|Dated:||22 September 2016|
Democracy, free speech and 18C
Article contributed by a Guest Commentator in Sydney
Across Western countries, there has been a battle between liberal democratic freedoms and leftist political correctness. PC has been winning and freedom of speech (really freedom of expression because it also includes writing, cartoons etc) has been a casualty.
George Orwell of course wrote extensively in his novels such as Animal Farm and 1984, portraying a world in which central government powers exerted extreme controls over the populace. Propaganda, scrutiny with loss of privacy and restrictions on freedom of expression were the tools used to manipulate the people.
Orwell in interviews many years after publication essentially explained he wrote these as warnings in order to defend personal freedoms. These were WARNINGS, NOT PLANS!
The essential foundational democratic principle - I may disagree with what you say, but I will fight for your right to say it - was not actively undermined until recently. In this principle there is no requirement to be correct or even reasonable. Most civilised peoples had as a separate and distinct principle not inciting harm to others.
Thus it was ok to criticise or insult someone, but it was not ok to advocate that a person be bashed or killed.
Incidentally the quote above is often attributed to Voltaire but they were not his exact words. Voltaire wrote in 1770 "I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write." It is from these words that the somewhat more general principle was expounded.
So why should all this matter? Well, it matters a lot for numerous reasons. Free expression is needed for personal fulfillment and for personal potential to be pursued. Free expression with its exchange and competition of ideas is needed for the advancement of society, and for accountability of its institutions.
We see this in Jewish academic tradition, for example. The Talmud is full of vigorous and volatile arguments. There are certainly examples which would be in breach of Australia's 18C law as it would insult, offend and even humiliate in some cases.
Creating an environment which inhibits free speech is outrageous and sometimes dangerous. Consider these examples:
Journalist Andrew Bolt made a comment that there seemed to be some "fair skinned Aborigines" with perhaps only a little Aboriginality in their lineage who claimed to be Aboriginals for the purpose of accessing the more generous social welfare available to Aborigines. Bolt was taken to the Anti-Discrimination Commission by at least one fair skinned Aborigine who claimed to be offended and humiliated and Bolt was found to be in breach of 18C. Whether Bolt was correct or not is not the point. He put forward his comment and breached the law.
Currently, there is a case running against some students from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) who were kicked off some computers which were reserved for indigenous students. (The computers were not being used). One posted on Facebook "Just got kicked out of the indigenous only computer lab. QUT stopping segregation with segregation?" and the case has been running for nearly 3 years with about $200,000 in costs.
In Rotherham (UK) Muslim rape gangs operated for years and accumulated 1400 victims! An investigation found one of the reasons action to intervene was inhibited was because many people, including those in various authorities, didn't feel they could speak out for fear of being labelled racists or Islamophobes.
The neighbours of the San Bernardino Islamic jihadists who killed 14 people, had noticed suspicious activity at home of the jihadists next door, but felt inhibited in speaking out, also for fear of being criticised.
Of course before and during World War II, there were numerous examples of failure to speak out about the threats and actions of the Nazis.
All people who value democracy, who value freedom, who value intellectual and political discussion and exchange of ideas and who value public safety, must support free speech.
With the new Senate and with some new members in the House of Representatives, this issue is back on the agenda. There will be many opportunities to express your support for free speech and removing some of the ridiculous legal restrictions. One simple one is to sign the petition started by Senator Cory Bernardi a month ago:
Further Comment from David
Democracy is under severe attack by the Regressive Left, which is using the tactic of "Repressive Tolerance" formulated by Herbert Marcuse in 1965. In a nutshell, this instructs the militant Left to tolerate expressions of view that accord with the Left's own world view, and repress the expression of views that are conservative. They do this by violent demonstrations, shouting down, trying to close down meetings, banning conservative speakers, or (as with the ABC's Q&A) regularly stacking panels and audiences so as to marginalize and intimidate non-left people. At the present moment, the Left are attempting to forbid a democratic plebiscite on same-sex marriage.
Huh? You may exclaim. Well, just look at the behaviour of Antifa (laughingly self-styled "anti-fascists") whose tactics are pure totalitarianism - fascism, indeed.
Peter Baldwin, a former minister in the Hawke and Keating Labor governments, described the awful comprehensiveness of the onslaught on democracy and free speech in this superb article in The Weekend Australian of September 17, 2016. If you haven't read it, you really should:
Regressive Left puts bigotry and militant Islam on a pedestal
It is encouraging to see past Labor luminaries like Peter Baldwin, Gary Johns and Mark Latham expressing horror at the regressive tendency being pursued by today's ALP. We need far more people from across the community to stand up everywhere and insist that common sense and freedom of speech trump ideological delusions.
Best wishes from your friendly Australia Wakeup team of Chris, David, Harry, David(C) and Brendan.