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Day to Day Politics. It’s not funny if it has no Insightful Truth. ‘Free Speech I Mean’.

Saturday January 16 2016

Author’s Note

Yesterday my ‘Day to Day’ post mainly focused on suggestions for a new way of doing politics and how I thought Bill Shorten should approach this election year.

By day’s end I was convinced that some, repeat some people don’t even read the content before commenting. One reason I write daily is to create discussion. In fact this blog welcomes it. However, some were so bewildering that I became concerned for my ability to articulate what it was I was trying to covey. So today I am taking time to digest people’s remarks and instead of my usual format I’m reposting an article I wrote last year.

Sunday I will be analysing Labor’s chances at the next election.

I am reposting this piece because the conservative right wing of the Coalition have an ambush waiting for the PM on Thursday. It looks like he will face pressure to reinstate the Coalition’s policy to repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act after he previously backed a compromise bill up for debate in the Senate this week.

The so-called Day amendment would make it no longer an offence to offend or insult a person on the basis of their race. It would remain unlawful to humiliate or intimidate a person or group of people based on their race or ethnicity.

The bill defies Malcolm Turnbull’s commitment to adopting more inclusive government rhetoric. He can’t have it both ways.

The difference between insult, offend, humiliate and intimidate is a mystery to me.

Free Speech and an Enlightened Society.

I have written about free speech, hate, racial discrimination and the state of our democracy on many occasions and this question will not leave me.

Why is it, in ‘the name of free speech’ that we need to enshrine, the right to abuse each other, in law?

You would think that an enlightened progressive free thinking society would want to eliminate it not legislate it.

It is not a question that requires great philosophical, ideological or even theological debate. It is a black and white question.

Supposedly we live in an age of enlightenment, a period where the world has made enormous technological advances, but at the same time our intellects have not advanced the capacity to understand simple tolerance.

Indeed, if we were truly enlightened we would treat our fellow human beings, with respect love and faithfulness. We would do unto them as we would expect them to do unto us and we would strive to do no harm. We would love life and live it with a sense of joy and wonderment.

We would form our own independent opinions on the basis of our own reason and experience; and not allow ourselves to be led blindly by others. And we would Test all things; always checking our ideas against our facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it did not conform to them. We would readily admit it when we are wrong in the knowledge that humility is the basis of intellectual advancement and that it is truth that enables human progress.

And of course we would enjoy our own sex life (so long as it damages nobody) and leaves others to enjoy theirs in private whatever their inclinations, which are none or your business.

We would uphold the principle that no one individual or group has an ownership of righteousness. We would seek not to judge but to understand. We would seek dialogue ahead of confrontation.

We would place internationalism before nationalism acknowledging that the planet earth does not have infinite resources and needs care and attention if we are to survive on it. In doing so we would value the future on a timescale longer than our own. We would recognise that the individual has rights but no man is an island and can only exist, and have his rights fulfilled, only by the determination of a collective.

We would insist on equality of opportunity in education acknowledging that it is knowledge that gives understanding. We would seek not to indoctrinate our children in any way but instead teach them how to think for themselves, evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with us. We would, in our schools open their minds to an understanding of ethics instead of proselytizing religion.

We would never seek to cut ourselves off from dissent, and always respect the right of others to disagree with us.

Importantly we not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.

Lastly we would question everything. What we see, what we feel, what we hear, what we read and what we are told until we understand the truth of it because thoughtlessness is the residue of things not understood and can never be a replacement for fact.

If these things truly are the embodiment of enlightenment. How do we stack up? It is fair to say that some societies and individuals could lay claim to attaining a measure of it. For example in some countries gender equality is more readily accepted and there has been advances in education. Overall though I think the reader would conclude that in most instances our enlightenment has not progressed much.

This is no more empathised than in our understanding of what free speech is. Are we honestly enlightened if we think we need to enshrine in legislation an emotion people already have and use, to express hatred? There is something fundamentally and humanely wrong with the proposition. There is an intolerable indecency that suggests that we have made no advancement in our discernment of free speech. If free speeches only purpose is to denigrate, insult and humiliate then we need to reappraise its purpose. There are those who say it identifies those perpetrating wrong doing but if it creates more evil than good it’s a strange freedom for a so called enlightened society to bequeath its citizens.

To quote Jonathan Holmes

Let’s be clear: Charlie Hebdo set out, every week, with the greatest deliberation, to offend and insult all kinds of people, and especially in recent years the followers of Islam, whether fundamentalist or not. 

Look at some of the magazine’s recent covers: An Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood protester in a hail of gunfire crying “The Koran is shit – it doesn’t stop bullets”; a full-on homosexual kiss between a Charlie cartoonist and a Muslim sheik with the ironic headline “Love is stronger than hate”; a naked woman with a niqab thrust up her backside.

The Charlie Hebdo massacre as vile and as unjust as it was gave no excuse for repressive world leaders to lecture anyone on freedom of expression. The sheer hypocrisy of it was breathtaking. Some of the world leaders locked arm in arm in the Paris March were from countries with the world’s worst suppression of press freedom. To see the Foreign Minister of Egypt marching arm in arm with world leaders was two faced-ness in the extreme given that Peter Creste has now been in jail for more than a year.

It’s all in the name of satirical free speech but it’s not funny if has no insightful truth.

Is this really what an enlightened society means by free speech? Does it demonstrate our cognitive advancement? Is this what well educated men and women want as free speech or should  we see free speech as being nothing more or nothing less than the right to tell the truth in whatever medium we so choose.

One has to wonder why the so called defenders of free speech feel they are inhibited by what they have now. I don’t. I have never felt constrained in my thoughts or my ability to express them. I’m doing it now. But then I don’t feel a need to go beyond my own moral values of what is decent to illuminate my thoughts.

Why is it then that the likes of Abbott, Bolt, Jones, Brandis, Bernardi and others need to go beyond common decency, and defend others who cannot express themselves without degenerating into hate speech? The answer has nothing to do with an honourably noble sort of democratic free speech.

Why does this demand for open slather free speech always come from the right of politics and society? They seem to have an insensitivity to common decency that goes beyond any thoughtful examination.

They simply want the right to inflict hate, defame with impunity, insult, and promote bigotry if it suits their purpose. And behind that purpose can be found two words. Power and control.

The way we presently view free speech simply perpetuates the right to express all those things that make us lessor than what we should be. Debate, in whatever form, should not include the right to vilify. It is not of necessity about winning or taking down ones opponent. It is about an exchange of facts ideas and principles. Or in its purest form it is simply about the art of persuasion. The argument that bigots are entitled to be bigots or that unencumbered free speech exposes people for what they are, doesn’t wear with me. It simply says that society has not advanced. That our cultural ethical intellect has not progressed at the same rate as our technological understanding.

The fact that so many people agree with the free speech argument highlights the tolerance we have for the unacceptable right to hate each other, which to me is the sauce of everything that is wrong with human behaviour.

And we want to make it acceptable by legislating to condone it.

Are we really saying that in a supposed enlightened society that should value, love, decorum, moderation, truth, fact, balance, reason, tolerance, civility and respect for the others point of view that we need to enshrine in law a person’s right to be the opposite of all these things.

If that is the case then we are not educating. We are not creating a better social order and we are not enlightened at all.

The fact is that free speech in any democratic system should be so valued, so profoundly salient, that any decent enlightened government should legislate to see that it is not abused. That it carries with it sacrosanct principles of decency that are beyond law and ingrained in the conscience of a collective common good.

After all the dignity of the individual (or individuals) within the collective is more important than some fools right to use freedom of speech to vilify another.

My thought for the day.

‘An enlightened society is one in which the suggestion that we need to legislate ones right to hate another person is considered intellectually barren’.

 

9 comments

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  1. Saturday

    Why is it, in ‘the name of free speech’ that we need to enshrine, the right to abuse each other, in law? Answer : Because it is Conservative Capitalist’s Neanderthal’s perfect sloganistic ploy to muddy the waters. Political Puppeteers love it. Lawyers love it. Lobbyist’s love it. Big business love it. And dodgy journalist love it. Political Correctness means I can’t call someone A Black Cxxt. Now that’s pretty Black and White. And we Whites know being called a White Cxxt isn’t as offensive as the former. Because we know what it’s connotations are. We do know what the right thing is to do; don’t we?

  2. Florence nee Fedup

    They want the right to hate speech, nothing to do with free speech.

  3. Glenn K

    It continues to amaze me that our most senior legal person in the land was allowed to state every person has the right to be a bigot and be allowed to express it, that he did not then lose his job. He was validating his support for a fascist state and got away with it.

  4. Deidre Zanker

    The far right have a divide and conquer mentality. There is obviously financial advantage in it for them. Is setting us off against each other a way to distract us while they bring in draconian policies? Is is to subdue anyone who dares oppose them. Is it to increase fear in community so we will vote for them? Is it about greed, power, control and manipulation? Are they trying to destroy our social cohesion, then our democracy? How many items are left on the IPA’s todo list? Before we vote at the next election we must decide if we want to live in a democracy or an extreme right wing Murdochracy.

  5. Deidre Zanker

    John, i read your articles and thoroughly agree with you. Would you please analyse the advantages to the extreme right, by causing fear and hatred within the community.

  6. Saturday

    Many Conservatives are very lazy stupid thinkers. One can get your message across to others quite well .Clever language; can covey your message. And if you really feel strongly about something; Break the law and make your sentiments known. Sooky bubbers like Andrew Bolt just can’t handle the truth. They know inside they are so flawed. Journalist like Bolt are like a petulant child stamping their feet. “My comments went so well at the Old Boys Club last week.” Andrew would decry!. Things that are wrong are visceral and we should all know what they are?Some are just Ignorant and never get their feet wet.

  7. Douglas Pye

    Whilst your article is comprehensive John, I am saddened that the topic should require such in depth consideration – that it has even the potential to be considered for legislation, frankly leaves me aghast!
    When discussion emerged last year I simply thought the mooters had little to do and were playing ‘lawyers’ at the time.

    Shaking my head and thinking ‘ common decency ‘ will prevail, I moved along. Now that the ‘ legislation ‘ word emerges I’m confounded! To simply mention acts of ‘ enlightenment ‘ and ‘ right to revile ‘ in the same sentence is contrary to good character … simple!

    A term which was occasionally expressed during the time of my upbringing was along these lines …….” and as he stepped into the gutter, the pig got up and walked away ” …..

    Politics totally aside, I sincerely trust the matter can be treated with the disdain it justly deserves.

  8. margcal

    If there is an exception to the rule that every right has a corresponding responsibility, the right to free speech is “not” it.

  9. Paul Murchie

    John Lord

    there is a lot of confusion and ideological assumption in what you say ( :

    (Alan Davies) http://blogs.crikey.com.au/theurbanist/2013/04/11/is-tony-abbott-the-new-gough-whitlam/

    4) Repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act

    as Broad Church Distractamenti, this one is close to the top of the LNP’s Chr*stinane NeonConian Mammonitic Fundamentalism.

    the “interesting” aspect of the LNP being programed to implement IPA Agenda is that they don’t take it on-board publically by acknowledging that this is where their “policy” comes from … can anyone find an associated LNP webpage or site which refers to IPA as the source of their “motivation” ?

    if i was a constitutional criminal, a TRAITOR, i probably wouldn’t want it known that my political party was a front for unelected, foreign, interested pseudo-ideology, either …

    Australia’s Constitution says

    ” 44. Disqualification
    Any person who:
    (i) is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a
    citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power; or
    (ii) is attainted of treason, or has been convicted and is under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for any offence
    punishable under the law of the Commonwealth or of a State by imprisonment for one year or longer; or
    (iii) is an undischarged bankrupt or insolvent; or
    (iv) holds any office of profit under the Crown, or any pension payable during the pleasure of the Crown out of
    any of the revenues of the Commonwealth: …”

    the IPA-LNP and their Psychophants consider themselves above the law.

    this is about to get VERY AMUSING … ( :

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