Nov 17, 2016

The Oz has literally written more about the ‘thought police’ than George Orwell did

The Australian has devoted enough words to the issue of 18C and its own cartoonist to fill an entire novel. Crikey journalist Josh Taylor and intern Tamsin Rose report.

The Australian has produced more than 134,000 words on section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act in the three months since the publication of that Bill Leak cartoon. To put that in perspective, that is more words than are in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, George Orwell's 1984, or Sun Tzu's The Art of War. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says "elite" media organisations like the ABC keep bringing up 18C as an issue for public discussion, but The Australian has produced enough words on the controversial section of the Racial Discrimination Act to fill a novel. [The nine-step Bill Leak outrage cycle] The national broadsheet valiantly took up the now-dismissed case of students from Queensland University of Technology facing court over comments made after they were kicked out of an indigenous student-only computer lab, but it found an even better case closer to home after complaints were lodged against cartoonist Bill Leak over his depiction of Aboriginal parents in the wake of the Four Corners episode on the Don Dale detention centre and the subsequent royal commission announcement. The QUT case and the Leak case sparked editorials, news articles, opinion pieces, and enough pressure was brought to bear that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced last week that there would be yet another review into 18C. Yesterday he said Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs would not have her contract renewed next year. Suffice to say the Oz has never been short of copy when it comes to this particular issue. A Crikey analysis of stories written by journalists, editors and columnists at The Australian about 18C between August 4, when the original Leak cartoon was published, and today reveal the publication has produced 178 pieces on the matter, including 94 news stories, 84 opinion pieces, and 30 articles that made the front page. In total, there have been 134,569 wordson 18C since August -- and the publication was obsessed with the RDA even before the cartoon was published. [Bill Leak almost certainly breached 18C, but he has a rock-solid defence] There were 26 articles before the first complaint against Leak was filed, 60 after the complaint was filed, and so far seven articles since one of the complaints was dropped. The total word count is more than George Orwell devoted to the thought police in 1984 (88,942), and more than Harper Lee wrote about race in To Kill a Mocking Bird (99,121), but clearly repression isn't the only lasting philosophy, with The Australian's word count just slightly less than Charles Dickens' The Tale of Two Cities (135,420). The libertarians are unlikely to be pleased until it meets Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged's word count of 561,996. Both the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce have admitted that 18C is hardly an issue being discussed around the dinner table at night, but no doubt as the parliamentary inquiry continues and the hard right of the Coalition pushes for changes to the Racial Discrimination Act the race to beat Tolstoy's War and Peace (587,287) will grow tighter. Updated: Corrected Sun Tzu authorship

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10 thoughts on “The Oz has literally written more about the ‘thought police’ than George Orwell did

  1. Dog's Breakfast

    So much free speech about their lack of free speech. Turds!

  2. Stephen Darragh

    I believe the Tzu you were looking for was Sun Tzu, rather than Lao Tzu.

  3. Teddy

    The Oz clearly went into overdrive, but I’m glad someone did something… It’s a tragedy that the left are no longer willing to go into battle over freedom of expression issues. Baying for the blood of a cartoonist – demanding that he should face some sort of tribunal for an opinion, no matter what it is – is obscene. This isn’t the behaviour of the”left” I grew up with in the 70s. I know its what many (apparently) now believe, but I find it ugly and very, very disturbing.

    1. andrew

      As has already been said, Leek’s cartoon is protected by 18d. So why rail against 18c?

      Perhaps the Aus could fight for the injustices suffered by boat borne asylum seekers.

      1. Teddy

        Yes Leek was protected by 18D, so I wonder why this fiasco, which has clearly blown up in the HRC and Gillian Triggs’ face, was even begun? Didn’t someone amongst all those very well- paid legal people know that, and think, hang on, this complaint (from someone who safely lives in Germany!) is waste of money and time?

        I’ll answer that question myself. Just as the Oz has gone all obsessional, so have many on the left. Calling for a cartoonist to be ostracised, sanctioned, made bankrupt, hounded out of a job – whatever those baying for his blood had in mind… is just appalling. It is NOT left-wing behaviour as I know it, and I’m now feeling hugely ashamed of a political label I’ve worn all my life…

        For the record, I didn’t much like the cartoon, and would prefer Leek’s satire was directed upward at the rich and powerful… As it often is. But hauling him over the coals like this has been incredibly damaging to the left – and made Triggs and the HRC the object of derision and scorn. Justifiably in my view… And on this I’m glad the defenders of freedom have won.

  4. Graeski

    It’s simple: 18C makes it much harder for the fascist Right to launch a race hate-based campaign that appeals to the disaffected in the same way as the one we’ve just seen in the US. Hence, 18C has to go.

  5. AR

    “That’s the difficulty of arguing with someone who buys ink by the barrel”, Truth is soon drowned.
    Whenever Blot bloviates, it must be pointed out that, unlike his constant whinge, he was convicted for breaching 18C but 18D – sloppy journalism and fact checking.

  6. klewso

    “Burn the witch! Burn the witch!”

    1. klewso

      Pythonesque –
      “The Trial of Gillian Triggs – Limited News Media Gangin’ ’em Style” :-
      ….. “We have found a witch. May we burn her?”….
      … “Bring her forward.”
      …. “I’m not a witch. I’m not a witch.”
      “But you are dressed as one?’
      “They dressed me up like this” says Gillian, pointing to the Limited News rabble “And this isn’t my nose, its a false one.”
      Lifting carrot nose “Well?” to the mob.
      “… Well we did do the nose.”
      “The nose?”
      “And the hat…. But she is a witch…..”
      “Did you dress her up like this?” of the troop.
      “No! (no no… no) Yes. (yes yeah) a bit (a bit bit a bit) But she has got a wart!” …. and on it’s gone, newts, warts and all.

  7. Nathan Lee

    18C + 18D really only carve out the most racist bad-faith intentioned hate speech – it’s easy to see why they want it gone – makes for nice easy fodder for the rage-machine. Much easier to just recycle every discredited theory of racial superiority/inferiority as a distraction from the real issues.

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