October 1, 2011
The usual reactionaries have risen as one in defence of Andrew Bolt, the Melbourne columnist and village idiot, convicted on Wednesday for breaching the Racial Discrimination Act. An attack on freedom of speech, they howled. A dark day for democracy.
Since the verdict, Bolt himself has played the martyred victim, drenched in self-pity, a sickening spectacle.
His fellow Murdoch hack, Miranda Devine, invoked the spectre of Nazi concentration camps, thereby immediately losing the argument. The shadow attorney general, George Brandis, blathered about George Orwell’s 1984.
Most ludicrous of all, one Sinclair Davidson, a Melbourne economics professor and, predictably, a “Senior Fellow” at that sink of right wing propaganda, the Institute of Public Affairs, wants to scrap the law altogether and let “market forces” punish discrimination. This is not satire. He meant it.
What these savants ignore is that Bolt just got it wrong. That’s W-R-O-N-G. As Justice Moredecai Bromberg found, the columnist’s two offending emissions in the Murdoch Herald Sun were shot through with “gross errors”.
The bottom of Bolt’s rant was that pale-skinned Aborigines were more white than black, and should behave that way. Instead, they had decided in adult life to become “official” or “professional” blacks, thus muscling in on “other people’s glories” – jobs, preferment and prizes that should be reserved for proper Aborigines.
He sprayed special venom upon the academic Larissa Behrendt who, he claimed, had a German father. “Which people are ‘yours’, exactly, mein liebchen?” he sneered. Bolt clearly prefers his darkies dark.
In fact, Behrendt’s father was a black Australian. She – and the other eight plaintiffs in the case – were raised from infancy in Aboriginal culture and society. Given that crashing blunder, the rest of his stuff falls in a heap, exposed for the racist garbage it was.
The judge did not smother free speech. He skewered dud journalism.
Bolt’s parents were from Holland. If he believes that freedom of speech carries a licence to spear people for their ethnicity, he will not then object to me suggesting he would do better to quit the media and take up growing tulips and making cheese. Wearing clogs. Ah, the Lying Dutchman.
Never let the facts get in the way of a good story, Mynheer.
Mike Carlton is a columnist with The Age