A Difference of Degree

by Mark Steyn

Seems like old times. The great columnist Andrew Bolt made some mildly pointed observations about prominent and strikingly pasty-faced Australians choosing to identify as “aborigines”, and found himself hauled into court by the thought police:

I never thought I’d have an opportunity to see a real-life heresy trial in 21st-century Australia, but that’s exactly what’s been going on this week in Melbourne’s Federal Court.

Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt has been dragged before a judge and accused of thought crimes against the high church of political correctness. He’s being prosecuted and persecuted for the lese-majesty of challenging the cult of victimhood that dominates racial discourse in Australia.

The plaintiffs in this case claim to be aggrieved by several Bolt newspaper columns that cast doubt upon the authenticity of their Aboriginality. And while I’m sure their feelings of umbrage are quite genuine, I’m equally certain they are ultimately irrelevant.

But they’re not. In Canada, I too committed the crime of “offending” certain approved identity groups. And there is no defense to that: Truth, facts, evidence are all irrelevant. If someone’s “offended”, that’s that: You’re guilty. And increasingly, in Canada, Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, France, Austria, Scandinavia, the human right not to be offended trumps all.

This is disastrous. It puts free societies on the same continuum as the ululating savages of Mazar e-Sharif. They were also “offended” – by some no-name pastor on the other side of the planet burning a book. The Taliban’s idea of due process is less protracted than the Australians’, but operates on the same basic principle – that the right not to be offended is sacred.

As some of us said over the free-speech wars in Canada, if a multicultural society is not to descend from soft totalitarianism into naked thuggery, its citizens need to grow thicker skins: We need not sensitivity training, but insensitivity training. Instead, the Euro-Aussie-Canadian model thinks things will all work out if only we tiptoe ever more daintily on multiculti eggshells. Or as The Daily Caller’s Mike Riggs tweets:

What are you willing to stop doing to avoid offending violent religious zealots?

What core liberties are you willing to trade for a quiet life? Because however much of the baggage you toss out the balloon, it will never be enough. Short of punitive military measures we’re not willing to take, there’s not a lot we can do about baying Afghan mobs hot for decapitating people because someone expressed an opinion. But we could at least put some clear blue water between our legal inheritance and theirs by not dragging people into Australian, Dutch, Austrian and Danish courts for the same “crime”.

PS “Death To America, Death To Obama.” As Powerline remarks, that middle name may not be quite as magical as the President believes.