One of my go to reads is Vox Day. He argues that the main narrative promoted by media is... reliably wrong. The correct approach to all such information is suspicion.
But the cheif censor is worried about misinformation, as he defines it: which is information that is not from the mainstream narrative. This is in a country that has gagged all health care workers on discussion any doubts about COVID, and where mockery of Trump and celebration of the destruction of his allies is routine. We are now a country where getting labelled a racist can get you sacked by your employer and your bank accounts frozen. There is a reason I use a handle, and there is a reason people in NZ are walking away from the mainstream media. We don't trust them.
About half of New Zealanders have at least one belief based on misinformation and one in five hold at least three false beliefs.
That's according to a new survey by the Chief Censor's office.
The Edge of the Infodemic: Challenging Misinformation in Aotearoa found 82 percent of those surveyed were worried about the spread of misinformation.
About 75 percent thought false information about Covid-19 posed a serious threat to New Zealand.
Chief Censor David Shanks said the research aimed to raise awareness and stimulate debate on how to address false information.
"We know that misinformation - at its worst - can cause real harms to individuals, whānau, communities and society," Shanks said.
"We've seen it in white supremacy groups, the riots at the US Capitol, and in our own backyard with the attacks on 5G towers.
"We must take the findings of this report and meet this moment with meaningful action, because New Zealanders are telling us this matters."
Addressing misinformation did not mean "telling people what to think, or stifling debate with more censorship", he said.
"But Kiwis want to know they can trust the news and information they're getting, and government can work together with communities to combat misinformation.
"We must look at better ways for government, community, and online platforms to come together to prevent harm."
Among the 2300 people surveyed, false beliefs included believing scientists were lying about the safety of vaccines, believing 5G communications caused Covid-19, and that climate change was not caused by human activity.
The internet played a key role in spreading false facts, the survey found.
I am suspicious as to the timing of this. I'd also like to know where the sample was from, the response rate, and how it was done. I can't find that in a skim read of the report. Because the government is bringing in hate speech legislation, and this could mean that only the approved narrative is called kind.
And finally over the last few days we had the long-delayed announcement from the Minister of Justice about legislation to strengthen “the provisions that protect groups from speech that incites hatred”, and in particular “incitement of hatred against a group based on a shared characteristic, such as ethnicity, religion or sexuality” because that “is an attack on our values of inclusiveness and diversity”.
Now of course we don’t yet know what shape the final legislation will take, and nobody wants to defend speech which incites violence. That is now, and should remain, illegal. But inciting hatred? Where to draw the line? As the Police have discovered in the UK where a hate speech law is already in place, at the end of the day there are almost inevitably subjective judgements. Would Israel Folau be allowed to say that the Bible says that gays will go to Hell? Would somebody be allowed to say that those who advocate Female Genital Mutilation or the stoning of adulterers should not be allowed to gain permanent residence in New Zealand?
Perhaps the Government will be able to come up with a form of words which will reduce the risk of violence while protecting one of our most precious treasures, the right to speak freely. But as George Orwell himself said: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”.
One of the things I was taught very early was to question everything. There were a few sayings from that time:
- In God we trust, everyone else bring evidence
- Show me the Source, Luke
- Information wants to be free
I am now showing my age, for these fit into the Hacker Ethos of the 1990s. Today everything is being censored. But the censor has shown himself to be credulous.
Perhaps his office should be abolished. Making his staff, predictably woke, work in a manual job would be good for society, and for them.