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Interview: Deconstructing Wayne Mapp MP

Sat 12 Nov 2005 In: Features

Dr. Wayne Mapp MP Calling an innocent gay man a "paedophile" is unacceptable, calling gays in general "paedophiles" is free speech – says National's "PC eradicator" Wayne Mapp. GAYNZ.COM: One of your definitions of political correctness: “a set of attitudes and beliefs that are divorced from mainstream values”. What are mainstream values? DR WAYNE MAPP: It's really... you've taken that directly from the speech, I take it? GNZ: Yes. WM: It's essentially when minorities try and tell majorities how to think. But I'm clearly going to be doing a bit more work on that, because I can see that has caused some difficulty for people. GNZ: But what would you say mainstream values are? WM: Mainstream is essentially what most people think. But I'm well aware that democracies involve the protection of minority rights. That goes without saying. GNZ: You've also mentioned “insidious social engineering.” What would you say “social engineering” is? WM: Social engineering is when you essentially change the social fabric of the country in ways that people don't want, and I think the prostitution legislation was good example of that. Local communities can no longer pass bylaws to regulate soliciting or the placement of brothels in their communities. That's a good example of social engineering. GNZ: Do you think, to some extent, all government legislation is social engineering of a type? WM: No, I don't. One of the characteristics of social engineering is when society gets changed in a way that most people don't want. And if you take prostitution, most people didn't want those changes. GNZ: Would you say you're a mainstream New Zealander? WM: I certainly would. GNZ: What defines you as a mainstream New Zealander? WM: Basically, my views are essentially in common with most people. I obey the law, I get out and make a difference to the country. GNZ: It's been said that political correctness shuts down debate by reducing arguments to labels such as ‘racist', ‘sexist', ‘homophobic', etc. Given the difficulty in defining political correctness, is ‘pc' not just an example of another label used to shut down debate, but from the other end of the argument? WM: I think the whole point about political correctness is that it does try and control the way... it tries to control the full range of debate. And you can't talk in a certain way about groups. Hate speech is a good example of that, whereby...the concern about hate speech was that people would no longer be able to discuss certain topics. And you'll note that the government have agreed they will not have hate speech legislation. GNZ: But is ‘pc' not just another label? It's been difficult in the last week to get a concrete definition of it. If you can say that someone is ‘sexist', and that shuts down debate, can you not just also say ‘political correctness gone mad' and there the discussion ends? WM: I think in some cases people do use it a bit like that. I think one of the features of political correctness is not just the range of debate, but rather the fact that there's usually, not always, but usually an element of state involvement in it. For instance, schools... primary schools do not have scores kept in school sports. Now that's something that's required by the school. Did the community have any choice in that? No. So, one of the elements of political correctness in my view is that it invariably involves state organisations mandating things which effectively direct the way people think or act. GNZ: How would you respond to accusations that ‘pc' is simply anything the National Party doesn't like? WM: Well that's why I'm going to be doing some serious work on it. That is not correct. It would be... wrong to see it simply as a reactive approach. That's why you do have to sort of give some serious thought as to what it is, what's wrong with it, and what to do about it. And I certainly indicated that one of the key aspects of it is the fact that it involves state institutions. You're always going to get a range of ideas throughout society, a whole range of ideas. It's when the state gets involved and state institutions effectively get captured, be it schools, universities... perhaps not so much universities... Human Rights Commission is one I've used as well. GNZ: You said at the weekend you were pleased that Georgina Beyer's Gender Identity Bill has been shelved. You said: “Why do we need a special law for transgender people? It's a choice issue - that's a choice she made." Now, religious belief is a choice, and a protected category under the Human Rights Act. Would you be campaigning for the removal of religious belief as a protected category? WM: (laughs) No, I would not. But you have to ask this particular question as much as anyone to the Prime Minister. You'll note that the Labour Government is not proceeding with that bill. Why are they not proceeding with it? In some respects I guess that's seen as fundamentally... being such a minority issue and that there's no issue of serious discrimination there in any event. Serious discrimination is already protected under the Human Rights Act anyway... GNZ: You mention “serious discrimination” in your speech. What would you class as serious discrimination? WM: I think serious discrimination, serious race discrimination is a particularly bad thing. Serious discrimination on sexual orientation, likewise. I mean, New Zealand has moved on. No-one would now, for instance, accept the Tauranga couple who said, ‘we've got a house to rent but no Maoris can apply' – that's clearly a breach of the law. GNZ: Likewise if they said that about a gay couple? WM: Yeah I think so, these days. Yeah. GNZ: So to come back to the choice issue – religious belief wouldn't fall under that same category for you because religious belief is a larger group than transgender people? WM: [pause] Well, I don't think there's really a situation where transgender people are actually being discriminated against. Look at Georgina Beyer, she's hardly being discriminated against. GNZ: In terms of minorities enforcing their views on the majority – why have you chosen to speak out against the ban on smoking? Smokers are a minority. WM: The heading in the Herald was actually misleading. The only thing I'd raised there was actually the definition of the ‘outside' and the RSAs, which is a rather small group in both cases relative to the wider range. For instance, you know how you're allowed to smoke outside? Soon as you put cover over that to protect from rain or wind, that then becomes ‘inside', therefore, no smoking. It was that kind of tweaking that I was really talking about. I think the smoking legislation vis a vis restaurants and bars has generally been a good thing. GNZ: Do you think that any specific minorities have too much power right now? WM: [pause] This is not primarily about minorities and majorities. This is primarily about... the things that really offend against common sense. A good example would be one that was told to me by a colleague: at school and primary school, as I mentioned, scores are not kept in team sports. But the kids actually do know who won or lost. And they themselves keep the score. Now that does seem to be political correctness, and seems to be political correctness because there's a broader agenda there – trying to change the way children think about life, I guess. But in fact they don't. Now that would be a classic case of a minority forcing a view upon the majority of parents who just think its ridiculous. GNZ: So the minority would be well-meaning teachers, in that case? WM: Well-meaning but naive teachers, I suspect. GNZ: In terms of other minorities, you wouldn't say for example, as others have said, that gays and lesbians have too much power? WM: [pause] No, I don't personally see that gays and lesbians have too much power. But I would ask this question: why does the AIDS Foundation have to have reference to the Treaty of Waitangi and the Maori text as being the guiding knowledge in a job advertisement for the CEO? What relevance has that got to the role of the director of the AIDS Foundation? It's the kind of thing where you say: "what the hang is going on here?" GNZ: Something else from your speech – you make reference to a Herald DigiPoll which “rated moral issues as the fifth greatest concern for the community. This poll is a clear reflection that the government has lost touch with New Zealanders and is concerned with promoting a minority agenda.” That poll in fact only showed that 5.4% rated moral issues as the most important concern for them, once again a minority. Is it not ‘political correctness' to respect the views of this minority? WM: No I think... my survey, my experience in the community I live in would show there's a significant level of concern about social issues. GNZ: Why did you cite the Herald DigiPoll then, instead of your own research? WM: Well because it was a publicly... there was many different things in there ranging from tax, to health, to education, to law and order, to Treaty issues, and moral issues actually rated quite high in that. Tax rated as the most important thing I think for 15%. That's not to say that only 15% of New Zealanders was concerned about tax, but in a ranking they put tax at the top. Now, moral issues being number five was substantially higher than that's been in the past. And that was an observation made in that particular poll, in the commentary. It was an undercurrent in the election, that issue. GNZ: How would you define “moral issues”? WM: [laughs] Well, they tend interestingly enough, they seem to by and large relate to things to do with human relationships. Prostitution, civil unions, those sort of things invariably seem to get included in that. It's a bit like conscience votes in Parliament. We have conscience votes in Parliament on things that relate to sexual issues, on alcohol, and on gambling. And those are seen as the moral issues. You might say it's a bit of an idiosyncratic selection, but it seems to be the selection that most people are happy with. GNZ: So you wouldn't include poverty or child abuse as moral issues? WM: I think an argument can be made that they actually are, but it's not what most people think of these days. If you ask most people what a moral issue is, they tend to tie it back to, as I say, issues round sexuality, gambling... GNZ: And you're comfortable with that definition? WM: Well it's the one that actually seems to happen. It's the area, for instance, where parliamentarians have conscience votes and the public actually expect them to have conscience votes in those areas. GNZ: I understand that. But do you think that's a restrictive definition yourself, or are you happy with it? WM: I think it works. People understand what you're talking about. And that's hugely important that when you use language, that the majority of people will actually understand as a result of their own life experience what you're talking about. GAYNZ.COM: Should free speech be absolute? DR WAYNE MAPP: [pause] No. GNZ: Would you say calling someone a paedophile is an acceptable use of free speech? WM: Not if they've not been convicted of a crime, or not been guilty of that. No. So it's not an absolute. Very few people would suggest that free speech is an absolute. GNZ: There were a number of Christian groups who were opposed to National fielding an openly gay candidate at this year's election. Would it have been an acceptable use of free speech for those groups to object to his position on the basis that they didn't want paedophiles in the National Party? WM: Well, I think that would be quite outrageous and defamatory. And indeed, the law of defamation is in fact one of the restrictions on free speech. I'm frankly not aware of anyone who is opposed to an openly gay candidate standing for National Party. GNZ: The Christian Heritage Party did a press release on it. WM: [laughs] That says more about the Christian Heritage Party than anything else, I think. GNZ: You cited an attempt to ban some “Christian” videos that attacked gays as an example of free speech being censured. Are you familiar with the content of these videos? WM: I haven't actually viewed the videos, but I've read about them. Now, I know they're very forthright, and that they said there's more paedophilia among the gay community and things like that. GNZ: Is that an acceptable use of free speech? WM: It's an extreme use of free speech, but it is nevertheless, in my view, within the context of free speech. Now, why do I make a difference between that and the example of the openly gay MP? That's a reasonable question. One is targeted to a particular individual, essentially suggesting they're guilty of a serious crime. Now, that is grossly defamatory. The other is a generalistic statement, which may or may not be true, but... GNZ: May or may not be true? WM: Well, uh... the point I'm really trying to make there is that... it does... it's not aimed at a single individual, and it's essentially something that can be debated. GNZ: What if that was said about Jews? WM: [pause] I think, and I agree that race discrimination has a particularly bad history in the world. And that's one of the reasons why race relations discrimination was the very first area to be focussed on. I'm not saying those videos were not offensive to people. I have not seen them. But being offensive of itself doesn't mean to say it should therefore be prescribed. In a sense, people will condemn themselves by their own extremist statements. GNZ: But if they were directed against an individual... WM: Clearly that would be outrageous. GNZ: Are you aware that screenings of these videos in New Zealand have been linked to incidents of gay bashings? WM: No, I'm not aware of that. I mean... don't get me wrong, I wasn't going out saying those were good videos. That wasn't the point I was making. In fact, I specifically make that point. But rather, should they actually be banned? Big difference, you see. Free speech is all about hearing things that people don't want to hear about, as much as things that actually may offend them, as much as things about, you know, that you support. GNZ: But the statements made in the video are a lie directed against a minority, they're not based on fact. So how is that helpful to promote that as an example of free speech? WM: Because it will be rebutted by the truth, and therefore discredited. GNZ: So it's not a statement you would agree with yourself, that gays are more likely to abuse children? WM: I wouldn't have thought there was any real evidence for that, no. GNZ: So, how are people in society being stopped from expressing opposition to homosexuality at present? Can you think of any other examples besides that? WM: [pause] I think when people are accused of crimes, that's certainly a limitation and a proper limitation. GNZ: I was referring to how you used those videos as an example of how people should be able to express their opposition to homosexuality, if they want to. How would you say people are stopped from doing that at the moment? WM: Well basically, they're not. But if you had hate speech legislation, they would be. That was really the point I was trying to make. GNZ: Are civil unions politically correct? WM: [laughs] Are civil unions politically correct? Well... GNZ: You used them as an example in your speech. WM: Well, they're certainly part of social engineering. But am I suggesting that it should be reversed? No, the answer is [I am] not. That is now part of the fabric of the law, and frankly I don't detect any willingness to have that reversed. I actually did a poll of that in the electorate, and it was actually quite close. 54% of people were opposed to civil unions, 45% were in support. And so in fact actually the community view is actually quite closely held on that... GNZ: So in some ways it wouldn't fit your definition of social engineering then. [see Part 1 of this interview] WM: [continues] ... I voted against it on the basis of that poll. I personally am of the view that things of that nature should not be done by MPs exercising a conscience vote, but should actually be done by referenda. GNZ: So if you'd had six percent more in that poll you would have voted for it? WM: Well, I have this rule that I reflect the view of the community when it comes to a conscience vote, rather than exercising my own conscience, so that's how I did act. It's the logical extension of that viewpoint, isn't it? GNZ: At a public meeting last year organised by the Maxim Institute, you said you found [openly gay MP] Chris Carter's parenting arrangements “disturbing” and that civil unions were “against our society”. Are these the sort of comments you'd like to see more of when you're talking about free speech and homosexuality? WM: Listen, I must confess I did actually apologise to Chris over that. I felt on reflection that was unfair to Chris and his children. GNZ: So these aren't the sort of comments you'd like to see more of when you talk about free speech and homosexuality? WM: Well, free speech has always got to be exercised responsibility, and it was unfair to bring Chris into it, and I recognised that subsequently. GNZ: Earlier this year, findings were released from Otago University's Christchurch Health and Development Study. This study showed gay and lesbian youth were up to five times more likely to have suicidal thoughts and other mental health problems, and factors for this included social discrimination. If one of your children were gay or lesbian, subject to an environment in society where they're made to feel abnormal, against God's teachings, or child abusers. If you found yourself in this situation, what would be more important – freedom of expression, or the health and well-being of your child? WM: Well, I think that's one of the challenges of free speech. It does have a cost associated with it, there's no question about that. I guess, in balance, one has to say that the value of free speech is actually more important than stopping people expressing their views. Now, yes, there can be a cost related to free speech, but it is fundamental to our democracy. Otherwise, if we try and protect everyone against everything, and try to restrict speech, you'll hugely damage the democracy. You'll hugely damage the ability of people to express themselves, and actually if they don't express themselves orally, even worse things could happen. So, we have actually made the balance in favour of free speech. GNZ: So even if it demonstrably causes harm, it must be protected? We've already acknowledged that there are certain restrictions on free speech. WM: Yes, well particularly when people make attacks against individuals. GNZ: So attacks on individuals, not good, attacks on groups – OK? WM: If you're attacking groups, advocating violence against them, that couldn't be OK. If you're saying I don't agree with that person's lifestyle, or that's not something I agree with, that must be surely permissible, even if you don't agree with it. So while one of the limitations of free speech is you can't go round inciting violence, or defaming individuals, so there are limitations on it. In a sense, you have a robust debate. And I have to say, look at the social changes in New Zealand over the last thirty years. The environment for gay people is vastly better than it was thirty years ago. GNZ: And this is a good thing? WM: I think, generally speaking, it probably is. Chris Banks - 12th November 2005    

Credit: Chris Banks

First published: Saturday, 12th November 2005 - 12:00pm

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