There is much to dislike about the Albanese government’s proposed misinformation bill. But at least it spares mainstream media organisations from its malignant reach. So why, you might wonder, would a broadsheet, such as, say, The Australian, voluntarily submit itself to the same Orwellian standards users of internet social media platforms will endure under that legislation?
What prompted this thought was a recent experience I had posting an online comment to a letter to the editor by one Krystyna Lynch of Floreat, WA, reproduced below:
I wonder if Jacinta Nampijinpa Price knows her proposal, that Indigenous Australians virtually merge with white Australians in the interests of unity, was once part of the thinking of the government.
It was the driving force behind the Stolen Generation.
A target worth engaging, I’m sure you will agree. So here was my comment:
Her proposal is not in the ‘interest of unity’ but in the interest of the advancement of the 20% of Aborigines who are still lead severely dysfunctional lives.
It was the modern world, not colonisation, that traumatized Aboriginal society — and the modern world was always going to arrive here one way or another. Price wants to bring all Aborigines into the modern world. The alternative is something like Brave New World’s native reservation.
I know Aldous Huxley’s term was ‘Savage Reservation’ but I thought that might be deemed offensive, so I used a bit of literary license. My comment was rejected, so I resubmitted it without the Huxley reference.
This time it was accepted and attracted 24 ‘likes’ before it was taken down, rejected once again. This intrigued me. I could see nothing objectionable in my comment, so I read, not for the first time, The Australian’s comment guidelines:
Our comments section is a place for healthy, constructive and challenging conversations. The basic rules are simple – we encourage you to share your views, but be respectful of your fellow commenters. We don’t allow abuse, racism, sexism, predatory behaviour, trolls, threats, spam, ALL CAPS, or hyperlinks to other sites.
This comment from another Australian reader was accepted:
Krystyna Lynch, you have misinterpreted Jacinta Nampijinpa Price’s speech. She was certainly not advocating that Indigenous people “merge with white Australians.
My comment breached none of the above rules, and it could not have been rejected because of my objection to Lynch’s claim about “merging with white Australians”. So, I can only surmise it was rejected by a more senior comments editor who objected to my contention that colonisation is not the reason for disadvantage among today’s Aboriginal people, generations removed from 1788. In other words, he/she classified my opinion as ‘misinformation’.
Here is another example of a deep-sixed comment in response to one of Chris Kenny’s articles in which he claimed, inter alia, to not be a member of the Yes campaign:
“If the No case wants to argue we should have no special representation, laws or programs for Indigenous people.”
That is NOT what the No Case argues. It is arguing that we should have no special representation entrenched in the Constitution. And as a high-profile print and TV journalist who has vociferously championed the cause, and criticized No campaigners, you are certainly a member of the Yes campaign.
Kudos to you, Chris, for actually responding to comments. But why do you confine yourself to responding to one-liners, rather than even just one of the hundreds of substantive and detailed rebuttals of your arguments?
Many Quadrant readers have noticed the same thing, posting scores of their inexplicably rejected thoughts on this thread, The Australian and its big blue pencil.
Here’s another recently spiked comment, this one from my brother, Brendan:
We had nothing to lose from the apology and nothing to lose from the Mabo decision either. But now we have 3 flags (an unambiguous sign of a divided nation), we are unable to climb Mt Warning (because we are not the right race) and there are almost 40,000 outstanding land claims within NSW alone. Even if the majority are declined, I shudder to think of the cost involved in the assessment of them all.
If The Australian sees its Comments Section as ‘a place for healthy, constructive and challenging conversations’ then perhaps its moderators should leave their own opinions out of it and practice some consistency by adhering to the guidelines. Subscribers deserve to have their contributions treated seriously.
I would like to conclude this, admittedly, rather self-indulgent rant with the latest instalment. Today’s Australian had this letter from one Martin Bell of Balgowlah NSW:
The root of racism is an inability to see. Impaired vision causes fear to gain currency. Thus we see fearmongering dominate an incoherent No case.
Peter Dutton is perfect to champion a cause born of ignorance, given his lack of vision. His record of failure is inextricably linked to his inability to see. Unable to see, he is unable to lead. Beleaguered by doubt and fear, Dutton marches the Coalition into ever increasing darkness.
My comment, rejected of course:
“Peter Dutton is perfect to champion a cause born of ignorance, given his lack of vision. His record of failure is inextricably linked to his inability to see. Unable to see, he is unable to lead. Beleaguered by doubt and fear, Dutton marches the Coalition into ever increasing darkness.”
If I were to post this invective as a comment, would it be accepted?
The lesson? If you want to unleash in the pages of The Australian, don’t post a comment. Be like Krystyna Lynch of WA and Martin Bell of NSW and write a letter to the Editor.