British Marxist Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked and visiting scholar at the Centre for Independent Studies, isÂ inspired by Attorney-General George Brandis, who gets a hearing few journalists here have allowed him:
Brandis has doggedly, and often controversially, devoted himself to reforming the section of the Oz Racial Discrimination Act that forbids people from ‘offending, insulting or humiliating’ a person or group on the basis of their racial or ethnic origins. Why has he done this? … Why has he allowed himself to be branded by many on the Australian left as a ‘friend of bigots’ …? (Full post below the fold)
- Climate change believers are using ‘medieval’ tactics to silence debate says George BrandisÂ (JoAnn Nova)
And a message from Cory Bernardi:
It’s always nice to get home after nearly a month on the road.
With sitting weeks, interstate commitments and the recent Vietnam delegation, it seems like I haven’t been home too much lately. The few days break with my family over Easter will be very welcome.
I’m still receiving hundreds of emails related to the repeal of section 18C of theÂ Racial Discrimination Act(RDA) and a recent event has again highlighted the absurdity of the modern ‘rights’ industry.
You may recall that 18C of the RDA effectively gives someone the ‘right’ not to be offended by someone else’s view in respect to race or ethnicity. Now offence can take many forms and in many cases causing offence can be unintentional.
That won’t necessarily stop you from being hauled before some PC tribunal by some grievance monger.
I recall that ‘ban the burqa’ mural artist Sergio was forced to hire a lawyer to defend himself against a racial vilification claim which was later dropped. No one has yet explained to me what ‘race’ was offended by the mural.
Two Victorian pastors were charged under religious vilification laws for quoting from the Quran thus prompting laughter from their audience. They were convicted of causing offence but after a long legal battle this verdict was overturned.
Then of course we have the Andrew Bolt case where he was pursued through the courts because someone took offence to his opinion piece. In what many describe as a flawed judgement, Bolt too was found guilty. To this day I don’t know why his legal team didn’t appeal the court’s decision. Perhaps it was too costly or maybe the ordeal had already taken too big a personal toll.
Contrast the instances above with the recent result of an Adelaide-based preacher who recorded a video sermon calling for the killing of all Buddhists and Hindus. After the usual ‘he was taken out of context’ defence, the matter was referred to the police for investigation.
Now whilst I am a very strong advocate of free speech, there is a big difference between having an offensive opinion and publicly calling for groups of people to be killed on the basis of religious differences. Such incitement to violence has no place in our community and yet I haven’t heard any of the people who were so outraged at what Andrew Bolt has to say, publicly condemning the rantings of this supposed religious leader.
This is the dangerous space we seem to have entered. Offence seems to be a one way street which is determined by the characteristics of the complainant.
That’s one reason we need substantive reform to ensure we all have the same level of freedom to speak our mind and share our honestly held opinions – even if they are offensive. Now that doesn’t mean we should not continue to hold people to account for slander, defamation or incitement of violence.
However, it does mean that spurious (and sometimes anonymous) complaints claiming ‘offence’ at another’s opinion, artwork or sense of humour would never see the inside of any tribunal established to uphold the tyranny of political correctness.
Let me know what you think.
Until next week
More on Brandis:
‘Because’, he says, ‘if you are going to defend freedom of speech, you have to defend the right of people to say things you would devote your political life to opposing. Your good faith is tested by whether or not you would defend the right to free speech of people with whom you profoundly disagree. That’s the test.’
In an era when European politicians are forever battling it out to see who can outlaw the most forms of ‘hate speech’, when Canada hauls so-called hate speakers before its Human Rights Commission to justify themselves, …Â Brandis’s single-minded campaign to rein in Australia’s hate-speech laws is quite something. In fact it feels positively weird to hear a mainstream politician … talk about the ‘limits of the state to interfere with the utterance of ideas, beliefs and opinions’…
He describes the climate-change debate – or non-debate, or anti-debate, to be really pedantic but also accurate – as one of the ‘great catalysing moments’ in his views about the importance of free speech. He isn’t a climate-change denier… But he has nonetheless found himself ‘really shocked by the sheer authoritarianism of those who would have excluded from the debate the point of view of people who were climate-change deniers’….
He describes how Penny Wong … would ‘stand up in the Senate and say “The science is settled”. In other words, “I am not even going to engage in a debate with you”. It was ignorant, it was medieval, the approach of these true believers in climate change.’ …. And to Brandis, this speaks to a new and illiberal climate of anti-intellectualism, to the emergence of ‘a habit of mind and mode of discourse which would deny the legitimacy of an alternative point of view, where rather than winning the argument [they] exclude their antagonists from the argument’…
The moral straitjacketing of anyone who raises a critical peep about eco-orthodoxies is part of a growing ‘new secular public morality’, he says, ‘which seeks to impose its views on others, even at the cost of political censorship’.
The second thing that made him sharpen his pen and open his gob about the importance of freedom of speech was the case of Andrew Bolt… In 2010, he wrote some blog posts for the Herald Sun website criticising the fashion among ‘fair-skinned people’ to claim Aboriginal heritage, under the headlines: ‘It’s so hip to be black’, ‘White is the New Black’ and ‘White Fellas in the Black’… They were removed from the Herald Sun’s website. Anyone who republishes them risks being arrested and potentially jailed.
Brandis is stinging about this case. The judge ‘engaged in an act of political censorship’, he says, with a journalist ‘prohibited from expressing a point of view’. The reason Brandis is so keen to ditch the bit of the Racial Discrimination Act that allowed such a flagrant act of ideological censorship to take place in twenty-first-century Australia is because while it is justified as a guard against outbursts of dangerous racism, actually it allows the state to police and punish legitimate public speech and debate. ‘And the moment you establish the state as the arbiter of what might be said, you establish the state as the arbiter of what might be thought, and you are right in the territory that George Orwell foreshadowed’, he says…
[Brandis] didn’t help himself when he said in the Senate a couple of weeks ago that people do have the right to be bigots. That unleashed a tsunami of ridicule, even from some of his supporters. But he tells me he has no regrets. ‘I don’t regret saying that because in this debate, sooner or later – and better sooner than later – somebody had to make the Voltaire point; somebody had to make the point [about] defending the right to free speech of people with whom you profoundly disagree.’
Brandis says … he’s bent on overhauling Section 18C … because it expands the authority of state into the realm of thought, where it should never tread, he says. ‘…In my view, freedom of speech, by which I mean the freedom to express and articulate beliefs and opinions, is a necessary and essential precondition of political freedom.’
And the second reason he wants Section 18C massively trimmed is because he believes censorship is the worst possible tool for tackling backward thinking….
‘The left has embraced a new authoritarianism’, he says. ‘Having abandoned the attempt to control the commanding heights of the economy, they now want to control the commanding heights of opinion, and that is even more dangerous.’…
A few of Brandis’s colleagues like to privately criticise him for the way he’s fought for free speech and intellectual liberty. They should instead ask themselves why they haven’t lifted a finger to help him. Brandis should above all be admired for his courage and his principles.
Brendan O’Neill will be my guest tomorrow on The Bolt Report on Channel 10 at 10am and 4pm.
There are probably still a couple of tickets left to see him in Melbourne after his booked-out Sydney lecture:
MELBOURNE TUESDAY 29 APRIL 6:00PM – 8:00PM
Where:Â Society Restaurant
23 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Is it a top-down Orwellian “boot on the human face” that is squashing our once cherished civil liberties, or is the greater problem today the public’s fear of being free? Is our freedom being taken from us by the authorities, or is it being undermined through our own failure to exercise it? An open debate on how we can boost human freedom.
Brendan O’Neill is the editor of spiked, the magazine that wants to make history as well as report it, and is a columnist for he Big Issue in London and The Australian. He also blogs for the Daily Telegraph and has written for a variety of publications in both Europe and America. He is the author of Can I Recycle My Granny And 39 Other Eco-Dilemmas, and he is currently researching a book on snobbery.
Book at theÂ link.
“Even today there is a dictatorship of a narrow line of thought” which kills “people’s freedom, their freedom of conscience,” the Pope expressed in his April 10 daily Mass…
“When this phenomenon of narrow thinking enters human history, how many misfortunes,” he lamented, adding that “we all saw in the last century, the dictatorships of narrow thought, which ended up killing a lot of people…when they believed they were the overlords, no other form of thought was allowed. This is the way they think.”
Explaining how even now people foster this idolatry of “a narrow line of thought,” Pope Francis emphasized that “today we have to think in this way and if you do not think in this way, you are not modern, you’re not open or worse.”
“Often rulers say: ‘I have asked for aid, financial support for this,’ ‘But if you want this help, you have to think in this way and you have to pass this law, and this other law and this other law,” he expressed, noting that type of dictatorship “is the same as these people.”
“It takes up stones to stone the freedom of the people, the freedom of the people, their freedom of conscience, the relationship of the people with God. Today Jesus is Crucified once again.”