Hard News by Russell Brown


How much speech does it take?

"Let's be clear," it begins, "'multiculturalism' is just Marxist code for anti-Western-white-middle-class-ism. The Marxist one worlders know that to bring in their totalitarian dictatorship they must first destroy the Judeo-Christian democratic West. Multiculturalism is but one such vehicle. And of course anyone who doesn’t go along with their plans is deemed a xenophobe/racist/Islamophobe. But we know better!"

This is the rhetoric with which half the world has become familiar this week, courtesy of the appalling actions of the Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik. But he is not the author of the words above. They come from a Kiwiblog thread titled 'Multiculturalism', from October last year. They were typed by one of the more odious Kiwiblog regulars, Kris K, who also convenes at a blog called Crusader Rabbit. They are more or less characteristic of the tone of the thread.

David Farrar's original post, of course, does not take this tone. He murmurs that:

I do think our immigration system needs a "tolerance" test and also we need to make sure prospective immigrants are well informed on what are the "essential values" of New Zealanders, and that as aspiring NZers, they share them.

One commenter is even slapped with 30 of Farrar's "demerit points" after declaring that "My local supermarket this morning was full of wogs, dagos and assorted coons." Not ejected, as an administrator might justifiably do, just ticked off and invited to choose his words more carefully.

But Farrar can hardly have been surprised by his own commenters' failure of the "tolerance" test. The sentiments and, specifically, the explicitly paranoid belief that multiculturalism is a Marxist strategy designed to bring down Western civilisation by facilitating a demographic takeover of Western nations by Muslims, can easily enough be found in the blogosphere. A New York Times story notes that Breivik's 1500-page manifesto freely quotes from a group of prominent right-wing American blogs, including Pam Geller's Atlas Shrugs.

It turns up in more respectable settings, such as this 1995 review by Denis Dutton of Alain Finkielkraut’s The Defeat of the Mind, in which Dutton condemns "the antihumanist multiculturalists [who] spoke on behalf of the colonized Other." (Finkielkraut, a Jewish-French philosopher, later recanted and apologised for comments he made in an interview with Haaretz, which got him called "the pyromaniac of the Jewish community" by one French Jewish organisation. Clearly, most members of the local Jewish community recognised his rhetoric as akin to that deployed against them.)

Most of the time, we choose to find these people grimly amusing. It's impossible not to laugh at the unabashed sense of victimhood expressed this week by the purveyors of these ideas, neatly rounded up in Roy Edroso's latest column for The Village Voice. On one level, these people really are absurd. They're easy to troll, if that's your thing, because they are caricatures of themselves.

But on Monday morning, I read out passages from the Kiwiblog thread to a distinctly "multicultural" group of university students and it didn't seem so funny. I was ostensibly present to extoll the virtues of citizen media, but I felt obliged to point out that the great digital town square was also crowded with angry, paranoid racists. Even in New Zealand.

The scale, callousness and precision of Brievik's massacre might stand out, but it was not as isolated as all that. Crooks and Liars has a running count of 24 incidents of "terroristic violence" in the US in the past three years. Rhetoric begets mass murder, of course, amongst the jihadis. Even here, ethnic nationalists have run with guns and bullshitted to each other about public violence, apparently innocent of the risk that someone might one day take it past talk into action. None of it is good, and it is all, at some level, dehumanising.

Our response is generally a high-minded one. Hateful speech should not be suppressed, but countered with yet more speech. But some days, it is hard not to wonder how much speech it will take.

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