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May 23rd 2016 print

Andrew Bolt

Andrew Bolt: Damned as the Devil

Almost five years ago, in a decision that went sadly unappealed, Justice Mordechai Bromberg ruled against the Herald Sun columnist and, more recently, Sky News host. From his new book, some thoughts on fellow journalists' eagerness to defend free speech, but only some varieties

bolt wood IIEver wondered how it would feel to have a pack of journalists write about you? Especially one drooling to see in you the very worst? I thought it would hurt a lot more. Sure, it’s bad at first, but there comes a point when the hypocrisy, malice and sheer invention become so bizarre — especially from some members of the Leftist “elite” media — that you have to laugh.

For me, that point came five days after being found to have breached the Racial Vilification Act for writing about fair-skinned Aborigines, by which time I’d read that I was actually a “Lying Dutchman” (Sydney Morning Herald) from the “outback” (The Monthly) of a country I’d never written about “with passion” (The Age), since I was confused about my identity and clung to “an archaic notion of European culture” (The Age).

I’d read that it was “the neo-Calvinist faith instilled by (my) Dutch father” (Crikey) which made me obsessed with the purity of the “Master Race” (The Age) and convinced that Aborigines were an “inferior race” which got “too much support” (The Age).

By Monday I’d even acquired a “former fiancée” (The Monthly) to explain how I changed from the “‘introverted, restless, romantic’, with strong ethics” she’d reportedly known into this thing with dreadful views I never knew I had. Naturally, I blamed my wife for this transformation — from a Byronic figure into a “serpent” (The Age) and “egomaniacal lackwit” with a “soft, white, privileged a— “ (Brisbane Times) who “prefers his darkies dark” (SMH) – but oddly enough she wasn’t in a laughing mood.

Trying hard to see the upside, I boasted to my eldest son, a Mad Men fan, that at least I was now a man with a Hidden Past, the Don Draper of journalism, but he just smirked and said nothing would convince him I wasn’t boring. I then rang Dad to blame him for having preached into me these racist notions during my most formative years (which I’d falsely imagined were spent in suburban Elizabeth and Darwin), but he just laughed, before asking why I’d never told him I’d been engaged before.

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Quadrant‘s Michael Connor on the Bolt case: Anita Heiss: Where I Began
The White Aborigines Trial and Where is Justice

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I accused him in turn of pretending to me for decades that he was an agnostic refugee from the Uniting Church, when I’d read in Crikey he was actually a Calvinist bigot whose faith’s “obsessions with purity … rolled over into racial terms when the Dutch acquired empires”. Dad just laughed again, and suddenly it all became clear.

In a media-pack attack like this, driven so much by ideology, the target of all this superheated venting just vanishes. I’ve been replaced by a make-believe monster so cartoonish that no one of sense could possibly believe it. So, readers, if one day you find yourself in my position, remember these words and take comfort from One Who Knows.

I unwillingly became that One because last week a judge found I breached the Racial Discrimination Act for what I wrote — and how — about Aborigines of fair skin. I’d said such Aborigines could also choose to identify with other parts of their ancestry or heritage, as well as their Aboriginal one. Or they could simply call themselves human beings, race irrelevant, which was my preference.

I’d stupidly imagined this was a stirring appeal to look beyond the differences of “race”, but Justice Mordecai Bromberg of the Federal Court has ruled that such arguments, in the way that I put them, are against the “values” of the RDA, since “people should be free to fully identify with their race without fear of public disdain or loss of esteem”. Moreover, he ruled, it was factual error to claim that any of the nine “fair-skinned” Aborigines who took me to court had a choice in how they identified themselves — and this included the woman whose own sister did not identify as Aboriginal.

Now, normally you’d expect journalists to unite in defending our right to debate such matters — or almost anything touching on important social or political issues. But the temptation to whack a conservative foe proved too tempting. The Age spoke for many commentators within Fairfax and the ABC by insisting this ruling was not a blow against free speech, but just against my “sloppy journalism”.

Hadn’t the judge said exactly that? Hadn’t I lost my defence of fair comment in part because his Honour found I’d included “untruthful facts”?

The Age, in its editorial justifying this decision, identified just one of those errors – the one routinely used by my critics to claim all my pieces on “fair-skinned Aborigines” can be dismissed as “racist garbage” (SMH).

As The Age put it: “The European ancestry (Bolt) supplied for them was sometimes wildly off the mark: for example, he wrote that Aboriginal lawyer and academic Larissa Behrendt looked as German as her father — yet her father was Aboriginal and dark-skinned.”

I did indeed make a mistake to say Paul Behrendt was German. But does that really destroy my argument?

paul behrendtUnfortunately, the judgment against me suggests it may be against the law for me to argue that it does not. For one, the judge ruled that Paul Behrendt, whose own father came from Europe and whose mother died when he was just four, was actually an “Aboriginal” with “dark” skin, so it would be dangerous to debate these points with The Age. All I dare do is urge you to do a Google search for the obituary the SMH published on [Paul] Behrendt’s death. Also check the picture (left).

I won’t pretend that’s the only mistake the judge identified in my work.

Here’s another:

“Mr Bolt wrote that Ms Cole was raised by her English-Jewish or English mother …That statement is factually inaccurate because Ms Cole’s Aboriginal grandmother also raised Ms Cole and was highly influential in Ms Cole’s identification as an Aboriginal.”

Again, I do not dare argue against this finding or about its significance. All I suggest is that you Google search “Andrew Bolt on Trial: Bunjilaka” for the video Cole made with Melbourne Museum, showing her grandmother — and in the privacy of your own home reach your own bindi cole blackfaceconclusions. (Quadrant Online editor’s note: at right, Ms Cole’s art, featuring the artist herself.)

But the judge found one more problem with the way I wrote about these fair-skinned Aboriginal lawyers, academics, authors and former bureaucrats. I’d also used “sarcasm and mockery” and been “offensive”, and that, with my opinions and “untruthful facts” is why my articles were unlawful. That sarcasm and mockery led a former Age editor and now journalism academic to declare that for this alone he’d have never run my articles.

But I wonder, if sarcasm, mockery and errors are crimes, how many dozens of the journalists writing about me this past week should be in the dock, too? There’s even racist abuse there, such as “Lying Dutchman”.

Don’t these geese realise this is about their free speech, too, as they gloat around my scaffold?

Andrew Bolt penned this column in 2011, shortly after the Bromberg ruling was handed down. Links and photos have been added to the excerpt, which is taken from the just-released collection of his columns, Worth Fighting For, which can be purchased here

 

Comments [16]

  1. Jody says:

    Andrew ought to feel consoled that Turnbull is losing the election and we’ll soon have Shorten, Penny Wong and an LGBTI Commissioner, Tanya Plibersek and increased foreign aid, more refugees turning up by boat. Yep, this is sure an improvement on that vile individual Turnbull. But I do blame the latter for throwing away the election and not standing up to blatant class warfare from Labor.

    I was at “An Evening with Niall Ferguson” last night and he said “populism is on the rise”. That’s why we’ll get Shorten. Ferguson also said no western government is doing a single thing to stop the forfeiting of the future for, as yet, unborn generations through explosive debt. He said his grandfather went to war “with one eye on me as a future generation”. And as Paul Kelly says, “Shorten’s strategy is hugely risky”. It’s good to know Andrew Bolt has been on the right side with all of this in his huge criticisms of Turnbull and the government. Ah, democracy.

    • pgang says:

      What? You’re actually blaming Turnbull for his own mediocrity and not the fly crawling up the wall?

      If we ‘get Shorten’ it will have nothing to do with populism, it will be out of despair thanks to Turnbull having wrecked Australia’s faith in the Coalition’s ability to govern sensibly.

      • Jody says:

        I think you’re totally wrong on this!! Paul Kelly wrote on the weekend about Shorten’s “very risky” populist agenda – class warfare, blaming the rich etc. This is happening despite neither being prepared to pay down debt.

        • Jody says:

          And, how is Turnbull any less incompetent than Bill Shorten and his party of buffoons who couldn’t hold a chook raffle – let alone run a country?

  2. Wayne says:

    One is tempted to make a sarcastic comment re the Bindi photo but on reflection do I really want to risk being hauled before a Star Chamber for my temerity in expressing an opinion which is not “right thinking”. Answer no but I think it anyway..

    What must it be like to live in a totalitarian society where one must watch ones every utterence lest it result in dire consequences?

    And I foolishly thought that I would never have to find out.

    • gray_rm says:

      Hey Wayne, I understand the need to make a sarcastic comment… but I can’t resist, and don’t believe we should be banned for saying the obvious?
      Something along the lines of:
      ‘Is it a crime to wear blackface if you have a blackface?’
      ‘is it a crime to wear blackface, eve when it shows up your amazing white skin, even though you ‘identify’ that you have a black face?’
      ‘Can I identify away my real colour? And is it a crime to point out to such an ‘identifier’ that, with all the melanin in the world, unless it resides in your body, you ain’t dark?’
      Is the answer staring at us in the face? Clearly a black and white case?

      • Wayne says:

        Thanks for the laugh gray_rm but isn’t saying the obvious what got Bolt into trouble in the first place? Apparently the truth is no defence.

  3. pgang says:

    As my 82 year old dad said recently, Australia has become a very different place compared with the Australia he grew up in.

  4. Turtle of WA says:

    Good on you, Andrew.

  5. Keith Kennelly says:

    Do a Dutton and continue to stand your ground.

    Write about teething stout feel Andrew regardless of the court.

    All they can do is find you in contempt, and you’d be right to do that, and jail you.

    They would not dare.

    Good on you Andrew. Keep speaking for us.

  6. Keith Kennelly says:

    Dammed spell check it twists things worst than a leftie.

    Write about the things you feel.

  7. Jody says:

    Many of you would have enjoyed Niall Ferguson’s hilarious comments in answer to a question about the oppressive PC culture. Ferguson says he knows full well because he’s right in the thick of at it Harvard but he said it will implode on itself, “few poeple are studying these gender and socially progressivist courses at university; course numbers are rapidly shrinking because nobody wants to examine what it’s like to be a single white female in mid 19th century South Carolina”. He told us all to be patient; that PC would end up devouring itself. Shrieks of laughter from the whole concert hall!!!

    But his comments on the polity, sovereign debt and the rise of populism were very sobering indeed.

    • ianl says:

      > But his comments on the polity, sovereign debt and the rise of populism were very sobering indeed.

      I’ve reached the age where it doesn’t matter anymore (my children are grown and thriving overseas). It is a truly amazing feeling of liberation – I JUST DON’T CARE

      Admittedly, this age also means I am now not too long for this mortal coil, but I think I may have about a decade of true liberation to go.

      As I have said, people get exactly the politicians they deserve … and see how much a liberated “oldie” cares !

      • Jody says:

        Oh, I certainly agree on the people getting the politicians they deserve. But I personally don’t deserve them as an engaged citizen who has worked hard all her life!! Please tell me about the overseas country where people can “thrive” because I’ll tell my adult children. Europe and America are both the pits, IMO, and it’s going to get worse with The Donald. As Ferguson says, he’s seen as the lesser evil of two very unpopular and unpalatable prospective leaders!!

        I worry about my grandchildren and sovereign debt, so I DO care. They were here just a few minutes ago and I discussed all this with my conservative 40y/o eldest son. Inter-generational debt is a concern for him and it ought to be for every parent today.

  8. Jody says:

    Another cautionary tale from Ferguson, which might be of interest. “Australia needs to watch China very very closely indeed”.

  9. Matt says:

    Thankyou. The advice of One Who Knows is an encouraging observation to remember should the prospect ever arise.