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Rundle: Pyne’s bizarre free speech rhetoric a dog whistle to the IPA

Free speech on university campuses is crucial — but only if said free speech aligns with the government’s rhetoric.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne gave the campaign to abolish 18c another kick in the guts this morning in The Australian — although it was disguised as an attack on alleged anti-Semitism on campuses.

The principle target of the attack was Socialist Alternative, which is among the groups leading the campaign against the massive fee hikes proposed by the Abbott government. SAlt is also running protest campaigns against Israel, which includes protests against the Max Brenner cafe/chocolate chain, which provides free goody bags to the Israel Defense Forces.

The optics of the Brenner protest aren’t great — the chain consciously imitates a Viennese-style coffee shop, so protesting outside it has ugly associations (which is part of SAlt’s recruitment strategy — those who quail at the complexity of that aren’t cadre material. Hence the Brenner protests, rather than a more concentrated attack on the offices of Israeli arms exporters in Australia).

But anti-Semitic they ain’t. Neither is the boycott divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign, which Pyne thinks should be excluded from universities by administrators. Quite aside from the fact that many of the people running BDS campaigns are Jews themselves — and not only secular-Left Jews, but the increasingly vocal Hasidic groups, who have been anti-Zionist for more than a century — Pyne’s stance suggests a curious attitude to free speech.

The whole idea of the university is as a place of free thought, where both students and faculty should be protected from sanction simply for expressing unpopular ideas. This idea is central to a free society. To try and impose a range of “acceptable” free speech on a university from without is simply a misunderstanding of what the university is. Pyne is simply adopting the “no platform” argument of a section of the Left as regards universities and applying it to a spurious “anti-Semitism”. Given that it was opposition by Australian-Jewish groups to changes to 18c that pretty much killed it, it’s difficult not to conclude that the real target of this piece — with its concluding paean to collectivist multiculturalism — is the IPA and their renewed 18c target.

Such an approach to choking free speech at universities — which is, in effect, the state choking off free speech — is part of the new normal: that the greatest enemy of free speech now is the Abbott government, with its “Team Australia” rhetoric, its use of multicultural agents to treat inconvenient speech — i.e. violent Islamism — as a bacillus to be “deradicalised”, etc. It’s a chilling process — one I’m sure the IPA will attack vociferously and stand up for the right of people to urge jihad. Hello? Hello?

Still, those in favour of 18C will be relieved to see that its friends now include the Abbott government. That is hegemonic victory, by any measure.

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  • 1
    Luke Hellboy
    Posted Friday, 29 August 2014 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Free speech seems to be similar to free markets - free until it could disadvantage those in power.

  • 2
    John Passant
    Posted Friday, 29 August 2014 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    My 2 bob’s worth on my blog.

    Education Minister Christopher Pyne labels Socialist Alternative, with no evidence whatsoever, anti-Semitic. This calumny is the last refugee of Zionist scoundrels who cannot rebut the evidence of Israel’s war crimes in Gaza. In fact recent analysis shows that there has not been a global increase in anti-Semitism but rather in anti-Israeli sentiment, based on the reality of the crimes Israel is committing in Gaza. To conflate the two is a crude attempt by Zionists to bury the crimes of Israel alongside the bodies of the hundreds of murdered children in Gaza.

    http://enpassant.com.au/2014/08/29/the-ministers-claims-of-anti-semitism-by-socialist-alternative-are-lies/

  • 3
    Mark M
    Posted Friday, 29 August 2014 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Pyne is still fighting his university politics battles. Even now these guys can let their student days go. I guess it is partly because they never really left them.

  • 4
    Ken Lambert
    Posted Friday, 29 August 2014 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    that the greatest enemy of free speech now is the Abbott government, with its “Team Australia” rhetoric, its use of multicultural agents to treat inconvenient speech — i.e. violent Islamism — as a bacillus to be “deradicalised”

    Guy, I overestimated your intellect and gave credence to some of your stuff when the above statement is nothing but the effusion of a Pilgerist prat.

    The whole free speech debate over 18C is about where to draw the line between speech which might offend and speech which incites violence against a particular group or individual.

    Bolt offended but never with any suggestion of inciting violence.

    You have just labelled ‘Violent Islamist speech” as ‘inconvenient’. Inconvenient???

    Incitement to violence, encouragement to behead and murder other Muslims, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians…. is just ‘inconvenient’ for our Guy.

    Perhaps you need a spell with ISIS old son, just to see how ‘inconvenient’ they really are.

  • 5
    Andybob
    Posted Saturday, 30 August 2014 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    I don’t agree with your analysis of the 18C debate Ken. For example I would repeal offend and insult but retain humiliate or intimidate. Those last two are broader than incitement to violence. Bolt would still have infringed under those amendments because Justice Bromberg found his conduct in breach of all four elements. Bolt also failed to satisfy the good faith and reasonableness tests for the fair comment exemption in s.18D, which I think gets it right. The proposed amendments seemed to me more about allowing Bolt to say he would not have infringed under the changed law, than any sensible response to a law about giving offence.

  • 6
    georgina west
    Posted Monday, 1 September 2014 at 1:34 am | Permalink

    Hello - i just registered a trial account - i am wondering - is all the news here just comment or is it possible to get the story as well? Where is the lead in to this issue? What exactly did Christopher Pyne do?

  • 7
    georgina west
    Posted Monday, 1 September 2014 at 1:35 am | Permalink

    ps - don’t have a problem with the comment - just the lack of detail

  • 8
    GideonPolya
    Posted Monday, 1 September 2014 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Why anti-racist Jewish and non-Jewish Australians should demand Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Apartheid Israel and all its supporters (notably the 100% pro-Zionist Lib-Labs aka Liberal-Laborals, Coalition and Labor Right):

    (1) In US- , UK- and Australia-backed, nuclear terrorist, democracy-by-genocide, neo-Nazi Apartheid Israel’s latest Gaza Massacre in the Gaza Concentration Camp, 2,000 Palestinians (80% civilians and including about 500 children) have been killed, 10,000 have been wounded, 450,000 have been driven from their homes, 250,000 have been made homeless and 1.8 million (half children) have been variously traumatized from shelling and bombing in reprisals for zero (0) Israeli deaths from Gaza rockets in the previous year and 28 in the previous 14 year i.e. 2 per year as compared to 134 Israelis being murdered by fellow Israelis each year (see Gideon Polya, “Mike Carlton, top Australian columnist, forced from job for criticizing Apartheid Israeli Gaza Massacre”, Countercurrents, 08 August, 2014: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya080814.htm ).

    (2) However this horrendous latest Gaza Massacre is but a small part of a vaster racist Zionsit (RZ) and neo-Nazi Apartheid Israeli atrocity. Thus Palestinian deaths since 1936 from Zionist violence (0.1 million) or from Zionist -imposed deprivation (1.9 million) total 2 million (1 million being CHILDREN) as compared to 3,800 racist Zionist (RZ) or neo-Nazi Apartheid Israeli invaders killed by “the enemy” since 1920 (see “Palestinian Genocide”: https://sites.google.com/site/palestiniangenocide/ ).

    (3) The 4.3 million Occupied Palestinian highly abusively confined to the neo-Nazi Apartheid Israeli Luftwaffe-, Wehrmacht- and Kriegsmarine-bombed, rocketed and shelled Gaza Concentration Camp (1.8 million) or to Israeli Wehrmacht -guarded West Bank mini-Bantustans (2.5 million) are excluded from all Human Rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (for a detailed analysis see Gideon Polya, “ Apartheid Israel Excludes Occupied Palestinians From All Provisions Of The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights”, 20 May, 2012: http://www.countercurrents.org/polya200512.htm ).

    (4) Of 12 million Palestinians today (about 50% children and 75% women and children), 6 million are forbidden to even step foot in their own country; 4.3 million are highly abusively confined without human rights in the Gaza Concentration Camp (1.8 million) or in West Bank mini-Bantustan Occupied Palestinian Ghettoes (2.5 million); and 1.7 million are Palestinian Israelis, the “lucky” 14% of Palestinians permitted to vote for the government ruling all of former Mandatory Palestine (plus ethnically cleansed parts of Lebanon and Syria) , albeit as Third Class citizens under Nazi-style Apartheid race laws. 90% of the land of the former Mandatory Palestine has been ethnically cleansed of Indigenous Palestinians.

    (5) In addition to violently killing about 650 Occupied Palestinian subjects each year, Apartheid Israel passively murders 4,200 Occupied Palestinian each year through imposed egregious deprivation, noting that the annual per capita income is a First World $31,537 for Apartheid Israel and a Third World $2,431 for the Occupied Palestinian Territories under the heel of genocidally racist Apartheid Israel.

  • 9
    JennyWren
    Posted Monday, 1 September 2014 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Georgina, maybe scroll to the top of the page after logging in or go to crikey home page and click on the latest editions at the top right hand side for the daily newsletter

  • 10
    Ken Lambert
    Posted Monday, 1 September 2014 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    Andybob

    Regarding 18C:

    For example I would repeal offend and insult but retain humiliate or intimidate.”

    When does offence or insult become humiliation or intimidation? When the victim says so??

    Law cannot be based on the opinion or feelings of the supposed injured party.

    Law should be as objective as possible. Certain speech or actions which constitute a breach should be defined clearly.

    That is the weakness of 18C. In front of another judge than Bromberg, Bolt might have received a different decision purely due to the subjectivity of what would offend or humiliate one person might not another.

    It boils down to a sticks and stones argument…the only way to really intimidate is to threaten violence which we all agree should obviously break the law.

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