That the modern left would line up behind restrictions on free speech comes as no surprise, but to hear alleged conservatives dismissing the right to express unfettered opinion is quite shocking. Is it a craven eye on the ballot box, or are they just plain thick?
In my naivety, I had imagined before the last Federal Election that members of the Coalition would be on board for the repeal of Section 18c. I should have realized that the attack on freedom of speech was not a monopoly of the left but also of the conservative side of politics.
Apparently some coalition backbenchers are agitated about the impact of the proposed changes by Attorney-General George Brandis on their multicultural electorates. Hang on there; I thought the Liberal Party was all about personal freedom. Ah, but times have changed. As the very model of a “moderate” Liberal backbencher might put it:
“This freedom shtick is not going down too well in my electorate. I suppose this all depends on whom I am talking to. The professional multiculturalists and the grievance-mongers are bending my ear. Their votes count and principles are negotiable at the edges.
Damn the Institute of Public Affairs and damn Andrew Bolt! I wish that they would stop making me feel uneasy and just shut up and go away. Then I can get on with my principal concern — appeasing all and winning votes.”
Some Liberal Party backbenchers are angry that Senator Brandis would dare to affirm the right of bigots to free opinion, however offensive. They choose to overlook the obvious point that Section 18c, which was intended only to curb ugly fringe dwellers, has already been used against a mainstream commentator. Groups that reject traditional Western freedoms can use the section to define the boundaries of civil discourse. And as we saw in the persecution of Andrew Bolt, there seems no limit to judicial imagination.
The new Liberal Premier of New South Wales, Mike Baird, like predecessor Barry O’Farrell, is not much of a believer in free speech either. Last month, Barry O’Farrell uttered the howling non-sequiter:
“…bigotry should never be sanctioned, whether intentionally or unintentionally.”
No, Mr O’Farrell; bigoted opinion and speech, unless it is direct incitement to violence or intimidation, are not the business of the state. In a free and open civil society, truth will prevail against ignorance and bigotry. Open debate and social disapproval are the most potent weapons against the bigot.
Nor indeed does Campbell Newman, the Premier of Queensland, seem to understand any distinction between the role of the state and what is appropriately left for citizens to argue in a free society. Typifying the philosophical muddle into which too many modern conservatives have descended, he is quoted in the same report as saying there was a need to “ensure we maintain social cohesion in this country’’ and he didn’t believe people “should be able to go and say anything they want at any time’’.
Has Campbell Newman even given a moment’s thought as to what this implies? If social cohesion is the priority, personal freedom is destined to die the death of a thousand cuts. That yet another Liberal Party Premier can contemplate state sanctioned curbs on free speech reflects a level of intellectual insouciance that should frighten us all.
If the conservative side of politics were fully awake, the march away from freedom could be averted. Unfortunately, the Left’s continuous war on personal freedom is being abetted by useful idiots in the coalition.
How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the faith: all know how to die but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.
In modern Britain, led by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, Islamic supremacists have power of veto over civil discourse — in the name of social harmony, of course.
Is this to be our future too?