The issue of free speech — in the contrasting cases of rugby player Israel Folau (and his family) and Bernard Collaery and Witness K — has been a source of spirited discussion for Crikey readers, and the case of axed public servant Michaela Banerji is no exception. Elsewhere, they discussed the right-wing’s ownership of the recent wave of hateful political violence.

On Michaela Benerji and freedom

Laurie Patton writes: Not since Gough Whitlam turfed out a bunch of entrenched mandarins resistant to his program of policy reform has there been a better demonstration of the myth of the apolitical public servant. Sure, there are plenty of public servants capable of providing objective advice. Journalists are likewise expected to detach themselves from their personal opinions. Michaela Banerji’s tweets were “intemperate, even vituperative”, according to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Like other anonymous trolls who post nasty comments on social media she fouled the nest for all the good people doing their job responsibly as they agreed they would.

On right-wing violence

Frank Dee writes: An accurate piece there, Rundle. I’ve had the argument with the right-leaners that the Baader/Meinhoff and the Italian Red Brigade movements killed off a lot people, but on closer inspection these were targeted political assassinations that also occasionally had collateral among any unfortunate civilians nearby. I’m not excusing it —  butchery is butchery — but it’s a long way from deliberately murdering all and sundry out of sheer hatred. There is, as you say, a level of rage among the far-right that rejects evidence, common sense and humanity, and it can only get worse. The economy won’t go back to the 1950s, the planet won’t cool down, women won’t become more compliant, gays won’t return to the closet, and anyone of color will still be insisting on respect and equality. Unfortunately, the right won’t become wiser or more tolerant; they will double down on aggression and stupidity.

Neil Hauxwell writes: It’s an interesting contrast: in a far corner of the world, a Muslim man commits a newsworthy crime and in Australia the right — from prime ministers to Hanson — bays for grovelling apologies from an entire section of our citizenry or renunciations of faith. Meanwhile, if it’s the right inflicting terror and mass murder on local minorities, well, it’s probably just the influence of video games and it’d be very rude to ask any good Christian to explain why the God of the old testament so regularly calls for war crimes that’d land him in court in the Hague and surely get him life.

On Witness K

Philip Howe writes: I am really frightened that the Liberals have accurately assessed the attitude of our population; that they do not care about this case; they don’t see how it could possibly have anything to do with them. That the story was first given to The Australian, a Murdoch paper, doesn’t bother them either. The concepts of truth, honesty and freedom don’t have anything to do with democracy they think. Just yesterday the High Court reinforced the shakey position of whistleblowers. Our goverment and Labor seems little different, the wish to shut us up and these honest whistleblowers are to be punished and Woodside, Downer AND other ministers who go to work for the Miners or Big Pharma go free, untarnished. It’s awful. Despicable.

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Peter Fray

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