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June 21st 2011 print

Steven Kates

Andrew Bolt and the Orwellian State

I went to hear Andrew Bolt last night discuss his trial by ordeal. It was a lesson in just how silently our rights and freedoms are being taken from us by a process of legal and social protections for designated identity groups.

I went to hear Andrew Bolt last night discuss his trial by ordeal. It was a lesson in just how silently our rights and freedoms are being taken from us by a process of legal and social protections for designated identity groups.

We don’t deny you or anyone else any particular rights. We just give extra rights to certain protected groups and forbid you to say a single word in protest. You make trouble and we crush you like a gnat.

There were a number of speakers on the program and two of them have lived at the centre of our new legal approach to dealing with dissent. There was first Mark Steyn (via an electronic hookup) who had ended up in a years long trial before the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and now Andrew Bolt who finds himself before a real court with all of the punitive legal apparatus that lies behind it embodied in the state.

Mark Steyn discussed the notion of group rights, as in the group right not to be offended. He told specific stories in his seven minute presentation, and did it as he always does in ways that make you really laugh. But even to write down what he said might end me before the courts so I will stick to this.

As he describes the situation in Canada, if a person in unprotected identity group A says something about someone who is a member of protected identity group B but says it to a person in identity group C (which may or may not be a protected group), then no crime has been committed. No one has been personally offended so no crime is even possible since a crime in such circumstances occurs only where someone has been personally offended. But should someone in protected identity group B actually overhear what has been said, because, for example, what has been said was printed in a newspaper, then this is possibly a crime and with potentially dire consequences for that member of Group A.

It does not matter whether what was said was true or whether there is some important public policy issue at stake. If someone in some socially protected group has been offended then the Human Rights Commission will on their behalf and with the full force of the law, fall on this Group A person like a ton of bricks. This will kill stone dead public controversy in this area. We may all chat about these things with our closest friends but no one from an unprotected group will say any such thing in public ever again. Well that’s Canada, a fascist totalitarian state if ever there was one, but the real question is could the same thing happen here?

Mark Steyn was followed by Andrew Bolt.

Bolt described himself as not particularly brave and I have no reason to doubt it. There was no precedent for his present set of circumstances so he had no reason to think these consequences would follow from what he did. Had he known, he probably would not have done whatever it was he did. And that, of course, is just the point. No one will now do it, whatever that “it” happens to be. But whatever it is, it will be done by no one.

No one in this country will ever again say what Andrew Bolt said that got him into so much trouble whatever it was. You won’t say it, and I won’t say it either. It will be said by no one. Well, it might be said, but it will never ever again be printed in a newspaper or said by anyone in the media. As a topic for community political discussion, it is DOA. And from what I understood tonight, if Bolt loses this case, every written record of what he had written on whatever the topic was that got him into so much trouble will disappear down the memory hole, irretrievable in any form from any source.

Think of that. We now have a memory hole in Australia. Do you know what a memory hole is? Do you know where the phrase comes from? If you do, are you not disturbed that such a device now exists in this country? If you go back to the novel 1984, Winston Smith is already working for the Ministry of Truth, changing the historical record depending on what the particular current political desired truth happens to be. What we are possibly living through right now, right this minute, is the pre-history to1984. If we now find that there are certain things that cannot be publically said, and if any statement contrary to whatever these politically determined statements can be expunged from the record, never to be seen or read again, then we are living in an early version of the Orwellian state.

It is a mild version of Orwell to be sure, Orwell 1.0 if you like, but these are early days yet.