Mark Latham

As we reported yesterday, the defamation case brought by ABC Life deputy editor Osman Faruqi against former Labor leader Mark Latham is, well, quite something already.

Latham submitted a 76-page defence — by comparison, Faruqi’s claim ran for two pages — which Justice Michael Wigney described as “on just about any view, an extraordinary document”.  How extraordinary? It denies that what Latham said (about Faruqi’s supposed “anti-white racism” and the “support” that provided to Islamic terrorists) couldn’t be defamatory, because: 

(a) Faruqi, by his various utterances and conduct set forth in Part G of this pleading, portrayed Latham as:
(i) a person whose literary tastes and interests do not rise above the level of providing manual sexual stimulation to horses;

(ii) a “white supremacist”;

(iii) a person who talks in an “idiotic way”;
(iv) a person whose literary style is inexcusable;
(v) a person who publishes the same column over and over;
(vi) a “lunatic”;
(vii) a person so bereft of common-sense, and so out of touch with reality, as to maintain “his own dirt unit on himself’;
(viii) an “angry white man with bad opinions”;
(ix) a person “famous for making totally ludicrous statements”; and
(x) a fit subject for scorn, derision, ridicule and mockery;

There is an entire section called “The connexion between racial vilification and racist violence”, which provides brief summaries of the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire, the persecution of Huguenots in the French Kingdom in the 16th Century, Apartheid, the ongoing crisis in Myanmar, the reign of terror aimed at African-Americans in the US by the Ku Klux Klan in the 1950s.

The document concludes Faruqi’s defamation action was undertaken for “ulterior, collateral, illegitimate and improper purposes” including (among other things): 

(c) to elevate Faruqi to the status of a celebutante, hero, paladin or martyr amongst his followers and other like-minded people;
(d) to reduce Latham to the status of a caitiff, blackguard, miscreant or antihero amongst Faruqi’s followers and other like-minded people;

Alongside this is over 150 tweets penned by Faruqi over the course of five years, which supposedly vilify white people.

Wigney opens his response to Faruqi’s application to have Latham’s defence struck out with an almost audible sigh: “In order to address Mr Faruqi’s strike out application, it is necessary to attempt to come to grips with [Latham’s defence]. That is no mean feat.” 

Wigney’s attempt to “come to grips” has many highlights, but one of the most notable is Wigney going through various individual tweets by Farqui, and cited by Latham, with Wigney then having to explain what racism actually is.

‘The owner of my fav[ourite] Pakistani restaurant in Sydney always reminds me what food on the menu to not order because it’s “for white people”.’

127    Does Mr Latham seriously suggest that this constitutes “anti-white racism”? He must, because he included this tweet in Schedule II, though that suggestion borders on the fanciful.

‘It’s not fair that I get bullied for my name when white people called “Thornton McCamish” exist in this country.’

129    It is quite possible that Thornton McCamish (apparently a journalist and author) may have taken offence at this tweet, though it is equally possible that he may have been amused by it. Either way, it is hard to see how it could seriously be contended that it vilifies white people.

‘Labradors are to dogs what straight white dudes are to politics. Boring, too common, entitled.’

133    This tweet may well have been offensive to owners of Labradors, or perhaps even Labradors themselves. Some readers may well have considered that it was a fairly crude and simplistic way for Mr Faruqi to make his point. Others may have been simply amused. Either way, it hardly constitutes vilification.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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