Columnist sued for offensive blog

Andrew Bolt after another tiring day in court

Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt is in hot water over a blog post he wrote in 2009 entitled “White is the new black”. In the post, Bolt names several prominent light skinned aborigines and suggests that they have chosen to identify as Koori to obtain grants, scholarships and jobs meant for aborigines. An excerpt of his piece states:

“Larissa Behrendt has also worked as a professional Aborigine ever since leaving Harvard Law School, despite looking almost as German as her father name, and having been raised by her white mother.

She chose to be Aboriginal, as well, a member of the “Eualayai and Kammillaroi nations”, and is now a senior professor at the University of Technology in Sydney’s Indigenous House of Learning.

She’s won many positions and honours as an Aborigine, including the David Unaipon Award for Indigenous Writers, and is often interviewed demanding special rights for “my people”.

But which people are “yours”, exactly, Larissa? And isn’t it bizarre to demand laws to give you more rights as a white Aborigine than your own white mum?”

The academics named in his piece have decided to sue him, on the basis of the Racial Discrimination Act. They assert that Bolt made comments that were “of race, colour and/or ethnic origin” and  “reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” them.

A full listing of the Racial Discrimination Act can be found here.

Much of this case has gone into dissecting Bolt’s beliefs regarding race, as well as his intentions in writing the piece. Before we start to consider whether Andrew Bolt is a racist, or if his ideas have any merit whatsoever, we should first ask ourselves: Why are we having this discussion in a court room?

The plaintiffs in this case are not asking for financial restitution, instead they are asking for an apology and for the offending article to be removed. In many ways this is much worse than asking for large sums of money, they are asking for Bolt’s opinion to be stifled and removed from the public discourse. A tolerant, intelligent society should not feel the need to censor bad ideas: bad ideas are best addressed by open, public debate. If the academics named in this piece feel that Andrew is wrong, why not write a rebuttal?  A society that makes speech illegal because it is “likely to offend” has in essence taken the first steps in stifling free speech entirely. This fact is perhaps not lost on Bolt nor his legal team:

“Bolt’s legal team has run a two-prong defence, arguing that he was motivated not by racism but by his loathing of racism and that the offending pieces ought in any case to be protected by the implied constitutional right to free speech.

They have signalled their intent to challenge the constitutionality of Part IIa of the Racial Discrimination Act should they lose the case, or should they face an appeal in the event of a victory.”

Given that Australia has no explicit right to free speech,  it remains to be seen whether such a legal appeal would succeed.

Read more here: Bolt’s testimony at odds with his writings, court told – Karl Quinn

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Categories: Beliefs, Morals, Multiculturalism, People

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12 Comments on “Columnist sued for offensive blog”

  1. April 6, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    Sometimes I hate what Andrew Bolt says, but I gotta say, the man has balls. Here he is merely voicing what thousands, perhaps millions, of Australians are thinking every year. Even I will admit that when I have been filling out my tax file / employer information and am presented with the “Are you an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander” I have thought in the past “If only!”

  2. April 6, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    By the way James, this paragraph you’ve written is the entire reason Intentious.com exists. Well said. “A tolerant, intelligent society should not feel the need to censor bad ideas: bad ideas are best addressed by open, public debate. If the academics named in this piece feel that Andrew is wrong, why not write a rebuttal? A society that makes speech illegal because it is “likely to offend” has in essence taken the first steps in stifling free speech entirely.”

  3. April 6, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

    As much as I dislike Andrew Bolt this attempt to censor someone’s opinion is just unacceptable. Where do we stop censoring other people opinions due to “offence”? Everyone has opinions that could potentially offend someone else. It’s just words, wait until he commits an actual crime or just ignore it and get on with your life.

    One thing that fascinates me is this belief that if we just stop people expressing opinions we don’t like then they’ll disappear. Well, they don’t, they just go into hiding and once they’re hidden how can you tell who is racist and who isn’t? No, it is better that we allow people to condemn themselves with their own words than risk hiding thugs in school uniforms.

  4. April 10, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

    There’s always a limit.

  5. Richard Lee
    April 11, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    Perhaps the reason that the nefarious move to censor is 1) they know their view won’t garner as much publicity 2) they feel they are legitimising their opponent as a sparring partner and 3) they have no factual or obvious answer that will win the argument.

    The CRU crew trying to sensor Dellingpole for instance for being critical of them and their leaked e-mails regarding Climate Change:
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100083071/uea-the-sweet-smell-of-napalm-in-the-morning/

  6. sam
    August 17, 2011 at 10:12 am #

    any half intelegent person can get their point across without offending people, the fact is andy was trying to offend Aboriginal people.

    I as a HUMAN, I as an ABORIGINAL I dont deserve his crap, anyone talk crap to me will know about it, Just like always racial taunts from white’s, white gets just deserts, blame the Aboriginal, vent your racist dribble around me and it may be the last time you walk properly, we are sick of waiting for white aussie to grow up so now they can learn the hard way, you know the violet inhumain way that whites brought to this Aboriginal land.

    whites are worth less than a worm in the ground

    • August 17, 2011 at 11:11 am #

      Don’t be like Andrew Bolt and seek to offend people back. I do have sympathy for you though you guys have put up with generations of crap from us. Well, so have all minority groups really. Racial, religious, gender, etc etc etc…

    • James Hill
      August 18, 2011 at 11:34 am #

      I have zero sympathy for someone that demands fair treatment as a human being then decries an entire race of people as being worth less than the worms in the ground. Also, if you’re unable to counter an “offensive” opinion with anything other than threats of violence, this whole debating thing may not be for you.

      • Sam
        October 5, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

        your benefiting off stolen wealth the same as all Australians, show me the documents that show Aboriginal people giving up their land. they dont exist. The whole basis of justifying the invasion was we dont have a system of law and boundarys of land ownership, both have been proven wrong, their are heaps of non Aboriginal people who dont USE out dated 17th and 18th century reasoning and those humans of worth were never meant to be included, Australia doesnt even rule them selfs as it is english colonial law, not Australian and not international law. This 8 or so generations means little compared to 18500 generations over the last 50000 years. Aboriginal rights are going to happen whether you agree or not, I suggest you get involved and find out the truth for your childrens sake, I dont wish them to struggle in the new Australia so its in your and their best interest to move past 18th and 19th century thinking and get activly involved, not just negative misinformed hate dribble. do you even know the history of the Aboriginal nations land you live on? or do you get your info from opinion writers. just look at the votes, at least im saying things from my own mind not just copying what the sheep say

  7. Sam
    October 5, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    their are a few examples of gaged free speech in Australia. The people of Palm Island are trying to over turn a gag order that is in place to protect a violent (white) police officer that bashed an inmate under HIS CARE to death, the extent of damage lead the coroner to think he was hit by a care, c’mon show me your care for free speech and support these people, or do you only support racist free speech? ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THEN WORDS!

    • James Hill
      October 5, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

      Neither of your comments had anything to do with the original piece and my main assertion: using court orders rather than intellectual debate to challenge unpopular opinion is harmful to society. You can’t even provide sources for your own points. It’s almost as if you’re hoping to win the debate by appealing to white liberal guilt rather than addressing the issues at hand.

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