Golriz Ghahraman and David Seymour.
ACT MP David Seymour is being attacked for simply expressing his views  - from people who want to suppress views that are deemed 'unacceptable' to the state.

WHILE IT IS, OF COURSE, not acceptable that Green MP Golriz Ghahraman should be the target of threats of physical violence, it is quite another thing altogether to suggest that David Seymour's criticism of her views on free speech amounts to encouraging physical violence against her. It certainly doesn't justify the amount of abuse Seymour has been receiving in the social media - perhaps he could now equally claim he is at risk of being physically assaulted.

The matter at issue is an interview that Seymour gave with Sean Plunket of Magic Talk. Plunket himself is no fan of Ghahraman's but he's a journalist of many years experience and he would not allow anyone - of whatever political hue - to openly incite violence against a political opponent. To suggest that he would is just nonsense - and I'm saying that as someone with little political affinity with Plunket's views generally.

In the course of a twenty minute interview, the ACT MP was direct in his opinion of what he thinks is Ghahraman's campaign to undermine free speech but it was hardly an incitement to violence. You could justifiably argue that Seymour could of been less bellicose in expressing his opinion and you could also justifiably charge him with factual inaccuracy (eg there is no freedom of speech in Venezuela) but you can hear this kind of stuff everyday - in Parliament for instance.

Under our laws, it is a criminal act to incite violence. So if Ghahraman and her supporters really think that Seymour has committed a criminal act then they should lay a complaint with the police. The fact that they haven't suggests that this is little more than an attempt by Ghahraman to play the victimised martyr while Seymour gets demonised as the big bad oppressor. Incidentally Ghahraman herself was involved in a particular vitriolic campaign against NZ Herald columnist Rachel Stewart. She recently exited Twitter partly because of the amount of abuse that was being fired in her direction.

The fact that Ghahraman and her supporters are seemingly trying to beat Seymour into silence, highlights the difficulties when political elites want to police free speech. It is easy to invoke free speech in defence of political views that you like but it is difficult to invoke free speech in defence of views you disagree with. But the real test of whether you actually do honestly uphold the principle of free speech is when you defend the right of someone to express views that you might even loathe.

It was the socialist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg who wrote that ""Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently". But Golriz Ghahraman and her supporters appear to have enormous problems with this definition. But if we don't believe in free speech for those we despise then we don't have free speech at all. 

I think we should all be worried that someone like Golriz Ghahraman may have  some input into deciding what can or cannot be said in this country.  If some views are to be banned because it is claimed that they inspire or incite violence, then we are on the slippery slope that could eventually lead to a wide range of political views being subject to state suppression.


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