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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019) and AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021).

Thursday, October 06, 2011

One reason why it's hard to feel sorry for Andrew Bolt...

... is that he did not stand up for Bill Henson's freedom of expression. Quite the opposite.

One thing that I'd like to know is how many of the people who are rallying to support Bolt also supported Henson when the going was rough.

That's not to say that the law under which Bolt was pursued is all fine and flawless, just because Bolt has unclean hands regarding freedom of expression issues. Freedom of expression should apply even to people who are not committed to it. I think that the provision is flawed and has been interpreted in a very broad way to capture a mixture of speech that should be legally tolerated and speech that is better regarded as defamation. However, Bolt does look pretty hypocritical here - he defends free speech when it suits him and attacks it when it serves his illiberal social agenda.

We should actually have a broad debate about freedom of speech in Australia and look at all of the laws that impinge on freedom of speech and expression, including defamation law. Even if some of the defenders of free speech who are coming out of the woodwork seem hypocritical, a debate about free speech issues - and the never ending attacks on free speech - is overdue.

All the same, it would just be nice to know who (besides me) has stood up for freedom of speech and expression in a principled and consistent way through all these debates.


Rob Simpson said...

Spot on.

Brian said...

Freedom of Speech only applies to the good guys. Not the lefties, pinkos, boat-people, fair or otherwise skinned, not to immigrants. After all, Andrew Bolt and his ilk are true people, the rest are others and have no rights when they conflict with Bolt's rights. ;)

Russell Blackford said...

That's always the temptation, isn't it? It's always easy to see why freedom of speech should apply only to your own side and to do some special pleading about why, in any particular case, it doesn't apply to the other side. E.g. I'm sure Bolt would have some special resson not to give its benefit to Bill Henson.

Russell Blackford said...

To be fair, Chris Berg seems to be one person who has run a free speech line in all of the debates. If so, then kudos to him for consistency and principle.