Daryush “Roosh” Valizadeh’s freedom of speech won’t be suppressed if the Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, denies him a visa. In the past few days there have been increasing calls on the federal government to block so-called “neo-masculinist” Valizadeh from entering Australia.
Outraged politicians have called for him to be denied a visa. Online petitions have been set up to “let the NSW Police Force know that [people] are absolutely livid” about his visit.
Peter Dutton has already clarified he hasn’t applied for a visa, and won’t get one. The minister’s office has said that “in the past people advocating violence against women have had their visa refused or cancelled”. It has also made it clear that “people who advocate violence against women aren’t welcome in Australia”. In response to the furore, Valizadeh tweeted that “there’s more media outrage against a male happy hour than when European women got molested and raped in Cologne. What an appalling sham”. In fact, the real sham is Valizadeh’s representation of his own events as a “male happy hour”.
Valizadeh is a despicable and loathsome figure, but from a human rights perspective that should be irrelevant. We are rarely called to defend the rights of the popular. But by denying him a visa we are not violating his free speech.
Freedom of speech is about whether the government can outlaw what you have to say. There is nothing stopping individuals jumping on YouTube and broadcasting their vile message for Australians to see. You can already read a blog of Return of Kings’ values and views online, though I wouldn’t encourage it.
What is being restricted is freedom of movement. All countries have a right to decide who comes into their country, or not. In the Western liberal tradition, governments are expected to provide security for the people they are charged to protect, and to preserve a system of government that protects people’s rights. That’s why we have a visa process.
We have simple tests such as security, health and identity assessments to keep Australians safe. Under Section 501 of the Commonwealth Migration Act, the Immigration Minister can deny someone a visa to Australia if they fail a character test of wide scope. The test allows the minister to assess the threat posed by past or possible criminal behaviour and the likelihood that an applicant would disrupt community cohesion.
The Immigration Minister has significant discretionary power. The breadth of the test does raise concerns that immigration law can be used to block people who might create political dilemmas for the incumbent government.
That is why attempts by some ethnic community leaders to stop the issuing of a visa to the Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, last year was such a bad idea. Wilders was in Australia to launch a new political party that would compete with the government for votes. It would be disgraceful if a representative of one political party used their discretionary power, without a serious and credible justification, to block a visa for someone seeking to promote an alternative political party. It is better that the exercise of such powers are based on objective assessment. For example, the denial last year of a visa to US rapper Chris Brown was based on his record of convictions for domestic violence.
By comparison, it was debatable that US anti-abortion activist Troy Newman should have been denied a visa. But after he tried to subvert Australian law it became a relatively clear. People shouldn’t be denied a visa to Australia simply because they have an unpopular idea.
It’s hard to think that Return of Kings is a misunderstood group. On their website they make it clear that they are only interested in “heterosexual, masculine men”. It then goes on to state that “Women and homosexuals are strongly discouraged from commenting” on their blog. And that is only a very small sample of their world view.
The problem with Valizadeh is that he is building a movement built on the idea that women are subservient to men. That argument is then used to justify all manner of crimes against women in pursuit of prioritising men’s interests, including rationalising violence.
That notion is completely contrary to the Western liberal democratic principle of justice and equality before the law. So long as they don’t urge or incite violence against others, any Australian can legally espouse the views of “neo-masculinity”. But the question is: should we allow Valizadeh in the country to encourage it? Logic says no.
This article was originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on 03/02/2016 and can be found here.