place? What's wrong with a Muslim refusing to cut a women's hair if its against his beliefs? What's wrong with advertising for a Christian employee if that's what the employer wants?

We seems that as a society we have been reduced to relating to each other on the basis of competing rights, with a state funded body mediating our differences. I'm not sure that this is a sustainable model for any community or any nation.

stephen said...

I have a theory about something that may be contributing to this.

I had a conversation with some young colleagues a while ago and it emerged that they had no idea what their rights as employees were. In fact, they seemed to think that they could be fired any time at the boss' discretion. Eventually I figured out that years of watching Hollywood movies and TV had shaped their ideas of your boss can do -- US "at will" employment conditions have colonised the minds of the young.

Jack Scrivano said...

Chris, I’m not sure that, in practice, one can separate Mr Rippon’s political stance from his role as part of Rover Tours.

I’m in favour of unions. I think they can play a really important role in our society. But, in the short term, their actions are not always aligned with the interests of the organisations that employ their members. I’d suggest that Rover Tours’ right to employ people who share its views (and don’t in any way undermine its position) is just as important as Mr Rippon’s right to support the position and actions of Actors Equity.

Grant Hay said...

@Brendan. I hear what you're saying and think there is a certain amount of force to your argument. However you are leaving out the other half of the equation which is its logical corollary. If employers (who are usually business owners) have the right to hire or supply to only those of whom they approve (those who comply with their cultural imperatives), then surely the public have a right to know before they attempt to deal with these businesses that this is the case. Perhaps the two individuals mentioned should have to state in their advertising that they are faith based businesses which do not employ or provide services for Gays or people who are not of their faith??

Jigsaw said...

My adult son was at a prize giving at his son's intermediate school at the end of 2011 when the principal in a speech to the parents present urged them not to vote for the government at the coming election on the basis that he didn't support national standards. I am proud yo say that my son not only complained to the Board of Trustees but also to the Ministry of Education. All this was to no effect whatsoever. Did the principal have the right to use his position as principal to make what was in effect a union speech to a captive audience? So often people seem to make decisions about such things on the basis that they can do whatever they want because they are in the right.

andrewmahon1234 said...

Don't be an idiot Brendan. This is about being refused a job because of political free speech written by a free citizen in the public sphere. In a democratic society.

peterpeasant said...

Does the name matter or the argument?
I suppose names matter to media celebs used to by lines and credits.

Apart from the obvious precious ranters (bombastic or pious) the rest of us just want to have a discussion.

I post under an obvious pseudonym.

Would my comments be more valid if I used a more realistic name, Like Mary Smith or Hari Patel or Hone Horomia?

I doubt it.

Brendan said...

@Grant Hay

To be fair to Eric Sides, I think he was happy to serve anyone, gay or straight, Muslim, Christian or Jew. He just had a preference for hiring Christians, and made the 'mistake' of making this preference public.

People say that you 'cannot legislate morality' but the truth is that it is always someone's morality that drives legislation. In this case, the morality that says an employer does not have the right to narrow their employment criteria to people of their own faith, when the role is not specifically 'faith based'. Well, OK, that's one view, but why should it be enshrined in public legislation?

I'm of the view that employers, business people and employees should compete on merit, and it's up to the 'beholder' or the consumer to determine best what those merits are, not some Government department acting on 'behalf of the people'.

As far as employers or businesses advertising their faith or political bias is concerned, there was an interesting case in the USA recently where the CEO and owner of a national chicken franchise stated controversially, that he supported traditional marriage. Imagine, what outrage, and in America no less! The Mayor of Boston said his business was no longer welcome in that city. Boycotts were organised and counter support was rallied. Over what? Expressed support for traditional marriage?

It seems that our world is very fractured, and I have no confidence that any well intentioned Government department can fix it.

How about we just let people get on with life, and we use our common sense to determine whom we hire, whom we work for, and whom we do business with. The right not to be offended is not enshrined in our 'bill of rights' and neither should it be. If you are offended then exercise the ultimate sanction and take your skills, your services, and your custom elsewhere.

Grant Hay said...

@Brendan 10.10

I feel you have missed my point. You have (more or less) supported the right of (in these two instances) businesses / employers to discriminate against others based on their beliefs or "otherness". If it is fair enough for them to be intolerant and discriminate, surely it is only fair that the public who make up the community in which they operate have the right to that information so they can in turn choose whether to do business with them. If I knew a business owner was behaving in this way I would certainly choose not to patronise them because to do so would be to condone their actions.

Grant Hay said...

@ Brendan.

To expand slightly on my earlier reply: It seems to me that some people feel that it is perfectly fair that employers (or landlords or whoever)get all the benefits of living in a tolerant secular society but with none of the obligations to practise those values themselves. They want religious freedom, but only if they can still discriminate against those who do not share their faith. They want to discriminate against gays or people with political views they don't share, but they want it kept quiet so that the public don't get to hear about it and do a little discriminating of their own. The thing is that you might think our society is fractured now Brendan, but imagine how much more fractured it would be if we allowed everyone to go back to religious and political intolerance. Time for a few people to read up on their hiostory. The Enlightenment" would be a good place to start. Try Wikipedia :). I know I'm not the best polemical writer on the block but I hope this makes my point crystal clear.

Brendan said...

@ Grant Hay

Hi Grant, yes, I do take your point, and I suspect you write under your own name as I write under mine. We both choose transparency over anonymity and accept what ever small risks their may be.

I also understand your point regarding business people disclosing their religious or political ideologies, however every person has them one way or the other, so it doesn't seem practical to me, even if it was considered to be desirable, which I don't think it is. I rate a business on the quality of it's products and services, and not the ideology of its owners.

While historical religious intolerance is something we don't want to go back to, I think it's fair to say that a new form of secular intolerance is now being imposted upon us by the modern State which is just as bad if not worse. My example of the HRC preventing Eric Sides from advertising for the kind of staff he wanted is just one example.

I have been in Vietnam recently where their secular state imprisons people for writing songs or poetry critical of the Government.

Intolerance is a human condition and not the sole domain of any religion or ideology, although to be fair a particular religion is doing a good job of practicing it in recent times.

Grant Hay said...

@ Brendan: I'm not going to continue bashing my head against a brick wall, but I will say as my parting shot that you clearly are missing my point. Either that or you are choosing not to acknowledge it. Your continued use of the example of the Eric Sides case actually proves my point that such people want the ability to practise religous intolerance while taking the freedom to practise whatever faith they choose within the protection of a secular state. As far as I am aware it is ONLY within the bounds of modern democracies which enshrine the seperation of church and state and the values of religious tolerance where these freedoms are to found for everyone rather than just the practitioners of the official religion of the state. You are complaining about the restrictions against intolerance imposed by the secular state rather than acknowledging the great contribution to freedom and an open civil society generated by secularism.

Chris said...

Chris, Tourism New Zealand has no opinion on Mr Rippon's union membership. It doesn't concern us.
Here is what actually happened.
At the end of a successful day hosting over 100 international media in Wellington, there was a debrief session. A Tourism New Zealand staff member mentioned that one tour guide had made some inappropriate comments and had also engaged in a slanging match with another bus driver in front of both the international media and a coach full of cruise passengers. A Wellington Tourism staff member offered to call the tour company and give them that feedback. That was the sum total of Tourism New Zealand's involvement.
What happened after that was entirely an employment matter between the employer and employee. Having subsequently listened to the full version of the secret tape (available on at least one website) it is clear that Mr Rippon accepted he had acted inappropriately that day - he asks for a warning on his record rather than dismissal. Both men said things they now probably regret.
We regularly provide feedback to the tourism operators we use - both positive and negative - and union membership is quite irrelevant and of no interest to us.
Chris Roberts
GM Corporate Affairs
Tourism NZ

Paulus said...

As a one time employer of a small company the most important concern I had with all inteviewees is
"Will that person fit in well with my existing staff".
I had a great staff and did not want to see that the wrong person disturbed that relationship.
Only once did I chose the wrong person, but she eventually resigned of her own free will, as in fact she found that she did not fit in with her co-workers or v.v.
My mistake.
Employers make them too.

Chris Trotter said...

Thank you, Chris, for your comment.

My response (and I'm reasonably sure the response of most of Bowalley Road's readers) is simply - since when did agencies of the state (apart from the Police) monitoring the behaviour of ordinary citizens and reporting their "negative feedback" to employers become a part of everyday life in New Zealand?

I don't think you realise how far down the rabbit hole Tourism NZ has fallen.

There was a time when no decent New Zealander would have put someone's job at risk by turning informer in such a low fashion.

"Oh Brave New World that has such people in't!"

Chris said...

Chris, don't be so ridiculous - "Monitor the behaviour of ordinary citizens"? Really? You get that interpretation?
We work with tourism operators every day, and we constantly give them feedback - what they've done well, where they could improve and so on. That could relate to the quality of their product, the service provided, the cost, the reaction of the visitor etc etc. It's all about providing a quality visitor experience and nothing to do with any individual.
To accuse us of "turning informer" is quite ludicrous. If there is bad behaviour, are you suggesting it should just be ignored? That we shouldn't all strive to improve our businesses and the services provided to visitors?
We haven't fallen down a rabbit-hole - I would suggest it is perhaps you that has his head buried in the sand.

Brendan said...

@Grant Hay

Well I guess I did miss your point. I don't believe Eric Sides desire to hire Christian staff is a case of religious intolerance, it is more an expression of personal preference. In any event, why would you want to work for someone who didn't want to hire you as their first preference anyway? Why would you want your hair cut by someone who didn't want to cut your hair, other than to exert a personal 'right' that you felt had been otherwise denied?

With respect to your observation that secularism has created an open society, I would suggest that such democracies are only found in Western countries that have a long standing Judeo / Christian tradition stretching back hundreds of years. This religious tradition provides the foundational and philosophical roots for the freedoms we presently enjoy. It is yet to be determined if the branch of secularism that has been grafted onto these roots in the last 100 years can survive once the roots are destroyed.

In other words, we are presently consuming historical cultural capital, that will eventually be fully depleted.

If you look at societies that have embraced atheistic secularism, the former USSR, China, Cambodia under Pol Pot, etc, you find that what little freedoms people enjoyed soon begin to wither.

Chris Trotter said...

You go on telling yourself that, Mr Roberts. After a while you'll even start believing it.

You know, I could almost feel sorry for you - but then I recall that bad people always manage to convince themselves, somehow, that their most despicable deeds are undertaken with a pure heart and only for the greater good.

I'm sure the Stasi told themselves something very similar.

Grant Hay said...

@ Brendan

I've visited your blog and now understand why I was wasting my time attempting to have a rational discussion about the separation of church and state and the benefits of secularism to a free and open society. It is impossible to have a sensible discussion with someone who keeps changing the terms of the debate. Unfortunately this is a very common tactic adopted by people of your persuasion in my now fairly long experience. It is clearly ridiculous for example to start comparing atheistic "secularism" (in fact the effective banning of religion) in a totalitarian state with the religious tolerance and freedom to practice any faith in a pluralistic western democracy. Furthermore, you have on the one hand admitted that you wouldn't want to go back to the days of religious intolerance and then in the next breath stated that the Judeo-Christian heritage is single handedly responsible for tolerance and moderation and openess in modern western societies. To which I reply, absolute rubbish and demonstratively so. But, you have absorbed more than enough of my time so I will close now except to say, you talk a good game about transparency but didn't exactly fly your conservative Christian colours from the yard arm before sailing into battle did you? I also had a little grin to myself about your claim that you accept the risk of writing under your own name, Brendan.

Anonymous said...

"This religious tradition provides the foundational and philosophical roots for the freedoms we presently enjoy."

Getting somewhat sick of this statement. The traditions of freedom come from the enlightenment. Religion has traditionally held people back. You get equality in heaven so don't worry about it on earth. "Pie in the sky bye and bye"

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Chris Roberts could relay to the public what exactly its feedback was?

AC said...

Quite right, Chris Trotter. There's a distinct difference between "ratting on people" and "monitoring their performance". Tourism NZ needs to learn the difference.

Chris Trotter said...

Yes, Brendan, why don't you take a breather, enjoy the holiday season, read o book or two ... hundred.

Mike Bonner said...

The thing that worries me most is how people are more concerned with having a nice job than with standing up, and being known, for their ideals. Yes, material comfort is nice, but at what cost to your principles and society in general?

Chris said...

I'm not sure why I am bothering, but anyway here goes - you have never met me and yet you can call me a bad person who has done despicable deeds? And compare me to the Statsi?!
I personally had no involvement and knew nothing of the issue in question until it was reported in the media. But I will fully defend a junior staff member who quite properly provided feedback - both good and bad - to her team at the end of a busy day. And I also defend the decision by Wellington Tourism to pass on some of that feedback to the business involved.
What would you do instead in that situation? Because you didn't answer my earlier question. If there is bad behaviour (in any situation where a service is being provided)are you suggesting it should just be ignored - because one must never 'rat' on a comrade? Should we filter the feedback so that only positive things are said? Most of the feedback we provide to tourism operators is very positive, but surely we have to tell the truth, warts and all?

Grant Hay said...

Back to the topic...

I know nothing for sure about the facts of the Rippon case, but what we seem to be discussing is the dividing line between rights as a citizen and duties as an employee. Outside of ones employment, I believe you have an inalienable right to your opinions and freedom of expression and association which obviously includes such things as religion, politics and union activities. When on your bosses time and acting as an employee you are legally a servant of the employer. My approach when I have been an employee has always been that I do not argue politics or religion with the boss, fellow employees or customers. I wouldn't bag the boss, his business or other employees in public and especially not in front of customers. Start breaking those rules and you're looking for a fight you're likely to lose and in moral terms you probably deserve to lose. If the boss or colleagues start harassing you because of your beliefs or associations and your attitude to work is blameless, then yes, certainly your rights are being infringed upon.

Sparky said...

This sad affair highlights the difference in power between employers and employees. The Employment Contract works on there being equal power between the negotiating parties. Apparently this is not so.

Anyway, a big thanks to you Mr. Trotter for your contributions here and I want to wish you and yours the Compliments of the Season and I look forward to your interesting and thought-provoking posts here next year.

Merry Xmas to all and drive safely!

Victor said...

A few thoughts......

Firstly, I'm not sure that, had the internet been around in the 50s, 60s and 70s of the last century, people would have been substantially more prepared than today to voice their opinions under their own names.

The desire to stay on the right side of employers is not simply a product of the neo-liberal counter-revolution. Nor was that ever the only factor promoting social and political conformity.

Secondly, may I provide a defence of my own preference for posting under my otherwise rarely used middle name rather than the one you'll find in the telephone book.

I simply don't want my time wasted or my good temper frayed by unsolicited communications via email, telephone etc.

And so I use my middle name as a filtering device, whilst endeavouring to avoid the irresponsibility to which anonymity so easily lends itself.

One rule I try to apply is that 'Victor' should be internally consistent with himself. I also try to keep him consistent with other quasi-anonymous selves (e.g. 'didhereallysaythat', who posts occasionally on the Guardian's website).

And, for anyone who's really intent on identifying me, there should be sufficient clues spattered around Bowally Road.

But, as I'm a semi-retired Auckland suburbanite of little significance in the scheme of things, I can't imagine why anyone would be interested in my 'true' identity.

Even less do I understand why, around eighteen months ago, a fellow poster decided I was a South Island trade unionist, whose first name happened to be Victor, thus forcing this unfortunate man to publicly disown views that were never his in the first place.

Finally, do we have to, yet again, go through the ceremony of lifting the welcome mat from beneath Brendan's feet?

By no means the least of the many pleasures of this site is locking horns with him.

Moreover, it's Christmas and both he and Chris profess (unlike me) to be Christians. So where's the Christmas spirit?

ak said...

Quite right Victor; in the spirit of the obscenity expressed here, I'm sure Brendan's a lovely christian man and we should all wish him well.

As he says, so-called discrimination is really just a matter of personal preferences and individual rights: and that we owe it all to Jesus.

I can imagine Brendan standing at the head of a trenches in 1943, crucifix in hand, as the naked file forward, soothingly intoning "relax; it's just their preference - and why would you want to live when they all hate you anyway?"

While behind him Chris Roberts gazes approvingly at the results of his employees' "feedback", already mentally weaving it toward his own career advancement.

So merry Christmas all tory apologists evrywhere: may the feedback you deserve descend forthwith in all bounteous volume; and may the God-given freedoms of your fellow man and woman deliver justice to you and your ilk in full, unmitigated measure.

ak

Brendan said...

Hi Chris

Apart from this post I haven't been to your blog for a while. I do enjoy it however, and appreciate the substantive issues you raise. I do promise to read some books over Christmas, and hopefully get some sailing in as well - having just completed building my little 17' sailing dingy.

If I may be allowed to play the ball and not the man, by way of response to Grant who clearly has had some bad experiences in the past with people of faith (who hasn't) I'd offer the following.

1) I have never said that the Judeo / Christian tradition was 'single handedly responsible for tolerance and moderation … in western society'. Clearly the Greeks made a more significant contribution in times past than they are today. I accept and welcome the impact of the enlightenment. The facts are however is that it was birthed from a Judeo / Christian context. It was unlikely to have evolved from any other religious or non religious environment, why? because the enlightenment built upon the Christian view of what it means to be fully human.

2) Victor, thank you for pushing the welcome mat back under my feet! Unfortunately being Christian does not abstract us from being human. To paraphrase the Chief Rabbi of London, we first share a common humanity, we are subsequently animated by our religious or political ideology, but our common humanity should come first and foremost.

Merry Christmas indeed!

3) to AK whose writing appears to be chiefly defined by cynicism, we all have preferences, we use them throughout life in choosing friends, a marriage partner, a location to live and the food we eat. It's discriminatory of course, but those to whom we did not propose, whom we did not love, whom we did not befriend, are not diminished by the expression of our preference. There is no such thing as a life or a world without discrimination. It seems to me that on the scale of things, expressing a preference over whom to employ based upon their world view, be it political, religious or entirely secular is not something that should excite anyone, least of all a Government department.

My dad was in the trenches in 1943. I'm told that he returned a much different man than when he left for the war. I only knew the man that returned. I am hopeful that the price he paid for your God given freedom's and for mine, was worth it.

Merry Christmas to you also.

ak said...

Thanks Brendan, and happy sailing (but it's "dinghy", by the way: "dingy" is a more appropriate description of the kind of mindset that, though fully capable of forming complete sentences, persists in such practices as a) asserting an intention to "play the ball" then labelling others "cynics"; b) equating discrimination in the crucial area of livelihood with the choice of barber or burger; c) claiming that WW11 was fought to deliver this "right" of discrimination, and d) claiming to be "Christian" while asserting all of the above).

But fair breezes to you. Nothing like your stiff broad reaches and gybes to enliven even the dingiest weekend.










Loz said...

As Mr Rippon denied that the alleged comment was ever made, his employment was obviously terminated over a "he said / she said" situation. That doesn't represent any "evidence" at all! If a reported negative comment or opinion of someone from outside the organisation is grounds for dismissal he's left with no ability to defend himself against or assert any form of rights.

Political lecturer Dr Michael Parenti, commonly said, a dog that's chained to a pole could consider itself to be free as long as it didn't try to move away from the pole as its only when it tries to stray that it discovers that it is restrained. Likewise, I suspect that those who consider our society democratic and free haven't tried to stray too far from a position accepted by the powerful either. Freedom is a test of your ability to say and do what others don't like without fear of repercussions.

As Todd Rippon maintains he made no comment at all, I'd suggest this saga is actually a demonstration of tyranny instead of an eroded freedom of speech.

The recent financial blockade against Wikileaks, file sharing and file indexing groups shows that concentrated power prevents citizens from exercising the rights they are supposed to have. There is no difference with this to the extra-judicial power used against Kim Dot Com over recent months. Instead of power being exercised through the judiciary on the basis of legislation it is being flexed by powerful people as a result of private conversations. In a free society, the use of power is supposed to be open to challenge and review. Transparency and the even the "right" to challenge power seems to be slipping away in everything from labour relations to digital communications. It is a creeping form of fascism.

Legal File sharing and indexing sites are also being forced to wind up because financial institutions are subversively cutting off their income, extra judicially & on the basis that powerful groups don't like their positions or activities.

Documents recently released show that the financial strangulation of Wikileaks was a result of behind-closed-door suggestions from US Senators from the House Homeland Security Committee - Joe Lieberman & Peter T King. It scares me that our society may state a belief in "freedom of speech" and "democratic participation" yet the reality demonstrates powerful figures beyond reproach who are intent on controlling everything that we see, hear and do.

Anonymous said...

AK that's WWii not WW11 :-).

Barry Thomas said...

Facts...
Friends who work for Jackson and Weta have told me they were "ordered to march on Parliament" effectively to reduce their own employment conditions. This is not the country I thought I lived in. There is nothing remotely "free" about being arm twisted to be PR poster girls to promote corporate power over employees will to collectivise. Weta ordered collective revolt - for its purposes. This is nothing short of using the power to employ over the armies of the mercenaries (film workers/ actors et al)to wage war for yanky-cine-fodder for the masses.

Sacking someone for telling a few tales - at school - and it's corollary - vast teams of legal contractual controls and "shut up" clauses stopping all these workers literally flies counter to the Bill of Rights. But this country has little interest in such freedoms of speech really when it has such hefty (100% Pure) lies to spin.