Jun 26, 2014

Razer’s Class Warfare: the debate around speech is larger than Brandis’ arse

Do you hate freedom or do you hate brown people? These were the choices on offer -- but it's a false dichotomy, and you can reject both terms.

Helen Razer — Writer and broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and broadcaster

When Attorney-General George Brandis defended “the right to be a bigot” earlier this year, his was to a true protection of free expression as my arse is to John Stuart Mill. Which is to say, far too busy safeguarding its seated position to be either noble or sincere. As David Marr said in The Saturday Paper, “Yes, George, people do have a right to be bigots. And political parties have a right to harvest their votes.” George was protecting his own powerful arse.

In an upside-down iteration of “the right to be a bigot” this week, we see two local institutions protecting their arses and re-establishing their power. Opera Australia has cancelled the performance of Georgian soprano Tamar Iveri for her perceived bigotry, while the Festival of Dangerous Ideas has cancelled the speech of Uthman Badar for his.

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10 thoughts on “Razer’s Class Warfare: the debate around speech is larger than Brandis’ arse

  1. klewso

    You just have to be the Right sort of bigot?

  2. peter leahy

    what you wrote seemed a bit waffly, but i think your argument is that to dismiss an idea outright without even hearing it is itself a form of prejudice? although i think the people who are objecting to this really aren’t interested in free exchange of ideas at all and would be would be happy to live in an echo chamber of self confirming rhetoric.

  3. AR

    Helen – well elucidated, on both (though really the same) subjects,but could you pare the verbiage a bit?
    A lot would be better – surely you aren’t being paid by the word?
    A small (sic!) problem with the concept “argue outside of the circumference of Brandis’ arse.) – the World is Not (wide) Enough.(apols to CR)

  4. Dean Tregenza

    In the end, given the title of the event, “Festival of Dangerous Ideas”, doesn’t it sort of beg the question of just what is a dangerous idea? I wonder if the organisers of the FODI themselves are somewhat missing the point?

    Putting on content that generates sensation and much media noise may create great publicity but perhaps is more of a distraction. Much like the debate around free speech that George Brandis has created is also a distraction. Such debates are really for those who speak from positions of power and privilege. They sell newspapers. They are idea-porn, disembodied abstractions, that provide jusy another commodity of entertainment that in the end doesn’t challenge, let alone, transform us or lead to a better world. I admit to enjoying it all… but it leaves me, in the end, hollow.

    Or perhaps what the FODI organisers are doing is their point – perhaps they are only interested in distractions and entertainment?

    Not all ideas are equal, or worthy of listening to. Not all ideas are dangerous.

    Real dangerous ideas are ones that speak prophetically of justice for the sake of the poor, powerless and marginalised in society. These are the ideas that are spoken as truth to the powerless because they provide hope. These are the ideas that disrupt and upset the status quo and threaten the position of the powerful and wealthy. These are the ideas that makes their proponents suffer the ire of those who refuse to recognise injustice and their part in it. The real dangerous ideas most often find the speaker being described as a fool, a criminal and may even find them nailed to a cross.

  5. Irfan Yusuf

    Wow. That was fun to read. Really good wholesome brain food. Thanks.

  6. Chris Hartwell

    Perhaps not crucified Dean, but a dangerous idea is surely one that challenges established norms, whether such a challenge is valid or not is what the debate around such is to determine.

  7. Braden Kydd

    Excellent thought-provoking, and challenging writing indeed. I pushed for Iveri to be ditched, because, as a gay man, I couldn’t bear the thought of going to hear a hate- and violence-inciting homophobe sing to me. Why would I? It would be reopening old, deep, and sore wounds. The broader context of her hatred – that homosexuality is a symptom of the much-reviled western social code – is important to remember, however it would seem that Iveri certainly doesn’t hate western values enough to dissuade her from taking our money or furthering her career. Or perhaps she is laughing at us all the way to the bank? There was no forum (especially none from Opera Australia) to explore these issues and to find a better way of dealing with the issue. Ultimately, sadly, Georgian culture will be become more violently pitted against the “west”, and the safety of those in the Georgian LGBTI community put at greater risk. How are we to move forward?

  8. Andrew McIntosh

    “And just because their bigotry is repulsive and indefensible does not exempt us, if we are interested in justice or in ethics, from its understanding.”

    That doesn’t mean we have to give the bigots a platform to spout off from. It might make sense to, for example, suggest that Alan Jones should be compulsory listening for everyone interested in justice and ethics, but how many episodes of his show do you think are necessary? Likewise, how many times do we need to ponder the mentality behind “honour” killings before we are able to come to the same conclusion we arrived at when we first heard about them?

    Understanding is important but it doesn’t have to involve giving bigots a place at the discussion table. If it’s obvious that their ideas are dangerous, they can be talked about, not talked with. Because basically, they just want to push an agenda and “freedom of speech” is a handy slogan for such bigots. Neo-nazis have been using it for decades – I’d like to think we’d reached a conclusion on Nazism some time ago, yet still today it’s adherents insist on not being “censored”. It’s just too easy an excuse for bigots to decry “political correctness” or “Islamophobia” or whatever it is they think is getting in their way of shoving their stupidity down the throats of everyone else.

    Basically, I’m saying some shit should just be left in the sewers.

  9. Andrew McIntosh

    One other wee point –

    Apparently, Bazar thinks all along that “honour” killings are not justified, and he would never support them. So what was the discussion going to be about, then? “I don’t agree with this thing, but we need a caliphate because…”.

  10. klewso

    Speaking of arses, it’s a pity they can’t reverse that botched transplant of his?

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