It was a bright, cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
David Seymour stood on the pavement outside the Ministry of Truth and looked up. An enormous face gazed from a poster that covered the entire building. Her dark eyes looked deep into Seymour's own. The poster was captioned, BIG SISTER IS WATCHING YOU.
A siren wailed and a car skidded to a halt on the corner. Seymour knew what it meant. Officers of the Thought Police would have received an anonymous tip-off and were about to make an arrest. It happened every day. No one was safe.
He watched as the Thought Police approached a man sitting by himself in a cafe. The man shook his head but Seymour knew it wasn't any use. There would be no trial, no chance to fight the charges. All that mattered was the accusation. Once you were accused of a Forbidden Opinion, you were toast. You were history. You were – Seymour was stirred to anger at the dread word – cancelled.
He shouted, "The Party's proposed hate speech laws are destroying our right to free speech!"
A crowd gathered. Seymour was given a platform. He stood on it, and said, "The Party intends changing free speech laws in a way that has the potential to create terrible division and resentment in New Zealand for decades to come. I intend to stop it!
"I am in the middle of a tour of 13 centres across the country to rally public support to maintain New Zealand's traditions of free speech. Who's with me?"
But Wellington was the wrong place to look for support. It was just as bad in Auckland. The big cities were under the control of Newspeak.
Seymour said to a crowd in Napier, "What constitutes hate speech is a matter of subjective political opinion. We know what burglary is, but one person's hate speech could be another person's strongly held but poorly expressed view. It is impossible to effectively codify and will therefore stifle debate and breed resentment!"
Seymour said to a crowd in Queenstown, "Justice Minister Kris Faafoi says it will criminalise speech that is 'abusive, threatening and incites hostility', and the Human Rights Commission says it will prohibit speech that is 'threatening, abusive or insulting'. Where will the line be drawn? The decision to prosecute will become arbitrary. People won't know they've committed a crime until they've been convicted!"
Seymour said to a crowd in Wānaka, "Democracy and the ability to have civil and honest conversations is already becoming imperilled, which is why this is the worst possible time to empower lynch mobs who choose to take offence at ideas they don't support!"
Big Sister poured from a pot of camomile tea. She turned to her officials from the Ministry of Love and said, "Seymour is going up and down the country speaking his mind."
No one said anything.
"Do you think," she asked, blowing on the cup, "that he has a point?"
"Of course not," they chanted.
She took a sip. "Good," she said. "That's what I thought. Now let's get that hate speech legislation through as quickly as possible. Go."
The clock struck fourteen.