Here’s a way for defenders of Section 18 to demonstrate that the loathsome gag on freedom of speech might be worth keeping: They could prosecute their bigoted friends. You know, the March In Marchers with their placards calling for the assassination of a conservative Prime Minister
The Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Day on April 1 was a curious choice —“Sillytonian”— which at first glance appeared to be OED’s 2014 April Fools Day joke. It wasn’t. The word sillytonian first appeared in 1707 when the satirical reformer, Edward Ward, penned:
That Star-gazing Ninnyhammer of a Conjurer…is as much
Worship’d by some sort of sanctify’d Sillytonians, as ever
The Devil was by the Indians.
Thirty years later, in 1738, a poem appeared that shifted the word clearly into the political sphere. It ran:
The Statesman begs a Party,
To be his steadfast friends,
And tucks the Sillytonians up,
When he has gained his Ends.
Fast forward to March, 2014, when the sillytonians of Australia were in full swing—except that these days they are called bigots. Out on the streets, in the March in March, was the sad sight of 100,000 of the nation’s permanently disgruntled displaying perhaps the most vivid example of left-wing-sanctified bigotry ever seen. And just to be absolutely clear on the word ‘bigot’, Oxford describes it as “an obstinate and intolerant believer in a religion, political theory etc.” while for the word ‘bigoted’ it gives “unreasonably prejudiced and intolerant”.
And then there was the Prime Minister and the Attorney General defending in Parliament the bigots’ right to be bigots. And there was the Leader of the Opposition and his team screaming out that there was no place in Australia for bigotry. Oh dear! Politician…listen to thyself! There was Bill Shorten, Mark Dreyfus, Tanya Plibersek and Tony Burke erupting over the government’s defence of free speech, while their left-wing placard-waving supporters were bigot-ing away to their hearts delight down our main city streets.
But then, bigotry is in the eye of the beholder. Take, for example, the self-righteous civil rights advocate Julian Burnside. His favourite placard from the March in March was the one that read:
If Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt were drowning and you could
only save one of them —what pub would you go to?
The second comment Burnside received from his own Twitter comment, on March 16, was a tweet from someone called LuckyKaki who responded to Julian Burnside with:
I’d wait until one drowned then bludgeon the survivor with the dead body.
Burnside keeps interesting company, bigot-wise. If one were to substitute the words Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt with say an “an Aboriginal and a Jew” within the same joke format, no doubt you would be Bromberg-ed. Jokes are not exempt from Section 18C. But somehow a joke in one style, that is, making fun of the elected prime minister of the country, and a government minister, is acceptable game for the bigoted left, though no doubt the second version would have you in court, led by the self same bigoty-bigots.
It is to their eternal credit that so far both Tony Abbott and George Brandis have stood up for the bigots and their right to be bigoted. That is what free speech is all about. It has not gone unnoticed that Bill Shorten, Mark Dreyfus, Tanya Plibersek and Tony Burke never criticise any of the rabid bigots from the loony-left. Read just some of their blogs and twitters and even the word bigot fails the test. And Sillytonians is just too tame a word. At times the words vile, nasty and sick appear more appropriate.
Back in October, 2011, The Australian newspaper ran the headline “Julian Burnside back-pedals furiously on Twitter slur”. Burnside had tweeted “Paedos in speedos”. It was obviously aimed at Tony Abbott. Burnside later stated that he did not intend to suggest Mr Abbott was a pedophile. It was a bit like that ‘loaded’ question, “When did you stop beating your wife?” The tricky bit was getting the word pedophile into the apology.
Then there was the extraordinary episode of traditional Aboriginal woman Bess Price being (as 18C would put it) offended, insulted, humiliated and intimidated by bespoke Aboriginal professional Larissa Behrendt, who likened watching bestiality with a horse, on TV, “less offensive than Bess Price.”
Ironically, it was Behrendt, one of the group that took Andrew Bolt to court under Section 18C, who felt offended, insulted and humiliated by what Andrew Bolt wrote. But it didn’t stop her attacking Bess Price. Larissa Behrendt’s partner at the time of the Bolt trial was a former Labor Attorney-General, Michael Lavarch, the man who introduced the Australian Racial Discrimination Act to the Parliament in 1995.
The 1995 Act was flawed from the start. In 1991 the then Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner, Irene Moss, specifically warned against the wording that was included in Section 18C. Her warning was based on the experiences in New Zealand, where their Race Relations Act Section 9C had been “widely abused by individuals complaining of insults or remarks of a relatively trivial nature.”
There is yet much to be revealed about the story of Section 18C of the Race Discrimination Act, and in particular, the Andrew Bolt trial. Things such as:
- Why did Michael Lavarch include 18C against the advice of Irene Moss?
- Who advised Lavarch?
- Was the decision to charge Andrew Bolt under 18C, political? Indeed, did the Human Rights Commission play a role. And if so, were Andrew Bolt’s human rights even remotely considered?
- Why was the prosecution so keen to paint Andrew Bolt with the stain of the Holocaust, when the case before the court was the issue of defining Aboriginality?
- Why did Judge Mordecai Bromberg not object to this irrelevancy?
- Why did Andrew Bolt’s employer not appeal?
I don’t suppose that they will, but the sillytonians and bigots of the left might consider reading or re-reading up on the Dreyfus Affair of 1895, when a bright and up-coming Jewish military officer was sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island. His alleged crime, apart from being Jewish, was that he was a German spy. His name was Alfred Dreyfus.
Dreyfus was eventually saved, not by the bigots who hated him, but by the head of French military intelligence, Lt.Colonel Picquart (a gentile) who discovered that Dreyfus was innocent. Picquart sacrificed his job and was drummed out of the French army, but still fought for Dreyfus’ release and pardon. As a person, Picquart didn’t particularly like Dreyfus—but he did fancy truth and justice and was prepared to sacrifice everything in that cause.
In the fight to save Dreyfus the writer Emile Zola was prosecuted for his J’accuse letter and had to flee France. At Dreyfus’ second trial, mainly brought about by the efforts of Picquart, Zola and Dreyfus’ brother, Mathieu, the famous French lawyer Fernand Labori (a Protestant) agreed to defend Dreyfus. Labori was shot by a deranged bigot, but attended the court, in severe pain, with the bullet still in his back.
There is little doubt that it was freedom of speech and freedom of the press that eventually freed Dreyfus. Both Dreyfus and Picquart were reinstated in the French army, with Picquart eventually becoming Minister for War. Dreyfus served in WWI and received the Legion of Honour in 1919. It is believed that the Dreyfus affair influenced Theodor Herzl to create the Zionist Congress which ultimately led to the creation of the state of Israel.
Gabriel Sassoon, Tel Aviv-based adviser to the Knesset Deputy Speaker and the Israeli Labour Party, wrote on March 29 in The Australian: “The measure of a society’s commitment to free speech is the extent to which it protects offensive, unpopular speech. Free speech is hard: it has any meaning only if it protects the most virulent and obnoxious of views.”
Sassoon, who is still a member of the ALP, went on to say; “No American state or federal legislature would have dared enact a provision like 18C. Its noble public policy goals are clearly outweighed by the fundamental right to free speech and, anyway, its terms are over-broad and its exemptions are limited. But if they had enacted it, 18C would have been invalidated as unconstitutional by the courts under the First Amendment to the American Bill of Rights.”
No place in Australia for bigots, Mr Shorten. Have a close look at your followers!