What About Free Speech?

27/06/2020

Random short rant in response to a comment I saw underneath an Advance Australia post.

“Black Lives Matter are in fact promoting a ‘racial divide’ and perpetuating racism. The left thrive on division.”

So the post claims. Below in the comments, a response not only highlights some people’s ignorance of the Black Lives Matter movement (or any “leftist” movement, whatever that means), but, seemingly without self-awareness of any kind, advocates rather totalitarian methods of combatting them. As the post title suggests, it is, ironically, an attack on free speech.

I wrote about Advance Australia a long time ago, when I first heard of it and it was still finding its feet as “opposition” to groups like GetUp!. I had gone through their website at the time and gone through much of what they professed to believe in, responding and questioning along the way (it has probably grown somewhat since the end of 2018, so keep that in mind if you do read my older post). Funny enough, despite stating at the end I would watch their actions over time, I’ve actually not heard of them since then, which to me implies their growth has been rather stunted compared to comparable grassroots movements.

They, like their heroes in Parliament (the Pauline Hanson’s of the country), have picked up the relatively niche audience of outrage addicts – those who criticise “snowflakes” for being “offended” but fall apart when anyone voices mild criticism of the “West”. Their audience has no issue demonising anything they deem “left” and labelling it “divisive” without actually trying to generate a civil dialogue in response and contributing to the polarisation of political views. They also, it seems, have no qualms promoting methods they would otherwise condemn if they were suggested by the “other side”.

“The only way to [stop feeding into a narrative that promotes racial divide] is to outlaw biased media propaganda and the manipulation by certain individuals through claiming civil rights, to push anti western and anti white sentiment.”

Doesn’t that just sound wonderfully authoritarian?

I’m not even going to bother refuting the claim of “anti-Western and anti-white” sentiment here, because it’s just nonsense. There is simply no truth to that statement, and it requires a remarkable lack of understanding to think that acknowledging and working to remedy the mistreatment of our ~3% Indigenous population is some “anti-white” conspiracy. I just want to call out the hypocrisy of the first part of the comment referring to media bias.

Free speech rhetoric is usually amplified loudest by those whose speech could be deemed offensive or questionable, as they are the ones usually hit by public campaigns or (more irony) the actions of private companies. So it is surprising (or, perhaps, unsurprising really) that they would move to “outlaw” media (voices) they deem “biased”. This opens up the question of what it is exactly they consider to be “bias”, a definition that is usually left blank or given vague, accusatory explanations decrying broad concepts, not so much concrete examples.

When I think of media bias, I give specific examples and can refer to studies and observations to back up my critiques. In Australia, the dominance of the Murdoch machine, the corporate takeover of Fairfax, and the crippling of the ABC, our public broadcaster, are all culprits of legitimate bias and distortion in our concentrated media landscape. There are clear patterns that can be explored to pick these organisations apart.

On the other hand, when one’s concept of “media bias” is overshadowed by their disdain for anything “leftist”, you are left with an extremely blurry and entirely subjective and relative list of “biased” outlets. For example, I see Nine’s takeover of Fairfax as a blatant degradation of their journalistic integrity, with the Sydney Morning Herald openly supporting the Coalition during elections. That’s bias towards the Coalition. But the Sydney Morning Herald is often, in some circles, bashed as a “lefty rag”. What is “lefty” about a media conglomerate whose top people have deep connections with the Coalition and corporate power?

Similarly, the ABC is consistently assaulted as “left-wing” propaganda despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. There has actually been backlash from the “left” recently as the ABC has become a haven for voices hailing from such unbiased places as the Murdoch empire and the IPA, for example. As always with using such phrases, what you deem to be “left” and “right” is entirely subjective and ultimately means absolutely nothing in modern discourse.

That’s what makes a rather well received comment about “outlawing” outlets that are “biased” so troubling. Who gets to decide what is biased? To what extent do you want such voices “outlawed”? Whether you agree with the positions or ideas of such outlets, what about the belief in freedom of speech and expression? If these people are against State intervention and control, yet get defensive when private power exercises their right to control and censor content, then what? Their conflicting opinions, held only because their worldview is a simple binary, an “us vs them”, logically leaves them unable to answer.

Sometimes there is just no point trying to argue, because there will always be people who cannot accept a loss.

 

Liked this? Read Free Speech, Understanding, and Growth: Anarchism and Feminism

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