Think.

  • Tue, 13, Feb, 2018 - 5:00:AM

Who should we hold accountable for the baffling opinions of Sir Bob Jones?

In the age of the internet, the entire web may become an arena of political dialogue and debate. Freedom of speech rules at the center of this space; a law affording all individuals the right to vocalise their thoughts and feelings about society. Without freedom of speech, I might not be able to publish this article. Unfortunately, though crucially, that freedom is also afforded to those with opinions that I detest.

All speech is not the same, however. What must be clarified is the line between the truth, controversy, and hate speech. Most speech will fall into these three categories. Truth and controversy are absolutely protected in our rights to freedom of speech. Hate speech is vile, and illegal.

An example of truth: Māori are the tāngata whenua of Aotearoa.

An example of controversy: All New Zealanders should know Te Reo Māori.

An example of hate speech: [Redacted... because illegal.]

One sentence that, in my opinion, seemed pretty borderline was included in a column by Sir Bob Jones published recently in the National Business Review. I don’t know what Jones did to deserve the title ‘Sir’, but I do know that he has lots of opinions. Oh, and he was kicked off a domestic Air NZ flight because he didn’t want to listen to the safety briefing.

According to Jones, the column was a "perfectly factual thing. It’s not racist."

This is just one small snippet of the column in question: “I have in mind a public holiday where Maoris bring us breakfast in bed or weed our gardens, wash & polish our cars & so on, out of gratitude for existing.”

Freedom of speech is vital to a successful nation. As citizens, we must have the freedom to speak our minds openly to each other and to have our opinions heard by our Government. Our press must have the freedom to publish content that may contradict our Government; or contradict the status quo in society. Without such freedoms, the state is not held to account for its actions. Without such freedoms, Bill English may chillingly continue to put spaghetti on his pizza while thinking that it’s perfectly okay and not weird at all.

But to what level should we condemn Bob for his actions? His words are poisonous, even if they are apparently meant to be ‘satirical’. They are words that are negative towards Māori. In 2018 he is writing an article that imagines Māori as grateful servants to Pākehā. Simultaneously, he seems to be asserting that Māori do not exist anymore, at least not any full blooded ones. Unfortunately for Bob, using ‘science’ as a method to undermine and oppress a particular race is one of the oldest tricks in the book.

Sir Bob Jones must be held accountable for his words. What he wrote looked nothing like satire to me. So what is our duty as the offended listener?

Renae Maihi, a Māori playwright and one of the directors of the film Waru started a petition for ‘Sir’ to be removed from Sir Bob Jones’ name. I agree with her. In my view, a man whose words are so acidic, not only towards Māori, but towards the homeless, women, and our blessed Air New Zealand, should not be given one of the highest honours our state can afford. However, I think the petition is unlikely to be successful.

Let us simply acknowledge him for what he is – in my opinion, an increasingly irrelevant man with lots of money. Let us hold the National Business Review to account. As an established New Zealand publication, they made a decision to give Jones a soapbox on which to stand. At the very minimum, at least one of the NBR staffers read that piece, and allowed it to be published. They removed it after public backlash, but that doesn't excuse their decision to validate it in the first place.

Our country must have freedom of speech. Dialogue and debate can lead to healthy outcomes for our society. We should always respect differences, but also condemn racism, however it may be disguised. Those with such discriminatory opinions should not be given space by the press to speak.

In the most ironic and humorous plot twist ever, 1News reported that Sir Bob Jones intents to sue Renae Maihi for defamation.

Oh dear, Sir Bob! Have you never heard of the freedom of speech?

TAGGED IN

  • Sir Bob Jones /
  • Racism /
  • Maori /
  • Hate Speech /
  • National Business Review /
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