Flat White

Free speech now carries a hefty price tag

23 July 2018

11:01 AM

23 July 2018

11:01 AM

What happened to Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux in Melbourne over the weekend is a potent example of how free speech is destroyed. And that is, you simply make it too expensive and price it out of existence for most. Southern and Molyneux were charged almost $68,000 for extra security by Victorian Police. The injustice of this situation has already been ably pointed out by figures such as Andrew Bolt.

However, after the protestors from the—supposedly anti-fascist group Antifa—stormed the stage on Friday night during her speech, Southern should now request a full refund because clearly Victorian Police were not up to the job. In fact, maybe she could even sue for psychological trauma.

With the protestor mindlessly chanting, “I love refugees. I love refugees. I love refugees!” I wonder what would happen if Southern herself applied for refugee status in Australia? Would she be shown any compassion or respect then by the alt-left? According to The Weekend Australian stage invader Nita Habibi declared:

“I love freedom of speech… I wanted to interrupt the thing. I think it’s really dangerous what’s happening. Hate speech should be interrupted.”

Ms Habibi said Southern “spouts an extremely Islamophobic rhetoric that is nothing short of hate speech. She is a dangerous individual whose false views on Muslims stir up polarisation and violence. We have come here tonight to peacefully object to the promotion of hate.”

Isn’t it odd how the ‘religion of peace’ is regularly connected to so much violence? But regardless, you ‘love freedom of speech’ and want a ‘peaceful’ protest you say? I don’t think anyone has ever connected the phrases, ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘peaceful protest’ with ‘Antifa” before, but hey, there’s always a first! However, to be fair, let’s analyse what actually happened the other night to see if their actions in any way matched up to their rhetoric. According to the same article:

At least one protester has been arrested by police, who have used pepper spray during the clash.

Officers wearing riot gear and carrying shields pushed protesters back from the gates of the La Mirage Reception and Convention Centre in Somerton, forming a line and shouting “move, move, move’’ as they advanced.

Mounted police and police dogs were used to help control the crowd which booed and swore at buses and cars bringing people to watch the event.

Protesters chanted “f … off” as the police approached…

Antifa protesters had earlier gathered at Broadmeadow’s station and targeted audience members who were to be bussed to the event.

Armed with megaphones, members of Campaign Against Racism and Fascism urged onlookers to let the departing buses know what they thought of them...

Organisers later altered the bus route to get the final two busloads of passengers in from the south, while riot police held protesters off about a kilometre away on the Hume Highway.

None of this sounds anything remotely like being ‘peaceful’. Chris Kenny, an associate editor at The Australian, was surely corrected when he tweeted:

Make no mistake, this is a dangerous moment in the wider Australian political debate, since anyone who dares to challenge the progressive ideology of identity politics will be faced with, in effect, financial censure. But of even more concern is the fact that the actions of the police cannot be separated from the actions of the state. And what until recently would have been considered by the majority of people to be a valid alternative point of view is more and more being defined as ‘hate speech’.

While I recognise that any comparison to Nazi Germany is always dangerous—and I am aware of the association fallacy of Reductio ad Hitlerum—the parallels here are as pertinent as they are striking. Because freedom is not lost in one tumultuous moment but through a series of graded concessions. Martin Niemöller (1892–1984), the Lutheran pastor and public critic puts it like this in his famous poem:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

And this is precisely the kind of situation that we are increasingly finding ourselves in here. Already, figures in government departments, the media as well as business are too frightened to speak out against the status quo. Just see the excellent article by “a veteran member of Melbourne’s press corps” —writing under the pseudonym Jane Doe — in Quadrant online recently. As the anonymous victim states:

In charging the promoters of Yiannopoulos, Southern and Molyneux, Victoria Police are in effect siding with the anarchists and thugs. How can that be denied? The mob seeks to silence speech and the police put another obstacle in the way of its exercise.

Ultimately, by billing the innocent, the Victorian Police have given the guilty a license to behave in any way they please. Indeed, they have only added fuel to the political fire. And its freedom of speech that will be the first casualty to be lost in the flames.

Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield. 

Cartoon: Ben R Davis.

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