When you get offended, “nothing happens”

I wish to discuss an important issue, perhaps the most fundamental issue, as noted by sociologist Frank Furedi: freedom of speech.

In an entertaining stand-up routine, Steve Hughes recognises the simple but profound truth: when you are offended, nothing happens. You may get your feelings hurt; you may be ‘insulted’, but as Hughes mentions, you won’t suddenly wake up the next morning with leprosy.

Mark Steyn has said that “a joke is the smallest indicator and most reliable indicator of liberty, so laugh it up while you can, because there will be no jokes in the future, none”. Jokes also sometimes house the most revealing truths, as in Steve’s commentary on political correctness. He rightfully describes it as “oppression of our intellectual movements so no-one says anything anymore in case somebody else gets offended”. That’s what is increasingly happen in western countries – Australia, The US, Canada – all the time.

An interesting point Hughes mentions is that you now have adults crying out for help for their injured feelings. It used to be considered childish to go and tell on someone upon insult. But no, following offense, insult and hurt feelings, adults cry out to the Human Rights Commission, who then refer (in the case of Andrew Bolt) their grievances to the judiciary. They have “rights”, goes the complaint. Again, like Hughes mentions, “Nothing happens. You’re an adult. Grow up, deal with it”. This sounds a little harsh, but as George Brandis has rightly mentioned, it should be the role of a free society to have its citizens freely express their disapprove of offensive opinions – which there can be no question that it does: simply read any reply to any opinion online, or watch any kind of news or affairs program. Do we want this, Brandis asks, or do we want a society in which “every time somebody says something unpopular or offensive to a majority of opinion the Parliament passes a law to say, well, you are prohibited”. As he correctly identifies, that is censorship. There is simply no way to argue around that one; for example claiming that it’s balancing rights against each other: the right to freedom of speech vs. the right to not be offended. Terrible arguments are made combining half-truths in erroneous ways (for example, view the Qanda episode link above containing Brandis’ comments, for a wide range of invalid reasoning by many of the panelists).

Janet Albrechtsen has on many occasions pointed to this alarming trend towards oppression, and what she describes as ‘the cult of taking offence’. Quite rightly, she condemns the exact same thing that Hughes was making fun of when he said adults should ‘grow up’ and get over it. Offence happens, that is part of being alive and coexisting with multitudes of inhabitants all possessing vastly differing opinions. In Albrechtsen’s words, laws like 18C are “the legislative extension of trigger warnings that stifle debate and infantilise students”. Of course, the very real implication is that not just students (who are supposedly some the smartest of the generational cohort and the future leaders of the world), but something seething deep within our culture, is infantilising the population. We are being taught to take the easy way out of everything; to complain, and whine, rather than assume some responsibility for our own reactions to the words of others. Will it be any wonder if civilisation becomes a weeping mess of mediocre adult infants?

Remember, if you are offended, words can’t jump out and attack you. Other than your own reactionary thoughts, nothing happens.

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The schools shall be safe, what about “peaceful protests”?

Let’s put aside the fact that it is stupid of Australian students to protest the democratic election of a US president (I have covered my issue with people calling it undemocratic in some detail in a previous post). Students were protesting an election result at Melbourne. And a pro-Trump demonstrator decided to mix in amongst the anti-Trump protestors.

Roz Ward, academic and co-f0under of Victoria’s safe schools program, was photographed trying to pry a hat off the head of the said pro-Trump protestor. I know, what a grievous injustice, right? In all seriousness, the man is probably not mortified by the attack on his trusty cap, probably doesn’t keep it locked in a safe at night to protect it against anti-Trump vigilantes. Still, it is worth looking into what it means. Many supporters of Ward are quite perplexed and worried when her involvement in the Safe Schools program is mentioned; as if it is the result of the right-wing trying to use propaganda to portray a warped image of her.

For example, from an article written by Jo Hirst in the Sydney Morning Herald:

“Scary buzzwords straight out of the 1950s have been invoked in an attempt to assign political ideology to the Safe Schools program. Words like ‘Marxism’ and ‘genderless theory’ that are actually unrelated to the Safe Schools program, have been used by conservatives to try and undermine it”.

Inevitably, in a world full of a broad spectrum of opinions, it is quite natural that every public figure will have some aspects exaggerated. However, although in a sense Hirst is correct, if one takes the time to process a little further, it becomes clear where the Marxist and genderless theory come from. In regards to the Marxist: Ward was spotted with a copy of Red Flag, a left-wing newspaper based on Marxist socialism principles. She actually contributes to the newspaper as well.

A quick summary of the newspaper will be provided, paraphrased simply from their information page. Basically, capitalism is the root of much evil in the world, it’s “full of lies, distortion and right-wing bias”. The aim of the newspaper is to be an alternative press, free from the corruptions of big business and government. The aim of the publication is supposedly to tell the truth, support resistance, fight for socialism, and intervene in struggles. There is a lot of discussion about the oppressed. The reason people identify her as Marxist is because the very essence of Marxism, is a loathing for capitalism, big business, and oppression and exploitation of the poor by the capitalists, which the newspaper is motivated by.  The origins of such systems come from Karl Marx; anyone interested would benefit from looking more deeply into the history of Marxism going back to him.

It is tempting to see capitalism as evil, especially for those that are downtrodden – it is easy to blame all one’s troubles on successful people. It seems strange though that Red Flag are against government spin. In essence, the socialism ideal requires a massively centralised government: It is a nice utopian dream – who wouldn’t like there to be no oppressed people in society? Certainly most people don’t like the fact that people live in poverty even in our western societies. However, the socialist alternative is, I think, worse. Because most people are oppressed. In such a regime, there have to be necessary restrictions on freedom. At the moment we have, to some extent, the best (and worst) of both worlds: the freedom of capitalism, and elements of socialism and bureaucratization (the bad, but also welfare etc.).

I am surprised that it is claimed there is a right-wing bias in the media. Most places I look, I see either left-wing bias, or if not, people who conform to left-wing ideas somewhat, perhaps out of fear. But obviously the left-wing would claim a right-wing bias.

This brings us back to Roz Ward. Jo Hirst claimed that Safe Schools is being given a bad name by conservatives, labelling it as genderless theory. Of course that’s not true, gender-studies wouldn’t have an absence of gender (genderless), and thus there is a reference to gender. Rather than genderless, it is gender fluidity, along with fluidity of sexuality:

“Looking at sexuality as something that’s fluid and always changing is pretty cool”.

People are simply expressing their dislike for the idea of gender fluidity. In that sense, they are being conservative: they are trying to conserve the role of gender which has been (basically) the norm for millennia. To reproach people for trying to conserve that, insinuating that they are bigots, haters etc. shows us that “left-wing” gender advocates cannot make argument, but can only call names. It is the exact kind of persuasion that people who are concerned with political agendas warn of. Rather than have a debate about it, people are called hate-inspired names, so that “conserving” your culture becomes a mean thing; this is in attempt to silence dissenters, so that governments will introduce this into schools. And they have. And you were told by Hirst that these mean conservatives are trying to “assign political ideology to the Safe Schools program”. In a way which becomes obvious upon closer inspection, that seems actually correct.

The other thing left-wing advocates can do to shut down arguments is grab hats. Stop laughing. The person who is in favour of “anti-bullying” is also in favour of stealing people’s property from their bodies in front of others. And we let that. Well, we don’t. Some people speak up. In the end, it is promoting exactly the values which are supposedly denounced. The act of the hat grab isn’t life-altering in itself, it’s what it symbolically represents. For people who believe in honest debate rather than politically motivated encroachments on liberty, it is deplorable, in the moral it portrays to the pro-Trump demonstrator: “I have a right to publicly stand up for my beliefs, but you do not”.

And what has disgusted (some) people is that Ward is supposed to be against bullying. Imagine this pretend scenario. If you had a son at school, and he was wearing a hat that a girl didn’t like, would you find it morally just for the girl to try to rip the hat off of his head. People that are outraged are outraged because they have principles.

The link to the Safe Schools that people like Hirst neglect to notice, is that such left-wing ideals are also being imposed on our school children, starting with Victoria. Many “conservative” people (and possibly left-of-centre people too) are of the view that sexuality is something partly determined biologically, and partly determined by a growing child’s interactions with his or her culture. In such a view, forcing state-imposed sexual teachings is something which should not be done. And yet it is scheduled.

What’s more; the photographer who snapped Roz Ward has shut down his Twitter and Instragram accounts, because he has received threats, abuse, harassment, and he hinted that he would in all likelihood not be welcome at left-wing rallies in the future. So much for liberty and free exchange of ideas.

I’ll leave you with one question. Where’s that right-wing bias?

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The Project silences Steve Price: “news” delivered differently

The left are at it again, if you’ll excuse the crude generalisation (more discussion on left/right distinctions some other time).

In a classic shout down on The Project, Jamila Rizvi, “accomplished host, interviewer and commentator”, who has “firmly established herself as the preeminent voice of young Australian women online” aggressively silences conservative radio host and fellow panelist on The Project, Steve Price. Yes, Price often speaks in a way which is ‘rude’, but this is different to speaking aggressively. You can watch the scene here .

Steve said in response to the US election result that “the people in real America – in Small Town America weren’t buying the bulldust that was coming out of the elites”. To which Rizvi took offense, commanding Price to cut the bullshit, in an aggressive attack.

In Rizvi’s defense, she did have a point: it makes little sense to call people in small town America real; all Americans are real. However, it showed a lack of interpretation on her part, not following the principle of charity in interpretation, which, to put in terms similar to the bible maxim: “interpret unto others as you would have them interpret unto you”.1 Price didn’t mean that people other than those in small town America are unreal, or empty shells embodying the form of ‘real people’. Rather, he was expressing that the concerns of those in small town America differ from the concerns of those in and among the hustle and bustle of cities, those vast centres of mass culture at its most manipulable.

But as has been mentioned, the principle of charity in interpretation assumes that the partner in the piece of reasoning has the goal of truly robust argument in mind.1 It is questionable as to whether Rizvi had this in mind, as her first instinct is, quite literally to shut down the debate. What is worse, host Carrie Bickmore assists in this goal when she reproaches Price for his “tone”. This happens after Price makes the comparison with people like Rizvi who shut down the debate on a show and political parties like the Democrat machine (presumably these were the elites Price mentioned that were peddling the said bulldust) shutting down debate in America. He makes a valid point, which a television program which has the primary goal of robust discussion might allow him to elaborate on; but as can be seen, the public discourse shrivels up to a narrow one-sided discussion.

People who have seen Price know, as I’ve said, that he can be “rude”, but I don’t think he was being rude at all when he gave his opinion on why Trump was elected. The problem with our society is that it is becoming one where the left are ready to take offense and shut down a debate rather than argue a point. This is what happened when Rizvi went wild at Price. However, he is used to this kind of thing, and could hold his own. He made the point that it was because of people like Rizvi that Trump won the election. I think this is a most penetrating insight. Especially when the audience then got emotional, and Bickmore then reprimanded Price for his tone. What about Rizvi’s tone? It was quite a spectacle to see; I urge readers to view the above link.

Why wasn’t Rizvi reprimanded for her tone? Because she’s the preeminent voice of young Australian women online. She’s part of a group which needs special treatment, positive discrimination, in the form of being allowed to speak aggressively and shut down debate, while Price needs just the opposite. It is such a joke that in a free society our culture tries to artificially alter debates.

A petition started which demanded that Bickmore apologise to Price on air. To which he responded that there was no need. Fair enough, the guy probably isn’t hurt. What is a big problem to me though, is the biased picture of the world which this shows people watching the show. The public deserve a balanced debate – leftists like Rizvi, and minority fundamentalists alike who always have an appeal because they possess or emphasise a certain identity, of an oppressed group which are owed something: women, certain ethnicities, LGBTIQ – and conservative voices such as Price. By letting people battle it out in the debate field, we encourage only the survival of the fittest ideas. By reprimanding people on a certain side (always the right), we encourage a worldview which is imposed on the world, and reproduces itself.

I don’t know if anything good would have resulted from an apology; but I think it does at least show that people are outraged. Some people. I would personally like to see the petition put up for a longer period of time to see how much support it could attract. I think it shows also what Price was talking about, that there actually does exist a certain amount of people (who knows how many) who are annoyed by the one sided debates, shutting down of opinions, and shrinking of public discourse. If Price was swearing at Rizvi you can bet there would have been a petition, possibly something worse, like him getting seriously reprimanded or kicked off the show. You think this is farfetched? Check out the eminent scientist Sir Timothy Hunt whose career was ruined after he made a joke that “caused offense”.

Make no mistake, we are entering into a culture where any aberration from sterile, politically correct standards of behaviour can result in the most dire consequences. The fact that what happened to Price wasn’t so bad mustn’t make us lose vigilance. If we are to fight for freedom in our country – freedom of ideas, that is, we must speak up when something like this happens. Those of us who do cherish ideals of freedom, robust debate and a free society, must be eternally vigilant of threats to liberty, and support each other. Encroachments on freedom are hardest to fight when they arise from the very culture itself.

Endnotes

  1. California State University (n.d.) Rational Reconstruction and the Principle of Charity. Retrieved from http://www.csus.edu/indiv/m/mayesgr/phl4/tutorial/phl4charity.htm
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Protestors are a bigger threat to democracy than Trump could ever be

What a disappointing spectacle to see people taking to the streets in violent protest after Donald Trump became President-elect. What is amazing – although perhaps not really, given the present political climate – is that in America, a Western country among many who claim to have such moral superiority over other less ‘culturally advanced’ societies, a subset of people are behaving in backward ways that are worse than any of the criticisms they charge Trump with.

Why do protests pose a big threat to democracy? Because fearful governments cater to causes that gather a momentum regardless of the merits, if not doing so leads them to be perceived as meanies.

It is just so typical of a certain class of people to take issues they have with Trump and, with the help of the media and the power of the Clinton machine, grossly exaggerate these issues, flinging all sorts of identitarian political slurs at him: racist, xenophobic, homophobic, sexist, trans-phobic, and the rest. Trump, not being a professional at political deception, is prone to announcing his views in ways which our culturally sensitive society cannot tolerate. Our society is so sensitive to ideas that it takes offence at the discussion of any issues that aren’t part of our pre-approved topics of discussion, which results in contemporary forms of propaganda: hate speech, offense taking, equality, inclusiveness etc., all of which are important when legitimate, but are often over-inflated.

Some people make a vital mistake in assuming that we can reduce these labels (such as xenophobe, homophobe) to merely one: bad. Donald Trump is bad, he is a bad person. In asserting such apparently self-evident truths, they have succumbed to their proclaimed enemy: hate. Hate is hate, whether it is directed towards someone you approve of or disapprove of. It isn’t merely correctly directed hatred.

Holding all details aside until future discussions, let’s just crudely generalise for the moment, and assign the protests to people of the left. These people are united by a particular political ideology which favours political correctness, state-sanctioned restrictions on freedom dressed up as “rights”, and intolerance of opinion dressed up as tolerance of everything else that you could think of.

Let’s look at who is protesting. You can’t label it as most people, because a majority has installed Trump as the President. I don’t care what your definition of majority is, millions of people voted for Donald Trump. If any people who did not vote decided to take to the streets and protest – they would have been protesting an issue which they voluntarily chose not to contribute to changing. In essence one would assume you could discount non-voters from the protestors; why would you protest something you chose to ignore when you had a choice to make your wishes known.

So the people have been essentially protesting an actual democratic decision, which happens so rarely, once every four years for presidential elections. In contrast, every decision made between each election is by nature, decided wholly by those in power (those elected) – those privileged few are trying to blend the voices of the many (those they represent) into their own conception of justice. Protesters are in essence angry at the fact that people actually got to contribute directly albeit partially, to choosing a leader. This anger is because democracy lead to an outcome they didn’t want.

It is understandable that during an election campaign, people – Trump, Clinton, and supporters from each side – will use all manners of persuasion under the sun to try and present an unfavourable view of their opponent, but when all is said and done, the “loud minority”, or minority fundamentalists, as they have been called by former Prime Minister John Howard, amongst others1, 2, should be accepting of the outcome of the democratic process they claim to hold dearly. But they don’t. They are masters of inventing arguments out of thin air, basically: it was decided as per usual democratic practice, but all of a sudden that practice is no good. Apparently democracy is undemocratic. Alas, as Andrew Bolt has repeatedly said, with the left, it’s not the principle that matters, but the side.

Some people consider it undemocratic simply because Trump won. If the rules had suddenly changed in a significant way since the last election and there was a compelling argument for why things were so unjust, one might be able to entertain such an idea, but no such thing is true. Was the democratic process a failure when it resulted in Barack Obama being elected and then re-elected? There is a certain relativistic element inherent in any critique of democracy.

Political systems will eternally be subjected to ridicule; this is normal, and healthy. In a free society, people should be able to express their opinions, even if they are misguided – and even if they are Donald Trump. What should be avoided is any opinion being expressed dogmatically as absolute moral truths, with dissenting views punished by being ostracized and silenced. That’s what has gone rotten with this Donald Trump business the whole time: not that his views are right, but that they are his views, and if he wishes to express them, and his Party nominates him for Presidency, and the people elect him, then people should have a bit of a grumble if they wish and then let Trump and everyone else get on with their business. But no, we return to this primitive tribalism-like movement.

In regards to the democratic process as practiced in America, the perspective which resonates with me, basically states that the Electoral College system provides some sort of buffer, or reduction in ‘tyranny of the majority’.  The assumption is that were it to be purely based on who gets the most votes in the country, candidates would only have to travel to the most populous areas to gain the most votes. This presents not just an inaccuracy of the will of all people, but also an injustice: how could it be fair that certain states are ignored or paid less attention just because less people live there. So the people vote for their Electoral College, who then represents those voters. At first glance this might seem like excessive bureaucracy. It is bureaucracy, but before deciding it is excessive consider the alternative; the most powerful members of a country would merely have to employ mass persuasion in order to win. But in reality, different people in different areas think differently. And they should be listened to and represented in proportion. There are plenty of credible resources available online for this perspective. For a primer, see the video at Prager University.3

One can think of it as being similar to the Winston Churchill quote:

“Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…”4

Yet all the minority fundamentalists of today do is become outraged at the system and demand change when there is an outcome they didn’t want.

Why do they do this? Perhaps it stems from people’s desire to feel good, and so they fantasise that there is such a thing as a political system which perfectly encapsulates a pure form of justice, and that such a system is the one they happen to endorse. This is fine, and probably describes to some extent what every human being feels in their heart, but this movement of censorship and silencing may force Western democracies toward totalitarianism, which are democratic only the surface: we punish people for speaking out, in the form of culture. By this, I mean that journalists, media, other politicians, universities, schools, curriculum planners. Powerful cultural forces result in certain views being ignored, people fired/not hired, ostracised, and in general, a gradual shrinking of the public discourse which is, in a certain sense, voluntary. And we allow it at first, then come to demand it once we have been indoctrinated.

This contemporary censorship and propaganda even infects children. A primary school student spoke to me recently about how Trump is a ‘sexist’ who ‘abused his daughter’. This is even discussed in schools and in some there is a consensus of these facts; I was told how one student held up a newspaper whilst another showing in what I assume is retaliation to this perceived villain, punched through Donald Trump’s face. I am for discussions even against my own opinions, but when you see primary school students becoming violent and defending opinions they can only understand one-dimensionally and on the basis of what they perceive to be pure fact, I become worried.

Regardless of your political persuasion, or whether you like either of the personalities, if you are in favour of a free society (taking democracy’s imperfections into account) then the election of Trump should restore at least some faith in the rule of the people. I say this because when you look at the coverage of the election campaign over many months, the cards were stacked against Trump the whole time; one only has to look the widespread lack of journalistic integrity and profound bias. An example illustrates this, a study on American journalists, finding that 96 percent of donations went to Clinton.5 But honestly, no person with any perceptive ability at all would need results from an investigation to be able to see the clear bias in the media, almost unanimously in favour of Clinton.

You may argue if you want, that his particular behaviours make him unfit to be President, and I have no objection to someone making such a claim. However, as illustrated in the media, although Trump’s character is extensively reported on, there is no comparable coverage of outrage over Hillary Clinton performing acts which some have argued (not just Donald Trump) do make it questionable as to whether it would have been right for her to be President. There is only one side portrayed in the media.

I’m not professing to be a champion for Donald Trump. But I do represent what he seems to stand for. Not necessarily all his policies, but his daring to even raise them when all everyone else can do is spout politically correct catch-phrases: global warming, being green, equality, women’s rights, LGBTIQSHPEISIDZES rights (for those that Senator Bernadi has called the alphabet mafia6), trans-rights, cisgender rights, right to not be offended, hurt, insulted, intimidated, scared – or think for yourself.

The human right I am principally concerned with at the moment is the right to actually hear a balance of opinions, and I’m worried, because the only ones that seem to make their way to my ear without lengthy searching are ones geared towards the minority fundamentalists of the 21st century left-wing. I wish to leave everyone with a quote which I hope people, no matter where they are from, will think over very carefully. This is a problem all Western societies must deal with.

“America is in jeopardy. Not from external enemies, but from elites in the media, academia and Hollywood who hold America in contempt. Can we win this war of ideas? Yes, but it won’t be easy.”7

 Please comment, share, and join me in the war of ideas.

Endnotes

  1. Kelly, P. (2009, February 27). Former PM John Howard admits: we need to do better. The Australian. Retrieved from http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/paul-kelly/former-pm-john-howard-admits-we-need-to-do-better/news-story/f73c4a826edd28f07ddfb70d40b1b971
  2. Kurti, P. (2016) The Democratic Deficit: How Minority Fundamentalism Threatens Liberty in Australia. Retrieved from https://www.cis.org.au/app/uploads/2016/07/rr16.pdf
  3. (2016, ). Do You Understand the Electoral College? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V6s7jB6-GoU
  4. The International Churchill Society (n.d.) The Worst Form of Government. Retrieved from http://www.winstonchurchill.org/resources/quotations/the-worst-form-of-government
  5. Levinthal, D. (2016). Journalists shower Hillary Clinton with campaign cash. Retrieved from https://www.publicintegrity.org/2016/10/17/20330/journalists-shower-hillary-clinton-campaign-cash
  6. Bernadi, C. (2016, September 24). Homosexual Militants’ Agenda Being Exposed [Web log post]. Retrieved Novermber 14, 2016, from http://www.corybernardi.com/homosexual_militants_agenda_being_exposed
  7. (2016, Nov 8). Dennis Prager on Fighting for America (2016 PragerU Dinner) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7x0TzZQMmo
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