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.