In the United States, freedom of speech is given a level of reverence that is absolutely unheard-of in the rest of the world. We value freedom of speech so highly that, on a sheer matter of principle, we’re even willing to defend the right of neo-Nazis to march through a town filled with Holocaust survivors and the right of homophobes to brandish disgusting signs at funerals. Even the right to advocate violence is protected by the First Amendment. In the words of the United States Supreme Court, “a State [may] choose to prohibit only those forms of intimidation that are most likely to inspire fear of bodily harm.” Defending freedom of speech – even when it’s the most utterly vile, hateful, immoral, disgusting, extreme, and outright indefensible speech – is a core American value. When, for example, the Westboro Baptist Church pickets the funerals of children killed in Newtown with signs saying “GOD SENT THE SHOOTER”, we will defend their right to do so out of sheer principle simply because we believe so strongly in the unalienable right to freedom of speech. But, for decades, academics, “human rights” groups, and the international community have tried to push “hate speech” legislation (legislation that has its roots in the Soviet Union) on the US. These proposals appear to be gaining more steam, as a recent poll shows that 36% of Americans – and 51% of Democrats – would support a law that would “make it a crime for people to make comments that advocate genocide or hatred against an identifiable group based on such things as their race, gender, religion, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.” This is truly frightening indeed, as it indicates that America is starting to accept the European definition of freedom of speech – that freedom of speech is something which only protects nice, agreeable, and popular speech. For an example of the European definition of freedom of speech in action, we can look to the Commonwealth nation of Australia. While not in Europe, this Oceanian country has most certainly taken the European mindset to heart.
Despite the deeply troubling results of the aforementioned poll, absolute freedom of speech remains a very widespread and uniquely American value in the US. Freedom of speech is one of the few things that still unites Americans of all political stripes. In America, not even hardcore leftists would support any kind of laws against “racial vilification” or “incitement to hatred”, and they certainly wouldn’t support any laws against “offending” or “insulting” people. In fact, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – which is generally considered to be the bastion of the American left – regularly defends the likes of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, cross-burners, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Westboro Baptist Church on free speech grounds. Freedom of speech is one of the biggest American values there is, and Americans are willing to staunchly defend freedom of speech even for people that they profoundly despise. On freedom of speech grounds, Americans who strongly believe in anti-racism, gay rights, and feminism will defend the right to advocate violence against blacks, gays, and women. Black Americans will defend the right of KKK members to burn crosses and call for the lynching of blacks. Gay Americans will defend the right of Westboro Baptist Church members to brandish “FAGS DIE, GOD LAUGHS” signs at the funerals of AIDS victims and the right of fundamentalist preachers to demand the execution of gays. American feminists will defend the right to advocate rape and the right to produce rape porn. Jewish Americans will defend the right of neo-Nazis to call them kikes and the right to say that all Jews should be rounded up and gassed. In a particularly famous case, Jewish Holocaust survivor Aryeh Neier of the ACLU even defended the right of neo-Nazis to march through Skokie, Illinois (a heavily Jewish town filled with many Holocaust survivors), using many of the same arguments that the ACLU had used when they had defended the free speech rights of the civil rights marchers of the 1960s. The law is a blunt instrument. If the law could be used to stop the Nazis from marching in Skokie, then it could also be used to stop civil rights marches – hence why it was so important for the left-wing and deeply anti-racist ACLU to defend the free speech rights of both anti-racists and vicious racists. From the ACLU themselves: “It is easy to defend freedom of speech when the message is something many people find at least reasonable. But the defense of freedom of speech is most critical when the message is one most people find repulsive. That was true when the Nazis marched in Skokie. It remains true today.” When we defend the right to advocate killing gays or the right to hold “GOD HATES JEWS” signs outside of Rosh Hashanah services, it’s certainly not because we agree with the message being conveyed. It’s simply because we understand the importance of a truly principled defense of freedom of speech, even for speech that we profoundly despise. That sort of deeply principled commitment to freedom of speech is absolutely unheard of in Australia, and the general Australian public wouldn’t possibly be able to comprehend it on any level.
In the US, the belief that the government should never have the power to prosecute people for expressing an opinion is something that almost everyone agrees with, regardless of their political stance. In Australia, however, it is the exact opposite. Almost all Australians – regardless of their political stance – firmly believe that any opinions they disapprove of should be outlawed by the government. In the hyper-sensitive, ultra-politically correct, and severely white guilt-stricken climate that is modern-day Australia, it is a universally accepted, objective truth that people have a basic human right to not be offended or insulted – in fact, polls have repeatedly found that almost all Australians (at least 88%) support laws against “offending” or “insulting” people, and particularly laws against “offending” or “insulting” minorities. The mantra that “hate speech is not free speech” is something that almost every single person in Australia agrees with – even the most hardcore “free speech absolutists” and “small-government libertarians” in the country still firmly believe that “hate speech” (or “vilification“, as it’s often called there) should be illegal, and any proposal to even marginally soften the scope of “hate speech” legislation would be met with universal scorn and condemnation from all corners of Australian society. Just ask Australia’s Attorney-General George Brandis, who became Australia’s public enemy #1 when he proposed just slightly weakening the country’s federal “hate speech” law – section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act – which makes it illegal to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” on the basis of “race, colour or national or ethnic origin” (each Australian state also has its own “hate speech” laws, which can be even stricter).
In response to popular right-wing columnist Andrew Bolt being convicted of “racial vilification” for questioning the motives of white people who claim “aboriginal” ancestry in some of his columns (Bolt’s conviction was cheered across the country as “a major victory for human rights”), Brandis wanted to slightly amend the law to replace the words “offend”, “insult”, and “humiliate” with the word “vilify” (which he defined as “to incite hatred”), and to add an exemption for people who were “participating in the public discussion of any political, social, cultural, religious, artistic, academic or scientific matter.” Brandis claimed that 18C in its current form failed to adequately “protect” against racism and “racial vilification”, thus why he wanted to add the word “vilify” to it. He repeatedly assured the public that he wasn’t going to let racists speak freely and he also assured them that he wouldn’t allow Holocaust denial to become legal (there was much fear that the proposed changes would “allow Holocaust denial”). He also repeatedly assured people that comments which were not made as part of a constructive “public discussion” (such as, for example, racist comments made on the Internet or racist chants at sports stadiums) would not be allowed and would continue to be unlawful. Brandis made it very clear that it he only intended to protect “legitimate” (in other words, government-approved) freedom of speech. Brandis had absolutely no intentions of legalizing “racial vilification”; he simply wanted to slightly tweak the “racial vilification” laws so that people like Andrew Bolt (who, by the way, is a friend of the current Australian government) would not be convicted of “racial vilification” again in the future. He wanted to slightly amend the federal “hate speech” laws, not to remove them altogether (completely removing “hate speech” laws would be absolutely unthinkable in Australia). In Brandis’s words: “I have always said that freedom of speech and the need to protect people from racial vilification are not inconsistent objectives. Laws which are designed to prohibit racial vilification should not be used as a vehicle to attack legitimate freedoms of speech.” To “vilify” or “incite hatred”, Brandis said, “is not to engage in freedom of speech. Inciting hatred or causing fear are not an aspect of intellectual freedom, or freedom of speech. They are not an expression of freedom at all.”
But it was all to no avail. In Australia, proposing that “only” “incitement to hatred” should be illegal – rather than just “offending” or “insulting” people – is considered to be extremely radical, far-right, ultra-libertarian, and “free speech absolutist”. Brandis’s “sweeping changes to race-hate laws” were met with universal condemnation and outrage. Many people complained of how Brandis’s definition of “racial vilification” “only” included “to incite hatred”, and how his definition of “intimidation” “only” included “to cause fear of physical harm”. It was also widely complained-about that Brandis’s exemption clause for “public discussions” – which, the Australian public was assured, “would not excuse any offensive opinions unless a court found they were made as part of a relevant public debate” – was “overly broad” and many feared that it would “allow” racism if the racism was part of a “public discussion”. Even though Brandis’s proposal didn’t go anywhere near the level of freedom of speech found in the US, removing provisions against “offending”, “insulting”, and “humiliating” people – and adding an exemption clause for “public discussions” – was widely regarded as being highly extreme and totally reckless, even by “libertarians”. The reaction that George Brandis got when he proposed slightly weakening Australia’s federal “hate speech” law was very similar to the reaction that an American politician would get if they proposed making it legal to lynch blacks. The “human rights” lobby was, of course, the most outraged by Brandis’s proposal, but the outrage was universal across all corners of Australian society. Brandis’s proposal still heavily limited freedom of speech and it would be considered completely unconstitutional in the US, but his proposal was unanimously seen by the Australian public as recklessly removing “all limitations” on freedom of speech at the expense of “vulnerable minorities” (who are apparently so delicate, helpless, and fragile that they desperately need powerful white people protecting their feelings at all times). George Brandis was universally loathed and mocked as a champion of racist hatred and bigotry. “Brandis says that repealing these laws is in the interests of freedom of speech, what he really means is freedom to engage in public hate speech”, said Mark Dreyfus, one of Australia’s most prominent “free speech activists”. Dreyfus would later go on to say: “They still don’t get it. They still have an undergraduate understanding of political philosophy and of human rights. The Abbott Government still doesn’t understand, as any human rights lawyer could explain, that the human right to free speech has always been subject to the human right to be free from racial discrimination.”
If someone in America ever proposed that it should be illegal to “racially vilify” or “intimidate” people unless one was participating in a “public discussion”, it would be considered to be an absolutely outrageous assault on freedom of speech (even by the hard left) and it would be instantly declared to be highly unconstitutional. But, in Australia, George Brandis’s proposal was considered to be an absolutely outrageous assault on the sacred human right to not be offended or insulted. Cartoonists depicted Brandis as a primitive evolutionary throwback and bigoted troglodyte trying to bring racism back to Australia. Newspapers, magazines, and websites pumped out endless columns about how slightly weakening federal “hate speech” laws was an evil and reckless move that would not only be the end of multiculturalism in Australia, violate “international human rights law”, “harm the cause of freedom”, and greatly damage Australia’s international image, but would also directly lead to race riots and even outright genocide (some people cited ethnic massacres in South Sudan as a “warning” of what would inevitably happen if Australia slightly watered down its federal “hate speech” laws). Countless articles were published with titles like “Why bigotry is not OK, Mr Brandis” and “Race act changes are what you get when you champion bigotry”. People held protests against the proposed changes. Politicians, lawyers, barristers, “human rights activists”, artists, authors, athletes, lobbyists, celebrities, pundits, journalists, columnists, the media, and the public at large were absolutely outraged that someone would even dare to suggest slightly watering down federal “hate speech” regulations. Political figures (including many politicians from Brandis’s own party) promised that they would reverse any changes made to the “hate speech” laws. Brandis’s proposals were widely seen as signaling the return of the White Australia policy. Even many “libertarians” and “free speech activists” were utterly disgusted by proposals to slightly water down “hate speech” legislation, stressing that freedom of speech must be “balanced” against “freedom from racial vilification” and that “bigotry and hate speech have no place in Australia”.
“Freedom of speech does not give you the right to hurt people”, they would say in unison. Brandis was accused of not only being a racist bigot, but also of trying to destroy Australia’s diversity and multiculturalism altogether. Eventually and inevitably, the government backed down and promised not to change the laws. But, to this day, the people who proposed the changes are still repeatedly derided as “racists” and “bigots” for daring to propose that perhaps government limitations on “bigoted” speech should be watered down just a bit. If an Australian politician ever voiced their support for watering down 18C, they would (and still do) find themselves bombarded with emails, Tweets, and phone calls of this sort:
George Brandis (and every other person who proposed watering down 18C) is routinely condemned to this very day for “attacking the basic human rights of vulnerable minorities” by attempting to marginally soften the scope of federal “hate speech” legislation. The Australian government’s proposal to slightly weaken laws against “offending” or “insulting” minorities was quite possibly one of the most unpopular policies ever proposed by an Australian government, and it will undoubtedly hurt current Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s chances of being re-elected. One should keep in mind that even “far-right nationalists” and “small-government libertarians” in Australia still firmly support “hate speech” laws – in fact, even outright RACISTS in Australia still tend to support “hate speech” laws – so any proposal to water down such laws in Australia would be roughly equivalent to an American politician proposing that the US should become a territory of Russia, or that child abuse should become legal.
The nanny state mindset in Australia is very, very extreme. This video of free speech advocate Brendan O’Neill being shouted down by rabid censorship activists on the Australian talk show Q&A is another perfect example of the Australian nanny-state mindset in action. After far-right extremist Anders Behring Breivik’s massacre in Norway, Australians and others were widely calling for all criticism of Islam to be banned and for right-wing pundits like Mark Steyn and Pamela Geller to be held accountable for “inciting” Breivik to slaughter 77 people (even though Breivik was obviously a deranged, violent lunatic who would have killed people anyways, regardless of any “hate speech” that he may have encountered). The logic here is classic Marxist logic: people are not responsible for their own actions and personal responsibility does not exist. In the world of socialists like these, people do not have any free will whatsoever; people are merely mindless, glassy-eyed automatons who automatically act on any speech that they hear without so much as even thinking about it. If anti-Islam commentators made Breivik kill people, then it could just as easily be argued that provocative clothing makes rapists rape people – but, then again, I certainly wouldn’t expect these people to apply their moronic principles consistently.
Here, Brendan O’Neill argues with people who not only want the likes of Mark Steyn to be banned, but who also want all media outlets to be regulated. Yes, that’s right. In Australia, not only have numerous politicians voiced their desire for absolute government press control, but so have most “journalists”. In fact, Australian “journalists” lead the charge for total state control of the press and, during the Gillard years, they almost got what they wanted with the Finkelstein Inquiry, which would have set up a system of total government media licensing/press regulation and was intended to shut down all right-leaning press outlets (the left in Australia universally supported this and never considered that it could ever be used against them by a future right-wing government). These exact same “journalists” are, of course, now upset that Australia is stepping up its government regulation of journalism by, for example, banning journalists from reporting on WikiLeaks cases – much like Australian “journalist” Mike Carlton was sued under the very same “hate speech” laws that he had previously voiced his support for and many of the Australians who campaigned to have camper car company Wicked Campers banned for their “offensive” and “sexist” slogans are now outraged over a man in Brisbane being arrested for wearing an “I’m with stupid” T-shirt. As always, people who advocate for censorship never expect for it to be used against them and they are utterly outraged when it is.
In the short clip above, you can see Brendan’s opponents using petty emotional arguments and logical fallacies to cheer for censorship, while Brendan hardly has a chance to even argue his points amid the rabid cries of “your rights end where my feelings begin” and “won’t somebody please think of the children!?”. Socialist politician Tanya Plibersek tells Brendan: “I cannot understand that you think that it is fine for people to go out and say we should kill all Muslims or we should do this or do that and that that has no real effect on the world.” Aside from the fact that Brendan never even mentioned people saying “we should kill all Muslims” (the likes of Mark Steyn and Pamela Geller have certainly never said anything like that), this is a great example of the Australian mindset, which I discussed in one of my previous articles. In Australia, the concept of defending freedom of speech for people that you profoundly disapprove of simply does not exist at all. Neither does the idea that someone can disapprove of something without wanting to outlaw it. In Australia, if you disapprove of something, then it’s automatically assumed that you’d also want to outlaw that thing. The Australian public is absolutely baffled at the idea that someone could separate their personal convictions from the law. They simply cannot distinguish what is morally acceptable from what is legal. To them, if something is morally unacceptable, then it must therefore also be illegal. Absolutely no distinction is made between unacceptable behavior and illegal behavior; the two are always one and the same. In addition, Tanya Plibersek – of course – never even considers the idea that censorship in the name of “protecting health and morals” could ever be used to silence people that she agrees with. After all, “protecting public health and morals” was the justification for everything from blasphemy laws to the banning of James Joyce’s Ulysses, and it’s also the justification that far-right politicians often use in their attempts to ban the Quran. But, despite history repeatedly showing otherwise, people like Tanya firmly believe that their views will always be the views held by those with the power to censor and thus government censorship will never be used against them. It’s an extremely naive and childish view based on petty emotions and feelings and a complete lack of anything even vaguely resembling logic or reason.
Indeed, this is exactly what I have experienced whenever I have attempted to debate freedom of speech with Australians. Time and time again, I have presented rational, logical arguments as to why “hate speech” laws are a bad idea. And, time and time again, I have been screamed at, insulted, threatened, and blocked. The responses that I get from Aussies are usually barely coherent (if at all), filled with spelling and grammar errors, often typed out in ALL CAPS, and frequently laced with profanity. One person even called me a “chink” without the slightest hint of irony, even though they had absolutely no way of knowing what my race was. I was called a Nazi, a troll, a racist, a bigot, a moron, and an “apologist for racist hate speech”, among many other things. I was told numerous times that bigotry is unacceptable, as if opposing the criminalization of speech automatically means that you think bigotry is perfectly fine. I was told over and over again that “hate speech is not free speech” and that “freedom of speech comes with responsibility”, with none of the Australians ever able to actually define what “hate speech” is or what “responsible” speech constitutes (let alone who gets to decide those things). At no point did any Australian ever attempt to refute me with logic or reason; emotion and feelings were the only things that they understood.
Generally speaking, the Australian public has a complete inability to differentiate between something that should not be encouraged and something that should be illegal, without any consideration whatsoever of who sets the standards for what can and cannot be said. It’s unbelievably narcissistic and bordering on solipsistic. I have eventually come to accept the fact that attempting to explain the concept of freedom of speech to the Australian public at large is simply a lost cause. During the 18C controversy, some Australians even – without the slightest hint of irony – quoted from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four to justify speech and thought regulations: “If he were allowed contact with foreigners he would discover that they are creatures similar to himself and that most of what he has been told about them is lies. The sealed world in which he lives would be broken, and the fear, hatred, and self-righteousness on which his morale depends might evaporate.” In other words, George Orwell would apparently approve of outlawing certain thoughts because certain thoughts are bad.
Speaking of people saying “we should kill all Muslims”, the hashtag #KillAllMuslims actually did trend on Twitter recently. It was started by a troll, and nearly every single post (at least 99% of the posts) made under the hashtag consisted of people expressing outrage over the fact that the hashtag was trending in the first place. Nobody was “incited” by the hashtag to kill any Muslims, and the hashtag most definitely wasn’t taken seriously by anyone. If anything, seeing that kind of “hate speech” only made people more sympathetic towards Muslims and more defensive of Muslims, and it certainly didn’t help the anti-Islam movement in any way (quite the opposite, in fact). A similar thing happened when former Breitbart contributor Pat Dollard sent out a Tweet calling on Americans to “start slaughtering Muslims in the streets, all of them”. Almost every single response to Dollard expressed outrage at his over-the-top genocidal sentiment, and he undoubtedly did a great deal of damage to the anti-Islam movement by making them look like a bunch of rabid, violent extremists and giving the pro-Islam movement a heavy amount of ammo to use against the anti-Islam movement. The more extreme, vile, and outrageous the “hate speech” is, the more it drives people away and unites people against bigotry. Just ask Fred Phelps and his virulently homophobic Westboro Baptist Church, who have probably done more to advance the cause of gay rights and to unite people against homophobia than any other group in America ever has. Not only Westboro, but the ugly excesses of certain figures on the homophobic Christian right have actually helped to advance gay rights simply because they make homophobia seem completely unreasonable. For example, every single time a Christian pastor calls for homosexuals to be executed, they do a great deal of damage to the anti-gay movement. If you really want to make people hate bigots, then all you actually need to do is to encourage those bigots to be as openly loud, vile, extreme, annoying, offensive, abrasive, obnoxious, and flat-out unreasonable in public as possible. That will make people hate bigots. On the other hand, forcing bigots to remain quiet and reasonable and thus giving them a “forbidden fruit” and “persecuted martyr” allure most certainly won’t make people hate bigots; if anything, it will only make the bigots seem much more attractive and sympathetic.
The American approach to freedom of speech is absolutely unheard of in Australia, however. In fact, the Australian state of Victoria has ruled that even “wholly true and completely balanced” statements can be outlawed as “racial or religious vilification” if they are likely to paint minorities in a negative light and/or create “hatred” (in this particular case, two Christian pastors were charged with “religious vilification” for talking about Islamic terrorism, even though they openly stated that most Muslims weren’t terrorists and that Christians should treat Muslims with love. The Human Rights Commission/Equal Opportunity Commission had deliberately sent undercover Muslims to the Christian sermon as part of a sting operation in order to get a complaint about “religious vilification”). Indeed, truthfulness is absolutely no defense whatsoever in court when it comes to Australia’s various “vilification” laws, including 18C – it genuinely doesn’t matter whether the “vilification” was factually correct or not. To almost all Americans, this sounds positively Orwellian. But most people in Australia would have absolutely no problem with it.
In Australia, if you support someone’s right to say something, then you automatically agree with what they’re saying. Allowing racists to speak freely IS racism. If you believe that racists should be allowed to speak freely, then you are automatically a racist. If you don’t think that The Daily Mail should be banned, then you therefore automatically support murdering all Muslims (most people in Australia make absolutely no distinction whatsoever between offensive speech and violent action, and they often consider offensive speech to be worse than physical violence). If you believe that it should be legal to “vilify” homosexuality, then you are a homophobe. If you believe that people should be legally allowed to tell jokes about rape, then you are a rapist (there is a large movement in Australia to outlaw anything that “perpetuates rape culture” or “sexism”, and anyone who disagrees with this movement will find themselves universally demonized as a misogynist rape supporter). Tim Wilson – Australia’s current Human Rights Commissioner – learned this lesson first-hand. When a camper car company called Wicked Campers started using deliberately vulgar and provocative slogans (e.g. “Virginity is curable!”) for attention and publicity, most Australians wanted the company to be prosecuted and shut down by the government for “sexism” and “inciting rape” (the Australian senate unanimously passed a motion condemning the camper car company and their “sexist” slogans). When Tim Wilson said that the government didn’t need to ban the camper car company and that people should instead use their freedom of speech to speak out against the company, he caused huge outrage, he was accused of supporting rape, he was universally condemned for his “male privilege”, and there were widespread calls for him to be sacked.
The Australian public simply cannot fathom the idea that someone could possibly disapprove of something without wanting it to be outlawed. There is absolutely nothing like the ACLU in Australia – in fact, even the “hardcore free speech absolutists” in Australia still support banning a wide range of speech, including “hate speech” (or “vilification”). It’s very common to see Australians cheer for “freedom of speech” and quote Voltaire, then immediately turn around and demand that people be prosecuted for “offensive” speech or “vilification” – and they genuinely don’t see anything even remotely ironic or contradictory about this. As previously mentioned, polls have repeatedly shown that almost all Australians believe that it should be against the law to “insult” or “offend” people – including Australian “libertarians” and “free speech activists”. In Australia, proposing that it should “only” be illegal to “incite hatred” (or “vilify”) is absolutely as “free speech fundamentalist” as you can possibly get, and it’s considered to be a very extreme position in the country.
If someone like Glenn Greenwald or Aryeh Neier were to make a speech in Australia regarding freedom of speech, they would be universally called Nazi racist terrorist far-right extremists who want to kill all minorities and the “human rights” lobby would probably campaign to have them deported. If a person in Australia ever suggested that there should be no “hate speech” or “vilification” or “incitement to hatred” laws whatsoever (which is something that absolutely nobody in Australia would ever suggest), they would be treated exactly the same way as a vicious neo-Nazi skinhead would be. They would lose their job, they would lose all of their friends, they would be a complete outcast, they would be relentlessly harassed, and they would probably be physically assaulted as well. Such is the Australian mindset.
The Australian attitude towards freedom of speech can perhaps best be summed up in this comment from Australian theology professor Neil Ormerod: “Free speech for racist bigots, free speech for climate denialists. Where will it end? Free speech for the tobacco industry to deny smoking causes cancer? There is a value in free speech to promote reasoned discussion and deliberation. And then there is obdurate and at times wilful [sic] ignorance. Smoking does cause cancer, there are no superior races and human-induced climate change is as certain as it is scientifically possible to demonstrate.” This very accurately and succinctly reflects the general attitude towards freedom of speech in Australia. Most people in Australia not only believe that racist comments should be against the law, but that so should anything that they personally disapprove of, whether it’s climate change denial, vaccine denial, radio shock jocks, pickup artists, “offensive” jokes, vulgar slogans on camper cars, violent video games, or anything else deemed “dangerous” to the masses. They also do not even entertain the vague possibility that these laws could ever be used against them. They always claim to strongly support “freedom of speech”, of course, but only for popular speech that they agree with. Australians are always outraged and always scream about “freedom of speech” when the Australian government outlaws popular speech – like when it bans WikiLeaks reports or outlaws protesting – but they loudly demand government censorship of “offensive” views and they genuinely do not consider it to be a form of censorship at all. They really and truly do not understand how, when you give the government the power to censor any speech, that power will inevitably be expanded and abused.
During the Julia Gillard administration, Australia nearly passed a law called the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill – endorsed by Australia’s federal government Australian Human Rights Commission and wholeheartedly supported by Australia’s countless “human rights” groups – which would have made it illegal to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” people on the basis of age, sex, race, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, immigrant status, marital/relationship status, political opinion, social origin, religion, nationality, medical history, family responsibilities, or industrial history – and the law stated that people would be declared guilty until proven innocent (yes, you read that correctly – and this is considered “centrist” in Australia). Under the legislation, the accused would not have an automatic right to legal representation, and the accused would be required to pay all of the costs of their defense, even if they were found to be innocent. The law also would have outlawed any expression of religious belief if someone were “offended” by it. This law (which had wide support and which the “freedom and civil liberties”-supporting Australian Greens claimed “didn’t go far enough”) was primarily intended to silence all criticism of the government – particularly from the Rupert Murdoch-owned media, which the Australian left has long desired to shut down (along with banning the Murdoch media, banning radio “shock jocks” is another one of the Australian left’s favorite crusades). Many of the people who supported this extremely Orwellian, draconian law were the very same people who demanded an Australian Bill of Rights guaranteeing freedom of speech. And no, they did not find anything even remotely hypocritical about that because, in postmodernist “human rights” discourse, freedom of speech only protects nice speech. The United States is, in fact, the only country in the world where the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech actually covers what “human rights activists” refer to as “hate speech”. In every other country – Australia included, obviously – it’s universally agreed-upon that “hate speech is not free speech”. But the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill took this to a whole new level.
Laws like the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill are proposed on the basis that the government will always use them to silence whoever the people proposing the law wants to be silenced (which, I should add, is never how it actually works out in reality). Did the people who proposed this law ever consider – even for a brief moment – how it may be used to silence their views by a future right-wing government? Did the left-wing “journalists” who cheered for this law because it would shut down all right-wing media outlets ever consider that a future right-wing government could easily use it to shut them down? No, because they did not consider that there would ever be a right-wing government in the future. Not only do they not think into the future, but they also believe that progressives will always be in power and thus passing extremely broad censorship legislation will always work out in the favor of progressives. Ultimately, censorship legislation is based on incredible hubris. It’s based on the assumption that the views of the people proposing the censorship legislation will never fall out of favor with those who hold the power to censor (i.e. those in the government). The Australian left has repeatedly said that it should always be illegal to “manipulate public opinion against the common good”, but they never even consider that right-wingers could ever possibly use that against them. They genuinely believe that their views are objectively good, so opposing views must therefore be outlawed. Never does the thought even cross their minds that someone else could have very different ideas of what constitutes “good”, and that those people could then outlaw left-wing beliefs as being “against the common good”. Just ask the LGBT activists in Russia, whose views are now outlawed because Russian President Vladimir Putin considers them to be “against the common good”. The powerful majority always decides what should be censored, and history has repeatedly shown us that the power to censor has always hurt minorities the most.
It is widely believed in Australia that freedom of speech is something which only serves “old white rich men”, who, it is said, already have way too much power (the Australian left regularly makes highly disparaging comments about white people, knowing very well that those comments will not be prosecuted as “racial vilification” since white people aren’t currently considered to be a “protected group” by society). In one wildly popular column by Australian celebrity Waleed Aly, George Brandis’s proposal to slightly weaken the country’s federal “hate speech” law was called “the whitest piece of proposed legislation I’ve encountered”. Aly argues that there is a “racial hierarchy” in Australia, with “privileged” white men like George Brandis at the top. “Whiteness” is the ultimate insult in Australia, and “old white rich men” are the ultimate boogeymen. George Brandis was widely attacked over and over again for his “white privilege”. But, by passing laws allowing the government to censor speech, all that you’re doing is giving those “old white rich men” even more power. Censorship laws will not be wielded by “vulnerable minorities”. They will be wielded by those exact same “old white rich men” who it is believed already hold too much power.
If those “privileged” white men cannot possibly understand how non-white people experience racism, then why would you trust them to enforce subjective censorship legislation in order to supposedly “protect” non-white people from racist speech in the first place? The people at the top of the “hierarchy” will be the people who get to enforce censorship legislation – not the “vulnerable minorities” who allegedly “need” that legislation. If minorities are truly “marginalized” in Australian society, then giving the government more censorship power simply means giving the government more power to oppress and “marginalize” minorities with. It is always highly ironic to see Australians lambast their government as consisting of racist white men who hate minorities… and then immediately turn around and entrust that very same “racist” government to regulate speech in order to allegedly “protect minorities” (almost all of the people patronizingly railing on about the need to “protect vulnerable minorities from hate speech” have been white people who view minorities as helpless pets, of course). They genuinely do not consider that the most “privileged” members of society – the people in the government – will be the ones to wield the power of any censorship legislation. If the government is indeed so racist, then wouldn’t it be much more likely to use its censorship power against minorities? As Aryeh Neier once said, “Those who call for censorship in the name of the oppressed ought to recognize it is never the oppressed who determine the bounds of censorship.”
In actuality, freedom of speech has always been the best friend of minorities, and censorship legislation has historically always been used to silence minorities rather than “protecting” them – like, for example, when Mississippi tried to charge NAACP officials with “inciting violence” for violent acts that their fiery speeches supposedly “inspired”. Every single civil rights victory in history owes its success to freedom of speech. Had the First Amendment not existed to protect all speech – no matter how unpopular – then speech advocating interracial marriage, for example, could have easily been outlawed as “hate speech”, as most of the public at one point agreed that advocating interracial marriage was dangerous and damaging to society. Likewise, the abolitionist movement was once considered to be a serious threat to national security and “social cohesion”, and so was the civil rights movement. Both of those movements could have easily been outlawed as such if “hate speech” laws had existed back then – indeed, the government did repeatedly attempt to outlaw abolitionist speech. And it’s entirely possible that, at some point in the future, the public will once again agree with the views held by racists – and then those very same censorship laws that allegedly exist to “protect minorities” will be used in order to silence the views of minorities and anti-racists. After all, “hate speech” is simply unpopular speech that the general public (and/or the government) decides is “dangerous”, and what constitutes unpopular and/or “dangerous” speech changes drastically over time. Mob rule silencing unpopular speech is certainly not something that has ever worked out in the favor of minorities. Whenever someone is prosecuted for “hate speech”, it is always hailed as a “victory” for marginalized people. But a victory for government infringement on freedom of speech will never be a victory for marginalized people. By giving the government the power to criminalize “hate speech”, you are only giving the majority that you aren’t a part of the ability to put people in steel cages for voicing views that they disagree with. The only reason that you’re able to prosecute people for bigotry at the moment is because bigoted views are marginalized by society right now. In other words, you want the government to prosecute marginalized views. If you can’t see the risk that this puts you in as a minority, then you clearly have a very short memory.
Australians, Europeans, and others very often make the patently absurd and fear-mongering claim that “hate speech” laws are necessary in order to prevent genocide. During the 18C controversy, Australians constantly cited genocides like the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide as examples of the consequences of “hate speech”, and they repeatedly claimed that similar genocides would inevitably happen in Australia if 18C was slightly watered down. What they completely fail to consider is that every single genocide in modern history has been carried out by the government, and that government control of speech has not only completely failed to prevent genocides, but has, in fact, actually assisted genocides. In Yugoslavia, “hate speech” was punishable by up to ten years in prison. This didn’t stop the Yugoslavian government from putting out “hate speech” against the minorities that they were oppressing, silencing the voices of the people that they were oppressing, and committing genocide against the aforementioned minorities that they were oppressing. Freedom of speech and “international law” expert Jacob Mchangama notes:
Clearly, most contemporary proponents of hate-speech laws do not share the same ideologies and methods as the communist states of the day. Yet they seldom mention or reflect upon the fact that such laws were proposed and advocated for by antidemocratic states in which freedom of expression (as well as all other basic human rights) was routinely violated. Nor do they mention that these states, often totalitarian, had a clear interest in legitimizing and justifying their repression with the use of human rights language, inverting human rights protections into coercive human rights obligations. A good example of this paradox is the former Yugoslavia, the scene of the latest European genocide, a state very active in promoting a prohibition against hate speech at the un. Article 134 of the criminal code in force at the time of the breakup of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia punished with imprisonment of up to ten years anyone who “incites or fans national, racial, or religious hatred or discord between peoples and nationalities.” The article was mostly used by the communist regime to silence critics, but the prohibition against hate speech obviously did nothing to inculcate a culture of tolerance that could prevent ethnic cleansings and genocide, which occurred throughout Yugoslavia’s breakup.
Likewise, before and during the Rwandan Genocide, the government of Rwanda put out “hate speech” against the Tutsi minority while eventually carrying out a campaign of mass murder against them. No dissenting voices were allowed to be aired – the “hate speech” in Rwanda was certainly not part of a free marketplace of ideas, but was, in fact, aired by the government and was the only speech that the public was allowed to hear (the modern-day government of Rwanda now uses “hate speech” laws in order to shut down all criticism of the government). It was the same situation during the Holocaust: “hate speech” was put out by the genocidal government of Nazi Germany and anyone who questioned the government’s “hate speech” was forcibly silenced. Genocide is absolutely not an argument for government control of speech; quite the opposite, in fact. The government has been the single biggest oppressor of minorities throughout all of recorded history – always using its censorship power to silence the voices of minorities – yet you genuinely trust the government to regulate and censor speech in order to allegedly “protect minorities”?
Much of the debate in Australia surrounding 18C revolved around how “racist” Australians supposedly are. It was repeatedly said that, if 18C was weakened, then bigots would “dominate” the public debate, and that there would be a free-for-all on minorities. There was constant fear-mongering about what would happen without “hate speech” legislation: not only would Australia explode into white supremacy, but there would be race riots and even full-blown genocide. For one, this is an extremely elitist, condescending, and paternalistic view of the Australian public. The view that the plebeian masses are so stupid and so savage that they simply cannot handle being exposed to certain views – that they need to be “protected” from themselves – is the view that has motivated every single censor throughout history, from the era of Socrates to the Victorian era to the Antebellum era, when censors used “hate speech”-type legislation to censor criticism of slavery. Second, if Australia was truly so racist, then it wouldn’t have “hate speech” legislation supposedly intended to “protect vulnerable minorities” in the first place. In a truly racist society, “hate speech” legislation would be used to silence minorities, just like it’s used to silence LGBT people in Russia (a truly homophobic society).
To quote Jonathan Rauch: “The case for hate-speech prohibitions mistakes the cart for the horse, imagining that anti-hate laws are a cause of toleration when they are almost always a consequence. In democracies, minorities do not get fair, enforceable legal protections until after majorities have come around to supporting them. By the time a community is ready to punish intolerance legally, it will already be punishing intolerance culturally. At that point, turning haters into courtroom martyrs is unnecessary and often counterproductive.” “Hate speech” laws are heavily based on a classic “white man’s burden” mindset: that minorities are much more delicate and fragile than white people and thus need white people to enforce special protections for their feelings (which, I should add, is the exact opposite of equality). But, in a society where that sort of mindset is prevalent, hatred of minorities would already be harshly punished by society. And, to be perfectly honest, I would argue that viewing minorities as weak, incompetent, helpless little infants who desperately need their delicate feelings to be guarded by noble white saviors is far more insulting and demeaning to them than anything that any racist bigot could ever say. It should be noted that some aboriginal activists actually did state that people should have the legal right to say unpleasant things about aboriginals, but the Australian left (which is almost entirely white) refers to any aboriginals who disagree with them as “coconuts” – brown on the outside, white on the inside. To the Australian left, minorities are nothing more than political props and pets that they can use in order to further an agenda. The Australian left does not believe that minorities are competent individuals who are capable of surviving on their own as equals. Rather, they see minorities as helpless, hopelessly incompetent (or “vulnerable”, as they say) children who require white saviors protecting them at all times with special privileges – and, if any minority disagrees with this, then it’s simply because they just don’t know any better. This sort of demeaning, paternalistic attitude is infinitely more damaging to minorities than any “vilifying” newspaper columns could ever be.
“Freedom of speech is never a license to hurt other people, and recklessly wounding the feelings of Muslims like Charlie Hebdo did is most definitely not an exercise of freedom of speech”, writes an Australian columnist in Medium in response to the recent massacre in France, in which twelve people were shot to death by Islamic jihadists over cartoons of Muhammed published in the controversial French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The cartoons published in Charlie Hebdo, she says, “are severe acts of racial and religious vilification which were obviously intended to incite hatred of Muslims, and they would have been prosecuted as such in my home state of Victoria.” The Australian columnist later asks, “if we ban racist hate speech, why should we not also ban disrespectful cartoons such as those found in Charlie Hebdo?” Aside from perfectly demonstrating the dangerous slippery slope of restricting speech (if the government can outlaw “racial vilification”, then why can’t it also outlaw insulting depictions of Muhammed?), this is a very typical Australian attitude – the attitude that it’s the job of the government to protect the feelings of its citizens, and that “offensive” speech inevitably leads to violent action. The extreme nanny state mentality of Australia is a strong warning to the United States that passing “hate speech” legislation is the easiest way to destroy a culture of liberty and to create a culture of people who firmly believe that the central role of the government is to be an overbearing parent to its citizens.
During the controversy over Charlie Hebdo, I have seen numerous Australians post the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag to voice their support for the magazine. I have seen them rave about their support for freedom of speech and their opposition to censorship. I have seen them post the classic “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” quote. And I have seen these EXACT SAME AUSTRALIANS voice outrage over certain proposals to water down 18C (by removing the words “offend” and “insult”) in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. I see these exact same Australian “free speech defenders” and “free speech activists” saying that, yes, Andrew Bolt should indeed have been prosecuted. In fact, pretty much every single Australian posting about Charlie Hebdo and the importance of free speech is, at the exact same time, also posting about the importance of laws against “offending” or “insulting” minorities because “human rights”. And they don’t see anything even remotely hypocritical about quoting Voltaire one minute and then demanding government censorship the next minute. In Australia, freedom of speech is something that applies only to speech that you personally approve of – “free speech” only includes “constructive” and “responsible” speech. Anything else is “hate speech” or “vilification”. And I think it’s very safe to say that, had Charlie Hebdo been published in Australia before the massacre, these very same people voicing their support for the magazine – especially the “human rights activists” – would have called for it to be banned for “racial and religious vilification”, just like Amnesty International and countless other “human rights” groups called for the Danish Muhammed cartoons to be prosecuted as “hate speech”.
“Hate speech” legislation primarily has its origins in “international human rights law”, as one can read about here. The “hate speech” provisions in these “international laws” were added at the behest of the Soviet Union. Stalin saw “hate speech” legislation as a very powerful tool that he could use in order to undermine freedom of speech on a global scale and to attack democracy, and he lobbied heavily for international bans on “hate speech”. Initially, every democratic country was highly opposed to having any kind of laws against “hate speech”, but, eventually, the Soviet Union won and “hate speech” became part of “international human rights law”. The reason that “human rights activists” and “human rights groups” are all about censorship of speech rather than protecting freedom of speech is because of Stalin’s efforts at the UN; Stalin successfully subverted the meaning of “human rights” and his legacy lives on to this day, as “human rights” now primarily means expanding government power rather than limiting government power. Right now, Islamic dictatorships are attempting to use “international human rights law” in order to pass a worldwide ban on blasphemy – it’s a perfect example of how, once “hate speech” laws are in place, they inevitably expand and grow more restrictive over time.
Australians – and especially “human rights activists” – often use “international law” as a justification for 18C. Not only do they not realize that these “hate speech” provisions in “international law” were conceived by the Soviet Union, but they also don’t consider that 18C doesn’t meet “international law” standards anyways. “International law” also mandates sanctions against “propaganda for war” and “religious hatred”, neither of which 18C covers – and 18C also doesn’t explicitly outlaw “ideas based on racial superiority or hatred” and it doesn’t explicitly criminalize membership in or financing of “racist” groups either, as “international law” mandates. The Australian left loves to use “international law” as an appeal to authority whenever it’s convenient for them, but they always ignore “international law” whenever it goes against their plans. For example, “international law” requires countries to outlaw marijuana and it also mandates that people be declared innocent until proven guilty (which would render the proposed Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill in violation of “international law”). Finally, the UN has made it quite clear that it is simply not possible to regulate “hate speech” strictly enough to meet their standards. The UN has attacked Germany for not prosecuting a writer who voiced a negative view of mass immigration. The UN has attacked Sweden – easily among the most politically correct countries in the world – for not cracking down on “hate speech” strictly enough. The UN has even attacked France for not banning Salman Rushdie’s controversial book The Satanic Verses, calling the book an “incitement to racial hatred”. If you allow a bureaucratic organization run primarily by tinpot dictators to decide your laws, then you might as well stop calling yourself a democracy.
If someone hates me, then I want to know about it so that I know who to avoid. And, if a politician (or other public figure) holds bigoted views, then I want them to make those views as widely known as possible – and I want them to use the most vile, extreme, offensive language possible – so that people do not accidentally vote for them or support them. In a free speech culture like the United States, politicians are much less afraid to speak their minds and, as a result, they sometimes say bigoted things. When these politicians do say bigoted things, their bigotry becomes public knowledge and their careers are destroyed. They ruin any chances that they had of gaining more power. But, in a culture where “hate speech” is illegal, bigots are forced to keep their bigoted thoughts a secret. As such, politicians will not openly reveal their bigotry – or will use dog-whistle language – and, as a result, they have a much higher chance of actually gaining power and thus turning their bigoted thoughts into actual bigoted policies.
“Human rights activists” are, as previously mentioned, fueled by a paternalistic and condescending drive to “protect” the savage, plebeian masses from their baser instincts. But the people campaigning for “hate speech” legislation simply do not consider the long-term, unintended ramifications of allowing the government to regulate speech. What constitutes “hate speech” to you will not be the same as what constitutes “hate speech” to the government, and what is deemed “hateful” will always change over time. Thailand, for example, now refers to all criticism of its government as “hate speech”. In America, there are no laws whatsoever against “hate speech”, but anti-“hate speech” codes on American college campuses have been used to silence anti-NSA speech and pro-Palestine speech on numerous different occasions. And, in places where homosexuality is not widely accepted, “hate speech” laws are often used to censor anyone who speaks out in support of gay rights. In Russia, “hate speech” laws are used not only to silence LGBT activists, but also to silence people like Pussy Riot and other artists who “incite religious hatred” against the Catholic Church. That’s what happens when you allow mob rule and state power to determine which ideas can be legally proscribed. You may very well find your views falling out of favor with those in power and thus legally outlawed as “hate speech”.
What characterizes the Australian free speech debate is selective outrage fueled by identity politics along with a heavy dose of cognitive dissonance. True freedom of speech is an equalizer. If you can say something about one group, but not about another group, then people are not equal. If one group can say something, but not another group, then that’s not equality. The Australian left was outraged when the Australian government passed laws against “advocating terrorism” intended to target radical Muslims, but would the Australian left defend the right of neo-Nazis to advocate terrorism against Muslims? Of course not. They wouldn’t even defend the right of neo-Nazis to speak at all. Why, then, should the law protect the right of radical Muslims to advocate terrorism when it doesn’t even allow racists to “offend” or “insult”, let alone to advocate terrorism? If a law can be used to target neo-Nazis, then it could just as easily be used to target minorities. If you’re going to truly defend freedom of speech, then you have to defend freedom of speech for everyone – even for groups that you profoundly despise, whether they’re Islamic jihadists or neo-Nazis. You cannot make distinctions based on groups. If, for example, you believe that Jews should be allowed to advocate killing neo-Nazis, then you should also believe that neo-Nazis should be allowed to advocate killing Jews. If you believe that you should be allowed to call for the execution of terrorists or pedophiles, then you should also be allowed to call for the execution of Jews, Muslims, gays, blacks, or any other group. Otherwise, the only distinction that you’re making is a distinction based on group identity politics.
The United States does not allow such viewpoint-based distinctions to be made, but Australia does. Hence why section 80.2A of Australia’s Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 makes it illegal to “urge violence against groups based on race, religion, nationality or ethnic or political opinion”. So, in other words, you can “urge violence” against some groups, but not others. Just like you can “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” – or “vilify” – people based on some characteristics, but not based on “race, colour or national or ethnic origin”, thus effectively giving certain groups of people special protections. You can legally hate some groups, but it’s illegal to hate certain other groups. That’s not equality. It is profoundly demeaning and infantilizing to minorites (or “protected groups”) to say that they are too weak and too fragile to be equals in a free society, and it strongly echoes the classic “white man’s burden” colonialism of yesteryear. In the US, there is a universal standard for inciting violence that does not take group or viewpoint into account. Advocating violence is legal – no matter who you’re advocating violence against – up until the point when it directly creates imminent lawless action (such as handing someone a gun and yelling “SHOOT!”). Saying “kill the rich” or “kill racists” is legal. So is saying “kill blacks” or “kill Jews”. But directly instructing an armed mob to “go kill that racist over there” is not legal, and neither is directing a mob outside of someone’s house to “burn that Jew’s house down”.
In the landmark 1992 case of R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul (which involved a cross being burned on an African-American family’s lawn), the US Supreme Court ruled that even unprotected speech that violates criminal law – such as threats, intimidation, and fighting words – cannot be treated more harshly by the law simply because the unprotected speech expresses a hateful or racist “viewpoint”. Ergo, a racist threatening to kill someone because they’re black must be treated the same way by the law as a communist threatening to kill someone because they’re rich. One cannot be treated more severely than the other simply because it is based on a different viewpoint. The law cannot have different rules for different viewpoints as far as speech goes. So, even George Brandis’s proposed amendment to Section 18C of Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act making public intimidation – which he defined as “to cause fear of physical harm” – unlawful if based on racial characteristics would be declared unconstitutional in the United States since it makes a viewpoint-based distinction. Punishing someone differently because they intimidated another person in a racist way amounts to punishing people based on their thoughts and viewpoints, which is unconstitutional in the US. It would also be unconstitutional for the law in the United States to make any distinction between speech that was made as part of a “public discussion” and speech that wasn’t made as part of a “public discussion”.
The American left does not support “hate speech” legislation because the American left knows very well that restricting speech is a very slippery slope, and “hate speech” laws could (and would) easily be used to silence, for example, pro-Palestine protesters the same way that, in France, merely saying that Israel should be boycotted will get you charged with “discrimination” (the Zionist lobby is the biggest supporter of “vilification” laws in Australia, making it rather ironic that the anti-Israel Australian left also vehemently supports said laws). To the contrary, the people of Australia see the government as the mediator of all debates, and they rely on the power of the state to protect their feelings. They wholly trust the government to regulate all aspects of their lives, and they want the government telling them what they’re allowed to think and say. They are terrified of the “harm” that unpleasant speech will cause. They are terrified of what will happen if people are allowed to speak their minds, and they genuinely believe that, as Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane has said, “genocide begins with words.” Weakening “hate speech” laws would “unleash a darker, even violent, side of our humanity”, Soutphommasane stated. In other words, if “undesirable” views are expressed openly, it will lead to mass social unrest and widespread violence, so the general public simply cannot handle being exposed to “dangerous” views.
That’s the exact same logic used by the censors in the Antebellum era, who used “hate speech”-type legislation in order to silence all criticism of slavery on the basis that it would “incite” hatred and violence against slaveowners and the South. It’s also the exact same logic used by Russia and other countries that criminalize “gay pornography” on the grounds that promoting LGBT rights “harms society” and is considered to be highly “offensive” by the vast majority of people in those countries. And, if “hate speech” laws had existed in the United States during the civil rights era, then Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders would have been charged with “hate speech” – and most of the general public would have supported it at the time. That’s what happens when you allow mob rule to dictate which opinions are allowed to be legally expressed. You may very well find your views being outlawed when society decides that they’re “harmful” and “dangerous”, and then what right will you have to complain? After all, you campaigned to ban “hateful” views on the exact same grounds – that they were “harmful” and “dangerous”. Unless, of course, you believe that your views are objectively good and that opposing views are objectively evil, as “human rights activists” almost always do. But no view is objectively good or objectively evil, and the government should never have the power to ban any opinion, no matter how “evil” that opinion may or may not be.
If you hadn’t already gathered, Australia takes “hate speech” (or “vilification”) very, very, very seriously. When Australian radio personalities John Laws and Steve Price described a gay reality TV couple as “young poofs” on the air, they were prosecuted and found guilty of “homosexual vilification” (John Laws has also been taken to court for referring to gay men as “pillow-biters” on the air). When someone in Australia makes a tiny Facebook page containing some racist jokes, it makes the national news and government investigations are launched. Even if someone in Australia makes just one Facebook post that’s deemed “racist”, the national news will cover it and the government will get involved (which, of course, merely gives the “online vilification” way more exposure than it ever would have had otherwise). Australians have repeatedly demanded online ombudsmen and government Internet filtering because they are absolutely terrified that racist comments made on the Internet will destroy “social cohesion” and lead to a new Holocaust (completely ignoring the fact, of course, that Weimar Germany had tons of “hate speech” laws and that the Nazis were prosecuted numerous times, which only turned them into sympathetic martyrs while giving them copious amounts of free publicity).
It’s a culture based entirely on fear: fear that people are so racist and so evil that a few bigoted jokes is all that it takes to kick off another genocide. And it’s also a culture based on a stunning level of naivete. “Bigotry has no place in society”, they’ll say. They genuinely believe that, if you outlaw bigotry, then people will magically stop having bigoted thoughts. In actuality, by outlawing the free expression of bigotry, all that you’re doing is driving bigots into underground echo chambers where they will only grow much more motivated and much more dangerous, free from the criticism and ridicule of the open public debate. By sending hatred underground and off-the-radar, you allow it to grow infinitely stronger rather than exposing it to the sunlight where it will die. The more vile, extreme, and outrageous the bigotry is, the more it drives people away and makes bigots look bad. Having bigots air their disgusting views in public only serves to unite people against bigotry, which is what we have repeatedly seen happen in the United States, which is the only country in the developed world without any kind of “hate speech” laws. Rather than flourishing, bigotry in the United States has died out in the free marketplace of ideas. Compare this to Europe – with its numerous “hate speech” laws – which is infinitely more racist than the United States and is currently seeing a dramatic resurgence of far-right extremism.
The only logical way to deal with hatred is to defeat it in a free marketplace of ideas while encouraging bigots to speak out openly so that everyone can plainly see how stupid, backwards, disgusting, and flat-out wrong they are. This is one of the key reasons why far-right extremism has failed to flourish in the United States, but is experiencing a drastic resurgence in popularity all over Europe, where “hate speech” legislation empowers the far-right by turning them into persecuted prophets and courtroom martyrs while also drastically magnifying their views, just like the court cases against Andrew Bolt gave his “vilifying” columns far more exposure than they would have had if they hadn’t been the subject of prosecution (the more you try to censor something, the more people will see it). History, reality, and basic logic tell us that “hate speech” legislation not only utterly fails to eliminate bigotry, but, in fact, it actually makes the problem even worse and backfires tremendously. But the Australian public simply doesn’t care about logic or reality. They care only about emotions and feelings. They just want to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that racism no longer exists simply because they outlawed racism. They want to feel good, even if they’re not actually doing anything to get rid of racism. If they feel like they’re fighting racism, then that’s more than good enough. Because, at the end of the day, that’s the only thing that matters in a culture like Australia’s: feelings, no matter how utterly illogical and irrational they clearly are.
This is a culture that we should most certainly not seek to emulate in the United States. If anything, Australia should, as previously stated, serve as a strong warning to us. If you want to fight against bigotry, then you need to actually fight against it by challenging it in the open. A climate of enforced silence helps absolutely no one and, in fact, only makes bigotry far more dangerous. Banning racist speech may make people feel good and allow them to feel like they’re “fighting hate”, but all that they’re actually doing is making hate even stronger. Fascists need a victim complex in order to thrive, and “hate speech” legislation gives them exactly that. Hitler bragged about the numerous times that he was censored, and the Nazis’ numerous prosecutions for “hate speech” gave them a very important platform through the courts along with transforming them into sympathetic martyrs. History is repeating itself, as Golden Dawn members in Greece right now are using government crackdowns on them to their advantage – panting themselves as noble, heroic martyrs suffering persecution from an unjust government.
There are many reasons that such far-right extremism has failed to flourish in the United States, but our unprecedented level of freedom of speech is surely one of the biggest reasons. Bigotry cannot survive in an open, free marketplace of ideas. Bigotry can only thrive when it is pushed underground and suppressed. America’s method of using soft power (i.e. social pressure from society at large) to punish bigotry – rather than hard power (i.e. government prosecution) has proven to be the only effective method of combating the evils of bigotry. Rather than America attempting to emulate the speech laws of all other nations, all other nations should attempt to emulate the speech laws of America. Instead of flourishing through vast underground networks, bigotry would find itself defeated through a free and open exchange of ideas. The First Amendment’s absolutely one-of-a-kind free speech protections provide a very strong lesson for the rest of the world: only through the freest possible public discourse can bigotry ever actually be stopped in its tracks. The United States must stick to its guns on freedom of speech, no matter how much pressure it faces from the United Nations, from other countries, from “human rights” groups, from academics, or from anyone else. This is one issue that we simply cannot afford to compromise on in any way, shape, or form. Ever. Period.