There’s a new phrase du jour to describe methods in current use by the aggrieved and disaffected, those that feel called to remind us of how truly awful we really are.
It’s called ‘cancel culture’ and was most recently used in an interview on ABC Radio National this morning when director of Equality Australia, Anna Brown, spoke with breakfast host Hamish Macdonald.
Brown strove to convince listeners that tennis legend Margaret Court had said a very bad, bad thing, derogatory to LGBTQI+ people. Macdonald reasonably, suggested Court had spoken sincerely from her beliefs, as a Pentecostal pastor. Was this an attempt to silence her, and others, who may also feel called upon to speak out in similar fashion?
Brown opined this was ‘problematic, that it was hard to separate the tennis player from the person “you can’t separate the two” — but was pushed by Macdonald to admit that her views seemed to indicate that speakers such as Court have no right to be in the public domain.
‘Cancel culture’ is not about cancelling culture. Instead, it is about erasing the words, the character and persona, of the people that Brown doesn’t like. “Cancel culture’ is straight out of the old Stalinist book when members of the nomenklatura, elites who had incurred Stalin’s anger, were ‘purged’, erased, their images deleted from official photographs, their physical bodies sent off to the gulags to a slow, painful death.
In fact, ‘cancel culture’ is even older than Soviet Russia. Think back to the Inquisition that tried to force Galileo to recant from his insane heresy that the earth moved around the sun. Forced to choose between sticking to his heresy and being burned alive, he recanted, but — so the story goes – muttered as he left the court, “Still, it does move.”
‘Cancel culture’ in its latest manifestation tries to eradicate not just words, but the very presence of people it doesn’t like, insisting, as Macdonald tried to have Brown admit, that her views would force people to be silent, that they have no right to be in the public domain.
This is the very core of the Religious Freedom Bill, to be presented to parliament next year.
Galileo, under the Inquisition, was an astronomer tortured and threatened with public execution for his beliefs; for the ‘undesirables’ under Stalin, hunted down for views contrary to Stalin, it was a bullet to the head or the gulags. In a democracy, however, free speech is one of the cornerstones of freedom, including media freedom. Margaret Court has the right to speak out, no matter how unpopular or unwelcome her words to some members of the community.
Anna Brown should recall history — and the right to free speech.
Because the last time I looked, we still lived in a democracy.
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