‘Free Speech’ – It’s Not As Easy As ABC

My take on Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s Anzac Day social media post and why ‘freedom’ does not necessarily entitle you to ‘free speech’:

Most Australians are aware that in the past century over 100,000 of our countrymen gave their lives in our defence and to preserve the freedoms we value and enjoy today. Australians also understand the veneration we hold for those who served, the fallen, their sacrifice and that the Anzac tradition is sacrosanct. (See also: ‘Aussie Battlers, Flu Pandemic, Headache, Heatwaves & Hardship’).

(I say most Australians, as  I assumed it would be safe to include someone like Yassmin, who arrived in Australia at the age of 2, who is now 26 years old, well-educated with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering with honours from the University of Queensland.)

What I would like to know is why some Australians choose to confuse the ‘freedoms’ won by the Anzacs with an entitlement for ‘free speech’? How could that be when ‘free speech’ is the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint? All expressions and opinions actually come with enormous responsibilities and consequences, particularly if you fail to comply with the law or if you violate society’s standards in relation to causing ‘offense’. (In fact, the noun ‘free speech’ has so many limitations that the title is virtually a misnomer.)

Of particular offense to me is when I read claims that ‘our diggers died’ so that we can exercise ‘freedom of speech’ to publish offensive material disrespecting the same Anzacs who made the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedom. See ‘Yassmin Abdel-Magied says she was treated unfairly over her Anzac post’.

This type of odious subversion needs to be called out for what it is; Australia and New Zealand must continue to respectfully uphold and defend the tradition and memory of the Anzacs. Freedom is a Human Right that was fought for and won by the blood of our forefathers. It is the responsibility of this generation to defend it and in doing so, continue to commemorate those who made the ultimate sacrifice, with the reverence they so rightly deserve. ‘Freedom of speech’ on the other hand is something completely different and should not be confused with or used in the same context as ‘Freedom’, which in itself, is not completely free.

So, what makes a media presenter think they are entitled to post unfiltered offensive material and then claim unfair treatment as ‘the victim’ when publicly vilified? What makes them think that posting a ‘very quick’ apology (but not a retraction) negates the offense? ‘Freedom of expression’ or ‘free speech’ has always been subject to various forms of censorship, irrespective of the publishing platform, whether it’s a song banned from radio or a film rating or a time delay on live radio or television. The concept of filtering the media’s offensive behaviour with classifications or censorship is not new; the Australian Government Classification Board has been around for approx. half a century.

Then, of course, there is Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (See also ‘Human Rights, 8 Commissioners & 18C’s’). What do you need to ‘live under’ if you are not familiar with the well-publicised examples of censorship to free speech, where it has cause to offend under the Racial Discrimination Act? How could you work in the media and not have a sound knowledge of what constitutes ‘offence’ in a media publication, including social media releases? (Incidentally, a ‘very quick’ apology does not ‘cut the mustard’ when you offend under 18C either.)

The motivation behind the ‘Anzac Day post’ was possibly more about promoting one’s public profile. We live in the age of ‘celebrity’ where any media or publicity is considered ‘good publicity’ irrespective of the degree of offensiveness. Perhaps it was an orchestrated stunt, an attempt to create enough controversy to discourage the ABC from proceeding with its planned axing of the part-time presenter’s TV program (see ‘ABC axes Abdel-Magied program one month after controversy’).

I expect there may now be some consternation within the ABC as to whether the ‘axing decision’ could be spuriously linked to the consequences arising from the Anzac Day controversy, particularly given the potential weight or perceived influence attached to the ‘discrimination’ comments made by the president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, while appearing before Senate estimates (see ‘Gillian Triggs warns of increasing sexist attacks against woman in public life’).

A check of Hansard (see ‘Commonwealth of Australia – Senate – Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee’) reveals that Professor Triggs stated ‘My concern has been the rising level of discrimination against Muslims in Australia and, sadly, in particular, Muslim women wearing the hijab’. One wonders whether the ABC’s decision to axe Yasmin could be interpreted, construed, seen as, or possibly ‘feels like’ discrimination in some circles. Professor Triggs later went on to reiterate her earlier view that the Anzac Day post was a ‘mistake’ saying ‘Well, again, I think it was a mistake, as I have said. It was followed rapidly by an apology’.

To be clear, I do not condone discrimination and the abuse (as opposed to the fair criticisms) directed at Yassmin in the wake of her social media post. My demurring relates to the virtual trivialisation of the Anzac Day social media post by academics like Triggs, who dismissed it as a mere ‘mistake’ or at worst agreeing ‘that it was a most inappropriate thing to have said’, while the broader community clearly felt deep offense.

Of particular indignity is that it was an honoured Australian who dishonoured and disparaged the memory of fallen Soldiers, on of all days, Anzac Day and I can only extend a sincere apology to our New Zealand partners for the insensitive offense. To add insult, Yassmin has served as a member of the Federal ANZAC Centenary Commemoration Youth Working Group so I cannot be convinced that she did not know exactly what she was doing and I find it insulting and disingenuous to suggest that her ‘post’ should be dismissed as an inappropriate ‘mistake’. Who is really out of touch here?

So, given due consideration to the above, the question remains, how can you call the actions of a media-savvy individual, seeking wider self-promotion by publishing offensive material on a social media platform, a ‘mistake’ when the individual is employed in the media and is steeped in their conventions? What propaganda is this? This was no mistake! 

It is time for people to take responsibility and be accountable for their actions, actions that have consequences. People need to take ownership of their behaviour, ownership of what they say and what they do, particularly when they have the power of the media behind them. Dare I say it, but we need to exercise a little more courtesy, have some empathy and learn to be nicer to one another.

However, if you are going to radically court controversy, then stop playing ‘the victim’ when you get the notoriety you widely seek. Stop hiding behind discrimination as a means of preservation when your provocation goes wrong. Don’t point your finger claiming intolerance at those who ‘call you to account’ or suggest that they are bigots, sexist and racist just because they objected to your insensitive, insulting, disrespectful, intolerant, narrow-minded & purposefully offensive publication.

Don’t stomp on the grave of ANZAC to promote your personal agenda!

Lest We Forget.

26 May 2017

If we are not careful, our colleges will produce a group of close-minded, unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts.  – Martin Luther King.

 

 

Dry Rivers, Wetlands, Environmental Water & Awesome Wells

On October 30th 1938, 23-year-old American actor, director, writer and producer, Orson Welles narrated a nationally broadcasted radio program, with a contemporary adaptation of The War of the Worlds, a 19th-century science fiction novel. It was performed as a live simulated news bulletin, a realistic dramatisation: a Martian invasion of earth was in progress. It reportedly caused nationwide confusion and mass panic when listeners thought that the arrival of the extraterrestrial beings was actually occurring.

Even though the episode was performed as a Halloween event, the accidental hoax had been executed and the myth that became the legend was created. As is the case today when the media realised they had been duped, they reported ‘widespread outrage’ and then led the apparent protest demanding greater regulatory intervention from the bureaucracy. Some things never change!

The Wellesian ruse may not fly nowadays, but what is interesting is how well-educated and intelligent people still get caught up in fictitious fables, leaving themselves susceptible to mythical fabrications and as a result are easily conditioned, manipulated, persuaded and indoctrinated.

So how does this yarn relate to Australians? Well it’s about the manoeuvring, misrepresentation and untruths perpetrated by those relatively new Australians, who after 200 years still don’t understand the harmony of our environment down under, in Terra Australis Incognita (the great unknown land), as they continue to impose reckless policies, pushing a flawed agenda from questionable research based on the European experience; generally misguided, opportunistic and with ominous intent. Let me explain.

Australia is a continent of 7.692 million square kilometres. It is the driest inhabited continent in the world with 70% of its area arid or semi-arid land. It is also the smallest continent in the world, the lowest, flattest and (apart from Antarctica) the driest, with a mean annual rainfall below 600 mm. Yep, it’s as dry “as a dead dingo’s donger” to quote a line from Australian Novelist Di Morrissey (Heart of the Dreaming, 1991). 

Europe is the wettest continent. In 2012 the UK’s annual rainfall was 121% more than Australia’s mean average. The Australian continent also has a vast ‘dry river’ system, carved out of the harsh landscape over many thousands of years; the result of extreme conditions in the cycles of prolonged, severe droughts and flooding rains. The longest of these dry river systems is the Murray, some 2,500 km in length. (The Thames by comparison is 350 km long).

Many people may not realise, but in its natural state you could cross the Murray River by walking the riverbed in times of drought. Then in 1919 as part of the Murray River irrigation plan, construction was commenced on the first in a series of ‘locks and weirs’. The river was subsequently dammed with four major reservoirs and some 15 locks. The irrigation system produced what is now considered to be one of the most productive food bowls and diverse agricultural regions in the country, as well as creating a myriad of artificial man-made wetlands with their associated salinity problems.

One of Australia’s truly unique ‘natural’ wetlands is Lake Eyre. Its formation is connected to the mythological dreamtime story of Wikunda hunting the kangaroo that became Lake Eyre. The Lake Eyre Basin covers 1 million square kilometres and is located outback, some 718 km north of Adelaide. Australia’s largest dry salt lake carries water on average about once every eight years and has only filled to capacity three times in the last 160 years. When water does flow the lake returns to life; a natural spectacle as huge numbers of waterbirds flock to the area. The stark landscape comes alive with wildflowers and even native fish return to the lake.

It is truly amazing; nowhere else in the world compares. So why do we take any notice of these ‘foreigners’ telling us how to manage our unique waterways based on research conducted elsewhere, particularly when they want to ‘drought proof’ these relatively new man-made, unnatural wetlands, that are a consequence of damming a massive dry river system.

I’m talking about ‘environmental water’. We have been led to believe that it’s necessary to waste billions of litres of water on regular flows to maintain these recently created artificial wetlands and then wash the surplus productive water out to sea. What a load of drivel! Lake Eyre clearly proves that wetlands simply do not need intervention with constant water flows.

Environmental water is just another myth that has been forced upon us, based on the irrelevant European experience. We know that the Earth’s present ‘axial precession’ means that the southern hemisphere’s seasons are somewhat more extreme than the northern hemisphere. This is Australia: try to learn something from those who have had a spiritual, physical, social and cultural connection to the land, the traditional owners for the last 60,000 years or more. As I mentioned earlier, how can well educated, credible and intelligent individuals be so gullible, as they embrace these fictitious, fabricated untruths, without even considering the intent of the power brokers who are funding a program based on extraneous data?

In Australia we have a unique environment like no other continent or country. European settlers need to learn how to adapt to their new environment, not change it. Stop destroying productive land, stop maintaining saline-soaked swamps, stop washing valuable water out to sea and stop doing it in the name of the environment. I’m tired of watching these enviro-warriors getting it wrong, planting trees instead of native grasses and now unsustainably mismanaging our most precious resource.

Start asking questions of politicians, why are they attempting to use ‘unsustainable water policies’ as blackmail to leverage ‘bargaining power’; it’s a guerrilla tactic that makes no sense. This week we saw a range of duplicitous Machiavellian manoeuvres by our representatives against the occupants of the driest continents on earth, threatening to waste an additional 450,000,000,000 litres of so-called environmental water, by flushing it down the Murray and for no rational, practical or logical reason other than a shameful, strategic, political ploy for the Senator’s personal career advancement!

They’ll want to ‘drought proof’ Lake Eyre next! These lunatics are from another planet; maybe ‘Mars’.

The line between reason and madness grows thinnerRosa Parks.

1st December 2016