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John Passant

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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.



Comment from Jan Muller
Time September 29, 2011 at 12:18 am

Capital A for Aboriginal please John. It’s a matter of respect and I am convinced that you would not wish to disrespect.

Comment from Jan Muller
Time September 29, 2011 at 12:21 am

P.S. I do like your blogs and read them as often as I can.

Pingback from En Passant » A Bolt hole anyone? | Calling Card Pro
Time September 29, 2011 at 12:56 am

[…] more:  En Passant » A Bolt hole anyone? Related Posts:En Passant » Refugee activists call on pro-refugee Labor MPs to … En Passant – […]

Comment from Wendy’s Best Friend
Time September 29, 2011 at 3:36 pm

It’s a shame you are not taken to court for your lies about genocide and Israeli murderers and your lies about being working class. An anti-semite hate mongerer like you should also be in the dock …. but unlike Bolt, only 15 people read the tripe you write instead of spending quality time with your students.

Go Geelong!

Comment from Ross
Time September 29, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Why cannot Wendy appear in person?

We have to be careful here that racial discrimination laws are used to silence dissent.These laws can be used against you John for criticising the Zionists.It is a double edged sword.

Bolt should be allowed to express his prejudices in a free country.

“I may not agree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say them.” Now who said that?

Comment from Terrance
Time September 30, 2011 at 7:41 am

No Ross, there is no such thing as ‘free speech’. For e.g, John P cannot call his female students ‘sluts’ or his Islamic students ‘terrorists’ and his Asian students ‘gooks’. He (and anyone else doing the same) would be fired. [sorry John for using you in the analogy] We have laws that protect people from offence and vilification and racism.

Your views on 9/11 are lies and garbage, but you don’t single out a group based on colour, religion or race so yes, you’re free to express them, even if they are downright dumb. That’s fair enough.

Bolt’s case wasn’t about free speech mate. he breeched the racial discrimination act. He broke the law. Your defence is like saying, yes officer, I drove over the limit, but it’s my right to drink what I like and drive.

It’s not silencing dissent – in your world anyone can go round usiung terms like ‘nigger’ and ‘coon’ and ‘poofter’ and ‘slut’ in the workplace or in parliament and that’s free speech. Imagine the PM telling Pyne he’s a ‘poofter’ and ‘fag’ in Question Time and using ‘free speech’ as a defence.

PS> apologies for using offensive words, but Ross doesn’t get subtelty.

Comment from Interested Bystander
Time September 30, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Bolt banishes terminology which implies a generalization to specific examples. Thus, if some Aboriginal children were taken away from abusive homes, he proclaims ALL stolen generation victims were removed for humanitarian purposes
Likewise, when Mr Passant discusses Zionism and attributed certain generalizations he is mirroring Bolt’s offence. Zionism, as I understand it, is a belief in a homeland for Jewish people. Thus not all Zionists oppose a two-state solution, or support West Bank settlement or – as we see in the US – are even of the Jewish religion.
Once you start bandying about generic terms like genocide and Zionism, and racist to encompass a whole group of people then you are committing the same offence that Bolt is guilty of.

Comment from John
Time September 30, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Not true. Zionism is a philosophy and action of dispossession, ie genocide. The two state solution is an acceptance of that genocide.

Comment from Interested Bystander
Time September 30, 2011 at 5:42 pm

I disagree John, and having looked it up I can find no evidence to support your position. The original Zionists contemplated Detroit, central Africa and even Tasmania as a homeland. Stalin offered a Zionist homeland in the 1930s before rescinding this. Further, not all Zionists believe a Jewish state means no Palestine.

Like Bolt, you tar with a broad brush; and like Bolt you make a claim over an entire group that cannot be sustained by evidence.

Comment from Ross
Time September 30, 2011 at 6:56 pm

Terrance,this is not a 911 debate.You are trying to discredit me by suggesting I’m a lunatic fringe dweller who believes in wild theories.The scientific evidence here is irrefurable.I’ll bet you any amount of money you like that the towers and WTC 7 were brought down by explosives.Get you best scientific brains to try and defeat me Terrance and I guarantee you will lose.

The real issue Terrance, is freedom of speech.There are litigation laws the cover defamity.Bolt was questioning the right of light skinned Aboriginals to have the same rights as the darker ones.

In all reality we should one law that covers all humanity, since giving special privileges to any group suggests that they are in some way superior or inferior to the general populace.Aborigines have special intelligence which we can all learn from but we are destroying them with”sit down money”.

The West is consumed with power,fame and creature comforts.This obsessive compulsive disorder is destroying us.

Comment from dl
Time September 30, 2011 at 8:17 pm

You’ve pretty much just abrogated your own ability to claim that you defend free speech in the future, without being liable to be labelled a hypocrite, in writing this column. I mean, this article goes just short of outright claiming that certain sorts of speech should be banned, without explicitly saying so, and then only on the ground that such speech may run the risk of insulting people (ie. by restricting their right to ‘identify theselves,’ the horror!) In other words, free speech is alright, as long as it is within the purview of what I personally find acceptable.

I’ll add, though, that I personally think that this issue should be dissociated from outright incitements to violence, or pragmatic ‘Shouting fire in a crowded theatre’ type limits on free speech, for reasons that I won’t explicate here.

As for the actual offending Andrew Bolt Article, I recently re-read it, and the observation (though not expressly stated) that Aborigines with more European admixture, are more predominant in academic & political pursuits, is an intruiging one. The mirrors the situation of African-Americans in the U.S.A. where a lighter skin tone appears to have some correlation with SES.

Comment from John
Time September 30, 2011 at 9:56 pm

You must have been reading a different article to the one I wrote dl. I argue for a society in which workers democratically run society. In fact I argue that legislative prescriptions won’t stop racist ideas or racist actions and will be used by the powerful forces of the State or capital or both against the forces of liberation, especially if we begin to get an audience for our ideas. Only that democratic society will have any chance of finally ridding humanity of the scourge of racism But you read whatever you want to into my article, based on your own preconceptions. And the idea that Bolt’s free speech has been impugned is ludicrous. he was on the front page and the inside pages of the Herald sun. Give me a break. He represents one part of the ruling elite who deny or try to free speech and free thought to the rest of us.

Comment from John
Time September 30, 2011 at 9:58 pm

So let me guess, some Zionists believe in one state for all who want to live in Palestine? Which ones?

Comment from dl
Time September 30, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Sorry to tread on you toes like that, but I guess this is a bit of a change from the endless Israel-Palestinian bunfights that seem to be endlessly replaying themselves in your comment sections lately.

As for freedom of speech, well your right, if you consider the size of media representation as the main measure of someone’s free speech.

Andrew Bolt’s right to write what he wants in any articles published in the furture has been measurably cropped by this judgement, and I might add that the judgement may help to facilitate an atmosphere in which other centre-of-right newspapers (probably murdoch owned) behome hesitant about publishing articles of a similar vein. I also don’t understand how the elite want to deny us free thought. Andrew bolt, for example, despite all his Climate Change Science related quackery, endless tub-thumping against Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership and his tacky blog posts on race & refugees(I try and skim read his blog most days btw), has never promulgated the idea that we should be in the business of tellling people what they can and can’t say.

Comment from John
Time September 30, 2011 at 11:47 pm

So how many anti-capitalist articles have you read in the Murdoch or Fairfax press? It is as Chomsky argued the manufacture of consent. And actually I think the judgement against Bolt was mainly about him being wrong. Bolt’s constant diet of racism and climate change denial is specifically designed to influence the debate and outcome, and when you add in the other journalists and opinion makers pushing the same sort of line then it becomes a cacophony hard to ignore. There can be no real freedom of speech in a society in which knowledge and information and opinion are a commodity.

Comment from John
Time September 30, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Let’s say anti-capitalist thought (to put it as its most generous and wide ranging) has about 2 or 3 percent support in society. That is not reflected in the mainstream media. For example there has been an almost total black out of MSM reporting of the occupation of Wall Street, because such an action challenges the very right of capital to continue in the old ways.

Comment from Baraholka
Time October 5, 2011 at 8:20 am

Bolt dispenses with truth in order to server Higher Truth.
His Higher Truth is the protection of society from Left/Green dictatorship.

Towards that goal any and all propaganist techniques are permissible including the publication of deliberate untruths. This lesson Bolt learnt while an employee of Graham Richardson.

Because TEH LEFT wages its wars through ideas, the minds of Australians must be fortified with correct (Bolt-derived, Right-derived) ideas in order that they may reject the evil Leftist propaganda. Since TEH Left are evil they do not deserve the courtesies of fair play, respect or truthul interaction. Thus lies are permissible in the defence of Higher Truth.

Bolt therefore poisons the minds of Australians in order to save and protect their minds.