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Bolt and the right to be a bigot

March 24th, 2014

The ABC News report on the government’s legislation to repeal section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, motivated by the Bolt case, makes interesting reading. Foreshadowing the legislation designed to prevent future cases of this kind, AG George Brandis notes that it defends “the right to be a bigot“.

Brandis didn’t draw the obvious implication, but he didn’t have to. Bolt has made a career out of pandering to the bigotry of his audience. As with others in the crowded field of rightwing journamalism, it’s not clear whether Bolt himself is a bigot, or whether he just plays one on the Internet, but the act is loud enough to please his ignorant and bigoted readers, and skilful enough to earn him plenty of friends among people who should know enough to be ashamed of themselves.

I don’t have a fixed view on the legislation in question, but my feeling is that racial bigotry should, at the least, be an aggravating factor in cases of individual defamation. If that rule were applied, the plaintiffs in the Bolt case would almost certainly have received substantial damages in individual defamation actions, given the findings that Bolt’s racially loaded claims about them were factually false and “not made reasonably and in good faith”.

Update I should have mentioned that “bigot” is a euphemism for the R-word, which our defenders of free speech insist must never be applied to anyone, with the exception of one person who is excluded here by virtue of Godwin’s Law.

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  1. John Quiggin
    March 29th, 2014 at 19:22 | #1

    As you say, Jim, Bolt’s libels are always premised on the idea that the person or group he is defaming is “Other”, while his audience is the default. Meanwhile, Bolt’s paymasters are robbing them blind and they don’t even notice.

  2. rog
    March 29th, 2014 at 21:16 | #2

    @Jim Rose You need to check your sources, that is not what appears on the records.

  3. March 30th, 2014 at 09:40 | #3

    @Jim Rose
    Your ability to completely misunderstand the point Niemoeller was making is impressive.

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