Right-wing Herald Sun columnist has been sued under Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance act:
HERALD Sun columnist Andrew Bolt is being sued under the Racial Vilification Act by a group of Aborigines led by 73-year-old activist Pat Eatock over two columns he wrote last year.
The two columns are here and here. With all the sensitivity and nuance Bolt typically brings to his columns, they question the Aboriginality of a few easy targets – academics and artists, in the main. For what it’s worth, Bolt fails to grasp – or, deliberately ignores – the fairly simple and straightforward idea that cultural identity is, well, cultural. The columns are undoubtedly offensive and hurtful to their subjects.
But I don’t think even the most malevolent interpretation of Bolt’s columns would have them constitute a threat, or inciting a threat, against their subjects. We’re talking about personal insult here, however deep it may have been felt.
As such, I echo the concerns of Liberty Victoria President Michael Pearce SC:
“‘‘It is easy to imagine that it caused offence and hurt to the people against whom it was directed. However, hurt and offence are caused by all sorts of speech all the time.
‘‘It would be impossible to proscribe all speech which causes hurt and offence.’
Indeed. I’ve personally written things about Bolt which, had he a thinner skin, could cause hurt and offence.
It remains to be seen whether the case will go anywhere; however, the very fact that the case has been brought has a chilling effect on free speech. News Limited can afford legal counsel; others (notably, bloggers) may not.
Regardless of whether this case succeeds, there is little practical benefit to using the law to attempt to silence Bolt’s views on this issue – and, clearly, it’s what this is about, despite protests to the contrary. While shutting him up may be personally satisfying, it will merely make his considerable number of fans more convinced of his heroism and righteousness.
The Racial and Religious tolerance act has a decade of lengthy and pointless court action, and nothing else, to its name. It does nothing to actually help achieve racial and religious tolerance, and should be repealed.