Professor John Furedy backs the Abbott Government’s changes to the Racial Discrimination Act – and would even if they allowed Holocaust denial:
“The best thing my parents ever did for me was take me to Australia in 1949, but I have watched Australians take their freedoms for granted,” he said.
”There has been what I call a velvet totalitarianism creeping in.Â I call it that because the punishments are less severe but people still try to censor themselves and each other…. There can be no contest of ideas if we go too far down this path.”…
Professor Furedy said free speech wouldn’t have saved the Jewish people under Hitler â€” “there were so many other factors at play” â€” but was adamant it was the best way to defeat bigotry.
“The only protection against stupid speech is better speech,” he said.
Censorship of racist speech is also bad for liberty in general, and especially for freedom of expression. Once a government gets into the business of banning one type of bigoted speech, the circle of censorship inevitably expands. I call this “ism equity”. As soon as one ism, say anti-racism, gets to employ the power of the state to stop its enemies, every other ism claims an equal right to employ the power of the state against its enemies.
Some feminists demand restrictions on sexist speech, which can be defined broadly to include pornography, sexist jokes and other genres deemed offensive to some. Jews demand an end to everything deemed to be anti-Semitic, which can include Holocaust denial, demonisation of the nation-state of the Jewish people and anti-Jewish jokes and cartoons. Other groups similarly demand equal treatment. The result is that the circle of civility expands and along with it the circle of censorship. The big loser is the freedom of all to hear and see everything and to judge for ourselves.
Did you know that the same sort of issue that came up with Bolt came up in the US with now senator Elizabeth Warren and her claim to be one-sixteenth or one-thirty-second Native American and whether that helped her win a job at Harvard?
The debate there was more vigorous than anything here. It seemed in the end that Warren had no Native American lineage at all. We don’t know if it helped her get the job. And the voters in Massachusetts elected her anyway. But no one thought about taking anyone to court, regardless of their tone or anything else.
However, what’s good for the US goose is not good for us Aussie ganders. Or so says our eminent person, Warren Mundine. His sympathies don’t extend that far.
If you think that my tone is dripping with sarcasm in this piece, you’re right. Mundine’s argument is pathetic. It warrants only derision. Yes, I could have written this piece in a more respectful way that covered the same basic ground. But the truth is that Mundine’s position warrants this sarcastic tone.
Sure, I might also have sent my draft along to Bromberg to have him check my tone against his sensibilities, but in a longstanding democracy, one of the world’s most successful democracies, I realÂly don’t feel like making Bromberg the arbiter of my tone of voice or the de facto editor of this newspaper.
Â This is what the speech police is inflicting on us: