If Parliament proposed a nationwide synchronisation of clocks and watches, then at a given date and time, invited everyone who's had an absolute gutsful of the screaming skull, otherwise known as John Minto, to go outside and jump up and down for two minutes, imagine the reaction.

Schools and workplaces would empty, traffic would halt as drivers vacated their vehicles, planes would stay grounded, surgeons would abandon patients on the operating tables, the disabled would haul themselves from their wheelchairs, lovers would commit coitus interruptus, the dying would climb from their beds and quite conceivably, such would be the intensity of feeling, the dead would rise from their graves, all to jump up and down to send the screaming skull a single message. SHUT UP. They would do so with such fervour they could set off earthquakes but nevertheless, in the process display a unity and common purpose last seen during World War II.

"I'll tell you in three words about the extreme left," a judge once said to me. "They hate people."

Not long afterwards I saw this assertion literally illustrated with a Minto march down Queen Street on behalf of the then 5 per cent incapable of finding employment, thus living off their fellow citizens but demanding a still greater public sacrifice. One of Minto's mob bore a sign reading "We Hate You All."


I've often recalled the judge's words and a life-time's observation has repeatedly confirmed their truth, never better illustrated than by the ghastly Minto, his face permanently contorted in rage as trailed by his rag-tag ratbag losers, he bawls his vile megaphoned venom at a seemingly endless series of decent people, usually about matters in distant shores.

His latest performance, to the understandable distress of the neighbours, was outside the Prime Minister's home, this over American drones targeting Minto's soul brothers in hatred, namely mindless Muslim murderers.

But most despicable in his interminable record of rage against all and sundry was Minto's all-day disruption of that happy annual event, the Auckland women's international tennis tournament, as he screamed hatred into his megaphone; his target, an innocent teenage Israeli lass.

What I don't understand is that Minto writes very well and has often been given New Zealand Herald space to express his anti-everyone views, surely more effective than his infantile public harangues. It's time he grew up.

Here's what really annoys me. As always with a Minto performance, outside the Prime Minister's home a fortnight back, lingered at our expense when far better employed elsewhere, a bevy of policemen. And why? Because of the misconstrued concept of the right to protest. It's misconstrued because the essence of that right is the right of dissent, an all-important character of the open society, available almost solely to those fortunate to live in liberal Western nations.

But it should not mean a right to disrupt people going about their lawful business or to behave offensively, rather, it's the freedom to criticise be it in public forums, in the media, such as letters to the editor or talkback radio, in protest meetings, in seeking public office and a host of other liberties available equally to us all, and daily exercised by thousands of citizens.

We have other important laws upholding civil society, such as the crimes of offensive behaviour and disturbing the peace.

Police intervention is long overdue. They're absolutely not in conflict with the important free speech right and no different in principle than, for example, if Minto had shot the PM. Then the police would act on the grounds that murder is illegal.


Well, so is offensive behaviour and disturbing the peace.

It's overdue to clarify the legislation on protest activity. We already have restraints in the greater good interest. For example, a permit is necessary if a protest group wishes to march down Queen Street or Lambton Quay. It's always forthcoming, subject to agreement of a suitable time to minimise traffic disruptions, which is at it should be. The police need a clear guideline to distinguish between these seemingly contradictory rights, namely public protest, offensive behaviour and disturbing the peace.

I'll buy a one way first-class ticket for Minto to shift to Yemen or North West Pakistan on whose unasked behalf he purported to represent in his latest attention-seeking episode, bawling outside the PM's home.

Furthermore, I'll throw in a weekly stipend although I suspect only one payment will be needed as he will quickly be minus his head if he takes his megaphone there. But there is another option.

The skull could re-join the human race and learn to play the clarinet or take up quilting or pole-vaulting or anything at all that would take him off our streets with his incessant tedious rage against mankind.

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