WITH INQUIRIES afoot into Monday’s despicable episode of #QandA and the furore over giving airtime to a violent thug and gang rape advocate refusing to abate, apologists from ABC Managing Director Mark Scott down have sought to defend the show based on free speech. No “right” to free speech features taxpayer-funded airtime for criminals. If it did, questions of bias and decency are separate issues Scott’s “defence” fails to address.
In the wake of the reprehensible episode of #QandA broadcast on Monday night — an outrage unapologetically compounded as the ABC repeated the broadcast, unedited, on Wednesday — the most disgusting (but not unexpected) aspect of the saga to date has been the parade of various left-wing sympathisers in the press and elsewhere lining up to defend “their ABC” on the basis that convicted criminal, gang rape advocate and former accused terrorist Zaky Mallah was not only entitled to appear on the programme, but to proclaim that the fact he did was evidence of free speech at work and of the ABC’s fine record in empowering the powerless, and of giving them a voice.
What absolute bullshit.
At best, those who have been trotted out to fly the flag on the ABC’s behalf — from its Managing Director Mark Scott down — have spoken of freedom of speech without any appropriate sense of context for it; at worst, this was an unforgivable exercise in providing a national platform for a dangerous criminal that was contrived to either poke the hated Abbott government in the collective eye, or to publicly signal (yet again) the ABC’s solidarity with elements obsessed with undermining the national interest and bald in their hatred of our society.
In Scott’s case, he has also confused the difference between a “state broadcaster” and a “public broadcaster” and exhibited an intolerable ignorance of what is acceptable for broadcast by a media outlet entirely funded by taxpayer money.
The merit or otherwise of providing access to a vehicle for mass broadcast to a known terrorist sympathiser and would-be murderer of law enforcement officers has, coincidentally, been exposed with deadly effect tonight, as news of yet another murder attributed to Islamic State insurgents — this time in Grenoble in France — filters out of Europe, and given Mallah’s past support for radical Islamic terrorism and his intended travel to Syria to join jihadis (to “observe” them, he claims), those who now defend the wisdom of putting Mallah in front of a national audience of some 1,000,000 viewers should take a hard look at themselves.
Anybody who pays even the most cursory attention to the news of the world knows that Islamic terrorist groups maintain worldwide communication networks, and what happens in one location can well influence what happens in another. The attention the ABC has openly drawn to a known sympathiser of these groups could have sent a signal to allied cells in France.
On Monday, Islamic State begins a week of high-profile controversial publicity in Australia, aided and abetted by the national broadcaster; on Friday, it perpetuates its dominance of news media worldwide by murdering someone in France in the name of its cause. This is not a long bow to draw. The ABC is potentially very heavily culpable for its role in the sequence of events, however innocuous it proclaims its motives on Monday were.
But let’s come back to #QandA in its domestic context, for this is the main focus of my article tonight.
When the debate over ultimately unsuccessful attempts to modify S18c of the Racial Discrimination Act began, the Left in this country was apoplectic with fury over remarks by Attorney-General George Brandis to the effect that free speech meant people have the right to be bigots, whilst others have the right to ridicule, ignore, or rebut them; in the most strictly literal sense he was right, of course, but it wasn’t the first time that the astonishingly intelligent Brandis miscommunicated his message in such a ham-fisted fashion as to render the entire debate pointless.
But if Brandis had instead issued forth an assertion that people should have the right to mouth off like murderous lunatics, to threaten members of Parliament, and to advocate the pack-rape of female journalists on national TV, would the Left have been any less enraged or strident in its denunciation? Of course not.
Yet that formulation, in effect, is precisely what those who now seek to defend Monday night’s episode of #QandA are in fact defending.
Not a syllable has been uttered publicly by any prominent mouthpiece from the Left to denounce Mallah over the tweet he posted in January — republished and widely circulated this week — in which he argued conservative commentators Miranda Devine and Rita Panahi should be gang-raped on national television on the Seven network’s Sunrise programme, and for all the bluster about “misogyny” that has seeped from the Left ever since it decided playing the gender card might cut Julia Gillard some slack and divert voters’ attention from the woefully inept government she presided over, it is a neat little illustration of just how hypocritical the Left is when it comes to “values.”
My bet is that if it had been two women from the Left, rather than female identities from the Right, there would have been no end of condemnation from Labor and the Greens instead of the silence they have met the matter with.
And only a fool claims that putting a known terrorist sympathiser, who has threatened to kill ASIO officers, on a national television show is a shining example of free speech in action, or defends such an idiocy after the event. But again, as far as the apologists from the Left are concerned, there’s no problem with having Mallah beamed into hundreds of thousands of living rooms across Australia.
If Mallah is to enjoy the right to freely peddle his odious views, let him do it at the pub (where he could have the shit beaten out of him for insulting the women present) or in his social media accounts, where people can report him for God-knows-what, block him, or simply ignore him.
Someone like Mallah neither warrants nor deserves a spot on a national forum to air such antisocial and offensive viewpoints.
Labor “leader” and seemingly incorrigible dickhead Bill Shorten has, as usual, sought to have his cake and eat it too, using the storm that has erupted over #QandA to claim the ABC is “not a propaganda arm of the government” but — surprise, surprise — nonetheless “condemning” the ABC for having Mallah on the show in the first place.
Really, any utterance from Shorten is best ignored.
But the sobering facts that have emerged during the week are that ABC staff admitted they knew of Mallah’s background and selected him to ask an audience question (or even be in the #QandA audience at all) anyway; the show’s producers reviewed and helped draft the question he asked, and it is reasonable to infer they would have also had a fair idea of which direction discussion on the show would take immediately thereafter; production staff declined to provide a discretionary but standard briefing to the Coalition MP who got into an altercation with Mallah, Steve Ciobo, which inevitably suggests the intended effect was to ambush Ciobo; and just to make sure Mallah attended at all, and played the part carefully planned out for him, the ABC saw to it that he was transported from his base in western Sydney to the ABC studio in Ultimo and back again at no cost.
I’m sorry, but which aspect of any of this speaks to an inherent “right” to free speech on Mallah’s part? The whole thing was a planned stunt.
Scott is right that there is a difference between a “state broadcaster” and a “public broadcaster;” a “state broadcaster” spews ruling party propaganda out of every conceivable media orifice (TV, radio, online) whereas the ABC’s purpose, it seems, is to spew the propaganda of the government’s opponents. It’s a very straightforward arrangement.
Nobody is asking the ABC to become some mouthpiece for conservative politics or its practitioners.
But some balance — and the abandonment of partisanship altogether — would befit a public broadcaster whose role, funded by the taxpayer, is not to engage in ideological crusades and partisan brainwashing.
It’s one thing to put what in essence is a political propaganda forum on television every week and for the Left and the Right to argue about its (indisputable) bias. But Monday’s episode was something else altogether, and enough is enough.
Piers Akerman has published an excellent piece in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph that runs as a complement to the points I have made this evening. I urge readers to take the time to peruse it, for this is one occasion when the Left are seeking to defend the indefensible, and it is time those who preside over the farce that is #QandA — at the expense of the taxpayer, just to labour the point — are held to account.
The simple fact is the ABC had no right putting a piece of shit like Mallah over the national airwaves in the first place, reaching a million viewers, much less trying to justify itself after the event as encouraging “diversity” of opinion and “free” speech.
Yet again, #QandA has gone far too far in offending the limits of fairness and decency in the drivel it purports to facilitate as fearless debate.
And to put not too fine a point on it, I reiterate that I think it should be axed: for a format that promises so much, this show has been abused as a propaganda tool one time too many, and if it returns to the air next week,* it will only be because saner and wiser heads have not yet managed to prevail.
*AND ANOTHER THING: As readers would expect, my strident criticism of #QandA has also been extensive on Twitter; to this end, I suggested yesterday that the program canvass mainstream issues rather than the standard diet of indigenous issues, climate change, gay marriage, “disadvantage,” and other matters peripheral to sound governance that it is already promoting in relation to next Monday night.
I received a curt response from someone monitoring the #QandA feed inviting me to submit a video question on “one of these mainstream issues” and I have indicated that over the weekend, I will record and send them exactly that.
Stay tuned. In the highly unlikely event they use the question I am going to send them — if #QandA even proceeds next week, that is — I will let readers know how things went.
But I won’t hold my breath. Neither should you.