On citizenship

Barry Welch writes: Re. “Turnbull’s Aussie values theatre a dud remake of Howard’s original” (yesterday). If supporting genital mutilation is to be a barrier to Australian citizenship, the question of male genital mutilation for religious purposes as well as the abhorrent female genital mutilation must come into the mix. In that case Jesus Christ , himself a Jew, wouldn’t get an Australian jersey.

On journos who sued for defamation

David Salter writes: Re. “Mayne: 25 media personalities who have sued for defamation” (yesterday). Comrade Mayne,
Your otherwise excellent compilation had one error and one omission.
The Error
Media Watch may or may not have “wrongly claimed [of Sleeman] he pretended to be a grieving relative to get on a flight to Hobart after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.” We could not prove to the satisfaction of a court – in the opinion of our counsel at the time – that he had done precisely that. Big difference. We had a witness, and an airline passenger manifest, but the ABC reluctantly took counsel’s advice and settled. 
The Omission
Missing from your list of “media personalities” who’ve sued for defamation is Ray Martin. He sued Media Watch over a segment in which we said he’d “played the racist card” in singling out Asian university students as serial plagiarists in his introduction to an item on A Current Affair when the story itself made no such claim. Martin’s case was that we’d accused him of being a racist, which we hadn’t – we’d accused him of being a hypocrite. Again the ABC settled, much to my fury. 
… and, by the way, I am advised by a QC who does a fair bit of defamation work that Michael Bachelard’s piece for The Walkley is wrong in law, and naive on how defamation actions actually work. But we journalists are all chronic bush lawyers.
David Edmunds writes: While Stephen Mayne restricted himself to actual defamation cases, the most egregious recent case of this sort, and the best example of stunning hypocrisy was that of Chris Kenny, one that was settled in his favour without going to court.
In 2013 the ABC’s chaser program depicted a cutout picture of Mr Kenny copulating with a dog.  The obvious interpretation was that this was a jolly jape, referencing the insulting term “dogfucker”.  Few people would believe that the Chaser boys had undertaken an incisive investigation into Mr Kenny and found that he actually did fuck dogs.

Mr Kenny, along with the sort of conservatives with whom he agrees, believes that insults and bigotry directed at people of all stripes are only hurtful if the targets are so weak that they are unable to man up and take it.  Objecting is just a confirmation of the critique against them.

So, it was not an unreasonable assumption on the part of the Chaser boys to believe that Mr Kenny meant what he said about free speech, and would accept a layered criticism for what it was.  Of course, instead, Mr Kenny claimed to be deeply hurt.

They missed the point that the argument was never about free speech.  The goal that commentators like Mr Kenny are all about is removing from the public space opinions with which they disagree.

News Corp, for which Mr Kenny works, is assiduous in persecuting people who dare to put their heads above the parapet and challenge the views of that organisation.  It may have come as a surprise to citizens who expressed an opinion on Q&A to find that News Limited journalists then investigated their background and published any private information that might diminish them.  The most obvious example of this is their treatment of Gillian Triggs, their publication of very personal details of her family life, and their obvious rage that she did not disappear under their withering and extraordinary persecution.

The vehicles for the objection of Mr Kenny and the right are two-fold.  Firstly the objection to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, and secondly, the disparagement of any objection to their agenda as just political correctness.

In the first case, they reference the QUT students and Bill Leak as examples of the appalling consequences of section 18C.  This is the first time in living memory that News Corp has stood up for the rights of students to free speech. Mr Leak drew racist cartoons, but was upset at being called out for that, rather than manning up as generally required by News Limited of other folk.   Then he died, confirmation on the part of Mr Kenny and his running dogs that section 18C must be repealed.

Mr Kenny argued in a recent debate that the decommissioning of an obsolete coal-fired generator in South Australia that had run out of coal was an example of political correctness.  Enough said.

Peter Fray

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