The IPA and 18C

The obsessive desire of the current government to protect the right to offend and humiliate people on the basis of their race or religion has been driven, in large measure, by the Institute of Public Affairs. The IPA has a mixed* record on freedom of speech, and on the kind of offensive speech that is the subject of 18C.

Some IPA fellows, such as Chris Berg and Matthew Lesh take the Voltaire line, defending free speech even when they don’t like the content. And, as far as I can tell, neither Berg nor Lesh has ever said anything offensively bigoted.

Unfortunately, they appear to be in the minority at the IPA. More representative of the general atmosphere of the IPA are cases like this and this, where IPA fellows were caught saying in public the kind of thing they want to protect legally.

And while Berg is keen to protect the right to boycott, the IPA also published this piece, suggesting that critics of coal could be prosecuted under the Corporations Act. I had a long series of Twitter exchanges with Tim Wilson, then “Freedom Commissioner” and now a Liberal MP, in which I asked if he would disavow this suggestion. He evaded the question repeatedly then (IIRC) blocked me.

Overall, I’d say the IPA should clean up its own act before pretending to lead a crusade (or jihad) for free speech.

* I mean this literally, not as a euphemism for “bad”

60 thoughts on “The IPA and 18C

  1. @HED PE
    Helen Dale has somewhat checked record with regard to the truth, read her wiki entry. She has fairly solid far right credentials. Worked for Sen. Leyonhelm. Her account of Leak’s maneuvering may be a bit hysterical, and one is left to wonder what phantom was pursuing him? Mind you, if I had Andrew Bolt as a coworker I’d be paranoid as well.

  2. But really the term ‘activist judge’ does have a meaning to a certain type of right wing person; it is one of those coded words or terms, a dog whistle that speaks volumes to those who are in the club and triggers their special sort of hypocrisy. Because it is entirely okay to have a judge who actively supports conservative values.

  3. Perhaps we could have some Canadian input on similarities and controversy surrounding Canada’s recent M 103 legislation? From what I understand, it might be somewhat heavy-handed, as it seems to have a few bona fide lefties off-side. No doubt it is also the bete noire of equivalent IPA style…think-tanks?
    There’s a good comment on Ali Rizvi’s Twitter page here…scroll down to March 23 entry

    And further on 18C

  4. Incidentally, the more I learn about Bill Leak the more I like him even though most of cartoons offended my own value system and aggravated my gastric reflux

    I’ve just looked at some of his cartoons and didn’t feel offended or experience gastric reflux, but I kept thinking ‘I don’t get it; how is this supposed to be funny?’ I guess his sense of humour was drastically different from mine.

  5. However I find your suggestions as to how a satirical film about Islam might be construed as ‘racist’ for the purposes of section 18C of the RDA pretty unconvincing,

    Fundamentally the problem you’re running into is that HED is conflating the issues of whether a film is a satirical take on islam and whether a film is racist. I mean, they’re obviously separate questions, we can make films that are both or neither or one-but-not-the-other…

    … but that means “no, because it’s a satirical take on islam” isn’t a valid answer to the question, “is it racist”.

  6. @Patrick Brosnan: Humour requires empathy/theory-of-mind: jokes pivot on building misleading expectations, and to do that you have to have some idea of how brains-not-your-own craft the expectations they have.

    But empathy/theory-of-mind is in short supply on the hardline right, so they by-and-large can’t build proper jokes. All they have is unusual/inappropriate/surprising references/linkages and a vague sort of smug “look at those people! aren’t they not-like-us and ‘funny'”.

    [something shared with certain traditions of extreme nerd humour, btw.]

  7. Collin Street @59, that is why P J O’Rourke can be genuinely funny while his Antipodean imitators can’t be. O’Rourke understands liberals and the Left sufficiently well to be able to tease out amusing lacunae in our thinking and actions. He also understands his own side well enough to be able to point out their amusing lacunae from time to time. Australian right-wingers, by contrast, don’t understand the Left because their heads are full of phantoms of their own devising such as TEH LEFT, TEH FEMINISTS, TEH GREENIES, etc. Therefore the only humour we ever see from the Right is the unintentionally self-parodic kind when they sink hilariously into bathos, as QuadRANT and Jennifer Oriel have done in response to Bill Leak’s untimely death.

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