The Corner

Re: Free Speech Disaster in Australia

Stan, I was traveling when the guilty verdict against Andrew Bolt came through, and, cut off from news coverage, I had hoped it might at least be narrowly drawn. But Justice Mordecai Bromberg’s ruling is absolutely appalling in the precedent it sets for “freedom” of speech in Australia.

Just to recap, Andrew Bolt is Oz’s leading political columnist, in print, radio, TV (think George Will) and he commented on the striking number of extremely light-skinned Aboriginal activists of mainly Caucasian descent and appearance who choose to identify as Aboriginal for the purpose of accessing lucrative identity-politics gigs. The key passage in Bromberg’s decision is:

I am satisfied that fair-skinned Aboriginal people (or some of them) were reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to have been offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated by the imputations conveyed by the newspaper articles.

“Fair-skinned Aboriginal people (or some of them)”? Any idea of the percentages? What proportion were offended and what weren’t? This is a case without victims, in which the judge has ruled that it is “reasonably likely” there are some victims out there somewhere or other. As to it being “reasonably likely” that they were offended, is it “reasonably likely” beyond a reasonable doubt? Or does every bedrock principles of English law have to subordinate itself to the human right not to be offended?

I touched on the Bolt case in a recent NR cover story on the shriveling of freedom of speech across the Western world:

If the state creates a human right to be offended and extends it only to members of certain interest groups, it is quite naturally incentivizing membership in those membership groups. Andrew Bolt, Australia’s leading columnist, was struck by the very noticeable non-blackness of so many prominent Aussie “blacks”, and wrote a couple of columns on the theme of identity-group opportunism. He’s now been dragged into court and denounced as a “racist” – “racism” having degenerated into a term for anyone who so much as broaches the subject. But, if the law confers particular privileges on members of approved identity groups, how we define the criteria for membership of those groups is surely a legitimate subject for public debate.

I’ll stand by that. Instead, Bromberg’s execrable decision has dramatically incentivized the willingness of favored groups to take offence – and dramatically constrained the ability of mainstream media commentators even to raise the issue. Shame on Australia.

Mark Steyn — Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist. That’s to say, his latest book, After America (2011), is a top-five bestseller in ...

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