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June 17th 2014 print

John Izzard

An Open Letter to George Brandis

Please, do not heed the grievance mongers and those who have make something of a career out of being habitually offended. Stay strong. Refuse to buckle under pressure. Recognise Section 18C for the evil that it is

18CDear Attorney General,
The awful and dangerous consequences of the Racial Discrimination Act (Section 18C) are becoming more and more evident. While the preoccupation of those of us who believe in free speech has been with the unjust prosecution of Andrew Bolt, a more frightening issue is the mis-use of the words “racism” and “racist” as weapons of character assassination by self-appointed guardians of a recently confected morality. That sham morality says one group can control what other people say, even if not directly offended themselves. They feel they can be offended on behalf of others!

Political correctness combined with political cowardice (by those who should know better) has allowed a situation to develop whereby public pillorying, denunciation and employment-threatening punishments are now being regularly pursued by vigilantes who have no authority other than their own delicate and over-sensitive offence-prone tenderness. They live in a world that might best be characterised as “the fog of me”.

In regards to political correctness, which is the underlying driver of Section 18C, the social commentator and psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple had this to say:

The appeal of political correctness is that it attempts to change men’s souls by altering how they speak. If one sufficiently reforms language, certain thoughts become unthinkable, and the world moves in the approved direction.

We appear to be returning to the age — or at least the attitudes — of public stoning, inquisitions, public denunciations and Star Chamber deliberations whereby a mere whiff, sniff, taint, suspicion or imagined slight can find a citizen or organisation stigmatised as “racist”.

In the last few months the following incidents have occurred:

  • A veteran BBC radio announcer resigned under pressure after playing an 82-year-old recording of a song that included “nigger” in its lyrics. DJ David Lowe insisted he had no idea the word was in the song, but ignorance was no defence.
  • A UK candidate for the European Parliament was arrested in Winchester for reading aloud a passage from Winston Churchill’s 1892 book, The River, which criticised Islam.
  • Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson was threatened with dismissal by the BBC for saying “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe, while trying to choose between two sports cars. The film clip was never broadcast, nor was the N-word ever actually uttered (Clarkson skipped over the offending line in a prolonged mumble, as can be heard in the unbowdlerised video.)
  • The Guardian breathlessly reported Top Gear “to be investigated over Clarkson’s ‘slope comment’ .”.He was referring to a wonky replica of the Bridge on the River Kwai on which a Thai man was distantly visible as the compere observed, “It must be a proud moment, but there’s a slope on it”.
  • The ABC suspended two sports commentators when one of them said on-air, “There’s a line in a movie where the old darkey says, someone says, ‘quittin’ time.”

In the above five examples there was no evidence of any of the people targeted being “racist” — bad mannered or colourful perhaps, but racist, no!

Unfortunately, the ability to brand people “racist” is promoted and reinforced by Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which licences people to take offence where no offence is intended. It is appalling that we in this country have a law similar to an edict of that most violent and intolerant nation, Iran, which has something called “Hurt to Public Chastity” law that recently saw six men and a woman jailed for making an innocent video of the song “Happy”. In Australia we have Section 18C, which saw Andrew Bolt prosecuted for daring to raise the topic of light-skinned individuals identifying as Aboriginal and receiving taxpayer support.

A prime example as to where anti-free speech laws and attitudes can lead is the extraordinary case of David Howard, the white aid to the black mayor of Washington D.C. In 1999, he used the word “niggardly” in reference to his city’s budget, was accused of racism and forced to resign. A homosexual, he was later reinstated, in part due to pressure from the gay community.

Offending words may be those that are unsettling to an existing belief or those that record an historical episode that someone, or some group, does not want remembered or celebrated. Sometimes words offend if they challenge or question a group or individual’s political posture. History should have taught us the dangers of thought control.

In 1933 the Nazis organized a nationwide “action against the Un-German spirit” and, on May 10 of that year, some 40,000 Berlin residents gathered to burn 25,000 “un-German” books. Though the main target was Jewish writers, the works of other “offensive authors” — Albert Einstein, Franz Kafka, Bertolt Brecht,  Erich Maria Remarque, Karl Marx, Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, Helen Keller, Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, H.G. Wells and others — also ended up on the bonfire.

Nor should we forget Joseph Stalin and the millions who died when he ordered them shot, starved, sent to Siberia or “treated” in mental institutions for uttering words and harbouring thoughts deemed offensive to the sensitivities of Socialist Man.

But the really big player in the history of “words that offend” was Chairman Mao Zedong, who embraced  denunciation by way of temporarily silencing those who dared to exercise the right of every human to  freedom of thought and freedom of speech. A bullet to the back of the head subsequently made that silence permanent. Vicious public denunciation during the Cultural Revolution of teachers, professors, government workers, even of parents by their children, stands in frightening parallel to today’s denouncers of so-called “racists”.

One aspect of Section 18C never mentioned is how vulnerable to prosecution both the ABC and SBS are in relation to some of their programmes. The SBS series Immigration Nation certainly left itself wide open to legal challenge, as it blackened the image of Australians and must surely have “offended” many viewers with its jaundiced and twisted view of our nation’s immigration record. Similarly, the broadcaster’s recent decision to showcase the John Pilger documentary Uptopia is another prospect for being 18C’d.  In both these programmes, a “racial” attack on white Australians was very much to the fore.

Hunting racists is now an international sport, almost worthy of a place in the Olympic Games. Anyone can play, as much of what is now branded racism grows solely from the subjective appraisals of those insisting they have been offended.  It is easy to find racism when the rules are so simple. ‘Remember, there is definitely a racist living somewhere near you,’ says the Offence-Industrial Industry Complex, ‘so take offence and expose them today!’

Just so you can fully grasp the Racism Olympics, know that the term “casual racism” is apparently a new event — so new it is not yet even listed on Wikipedia. What it allows the aggrieved to do is apend the racist label to those who are not themselves racist but still manage to offend.

Those who thought racism was represented by the Nazis, Ku Klux Klan, White Australia Policy, South African apartheid, segregation in the US South or the barriers to immigrating to racially pure Japan or Korea, think again. “Casual racism” is the new evil and the lynch mob is always ready and waiting with its rope. Funny that the mob only ever seems to target white people!

Senator Brandis, the pressure on you must be intense, and some of it, according to press reports, is coming from members of your own party. Rather than hear the voices of those who regard free speech with disdain, I urge you to look instead to Canada, where a similar and similarly unjust law has been recently overturned.

Yours sincerely,
John Izzard,
Tasmania

Comments [2]

  1. John,
    Below is my E-mailed complaint to the ABC about the Warren Ryan/David Morrow fiasco. I have not received even an acknowledgement of receipt of my letter despite requesting such a reply in the section asking if a reply was needed.

    ABC complaints – I would like to state my extreme disappointment/disgust that Warren Ryan was forced to resign from the ABC over a supposedly ‘racist’ remark which went to air on May 25 during the Canterbury v Easts Roosters game. I routinely listen to ABC commentary while watching the game on television, because to my mind Warren is one of the most insightful and analytical observers of Rugby League.
    I heard his statement – which was a line from Gone With The Wind – during the game and thought it appropriate, humorous and non-offensive to all bar those who are determined to find offence at anything no matter how innocent and innocuous.
    Considering that the very same ABC hierarchy who found Warren’ s statement to be so ‘inappropriate’ or ‘offensive’ also found that the ‘Chaser BOYS’ totally disgusting skit involving Chris Kenny to be OK and worthy of spending taxpayer money to defend and also deemed that the Chaser BOYS were not to be admonished in any way I can understand why Ryan quit without hesitation. To make it worse the Chaser Boys skit was MEANT to offend.
    There seems to be no standards that are too low for those who criticise ‘conservatives’, and in contrast there are impossibly standards high set for those who are not ‘politically correct’.
    I resent that my taxes are taken from me [involuntarily] to pay for such an organisation. I will no longer listen to the Rugby League on ABC Grandstand and will now consequently be forced to listen to commercial radio, or even worse Channel 9 commentators.

    • en passant says:

      I recently taught a class on risk management. During the class I made the factual statement that the majority of the people using the casino are Asian, yet they are a minority in the city I live in. “It appears they love to gamble despite the odds of winning being against them”. The next day I received an email from my employer saying a formal complaint that I was a racist had been lodged. Despite giving the class every opportunity nobody said to my face they had complained. Although I should not have to answer such stupidity these days it is necessary to take it seriously because of the consequences – as the article above points out. Here is my reply:
      ‘I did say that. I sometimes walk through the casino, so tell me if the following factually correct statement is wrong because it is politically incorrect to state a true fact. For cultural reasons Asians love to gamble. I know, because I own an Asian restaurant and have a lot to do with the Asian community so the statement is correct.”
      18C is just plain dangerous to good people, because an anonymous complaint could have cost me my job