Your Opinion Matters

Open.
Tolerant.
Free.

Get more
opinions

Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.

VUWSA claim solemn responsibility for moral hygiene of university Mayor debate

But of course, the privileged have no problem claiming unearned wins.
The Free Speech Union
Contributing Organisation
September 1st, 2022

OPINION: On Friday, VUWSA (the Victoria University Wellington Student Association) made the courageous decision to disinvite a crackpot mayoral candidate from a debate they helped organise. When I say crackpot, I don’t know anything about the candidate or her views, and if the organisers and their ideological brethren have anything to do with it, I will likely never know.

The candidate in question is allegedly anti-vax and is a racist, and a TERF, which could mean she holds a pathological hatred towards trans people. It could also mean she is supportive of some protections remaining in place regarding single sex spaces. Either way it isn’t worth splitting hairs over that now, is it? The organisers have acted – no one in attendance will get to hear from her, and that, as they say, is that.

“Our campuses should be safe for all students and staff, and to ensure so, we believe a stand must be taken against bigotry, and it should not be allowed to be platformed.”

The reason for so drastic, and – on its face, so stridently anti-progressive a stance as disallowing a mayoral candidate from speaking - is that all students should be made to feel safe on a campus. Clearly, this association sees it as their duty to ensure the baby-soft psyches of 18 – 23-year-olds are not further frayed by the irritant of disagreement.

This supposition is as bad as the blackhead-peppered skin of our adolescent censors – bad enough even to warrant comparison the Mullahs of Iran, who also would claim moral hygiene their solemn responsible and the protection of the weak-minded as justification for a pathologically exclusionary worldview. Few of us would have guessed a theocratic-fascist experiment could have taken root in Aotearoa universities, but here we are. The ‘Children of the Corn’ are ruling the day.

What are the other mayoral candidates to make of this deplatforming, I wonder? I suppose it is one less candidate to wrestle with, and a joust that may have been incredibly messy, as encounters with conspiratorial types tend to be. If indeed the alleged is of that complexion. But you would think that a talented politician, worthy of our respect and importantly, our vote, should not only be able to easily rise to this challenge but would want the opportunity to flex. I mean, crafting and delivering compelling arguments is the entire job, isn’t it? Possibly not for much longer, with an army of rich kids busy committed to clearing the field.

A pity, because a good politician (or protagonist of any kind) will never be great without strong opponents. In the working classes, we encounter obstacle after stumbling block in our desperate climb to the bottom rung. But do true adversaries even exist in the world of our youthful censors?

Probably not. And we can assume this because censorship is an expression of privilege. The working classes would never dream up a project to systematically silence the pesky and inconvenient. To be pro-censorship you need to understand control of your environment as a right, and that’s a near impossible instinct to develop in a neighborhood that’s a melting pot, and where chaos is frequently the norm. We’re used to fighting our corner too. The fight means something, even if it is finally lost. To us, deplatforming an opponent would be akin to winning a boxing match by default. It would feel wrong. Unearned.

But of course, the privileged have no problem claiming unearned wins.

The natural home for this new neo-Calvinist brood is on the Right, where, if they’d stayed, they would have left us alone so long as we didn’t penetrate their bubble of material comfort. But they envied the underdog status of the genuine Left and working people and have now donned it like a Halloween mask with which to terrorise us all with.

The answer in this specific case could lay with the remaining candidates, who could band together to boycott the event until an assurance that every candidate is present. Demand a fair fight. But this is unlikely, even given the high probability that they too will one day fall foul of these bad seeds. To quote Churchill on the topic of appeasers, they will “happily feed this crocodile, hoping it will eat them last”.

Written by: Dane Giraud, Council Member of the Free Speech Union.

The New Zealand Free Speech Union is a registered trade union with a mission to fight for, protect, and expand New Zealanders’ rights for freedom of speech, of conscience, and of intellectual inquiry.