Proving the adage about stopped clocks, it was Noam Chomsky who said, “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all”. I don’t like Chomsky, but I believe in his right to say even the horrendous things he said about people who declined Covid vaccines. Because, offensive as it was, Chomsky’s statement was very far from incitement. More importantly, because it exposed Chomsky for what he truly is: when push came to shove, the supposed defender of freedom and human rights is just another authoritarian shithead.

For the same reason, the explosion of naked anti-Semitism in Western societies following Oct. 7 is challenging the centre-right to put their money where their mouths are, when it comes to freedom of speech.

The right have for years assumed the mantle of defenders of free speech. Whether via Cancel Culture, or ever-expanding “hate speech” and “misinformation” laws, the argument is that the left are authoritarians who are rigorously suppressing views they don’t like. Which is true enough.

But, how prepared are we to believe in freedom of expression for people and views we despise?

There have been calls for federal legislation to ban publications by partisans on both sides in the debate over Gaza where those publications do not advocate violence against any person or group but may well be offensive to most members of the Australian community.

It is worth remembering that it is a crime – and always has been at common law – to engage in any incitement to violence against an individual or group in the community, whether or not the incitement is based upon some racial, religious or national characteristic.

As it happens, there is also a specific statutory provision in the commonwealth criminal code that makes it an offence to urge the use of force or violence towards another person or group on the basis of race, religion, nationality or national or ethnic origin.

This is where, for instance, the Muslim mob who descended on the Sydney Opera House to celebrate the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust clearly stepped over the line into incitement. Whether or not you believe the obvious bullshit from NSW Police, who claim the mob chanted “Where’s the Jews?” instead of “Gas the Jews!”, it was a textbook case of John Stuart Mill’s dictum that free speech has crossed over into incitement when, An opinion that corn-dealers are starvers of the poor, or that private property is… delivered orally to an excited mob assembled before the house of a corn-dealer, or when handed about among the same mob in the form of a placard.

Similarly, Australian law regards as incitement when the inciter or incited intend that the subject of the incitement be committed (this explains, by the way, why NSW Police were so determined to try and downplay what everyone can clearly hear on video of the night). So, when Muslim preachers in Sydney repeatedly urge their congregations to anti-Jewish violence, it seems pretty clear that incitement has taken place.

So, too, the leftist activists who doxxed hundreds of Jewish Australians clearly intended at least that their targets be unlawfully harassed (or else why publish addresses, photos, and places of work?). Which has, in fact, duly occurred. Many have been credibly threatened with harm and death.

Once again, then, this is not free speech, but incitement.

But legislation that goes further and outlaws the expression of political opinions, no matter how absurd and offensive, is a dangerous restriction on freedom of speech. As American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes said in a judgment of the US Supreme Court in 1919: “I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death.”

Holmes was making the point that once some political opinions are outlawed, there is no reason why many others should not be added to this category, given that there are few political opinions some members of the community do not find offensive or insulting.

This is the problem about section 18C of the existing federal Racial Discrimination Act that makes it unlawful, albeit not a criminal offence, to, among other things, offend or insult groups in the community on the basis of, race, colour or national or ethnic origin.

On the other hand, old-school anti-Semite Fredrick Toben did not commit incitement when he posted his Holocaust denial material. Absurd and deeply offensive, not just to Jews but any decent person, the material did not cross the line into incitement.

Yet, Toben was charged and convicted — not one Muslim preacher or leftist inciting violence and harassment of Jews has.

On the other hand, the idiot mobs parroting Hamas slogans and spouting historically illiterate nonsense that Jews are “colonisers” should be, however odious they are, must not be suppressed.

This is because it forces those engaged in these utterances out into the open and enables the community to see what their views really are. It has been instructive, for example, to learn who are the supporters of Hamas in the Australian community.

The Australian

No one can now be under any illusions about the true nature of even the mainstream left in Australia, nor the supposedly “peaceful majority” of Muslims, let alone academia. The veil has been ripped away and their full ugliness exposed. The “progressive”, “tolerant” left have unequivocally exposed themselves as hateful, ugly, bigoted, and very, very intolerant.

Thanks to free speech.

Punk rock philosopher. Liberalist contrarian. Grumpy old bastard. I grew up in a generational-Labor-voting family. I kept the faith long after the political left had abandoned it. In the last decade...