Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Defending the indefensible

Trans activists have rationalised violent censorship

Artillery Row

Video footage of a mob violently attacking women in a public park in Auckland went viral this weekend. If you thought scenes of a 70-year-old woman being repeatedly punched in the head would elicit unequivocal condemnation, think again. Kellie Jay Keen abandoned her Let Women Speak tour of New Zealand because the shocking events in Albert Park made explicit that fanatical activists determined to silence women have no boundaries and no concept whatsoever of freedom of speech. What is astonishing is the journalists and politicians who minimise or justify this targeted violent intimidation. 

Chloe Swarbrick is the Green MP for Auckland Central. The day after the splenetic scenes in Albert Park, she was glibly tweeting about “revisionist history” and boldly claiming the event had been one of “love and affirmation”. Organisers “went out of their way to diffuse any behaviours they did not condone of”. This Orwellian assertion triggered a scathing backlash because, unfortunately for Chloe, the brutal images which contradicted her anodyne account had already reached a global audience.

Are these women just collateral damage, like freedom of speech?

Meanwhile in the UK, Chesca Walton — who is co-chair of Green Party Women and a Parliamentary candidate for Hackney — said nothing about the multiple assaults in Albert Park. She was instead keen to clarify that she does not believe in freedom of speech as a defining political value or any value worth defending at all. “Freedom of speech can never come at the cost of oppression of marginalised groups. Solidarity with everyone standing up to transphobia in NZ. A curious perspective for the co-chair of Green Women. Has she seen the images of the 70-year-old woman with the huge black eye? Has she read the eloquent account on Katrina Biggs’ Substack by Caitlin, a pregnant woman trapped with others on the rotunda whilst a seething crowd attacked? Or are these women just collateral damage, like freedom of speech? After all, you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs.

Shaneel Lal is a columnist for The Herald, NZ’s biggest paper. Lal was in Albert Park and described the events, in which men crackling with rage tore down barriers to reach Kellie Jay, like this: “Posie Parker caged herself in like a chicken within fences. She didn’t get to say a word.” Do you hear that? “She didn’t get to say a word.” This columnist from New Zealand’s “paper of record” repeatedly describes Kellie as a “Nazi Terf” — implying that retributive measures against her are justified. Rod Emmerson is a cartoonist on the same paper. His image of a giant hairy male hand jabbing a talon finger at a tiny distorted Kellie does not achieve the effect he intended. Instead the jarring juxtaposition exposes the aggression directed at women who refuse to submit to the stifling orthodoxy on sex and gender. 

A brave steward, her voice resonant with emotion, describes how she struggled to get Kellie out of Albert Park whilst forced to run the gauntlet of the violent mob. Kellie credits her security with saving her life; the police were not present despite the mayhem. It requires great courage for a woman to publicly criticise gender ideology and Kellie Jay Keen demonstrated that in Auckland.

 In the UK, women’s voices at LWS events are drowned out by authoritarian activists with megaphones who follow and harangue us at every meeting. Their contempt for freedom of speech and penchant for masks and black bloc whilst shrieking about fascists would be laughable — except none of this is remotely funny. “Whose streets? Our streets. Scratch a terf, a fascist bleeds.” The aim of this aggressively territorial rhetoric is to demonise women and drive us from the public square. Freedom of speech matters. We cannot allow an authoritarian ideology which tolerates no dissent to dominate the discourse.

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