Andrew Bolt

Sharon Segler writes: Re. “Simons: why we have to hope that Bolt wins his case” (yesterday, item 5) Margaret Simons passionately argues for the media’s right to free speech, regardless of how offensive the speech and odious the speaker maybe.

But what she fails to incorporate into her thinking is the equally important notion of responsibility, and the capacity of having a “big picture” awareness of the implications upon the audience that must be factored into the mix.  To attempt to isolate and or elevate one “right” over another is patently unworkable.  It’s a bit like arguing over your “right” to smoke and my “right” to fresh air while we share the same space.

While it’s true that “people down the pub” make all sorts of ignorant, racist and bigoted remarks, these very people acquire a great deal of their opinions by feeding off the toxic waste published by the likes of Andrew Bolt, A Current Affair and Alan Jones.  One only has to listen to talk back radio for five minutes to hear evidence of callers dutifully repeating, parrot-like, the misinformation peddled in the tabloid media…. “I read it in the Herald so it must be true…”

Such profound influence and reach upon the masses makes the case for accountability and responsibility in publishing all the more vital.  By supporting these tabloid shock jocks and op ed writers, Margaret effectively endorses the blatant disregard of the ethical standards of the journalism profession she claims to hold so dear.

To my mind, this case ought not and need not be turned into a debate about censorship, about which we all should be rightly opposed.  The outcome of this case, regardless of which party wins, should rightly be interpreted as a need for a long-overdue discussion about responsible reporting, and the imperative to use the mass media as a force to educate and enlighten, rather than as a divisive instrument to poison minds.

Sholto Douglas writes: Ms Simons appears to be a rare an honourable exception on the Left.

I have seen the sort of politically correct sentiments to which she refers on several blogs, as well as from others who should know better (like Ackland).  They say that Bolt ‘goes too far’, or that he has ‘overstepped the line’.  Well how far is too far?  Which line?  It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

That is the danger of restricting speech for the sake of ‘nice’.  No two people will agree on where that line should be, so it should be as unobtrusive and limited as possible.

The ridiculous analogy from Merkel of shouting fire in a theatre is like the ready resort to accusations of racism.  It usually signifies that person has no better argument.  Bolt’s remarks (and I am not here to judge them) did not put anyone in danger, and if one perceives there to be a fire then one has a duty to shout.

As Margaret says, many people discuss what they see as the absurdity of people denying, say, 31 parts of their ancestry in favour of the 32nd part, something that goes beyond mere absurdity when there is potential career and financial advancement for so doing.  And not just in pubs.

We see a very unpleasant tendency on the left where they don’t try to win the argument, they attempt to stop it altogether.  The Racial Discrimination Act has become like ‘Human Rights’ legislation and commissions in Canada and Europe, to be used by thin-skinned individuals to achieve outcomes they could never achieve through more time-tested avenues, like defamation laws.

Remember Darwin caused grave offence.  Had Victorian England had such a low legal bar, we would still all be Creationists.

Venise Alstergren writes: The breath-taking ease with which writers, who should know better, come out with comments like these: “But the law of defamation does not prevent publication. It allows those who have been defamed to seek compensation.” never ceases to amaze me.  What if the person being defamed doesn’t have the resources to afford hideously expensive litigation? Most especially when the person doing the defaming is backed by the endless wealth of Rupert Murdoch.

What kind of utopia do writers inhabit?  Is there no conception of the costs, not to mention the time involved and the intrusion into a person’s private life — all of which are at stake here? Andrew Bolt plus Rupert Murdoch! What kind of person in the Oz community has recourse to the necessary legal talent to fight that combination?

Jo Daniels writes: Margaret Simons’ article on the Andrew Bolt case does not mention the fact that there is in fact no guaranteed freedom of speech in the Australian constitution, and also that the case is about whether Bolt has breached a specific Act, the Racial Vilification Act. It therefore seems to be a fairly ignorant and ill-informed piece.

K J Lewis writes: Of course it’s a pity, there aren’t higher standards, less politics, with its large share of the media market and the way they can bend it, it would be nice to see News Limited  take a more responsible stand on the dissemination of news, the way they present it to us to digest (influencing voter perceptions of reality) rather than refract it to a better light for the party they sponsor – but we can’t, so it’s quite lucky we are that in these days when their spinning is so intense, we have so many alternate avenues to access news – as their influence devolves.

David Hadley writes: If we subscribe to the notion of “freedom of speech” we must grant that there will be times when we might say things that others will take offense to. Bolt often offends but I would not like to see him silenced.

Terry J Mills writes: Two quotes, attributed to Voltaire, which seem appropriate to Andrew Bolt,’ situation:

“we have a natural right to make use of our pens as of our tongue, at our peril, risk and hazard” and “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

Seems to say it all.

Getting fooled on April 1

Steven McKiernan writes: Re. “Media briefs” yesterday, item 16) David Flint has had to cover up his embarrassing duping at the hands of The GuardianThe article he originally published has been withdrawn, and there is instead an ‘umble ‘pology for all the trouble.

“I put an extract from the editorial on this site. But within hours I had to take it down. This was when I saw that their new blog on the Royal Wedding was being crammed with the most infantile material.

I realised I was wrong to have credited the current leadership of The Guardian with the qualities of those  great editors who have given it the status it enjoys today. CP Scott must be looking down, shaking his head.”

No it wasn’t that Davo got sucked in by comments such as

  • “William encapsulates our spirit of internationalism, thanks to his Greek and German heritage on his father’s side, and his gap year in Chile.”
  • “Few things, after all, are as likely to lift the spirits of Britain’s embattled public sector workers or benefit claimants than the sight of Kate Middleton’s sure-to-be-spectacular wedding dress.”
  • “…we have come to appreciate the crucial work done by Prince Andrew, using his personal connections to plant the seeds of democracy in repressive regimes worldwide.”

Because these comments obviously reaffirm the majesty and pomposity that Flint so dedicatedly aspires to.

Getting jobs for those who need it

Oliver Happy writes: Re. “Problems with pushing new coercive employment policies” (April 1, item 12) Just wanted to completely support comments regarding the push to re-engage “as many as possible” of those people on employment benefits, reported by Eva Cox.

I have worked in Job Network (as it was then called) and put in a year in attempting to place (into employment lasting at least 3 months, according to the Centrelink payment schedule for contracted job network providers), “standard” unemployed people, then another year attempting to place injured/disabled people (“DEN/VRS”) in Melbourne’s West.

Entering with the clear goal of helping people by assisting them into jobs, helping local employers to find staff and helping society through both actions, I left two years later for the world of industrial (blue collar) recruitment, hoping it would provide more opportunity to assist.

The reason for this long-winded rant on the system is that it did not work. Primarily due to, as Eva quite rightly notes, the fact that there simply are not enough jobs. Those jobs that exist are largely for experienced and specialised people and really, it doesn’t surprise me that Centrelink doesn’t help really get people into work – the staff at Centrelink would then be out of a job and frankly, show me a government dept that has done itself out of existence “for the good of the people who pay our wages” and… well you get the point.

It is crazy to push “as many as possible” of those on employment benefits into work. It will not work.  First, we need to evaluate our society and decide if we are willing to buy less, at a higher cost per item, for items made in Australia, rather than importing them. If we are willing to make this concession as a society, we will have local production and surprise surprise, we will have local jobs.

Jaundiced eye

Jeff Ash writes: Re. ” Keane: Gillard’s extraordinary ordinary Australians” (yesterday, item 1) I’ll have to remember the difference between the unionist and the socialite next time I see one of the union heads enjoying some French Bubbles with a Captain of Industry at my local…

Crikey, watch your language

Tamzin Byrne writes: In yesterday’s edition — Story 9: “It is now clear at least 800 people have been massacred in the small cocoa-growing town of Dekoue.”

Story 11: “A week after the massacre, and the New South Wales election is wrapping up.”

Time to tone down the political hyperbole?

Peter Fray

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