Section 18C

In an article in today’s Australian, Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz states that section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 should remain unchanged. He writes

For those who understand the operation of 18C, this campaign has been somewhat disheartening: 18C’s opponents have avoided making legitimate criticisms, instead relying on a number of half-truths and exaggerations to put their case forward.

But this itself is a smear. It suggests that those who oppose section 18C are automatically supporters of racial abuse. That is a type of false dilemma.

I support absolute freedom of speech, which is presently best expressed in the United States under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. But I do not support racial abuse.

Meyerowith-Katz cannot comprehend the difference. For him, the State should regulate our conduct and our behaviour. Only someone with a blinker could argue

If people genuinely think it should be legal for Australians to harass others on the basis of race, then they are welcome to make that argument. What’s troubling about the anti-18C campaign is its dishonesty.

Au contraire. Racial abuse of the type covered by section 18C is the province of good manners. It is not for the State to regulate moral behaviour. The State should concentrate on finding and punishing those who inflict physical harm on others.

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40 Responses to Section 18C

  1. JohnA

    But this itself is a smear. It suggests that those who oppose section 18C are automatically supporters of racial abuse. That is a type of false dilemma.

    Brought about by the rarely-exposed, untested assumption that legality and morality are 100% congruent.

    Therefore if they (who hold this view) want to declare something immoral, their only recourse is to law, rather than to public debate.

    And social engineers and similar activists (eg. the gay “marriage” lobby, homosexual advocates more generally) all work like mad at convincing politicians to change the laws.

    They use inter alia bullying tactics to shift public opinion, (and more here).

    Then they see the new law force their views on others, which all looks peachy, but they rarely consider the unintended consequences. Then we have to live with bad laws applied against people like the Two Dannies (Islamic activism) and Andrew Bolt (aboriginal activism), until the entire public climate shifts enough to repeal the worst excesses.

  2. steve

    I know that this is not PC, but I think that a lot of racial vilification uses race as a descriptive adjective which allows a handle for the intended insult. It is used in exactly the same way as “fat” or “short” or “dumb” or “left wing” and I cannot, for the life of me, see a difference.

    Yes, there are other racial uses where the speaker actually despises the race, but is is much less common IMHO. I would hate to continue with a law that allows me to be convicted for calling someone a stupid, fat, left wing Hawthorning troll.

  3. Rabz

    But this itself is a smear. It suggests that those who oppose section 18C are automatically supporters of racial abuse.

    Seriously, what else have these idiots got?

    Anyone who wants this monstrous piece of state stupidity repealed is a waaaaacist.

    Yep, could never have seen that one coming.

  4. Token

    But this itself is a smear. It suggests that those who oppose section 18C are automatically supporters of racial abuse. That is a type of false dilemma.

    Of course it is a smear.

    Along those lines, the people who stand against free speech are in the main those who will cash (i.e. to ambulance chasers – wealth opportunities) in from the endless actions that allows.

    Look how the legal industry continues to milk asbestos claims in the US, no matter how tenuous the link is as that gravy train must continue to run:

    “Since my diagnosis with lung cancer,” she wrote in a recent legal filing, “I have had mental and emotional distress and inconvenience. I am fearful of death.” She added, “My asbestos-related condition has disrupted my life, limiting me in my everyday activities and interfering with living a normal life.”

    Asbestos-related?

    Yes, that’s right. It’s hard these days for smokers to sue tobacco companies because everyone knows the dangers of cigarettes. Instead, McCarthy has become part of a growing trend: lung cancer victims who are suing companies that once used asbestos.

    With asbestos litigation well into its fourth decade — the longest-running mass tort in American history — you’d think the plaintiffs’ bar would have run out of asbestos companies to sue. After all, asbestos lawsuits have bankrupted more than 100 companies. Yet McCarthy has found more than 70 additional companies to sue, including General Electric and Pfizer. Asbestos litigation, says Lester Brickman, a professor at Yeshiva University and perhaps the most vocal critic of asbestos lawsuits, “is a constant search for viable defendants.” Because asbestos was once such a ubiquitous product, there is always somebody else to sue.

    PS: the Macarthy in question is a DNC congresswoman from NY:

    Carolyn McCarthy, a nine-term congresswoman from Long Island, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Her treatment began almost immediately, causing her to take a lengthy absence from her office while she fought the disease. At the same time, McCarthy, 69, ended a pack-a-day cigarette habit that she’d had for most of her life, presumably because she understood the link between cigarette-smoking and lung cancer. Scientists estimate that smoking plays a role in 90 percent of lung cancer deaths.

  5. gnome

    I read the article and found it wanting. Just typical lawyerly bullshit- say anything and pretend that you have moved the debate on.

    He claims that the term “Offend” in the law really means something, not just what it means on the street. If that is true, what was the Bolt case all about?

  6. When I grew up out bush, it was easy to tell if you were being insulting or not. An insult earned a punch in the mouth. No one ever ran to the police to sort out such disputes unless they were out of kilter with the level of offence. In the greatest of ironies, if I were to refer to aborigines as blackfellas nowadays, I would be judged to be racist by most likely a white man.

  7. .

    Free speech is sacred.

    Mr Abbott, tear down this law.

  8. Rodney

    I am deeply shocked at the callous and brutal attitude of Catallaxians.
    These laws are to help remedy the greatest social problem of the age, namely pockeys of poverty in the legal profession.
    Shame!

  9. LordAzrael

    I first met Katz online through various Facebook pages. I can say that he is a hypocrite of the first order, who attacks even defenders of Israel as not being strident enough – in one case saying we were all as bad as the Nazi’s and were complicit (yes even those of us not born back then!). He’s a lunatic and any organisation caring about its reputation should not have him in a leadership position.

    You’d think someone who should have a very good knowledge of how the Nazi’s rose to power would be against state intervention in freedom of speech and other areas of life, but Katz is an authoritarian dictator who is not open to debate.

  10. LordAzrael

    Snide little kicker at the end

    “But then, being honest about 18C makes it harder to spin the provision as a threat to free speech, and nobody wants to openly defend racial harassment. Do they?”

    Translation: If you disagree with me you are a racist.

  11. steve

    “In the greatest of ironies, if I were to refer to aborigines as blackfellas nowadays, I would be judged to be racist by most likely a white man.”

    perhaps, it is better to refer to aborigines as bland and colourless, maybe even a shade of beige:-)

    I would say that whites are the only race in the world that continually endeavours to find excessive fault in their own race rather than others…………….but that would be racist.

  12. Paul

    I think JohnA you’ll find that the Homosexuals are merely the bullets in someone else’s gun. Most of them are too stupid to see they are being used. The name of the author should be clue enough about who wants this kind of lawmaking, and who the loudest advocates for it usually are (here and elsewhere in the world). Yes, yes, I know, but that elephant just sits in that room…

  13. Mr Rusty

    Lordy, the onslaught that will be unleashed when 18c is repealed will be unbearable. I can already imagine the headlines;

    Abbott legalises racism
    Liberals unleash tsunami of hate on community
    Bolt free to abuse Aboriginies
    Racists celebrate death of tolerance

    GetUp and Socialist Alliance will organise marches, petitions and harangue Coalition MP’s wherever they tread and the ABC will run back-to-back black armband histories, docos and interviews on how inherently racist all white people are.

  14. vlad

    The “hard question” for lefties of Daniel’s stamp is: do you want everything bad to be illegal?

  15. Struth

    Society deals with racism. Laws don’t. Not allowing free speech allows things to fester and end up worse. You can’t make it law for everyone to smile at each other.
    You can make it law they don’t physically hurt each other.
    If you force people to smile at each other and not allow them to express their feelings verbally, you increase the chance of the physical problem later.
    Something we are already seeing in our country.

  16. Gab

    I really am tired of the LNP pandering to leftist minority groups and their causes du jour. Repeal 18c completely, it has no place in a free society.

  17. Struth

    Not if their funding is taken away Mr Rusty

  18. john malpas

    Are the Chinese allowed to be racist?
    And are you going to tell them ?

  19. .

    Racism?

    Try Singapore or Malaysia.

    They have had a race riot recently, after a Bangladeshi was run over.

    The fact the Straits Times used to wax lyrical about racist Australia was a sick joke.

    Racism occurs there because the Government approves of a type of behaviour.

  20. papachang

    It suggests that those who oppose section 18C are automatically supporters of racial abuse.

    Where did Katz stand on Conroy’s proposed Internet censorship? To their credit, a lot of lefties and greens opposed that.

    The same dumb (and frankly offensive) smear was used by pro-censorship people (especially Conroy) there – if you’re against censoring the Web then you must be a supporter of kiddie porn.

    Surely they can see how ridiculous that ‘argument’ was then and therefore how ridiculous this ‘argument’ is now? Or am I crediting lefties with too much logical ability?

  21. papachang

    The same dumb (and frankly offensive) smear.

    Actually, the “you must be a racist if you oppose these laws” is, in my opinion, reasonably likely to cause offence or humilation based on my race (the unspoken inference* is that this is directed towards caucasians) so shouldn’t Katz’s very argument be illegal according to the current s18C?

    * as we saw in Bolt vs the White Nine, ‘tone’ and ‘drawing an inference’ is enough to find guilt under 18C

  22. David

    “the greatest social problem of the age”

    Rodney I thought that St,Kevni told us that “gerbil worming” was the greatest social problem of the age – and he wouldn’t tell us an untruth. Would he.

    :-)

  23. I remember him. He came here and tried to argue his case, and ended up backing down, qualifying everything, and then running away.

    18C’s opponents have avoided making legitimate criticisms, instead relying on a number of half-truths and exaggerations to put their case forward.

    Andrew Bolt went to court. very publicly. I hardly call this ‘half truths and exaggerations’.

  24. Tom

    1. The “physical” harm line is a bit specious; the words that inimically affect a person’s self worth must be doing something physical—it is alleged that people have brains inside their heads.
    1.1 You should delete the last sentence.

  25. Nanuestalker

    These laws are to help remedy the greatest social problem of the age, namely pockeys of poverty in the legal profession.

    *Droll ;)

    [*A cat's LOL]

  26. Fisky

    Katz is dishonestly putting views that have already been hacked to pieces, because he wants to ban free speech and is not open to arguments. Abbott must refuse to hold meetings with whichever group Katz purports to represent, until they expel him.

  27. Fisky

    AIJAC chairman Mark Leibler is causing more harm than he realises by sanctioning this vilification of people whose free speech his community and organisation has relied upon. Mark, making me collateral damage in your campaign is something I cannot forgive.

    Andrew Bolt has the right approach. You either oppose the laws, or our friendship is over. There is no half way of whispering one thing in private “Yeah Andy we agree that your treatment was really bad”, while fully supporting the instruments of oppression in public. Cancelling friendships with these people is the right call.

  28. Michaelc58

    If people genuinely think it should be legal for Australians to harass people on the basis of race…

    This is a straw man non-argument.
    Harassment is already ‘illegal’, for any reason.
    Sect. 18C is not about harassment but about offence, and I am very happy to argue that it should be legal to offend people, offend them all day long.

    The question to ask the defenders of 18C is: Should it be legal to offend on the basis of race in a private conversation, in a public one?

  29. papachango

    Andrew Bolt has the right approach. You either oppose the laws, or our friendship is over.

    Except that Bolt hasn’t always been the champion of absolute free speech either. He sided with Conroy on Internet censorship (possibily because the Greens and many leftists opposed it).

    Still this was a couple of years before the White Nine case, so I hope at least that taught him of the dangers of supporting any kind of censorship.

  30. cohenite

    The key to the Bolt case is that he, according to the Judgment, got the facts wrong and this demonstrated bad faith.

    There were 2 sets of facts; firstly whether the self-described aboriginals were aboriginals and whether they rorted compensatory programs on the basis of that identification.

    Basically Bolt was convicted because he said aboriginals who identified as aboriginals were not aboriginals and had received benefits on that basis.

    That was the nature of the offence, insult, humiliation and intimidation, as per the act, which the litigants based their action on.

    Racism is described at S.9 as :

    1) It is unlawful for a person to do any act involving a distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of any human right or fundamental freedom in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.

    For the life of me I cannot see how Bolt contravened that definition.

    Bolt is the test case for the RDA; on that basis the ACT has failed.

  31. .

    The key to the Bolt case is that he, according to the Judgment, got the facts wrong and this demonstrated bad faith.

    Totally contrived though. He confused someone’s grandparental lineage, with this oversight, his argument was totally correct.

    Bromberg read the facts with as much mischief as possible. His conduct as a judicial officer as well as the plaintiff’s counsel was simply deplorable, they should be sacked or disbarred for their behaviour.

  32. james

    And amazingly enough, when the enemies of free speech are under attack the self proclaimed representatives of the Australian Jewish Community rush to the defence.

    I am sick of this. I supported Israel against the aggression of Islamist fanatics for years because I believed them to be on the right side. But I have met enough Israelis to realise that the Melbourne community is entirely unrepresentative of the Diaspora worldwide.

    Those who live in the Caulfield/ East St Kilda ghetto seem to hate themselves as well as the general gentile population.

    This may seem over the top, but seriously go out there and talk to people in the community. The difference between well adjusted Israelis and guilt ridden Melbournians who go to Synagogue every other year is significant.

  33. Monkey's Uncle

    If people genuinely think it should be legal for Australians to harass others on the basis of race, then they are welcome to make that argument.

    “Harass”? Few people would suggest that genuine harassment should be protected by law. If I regularly phone someone and racially abuse them or stand outside their house calling them a dirty, stinking so and so, that should not be protected free speech. What we are talking about is the right of people to hold opinions such as having negative views of certain racial or ethnic groups.

  34. james

    If I regularly phone someone and racially abuse them or stand outside their house calling them a dirty, stinking so and so, that should not be protected free speech.

    If I scream at you for hours on end about how I find your ancestry to be objectionable there are any number of public order laws against my rude and stupid behaviour.

  35. .

    Yes, exactly James, we don’t need new laws – some of that is already not accepted by society and the law.

  36. manalive

    It is not for the State to regulate moral behaviour. The State should concentrate on finding and punishing those who inflict physical harm on others …

    Quite so.
    Like me, Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz is not a lawyer.
    Firstly the Racial Discrimination Act would seem to extend to ethnicity, religion or any other like characteristic as applied in Jones v Toben which he mentions. I didn’t know that.
    His comment that ‘…common law breach of the peace laws have banned publicly engaging in conduct “calculated to wound the feelings” for centuries …’ is not strictly true in that insulting or threatening behaviour (including words) has been a criminal offence, at least since the late 1800s from British legislation, if it was likely to lead to a breach of the peace.
    For instance the British neo-Nazi Colin Jordan was convicted and jailed for an inflammatory speech at a rally in Trafalgar Square in 1962 which caused a riot.
    The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 covers areas like housing, employment, rights to assembly, equal treatment before courts etc. where most fair-minded people would agree that racial discrimination would be unjust.
    Whether it was reasonable or not, clearly clause 18C was intended to protect persons visibly belonging a racial minority from taunts etc. because of their distinctiveness not because of the lack of it as in the Bolt case.

  37. cohenite

    Whether it was reasonable or not, clearly clause 18C was intended to protect persons visibly belonging a racial minority from taunts etc. because of their distinctiveness not because of the lack of it as in the Bolt case.

    Exactly. The litigants in Bolt were offended because they were accused of not have the physical characteristics of belonging to a race.

    This alleged act of racial discrimination was not based on the racial characteristics but the lack of them.

    It really is a stupid decision.

  38. manalive

    Correction (partly), Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz is a law student.

  39. Jim Rose

    from Hustler Magazine v. Falwell 485 U.S. 46 (1988)
    • An early cartoon portraying George Washington as an ass!
    • There were cartoons on Lincoln’s tall, gangling posture, Teddy Roosevelt’s glasses and teeth, and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s jutting jaw and cigarette holder have been memorialized by political cartoons.

    It is clear that political discourse would have been considerably poorer without the right to be rude. The public expression of ideas may not be prohibited merely because the ideas are themselves offensive to some of their hearers

    The freedom to speak one’s mind is not only an aspect of individual liberty and a good unto itself, but it is also essential to the common quest for truth and the vitality of society as a whole.

    Robust political debate is bound to produce speech that is critical of those who hold public office or public figures intimately involved in the resolution of important public questions or, by reason of their fame, shape events of concern to society at large.

    A prerogative of citizenship is the right to criticize public figures and measures. Such criticism will not always be reasoned or moderate; public figures and public officials will be subject to vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks.

  40. Rococo Liberal

    Why the fuck is the Oz publishing an article by an article on this issue by a stupid law student?

    He can’t even understand the difference between harrassment and offence, for God’s sake!.

    In answer to his silly question about harrassment, I would ask him to consider the following. Farting in a crowded lift is obnoxious and can cause distress. Yet I bet out law-student author wouldn’t suggest that we need to have a law banning the breaking of wind in enclosed spaces in the presence of others.

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