Being a false witness

Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council raises some anti-free speech red herrings in the Australian:

Likewise, almost everyone, Professor Allan included, recognises that there are exceptions to freedom of speech. You cannot defame someone, you cannot incite violence, you cannot obtain money through fraud.

The problem with this sort of argument is that Meyerowitz-Katz is confounding three issues; speech, theft and violence. Defamation is theft of reputation, obtaining money through fraud is theft of property, while incitement to violence is, of course, just violence. To understand this point we need look no further than the Ten Commandments. So do not steal, and do not commit murder are separate commandments to not being a false witness. As far as I can work out that is the only “exception” to free speech – don’t tell lies in court.

Now the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council is an organisation that exists to create special privilege for a minority group – nothing wrong with that; after all they are merely exercising their own right to free speech. Mind you, exercising their right to free speech in order to lobby the State to restrict everyone else’s rights is a delicious irony. Beyond eternal vigilance there is no solution to that problem.

Meyerowitz-Katz seems to think that merely telling people to shut up is an inefective solution to the issue of racism:

Professor Allan suggests that people spouting racist vitriol deserve “scorn and derision”, but what is the purpose of scorn and derision if not to tell someone to shut up?

Moreover, truly dedicated racists are generally indifferent to public scorn.

I’m not convinced that it true.

So while claiming that civil society is ineffectual in the very next paragraph he writes:

If we are serious about stamping out racism, we have to attach negative consequences to its promotion. Some of that will be done through civil society, but it also requires laws.

But we have laws against defamation. We have laws against violence. We have laws against fraud. We have laws against all the so-called exceptions that Meyerowitz-Katz can identify against free-speech.

What the supporters of S18C and anti-free speech supporters in general are arguing for is not the enforcement of existing laws (laws that are in the common law nor contrived legislation) but the creation of special privileges for minorities on race-based or ethnic-based criteria. Not wanting to put too fine a point on the issue, but legal regimes that create special privileges for race-based or ethnic-based minorities do not have a good track record. People who point to that track record and argue against those sorts of outcomes are not “racists” as Meyerowitz-Katz would like us to believe.

In a liberal society the only minority worth protecting is the individual.

Update: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz responds here.

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63 Responses to Being a false witness

  1. Rabz

    Steyn’s covered this topic in great detail before, having been on the receiving end of state sanctioned “shut up or we’ll make your life hell” stupidity.

    Promotion of group rights over the rights of individuals is a sacred progressive shibboleth.

    A proven way to divide society and create chaos.

  2. Alfonso

    If the Jewish lobby sides with Islam to suppress free speech, a plague on both their houses.
    If the Jewish lobby cant see the difference between defamation, incitement, fraud limitations… all long established and tested at common law and societal values over centuries and the statist control of the limits of debate in the neo-comrade S18C…..we are going to grow apart.

    It’s got me stuffed, the left are quite happy to throw anything but a surrendering Israel to the wolves…how come so many Jews in the West are leftards?

  3. In a liberal society the only minority worth protecting is the individual.
    Couldn’t agree more.
    So (from my lived experience) if you saw an individual (in this case a seven year-old boy with cerebral palsy) cornered near the boys’ toilets – where teachers rarely patrol, by three older boys taunting him and calling him “spazzo”, you’d intervene because he was an individual, not because he had a disability.
    Sounds like an exercise in semantics.
    More to the point, if the culture of the school was such that this behavior was common, would you intervene to change it, and would you do that without introducing the concept of “minorities” in the process?

  4. Token

    What a surprise, Numbers delivers another non sequitur .

    Every just society would protect the boy being bullied regardless of the free speech laws.

  5. Sinclair Davidson

    1735099 – when I went to school people were called ‘spazzo’ and the like even if they didn’t have disabilities. So there is more than semantics involved.

  6. Jarrah

    “Defamation is theft of reputation”

    My feelings about defamation are broadly similar, and thought it was something that wouldn’t come up as a subject for debate except in the details, so I was surprised when Temujin Humphreys made an argument against the principle behind defamation laws. He basically said that no-one in entitled to have other people have a specific opinion about them, nor is there a right to have the law prevent someone trying to changing people’s opinions. He disputes the idea that defamation does ‘damage’ in any real sense. Wrong and dangerous, but interesting.

    “incitement to violence is, of course, just violence”

    That’s a new one. I don’t think there’s any ‘of course’ about it.

  7. The problem with this sort of argument is that Meyerowitz-Katz is confounding three issues;

    *replaces tinfoil hat with grammar nazi hat*

    You of course mean conflating, not confounding.

    Putting back the tinfoil hat, freedom of speech is the freedom to express beliefs and opinions, so obviously lies do not count. I’ve noticed that the left have sought lately to conflate lies with non-facts, to justify the claim that anything said must be proven to be factually correct rather than simply believed by the expressor. This of course severely curtails free speech as we as a species know but a fraction of all facts.

    What gets me is that this disingenuous argument is swallowed hook line and sinker by their followers who believe it to be valid.

    Kevin Rudd is deep in the same gutter as the rest of them.

  8. The issue is less about my first point (the incident itself) and more about the school’s response.
    I’m assuming, from your post, that you would object to teaching that this behavior is inappropriate, in the context of the concept “minority group”, but not in the context of the individual.
    I fail to see any logic in that. All behavior is learned in context, and is generalized.
    I find your argument technical, and not based in any kind of reality.

  9. Driftforge

    I think the root problem here is that we have ceded the argument that racism is inherently bad, without a tight definition of what racism is.

    This seems to be accepted without argument, because well, shut up.

  10. Paul

    Sometimes racism, like many other “isms” is whatever the group claiming to be the victims of it needs it to be.

  11. Max

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Making-Slave-Willie-Lynch/dp/1607961431

    Values are created and transported by communication through the body of the language. A total society has many interconnected value systems. All the values in the society have bridges of language to connect them for orderly working in the society. But for these language bridges, these many value systems would sharply clash and cause internal strife or civil war, the degree of the conflict being determined by the magnitude of the issues or relative opposing strength in whatever form. For example, if you put a slave in a hog pen and train him to live there and incorporate in him to value it as a way of life completely, the biggest problem you would have out of him is that he would worry you about provisions to keep the hog pen clean, or the same hog pen and make a slip and incorporate something in his language whereby he comes to value a house more than he does his hog pen, you got a problem. He will soon be in your house.

  12. Sinclair Davidson

    Jarrah – John is correct. Yet there is a difference between having an opinion and disseminating that opinion. That said, defamation law is a very poor substitute for duelling.

  13. In a liberal society the only minority worth protecting is the individual.
    Couldn’t agree more.

    Go back to bed, numbers. You’re making sense today, so obviously you got out of the wrong side of bed this morning.

  14. LordAzrael

    Germany prior to the rise of the Nazi’s had some of the toughest anti-hate speech laws the world has ever seen. How did that work out for the jews ?

  15. Bring back duelling! A most civilised way to settle arguments…

  16. I’m assuming, from your post, that you would object to teaching that this behavior is inappropriate, in the context of the concept “minority group”, but not in the context of the individual.

    What happened, Numbers? Did you go back to bed and get up again, this time on the right side?

    The problem with teaching this as being wrong through the context of a minority group is that it implies that it is only wrong if the “bullyee” is handicapped. So, bullying is only wrong if the victim belongs to certain groups?

  17. The problem with teaching this as being wrong through the context of a minority group is that it implies that it is only wrong if the “bullyee” is handicapped.
    Not at all.
    Depends on how it’s done. Most kids can keep more than one idea in their heads at one time.
    They generally understand that both are wrong, and if the person being abused is weaker or unable to fight back, that a further dimension is added.

  18. Token

    The issue is less about my first point (the incident itself) and more about the school’s response.

    Sounds like the systemic problems that come from one size fits all government solutions. You still have not tendered anything which indicates the 3 boys who were allegedly bullying would be stopped by limiting free speech.

  19. the 3 boys who were allegedly bullying would be stopped by limiting free speech.
    You’ve completely missed my point, and Sinclair has totally ignored it.
    These boys were exercising their right to free speech.
    That “right” was infringing on the rights of someone else.
    That is not acceptable.
    What would you do about it?

  20. Lucie

    Agree with this. Especially the last three sentences. People in favour of harsh legislative penalties for various minority- related ‘isms’ pretend to be merely trying to use the law as a shield, to protect the ‘vulnerable’. All very nice in theory, but we’ve already seen that, in practice, such legislation is very quickly deployed as a sword, for the activists’ real aim of forcibly refashioning society to suit their narrow agenda.

  21. Sinclair Davidson

    1735099 – I wasn’t planning on commenting on your example. My view of your comment is similar to The Beer Whisperer. You think it is wrong to bully the disabled. I think it is wrong to bully any individual. Cornering an individual nears the boy’s toilet where the teachers don’t patrol – as per your example – is an exercise in violence, not free speech.
    As you say,

    I fail to see any logic in that.

    Indeed.

  22. Token

    You think it is wrong to bully the disabled. I think it is wrong to bully any individual. Cornering an individual nears the boy’s toilet where the teachers don’t patrol – as per your example – is an exercise in violence, not free speech.

    I do not see anything in any post at the Cat to back the claim that the Free Speech rights of the 3 alleged bullyss over rides all the rights of the victim or any other citizen.

  23. Jim Rose

    sinclair, you say that defamation law is a very poor substitute for duelling.

    not so for the 19th century minor gentry see http://www.sfu.ca/~allen/duelingaler.pdf

    The duel of honor was a highly ritualized violent activity practiced (mostly) by
    aristocrats from about 1500 to 1900.

    The duel of honor was held in private, was attended by seconds and other members of society, was illegal, and often resulted from trivial incidents.

    Duels were fought according to strict codes, their lethality fell over time, and certain members of society were not allowed to duel.

    We argue dueling functioned as a screen for unobservable investments in social capital
    Social capital was used during this period to support political transactions in an age when high civil service appointments were made through patronage.

    The screening hypothesis explains the puzzling features of the duel of honor, its rise and fall over time and locations, and the differences between European and American duels.

    duels were a way of showing that you were ‘one of us’, and worthy of trust and patronage in a time where there were few ways to measure performance accurately and enforce contracts cheaply

  24. Sinclair Davidson

    Jim Rose – that is one view.

  25. Jim Rose

    sinclair, times change and we must change with the times.

    in a time when legal systems were weak and too many random events made measurement prone to error – there was no way to “distinguish between shirking and sloth, on the one hand, and chance, on the other” – reputational capital was of great value.

    Pre-modern customs were about establishing trust

    but see http://www.deirdremccloskey.com/docs/pdf/AllenPrinterFinal.pdf

  26. Sinclair Davidson

    Jim Rose – what are you thinking?

    times change and we must change with the times

  27. The point I am making, which is sailing over everyone’s head, is that abuse (verbal or otherwise) is a reality, and is frequently the precursor to violence. Nobody has the “right” to abuse anyone. It has nothing to do with whether the victim is a member of a discrete group defined by race, religion or disability. It simply is not OK .
    It is reasonable to suggest that vilification should be prevented, or at least not encouraged.
    To take a position that attempting to prevent vilification is an infringement of freedom of speech is patently absurd – something that my example makes clear. To take that position reveals either a lack of common sense, a lack of experience of the real world, or a literalism that is typical of those with a diagnosis of Aspergers disorder. It may also indicate that the person holding the position is an ideological extremist.
    In the real world, people lacking power are more likely to be abused than those with power.
    In the real world (in a schoolyard for example), action is taken to prevent this.
    In the real world, this is not understood as an infringement on someone’s freedom of speech.
    Only in the cloister (and in the rarefied world of the radio or blogging shock jock), is this fantasy given any credit.
    Bolt (for example) got exactly what was coming to him

  28. Infidel Tiger

    The point I am making, which is sailing over everyone’s head, is that abuse (verbal or otherwise) is a reality, and is frequently the precursor to violence.

    Shut up, you boring old coot or you’ll get a smack in mouth.

  29. Infidel Tiger

    Jim Rose – what are you thinking?

    He’ll Google the answer and get back to you shortly.

  30. Shut up, you boring old coot or you’ll get a smack in mouth.
    Right on cue – and illustrating my point very neatly.
    Thank you.

  31. Token

    To take a position that attempting to prevent vilification is an infringement of freedom of speech is patently absurd

    Of the many ways to reduce vilification, legislation is one very blunt and unsophisticated tool.

    Bit like you Numbers.

  32. egg_

    The point I am making, which is sailing over everyone’s head, is that abuse (verbal or otherwise) is a reality, and is frequently the precursor to violence.

    Abuse is violence, case in point: Kevin Michael Rudd.

  33. Infidel Tiger

    Right on cue – and illustrating my point very neatly.
    Thank you.

    You’re as sharp as custard.

  34. Sinclair Davidson

    The point I am making, which is sailing over everyone’s head, is that abuse (verbal or otherwise) is a reality, and is frequently the precursor to violence. Nobody has the “right” to abuse anyone. It has nothing to do with whether the victim is a member of a discrete group defined by race, religion or disability. It simply is not OK .

    We all agree.

  35. JC

    Spuds

    Honest question.

    Have you had previous problems with mental instability?

  36. Fisky

    Bolt (for example) got exactly what was coming to him…

    No, Bolt obviously didn’t by your standards, because he didn’t abuse anyone.

  37. Token

    The point I am making, which is sailing over everyone’s head, is that abuse (verbal or otherwise) is a reality, and is frequently the precursor to violence.

    Great statement of causation. Look at this guy, how far is he away from violence?

  38. Sinc, he’s just trying to get you to slap him, so that he can challenge you to a duel.

    Cutting remarks at 10 paces.

  39. Gab

    Cutting remarks at 10 paces.

    That’ll be difficult for the unarmed numbers.

  40. Lucie

    Numbers, the problem is when particular power groups – often minority activist groups – are granted the exclusive right to define what constitutes abuse. For example, I completely disagree with you that Andrew Bolt ‘abused’ the individuals who nevertheless won that case against him. That’s why, as Token says, stringent laws generally do more harm than good in relation to restricting speech in the name of ‘abuse prevention’.

  41. kelly liddle

    If we are serious about stamping out racism, we have to attach negative consequences to its promotion.

    The problem with this is it will never work if it is suggesting what I think. The only way to stop a racist is to explain to him or her that not everyone of that group is like that without insults or any consequences. This is of course unless they are acting out on their racism. Pushing racists underground is a far riskier proposition because then they are more likely to act out in violence.

  42. I take issue with your characterisation of the AIJAC as an organisation that exists to create special privilege for a minority group. It is there primarily to disseminate information and research issues with a central focus on the Israel/Arab dispute and more broadly the Islamist and global Leftist cold war against Israel and the West. I am not a member or subscriber but I’ve found its site a useful resource. You should check it out.

    This is a cold war that is increasingly using racist language and incitement especially against Jews . Its much worse in Europe and South America but it is on the way. So if you call having to devote time and resources to self-defence over and above what the rest of the community has to do, creating special privilege then you may have a point. But I’m not sure what. It is in the same category as Jewish schools and communal facilities having to prioritise security over and above the rest of the community.

    What this does indicate is that the “Jewish Lobby” (which is a problematic term because it infers a non-existent monolith with a sinister non- existent reach — somehow the “Christian lobby” or the “teachers’ lobby” does not have the same ring to it) has failed deplorably in getting across what should be its core message. This is not a sectional cause. It is something that should concern all Australians because it is an attack on them. It is not the Jews who chose “Palestine” or Palestinianism as the ideological focus of the Islamist/Leftist assault on the West. It is political Islam and the leftists who worked that one out. I blog on this not because of an obsessive concern for Israel which is a country I’ve never been to and which can look after itself, or because I am “Jewish” (which some would dispute given that I haven’t seen the inside of a functioning synagogue in over forty years) but because I am Australian.

    I don’t think you have adequately addressed all of Meyerowitz- Katz ‘s points. Racism including racist abuse and derision directed at an individual or group most certainly can harm that person or group sometimes in grotesque ways as the number of obsessively anti-Israel Jews in Britain and Europe is just one example. It can and does hollow out its target. If defamation is theft of character then racism can steal much more.

    Moreover defamation can toss a bucket of cold water over free speech in unexpected ways. I have trouble getting some posts up on British sites. To call a blatant antisemite like George Galloway an antisemite or racist is to risk a lawsuit. On the other hand demonising an individual or group as child killers, the implacable enemies of God and humankind and celebrating the terrorist murders of children by Hamas and Hezbollah (all of which Galloway does) is protected by free speech.

    Having said that, when in doubt, side with free speech. Any sort of “anti-blasphemy” law must be opposed. The opposition of Australian Jewish peak bodies to the Geert Wilders tour was craven and the official support of British Jews for banning Geller and Spencer is straight out bloody disgraceful. But there are points that need to be addressed. How do you protect people and ultimately all of us from sophisticated and obsessive racist attack which may well be part of an ideological war and especially in the mass media era where it can be done anonymously?

    On a lighter note.

    A true story of the Australian Light Horse never before recorded.

  43. I completely disagree with you that Andrew Bolt ‘abused’ the individuals who nevertheless won that case
    In the first place, he stated in print that some people are too fair-skinned to be genuine Aboriginal people, and that they willfully and cynically choose to falsely identify as Aboriginal for personal gain.
    That imputation identified those people (whom he targeted by name) as calculated and deliberate frauds, imposters, and liars.
    That accusation went out on the blogosphere, the newspapers, and on the air waves. It was shoved in front of hundreds of thousands of people, driven by the power of the media organization that employs him.
    He is no martyr for “free speech”.
    He set out to deliberately provoke and insult, in the interests of selling newspapers and improving ratings.
    His language was derisive, and much of what he wrote was inaccurate, not properly researched, and as a consequence, simply wrong in fact.
    It was deliberate calculated professional vilification – not journalism.
    This is what landed Bolt in the Federal Court – not any government suppressing his right to free speech but action by a private citizens seeking legal redress for a breach of civil duty.
    Free people exercised their right under the law – it was a civil, not a criminal case.
    They would probably have been just as successful had they sought redress under the laws of libel.
    It had absolutely nothing to do with freedom of speech.

  44. Lucie

    You can’t prove his intention, Numbers. None of what you’ve outlined amounts to abuse. An opinion that those people didn’t like. An opinion many others probably share but can’t dare express lest they too be hauled into court for sarcasm or whatever that judge called the long bow he drew.

  45. Sinclair Davidson

    This is a cold war that is increasingly using racist language and incitement especially against Jews .

    Indeed. Yet political Jewry is choosing to align itself with the enemies of freedom.

  46. Indeed. Yet political Jewry is choosing to align itself with the enemies of freedom.

    If that is true, and it is a stretch even as hyperbole, then it is an issue confined to countries like Australia, Canada, Britain and I guess France where official Jewry are locked into the politics of multiculturalism. It has no application in the US and Israel where are about 12 million of the world’s 14 million Jews live. This is due to the differences in political culture.

    The US because of the First Amendment and the impact this has on the way Americans think.

    Israel because of an inherent First Amendment mentality (which routinely allows antizionist and antisemitic speech including in the universities but prosecutes anti-Arab racism) and because of its irrelevance as a political issue in a majority Jewish state.

  47. Jim Rose

    Yet political Jewry is choosing to align itself with the enemies of freedom.

    see Expressive voting and identity: Evidence from a case study of a group of US voters”, Public Choice, 2011, 148, 249-257 (review article of Why are Jews Liberals? by Norman Podhoretz) by Arye L. Hillman

    an nice review and analysis of why 70 and 90 per cent of american jews vote democrat

    note that there are enough american jews who sometimes vote GOP to justify courting their vote.

  48. Jim Rose

    sinclair, On times changing, inaccurate, low-powered revolvers at 10 paces with every opportunity to apologise up until the last moment might have been worthwhile in the 19th century when the in-group was small.

    Other ways are used to establish trust today in a society of strangers.

  49. It’s got me stuffed, the left are quite happy to throw anything but a surrendering Israel to the wolves…how come so many Jews in the West are leftards?

    An excellent resource on this excellent question is US based friend blog Israel Thrives. Tell ‘em geoffff sent you and you will be well looked after.

  50. Sinclair Davidson

    Jim – I’m very accurate up to 15m with my cz75.

  51. Thank you for that Milton Friedman video.

    An interesting take on Israel in 1977. Look at Israel today and you can see that Israel took Friedman’s advice.

    The overwhelming association of Jewish intellectualism with all brands of socialism including the most vile has its origin in the status of Jews in Russia, Poland, Germany most of the rest of Europe and Muslim lands in the 19th century where nearly all of the world’s Jews then lived. Jews were prominent in all radical and revolutionary movements as you would expect when you consider the nature of the regimes of the day especially in Russia, Eastern Europe and parts of the Middle East.

    Without question the best book on the subject so far is Robert Wistrich From Ambivalence to Betrayal – The Left, The Jews and Israel published last year.

    Everything you have ever wanted to know about the paradox of the Jews’ early association with radical politics and the savagely antizionist and ultimately genocidal antisemitic nature of the regimes and political culture this generated from the start.

  52. These boys were exercising their right to free speech.

    Bollocks! How is bullying free speech? How you can conflate intimidation with free speech i have no fucking idea.

    Next time you get out of the wrong side of bed, stay up.

  53. 1735099

    “How is bullying free speech?”
    When it’s the calculated application of power against the powerless.
    Just ask Bolt – he knows all about it.

  54. Lucie

    Oh Numbers, come on! Those people proved they have all the power! Did you miss the outcome of the court case? They won! The poor, vulnerable, self-entitled little victors!

  55. JC

    Spuds

    Go peddle your Marxist billshit at a Marxist site.

    Piss off.

  56. They won!
    They sure did, and the power paradigm changed from what it was to what it should be. Great example of significant social progression. And the supporters of the status quo are still throwing tanties.

  57. MrT

    “In a liberal society the only minority worth protecting is the individual. ”

    That is just beuatiful!!!

  58. You’re decades behind, Numbers. The establishment is and has been the left for a long time now. If the establishment was the right, their ABC wouldn’t be their ABC, and wouldn’t have been for the last 20-30 years.

    Your non-sequitur about bullying being freedom of speech was a lowlight even for you.

  59. Jarrah

    “How is bullying free speech? How you can conflate intimidation with free speech i have no fucking idea.”

    Speech is speech. Verbal bullying is no different.

  60. kelly liddle

    Why do so many make this an issue about left and right? It isn’t. Certain elements of the right are just as anti-freespeech. What is the right anyway? You only have to go back 30 years and transplant modern day conservatives there and they would be seen as the far left on many issues. Just take a very quick look at government spending and regulatory control and the policies now versus then. There are only some areas Australia can be seen as moving to right in this time and that is broadly economic freedoms. Without that we would be a basket case.

  61. kelly liddle

    On the other hand demonising an individual or group as child killers, the implacable enemies of God and humankind and celebrating the terrorist murders of children by Hamas and Hezbollah (all of which Galloway does) is protected by free speech.

    Geoff
    It would surprise me if what you say is true. Where is this evidence of celebration?

  62. Geoff
    It would surprise me if what you say is true. Where is this evidence of celebration?

    The internet is dripping with this stuff from Galloway

    At random. This isn’t even the worst of it

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYFoHX5kopI

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQW3K-2CwCQ

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-NZ3otZzWw

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