Bigots rejoice. Huzzah! Huzzah! Sound the trumpets and send in the dancing girls! Australians have a right to be bigots! No doubt the narrow-minded and the aggrieved will now emerge from under their rocks, blinking a little at the unaccustomed light, ready to celebrate their freedom by attempting to make others feel as much like crap as they do.

Seriously though, I do have some sympathy with the freedom of speech argument. I have never been terribly impressed by those who have told me they were offended by something I have written or said. In my case the people I seem to offend easily are the religious, usually because of my feminism. I am afraid my reply to them has always been that if the worst thing that happens to you is you get offended by something I’ve said, you are living a pretty good life.

Trouble is, I can also see the other side. Unfettered freedom of speech for the powerful can have the opposite effect on the powerless; it can silence them because it can become a refined form of bullying. Indeed, it has always been one of the defining characteristics of a bully — for me, anyway — that while they love to dish it out, they cannot take it. Martin Hirst on New Matilda found it hard to believe that News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt’s hurt feelings over Marcia Langton’s comments about him on Q&A last week were genuine. Hirst saw it as a refined form of bullying designed to humble the ABC. Maybe, or maybe Bolt really has a glass jaw.

Here’s another piece about Andrew Bolt, indigenous politics and freedom of speech that I came across on Facebook, courtesy of Chrys Stevenson. It was written by Robert Manne for The Monthly in 2011, but is once again timely.

Given that I could also be accused (by some) of being bigoted about religion, I now also feel no compunction about recommending the following terrific article to your attention. Written by Marion Maddox for ABC Religion, a Christian (but a surprisingly open-minded one — hey, this bigotry stuff is fun), whose marvelous book I have also read, it is a pull-no-punches look at how we taxpayers unknowingly fund misinformation in many religious schools.

No more teachers, no more books … Speaking of education, I loved this piece over at The Guardian, which has a minute-by-minute analysis of the hours teachers in the UK work. Watching my own daughter, who works as a public high school English teacher, work every hour (someone else’s) god sends, it was a relief to see the ignorant nonsense about lazy teachers being so forensically destroyed. My daughter asked me to mention that most high school English essays take a lot longer than six minutes to mark.

To return to the right to free speech for a moment; I couldn’t help noticing that the author of the above article is anonymous, referred to only as “secret teacher”. This is often the case with articles written by educators, particularly if they are critical of government policy. Does this mean we have free speech for everyone except teachers?

Left out. I also very much enjoyed the following letter to the editor from the March 24 edition of The Sydney Morning Herald. Some could argue it is a little prejudiced or one-eyed — but it made me laugh because it expressed exactly what I’d thought when I’d seen Attorney-General George Brandis and Education Minister Christopher Pyne described as being on the Left. (Is that view bigoted of me and the letter writer? Not that it matters anymore.)

Hardly left wing

I am gobsmacked. In the Herald George Brandis and Christopher Pyne are referred to as both being of the left within the Abbott government (”The man least likely“, March 22-23).

What do you have to do to be regarded as from the right? Sing the Horst Wessel song every morning at breakfast?

Lynne Poleson Kingsford

Tweets of the week. And here are three fine and funny tweets. The first about the rumbling unease that continues around the federal government’s attitude to education funding, the Gonski reforms and — particularly — the principle and importance of public education …

Then — also from the wonderful @watermelon_man (honestly, I am such a fan) — a little dig at the Immigration Minister and his discomfort over a  prayerful protest against the treatment of asylum seekers. In this instance, Scott Morrison confirmed my worst prejudices about religion, while the protesters challenged them …

But my winner for this week is from @rod3000. I love the subtlety of this wry comment on the machismo of our bellicose “stop the boats” policy …

To close, I want to confound everyone’s prejudices with this thoughtful and empathic article from The Philosopher’s Mail. Whatever you think of Gina Rinehart (and I have never met the woman) she is a fascinating personality and some people (particularly on the Left) can be a bit bigoted about her. So, I offer this, in the interest of opening minds.

Peter Fray

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