Murdering Words

An article at New Matilda from an Australian academic on something he proceeds to prove to be very much outside his field.

How often do you see that?

In this case the something is freedom of speech. Also geopolitics and the notion of racism.

As a consequence the professor has flung one of the laziest smears of racism that you will see anywhere. The logic will astound you.

He does not leave it at that. He makes this reflex allegation in a piece in which he contends that freedom of speech is stunted for some by Abbott because Abbott is exercising his right to respond in full force to critiques.

Doing his job, anyone else would say. Just as every other PM has since time immemorial. This is called liberal democracy. Fortunately there is still quite a lot of it around.

This is a complaint that the principle of free speech in Australia is warped and restricted by prejudice in an article where the writer smears the PM as a racist. With respect, the professor has had an irony bypass. So many of them have. The very presence of his piece disproves his point. How often do you see that?

How else to explain a phenomenon like Noam Chomsky, for instance. His malign influence in the West is confined to the universities, wider elsewhere, but no one can deny he flourishes under the political culture he has spent a long and prolific career denouncing. His very presence disproves everything he says. There is some kind of dead hand over the minds of the intellectual and academic left that blinds out entirely the main points.

Part of the problem with the academic left has to be that they have breathed in the freedoms and virtues of our political culture so deep into their bones for so long and for so many generations they have long forgotten the meaning of powerful ideas such as freedom of speech. The abundance and fortune of fresh air freedom has gone to the head. The free air is invisible so it is completely out of mind

They need to get out more or something.

A reply, slightly edited, follows. Here is the professor’s article.

Freedom In Abbott’s Australia: Did Someone Say Racism?  By Carl Rhodes
It seems freedom of speech is a pretty subjective thing in Team Australia, suggests Professor Carl Rhodes.
 
There has a lot been said in 2015 about freedom of speech. In the wake of the Hedbo massacre in Paris pundits and politicians have been hailing it as a central value of democracy.
 
Never one to pass up on the opportunity to breathe life into his faltering ratings in the opinion polls, Tony Abbott stepped up with vigour. Condemned were the ‘Islamists’ for their hatred of democratic freedom.
 
Even more recently, after bullets were showered over a Copenhagen café hosting satirical cartoonist Lars Vilks, Abbott was on the front foot proclaiming that “the Copenhagen attack is an affront to one of our most fundamental values – freedom of speech”.
 
Abbot is clearly making a distinction between who he sees as the ‘us’ and the ‘them’. When he speaks of ‘our’ values it is quite clear who is included and excluded by this possessive pronoun.
 
When Stephen Hicks shot and killed three Muslim students in the United States earlier this month, Abbott was not rushing to the press gallery to condemn terrorism. He was silent.
 
The freedom Abbott speaks of appears only to be one that is to be directed against terrorists who he can associate with Islam. Terrorism in Africa and Pakistan is off Abbott’s radar. So is the Islamic condemnation of what he refers to with rhetorical flourish as the ‘Islamic State death cult’.
 
Did someone say racism? Abbott stands up proud and righteous when condemning Islamic terrorists, but there is no comment when it comes to white terrorists. It seems that the freedom of speech that Abbott himself exercises is most selective. It is reserved for defending Western victims against non-western terrorists. continue here:
Posted Friday, February 20, 2015 – 17:49
This is the most sustained, confused piece on the idea of freedom of speech in recent memory.
 
Nothing in it makes any sense at all. It is striking how often you can say that about an article written by an academic on something even marginally outside their field.  It is even more striking that so many attempt it.  That alone inspires ungenerous speculation.  Why do they do that?
 
Let us be clear about this. Freedom of speech does not imply some sort of right to be indulged.  Speak up by all means.  By doing so you may be confirming only that you are an idiot.  Others have the right and freedom to say so and why.  That is not a curtailment of your freedom.  What you appear to be suggesting is that your freedom of speech depends on somebody else’s being suppressed.
 
What is this?  Freedom of speech for you and those you agree with but not for any critics?  Otherwise your freedoms are impinged?  Your critiques are good.The PM’s, doing his job, and calling it as sees it, are bad?
Freedom of speech does not infer an obligation on others to take you seriously or even to listen.  Speak out if you want.  Whether anyone takes any notice of you is their business and theirs alone.  If they and the government choose to ignore you, outside of some formal process, then that is entirely their prerogative.
 
Freedom of speech does not create an obligation to speak.  Perhaps you think Abbott should have said something about that terrible crime in North Carolina but the fact he did not hardly has anything to do with freedom of speech.  How on earth do you figure it has?  Whose?  His?  Yours?
 
Once you raise the North Carolina crime then you have lost the argument.  You have merely confirmed you have nothing on the subject worth hearing; and this is an exercise of the freedom to say so.  Suck it up or ignore it. The choice is entirely yours.  No offence but no one else cares.  This is known as freedom.
 
The crime in the US, as shocking as it was, was committed by some hateful gun nut against people he knew. Neighbours. What exactly motivated this known nutter may emerge in the trial but it isn’t difficult to imagine some form of hatred played a role.  But what  truly distinguishes it from the crimes of political Islam is that the monster was immediately grabbed by the state, taken out of circulation and will be subjected to the full force of due process that, this  being North Carolina, will likely mean that  the killer will be on trial for his life.
 
No one is speaking up in his defence.  No one is trying to explain, understand, excuse or justify this crime.  Of course he will have a lawyer at trial who will do her important job.  However this is a man who has seen his last sun.  He is buried forever in one way or another.
 
To pick out this single event from abroad and present it as some kind of counterweight to the daily dump of atrocities committed in the sweep of political Islam across the globe has to be some kind of fresh genus of delusion.  Maybe an old delusion driven to a new height.  Abbott ignored this horrible crime because it is irrelevant to what he was talking about.
 
Terrorism in Afghanistan and Africa are not under anybody’s radar.  On the contrary. There too, terrorism is savage and rampant, also driven by Islamist ideology that inspire gangs and insurgencies that have put Australian service personnel  in harm’s way for years.  Whose radar is that under?
 
The suggestion that Abbott is a racist because the killer in North Carolina was a “white man”, and his victims Muslims, is actually disgraceful.  This lazy, unthinking smear is the shit icing on a cockroach cake.  Loose allegations of racism, like loose allegations of antisemitism, are contemptible.
 
This is a loose allegation of racism if there ever was one.
 
An unhelpful contribution at a bad time. There is something very unpleasant going down in our universities. It’s about time it was called.

 

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One comment

  1. Geoff, I agree with you that this professor’s argument lacks logic and coherence. The shooting of the 3 Muslims in America was not done in the name of any religion or ideology, and there is as yet no evidence that they were shot because they were Muslim. However, the shootings in Copenhagen were done in the name of religion;one shooting was an attempt to suppress freedom of speech, while the other was antisemitic. How this professor can make a correlation between the 2 events and accuse Abbott of being hypocritical in speaking out about the one event and not the other escapes me. Also, where does the racism come in? Islam is not a race, but an ideology. How can you be racist if you oppose an ideology? If this argument held water, then anyone who opposed Nazism or Communism would be a racist.