This time last year, Quadrant lost the last of its government funding. Rather than giving them a handout, I advocated subscribing on the basis that it represented good value for money. I also put my money where my mouth was and subscribed. Many others would have done the same and the folks at Quadrant probably saw a nice spike in subscriptions.
Now that the year is up, many are reflecting on what they got for their money. Doublethink wasn’t supposed to be part of the subscription.
It all started on the ABC’s Q&A last week – where the show’s panelists were curiously agreeing that you’ve got a better chance of getting hit by a falling fridge than being killed by a terrorist (yes, really). Then the Manchester attack happened a few hours later.
Roger Franklin then wrote the following:
Life isn’t fair and death less so. Had there been a shred of justice, that blast would have detonated in an Ultimo TV studio. Unlike those young girls in Manchester, their lives snuffed out before they could begin, none of the panel’s likely casualties would have represented the slightest reduction in humanity’s intelligence, decency, empathy or honesty.
Before changing it to read as follows:
Life isn’t fair and death less so.
Had there been a shred of justice, that blast would have detonated in an Ultimo TV studio. What if that blast had detonated in an Ultimo TV studio? Unlike those young girls in Manchester, their lives snuffed out before they could begin, none of the panel’s likely casualties would have represented the slightest reduction in humanity’s intelligence, decency, empathy or honesty.
Instead of there being a strong focus on the sheer lunacy of what had been said on Q&A (I’m still waiting), the following things happened:
- The ABC got angry, demanded an apology and that the article be pulled.
- Nick Cater (a Quadrant board member) scrambled to make sure he wasn’t left out of the grovelling.
- Communications Minister, Mitch Fifield also got on board:
Communications Minister, Mitch Fifield, on Wednesday described the article as ‘sick and unhinged’ and ‘a new low’.
- Franklin’s entire article was pulled.
- Many on the conservative side of politics did their best to either join the virtue band wagon in condemning Franklin or run away from the issue and pretend it never happened.
For good measure, Franklin’s future at Quadrant is also in serious doubt with a trip to the Ministry of Love on the cards:
But it’s believed the online editor and author of the article, Roger Franklin, will be counselled, rather than sacked.
Anyone want to guess what happens next?
What Roger Franklin did was exercise his right to free speech, albeit poorly. But so what? Are we really now saying that if you write something wrong, offensive or tasteless, that it should be stricken from the record? That we should treat it as if it never existed? And who should be the arbiter of this new standard?
What a sick joke.
Free speech entails saying and writing whatever you want on these topics – even if it seeks to make people more scared of fridges than they otherwise should be. If it turns out to be wrong or offensive, then free speech allows people to call you out. From there, you are supposed to own what you have said or written: either by intelligently defending it or admitting that you were wrong. This is called accountability. It’s also how ideas get formulated, discussed, challenged and developed.
It is inconceivable that Quadrant could regularly campaign in support of amending or abolishing section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act – on the grounds of freedom of speech – but then actually pull one of its own articles, even though it didn’t breach any law. As far as Quadrant is concerned, Roger Franklin’s article doesn’t exist and never existed – the quintessence of doublethink*:
If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event, it never happened — that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death?
And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale — then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. ‘Reality control’, they called it: in Newspeak, ‘doublethink’.
The past, he reflected, had not merely been altered, it had been actually destroyed. For how could you establish even the most obvious fact when there existed no record outside your own memory?
Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.
Orwell’s 1984 isn’t supposed to be a blue print for a successful society: it’s supposed to be a warning as to how easy it is to destroy one. The Franklin saga shows that we’re well on our way.
(*) “Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”