In yesterday’s ‘quick quips’ piece, I mentioned the outrage against people (notably women, attacked by trash like the Murdoch press) who have, in one form or another, used profanity when referring to elected leaders. The results are what you would expect once all of this came tumbling out in the media.
Democratic Congresswoman, Rashida Tlaib, was picked up by the press for saying ‘motherfucker’ in reference to Trump. It didn’t take long for the Republicans and their supporters (both in the media and the population) to slam her for disrespecting Trump, the office of the President, and the country. Here in Australia, Clementine Ford has quit her role as columnist with Fairfax (now partnered with Nine) after having it revealed that she was close to being fired for calling Scott Morrison a ‘fucking disgrace’, due to a ‘new policy’ of not “disrespect[ing] the office of the PM”. Same as in America, vicious attacks have flown in from the supporters of the Coalition, or more generally, just those who hate Ford (I know little about her, or what exactly she writes, other than her ability to write something that makes some men hysterical).
It really is a non-issue, but I think it still needs to be said – people have every right to say what they wish about the role of their leaders and the people currently holding those positions. Not even concerning myself with the issue of swearing (that’s just the latest example), the idea that people want to try and dictate what we can and cannot say about our elected officials, or just anything at all, is absurd. We don’t have anything like the First Amendment here in Australia, but as all sides like to tout, we pride ourselves on our belief in freedom of speech. Ironically, both sides believe in it for themselves, but then there are those who will get quite touchy when others say things they don’t like. Ford has as much right to say what she did as someone making a sexist remark about her does – the support and/or consequences of saying these things are self-evident. Whether you agree they are appropriate things to say or are not is irrelevant – if you are not in favour of both then you are not in favour of true freedom of speech.
It is quite alarming that the national discussion over freedom of speech is over relatively trivial issues like profanity or homophobia, rather than serious impediments against our freedoms such as the crackdown on whistleblowers (the trial of Witness K) or satire (The Juice Media being forced to make stupid adaptions to their videos to match changing regulations). In the case of Ford, it’s somewhere in between. The people attacking her for her use of profanity simply need to grow up and deal with it, while those who are condemning her for it on the basis of her criticisms of Morrison need to realise they are inadvertently attacking their own right to question and denounce the current or future governments.
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