Thursday, September 29, 2011

On Andrew Bolt and freedom of speech

In the light of the Andrew Bolt case in which the Herald Sun columnist was found guilty of writing incorrect thoughts about xxxxxxxxxxx and xxxx xxxxxxx, much has been made of the issue of free speech in Australia.

In Justice Bromberg's decision, this paragraph intrigued me: "People should be free to fully identify with their race without fear of public disdain or loss of esteem for so identifying." specifically this part:

without fear of public disdain or loss of esteem
We have laws criminalising hurt feelings now? Where are the adults in our community? Oh yeah, they're agitating for laws to criminalise the thoughts of toddlers.

We are all agreed that one should exercise patience and self-control and in doing so, think before speaking and endeavour to be polite, but to suggest that enforcement should be a function of government and courts is mind-blogging in its breadth and frightening in its outcomes.

Furthermore, it is not the role of government, court or society to monitor and bolster the levels of self-esteem one should feel.

If one feels held to ridicule one has to question whether one has done something ridiculous. If you feel upset that someone is laughing or is mocking unfairly, then whose problem is it? Yours or theirs?

The question is, of course, entirely rhetorical (or at least should be in a sane world).

You can only control the feelings and opinions of one person - the one you see in the mirror.

If your feelings are hurt or you feel affronted, then take a good long look at why that might be. There may be issues about your character that you have to address and if there isn't, then turn the other cheek - it's obviously someone else's problem

But the real issue to emerge from this court case is that some thoughts and opinions are never to be spoken about and the decision against Andrew Bolt is meant to punish and teach a lesson to 'the rest of us'.

That is every shade of wrong imaginable. With the exception of incitement to violence, all speech should be permissible in the adult public sphere (the distinction made to allow parents to enforce what their children hear and see and say).

The truth is strong enough to withstand debate. If it does not, then it is not truth.

For example, I disagree with historian David Irving, but disagree that he should not be allowed to tour here. Let him speak, let others with facts put him in his place.

The truth has nothing to hide.

I disagree with many of the things Richard Dawkins says and his web site is filled with quotes that mock the Christianity I believe in. He's free to say them. He's free to scoff what I believe in. I'm equally at liberty to call the man an ignorant goose, if I so choose.

Let the battle of ideas fight to the death. Truth will be victorious. The Truth will set you free.

But be warned, it is a battle and the fight has just begun.

-- Nora

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