“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” (Click here to go to UN website)
The Federal election is moving into its last week and one of the issues that is bubbling away in the background and one that is not attracting the attention that it should are proposals for increased restrictions on speech. In the midst of this the United Nations Article 19 listed above should prove very inconvenient for many.
The headline issue in this area at the moment is Israel Folau’s fight against Rugby Australia and their attempt to censure him through his playing contract. What a cesspit of hypocrisy this is proving to be. However, there are other issues both federally and internationally that should cause even further concerns for any Australian who embraces the freedom of thought, speech, expression and association as fundamental rights.
In the past week, we have seen Facebook and Twitter ban mostly conservative voices from their platform. Paul Joseph Watson, Alex Jones (Infowars), Laura Loomer, Milo Yianoppoulos were permanently banned from Facebook who has described them as ‘Far-Right” individuals. Describing a person as Far-right generally means you think their politics contains some form of Racism, Bigotry, Nazism, Fascism or combination of all of them. Considering Milo is a gay man married to a black man and Laura is Jewish conservative this is pretty hard concept to fathom. In fact, the worst crime of this group of conservatives is the accusation of conspiracy theories Infowars may or may not have spread. This is hardly far right.
In the case of Jones and his Infowars website, Facebook will also take down any Infowars content posted to its platform. That’s extreme as it means Facebook will now target any of its users from linking or publishing this content via their Facebook accounts. They have just impacted on people’s ability to share information that interests them.
Infowars was also banned by Apple, YouTube and Twitter last summer, and both Loomer and Yiannopoulos have been banned by Twitter as well. Recently another conservative in actor James Woods was banned by Twitter for what should have been deemed an innocent quote. Woods tweeted “If you try to kill the King, you better not miss. #HangThemAll.” The quote is from Ralph Waldo Emerson and has been used in various forms in movies and TV.
Also banned from Facebook is Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, which seems to be a token identity to demonstrate that Facebook isn’t just removing conservative voices they disagree with. Farrakhan can at least legitimately be accused of spewing hateful anti-semitic diatribes. A Facebook representative advised, “We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology”. That’s very interesting considering facebook still hosts fan pages for organisations such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
Ana Navarro says she wants us " SHUT DOWN, MUTED, SILENCED”. We are horrible for society"
Retweet if Ana Navarro sounds like a NAZI ..pic.twitter.com/uCFjfASJdj
— 𝐋𝐞𝐚𝐡 ⏰🇺🇸🎸🌴 (@LeahR77) May 6, 2019
While many on the left, such as Ana Navarro (above) from the television show “The View”, will be cheering and applauding this on, they should think through the ramifications of giving social media moguls the power to censor our beliefs, our thoughts and our expressions. That can and will cut both ways at some point in time and when certain platforms have owners and bosses that don’t like left-leaning thinking and politics we can just imagine their outcry then. This should bother everybody who embraces, discussion, debate and the exchange of contrasting ideas, policies and philosophies from all sides.
As per Voltaire’s famous quote, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it“. Interestingly many conservatives are labelled fascists, but I don’t know of any conservative that calls for the restriction of somebody’s speech, in fact, they embrace it and embrace the debate far more than the extremists on the left such as Ana or Greens lead Richard Di Natale. As a conservative as much as I detest Natale’s viewpoints and ideas, I would fight to defend his right to express them.
Isn’t this the core value at the middle of this debate? Isn’t this what our ANZACS, our forefathers fought and died for in such vast numbers over the past 100 years? Our right to freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of association, freedom of religion and through those freedoms the right to live a happy life of your choosing.
Are we currently sabotaging and sacrificing those rights and freedoms won with the courage and blood of others who came before us? Are we surrendering one of the greatest gifts of inheritances bestowed upon us?
It was disappointing in the leader’s debate last night that both leaders let the opportunity to stand up for these freedoms pass through to the keeper and instead handballed the issue of Israel Folau to industrial law and employment contracts. From my perspective, this was cowardice of the highest order by the two of them, but especially by Morrison who seems to demonstrate his Christianity when it suits, but fails to stand and defend it when politically inconvenient. Bill Shorten though in his answer really highlighted one of the central issues behind our modern society’s willingness to sabotage these hard-won freedoms and rights and that was the need to sacrifice the freedom of expression for fear of causing offence. That brings us to 18C which under a Liberal government won’t be addressed, under a Labor government will be strengthened and if the Greens ever get their hands on it, we will see people going to prison for simply expressing an opinion and possibly sent to re-education camps.
A country that truly embraces freedom of speech would revoke section 18C of the racial discrimination act in a heartbeat.
In Israel Folau’s case he was actually quoting a passage from the bible, the same bible that many politicians critical of him will be swearing their oath of office upon, the same bible that in a hearing regarding his case, witnesses will be sworn in on. This is the same book that has nurtured billions and helped with the evolvement and development of Western civilisation, which despite its critics has been the most influential civilisation and greatest force of good in world history. The fact is, if people had not become offended by this quote, Folau would still be chasing a pigskin around the paddock and Rugby Australia would not find itself in the predicament that it is in.
Where is NZ politician who speaks like this? US Congressman Tom McClintock explains why West values free speech. We’re not the same as unelected tyrants who fear alternative ideas, but PM Ardern & MP Little want to make us like them. @simonjbridges @JudithCollinsMP @ChrisPenknz pic.twitter.com/2FNPtI9PyE
— The Redbaiter (@Redbaiternz) May 1, 2019
In just over a decade many in our society cannot seem to cope with anything that causes them offence which has resulted in our society walking on eggshells. Say something considered offensive by the LGBTI community and you’re a bigot or a homophobe, say something against Muslins and your a racist or Islamaphobe (despite Islam not being a race), if your a man and you say something considered offensive by certain women and you’re a misogynist, argue against Climate Change, Global Warming, Climate Emergency or whatever they are calling it these days and you are called a denier, cave dweller or knuckle dragger.
Labelling people has replaced debate, personal attacks have replaced discussion, freedom of speech, expression and thought are lost in a mist of intimidation. Exhibit one, just observe how Bill Shorten handled former federal government economist Brian Fisher’s report on costings of the ALP’s Climate Change policy for BA Economics. After filling in the blanks on those costings because Mr Shorten refuses to do so Mr Fisher was pilloried and labelled a propagandist and compared to doctors testifying on the behalf of tobacco companies.
From this Mr Fisher had his house egged after prominent clean energy activist Simon Holmes a Court posted his address online. Due to this intimidation and bullying of Mr Fisher a widely respected figure he removed himself from an important policy debate for the future of the nation. Why would you engage in a debate to be nationally lampooned, derided and attacked?
So the world we live in now allows your employer to dismiss you from your work for the sharing of personal beliefs in your private time, social media billionaire moguls can censure you if they disagree with your opinions and any person daring to take an opposing stance to yours in a public policy debate risks being bullied and intimidated into silence. When Bill Shorten said he would run the nation like a trade union he meant it, don’t dare stand against him or he will send the standover thugs after you.
To make matters worse, Greens leader Richard Di Natale is now openly speaking about introducing laws to quiet the voices of conservative media personalities such as Andrew Bolt and Alan Jones for so-called hate speech or which I suspect is more about the speech he hates. Even Prime Minister, Scott Morrison is looking to beef up social media laws to enforce five-year jail terms for online trolling and while most would support this, who will decide what is and what isn’t hate speech, what is and what isn’t trolling. Maybe we need to develop a more resilient mindset within our society where we can deal with things that offend us in a more appropriate manner.
Morrison’s concerns seem to have been ignited by Fraser Anning’s statement after the Christchurch disaster, where he was accused of associating the shootings with Muslim immigration. While his timing was ill-advised after a careful reading of his full statement you would be hard pressed to decide whether it was hate speech or a reflection of events. Even conceding it was hate speech, then it should be exposed and argued against rather than expelled into a dark underworld where it would grow unopposed as the German government found to its detriment when it imprisoned Hitler and his henchmen for treason in 1924. Hitler took this opportunity to write Mein Kempf and seven years later became chancellor of Germany and ten years later it’s Fuhrer. We all know the results of that series of sad events. If hate isn’t in the open it cannot be defeated and worse if left to fester it will just grow. Just like prohibition didn’t work on alcohol consumption, it won’t work on banning hate speech. Freedom of speech is the best weapon we have.
Despite all of this, what has been interesting and ironic at the same time has been witnessing the ones screaming most about hate speech, seem to be ones engaging in hateful acts of intimidation in a passionate manner not seen before in Australian politics.
The intimidation and bullying has reached ridiculous levels in this election campaign, aside from the above bullying of Mr Fisher, we have political posters defaced with Nazis symbolism, most disgracefully on posters for Jewish candidates, excrement has been delivered to politicians offices, pictures of Tony Abbott with vile words and references have been plastered all over Warringah, partisan plants have been placed in debates and an innocent dog was shot and killed and placed under political poster in that resident’s property and just this week the Prime Minister was egged at a CWA event of all places.
Coincidentally all these attacks have been committed against conservative politicians from the extreme left. It’s ironic that those same extremists from the left accuse anybody on the right of the political centre as fascists, Nazis and racists. The Cambridge dictionary of fascism states “a political system based on a very powerful leader, state control, and being extremely proud of country and race, and in which political opposition is not allowed”.
Outside of being “proud of country” this definition more closely resembles those individuals on the extreme left than anything a conservative can even come close to achieving. Conservatives embrace democracy, embrace, freedom of speech and the contest of ideas. Conservatives would fight for the right of ALL to their point of view, their opinions and their ability to express them. We would even fight for the rights Left-wing extremists such as the Greens and their leader Di Natale who have demonstrated they wouldn’t do likewise.
In a 1948 speech to the House of Commons, Winston Churchill said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke wrote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” He also wrote, “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”
These voices from the past are so relevant now, as Churchill so notably said we need to learn from them before it becomes too late. Australians can put their heads in the sand or realise what a dangerous pathway we are potentially heading down, both in Australia and internationally. I believe there are still plenty of good people in Australia from all walks of life and across the political spectrum. As Burke writes, will we associate, will we come together and fight for our rights and freedoms or will we stay silent and be picked off one by one.
Let’s hope for our country’s sake and for the sake of future generations it’s the former and not the later. Freedoms are not free they are hard fought for. Stand up and fight Australia!