A Bolt hole anyone?
It was fantastic to see that Andrew Bolt and his employer, the Herald and Weekly Times (as publisher of the Herald Sun)’ have been found to have breached the Racial Discrimination Act. As Federal Court Justice Mordecai Bromberg said about the two Bolt articles in question: ‘… they contained errors of fact, distortions of truth and inflammatory and provocative language.’
Errors? Distortion of truth? Inflammatory and provocative language? Well blow me down with a feather. Who would have thought Andrew Bolt and the Herald Sun would be capable of such things?
Me. It is par for the course for the papers of Murdoch reaction.
It was fantastic too to see the joy on the faces of the defendants as they celebrated their victory over the racism of the right. Their right to be themselves, to right to choose their own identities, was upheld against the slanders of the likes of Bolt.
So what’s it all about? Bolt wrote two Herald Sun columns which asserted that fair skinned Aboriginal people identified as Aboriginal to get the benefits of being Aboriginal. You know, advantages like dying a decade earlier than non-Aboriginal Australians and lower living standards.
He named 18 well known Australian Aboriginal people as doing this. Nine sued him for a breach of section 18C of the Commonwealth Racial Vilification Act. Subsection 18C(1) says:
(1) It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
(a) the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and
(b) the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.
According to Alison Cardwell at ABC News:
‘Justice Bromberg concluded the messages conveyed by the two articles included that the people were not genuinely Aboriginal; that instead, motivated by career opportunities available to Aboriginal people, they had chosen to falsely identify as Aboriginal.
‘Justice Bromberg said the messages included that fair skin colour indicates a person who is not sufficiently Aboriginal to be genuinely identified as an Aboriginal person.’
Andrew Bolt is a columnist of extreme reaction. He wears the cloak of common sense to babble right-wing nonsense.
There will be much discussion about free speech. Evidently the free speech of News Ltd, which owns 70 percent of the print media in Australia, and Andrew Bolt, who is paid enormous amounts of money to spew forth his filth, is being restricted. Writing the truth somehow conflicts with free speech whereas writing lies is the essence of free speech. Evidently.
In fact the case highlights that free speech is the preserve normally of the elite and rich, not ordinary working people.
It also shows the irrationality that has gripped sections of the population and ruling class. As Patrick Moynihan supposedly said: ‘You are entitled to your opinion; you are not entitled to your own facts.’
Unfortunately Australian politics has degenerated so that some politicians now echo the stubborn beliefs of the downwardly mobile middle class and sections of the working class to have opinions which blame everyone else, but not capitalism, for their plight. They have facts which are not facts.
Tony Abbott springs to mind, but so too to be frank does Julia Gillard with her attacks on refugees for example. Their appeals to the populism of reaction fuel the likes of Bolt and Piers Ackerman.
The material conditions of life under capitalism, and the lack of class struggle in Australia today, give support to this. The filth of racism, the denial of science, the homophobia, can breed like hardy weeds in a ground untouched by the water of class struggle.
It is in this context that legislative interventions to address racism, homophobia and other systemic hated filled aspects of capitalism spring forth. They are band-aids to treat cancer.
An alternative is to build the struggle on the ground against racism. In Australia the concrete and most visible manifestation of that is the campaign for refugees and against offshore processing. Another is against the Northern Territory invasion.
The real power to stop the ruling elites’ lie machines from producing racist filth lies at the point of production. Imagine a newspaper in which the journalists and production crew refused to allow racist filth into the paper? Of course, we are a long way from that. But I can still dream.
There is another problem. The paper and Bolt will appeal. They could well win, and that would be devastating for those involved and those sections of the Left who have descended into a gloat fest over this.
Second Bolt and the Herald and Weekly Times and other Murdoch papers will play the free speech card cynically and incessantly, all the while denying alternative voices an outlet in their own pages.
Third, the decision opens up some interesting possibilities for the reactionary Right.
For example, The Australian, deliberately I suspect in anticipation of the Bolt case decision, has been accusing opponents of Woodside’s proposed $30 billion gas hub in the Kimberley of racism for allegedly calling pro-development Aborigines coconuts – ‘black on the outside, white on the inside and full of the milk of white man’s money.’
Aborigines offended by that could perhaps lodge a complaint under section 18C against the writer, although it is in fact unclear who actually wrote it. Certainly the environmental groups deny doing it, not that the Murdoch lie machine, those great proponents of free speech, let minor details like that worry them.
As readers would also know I am a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against apartheid Israel. I could imagine Zionists using the decision to try to silence the legitimate BDS protest movement developing.
Worse, because the establishment has cynically accepted that anti-Zionism is anti-semitism for its own purposes, it is possible a judge could rule in favour of any Zionist action.The alternative is to build a movement in support of Palestine and BDS, to support refugees, to attend the demonstrations outside the ALP National Conference on 3 and 4 December in Sydney.
Finally, under the guise of defending free speech, a conservative government will amend the Act to allow all sorts of bile to issue forth under the guise of comment. Certainly Abbott will, and it is possible Gillard Labor could too although for crass political reasons on their part my guess is that such action is unlikely from them.
The short term embarrassment of racists like Bolt might turn into a longer term strategic disaster for the left. Certainly I will celebrate the Bolt’s loss, but the left needs to be careful. We might unleash the Right on their terrain – the bosses’ courts. Far better for us to fight on our ground – in the workplaces and the streets to stop racism.
Ultimately of course only a democratic working class revolution can sweep away the capitalist roots of racism. The struggles of today however can force the beast back into its lair for a while and help too to build the struggle for that new world of democracy and production to satisfy human need.