In this modern and politically correct world we are not short of public figures telling us how to act and behave in order to make the world a better place. Yet somehow, people like the Christchurch shooter still exist despite being told not to. Why is that?

The blame rests on all of us, not for failing to fight racism, but for failing to prevent “Anti-Racism” from driving a wedge in society. Clear as mud? Right. That’s because anti-racism campaigns are actually two-in-one these days. Firstly, they say racism is bad. Cool, it sure is, no question. But then it goes further to say that any efforts to discuss any point of view other than the party line is in itself racist. That’s where the problem lies – we can’t have a discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of, say, immigration and come to a reasoned position because it’s racist to even contemplate anything other than the what we’re told is correct.

So what does this do to those who have a differing opinion? The result is a complete shut-out and the label of racist (and if you’re European then it’s an automatic label of White Supremacist). We see it on more than just immigration and race issues – the tendency that’s arisen in the last few years on the far left of the political spectrum is to completely reject different views on most topics. What happens next has potentially deadly consequences: those with differing beliefs are forced underground where they consort with only those who share that same view. They form echo chambers. A victim of such echo chambers can sit stewing for long periods and be worked up into a frenzy, fed by only a ‘positive’ feedback loop that can encourage ideas that would never be considered in a healthy and balanced group. Right-wing extremists are not the only ones guilty of this, we seem the exact same thing on the left end as well. After being stuck in a broken feedback cycle for long enough, the bubble can burst and unleash a torrent of extremism on the world. Of course well-conditioned people are horrified, but to those in the echo chamber in their position of isolation it feels like the resulting actions are reasonable, albeit from a very different viewpoint. By refusing to allow differing opinions to be heard in public, extremist echo chambers are forced into existence.

Let’s take a step back in time and imagine a New Zealand where all points of view are allowed to be heard. Shocking, right? not like the NZ we have now where a pamplet disagreeing with the Treaty of Waitangi is labelled “hate speech” and right-wing speakers have their venues cancelled. Well imagine a lively public debate that included the topic of immigration being held in Christchurch one night. There’s practically no chance of someone like the shooter exerting enough self control to stay away from debating something he is clearly enraged about. After getting worked up and ranting in public, one or both of two things would happen. Either he would be identified as someone to keep tabs on, or he might realize that the views he holds are much further from the center than he had thought now that he is outside his echo chamber. It might only take a tiny shift back from the radical point of view to make all the difference in deciding to act out. And beyond this, he would also feel that he has had a chance to voice his opinion, which in itself would likely be enough to bring him back from the brink.

It is quite ironic that “Anti-Racism” style campaigns that aim to be inclusive at the same time now exclude many. What used to be debate and discussion has turned to an aggressive authoritarian approach in the last few years, and it clearly does not work beyond a superficial level. Instead of working to change peoples minds through openness and discussion, it often simply seeks to silence opposition and claim virtue.

As lovely as it would be to magically create an equal world where nobody cares about race or colour, the fact is that we don’t live in that perfect world but shutting out and refusing to engage with differing views is no way forward except to totalitarianism. Our culture; who we are as Kiwis, is a mix of all of us – including the extremes which are averaged out by the rest. If we want to make New Zealand a better place then we need to listen to what other viewpoints have to say and engage in the discussion, otherwise, well, we all now know what can happen.