“Knock knock.” “Who’s there?” “The Feelings Police, you’re under arrest!”
Just imagine that happening to you: you post your opinion on Facebook, no matter how disgusting, and suddenly you’re facing armed police at your door and possible jail.
This bad joke literally played out at the business premises of chiropractor Chris Nelson. Welcome to the sorry state of Australia’s regressive left politics. The now infamous back cracker allegedly posted a racist Facebook rant about Senator Nova Peris which may land him in jail for the crime of “using a carriage service to cause offence.”
Yes, offending is a jailable crime in Australia. Let that sink in. God knows how the producers of racist, sexist, bigoted, paedophilic, zoophilic, hilarious South Park haven’t been charged, let alone folks on YouTube.
As far as I’m concerned Nelson’s alleged post against Peris is ugly racism. Note though that Nelson apparently intends to deny he authored it, arguing instead that he was “hacked.”
So what’s the issue here? Essentially it is the time-honoured view that ‘I disagree completely with what you said, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ Except not in the nanny state of Australia where “offending” someone’s feelings can land you in jail.
Government can’t help itself but attempt to smooth seemingly all of life’s bumps. You see, you’re not adult enough to cope so the ‘Feelings Police’ must intervene. Been to a comedy show? Offense is almost assured, yet we get over it. Indeed, it’s often what we expect when we buy a ticket.
Even Senator Peris, the target of Nelson’s alleged disgusting post, did not report him to Facebook, let alone to the police. Instead, in a display of maturity she left Nelson’s alleged comment to reflect on him for what his alleged comment may tell us about him as a person. It seems to be far better to know what someone is really like, rather than not to know.
Australians are being challenged by this. Do you believe in free speech, or not? Do you actually authorise your MP to send armed police out every time some alleged lowlife says something offensive (to the tiny minds of some), and where will it all end? Neal Boortz summed up the intellectual question when he stated that: “free speech is meant to protect unpopular speech. Popular speech, by definition, needs no protection.”
Freedom to speak provides us the tools with which to openly debate, scrutinise and satire opinions and beliefs, retiring obsolete ones to the bookshelf. This is how science and reason have triumphed over superstition and how human rights have made so much progress against those wolves in sheep’s clothing who would limit and control our thoughts.
The alternative to free speech would be the complete slavery of Orwell’s book 1984, from which evil terms like ‘newspeak’ and ‘thought crime’ arise. If we really value freedom and human rights then limiting or abolishing them with the ‘Feelings Police’ can lead us in only one direction; to oppression.
We simply have to accept that shielding ourselves from a bag of ideas because some might be “offended” is to deny open debate and mature scrutiny and to abandon our own responsibility to exercise mature judgement. Once government starts deciding for us what is and what isn’t offensive then we start down the slippery slope of censorship. That’s what the Inquisition was all about in its torture chambers, where it took ‘offense’ to scientists trying to point out that the Earth really does revolve around the Sun.
It may start with arresting alleged bonkers, racist chiropractors today but what about tomorrow if you want to speak out against something? The precedent has been set, and the sensible and mature saying our parents taught us ‘that sticks and stones may break bones but words can never hurt us’ has been forgotten. Forgotten by the timid and the fearful and the weak. Australians are not descended from such folk, but is that what we have become?
Clearly, we can already ostracize shame and penalise bigotry. We don’t need and should not want the state to erode everyone’s liberty in the process though. For that is the real evil. If we allow people like Nelson to become the excuse to take away our liberty and our freedom to speak then we lose and he wins.
Regrettably, Australia’s Constitution does not protect our freedom of speech. It should be amended to. It’s time to speak out against repressive policing of speech and political correctness whilst we still can, before they brand even that as ‘offensive.’
IMAGE: Via Shutterstock.com
Andrew Kollington is a lawyer and graduate in International Relations and Political Science from the University of New England, and attended the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is also an investor, and panelist at the London Debating Society.