Hate speech as free speech

“I can’t stand Muslims … They’re not all bad – they do chuck pillow-biters off buildings.” Larry Pickering is a cartoonist. He was the VIP guest at a February Q Society meeting in Sydney. To help with the fundraising, he donated one of his own sketches for auction – a depiction of a veiled Muslim woman being raped by her son-in-law. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, it went for $600.

The “political correctness has gone mad and free speech is under attack everywhere” industry is flourishing and this was its nasty little heart. Q Society president Debbie Robinson told those gathered at the North Ryde RSL: “Australia is much further down the path of political correctness than most people realise”.

Pickering and Robinson were followed by former Liberal MP Ross Cameron who said: “The NSW division of the Liberal Party is basically a gay club. I don’t mind that they are gay, I just wish, like Hadrian, they would build a wall”. (Hadrian’s Wall, begun in AD 122, was the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire). He later tried to defend his comments as being merely well-intentioned humour.

Cameron and his fellow travellers – One Nation, the right wing of the Liberal Party, the columnists in Murdoch press – bang on about enemies of freedom and the censorship of their ideas.

But by their own words it is obvious that they hate freedom: they hate religious freedom; they hate the free association of workers in unions; they hate a woman’s freedom to choose; they hate the idea of gays and lesbians gaining the freedom to marry. And the only speech the free speech warriors truly cherish is hate speech.

They often try to disguise their motives with all sorts of deceptive language and sophistry. The Q Society, for example, calls itself “a not-for-profit civil rights organisation”. It has echoes of US president Andrew Johnson vetoing the 1866 Civil Rights Act on the grounds that, by formally granting Blacks citizenship and equal rights, it discriminated against whites.

The bigots aren’t that clever, but, like that miserable specimen Andrew Johnson, they know what they’re doing: they’re organising the reactionaries by pretending to be victims.

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