IN THE brouhaha over a token ABC “celebrity” indulging her proven immaturity and lack of any sense of occasion by posting disrespectful left-wing propaganda on Facebook, one point is clear; this is no question of free speech, much less one of Ms Abdel-Magied’s religious views — this time — but of the ABC’s role as a taxpayer-funded national broadcaster, and what it tolerates in terms of content, balance, and the behaviour of some of its staff.
Some years ago, as the Abbott government contemplated, then shied away from, sorely needed reform of section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act, Attorney-General George Brandis waded into the debate with the inadvisable and cringeworthy observation that “people are entitled to be bigots;” widely slated for this crass (and politically damaging) utterance, Brandis was pilloried across the country, branded — among other things — as “a bigot” himself; I’ve known George for decades, and whilst I haven’t seen him for a while, he never changes. The last thing anyone who knows him would call him is “a bigot.”
Yet Brandis, in the literal sense, was correct; it is not the role of government to legislate thought, and nor should it be the role of government to legislate speech; people must have the right to think and say whatever they like: but the reciprocal obligation is upon the rest of us, whenever and wherever the nutcases show themselves, to shout them down and show their words for the offence to reality they are.
And small point as it might be to note, Brandis wasn’t actually encouraging people to be bigots. Quite the contrary.
At the time, the voices who shout loudest in this country (which emanate almost exclusively from the Left, amplified by such fine institutions as the Fairfax press and the ABC) pronounced with all the finger-shaking pomposity they could muster that not only was Brandis Public Enemy #1, but that his “honesty” amounted to an unrebuttable case as to why S18c should be strengthened, not watered down or (God forbid!) abolished altogether (as it should be).
Fast forward to early this year, and that waste of taxpayer cash, Gillian Triggs, found her way into the public discourse with a diatribe lamenting that it was regrettable that the state was unable to control the “free speech” that occurred around the kitchen tables of family homes around Australia: and if this didn’t frighten the hell out of ordinary good folk, whose only real crime is to have an opinion, then I don’t know what would.
I begin my remarks this morning thus because as a fervent champion of free speech — genuinely free speech — I have watched over the past few years, with increasing dismay, as this issue (which ought to be something Australia as a country is renowned the world over for as a strong, free country) has become little more than a political football and a slogan to be kicked around and used to hurt opponents politically.
And with ANZAC Day having been and gone again for another year, this year’s festivities have been marred by an ugly public spat over a despicable post in social media by someone who should have known better, employed by people who ought to have provided the guidance to stop her.
By now, most people will have heard of the fracas over Muslim ABC identity Yassmin Abdel-Magied’s foolhardy words on Facebook; those who haven’t can check out this article from The Australian (and I am using this, rather than any of the other reports available, as I wanted to include the opinion offered by Graham Richardson on the issue).
“Lest we forget (Nauru, Manus, Syria, Palestine),” she wrote. This reference to the hard-Left agenda of ending offshore detention, withdrawing from the Middle East and its obsession with sticking fingers (or worse) into the eyes of Israel is too blatant to claim as a coincidence, and too tastelessly timed to be anything other than a jab at another object of left-wing hatred: ANZAC Day.
Predictably, the voices of the Right roared. It was obscene, un-Australian, treacherous, disrespectful, blasphemous, an insult to the men and women who fought and died for Australia’s freedom.
It was indeed all of those things.
But the voices of the Left returned fire, claiming that calls for Ms Abdel-Magied to be sacked by the ABC proved that once and for all, the great conservative cause of free speech was nothing but a hoax; here they were, trying to shut down “free speech” from someone on the Left. How dare they! After all, Abdel-Magied was entitled to offer an opinion, wasn’t she? Or was this just because Abdel-Magied is a Muslim, and conservatives are “bigots?”
Yet again, the football that is free speech gets kicked around — and the central point (or in this case, problem) is missed.
This column believes Ms Abdel-Magied should be free to think whatever she likes, turgid and contemptible as some of those sentiments are: and courtesy of her status as one of the ABC’s tokenistic fabricated “celebrities” — who, to be blunt, would be of little interest to anyone, the ABC included, were it not for the fact she hails from a minority community — we are learning more and more about the thoughts of this lamentable excuse for a TV personality.
Such as the ridiculous notion that Islam is “the most feminist religion” in the world, when irrefutable evidence of the savagery and barbarism of fundamentalist Islamic regimes towards women in many parts of the world tells a very different story.
Or the equally fatuous suggestion that Sharia Law is purely concerned with “mercy and kindness,” and that the law of sovereign nations always takes precedence over it — when again, there is ample evidence over many years and from many countries that nothing could be further from the truth.
I think Ms Abdel-Magied is shrewd; she’s been appointed to government taskforces on multiculturalism and domestic violence; she was sent on a tour of Muslim countries by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to “promote Australia;” she was appointed to the board of the Queensland Museum; and she’s been packaged up as a “media identity” by the ABC (possibly as the ABC’s answer to Waleed Aly on The Project, about whom my objection has nothing to do with the fact he’s a Muslim and everything to do with the fact he’s a socialist idiot whose views I vehemently disagree with).
Even in an era where political, social and cultural institutions are dominated by the Left in this country, it still takes a degree of guile to extract and compile that kind of CV — much of it with salary cheques attached to it — especially for a 26-year-old, no less, and it is obvious that guile is not a commodity in which Abdel-Magied is lacking.
But I don’t think her views are in any way representative of the silent majority of Australians; and I think elements of those views are so insidious that it behoves anyone dishing out what can only be described as CV-building items to think long and hard about what kind of national “celebrities” they are creating.
Herein lies the nub of the matter: the culpability of the ABC.
“Their ABC.” The ABC of the finger-shaking Chardonnay drunks of the self-styled “elites” of the Left who would have a clear world view if they could only extract their heads from their rectums.
Too much of what the ABC puts to air — especially where politics and current affairs are concerned, and especially wherever any kind of panel or discussion is involved — is unapologetically misused as a forum to advance the causes of the political Left; whether it’s to omit key details from its coverage (like failing to identify Islamic terrorist acts as being committed by Muslims) or to stack the loathsome #QandA panel every week with a majority of leftist and radical socialist identities, the only time the ABC feigns any pretence of impartiality is when anyone tries to hold it to account.
My point is that for all the (justified) uproar over what Ms Abdel-Magied had to say on Facebook, the ruckus isn’t a question of free speech: Abdel-Magied was free to post what she did, and the rest of us were free to slap it down as the odious rubbish it was. The fact she took the post down (and apologised) is a clue that someone belatedly got through to her that there are some things you just don’t do.
But organisations like the ABC, which are responsible for providing people like Abdel-Magied a national platform from which to disseminate fringe opinions, also bear some responsibility for what their media creations subsequently say or do: if Yassmin Abdel-Magied was just a nameless resident of Brisbane — irrespective of her religious convictions — who posted something like she did on ANZAC Day, it’s doubtful anyone would have noticed, let alone cause the fuss we’ve seen over the past two days.
No big media profile, no public interest in social media profiles. One follows the other. The ABC made her a “star.” Its curt dismissal of her post, or the callous claim that deleting it was “acceptable,” simply isn’t good enough.
If you create the monster, you own its handiwork. The ABC can’t have it both ways.
Nobody doubts Ms Abdel-Magied’s ability; and nobody could criticise the daughter of migrants trying to carve out a niche for herself. It is her judgement that is in question.
Whilst she should be free to think (and indeed, say) whatever she likes, trying to misappropriate the national spotlight for herself on what is tantamount to a sacred day in Australia, with opinions that are offensive drivel to most Australians, is not the way to go about it.
Through her public utterances on #QandA and this week through her deleted Facebook post, whatever else you might think of her, Ms Abdel-Magied has exhibited a distinct lack of maturity: and if she can’t or won’t behave like a grown-up, then those who dish out the dough — like her employers at “Their ABC” — ought to think twice about providing her with taxpayer-funded junkets and/or platforms to spruik her wares.
Where the ABC is concerned, the notion of being “independent” is too easily distorted into an excuse to propagate blatantly biased left-wing propaganda, using carefully selected messengers (such as Ms Abdel-Magied) to enable dissent to be portrayed as a racist/sexist/homophobic/Islamophobic (insert your favourite lefty taunt here) attack on nice people with “valid insights.”
Sorry Aunty. You created her and if you can’t control her, piss her off. The rest of us don’t need to be lectured, and especially not by a kid who apparently doesn’t even value the traditions of the country that has given her a better life than her homeland ever would have.