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The Forum > Article Comments > A better democracy? > Comments

A better democracy? : Comments

By Dilan Thampapillai, published 14/8/2012

A liberal democracy doesn't require an unbridled amount of free speech

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If you punish people for saying abusive things in public, then they will say them in private, with increased vehemence because of their rightful resentment about being muzzled. Let them speak in public and their claims can be heard, analysed and dealt with in detail. The way to stop discrimination and hate speech is through education and exposure, not suppressing it and pretending it doesn't happen.

It's always best to have the enemies of an open society out in the open themselves.
Posted by Jon J, Tuesday, 14 August 2012 7:13:32 AM
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"It is difficult to disagree with the proposition that a liberal democracy requires a high degree of free speech. Yet, what is doesn't require is an unbridled amount of free speech."

Garbage; complete and utter garbage; because anything less is censorship which is the act of one person or group of people saying they are better than others and can decide what the inferior group can see, read and hear.

Does the author understand that point and the irony of someone arguing for limitations on free speech on the basis that free speech allows inferior relationships to be maintained, when their solution is to create another inferior relationship?!

This is just another handwringing support of Finkelstein and the Bolt decision; the author says this about Bolt:

"The problem is that because Bolt got facts wrong and exaggerated he could not get the benefit of the free speech exemption. If you exaggerate and get basic facts wrong then it's quite hard to make out that you are acting "reasonably" and in "good faith". Yet, his case does illustrate the problem with the low threshold in s 18C of Part IIA of the RDA."

The issue was not Bolt's mistake about facts but that he mixed the right to claim aboriginality with the further right to claim benefits based on that claim of aboriginality. Bolt and the issue of 'mistaken facts' is discussed at another OLO thread here:

http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=13157&page=5
Posted by cohenite, Tuesday, 14 August 2012 8:44:21 AM
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The problem is racism. Vilification is merely a symptom. If racism were restricted to fringe groups of our society it would not be a problem. Racism is a problem because respectable bank managers may be reluctant to make housing loans to individuals of less favoured groups, because respectable personnel managers are reluctant to hire individuals of less favoured groups and because respectable church people may be reluctant to accept individuals of less favoured groups in their congregations. The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody showed racism is a problem because police throw frightened Aboriginal youths in cells and either bash them or don't monitor them. Vilification legislation doesnít touch that sort of racism.

The USSR, Yugoslavia and East Germany all had racial vilification legislation. This legislation promoted racism in at least two ways. The first way was to hide the cancer of racism from public view. It was not discussed and dealt with. The USSR had the antisemitic heritage of Imperial Russia, Yugoslavia had the fascist heritage of the Ustache who massacred Jews and Serbs during World War 2, and East Germany had a Nazi heritage. Legal suppression of these antisocial tendencies possibly helped keep them alive. The horrible process of ethnic cleansing went in the various successor states to Yugoslavia. Skinheads riot and desecrate the remains of holocaust victims in Germany. The cancer gains renewed life under suppression.

Of course, one may contend that the experience of Slavic countries or of Germany is not relevant to that of English speaking countries. The evidence does not bear this contention out. Australia has a heritage of "White Australia" and the destruction of the Aborigines. Australia was less hospitable than Japan to Jews fleeing from the Nazi Holocaust. Japan took in 27,000. Australia took in 9,000. If the vilification of Australia above had been given enough prominence, the conscience of Australia's people might have been aroused, and Australians might not have allowed their government to refuse sanctuary to Cambodian boat people in much the same manner as sanctuary was refused to those in danger from the Nazis.

Repeal all antivilification legislation.
Posted by david f, Tuesday, 14 August 2012 10:23:33 AM
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Hiding the more extreme racism from public view is actually a GOOD thing.

Extreme racists will not be convinced by arguments in public and will not be deterred by public humiliation. Quite the opposite -- they thrive on the idea that they are being "persecuted for speaking the truth".

What racial vilification laws do is at least make it easier for racial groups to participate in public life without fear of racist abuse and violence.

If racist keep their views between themselves, no one gets hurt. If they proclaim them in public and society deems that acceptable, give or take some criticism, they receive a message that it is ok to be racist. That message can spread and creates an environment in which racist violence becomes something that is acceptable. It all stems from public displays of racism.
Posted by NQD, Tuesday, 14 August 2012 10:55:59 AM
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NQD wrote: "What racial vilification laws do is at least make it easier for racial groups to participate in public life without fear of racist abuse and violence."

The above is not true. Violence against the person, racist or otherwise, is a crime. Racial vilification laws have nothing to do with stopping that. Unfortunately the police are often guilty of that type of violence. "Racist Violence" by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commision investigated the subject and found in many instances police were the perpetrators. It is a problem which racial vilification laws do nothing to stop.

Racial vilification laws shut people up from saying what some define as loathsome remarks concerning race. I have strong opinions. Some people find my opinions loathsome, but I want the freedom to express them. The freedom to say what no one finds loathsome exists in the most abject tyranny. Free speech must allow speech that some find loathsome, or we do not have free speech.

Speech which will incite a mob to attack a person or persons is already illegal as it is incitement. Incitement and harassment are crimes under common law.

Repeal all vilification legislation
Posted by david f, Tuesday, 14 August 2012 11:15:53 AM
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This article can be summed up in one sentence: White people need to be stopped in having opinions about non-white people, while non-whites need to be given greater freedom in criticizing whites.
Posted by Aristocrat, Tuesday, 14 August 2012 11:17:50 AM
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At least the Bolt case has got the point Bolt was making being discussed among those people who are primarily affected by that point; I wonder if the author has an opinion about this:

http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/no_comment27/
Posted by cohenite, Tuesday, 14 August 2012 11:53:18 AM
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I agree in broad principle with most of the article.
However, I disagree that non identifying pictures not accompanied by commentary or opinion are in fact, racial discrimination?
Rather, just shameful disclosure/exposure of the visible and uncomplimentary facts, that patently speak volumes and or, for themselves?
Even so, and having said that, there are places and or occasions where this sort of exposure, ought to be excluded!
There is no case which can be mounted for a public or patently morbid interest in private grief, such as might be witnessed at a private grave site.
Nor should public figures be constantly hounded or deprived of a right to privacy, [the rest of us take for granted,] by similar morbid or unwelcome uninvited interest; the like of which, resulted in the death of Princess Diana!
With a more liberal interpretation of public interest and opinion, comes a need to strengthen privacy laws and current common law rights; or, even a long overdue bill of rights, which will finally decide just how far we can legally go, with liberalised free speech.
I believe the best way to deal with either overt or covert racism is to publicly humiliate/ridicule/poke fun at it and all those who hold extreme views.
This should start in compulsory Kindergarten, to counter the often extreme views of some parents, which is arguably, where all forms of racism/bullying or extreme views are learned or made seemingly socially acceptable?
Rhrosty.
Posted by Rhrosty, Tuesday, 14 August 2012 12:23:06 PM
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As an after thought or footnote:
A more liberal democracy must surely start with much more public involvement/decision making in the pre-selection process. And follow that with an electronic assisted system of secret voting/ballots in all our parliaments; meaning, voting on legislation, could be carried out in the privacy of the member's office.
Overdue reform in the form of secret ballots, clearly embodies freedom of opinion, the unimpeded exercise of conscience in all matters, and the very fundamentals of a liberalised democracy.
This is where fair dinkum liberalised democracy starts and would change the nature of our parliaments, usher in the best orators and the most impassioned and persuasive evocation!
As opposed to current stand over bully boys reportedly ruling the roust; or, effectively deciding all issues or legislative outcomes!
Rhrosty.
Posted by Rhrosty, Tuesday, 14 August 2012 12:42:21 PM
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Oh how the left hate their hypocrisy exposed. Just asked Bolt. Poor Bessy Price is finding out what its like to speak the truth. The left are often nasty, slimy and untruthful. Look at the way they attacked Howard over his 'racist ' Nauru ' solution. Their nastiness has led to about a thousand deaths and now a total backflip in order to save their hide.
Posted by runner, Tuesday, 14 August 2012 3:10:55 PM
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The author states "Yet, there is a small core of male gamers who feel dislocated by the 'encroachment' of females into what was previously a male-dominated arena. Their response to that is predictably vulgar and offensive."
Is their response "predictably vulgar" because they are "male" or is it because they are generally white or is it because they are generally young? Or are gamers just generally vulgar? In any case this author appears to be stereotyping and vilifying gamers.
Should the law prevent him from doing so?
I think this idea that we should be able to go through life without being offended is a real problem and likely to be highly detrimental to our future as a society.
The author says "The whole point of free speech is that it facilitates democratic participation." I don't think that is correct. It may be one of the reasons, but the main reason is that free speech allows the truth to come out. Any restriction on free speech (other than false advertising etc) only serves to protect certain opinions from being challenged. If an opinion is valid then it will stand up to all manner of challenges and there is no need for the law to step in to protect it. As far as racist facebook pages go, How about just not looking at them.
Posted by Rhys Jones, Tuesday, 14 August 2012 3:25:18 PM
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You've got to be kidding Rhrosty. Just how damn stupid do you think we are, or perhaps, how stupid are you.

Without a voting record we could be voting for some cunning as a sh1t house rat Green.

We all know that greens could not lie straight in bed, & with a compliant press prepared to prostitute it self for a story, they wouldn't tell us when some conniving rotten dove was not presenting itself as a nice hawk.

No way I'm prepared to let some polly tell us what they will do. Just look at last time, with "no carbon tax in a government I lead" bull. It's what they actually do that matters.

So sorry mate, a good try, but you ain't pulling that swifty. I still can't believe you would think you could get away with such a con.

Besides, it would be happening to you too. There are increasing numbers of people awakening to the con, & turning just a bit brown. they may just con you.

Of course there is always the old one about getting the best pollys money could buy. How the hell would we be able to tell who had been bought, if we can't see their voting record.

Back to the drawing board there mate, that one won't stop stinking.
Posted by Hasbeen, Tuesday, 14 August 2012 3:34:47 PM
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As with free trade, free speech is vastly overrated. And as with free trade, free speech also pretends to be free, when it's not free at all.

Free speech is ultimately the weapon of power. In any society, the rich have a lot more freedom of speech than the poor, men more than women, adults more than children, and majorities more than minorities.

What is necessary for a properly functioning democracy is not free speech but FAIR speech. And we can only really maintain fair speech through regulating and moderating the means by which those with more power use speech and other forms of communication to maintain their status and control over those with less power.
Posted by Killarney, Tuesday, 14 August 2012 4:51:37 PM
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<< What is necessary for a properly functioning democracy is not free speech but FAIR speech. And we can only really maintain fair speech through regulating and moderating the means by which those with more power use speech and other forms of communication to maintain their status and control over those with less power. >>

Yes, very good point Killarney.
Posted by Ludwig, Tuesday, 14 August 2012 9:40:02 PM
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In Norwegian schools students are required to look at the media and discuss what appears in it. This equips them to recognise propaganda, special pleading and other items that give a slanted view of events.

There is no political advertising allowed. Candidates for office are required to go on tv and discuss with their opponents the issues of the day. The Norwegian populace are equipped to evaluate news items and political speech better than most people in other countries.

This is much better then government deciding whether the media are 'fair.'
Posted by david f, Tuesday, 14 August 2012 9:54:14 PM
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DEMOCRACY?

Australia is not a Democracy. It is a POnzi Scheme.
Anyone associated with the Law Must know this.

The use of large scale and rapid immigration has literally vote stacked every electorate in this nation. Only parties with the friendliest immigration policies are elected now. Thus Australia is being gerrymandered to favour foreign powers. Free speech of ANY kind is a danger for Ponzi powerbrokers at this critical time when REAL power is coming from foreign interests.

Meanwhile Our Lazy politicians are bedazzled by $US's that only cost 15 cents to print and are only worth 15 cents yet are trading at $A1.05. In effect our politicians are selling each and every Australia out.

Its not surprising that Bob Carr has demonised the Anglosphere and condemned Australia's last 200 years of history to an Asian dustbin while he prats about on the world stage getting his rocks off. Its the only way he sees Australia breaking the US vice grip. But Asia has no appetite for multiculture. Carr should go to any Asian city and play spot the Anglo before he consigns our future to Asia's triad grip.

Never mind attacking free speech on behalf of democracy. Democracy is only gained through bloodshed. To give it up so foolishly to a Virtual Reality sphere for quick gratification of a few at the top of our big fat Ponzi Pyramid is a dangerous game from ALL sides.

Before changing free speech rules here, we must reflect:

The notion that "all men are equal but some are more equal than others" is AS endemic to Asia & Europe AS "fair go for all" is endemic to Australia unless of course you are an obese woman or a man under 5'4" tall.
Posted by KAEP, Wednesday, 15 August 2012 12:19:16 PM
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"Yes, very good point Killarney."

Oh sure, and who decides what is fair: Finkelstein, Conroy, Gillard, Bob Brown; you cannot mitigate free speech by any criteria which requires one group deciding the criteria by which other groups have to conform to.

As for this:

"In any society, the rich have a lot more freedom of speech than the poor, men more than women, adults more than children, and majorities more than minorities."

In the age of the internet that is simply ROT; what will happen if Finkelstein gets his way is that the communication and information tool of the relatively poor, the internet, will be constrained and the rich and powerful will have control again.
Posted by cohenite, Wednesday, 15 August 2012 12:44:24 PM
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<< Oh sure, and who decides what is fairÖ >>

What? Are you really poo-pooing fair speech, cohenite??

Yes it is difficult territory to define the boundaries of what is fair and what isnít, and to make it apply as uniformly as possible across all facets of society and to all people.

But hey, we could do a pretty good job with it if we put our minds to it. Certainly a whole lot better than just allowing open-slather unfair speech!
Posted by Ludwig, Wednesday, 15 August 2012 2:41:26 PM
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Ludwig wrote, "But hey, we could do a pretty good job with it if we put our minds to it. Certainly a whole lot better than just allowing open-slather unfair speech!"

Dear Ludwig,

I vehemently disagree. I don't feel competent to decide for other people what is unfair speech, and I distrust you or anybody else to decide for me what is unfair speech.

Who is the 'we' who could do a pretty good job of it? I prefer the open slather with opportunity for people who disagree to speak their piece.
Posted by david f, Wednesday, 15 August 2012 3:13:27 PM
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I agree david f; open slather is the way to go.

Let me ask Ludwig if he would be happy if I was deciding what he could read, hear and look at?
Posted by cohenite, Wednesday, 15 August 2012 3:52:00 PM
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Davidf, I am surprised at your vehement disagreement.

<< I don't feel competent to decide for other people what is unfair speech, and I distrust you or anybody else to decide for me what is unfair speech. >>

It is not a matter of you, me or any single person deciding what is fair and what isnít. It is a matter of society making those judgements - of our expert advisers and decision-makers understanding what is and what is not acceptable to the majority of people, and of the people giving feedback about decisions, so that the best boundaries between fair and unfair speech can be attained.

Some things fall pretty clearly under the banner of unfair speech, such as verbal defamation, false assertions and rank offensive insults blurted out and innocent passers-by with no cause other than for a gang of yobbos to get their subintelligent kicks!

When you think about it, all manner of stuff is clearly unacceptable.

So we cannot have a regime of unfettered free speech, which would be a licence for some people to spout all manner of grossly unfair utterings.

Weíve got to have guidelines, parameters, limits and laws governing our behaviour.

And of course, some authority has to make the decisions as to what those parameters are.

Now, in Stalinist Russia, we could argue that those parameters were not at all fair and reasonable. But in Australia they are, even if they are a little less than idea in some peoplesí opinions.

So again, our efforts to define what is fair and unfair speech, although imperfect, has got to be vastly better than unfettered unfair free speech.
Posted by Ludwig, Wednesday, 15 August 2012 7:58:09 PM
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Dear Ludwig,

I trust a committee even less than I would trust a single person to decide what I should see or hear. We don't have unfettered free speech as it is.

Lionel Murphy on page 3886/3 in the Current House Hansard of 16 December 1992 was quoted as saying, "Free speech is only what is what is left after due weight has been accorded to the laws relating to defamation, blasphemy, copyright, sedition, obscenity, use of insulting words, official secrecy, contempt of court and of parliament, incitement and censorship..." Is "due weight" not given to free speech? "Only what is left over" means free speech has no value in itself. Any other consideration can override it. Hopefully, this is not the prevailing attitude to free speech in Australia. "Only what is left over" is consistent with the value of free speech in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia or Khomeini's Iran. People in all three countries had the right to say anything the government didn't ban them from saying. Free speech points out the wrongs in our society and protects cultural expressions that differ from the prevailing view. It has great value in an open society.

You want to add more restrictions on top of what we already have? You want somwe committee to decide what is fair and unfair speech? We should get rid of some rstrictions that we have. We should get rid of laws against defamation, blasphemy, sedition, obscenity, use of insulting words, some of official secrecy and censorship. There are too many restrictions on speech as it is.
Posted by david f, Wednesday, 15 August 2012 8:36:48 PM
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Dear Ludwig,

I'm sorry. I left something out. The racial vilification laws should also be repealed. The laws attack a sympton of racism rather than racism itself. They serve to shut people up and give the illusion that shutting people up does something against racism. Meanwhile polite racism using code words continues.
Posted by david f, Wednesday, 15 August 2012 8:51:45 PM
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<< You want to add more restrictions on top of what we already have? >>

No I donít david f.

Perhaps you have wrongly assumed that I do. Iím sorry if I somehow misled you to that conclusion.

I agree; we could do with fewer restrictions, in some areas, such as the general use of Ďobsceneí words.

But I think overall weíve got it pretty well worked out and that the law isnít too bad. Trouble is, as is so often the case with the law, what is written in law and what actually applies are two different things, and the authorities donít act even-handedly towards everyone.

What is left over after due weight has been accorded to the laws relating to defamation, blasphemy, copyright, sedition, obscenity, use of insulting words, official secrecy, contempt of court and of parliament, incitement and censorship, is still pretty good. There are good reasons, some more-so than others, for restrictions on speech regarding all of these categories.

We still have a very good level of free speech despite them.... and a better quality of free speech at that.
Posted by Ludwig, Wednesday, 15 August 2012 9:21:24 PM
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A better democracy must eliminate the bitter competition between races that foolish immigration programs are inflicting on this desert nation.

Australian citizens will be less likely to call each other names and less likely to cynically sue those namers for racism if they aren't cooped up in OFarrell chicken cages along New Parramatta Rd Human Sewer developments.

The big losers in this country are:

*Citizens breathing gender altering car fumes at every peak hour period

*Drinkers of infectious Desal waters because the owners are cutting corners due to big losses

*Natural ecosystems like the Barrier Reef and Roxby Downs that

*Endangered species, looked after into extinction by double dealing mining companies that own enough media propaganda to make a pogram look like a conservation Spree.

Australia was never going to carry more than 20 million people democratically. Its the lack of water and the lack of big mountain ranges and the lack of free energy from overt Geological activity that determines this.

Its politicians with foreign plans in their ears and foreign meanness in their Ponzi scheming hearts that need changing for better democracy.

Australian's of true heart and mind must stop overpopulation and where it already exists Immigrants must pay $300K infrastructure levy in a HECS like scheme to ease social pressure. Stop dehumanising Australia, its ecosystems and its citizens. These iniquities are not modern, smart or hi tech. They are as unsustainable as the Reichstag policies of Germany and the Communist pogroms of Russia from whence they gain their OFarrellesque inspiration.

And Note: We are NOT America. The Big Immigration outcomes of the US will not follow here. We Don't have the Rivers or Mountains or other required natural capital and no amount of foreign investment will change that for the better.
Posted by KAEP, Friday, 17 August 2012 9:42:09 AM
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