Losing privilege is now a crime against humanity.

18 Nov




It’s becoming rather tiring, listening to privileged people with large platforms complain that their freedom of speech is being denied, and we have to get rid of anti discrimination laws that allegedly silence them.

As far as I can tell such people are incapable of dealing with criticism of their speech, and are unable to distinguish between that criticism, and the oppression of silencing. Criticism is not denial of free speech. It’s criticism. I don’t think they know this, which is surprising.

Neither are you being “silenced” if you don’t have the guts to speak. That’s not denial of free speech, it’s lack of courage. The “I can’t say anything because of political correctness” whine is an admission of cowardice.

“Stop political correctness” actually means, “make the world absolutely safe for me to say whatever I like without fear of criticism” which is in itself interesting, because the “stop political correctness” cohort also seems to oppose the idea of safe spaces for people who might actually need them.

The complaint of denial of freedom of speech currently emanates overwhelmingly from those incapable of tolerating a challenge: they wish to engage in bigotry without anyone calling them on it. Somewhere, in one of their developmental stages, somebody hurt them by giving them critical feedback for bad work and they never got over it.

Apart from all that, it is rather ludicrous when someone with a platform regularly provided and paid for by Newscorpse et al (not to mention those privileged by their presence in parliament) complains they have no freedom to speak. Cowards, every one.

There were mixed reactions when the Human Rights Commission dropped its inquiry into the Australian’s cartoonist, Bill Leak, after complaints were lodged against him under the now infamous Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act

I found the cartoon under scrutiny (you can see it in the first link) obnoxious, an expression of white paternalism, privilege and assumed supremacy. I also believed the complaint would fail under the exemptions permitted by Section 18D, and I can’t see how that potential failure could do anything to further the cause of those racially humiliated by Leak in his cartoon, not for the first time or the last, I might add.

Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right, without which many other rights collapse. We also live in a country in which it is regrettably necessary to have a Racial Discrimination Act, because we are racist, and because the concept of freedom of speech is frequently abused to justify racially motivated attacks.

The two are not always compatible. Section 18C is perceived by some as a threat to free speech or, as Attorney-General George Brandis so memorably put it, the freedom to be a bigot. However, nobody is prevented or can be prevented from being a bigot: they just need to be aware that there may be consequences,  just as there are consequences, positive and negative, for every other choice we make.

I’d prefer to see the words “offend and insult” in 18C changed to “vilify.” I think it’s extremely difficult to make laws about offending and insulting: vilification is far more specific and contains within it the notions of offence and insult. Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs is not opposed to rewording the Section.

The concept of freedom of speech is in danger of becoming grotesquely distorted by those who have no need at all to be protected from the loss of it. But this is the neo liberal way: co-opt the safeguards put in place to protect people from vilification and exploitation, and frame yourself as the victim. Losing privilege is now a crime against humanity in the new world order. Oh, yeah.








10 Responses to “Losing privilege is now a crime against humanity.”

  1. paul walter. November 18, 2016 at 11:48 am #

    Just had a quick scan, must be some where shortly.

    Am wondering if it is a component of discourse that goes under the term absolutism..if so, I absolutely concur.

    There are certain boundaries that need not be crossed if the edifice of civilisation is not to collapse. You can change superstructure, so to speak, but an attack on the base, an attack on the text of life itself, so to speak appears to have happened over the recent decade.

    It is one thing to argue about the contents of a book, for example, quite another to burn the book and destroy valuable information, particularly if this done without forethought or out of malice,as has happened with the climate change debate, as scientists have found out to their cost.

    You presume certain things are absolutes in an Enlightenment based approach, eg, Habeas Corpus law and freedom of expression, you can repaint the courtroom, sat but stil its deliberations must be open to scrutiny and based on evidence and reason rather than prejudice based in its deliberations on human behaviours as good or bad.

    In the USA, the permanancy of a theological autocracy represents a change within the base of democracy itself that is irreversible,eg you dont just go for change of government but to a gerrymander that renders the notion of accountability to the mere abstract rather than some thing that is an underlying principle that facilitates reason and justice for all to some thing subservient to whim.

    Triggs story is a parallel- don’t argue the proposition, just shoot the messenger for fear of the message and it must be all down hill if whim become the principle by which human affairs are conducted, surely?


  2. Mish Singh November 18, 2016 at 1:08 pm #

    I just read this post and then saw this (below) on Twitter. Yep.

    “Congratulations on alienating white men to the point where so many saw open fascism as the only way their voices could be heard.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mish Singh November 18, 2016 at 1:09 pm #

    and it appears that I can comment here again; yay

    Liked by 1 person

  4. doug quixote November 18, 2016 at 2:55 pm #

    I heartily agree, Jennifer.

    Whilst Leak’s cartoon was probably in poor taste and paternalistic, many people (including many I know) said “Yeah, that sounds about right” in reaction to it. Does that make them racist?

    Answering my own question, most if not all human beings have a preference for their own societal group, their ethnic group, their religious group, their political group. To regard others as outsiders is normal thought and normal behaviour. Before such “in-crowd” behaviours become racist or xenophobic there must be some act, whether by speech, writing or by prejudicial conduct.

    I watched the National Press Club debate on Aboriginal disadvantage and noted the indigenous participants saying it is past time for the indigenous community to own its own problems and not any longer blame colonialism or patriarchy. It is a sign of maturity and progress that they are willing to put that view forward.

    Returning to Leak, cartoonists are supposed to push the boundaries of taste, as are comedians – think Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons and Tim Minchin, for example. We should cut them some slack, in the name of free speech. I for one don’t want to go back the bad old days of censorship and self-censorship.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. diannaart November 19, 2016 at 10:19 am #

    Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right

    I can’t think of human rights without consideration of the often neglected human responsibilities – to me and I am sure to many, you can’t have one without the other. How can anything be a ‘right’ if it is merely taken for granted and not elevated by being earned?

    We are frequently told “there is no such thing as a free lunch” – yet we watch as many demand a privilege above and beyond the consideration of and respect for others. I can just recall the era of the “public” bar. My father would leave mum and the kids in the car, while he would ‘water’ himself in the “public” bar. Thankfully this has stopped and now both mum and dad can leave their kids in the car…

    Yes, there are or should be consequences after the fact, but responsibility needs to come first.

    ‘Privilege” is the card one gets to play if wealthy or powerful enough. Andrew Bolt is powerful enough, Gina Rinehart is wealthy enough, the school bully is powerful, the kid with rich parents gets to choose who gets the cigs/lollies/pay for homework is wealthy enough… and so it goes…

    Bleeding obvious really, yet we are still arguing about it. I dare not mention the need for discussion of the influence of porn on children without being castigated and told I am nasty, attention seeking, a troll, a liar, I know I am not alone with this concern… so it goes (with raspberries on top)…

    You’re not being oppressed when another group gains rights that you have always had

    Rosa Parkes is a hero of mine. Whenever I find myself feeling cowed or dispirited I remember the bravery of this woman who chose to sit at the front of the bus instead of the back, where her skin colour dictated she sit. I’ll never be as brave as her, but she does help to keep me going. Yet, if one woman is elected Prime Minister, suddenly “women are taking over”, equal rights have been established now we can all stop whining and “get back to normal”, while sex/slave trade in children continues unabated. …So it goes… (yes, I read a lot of Kurt Vonnegut when a teen).

    DQ does not want a return to the days of censorship and self-censorship. I interpret the former as being when governments would ban books such as “The Little Red School book” or films such as “Debbie Does Dallas” – well we are indeed free from the days of the 1950’s/Victorian values and can access everything via the internet. Its all there, although the really juicy stuff may cost a dollar or two.

    But “self-censorship”? Is that where we consider the needs of others and not tell the blushing bride that you did not fellate the groom on his buck’s night where you turned up as the stripper? (I made this up) I was the blushing bride…. never mind.

    Isn’t self-censorship part of basic courtesy, respect for and consideration of others? I am not sure there were ever “bad old days” for self-censorship.

    I am not attacking Doug personally I am criticising his comments sheesh.

    Finally I’d prefer to see the words “offend and insult” in 18C changed to “vilify.”

    Me too. Although the Bolts of the world will claim offence if charged for vilifying others… so it goes…

    Liked by 1 person

    • doug quixote November 19, 2016 at 5:36 pm #

      Self-censorship is when the media say to themselves “this comment/article/letter may offend some people, or our sponsors, so we should not air it.”

      Nothing more is meant, Dianna.

      Liked by 1 person

      • diannaart November 19, 2016 at 7:11 pm #

        Thank you for the clarification, Doug.


  6. sarah November 21, 2016 at 3:47 pm #

    I like the quote at the beginning Jennifer, I was trying to remember it just the other day.

    Still reading the Weekend Oz if only to ratchet up some lefty fury for a Saturday afternoon. They have been hammering the 18c and Bill Leak complaint for weeks.

    I don’t know if anyone has brought this up, but the Oz sent journalists to the complainant’s parents’ house and tried to doorstop interview them. When they were most politely declined, they wrote an article about the state of the complainant’s front yard and driveway.

    Does anyone else think that this may be seriously dodgey on an intimidation/harrassment front, considering that a product of the same company is under complaint? I felt it was downright thuggery.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson November 21, 2016 at 3:52 pm #

      It sounds horrible, Sarah, I don’t know enough about the legals to form an opinion, but I hope the people concerned are getting good advice.

      Interesting that Turnbull complained the ABC and *elite* media were pushing 18c. In fact the Oz has written some 140,000 words on it! A novel. The length of my my PhD!


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