Tuesday, May 01, 2007

S 59 Debate: Aucklander at Large

A blogger Aucklander at Large (AAL) says a bunch of stuff that is depressingly typical. I'll comment on a couple of AAL's paragraphs which I render in green type and in order:
I have to hand it to the right on this one - they really have won the battle on public misinformation over repealing Section 59. According to people like my good friend Bob McCoskrie, this is about turning lightly smacking your children a criminal offence - mums and dads across the country will end up in prison - but luckily the police won't prosecute if you do smack your children, so the whole thing is pointless. And the public have lapped this up. (my italics)
This opening paragraph is curious in various ways.
We're told that there's misinformation afoot.... and a "good friend" is cited as purveying this misinformation. But what is the misinformation? Sue Bradford's bill does criminalize light smacking+, so that can't be it. The answer seems to be the claim of "aboutness": the good friend is right about what the Bill does but misinforms to the extent he suggests that the Bill is "about" what it does. This is a fairly bizarre move to make. Who cares what a Bill is "about"? It's what it does/says that matters (surely that's what the "good friend" would insist). Compare a prohibition of alcohol or a zero-tolerance level of alcohol for drivers: one can go on till the cows come home about "preventing hideous smashes" or "saving lives" or whatever else taking such steps might be "about", but ultimately all of that just distracts from assessing the merits of the prohibition/additional criminalization itself. A bad Bill can't be saved because it's "about" something good nor should a good Bill be damned because it's allegedly "about" something bad.
Maybe the police won't prosecute because that's not what Sue Bradford's bill is all about. It is simply about giving children the same rights as every other citizen of New Zealand, in that parental discipline will no longer be a valid defence for beating the crap out of your children.
Bradford's Bill criminalizes smacking one's children for correction but that's supposed to be OK because it's "about giving children the same rights" etc.. As we went into in detail here this
is a silly way to put things: children have exactly the same or greater protections against arbitrary adults that adults do, it's just that their parents stand in a very special relation to them, which makes all the difference. Bradford's Bill de-acknowledges one traditionally very important dimension of/possibility within that special relationship... one can tryy to see that as a rights issue if one wants but that's a big step: you're then saying that even if smacking had demonstrable benefits for children parents couldn't provide them because it would violate child's rights to do so. At any rate, like so many other writers on the issue, AAL shows no understanding of these different dimensions of what he's suggesting.
The remark about S 59 being a valid defence for "beating the crap out of kids" is a cheap shot, after all everyone agrees that "beating the crap out of" is not covered by S 59 defences (that would be "unreasonable force", right?). Of course the occasional S 59 case will succeed in that way - mistakes/false positives are made with every defence both statutory and common law. And there will always be close calls where reasonable people and different juries can and will disagree about where the line is, and what should be allowed, what's reasonable. That's life. And to the extent that one really wanted to reduce the false positive rate and eliminate cases of misclasssified "beating-the-crap-out-of" cases, well then the various Borrows-type amendments were available.... which Bradford and AAL opposed. Truly then we're in emotive red-herring-land here.... So depressing.
But, no, of course it's a big leftwing conspiracy against all parents who "undertake good parenting" and occasionally smack their children, and will turn mum and dad New Zealanders into criminals.
And this takes the biscuit! After high-velocity mongering of a variety of distortions AAL accuses others of making stuff up... citing stuff that's factually correct as some of the stuff that's made up! Good grief.

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