Wednesday, September 28, 2011

See Ya Later Free Speech, We Hardly Knew Ye

Australia continues its lamentable decline as yet another country where the delicate feelings of designated victim groups trump freedom of speech.

The estimable Andrew Bolt was held today to have breached the Racial Discimination Act. Let The Australian tell the story:
At issue was Bolt's assertion that the nine applicants had chosen to identify themselves as “Aboriginal” and consequently win grants, prizes and career advancement, despite their apparently fair skin and mixed heritage. 
[Justice Mordecai Bromberg] found that "fair-skinned Aboriginal people (or some of them) were reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to have been offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated by the imputations conveyed in the newspaper articles" published in the Herald Sun.
I personally couldn't give a fig about whether Pat Eatock chooses to self-identify as Aboriginal or not. I care very deeply about the fact that Pat Eatock, with the help of the courts, feels that her exquisitely precious hurt feelings entitle her to sue people who say things she doesn't like. I care that Australia has decided that rather than laugh these claims out of court, it would prefer to join the camps of censorious, cowardly nations that have gutted the concept of free speech of all its meaning, limiting it effectively to citizens' right to agree with politically correct platitudes.

Yes readers, the Commonwealth of Australia, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that nothing is more important than whether your words might subject Pat Eatock to "highly personal, highly derogatory and highly offensive attacks".

Here is the relevant section of the Racial Discrimination Act (1975) that Bolt was held to have breached:
SECT 18C Offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin

(1) It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:

(a) the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and

(b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.
Following my own advice, you should read the original judgment here. I waded through it, and didn't find myself any less outraged.

Starting at paragraph 67, you can find nearly one hundred paragraphs as to just how terribly hurt and offended the plaintiffs were by the mean, nasty Andrew Bolt, wrapped in all the hackneyed, threadbare language of the professional grievance industry - "offended", "humiliated", "insulted", "disgusted", "angry", "upset".

My advice to the plaintiffs - grow a fucking spine.

You can also find wonderful nuggets testifying to the decayed state of free speech in Australia. At paragraph 350:
The right to freedom of expression is limited to its reasonable and good faith exercise having regard to the right of others to be free of offence. The requirement of proportionality does not involve the subjugation of one right over the other and is consistent with achieving a balanced compromise between the two.
How wonderful and balanced our free speech is to be, compared with this crucial and equally important right to be 'free from offence'.

Generally speaking, there are defences available for fair comment and public interest. But too bad, because according to Mordecai Bromberg they didn't apply! You can read all about it.

Perhaps the best thing about this is that the original articles are included at the bottom of the judgment. Read them for yourself and decide just how hurtful they are, and whether a free and just society ought to outlaw their publication.

So how does Pat Eatock justify this farce to herself?
After the decision, which was greeted by applause and cheers in the Federal Court, Pat Eatock said ``It's never been an issue of freedom of speech, it's been an issue of professionalism.''
Pat Eatock apparently is either too brainless or too disingenuous to countenance the possibility that the case might be both an issue of professionalism and freedom of speech, in the same way that September 11 was both an issue of architecture and terrorism, and the play Othello was both an issue of Venetian military structure and murder. I'm also look forward to Pat Eatock's fascinating exposition on what rational theory of government would require a role for the Australian Government as the regulator of media 'professionalism' in the first place.

I have long held proudly to the Australian cultural tradition of plain-spoken humour, robust public debate and a generally relaxed attitude to matters of race, gender and sexuality.

What a fucking joke. It's time to accept the fact that the Australia now has a plurality of nitwits who think that the appropriate response to nasty newspaper articles is to draft and pass laws making them illegal, and to drag the publishers of such articles into lawsuits costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What an embarrassing travesty for the country I love. What a humiliating debasement of freedom from a once free and proud people.

In the current context, it brings me no joy at all to type these words:

I'm glad I live in America.


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