Her pronouncements are so bizarre and ‘out there’ that many consider her to be unhinged.

“Language is the first indicator of genocidality.”

This is the claim made by Kate Hannah in the podcast released this week by Radio New Zealand (RNZ), Undercurrent. It is a 7-part series on Misinformation in New Zealand, hosted by Susie Ferguson and there is one word for it:


“It’s genocidal because it’s about the eradication of a particular group of people,” adds Ferguson after Kate Hannah’s claim. The inference is clear. To disagree with someone’s identity or ideology, to counter their way of thinking, is the same thing as countering them; their very existence, not just their thoughts. Joseph Goebbels famously encouraged his supporters to accuse their enemies of the crimes they do themselves. Accusing everyday Kiwis of spreading hate and misinformation in an explicit attempt to damage democracy, this is actually what material like this does itself.

The Free Speech Union refuses to sit idly by as attacks like this are made on our democracy, but we can’t do it by ourselves. I’m writing to ask you, to commit to enabling us to defend Kiwis’ free speech and to support our work. Doubling down on the hysteria of other material released such as Paula Penfold’s Fire and Fury, the subsequent Web of Chaos, and the ‘research’ released by the Disinformation Project, this most recent release is hyperbolic twaddle, plain and simple. What is really disturbing is the lack of rigour in the programme. Misinformation is not defined. No examples are given. Same with Disinformation.

And yet mainstream media propagates this stuff as they announce the end of our democracy because the great unwashed have the audacity to counter the groupthink we’re told to maintain. We must counter these malicious accusations not with censorship and slander, but with reason and dialogue that protect our country from being torn apart simply because some dare diagree. We know that the potential transition from “misinformation” to outright violence is a real worry. But how do we counter that? It’s not by drumming up such elite hysteria that the force of the state is bought in to stamp out ‘wrongthink.’

Material such as this ignores many of the reasons why traditional institutions that were trusted, such as the media, are so untrusted today. It relates largely to the contempt they have had for the basic liberties of those they were supposed to serve. It goes without saying that RNZ, Susie Ferguson, and the entire entourage have every right to express their fears of everyday Kiwis being allowed to speak freely. In fact, for those of us who believe in the value of New Zealanders retaining their freedoms of speech and conscience, it’s helpful for us to know who our enemies are.

But we’re not going to sit by idly by and watch in silence as they strike at the very foundations of our freedoms: the rights to believe according to your conscience, and express those beliefs freely.

There is a great irony in Sanjana Hattotuwa‘s claim: “What I see has already happened is that society has become more intolerant. And specifically, it’s the violence around the negotiation of difference.” He is right, and yet again, he is exactly what he accuses his enemy of.

Denying Kiwis the right to believe according to their conscience and express those beliefs will produce more divison, there is no question. The opposite of free speech, which demands differences be resolved through reason and dialogue, is violence, which says differences are dealt with by force. These are indispensable features of every society that is able to live peacefully and tolerantly with itself.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.

“The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie.

“It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

This, also, is a quote credited to Goebbels. Today in New Zealand, Government funding is put into researching misinformation, producing media content on misinformation, creating a new ‘super-regulator’ to challenge misinformation, and the list goes on. In May, when the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet announced a tender bid for $450,000 to research disinformation, we put together a consortium of imminently respected and qualified academics to ensure that this research was done with free speech at its foundation. The consultant who helped us draft the bid, who has written hundreds of similar proposals said, speaking to the caliber fo the team ‘If you don’t get this contract, I will be shocked.”

We didn’t. DPMC hasn’t actually told us yet who has received the funding and contract, although work has already started. Unfortunately, it seems all our fears were correct.

Those who want to demolish free speech, those who believe your freedom to think freely is ‘genocidal’, have immense resources at their disposal. Through your support of the Free Speech Union, we have been able to counter these claims. We’ve produced our own podcasts, released our own documentary film, authored our own research, and much more. But we feel like we’ve got a garden hose and they’ve got a fire hydrant. The team at the FSU still want to conduct some of the research we proposed to DPMC. Our consortium is still ready to go. We will illustrate that free speech is crucial for social cohesion, that differences of opinions don’t need to result in violence, and that strong investment in education is superior to censorship.

We also want to produce a podcast series that celebrates what free speech has given New Zealand; we want to continue to engage young people about the importance of tolerance. To do any of this, we need you to support our work.

If Government funding will continue to be provided to those who are undermining the speech rights of Kiwis (like $595,000 being spent on the hate speech law proposals), the only alternative is for Kiwis to band together and chip into the fight. Today’s podcast, and the incessant voices of those who tell us we must conform to their way of thinking, or else we are far-right, genocidal Nazis, reminds me that the stakes are high. But I for one still have great hope that free speech can remain a dominant cultural value. It’s just going to take each of us doing our part.