Wednesday, 6 August 2014

There were mixed messages

in the media this morning. The government has, after six or seven months of political wrangling, apparently decided not to repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. This is the section which deals with racial vilification.
Minority ethnic groups are cheering loudly. Civil libertarians are expressing concern. Most of the population has no idea what the discussion is about.
The legal profession appears to be concerned and I imagine Andrew Bolt is angry about it. He was the columnist who was "caught" by the section.
My own view has always been that the section should be axed. It should be axed on the grounds that it encourages the very behaviour it is supposed to prevent. It makes for the much more dangerous covert racism rather than the overt racism which can then be roundly condemned by reasonable people.
I don't agree with the present Commonwealth Attorney-General when he said that people have the right to be bigots. I would have agreed if he had said, "There are people who are bigots and nothing is going to change that."
Bigots will speak out whatever the law says. The problem is that they be made martyrs of if there is an attempt to prosecute them. It will also be much more difficult for others to speak out against them. Racial vilification laws actually give bigots a platform they would not otherwise have. A high profile Section 18C legal case could cause far more harm than good. I suspect that Bolt's case did just that.  It was seen as politically motivated and just confirmed what he had to say in the eyes of many.
Mix all that with religious differences and it is a recipe for an explosion. Do we really want to go there?
My friends and acquaintances come in every colour, race, religion, background and belief system possible. I want it to stay that way.

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