Opinions must be shared in "a free and open encounter" because it is the competition between ideas that produces the truth. As Fredrick Siebert explained: "The true and sound will survive. The false and unsound will be vanquished. Government should keep out of the battle and not weigh the odds in favor of one side or the other."The idea that Aborigines are an inferior people, unfit for or incapable of participating fully in Australian society, puts the lie to Siebert's wish. This is one of the most prevalent ideas in Australia. It is also false and unsound. No amount of patient engagement and disproving, nor frequent and exuberant demonstration of excellence by Aborigines, can eradicate this lantana-like idea.
I'm a liberal too, but confrontation with this reality made me change my mind. First you've got to go with the fact and work the principle around it. I might have to lose the 'liberal' tag, but that's OK, it isn't all about me. Doing the reverse, like Assange does, simply does not work.
Hate speech laws in Australia are a form of censorship, backed by sanction and justified by the perceived need to protect historically persecuted minorities and maintain racial harmony.Persecuted minorities don't need to be protected, they need to participate in Australian society. For that to happen you need to stop excluding them from it. Lazy bullshit that implies racial classifications trump common humanity excludes Aborigines from Australian society. A few paragraphs later Assange tries to assert that free speech is more of a unifying force than measures such as these, but the proof exists only in theory.
In the US, the First Amendment guarantees the right of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis to march through the streets. The law sanctions speech only if it incites violence. Rather than flourishing, the Klan and neo-Nazis have been withered by the robust criticism that such protections afford their critics.For the first hundred years or so, the Klan and the Nazis had a pretty clear run, and the First Amendment was in effect the whole time. Giving effect to their core beliefs involve excluding people from society and killing them. They underwent robust criticism to be sure, but a lot of people died in order that they might speak freely, and only when legal sanctions and force were applied against them did their positions become unsustainable.
People get squeamish when arguing against censorship laws that protect historically persecuted groups.People get squeamish all the time. The question is, why do they get squeamish, what are the consequences of that squeamishness and do people have a right to go around making other people squeamish in order to boost their media profile?
The basis of the whole Bolt case is that some people from a historically and systematically persecuted minority have been able to embrace their identity, now that the legal aspects of social inclusion have been uninstalled, and that some jobs have been created which are only open to people of that minority. Along comes Andrew Bolt, claiming that the historically persecuted minority are actually privileged (and that the disadvantages that come from historic persecution are over, hooray and forget it ever happened). Bolt believed that his classification as to who was Aboriginal and who wasn't, based on a bit of Googling, was superior to the classification applied to and by Aborigines themselves.
The law which Bolt transgressed acknowledges both the prevalence and the falsehood of racial profiling in Australia. From my understanding it says that if you're going to comment on people's race you have to be careful. The judge found that Bolt hadn't been careful, and I note that no appeal has been lodged. Assange, and Bolt, believe that Bolt's right to toss off a comment trumps the slow but considerable efforts the historically persecuted minority are making to overcome historical persecution and participate freely and fully in Australian society.
Censorship is fine, they think, as long as it is designed to protect gays and indigenous people.The law under which Andrew Bolt was convicted protects us all. It enables Siebert's wish that sloppy ideas go down to become reality.
In much of Europe and Australia, it is unlawful to deny that the Holocaust took place - this is "acceptable" censorship.Quite so. It makes it easier to stop that sort of thing having the catastrophic effect it did on individuals and society. It forces people to face up to reality, which is no bad thing.
But in Turkey it is a crime to assert that the Armenians were subjected to genocide. Imagine if Australia introduced a law prohibiting use of the word "genocide" in respect of the treatment of indigenous Australians?Can't see it happening myself, no point in protecting anyone against non-threats. A bit like Andrew Bolt complaining that he's barred from applying for some $25k part-time short-term dead-end job which is only open to Aborigines.
There are threats to the balance between our liberties and our social cohesion all the time. What won't and can't help protect us from imbalance and injustice are lazy postulations, including that hidey-hole of the intellectual poser who hasn't thought carefully about whatever they claim to be particularly concerned about: the "slippery slope". Assange loves a slippery slope.
Many debate whether the term should be used or not but it would cause outrage if our government stymied that debate by making it unlawful.It isn't just a bit of chat, it's a debate of real significance. Have the debate, but face up to the facts and do your research like Bolt didn't. The idea that the Australian government would follow Turkey in that regard is just sloppy, straw man work.
So what subjects are off limits? What societal "goods" are worthy of protection through censorship?More "slippery slope" work, showing how an extreme example obscures rather than illustrates the point at hand. Barnaby Joyce isn't a threat to anything and you can participate fully in Australian society - including the shaping of climate change policy - regardless of your attitude toward climate change.
Science says climate change is happening ... United Nations Security Council ... Why don't we just introduce a climate change-denial law prohibiting Barnaby Joyce from rubbishing climate change ... may sound ridiculous ... parliamentary privilege ... but therein lies the danger of allowing the state to regulate what political speech is acceptable.
The law, whether civil or criminal, is a serious business. At its end is the deployment of armed police to imprison people or seize their assets by force. It should never be used to regulate disfavoured views.It is always used to regulate disfavoured views. People who assert a right to commit armed robbery are not only expressing a disfavoured view, they are limiting the abilities of others to participate fully in society.
Free speech must protect all speech, however offensive. Debates that offend the "ordinary" or "typical" Australian are precisely the debates we need. It is precisely when the majority shares a view that it needs to be challenged, because if it is wrong, then we are all imperiled.If you're going to have a debate on issues that entrench disadvantage against those who are historically and systematically persecuted, you'd better be careful to have your facts together. This improves debate all round, rather than just being some sort of lotus-eating talkshop which makes no difference other than selling newspapers. Racist conjecture is not a debate and nor is it a challenge. It's oral spam and makes it harder rather than easier to take ideas of free speech seriously.
I'm appalled at the idea that Andrew Bolt might redefine who my father was or arbitrarily make my job more difficult (if not impossible) based on his lack of skill at using a search engine. Mind you, I'm appalled at the idea that Josh Frydenberg didn't cop the sort of treatment currently being meted out to Bradley Manning for passing information to Andrew Bolt that was accurate and important, but which Bolt toyed with rather than expose as Assange did. Bolt vilified a truth-teller and made his job impossible, and he had no right to do so. I keep waiting for the Great Boomerang to whack him and his mate Frydenberg on their silly scones for that one.
Now Assange wants to stand up for Bolt's right to misrepresent people and keep them at a disadvantage. If the bastard hasn't got his facts right then he can shut his cakehole. That is both ridgey as well as didge, dinky and di at the same time; not only that but it elevates the debate to a level where historical and systematic (dis)advantages play a less of a role than they otherwise might. Rather than being imperiled, it's a challenge to lift your contribution to debate to a level where racism and other dead ideas can't compete.
Bolt is an experienced communicator and has participated in public debate for decades. His claims about being 'silenced' buzzed around the Australian media like so many blowflies in a public toilet, until they lost all meaning and credibility. To agree with Bolt that he is being silenced - and to agree with his fatuous extension that others are being silenced too, and denied some asserted right to tag and bag Aborigines - is not to be a truth-teller but a willing accomplice in a deception.