25 November 2012, 08:15

Racism Australian style, or freedom of speech?

Racism Australian style, or freedom of speech?

Racism and Aboriginal rights are still a very real and acute problem in Australia. Recently Australia has passed a ruling which many “racist elements” see as a threat to their “free speech” in attacking and demonizing the already marginalized and vulnerable Aboriginal people for their own political ends. In reality the ruling was a small victory, but in a land where not long ago it was legal to kill the indigenous people, it has had a resounding resonance, even making it into the Russian language press.

The decimated Aboriginal population of Australia recently won a very small battle which has brought their struggle to the forefront, albeit on a small scale, and has many in Australia debating journalistic ethics, freedom of speech and just how far can politicians go to pander to the racist sentiments of their supporters when attacking vulnerable marginalized minorities.

The “victory” in question is a case regarding hate speech which the side of the perpetrator is trying to portray as a freedom of speech issue and deals with just how far Australians are allowed to go when expressing their hatred or making offensive statements about the Aboriginal peoples of Australia and other non-white non-Christian groups.

Nine indigenous Australians filed a complaint in Federal Court against a columnist for the Herald Sun named Andrew Bolt who was then found guilty of violating Australia’s anti-discrimination laws. More specifically breaching section 18 (c) of Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act of 1975.

The case against him include stating that the nine had “identified as Aborigines in order to gain career, social or other advantage” in two articles published in 2009 and two blog posts on the Herald Sun’s website, one titled “It’s so hip to be black.”

Australia, a country where not long ago it was legal to kill Aborigines and take their children away has a very long way to go towards becoming a fair society. Like most of the countries invaded, colonized or taken possession of during the days of the British Empire and the European invasion of the “New World,” countries and lands where the native peoples were brutally exterminated, Australia is ruled and populated by the ancestors of genocidal outcasts and the murderous misfits of European, in this case British society. So watching their system attempt to show that they are just is almost laughable, if it were not so tragic.

Despite the weakness of Australian anti-discrimination laws, as it true in many countries ruled along racial lines, Australia also has laws to “protect” free speech and “freedom of expression,” in this case Section 18D of the same Racial Discrimination Act which allows for exemptions when done “reasonably and in good faith” including public comments in a newspaper.

Such laws and arguments, as in the United States, allow for hate groups and those espousing hate to operate, for the most part, unhindered by the law. As with the US Ku Klux Klan, a group whose only goal is white domination through the killing and eradication of other races, and neo-Nazi groups worldwide who are allowed in many countries to march and hold public gatherings under the protection of governments, Australia’s racists also hide behind the banner of freedom of expression.

Watching the farce of the white justice system attempting to show it is fair, as it rules against its own, is usually saddening and mostly predictable, and this time is no different. The fact that it took four publications and nine plaintiffs to bring about a grudging ruling in this case says a lot for the fairness of the Australian system and the attitudes of white Australians to the issue of the rights of the marginalized natives of the country they have occupied for hundreds of years.

The reaction by the Australian media, such as the newspaper and website The Australian and powerful politicians who were given positions of power by millions of like-minded voters, in this case Australian Representative Tony Abbott, is also a sad reminder as to how racist the system is and how many millions still support and hold extreme racist views.

In the United States, Canada, Europe and other countries, racists and hate groups have made huge gains over the last 20 years. In particular Republicans and the far-right in US who have for the most part succeeded in overturning gains made during the civil rights era. This has for the most part been helped by Islamaphobia, crack downs on civil rights and freedoms and the ensuing battle for “freedom of expression and “equal rights for whites” which have been used as tools to rewrite laws and restructure the white supremacist system in subtle and far reaching ways.

A good indicator that institutionalized racism is worldwide problem is the case of Anders Breivik in Norway who despite his heinous crimes enjoys a suite of rooms and superior treatment for the sole reason that he was fighting for the white race, no matter that he is a mass-murdering lunatic.

Back to the matter at hand: Australia has one of the longest and most brutal histories of genocide, racial hatred and institutionalized discrimination and has only recently begun to correct some of the wrongs in the system. Advocates of Aboriginal rights believe Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act is worth defending, especially in light of the fact that there still exist extreme levels of hatred, along racial, ethnic and religious lines in Australia.

In an article for ABC Australia Mariam Veiszadeh, a lawyer, writer and community rights advocate says, “(Australia’s) … politicians feel the need to score political points at the expense of the most vulnerable members of Australian society.” With regard to freedom of speech she says: “Freedom of speech and expression is inevitably a double edged sword. While it is very much the cornerstone of our democratic rights and freedoms, those who spew hateful and misleading vitriol ultimately thrive from the protection it offers.”

Though expectedly demonized by many “Australians,” last year Australia’s Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, as reported by Mariam Veiszadeh: “…launched a public discussion paper to seek community views on consolidating Commonwealth anti-discrimination law as part of Australia's Human Rights Framework."

Although Australia’s anti-discrimination laws are minimal and need to be strengthened the Attorney General has faced harsh criticism and attacks for her fight for justice. In the same article in The Australian that I mentioned above, the “freedom of speech” argument is blatantly and inaccurately put forward once again with the publication defending hate speech by politicians by stating incorrectly as fact that Attorney-General Nicola Roxon's proposed changes: expand the list of things people can be offended by, expand the jurisdiction into shops, workplaces and sporting clubs, provide a new weapon in the war on free speech, include "political opinion" as a ground on which people can be discriminated against and make “even innocuous political expressions subject to the law.”

The nine “fair-skinned Aboriginals'' as they are being called in the Australian all were carefully targeted for the smear by Bolt. They are all high-achieving Aboriginals who have in various ways advanced the struggle of the Aboriginal people and this is something that racist elements in Australian want to see stopped.

Their claim that their attack was exempt from prosecution because it was free speech was shot down by Justice Mordecai Bromberg who cited the way the "articles were written, including that they contained errors of fact, distortions of the truth and inflammatory and provocative language."

In the verdict which Justice Bromberg read out in court he stated that he had found that "fair-skinned Aboriginal people (or some of them) were reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to have been offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated by the imputations conveyed in the newspaper articles."

According to the Australian after the proceedings the author Bolt said “This is a terrible day for freedom of speech in this country'', and the author of the article, the director of the Legal Rights Project, Simon Breheny said: “We've already seen the consequences of the Racial Discrimination Act for freedom of speech. If you thought that was a miscarriages of justice, just wait until you see the extraordinary wave of free speech litigation Roxon's new laws will unleash.” I would argue his own statement is an admission and a clear affirmation that widespread racism is a very serious problem in Australia.

Unfortunately for Australian racists Australia’s genocide of the Aborigines was not as complete as the American genocide of the Indian Nations and the Aboriginal people still exist in numbers large enough to allow them to occasionally be heard. This is also due to Australia’s policy of extermination through assimilation as opposed to the US policy of outright genocide and the following ghettoizing of the Indian people to reservations.

Few, if any, full-blooded Aboriginals in Australia are allowed to advance to the levels that the nine defendants in this case have lifted themselves up to, and we see that this has caused resonance. As with America most people who posses Aboriginal or native blood are supposed to hide that fact and quietly live under subjugation, these nine too often stepped-out-of-line, and were therefore attacked.

Most people of native origin, if living among the “broader” populations of their respective invaded lands, are taught to hide their ancestry, as were the Jews during the Great Patriotic War, and any other groups living surrounded by the “enemy.” Like my father once told me in California, where our family was attacked by skin-heads, when I found out our hidden family history and that I am more than 40% Taino Indian, “It is a white man’s world. We have to live by his rules.”

Yes, Australia, most of the Americas, and many other places are now a “white Anglo Saxon man’s world,” but the fact is that those “worlds” were stolen.

Let this serve as a warning to all Russians and nations of the world to be forever vigilant to encroachment on your peoples and your lands.

The opinions and views expressed here are the writer’s own. He can be reached at robles@ruvr.ru.

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