By Andrew L. Urban
I can claim to have interviewed someone from perhaps the smallest and potentially most vulnerable minority group in contempo Australia: a club footed black dyke. Rachel was a delightful interview subject and anything but a victim.
We met on the streets of Sydney, Oxford St to be precise, as she got out of a cab and I was there with my cameraman Greg Kay shooting some random street interviews for my SBS TV series, Front Up. We walked up to her only aware she was black … the club foot came soon after and as she told us about where she was going (to meet her current lover) came the lesbian.
I doubt she would be offended and insulted by my rather irreverent description of her. I doubt it because she has a great sense of humour and a healthy self respect. But perhaps others would be offended … insulted even. On her behalf. She would laugh them out of the pub.
It’s not exactly hate speech, I grant you, but that’s my point. Hate speech is easy to identify and negate, usually by ridicule. Likewise the extreme example of insulting speech, Holocaust denial. I mean really, who can take that seriously? While I understand Jews being outraged, I think a loud guffaw is a better response, followed by turning to other matters. It hardly warrants a moment’s attention. Holocaust denial belongs in the scrapyard of public debate alongside the conspiracy theories that hold the moon landing a fake and the 9/11 attacks a CIA plot to foment hatred against militant Islam. Those theories can be seen as equally offensive to many; they certainly offend against our intelligence.
Taking offence and insult on racial grounds into the criminal code – as the Anti Discrimination Act Section 18C does (unless changed) – drags Australia into the embrace of fervent Muslims who burn flags and destroy property when they hear reports of cartoons about their prophet.
I think Christopher Hitchens addressed this topic rather well when he said “freedom of speech is meaningless unless it means the freedom of the person who thinks differently.” (He was actually quoting Rosa Luxembourg).