There are some on the Left that seem to be extremely naïve when it comes to considering certain aspects of free speech. Paul Howes, the national secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union, seems to be a prime example of this type of naïveté. In an article in today’s The Australian newspaper, Howes defends Australia’s most obnoxious racist, Andrew Bolt, on the grounds that freedom of speech is essential for a robust ‘democracy’. Howes reckons:
Andrew grabs an idea and often follows his logic to wherever it may lead him; God help those who stand in his way!
Now while I really can't accept some of this stuff I will - unsurprisingly - defend to the death his right to run a hot-headed, half-cocked argument where he says he is now putting into his crosshairs all sorts of political, academic and media grandees. It is the Voltaire in me that says I don't like what you're saying - or about to say - but sure as hell I reckon you have the right, in our democracy, to run that argument.
Why would anyone want to die defending Bolt’s right to foment hatred in the world? Because that is exactly what Bolt is doing. For centuries there have been propagandists like Bolt that seem to see it as their life’s work to insult, demean, belittle and ostracise those who are different from them solely because they are different.
Just as Julius Streicher, the Nazi propagandist proprietor of the anti-Semite newspaper Der Stürmer, fomented hatred of Jews throughout Germany and Europe which ultimately led to the attempted extermination of European Jewry that resulted in the deaths of millions, so Andrew Bolt is subtly doing exactly the same as Streicher did by fomenting hatred of all things that are not a part of a Europeanised Judeo-Christian Australian society.
I wonder, though, if Paul Howes would defend Julius Streicher ‘to the death’.
Bolt’s disgusting views about Aborigines and the plight of indigenous peoples which he carefully cloaks in patronising rhetoric are well known. They are views that have now seen him before the courts as he attempts to defend himself against charges of defaming people who identify as Aboriginal by accusing them of defrauding the Australian people on account of them not being black enough for Bolt’s liking. But Bolt's racism doesn't stop at Aborigines. It goes beyond skin colour and physical differences; it also extends into other peoples cultures and religions.
Bolts paranoid detestation of Islam is well known and in many ways even more fanatical than his very public written and verbal assaults on Aboriginality. The reason for Bolt’s appearance in the courts is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the legal aspects of Bolt’s racism are concerned; it doesn’t even begin to address the real potential consequences of his racism.
Hatred of Islam, Islamophobia, is sweeping the Western world thanks to the likes of Andrew Bolt and his so-called rights to ‘freedom of speech’. We should all bear in mind the consequences of such hatreds as we approach the anniversary of the July 1995 massacres of Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina who were murdered by Serbians who had been taught to hate by people just like Andrew Bolt; murdered for no other reason than they were Muslims.
Defend the right to free speech that helps progress society by all means, but the likes of Julius Streicher and Andrew Bolt don’t use that right for progress; they abuse it to foment hatred and disharmony that ultimately lead to terror and death in once civilised societies.