Category: Free Speech

Blocking media is the new book burning

During times of great chaos in Ancient Rome, the government of the day resorted to restricting citizens’ liberty. Similarly, in Australia during times of great media frenzies, it seems that the liberties of citizens can also be suspended.

It is as if the Enlightenment never occurred and John Stuart Mill’s arguments for a free press were never made.

Australia’s own Caesar, Scott Morrison, attempted to stop people from seeing the footage of the New Zealand shooting.

Mr. Morrison himself did not pass any laws or act with any executive orders; he just asked telecommunications companies like Telstra to prevent their users from accessing video hosting platforms like LiveLeak and various other media sites.

LiveLeak, for those unfamiliar, is a video sharing site similar to YouTube. Unlike YouTube, LiveLeak aims to provide an archive of raw footage from current events in order to give power to the people who can analyse … Read the rest

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St Kilda shows us the importance of free speech

For some, the recent rally at St Kilda beach provides evidence of far-right bigotry in Australia. Those who hold racist, anti-immigrant views must be shut down in an effort to ensure that there are “no Nazis, never again”, as the counter-protestors’ chant went.

These counter-protestors are anti-hate speech and actively tried to stifle the views of the so-called ‘far-right’ individuals who are criticising Australia’s immigration policy. While the counter-protestors have the moral high ground in opposing racism, they fail to realise that their previous actions have given weight to the ‘far-right’.

This is due to insistence by those same types that public debate be politically correct and free speech be limited for those who have differing opinions. Such restrictions on speech are proving to be dangerous, leading to polarisations uncharacteristic of Australian political debate.

As Noam Chomsky said: “Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So … Read the rest

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The rise of minority fundamentalism

This article is an adaption based on a talk given by Senator Stoker at LibertyFest Brisbane 2018. 

I greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak at the LibertyFest conference today.  A festival to celebrate liberty is the type of event under threat these days.  It’s worth reflecting that the first casualty of liberty is the right to free speech.

Ronald Reagan, whom despite his big-government tendencies, I rather admire, had a succinct and simple way of expressing himself.

He said “Freedom (or liberty) is the right to question and change the established way of doing things.  It is the continuous revolution of the marketplace.  It is the understanding that allows us to recognise shortcomings and seek solutions.”

The phrase “marketplace” is often used in its commercial sense. But I like to think of it in terms of the marketplace of ideas.  At the recent Brisbane launch of his book, the Art … Read the rest

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When “the press” are not “the press”

Among the many issues which define the modern-day culture wars is the issue of “the press.” Donald Trump bloviates repeatedly about “the press” and how terrible and biased it is, but dissatisfaction with the establishment media has been a recurrent theme even before Trump’s election.

In response to rising criticism of “the media,” many media outlets have argued that such criticism constitutes an attack on freedom of the press and an attempt to undermine the role the media plays as a guardian of liberty against tyranny. The latest entry in this genre comes from CNN, where Professor Joseph Holt of Notre Dame University makes the argument that Trump’s criticism of the press is dangerous to the civic culture of the United States, and implies that the press should be viewed as akin to military personnel who place themselves at great risk to defend freedom.

Professor Holt’s view has been Read the rest

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Alex Jones and the new social media censorship

In the wake of Alex Jones’ banning from Facebook, YouTube and Apple the outrage has been palpable. And that is understandable. There is no doubt that there is a bias on these social media platforms against what is often described as ‘far right’ viewpoints. Anything slightly right of centre is described as ‘far right’ these days, so it’s no wonder that people on the right are concerned when they see another instance of voices being silenced on three of the big social media platforms.

The problem with being outraged about these acts of private censorship is that the natural inclination is to look to government to do something about it. It’s all too tempting to look to any easy fix when an injustice is perceived and, in this case, the easy fix would be for government to step in and somehow insist that social media platforms quit censoring views that … Read the rest

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How Lauren Southern exposes a double standard

Activist reporter Lauren Southern who is currently touring Australia with popular alt-media philosopher Stefan Molyneux, was warned by police not to visit a mosque in Lakemba, a predominantly Muslim area in Sydney’s western suburbs. Her plan was to observe the “culture” in Lakemba and to interview people outside of the mosque.

But before she could get there, she was apprehended by a senior police officer, who warned her that if she continued, her actions may incite a serious breach of the peace. His first line of questioning included asking her where she planned to walk next. In a video of the exchange, the flatfoot is seen to tell her that he has “grave concerns” that she will cause an “imminent breach of the peace” if she continues on towards the mosque and asks her not to go there.

Obviously Australia is not quite the free country that we think it … Read the rest

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Freedom of speech and “consequences”

The recent uproar over allegedly “misogynist” comments made by Senator Leyonhjelm in response to Senator Hanson-Young’s implications that men are collectively responsible for the rape-murder of Eurydice Dixon (and all violence perpetrated by any man against any woman) has brought out a familiar slogan: “freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences.”

Many people whom are critical of political correctness and the shaming, ostracism and character-assassination tactics of “Social Justice Warriors” frequently assert that these “SJWs” represent a threat to free speech. SJWs respond by saying that freedom of speech is protection from the government punishing you for your speech, but it isn’t protection from social consequences for your speech.

But this argument is disingenuous at best, and represents a tactical shift in the definition of free speech and freedom generally.

Negative and Positive Liberty
Negative liberty and positive liberty is a distinction rooted in the works of Isaiah Berlin. Read the rest

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Is there anything wrong with ‘liking men’?

I’m not one to support defamation law, and indeed neither should those on the left. It is, for practical purposes, a tool almost exclusively for the rich and powerful, used in many cases to stifle criticism, the McLibel case being one famous example.

In addition, on principle, it’s a bizarre law in that makes it illegal to encourage someone to do something which is completely legal. It’s quite legal to think bad things about someone, even if those things are not true. Whilst we have laws against encouraging illegal behaviour (like inciting violence), it’s nonsensical to have laws against encouraging something we consider an acceptable legal action in our society.

Encouraging someone not to break the law should not be illegal itself.

Indeed the idea that you’re allowed to think things, but no-one is allowed to talk to you about those things, seems frighteningly authoritarian.

But defamation law does exist. … Read the rest

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Can our old-school universities keep up?

One day when we look back through history and try to work out what happened to the universities, we may very well be looking hard at the current decade. At present the tertiary education system is not meeting the needs of students adequately. Complaints about the prohibitively high costs of tuition, overpaid vice-chancellors and senior managers, underemployment of students with certain degrees, the rejection of open intellectual inquiry, and the culture of promoting diversity of external characteristics rather than ideas, all point to a future decline in patronage of universities.

Some universities are trying to stay relevant and cater to the needs of students by differentiating their product from their competitor’s. The University of Melbourne and The University of Western Australia have both structured their degrees in a similar fashion to US schools. General undergraduate degrees precede a postgraduate specialist degree designed to separate you from the pack. The University Read the rest

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