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The Non-Partisan Populism of Popper’s Paradox

Written By: - Date published: 6:18 pm, May 22nd, 2021 - 91 comments
Categories: censorship, culture, Deep stuff, identity, interweb, Social issues - Tags: , , , ,

I cannot help but note that the criteria to call yourself anything and identify as anybody nowadays have become more stringent and next to impossible (and beyond ridiculous). The Label Approval Bureau is extremely vigilant in safeguarding dogmatic orthodoxy and the selection process of decorating badge-wearers and bumper sticklers.

The Bureau and its self-appointed and self-anointed Guardians do not shy away from militant aggressive authoritarian online action and punishment in the form of tribal de-patching to force compliance with and absolute subservience to The Manifesto. Some call this ‘cancelling’ while others call it ‘bullying’; the impact is the same.

The Manifesto is an obscure writing that mainly exists in the interweb hyperspace and especially in the Social Media sphere. Some even doubt its existence but its manifestation is real, hence its name.

Popper’s Paradox is utterly unhelpful in formulating an effective practical approach against this rising intolerance and dogmatic thinking. In fact, I am starting to think that it has given some the idea of a philosophical ‘justification’ of their adversarial and antagonistic behaviour towards others with whom they have some beef. It would not be the first time, and most definitely not the last, that the thinking and writings of a great mind would be twisted and transformed into almost the opposite of its original meaning and intention. I do not need to give examples to illustrate this point.

People who like the sound of their own voice (too) much tend to be poor listeners. They also tend to react poorly to dissenting views and dissonant voices. The flipside is often that the so-called dissenters become louder and more radical because they have to in order to be heard. When you are shouted down or denied a slot, you do not just shrug your shoulders and walk away in seething silence; get mad and get even.

Aotearoa-New Zealand is not immune to this human disease. Government is considering reforming our hate speech laws based on the premise that they are currently inadequate. Government is also looking at regulation of the interweb. Is (more) regulation necessary and, if so, how?

There might be a different answer, a less heavy-handed one, but one that appears to be no more than a distant dream at present.

This warring between polar opposites will continue indefinitely with apparent winning and losing of minor battles like the festering wound that never heals, causing ongoing trauma and suffering and potentially even culminating in death from systemic sepsis and poisoned minds. The healing will involve the slow and gradual closing of the wound, bringing together the opposite sides until they touch, merge, and seal the gap that once was.

United we stand, divided we fall. There is more to this famous motto than meets the eye, in my view.

91 comments on “The Non-Partisan Populism of Popper’s Paradox ”

  1. Stuart Munro 1

    As with any new legislative program, it is well to start with finite aims – not to regulate speech especially broadly, but to focus upon the least tolerable variants – the ones associated with violence, or that can be shown to be harmful.

    The work of the Christchurch Call, in looking at how to contain and prevent amplifying echo chambers that promote or incubate violence is a fairly safe extension of legal principles based upon keeping the peace, and as such it has attracted the cooperation of diverse and influential interests.

    Legislating something like pronoun adherence or comparable responses to offensive but not criminal antipathy on the other hand, is a much greater step, and one that may struggle to find acceptance.

    At present the free speech protests of ACT and fellow travelers are something of a sideshow. But take a step too far beyond the social consensus, the 정/情, and their hollow pretensions will flesh out with a new body of supporters.

    • weka 1.1

      There’s the legislation and there’s the social and political change that happens alongside, and the intersection of the two.

      So in the UK, under a conservative government, trans activist corporate lobbying has been so effective that people are being visited at home by police on the basis of tweeting gender critical views despite there being nothing illegal in what they have done. The police will record this as well.

      I haven’t looked at the detail of the NZ legislation, and I generally consider NZ to be more sensible than countries in the grip of right wing moves towards Trumpism. Also hard to imagine the NZ police such as they are becoming allied to any social justice movement. But we aren’t immune to getting this wrong and the left is still bad at examining its own authoritarian tendencies.

      • Noel 1.1.1

        Plenty of calls for Legislators to tread carefully. Overseas experience suggests there is a potential for extremes.


        • RedLogix

          Yup. Generally a bad idea to create new laws that have such an obvious potential for mis-use.

        • weka

          The left in the public sphere is by and large saying no discussion is needed, everything is fine.

        • weka

          Had a quick read of the conclusion, the harm not hate framing is excellent, will try and read the whole thing when back in my laptop.

          have you followed the legislation development? What’s your sense of how well that is going in regard to harm vs hate?

      • weka 1.1.2

        Re the UK police thing, this latest case is worth following. Twitter thread,

        • RedLogix

          Then there is this incident in the UK that's pretty damned uncomfortable.

          Essentially a street preacher is dragged off into a police van for speaking to the classic Biblical interpretation of marriage. I suspect many of the bystanders may not have necessarily agreed with him, but knew what they were seeing was wrong.

          • Red Blooded One

            Or was he walked to the Police Van for taking a physical swing at a Police Officer? I assume assaulting a Police Officer is a crime.

          • Red Blooded One

            Looking at another video of the same incident, it is clear he took the swing during the arrest process so I take it back that that was the cause of his arrest. The Police, however, were initially patient and simply asking him to step down from his ladder. He was non-compliant and if you or I did the same thing for whatever reason we would be treated the same way.

            • Muttonbird

              The hate free speech types are quick to claim cancel culture is everywhere but they do have to search very hard for examples:

              National pollster David Farrar touted cancel culture as a vote winner at a meeting with National Party faithful, although he had, first, to ask his Twitter followers to dig up examples of this rampant scourge. “To save me looking up all the worst examples, can people share them here?” he tweeted on the day of his speech.

              “There’s no suggestion,” wrote Ben Thomas later in The Spinoff, apparently with a straight face, “that [Farrar’s idea] was backed up by polling, or research”.


              • Red Blooded One


              • Incognito

                The risk or downside rather of debating this topic on a blog such as TS is that it tends to veer in a certain direction with a danger of going off the road, even when this is not the intention at all. However, when that happens, we’ll never get ‘anywhere’.

            • RedLogix

              Exactly what were the cops doing there in the first place?

              • Drowsy M. Kram

                Exactly what were the cops doing there in the first place?

                Can’t say “exactly“, although ‘cops’ do occasionally pass by in public places.

                Stop arresting street preachers, and laugh at them instead
                This may or may not be intrinsic to soteriology, but it is, of course, an absolutely and undeniably homophobic rant, and so people who were ‘distressed’ or ‘alarmed’ by this preaching complained to the passing police, and Pastor John Sherwood was duly arrested for a Public Order offence (Section 5 of the Public Order Act, or just click on all the links in the first paragraph [or see ‘Hate Speech‘] to find out how this works).

                It's an interesting website, imho. https://archbishopcranmer.com/about/

                Here’s another (recent) article with some relevant to discussions here.

                By sacking its Chaplain, Trent College, Nottingham, rejects fundamental British values
                So, all in all, if you are at ease with “all this LGBT stuff,” you’re entitled to keep to those ideas; if you are not comfortable with it, for the various especially religious reasons, you should not feel required to change. Whichever side of this conflict of ideas you come down on, or even if you are unsure of some of it, the most important thing is to remember that loving your neighbour as yourself does not mean agreeing with everything he or she says; it means that when we have these discussions there is no excuse for personal attacks or abusive language. We should all respect that people on each side of the debate have deep and strongly held convictions. And because, unlike Brexit, this is not a debate which is subject to a vote, it is an ongoing process, so there should be a shared effort to find out what real truth looks like, and to respect that that effort is made honestly and sincerely by all people, even if not everybody comes up with the same answers for now.

                • RedLogix

                  The relationship between homosexuality and religion in general is a highly contested and diverse one – but the question is, did it require the cops to try and arrest him? In my view the answer is absolutely not.

                  You are perfectly free to consider his views outdated, objectionable even. But it's not at all clear they can be considered harmful, and more importantly – is this a legitimate use of state power?

                  • McFlock

                    The bystanders who went to the cops apparently thought so.

                    • RedLogix

                      Why am I'm certain however that if he was advocating views you happened to agree with, you would not think this a good use of state power.

                      And exactly how many 'bystanders' does it take to justify an arrest? Is freedom of expression going to be dependent on the most sensitive person in the room?

                      Because as this site provides ample evidence of – it's impossible to say anything of significance without someone objecting.

                    • Incognito []

                      Because as this site provides ample evidence of – it’s impossible to say anything of significance without someone objecting.

                      But that’s the fuel and kaupapa of this site!?

                      I’d like to think you meant something slightly different 😉

                    • McFlock

                      I'm not going to hazard a guess as to why you are so certain about the hypocrisy of those people you happen disagree with.

                      All I can say without knowing exactly what that street preacher said is that what he said was enough for several people to approach police, and enough for police to arrest him on a basic public order provision. Not some UK hate speech legislation, not some woke prohibition on gendered language, just a generic requirement not to intentionally be a dick to the point it distresses others.

                      It might not be a necessary role of the state to you, but it probably stops a lot of brawls breaking out.

                  • Drowsy M. Kram

                    …but the question is, did it require the cops to try and arrest him?

                    Was just providing additional information I thought might helpful to arriving at an answer to your original question @

                    You subsequent questions are more complex, and might provoke contestable, diverse and absolutist responses – I'm steering clear.

                    You are perfectly free to consider his views outdated, objectionable even.

                    Thank-you. I do consider the views that he was preaching in a public space to be those things and more. Imho it would be preferable to confine such 'preaching' to places of (religious) worship, where the Pastor might find a more accommmodating audience (or not). Publically responding to his preaching, and/or ridiculing at him, is problematic, as is simply ignoring him. Still, so long as it's just one man's protest I guess it's OK…

                    Btw, the 'cops' did actually arrest the good Pastor – no "try" about it.

      • Incognito 1.1.3

        But we aren’t immune to getting this wrong and the left is still bad at examining its own authoritarian tendencies.


    • Incognito 1.2

      Thank you for being the first commenter under this Post.

      You mention legislative program and regulation. Is this the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff or a new set of (moral) ‘guidelines’ for law-abiding citizens to get used to?

      It is interesting that you mention ACT because I think this is definitely not a partisan issue with partisan solutions. In fact, it would be quite concerning if some (political) ideology would gain the upper hand in the making of Law and Policy.

      My Korean is non-existent; can you please explain/elaborate in a few words, if possible?

      • Stuart Munro 1.2.1

        Jeong has multiple translations, but it is a kind of social consensus or understanding, an ideal that becomes a yardstick for measuring novel or foreign ideas. It isn't merely an empty consensus however, it contains a number of Confucian and probably some Buddhist elements, that centre it, and make it resist being coopted by partisan interests. It is considered untranslatable however – I hope I have not caricatured it too badly. The white part of the Korean flag represents this aspiration to some degree – there is a deeply held historical commitment to a set of enlightened principles – which occasionally saw scholars (respectfully) defy the king.

        • Stuart Munro


          The legal tradition is usually that morals are not the business of law – there were words to the effect in Donahue v Stephenson, that the law cannot tell one to love one's neighbour, that being the province of religion, but it can decree that one must not harm one's neighbour.

          As for ambulances – in drafting new law, evidence of previous failures can be very useful. We ought to have enough records by now to assemble some kind of picture of what species of hate speech are harmful, and which are merely unpleasant.

          • greywarshark

            There is another aspect thought about hateful speech and that is as it gets repeated its effect rises.

  2. weka 2

    Very good Incognito. Well done on the manifesto

    Social media is a key here. In communities in the real world people tend to moderate their behaviour and expression of ideas. In part because of regard for fellow humans and the need to get along with others we have to interact with, and partly out of self preservation (some things said online would earn a punch in the face in a pub for instance). The internet offers relatively risk free space to ignore social norms (I wonder if cancel culture is also a response to this).

    But those social norms exist for bloody good reasons. Neoliberalism destroys community and many have are forgetting what community is and how it works and why it matters. We’ve had a decent amount of time to develop social media social cohesion and are largely failing thanks to the values and ineptitude of the people running the SM giants.

    • Incognito 2.1


      I see some similarities between outrage on SM and road rage, as they both start when people are in relatively safe personal bubble that’s shielded/isolated from the rest of the world. It appears that both are on the rise and it would be very interesting to see if they’re causatively correlated to some degree or what the connection is, if any.

  3. RedLogix 3

    May I introduce the rather esoteric notion of the Hamiltonian formalism here? In it's pure mathematical expression it's rather daunting for most people to read, but here's a very digestible intro to Lagrangian mechanics (which is the predecessor to Hamilton's work):

    The general idea is that the physical world everything works to a rule that given a starting point and a desired end point, they all take a path that minimises 'something' – usually called the 'action'.

    So for the sake of argument, lets formulate an analogous social rule that says the optimum path to balance competing interests is to use the least force necessary to achieve any desired goal.

    Let's take a relevant goal I think we can all agree on – that events like the ChCh massacre should not repeat. One path would be to give the state ubiquitous surveillance capacity and the power to interdict arbitrarily in every conversation or association of people it deems a potential threat. The other path would be to permit individuals absolute right to privacy and freedom of association, regardless of their intent. Clearly both of these paths falls well short of optimum, and Popper's Paradox only really arises if we confine our search to these two cases only. My argument is that a tolerable optimum logically lies on a path somewhere between – that specific path that invokes the least possible total action or force.

    But it's useful to note that there is a major difference between the action of the individual, and that of the state – in that the latter wields dramatically more resources, power and impact than the former. (We recognise this in criminal law, where the process is tilted in favour of the defendant as a form of counter balance to the far greater resources of the prosecution.) Taking this massive imbalance into account, it seems that any tolerable solution is going to lie closer toward minimising state intervention, and imposing the least necessary burden on the individual.

    Or instead of depending totally on state power to achieve our goals, we should consider social power as a force – just as NZ has learned a very specific lesson from ChCh – it's reasonable to extend this lesson to the idea that planning or inciting mass violence to achieve any radical social agenda is intolerable.

    Note carefully – there is a clear cut boundary here. Believing in and talking about radical a social agenda is permitted in this schema, it's the invoking of physical violence to implement it that steps you firmly over the line. (A Dutch mate of mine explained something very similar – that the people of his home country were a very tolerant bunch, and set their social boundaries pretty wide. But step over them and you got hammered.)

    Thus I'd using this rule of 'the least possible action' I'd suggest our best path toward 'tolerating the intolerable' is to use minimal state power, rely more on an embedded social opprobrium against radical violence, and perhaps most usefully of all – walk away from the failed ideologies which drive division and alienation between peoples in the first place.

  4. Gabby 4

    How does permit individuals absolute right etc lead to events like the chch massacre not repeating?

    • weka 4.1


      • Gabby 4.1.1

        What? How can permitting individuals absolute right to privacy and freedom of association, regardless of their intent, be considered a path to preventing the recurrence of the chch massarce? In what way would it constitute any part of a solution? It is proposed as a path but it is not explained how it could possibly be a path. Hence my query.

        • Incognito

          I have an issue with your (?) premise but I don’t know what you’re referring to with this:

          It is proposed as a path but it is not explained how it could possibly be a path.

          Please elaborate, preferably with a link.

          • Gabby

            What are you talking about, elaborate? It's a quote from para 4 of post 3, directly above my question. You want me to 'elaborate' on a request for clarification?
            And what is my premise that you have an issue with?

            • Incognito

              Oh, I see, you started a new thread instead of replying to RL @ 3. That explains why your comment appeared to lack context when reading it in the back-end.

        • RedLogix

          Well it is one possible path, and it would work most of the time. If for example the entire population was at a level of moral development and could be trusted not to commit crimes like this – it would be a perfectly good option.

          For instance in the great cities of Islam during the height of their development, it was entirely normal for a business to indicate that it was closed for the day by putting a small rope across the entrance of the shop, regardless of whether they sold vegetables or valuable jewellery. And if you'd asked the shopkeeper whether this was considered sufficient precaution against theft they would have assured you that 'no-one would shame themselves by stealing'.

          But in the current world the consensus view is that taking the path of just trusting people not to commit terrorist crimes is not an optimum path – and sadly I have to agree. In the normal course of homicide where there might be just the one or two victims, we suffer the compromise of acting after the crime. But mass murder steps into another realm, and we have to consider what further methods to prevent it are justified.

          As for ChCh – despite the enormity of the crime – we can still take some hope from the fact that these sorts of events are still very rare. So trusting people not to commit terrorist acts does work most of the time. The question arises then, just how intrusive does the state have to become in order to pre-empt what is in reality a highly marginal and difficult to detect event? Surely the law of diminishing returns implies it would have to be a deeply draconian and ultimately very inefficient process. This alone should give us pause.

          The point of my argument above is that we can leverage off the Lagrangian/Hamiltonian formalism – that physical nature obeys a rule of 'least action' – to find optimum (or at least tolerable) paths through apparently paradoxical social problems.

          • Gabby

            That's a really really big 'if'. If everyone was really nice all the time, there wouldn't be massacres.

            • RedLogix

              I've come to the conclusion that the brevity of your responses reflects less on your concise intellectual brilliance – than perhaps you don't spend much time reading or thinking before you type.

  5. swordfish 5

    The graphic is certainly a wilful distortion of Popper's argument.

    • Incognito 5.1

      Please elaborate so that we can learn something.

      FYI, that image was uploaded to TS Media Library on 3 April 2019 by another Author. If there’s a fundamental flaw with this image, I might delete it from the Library or put a comment with it, but I need a good reason and justification.

      • Poission 5.1.1

        It's a reasonable construct.Popper argued quite convincingly that there has to be reasonableness in the arguments,and the ability to understand the contrarian position,being part of living in a civilized society,eg

        Only if we give up our authoritarian attitude in the realm of opinion,only if we establish the attitude of give an take,of readiness to learn from other people,can we hope to control acts of violence inspired by piety and duty.

        He also argues that constraints on free thought and argument by institutions ,and governments lead to the destruction of the institutions,and replace tolerance with Totalitarianism. (see Popper Conjectures and Refutations 1963)

        Often the road to Totalitarianism is paved with good intentions,with incorrect road directions (see Borges the Garden of forking paths) or this analysis.

        Intolerance is essential to the totalitarian spirit, but it is not exclusive to it. All the great Abrahamic religions obey wherever they can the psalmist’s injunction not to let “an evil speaker be established in the earth”. What distinguishes totalitarian intolerance from this age-old religious intolerance is its demand for complete, enthusiastic commitment to the cause. Not just abstention from evil, but wholehearted promotion of the good, is enjoined on us all. Neutrality is a smokescreen. Silence is treason. “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”


        • Incognito

          Very good comment with lots to follow up on (as if I don’t have enough to read), thank you.

          The binary position mentioned in your second quote is exactly what I had in mind when I thought of the Label Approval Bureau; one needs to do and be seen doing (e.g. ‘on record’) the ‘right deeds’ in order to earn the much coveted label and batch.

  6. Muttonbird 6

    Kind of odd. Three internet mods talking amongst themselves about the dangers of real life moderation.


    • Phillip ure 6.1

      @ muttonbird..

      yep..!..the ironies didn't go unnoticed..

      I would submit that over-moderation is the parent of the bastard child cancel-culture..

      and what I always thought was a bastion of democracy..free-speech..

      seems to have just slipped off the table..in this debate..

      (something I didn't expect to wither on the vine..that free-speech..silly me..!..I always assumed it would just get stronger..more of an imperative…)

      and yep…imho..that erosion of free-speech is the pathway that leads to totalitarianism.

      'i don't like what you say..so I will stop you saying it..'

      • Incognito 6.1.1

        This site is not about free speech per se but about robust debate. The site’s rules are easy to grasp and follow and they are lenient. When one is banned, it is not because of their opinion, but because they didn’t follow the simple rules and kaupapa of this site, which includes taking heed of moderation. This is not cancel culture! I don’t understand why some here insist on misunderstanding this point and are trying to bully Moderators in changing their ways; my patience for this is near-zero.

        If you want to complain or moan about “over-moderation” here, please take it to OM and make your case clearly and carefully, if you have nothing else to contribute here. OM and DR are as free as it gets.

        Please no more criticism of TS moderation under this Post.

        NB this is also directed at Muttonbird.

    • RedLogix 6.2

      You might want to note that my argument explicitly advocates for the least possible use of institutional power, the development of better social norms, and ultimately a strong reliance on the individual to live up to the standards they claim to believe in.

      Like being nice to each other. Moderation only exists because some individuals at the margins don't play nice.

      • Phillip ure 6.2.1

        do you not think that over-moderation is a 'thing'..?

      • Ad 6.2.2

        Social media now utterly obliterates individual agency in any effort to sustain common societal standards. People resign from major jobs from concocted social media rumour, with not an ounce of due process or ordinary justice to be found.

        We've seen whole governments rise (Trump, Bolsonaro, etc) and fall (Tunisia in the Arab Spring) on the basis of simple manufactured common digital lies.

        We need enough coercion and control to successfully stop those who don't want to be nice to us (in fact hunt us down with Ak47s as we pray). That surely is a minimal principle for the existence of the state.

        • RedLogix

          You raise an extremely good point – and I'm on record here as being a complete abstainer from all of the major social media platforms except YouTube (probably because it's not very social). The internet was doing just fine until around 2013 when the big SM outfits really started to dominate, and personally I'd be quite unperturbed if they all sank without trace overnight.

          (The Standard only works in my view because it has been carefully, painfully even, moderated right from the outset. And partly as a result the community here is small enough that the core regulars understand each others 'back catalog' to an extent.)

          So perhaps I'm not the best person to ask about the fate of social media.

          And of course before social media we had professional journalism, and editors who played perhaps a moderating role we might now appreciate more – given their recent demise.

          • Ad

            I'm too paranoid to be on social media other than a very limited family Facebook thing.

      • Muttonbird 6.2.3


        You asked for us to reject the oversight of a resourced state and "consider social power as a force". That's what I'm doing. Pointing out prejudice where I see it.

        You did put a rider in there often used by free speech types which is to only police direct incitements to violence, which fails to consider that that violence is built on a pyramid of smaller contributing intolerances and paranoid obsessions.

        To take a swipe at Maori for seeking to protect their endangered language for instance, and to obsess that English is under attack by transgenders. To me these are ridiculous and harmful positions to take and I will use social power to call them out.

        Not sure there’s a nice way to do it.

        • Poission

          Bit of Irony there Titi.

        • RedLogix

          To take a swipe at Maori for seeking to protect their endangered language for instance, and to obsess that English is under attack by transgenders.

          And I'm going to point out the obvious inconsistency. If it's good enough for Te Reo speakers to want to protect their language, then it's good enough for English speakers to object to their language being butchered to fit a crass ideological agenda that many people find either ridiculous or obnoxious.

          You really cannot have it both ways. Not even by appealing to 'endangered'.

          • Muttonbird

            Extraordinary. An obvious analogy is that if it's good enough for conservationists to protect Rowi, then it's good enough for the dairy industry to protect cows.

            You do tend to tie yourself up into ridiculous absolutisms, and then have trouble undoing the knot.

            • RedLogix

              Your analogy rests on the deeply racist pre-supposition that Te Reo is a fine and good thing, while the English language is – like dairy cows apparently – not worth protecting.

    • Incognito 6.3

      The other day, I had an odd experience: I heard three priests talking amongst themselves about the dangers of real-life religion.

      Your comment is like an object on a solo journey through space; we don’t know what it is, what it is made of, where it came from, and where it is going, but we can observe it for a brief period of time, in absolute awe, and ponder 😉

  7. McFlock 7

    I'm not so sure about the hate speech legislation – it really depends on the precise semantics of what they come up with – but the online legislation seems to confront a legislative inadequacy.

    We're currently leaving the regulation of harmful content to the self-regulation of corporations and suchlike.

    Not every content provider is as diligent as the folk who run TS. Some of them actively play up to the pet issues of mass murderers until "emotional junior staffers" delete the content.

    • Incognito 7.1

      Current legislation is outdated and the new one will be outdated before the ink is dry. However, that’s not a reason to rush things, avoid public debate and feedback, and try to please the electorate.

  8. Ad 8

    The "human disease" you complain about is actually a misreading of what now constitutes a weapon. No-one here complained when the gun buyback happened, but woe betide regulating speech as a weapon.

    Our own NZ mass murderer [name deleted as per general agreement on this site] has been quite clear that he took direct influence from prior manifestos of similar terrorists. I'm not going to provide a link, but his manifesto language was and is seen in white nationalist writings and outlets around the world. His "expression" in the form of livestream feeds of the massacre are still around.

    Prime Minister Ardern has been on record with her partnership with President Macron. The smart reason for that partnership is that France's anti hate speech law aims to combat online hate speech, terrorist speech, and child pornography. Also this law has weathered plenty of tests in the French courts.

    This French law in itself shares a lot of principles with the 2017 German law, which puts "platforms" on the hook for fines if they don't remove "manifestly illicit" content 24 hrs after reporting.

    Usefully Facebook and Twitter and other major platforms have raised the bar far higher with their bans of Donald Trump, for incitement to violent overthrow of the state similar I think to a ban on "expressing" Fire! in a cinema when there is no fire.

    I've called for this regulation of social media itself often enough, and Zuckerberg and others are on record massively preferring a public regulator to the self-regulation that ties themselves up in ethical and commercial knots.

    And of course, leftie sites like The Standard self-police commenters to an even higher bar – whatever it is in the hands of any editor. So our modern left sure know how to censor.

    There's no use using asinine terms like "healing". Well financed ideology in the world seeks to actively destroy generous cooperative forces, to the point that democracy worldwide is now in fast retreat. Fuck healing.

    2020 just reinforced that interventionist lesson of 2019: the strong state is far more invasive in its reach than it has been since WW2, it is not going away, and modern society can't survive without that.

    • RedLogix 8.1

      The obvious and unanswered question remains – who does this 'strong state intervention'? And on what principles?

      The opportunity for overreach is the yawning chasm lying directly in the path of all such proposals.

      • Ad 8.1.1

        I really don't think that's hard.

        We have been quite happy to surrender extraordinary rights to the state's public health instruments (a sticky amalgam of Police, NZDF, Customs, and Health commands, backed by law well worn since Polio required military roadblocks outside our cities in the early 1950s).

        We've been largely supportive of surrendering our military-style weapons to sworn Police over the last year.

        So we are good with surrendering rights – and we got the fastest global dividend in exchange for that surrender.

        A century ago when the Labour Party was striving for power, Michael Joseph Savage was in front of thousands inciting them to strike. A decade leader the state he led had had to evolve to a point where he led a unified Labour-National cabinet against global declared war. And he and his government pushed that growth of state power right through to 1949. So much for the permissive left!

        So the state responds to crisis, and our rights must and do evolve with that.

        We face an even more pervasive and volatile threat than at WW2; it's just not on our state boundaries but on every single device of the entire population.

        • RedLogix

          Reading this I'm reminded of one of Vernor Vinge's more sardonic lines – "ubiquitous surveillance being one of the better known end-points of civilisations".

          (Has to be understood in the context of an galactic sf saga spanning millennia smiley)

          • Phillip ure

            no..it stands alone…

          • Ad

            Science fiction has an inherent tendency to adore statist fascism: it's all in their rows of dark spandex uniforms and erotic whole-planet war-love.

            It's weirdly good to see the majority of the Republicans and the massive minority of Republican Americans believe the entire election was stolen through digital manipulation. Paranoid though it may be, it measures the depth of distrust caused by unregulated social media to infect their democracy. They may be stupid, but they're not dumb.

            Before the 2020 economic crisis, the Big Four tech firms had the GDP of Russia. Now they have the GDP of India, are growing greater than linear, and there's only four economies bigger than they are.

            So the source of 'ubiquitous surveillance' is not from the state: it's from unregulated private tech corporations.

            • RedLogix

              Science fiction has an inherent tendency to adore statist fascism:

              Maybe, and then there is the strong libertarian streak that authors like Heinlein, Asimov and Vinge (to mention only the ones that come immediately to my mind) that underpinned much of their work.

              It's when we look to Star Trek or BSG that we see the statist theme dominate I agree – but it's by no means a universal in my view.

              So the source of ‘ubiquitous surveillance’ is not from the state: it’s from unregulated private tech corporations.

              Again a theme Vinge addressed quite explicitly in another novel – that in response to this ubiquitous surveillance a minority subculture arose of individuals who disconnected completely from the system (which came at an ongoing opportunity cost of course) and led strictly real time lives in secluded privacy. On reading it I certainly knew which pathway appealed to me more.

              • Ad

                Yes that was a bit mean of me.
                They are often prophets, as per Arthur C Clark predicting the internet from back in 1964:

        • Incognito

          It is good to see that you mention Health commands and polio; I used the metaphor of “human disease”.

          Indeed, we’re willing to relinquish some personal rights for personal and public good, particularly if this can be expressed in cold hard economic terms such as GDP and the likes. This attitude seems to have undergone a subtle change in the Government’s response to Covid; the dilemma health vs. economy was transcended to health and economy; from a binary to dualism.

          When it comes to giving up rights such as free unencumbered online access to whatever content and the freedom to express yourself, the equation is much more complex and hard to solve. I don’t think it has an exact solution, only an approximation (RL can comment on the mathematical aspects 🙂 ).

          But it is not that hard 🙂

    • RedLogix 8.2

      How about just referring to 'him who cannot be named' as Voldemort. That way we'll all know who you're talking about. devil

    • In Vino 8.3

      Ad – I find the final word 'that' at the end of your comment 8 ambiguous. It is a pronoun referring back to a previous idea – but which?

      Modern society cannot survive without exactly what? Strong invasive state, or freedom from it?

      I know what I believe, but I don’t find your meaning clear.

      • Ad 8.3.1

        It was mentioned at the beginning so there was no need to repeat, but here you go:

        “…the strong state is far more invasive in its reach than it has been since WW2, it is not going away, and modern society can’t survive without the strong state.”

        • RedLogix

          My observation here is that having been told for several generations now that we need not concern ourselves too much with personal responsibility – is it any surprise that the state has been compelled to step into the vacuum?

          • Ad

            I certainly would have accepted that as a premise between 1930 and 1987, when the NZ state did all but tell us when to pee … but not since the full deregulation of all our collectives into consumers and since 2010 the full atomisation of humans from families into digital persons.

            • RedLogix

              I'm not sure I follow that logic. Yes I agree with the atomisation process you outline, but in my view that coincided with the left also loudly proclaiming that 'personal responsibility' was a tatty fig-leaf pinned on by the right to cover up the nasty bits of the neoliberal agenda.

              As a result maybe we got the worst of both worlds, both the atomisation and the undermining of personal obligation toward maintaining the social contract.

    • Incognito 8.4

      Thanks Ad.

      Just a few comments.

      And of course, leftie sites like The Standard self-police commenters to an even higher bar – whatever it is in the hands of any editor. So our modern left sure know how to censor.

      I think you’re conflating moderating and censoring; they are very different beasts, as you (should) know. I’d be most interested if you can point to another site, left or right, where moderation is lighter or even absent and where things are better because of that, in your opinion. I do take your point that the Left is no stranger to authoritarian tendencies; weka said the same thing above @ 1.1 and I made a similar comment recently (https://thestandard.org.nz/open-mike-02-05-2021/#comment-1790724).

      There's no use using asinine terms like "healing". […] Fuck healing.

      By “healing” I meant ‘to make whole’, not the more commonly used meaning of ‘to cure’. To bring opposite sides together needs to happen at the individual as well as collective-societal level. And at an even larger/higher level, if we want to deal with climate change and the steady poisoning of this planet.

      Yes, central command of the economy by the State is essential. However, the danger is that the State will take it one or two steps farther and too far. Mission creep is real.

  9. Incognito 9

    Hansen [Detective Inspector Sean Hansen manages counter-terrorism investigations] said many individuals spoken to held racist views, but that in itself was not a criminal offence under current legislation. [my italics]

    “Assessments were made as to whether the individual subscribed to a violent extremist ideology and if so, this was subject to further investigation, especially where there was a realistic possibility that an individual may choose to act on their racist beliefs.”

    “These investigations were based on threat assessments of the intent and capability of an individual to cause harm. Many individual leads were assessed as keyboard warriors.” [my italics]

    Anyone can see the huge grey area here, the danger of interpretation and judgement that is subjective and therefore open to bias and prejudice. For example, is hate speech as such an act or merely (!) an expression of one’s racist views? What about the radicalising effect on others, even if it is not intentional but could be seen as reasonable and possible (likely?) outcome of one’s online communications?

    The increase [of tips of potential national security interest] was a symptom, it seemed, of Kiwis’ determination to out anyone with white supremacist views.

    Kiwis telling on Kiwis. Does this increase mutual trust and respect? Does this make our society safer and more cohesive? Does it increase trust in the authorities, especially the ones with special powers? Is more and wide-ranging State involvement necessarily a good thing?


    • RedLogix 9.1

      And having literally just gotten off the phone talking to my daughter who is clearly the victim of a rogue cop overstepping their authority – I'm not of a mood to be all that trusting of the system to apply such broad and powerful new laws with any consistency or reasonableness at all.

    • Ad 9.2

      You need a bit more mental confidence than to just put up a set of weak rhetorical questions at the end.

      Multiple hundreds of New Zealanders have intelligence and risk assessment files on them. And since we’ve had a massive terror attack, we sure are are going to swallow the price of another Nicky Hagar getting his sofa turned over.

      New Zealand is by any measure you can find one with a high degree of social trust, very high trust in government, very small intelligence agencies, utterly tiny military, high trust in the Police,


      and are also one of the world’s highest users of social media providing for exceedingly high degrees of digital social cohesion.

      Social stigma is the only alternative to non-existent social media regulation.

      • Incognito 9.2.1

        That’s how my brain works, leave the question till the end, and I don’t have mental confidence, otherwise I wouldn’t be here on TS.

        New Zealand is by any measure you can find one with a high degree of social trust, very high trust in government, very small intelligence agencies, utterly tiny military, high trust in the Police,

        Yet, I don’t find Kiwis the most tolerant lot.

        What is “digital social cohesion”?

  10. GreenBus 10

    What is “digital social cohesion”?

    Sending pictures of their dinner to friends, sending pictures of naughty bits to the ex, and lots and lots of utter rubbish!

  11. Jackel 11

    If we can see that they adhere to some reasonable standard of the good then we should treat them as we would want to be treated, but if we see that they adhere to no reasonable standard of the good then we should treat them as they would treat us.

    • Incognito 11.1

      Who is “they”?

      If they’re good, we should treat them equally well. If they’re bad, we should treat them equally bad. If they’re worse, we should treat them equally worse.

      If that’s what you’re saying, I can see a few problems.

      • Jackel 11.1.1

        By they I meant others, just a not so good choice of pronouns.

        I think that behaving in a good way towards others who are behaving poorly isn't going to change their behaviour and may in fact be used against you, whereas a tit for tat approach if their behaviour is poor may at least make them stop and think and would generally be more effective. By poor behaviour I mean the standard liberal meaning of doing harm or potential harm to others. Obviously this approach wouldn't apply to some major act of harm where you wouldn't then do the same to them. I'm talking more there about when things are building up as a means of prevention.

  12. Jackel 12

    Individuals should sort out their problems where they can themselves, amongst themselves, and the state should step in where they fail to do so but in a way where the state can be effective and not make matters worse.

  13. Tiger Mountain 13

    What a steaming pile of post modernism in this post. Such philosophical trends and methods have a nihilist effect imo when essentially “anything can mean anything”. A common summation of PM is that “a correct description of Reality is impossible”.

    I maintain the world is knowable, and changeable for the better.

    • Incognito 13.1

      Thank you for your invaluable insight.

      The world may indeed be knowable, but I don’t know what you’re on about. Still, it brightened my sunny morning knowing that humans are utterly unpredictable and one can therefore never know what they’ll come up with when they read a blog post; in some cases, I prefer nihilism over unhinged outrage – neither have any bearing on the truth.

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