Friday, July 27, 2007

Not Funny in New Zealand

I'm not one of these people who gets their news from the Daily Show, but sometimes, it is just the most informative place around. If you weren't watching it last night, I bet you didn't know that New Zealand has passed a law prohibiting the use of images captured in its parliament for the purpose of "satire, ridicule, or denigration." Try finding that story in the New York Times or the Washington Post.

So what's more interesting here: that we have to rely on Jon Stewart to bring us international news, or the news itself? I'll go for the news. What are those New Zealanders thinking? (And by the way, I'm sure they have a cute nickname that would have been more appropriate in the last sentence but I have no idea what it is.) I guess it's one of those countries that doesn't really have a constitution (there's another thing I don't know about New Zealand -- Wikipedia to the rescue); it probably revels in its "unwritten constitution," which to us Americans is another word for "not having a constitution at all." Laws like this show why you need a constitution with a Free Speech Clause. It's hard to believe that democratically elected politicians could be so stupid as to pass a law against satiring themselves -- surely if you were such a politician it would occur to you that 71% of the population would disapprove -- but politicians will do anything if they're not constitutionally constrained (and I know, I know, in America some politicians will do anything even if they are constitutionally constrained, but at least it seems better to have the constraint).

Political satire will survive in New Zealand, I'm sure -- I wouldn't want to be the prosecutor who has to bring the first case against New Zealand's equivalent of the Daily Show (I actually looked up some New Zealand nicknames to create an appropriate in-joke name for New Zealand's Daily Show, but believe me, if I had put it in there you wouldn't have understood anyway) -- but it's somewhat amazing to see such a blatant and pointless assault on free speech in a democratic country. I'll stick with the written Constitution, thanks.


rednikki said...

New Zealanders call themselves Kiwis.

And the broadcast media have already announced they won't follow the law, so.

Jon Siegel said...

Ah, thanks. What are those Kiwis thinking? That would have been much better.