Americans get a number of stereotypes: their ignorant about the world, they’re highly religious, etc. I find it hard to get my head around their attitudes towards guns (the leaders and opponents of change, anyway), especially when mass shootings seem to be frequently covered in the media. But one thing I am starting to admire the U.S. for is the First Amendment of their constitution. I can see why people, Australians included, may envy that, especially when we have 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.1
18C and its impact on free speech
The RDA became a hot topic after two highly publicised court cases. One of them was Eatock vs. Bolt, where Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt, was sued under the Racial Discrimination Act for articles about Aboriginal identity. The court ruled in favour of the plaintiffs and the two articles were permanently banned. For the record, I didn’t read the articles, but from what I’ve read about the aftermath, frankly, I find the repercussions against Bolt, heartbreaking. It’s made him a pariah in some circles, with vile abuse written about him on social media, to death threats against his family that were so severe that his children were removed by police from the family home.
Another case that hit the media involved Cindy Price and three students: Alex Wood, Callum Thwaite and Jackson Powell of Queensland University of Technology (QUT). A number of students made private settlements to avoid court. The court case ruled against Prior, ordering her to repay A$200,000. The students didn’t leave the case unscathed, with one student abandoning his plans of ironically, teaching Aboriginal children due to the stigma of the court case.
What are people concerned about
One of the arguments against changing the RDA is the fear of lack of protections for Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander people and other racial minorities. Last year, Labor Government suggested that theLGBTQ+ should also be protected.
Some proponents of changing or scrapping Section 18C haven’t helped the cause. A classic example was George Brandis’ infamous claim that ‘people have a right to be bigots in 2014.
There needs to be more to free speech than that. The reason why the U.S. has it right is, yes, people have the right to be bigots, but… other people willingly bite back.
Put aside Google’s ‘ad pocalypse’, YouTube has proven to be a space that sparks debate and accountability for politicians and media personalities alike.
An example of this I found recently was David Pakman (The Dave Pakman Show) when he attacked Dave Rubin (Rubin Report) for not challenging Lebanese – born Islam critic, Gabriel Brigitte for her false claims she about George Sorros.
Another channel that gives freedom of speech a great name is Secular Talk. Host Kyle Kulinski is a fierce defender of free speech. In August, Kulinski criticised Apple, Spotify and YouTube for removing some of his content and permanently banning him.
Does that mean that Kulinski agreed with everything Jones said or did? Hell no! Next time you’re on YouTube, go and check out the Secular Talk channel and look at some of his rebuttals against Jones (andcountless others). They’re pretty awesome.
‘But loosening 18C will only embolden haters.’ critics of the suggestion claim. While I’m sympathetic to the to the fear, I am starting to see that there is a better way.
Section 18C of the RDA should be replaced by a culture of robust debate and having various voices heard. I think we need a thriving media industry that goes beyond the ABC/ Newscorp duopoly.
What do you think about free speech in Australia? Do you think we have enough or should acts like 18C of RDA be scrapped? Let me knpw your thoughts in the comments below.