At least it could be. Andrew Bolt’s conviction under s.18 of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 ought to toll the bells. But today people prefer not ask for whom the bells toll, afraid of the answer: They toll for thee.
As for one Solzhenitsyn there were thousands of unknown others, I suspect that for one Bolt there were perhaps hundreds of citizens of less talent, less money, less courage and most importantly less or rather no visibility who gave up the struggle for free expression in post-Whitlam Australia in the face of overwhelming pressure from the totalitarian Left and even more overwhelming public apathy.
Unfortunately, the “freedom of speech” usually means one’s own freedom of speech, not that of another. The saying, “I may disagree with what you are say, but I will defend to death your right to say it”, usually but probably incorrectly attributed to Voltaire, is a nice, feel-good idea, hardly ever practised even by those who cite it. You could ask Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, or closer home, Pauline Hanson. It is hard to muster courage to fight for yourself, and even harder to fight for someone else. After all, a supply of conservative dollars is limited, and so is the space in those few remaining relatively conservative publications. It goes against one’s economic interest to engage in anything but a token protest about the restriction of a competitor’s right of speech. When we add to the equation the inflated egos of those who control the cosy cabal of conservative publishers… After a month or two of chest-beating flutter, Mr Bolt will be on his own. He probably already is.
Andrew Bolt is not stupid. He did not appeal the decision. In 2002 he and the Herald Sun badly lost an ordinary defamation action instituted by a Magistrate Jelena Popovic, and lost again on an appeal. Now, knowing which side of the bread is buttered and honeyed, he significantly toned down his style, severely limited discussions on his blog and naturally and oh, so carefully skirts around certain topics, such as Aborigine-ness or Islam. Ask yourselves – would you risk approximately $1,000,000 p.a. for some impractical chimera called freedom nobody takes seriously anyway? (Luckily, a totally hypothetical question in my case – I am not good enough to earn $10 for my writing, let alone $1m.)
Leaving Bolt aside for a moment, one could reflect on the great damage to the Aborigines Mr Justice Bromberg’s decision* will cause. The consequences to the already stifled discussion of effective, not just feel-good solutions to specific Aborigine problems are easily foreseeable. But who cares? Certainly not the complainants in the case, because if they did they would have never complained. After all, the whole Aboriginal welfare industry is based on the expectation that those few remaining black aborigines would remain destitute and silent forever.
Various human rights commissions, anti-discrimination, racial vilification, sex discrimination, age discrimination, anti-Robert Manne vilification and for all I know obesity discrimination and stupidity discrimination tribunals have spread like cancers in the last twenty or thirty years. They have been created during the socialists’ long march through the institutions, if and where they could not get in. Now we have a parallel, Trojan horse judicature staffed by mostly Left political appointees. “Activist”, “human rights” and just plain greedy lawyers are desperately trying to justify the existence of those laws and ‘star chamber’ commissions and tribunals by a few really racist or anti-Semitic comments. I suspect that as there were so many “ambulance chasers” in the past that a specific legislation was needed, there are now many “injured feelings internet chasers”.
As if that achievement by the Left was not enough, we hear dark mutterings about too much freedom by the Acting Prime Minister Brown, Minister for Censorship Conroy and assorted willingly prone journalists. So hot on the heels of the Mordecai Bromberg trial (of one disobedient journalist) comes the Finkelstein media inquiry (of one disobedient media organisation). Whatever the outcome of the inquiry, one thing is certain: it will not enhance the cause of freedom.
Who would have thought that in Australia journalists could lose their job for daring to write about a politician’s previously published past shenanigans? I am referring to an admittedly a minor matter of our Prime Minister’s then boyfriend stealing over $1,000,000,000 from the Australian Workers Union. (Julia Gillard denies mens rea, and I have no evidence to doubt it.) Bullying practices of some trade unions are now practised by our legally trained Prime Minister and already two journalists have lost jobs as a consequence. I never believed that anybody would study law in order to learn how to oppress widows, orphans and to suppress free speech. Now I believe that some do.
Everything bad is good for something? Somehow I do not recall any silver linings on the cyclone Tracy clouds.
*/ the full decision, including the offending articles is available from the Federal Court.