Last week Lord Monckton was threatened by more than 50 intolerant academics who attempted to have his lecture at Notre Dame University cancelled. Their appeal to have him censored was published on a Left-wing website funded by universities and the CSIRO. In Brisbane the Broncos Leagues Club refused Monckton permission to use one of their meeting rooms after caving in to pressure from the Left activist group GetUp!
When freedom of speech in Australia was abused, Sydney PEN was silent.
Sydney PEN is a fashionable Left-wing dining and chat group whose reason for being is the defence of freedom of speech. Its activism is usually confined to talking or staging safe and undemanding letter writing campaigns in support of foreign dissidents (the text is supplied, you just add your name). When Australian freedom of speech was attacked Sydney PEN was spectacularly silent, yet it had a self-imposed responsibility to speak out:
Sydney PEN’s mission is to be an authoritative source on matters of free expression in Australia and internationally
Sydney PEN’s objectives are to speak publicly on matters of freedom of expression, particularly those concerning Australia and the Asia and Pacific region
At the head of Sydney PEN is a Writers Panel which consists of some famous Australian authors always ready to grab a microphone for a good cause – or sell a new book or play. The silent writers were Geraldine Brooks, JM Coetzee, Tim Flannery, Helen Garner, Kate Grenville, Tom Keneally AO, David Malouf AO, Frank Moorhouse AM, John Tranter, and David Williamson AO.
When free speech in Australia was threatened last week Sydney PEN was silent – just as it was when Andrew Bolt was dragged before the Federal Court; just as it was when there was a campaign by Left activists to drive advertisers away from Bolt’s TV program; just as it was when there was a campaign by Left activists to drive advertisers away from Online Opinion. Its silence makes it an an active partner in the attacks being made by the Australian Left on dissent.
Present in Sydney PEN’s Writers Panel is JM Coetzee, a Nobel Prize winner. He may remember a paragraph he wrote in a book of essays he edited for Sydney PEN (funded by a government agency, of course):
[Christos] Tsiolkas identifies himself as a supporter of ‘radical tolerance’. It is to be doubted whether many members of PEN would want to differ from him. But we should be clear about what such a position entails. It means opposition to imposed, top-down official history such as we find in Germany, to give one instance. It means opposition to the shutting down of militant Islamist websites. It may even mean opposition to the clampdown on paedophilic images.
We must tolerate free expression, Tsiolkas argues, because in the absence of dissent a society stagnates.
When freedom of speech was attacked in Australia Coetzee and Sydney PEN were silent.
Ironically, the last Sydney PEN media release, issued on 18 November, 2010, was a publicity blurb to sell tickets for a Sydney lecture by (another silent man) Julian Burnside. The theme of his lecture – freedom of speech.