Life mimicking art: we can handle the truth

Tom Cruise’s finest hour.

Cameron Slater will appear in court tomorrow to defend charges relating to name suppression breaches. Based on my non-legal understanding of the situation, he will defend the charges on a series of technicalities when it has been obvious even to casual observers that he knew what he was doing, that he doesn’t believe he has done the slightest thing wrong, and indeed that he is intensifying and expanding his campaign for reform of (some aspects of) the justice system.

Defending this through spurious legal chicanery seems wrong-headed to me. I disagree (vehemently) with what Slater has said and done, but I am wholly in favour of his right to hold the opinions he holds and think that if he acted on them in good conscience then those acts should be robustly defended on their merits as social critique. If they are to have any legitimacy, acts of civil disobedience (though some might call this uncivil) must not be resiled from, because backing away and making excuses to get off on a technicality robs the enterprise of its only strength: that it is a principled stance against a status quo which is wrong or unjust.

I think it should be obvious enough that there is some dissatisfaction with the state of name suppression law at present, and while the Law Society have released an excellent review, the debate has not filtered down into the general public in any meaningful way as yet. Even though I largely approve of the current state of affairs, I think it’s a debate worth having; I’m not afraid to have it, but I think it should be had in the cool light of day, unshielded by shady innuendo and legal fiction.

So, Cameron, my suggestion to you is this: if you really want to reform name suppression laws (and the wider justice system), get up on your hind legs in court, say something along the lines of “you’re goddamn right I did”, take your lumps and kick off the public debate with some credibility. Standing up for what you believe is not only a right; in civil society it’s a responsibility. If you gave action to your conscience and you do not resile from it, don’t hide behind lawyers: be proud of what you did. We can handle the truth.


12 thoughts on “Life mimicking art: we can handle the truth

  1. But Cameron going to jail will mean depriving our heroic atlas of his his socially and economic productive role in society!

    We just can’t have that can we?

  2. Who said anything about him going to jail? As I understand it, he’s up for a fine and a lot of publicity. Sounds like that would suit his purposes down to the ground.


  3. It is a sad commentary on NZ that a homophobic, racist, sickness benefit-rorting, bullying gun freak insurance fraudster bigot with sociopathic tendencies and narcissistic personality disorder can have his self-promoting vigilantism somehow construed as a champion of justice and freedom of speech. That Lew would even dignify his perverted crusade with a mention here is distressing. The issue is not a matter of his standing on conviction and principle, but one of an individual not only putting himself above the law on the matter of name suppression, but then threatening the judicial system itself by extending his (profit-oriented) name-and-shame campaign to judges who he disagrees with. There is a word for that: sedition. But the sedition laws were repealed in 2006, so all that is left is contempt charges–which he proudly admits to amid all the threats and bluster.

    Of course there are problems with name suppression and judges that are “soft” on criminals. But please, let us not make a martyr out of this mendacious mental midget masquerading as a champion of the masses.

  4. I agree it is loathsome, and for that reason I’ve not linked to the site or the proceedings. But I generally think loathsomeness should stand in the hot glare of the public gaze and be judged on its merits, such as they are. If Slater can defend his actions on principle, rather than by legal technicalities, then I say: let him.

    As it is, he will claim martyrdom either way. How he does it is a test of how much he believes in the civil society he claims to support by his recourse to the rhetoric of civil disobedience and standing up for what’s right. I think the continued insistence on defending his convictions using legal sleight-of-hand is a fairly good indication that he doesn’t believe his own hype.


  5. I should also say that I don’t hold this to be true for all loathsomeness. Some loathsomeness must be swiftly and ruthlessly smacked down by a civil state intent on protecting its institutions, and direct threats against judges carrying out their sworn duty comes into this latter class.

    I expect the powers that be to do just that if there is the merest hint of actual judicial harrassment as a result of Slater’s actions.


  6. I remember seeing a helpline TV program when I was overseas. An Indian man called and was talking about the problems his family had with his interracial relationship. He kept stopping the presenters when they tried to help him and saying that they didn’t really understand his problem. It went from the relationship to their having sex and then to them taping themselves having sex. The presenters finally thought they understood: that a member of his family had seen the tape. However, he stopped them again and said that this wasn’t the problem.

    His problem was that he had published his sex tape on the internet and wanted to know how to get it off in case someone he knew downloaded it.

    The hosts tried not to laugh.

    The relevance of this odd story: Slater may be a narcissistic clown, but name suppression orders simply do not work in this day and age.

    The court has no real power to enforce them.

  7. I disagree. Most of the time, they do work tolerably well. It’s only in high-profile or very lurid cases with high gossip value or where someone has an axe to grind and leaks the information that name suppression fails. You could perhaps argue that those are the cases where there is the most interest in maintaining the suppression order’s integrity, but it’s too much of a stretch to say that they just don’t work.


  8. The perception exists (rightly or wrongly) that it is easier to obtain a suppression order if you’re rich or famous.

    The Law Commission report highlights inconsistencies in the way judges deal with suppression issues. The lack of clear guidelines feeds the public’s perception that judges just make it up as they go along.

    The report also highlights the inadequacy of penalties for breaching name suppression laws. The Slater case may lead to those penalties being reviewed.

  9. We can handle the truth Pablo, but we are always surprised when academics use colourful adjectives.

  10. SPC: Just a little alluvial alliteration to make the point that we need to separate the subject from the side-show huckster.

  11. Pingback: Kiwipolitico » Blog Archive » Fighting symbolism with symbolism

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