Guest Post by Peter Freedman:
It had to happen. Sooner or later Bob Katter would do something absolutely tasteless, totally without any merit of any kind, to try to win votes in the Queensland State election.
Katter is a sort of Australian Winston Peters. He has been in politics for yonks and recently formed his own party. He called it the Australia Party, then decided a more humble The Katter Party sounded better and tried to delay the entire election while the change was made. He lost that round.
Now he has come up with this ad:
For those who can’t get to the link, the ad about is the attitude of opponent, Liberal leader Campbell Newman, over gay marriage. It repeats the same clip of Newman saying he supports gay marriage, interspersed with a pixelated pic of two apparently naked men being friendly, but not THAT friendly.
The ad asks: “Is a vote for Campbell Newman a vote for gay marriage?” The answer to that incredibly complex question will come later.
On the surface it is just a grubby tasteless ad, the sort that has become a part of modern politics. Sigh at the drop in standards and move on.
Yet this ad has caused a huge kerfuffle in Australia! You would think The Governor General had been snapped performing oral sex on the Prime Minister, while the entire Australia cricket team stood admiringly waiting their turn.
Yes, this is a strange country. The GG, Quentin Bryce, is actually a female. Ask that question at your next trivia night.
But the reaction to this ad is probably the strangest I have seen since arriving in Australia. Everyone is talking about it. Still worse I can’t find anyone who is defending it, except Bob K himself of course. And me.
The ad, while perhaps disgusting and offensive to some, is true. Newman DOES support gay marriage. The pic of the two men is not indecent, the pixels cover their chests, FFS, and the shot stops well before the dangly bits.
Isn’t this ad just another example of free speech?
Not if you believe last night’s Q and A on the ABC. There were five people on the panel, an Aboriginal leader, a bright young Labor Cabinet minister, an elderly weather beaten farming leader, a cocky youthful feminist writer and a Liberal MP who wants to be the party leader but dare not say so. A more diverse mob would be hard to find.
Yet they all agreed. Katter’s ad should be banned. It demonized gay people, it was homophobic and deeply objectionable. Throw it on the fire, I say!
But wait, there’s more. Australia’s third most rightwing columnist, Andrew Bolt, the same gentleman so adored by Australia’s fourth most rightwing columnist, Janet Albrechtsen, wants the ad banned as well. Or so the feminist writer said.
Bolt’s blog is here:
Nowhere that I can find does he call for a ban. But he clearly didn’t like the advertisement, terms like “a vile ad, openly and shamelessly appealing to homophobia” tend to give that impression.
Unfortunately for his credibility, Bolt has been openly and shamelessly appealing to the worst of human nature for years. This man has been openly and shamelessly in and out of court so often there’s talk of providing a revolving door marked “Andrew Bolt Entrance” on one side and “Andrew Bolt Exit” on the other.
Bolt is a “Stolen Generation” denier. Despite all the historical documentation he continues to claim that large numbers of black kids weren’t snatched from their families to be placed with white families. He once asked a professor to provide “just 10 names” of stolen kids. When the prof produced four pages of names, Bolt still remained unconvinced.
Then he defamed a magistrate, claiming she had hugged two drug traffickers as she set them free. The magistrate said she shook their hands to congratulate them for completing a rehab programme and a jury believed her. Bolt got it wrong because he couldn’t be bothered contacting the magistrate for her side of the story, one of the first things I learned when I became a journalist. It is called “balance” or “getting both sides”.
That little mishap cost Bolt, or his employers, $246,000 in damages.
Then in late 2010, Bolt was sued by seven people for a series of columns claiming white people in Australia sometimes pretend to be black for political or career advancement. Again he was found to have broken the law. Fortunately for his employers the seven only wanted their names cleared and sought no money .
Every time he is criticized Bolt falls back on his rights of free speech. But isn’t Bob Katter’s ad free speech? Apparently not.
I am of Jewish ancestry. If a Nazi in full uniform marched up and down a public spot yelling “Sieg Heil” I wouldn’t stop and offer him some matzo ball soup. But I would believe he had a right to make a dick of himself, whether beschnittener or unbeschnittener. It’s called free speech.
“I disapprove of what you say, but will defend with my life your right to say it” – Though these words are regularly attributed to Voltaire, they were first used by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing under the pseudonym of Stephen G Tallentyre in The Friends of Voltaire (1906).
“Where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also” Henrich Heine,99 years before the Nazis came to power.
Think about it.
For the record I do not agree with what Peter has said on Andrew Bolt. Nowhere has Bolt said the ad should be banned (as noted) so there is no issue of consistency. I would have thought Peter would welcome the leading conservative commentator in Australia saying “But to oppose civil unions is just bloody-minded interference in the lives of others”.
There is also another side of the story on the issues cited about Bolt. For example the debate about the stolen generation wasn’t whether or not lots of Aboriginal children were not put into white families. It was about how many were taken without the consent of a parent, and where there was no abuse – which is far fewer number.