Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Bolt, Principle, and Taking a Stand

Sep 28, 2011

There were two news items which certainly stood out today, albeit for differing reasons. Both generated a lot of publicity, although one was in many respects far more important than the other. But both had to do with standing up for principle instead of being browbeaten by the crowd.

The first had to do with a guy I actually know nothing about, except for what I just heard on the evening news. But what I did hear is enough for me: this guy is the real deal, and I wish there were many more like him. In him we finally find an example of someone who is taking a stand, regardless of what everyone else thinks.

Finally we have a Christian who is willing to speak up for what is right, instead of going along with the world. It may not seem like much of a big deal, but his strong stance and totally un-PC approach is a breath of fresh air. The story of a simple Irish farmer – and Christian – has made headlines around the Western world.

Here is how the story goes: “It wasn’t the first time that Rihanna had stripped off to gyrate in a remote field to record a music video. It was, however, a first for the 23-year-old international R&B star to be asked to leave by an irate Northern Irish farmer over accusations of ‘inappropriate’ behaviour.

“The Barbadian singer was working on her new single We Found Love in a remote barley field in County Down, Northern Ireland. Rihanna was dressed in an open checked shirt revealing a red and white bikini top underneath. Later she whipped both the shirt and the top off to go topless. During the shoot she also wore a ‘stars and stripes’ bikini top.

“At this point Alan Graham, 61, the farmer who had allowed Rihanna to film on his land pulled up alongside in a tractor. He told the singer, famed for her almost constant semi-nudity, to cover up. He said later: ‘Her behaviour was inappropriate.’

“Rihanna, otherwise known as Robyn Rihanna Fenty, was recording the video with Calvin Harris, a Scottish DJ, before embarking on three sell-out shows at the Odyssey Arena, Belfast, this weekend. Mr Graham, a Christian and father of four, had earlier used his tractor to pull free some recording equipment that was stuck in mud. He said: ‘I wish no ill will against Rihanna and her friends. Perhaps they could acquaint themselves with a greater God’.”

Good on you Alan. Finally a Christian who stands up for principle, regardless of how many others – even carnal Christians – will condemn him, mock him and treat him as a joke. I for one think it is great that biblical principle came first in this case.

The other news item of course has to do with columnist Andrew Bolt who has just been found guilty of “racial vilification”. I don’t want to discuss all the details of this particular case just now, but I find the outcome to be appalling and another nail in the coffin of freedom of speech.

I said as much a decade ago when the Racial and Religious Vilification Act was first being discussed in Victoria. In fact I twice publicly debated the author of this wretched legislation back then. I warned that this law would be nothing but trouble, and we should all avoid it like the plague. See this piece for example:

Of real concern at the time was the fact that some Christians actually supported the legislation. I still find it incredible that any biblical Christian can support such laws which really are mainly about the silencing of Christians and those of contrarian conservative views. I wrote about that aspect of the debate as well:

Of course the five-year battle concerning two Christian pastors found guilty of breaking this vilification Act is the most famous example of this. That I wrote about as well in various places, including here:

And here:

But now we see it all being played out yet again – this time with the Federal Racial Discrimination Act – although this time it is not about silencing Christians, but about silencing conservatives who do not toe the PC line. Fortunately some have already denounced this unfortunate outcome. For example, broadcaster Andrew Dodd wrote:

“I think the ruling is dangerous because it asserts as indisputable fact that Bolt’s articles were not reasonable and were not written in good faith and do not classify as ‘fair comment’. The Judge clearly believes they were not written with a genuine public interest in mind.

“But in the end this is just one person’s view. Although those of us that don’t like Bolt’s writing might think we understand his motives, we really don’t have a clue whether Bolt honestly held these views. Perhaps he was being courageous, rather than reckless, in seeking to talk openly what many would say quietly. I don’t share his views but I can see some merit in the argument that true racial tolerance is only achieved when we can ventilate unpopular views openly and have a robust discussion about them.

“In any case do we really want to silence debate on irksome and uncomfortable topics? Given that many in the judiciary have a very dim view of even the most responsible forms of journalism, how would the courts have us write about topics when the conclusions or opinions are going to be unpleasant for the people who are being written about? If the offended people are the arbiters, how should the media question the behaviour of minority groups? In any case, this has a fair way to go yet. This is most certainly heading to the full bench of the Federal Court and then perhaps the High Court. Eventually, the final ruling will have serious implications for us all.”

This case was just decided hours ago, and much will be written about it in the days to come. I find it another blow to freedom and a further clampdown by the forces of political correctness, empowered by the strong arm of the law. One may not agree with everything Bolt says to be concerned about this ruling.

It is the outcome of a lousy law which should never have been passed. Hopefully Bolt will stand strong, despite all the abuse and flak he will get. If a humble farmer can stand strong, so can he.

The time has come to re-examine our state and federal laws on racial and religious discrimination and vilification. What may have been enacted into law with good intentions is quickly becoming a club with which to beat freedom of speech over the head. Just where will it all end?

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18 Responses to Bolt, Principle, and Taking a Stand

  • I noticed that the SMH felt it had to describe farmer Alan Graham as “.. a member of the Protestant, conservative Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which shares power in the devolved executive in Belfast.” I wondered what relevance this had, other than to label him as the enemy ie a conservative Christian.

    With regards to the Andrew Bolt case, it seems to bring us very close very suddenly to those incidents in Britain that you have written about recently, where Christians and their right to express their beliefs have been targeted by the law.

    Nikki Chamberlain

  • I have skimmed the Summary Judgement. Does nobody else see this danger?

    “Clause 22 of the Judgement Summary:
    “In reaching those conclusions, I have observed that in seeking to promote tolerance and protect against intolerance in a multicultural society, the Racial Discrimination Act must be taken to include in its objectives tolerance for and acceptance of racial and ethnic diversity. At the core of multiculturalism is the idea that people may identify with and express their racial or ethnic heritage free from pressure not to do so. People should be free to fully identify with their race without fear of public disdain or loss of esteem for so identifying.”

    So the Act actually permits people to identify with their racial heritage, and to fully identify with their race. Thus the Act ENTRENCHES racism.”

    So it’s time to repeal all vilification laws.

    I can only hope that the silver lining in all this is that enough people will see how bad these laws are, and we either ignore them in future (unlikely) or we enforce them so rigorously that everyone hates them and the tide turns against them.

    Maybe we could start a “You can’t say that – the judge said so!” campaign …

    Secondly, I looked at the Age article (no space to comment there):

    Down in the body of the article I saw this quote from the prime plaintiff:
    “It was never about free speech, it has always been a question of professionalism, and the reality is that the original articles were not professional journalism,” said Ms Eatock, a 73-year-old Aboriginal activist.”

    Out of her own mouth comes the damning of the very legislation they used, and a confirmation of the activist strategy they pursued!

    If the statements were ‘not professional’ then the remedy is NOT a racial vilification action.

    Over at Menzies House, there is vigorous debate over the judgement, and serious questions are being raised about who funded the plaintiff’s action, and whether there is any political background to it.

    Someone there has dared to label the judge with the ALP tag, based on his past career, visible politics and political aspirations (presumably on the public record).

    John Angelico

  • Hi Bill,

    I totally agree with your sentiments here and I support Bolts right to say whatever he wants (however much I think he is dishonest and inflammatory).

    Surely if we had a bill of rights which guaranteed free speech, we wouldn’t be in this pickle. It’s strange that the people who would benefit most from a bill of rights (outspoken conservatives 🙂 are the strongest opponents of one.


    James Beattie

  • Thanks James

    But you seem to have missed something here. True, freedom of speech as such in not guaranteed in our Constitution, but Victoria already does have a BoR. We have had it since 2006. It is called a Charter of Rights, and it has done absolutely nothing to prevent such outrageous decisions. What is needed to preserve genuine debate and free speech in Victoria and Australia is not a BoR, but the repeal or amendment of our lousy state and federal discrimination and vilification laws.

    I make the case against a BoR elsewhere, eg.:

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • James, don’t forget that we also have the 1688 Bill of Rights from the UK, which has passed into all jurisdictions of Australian law by various settlement and adoption acts in the all colonies, the States and Federally.

    The actual rights preserved by that statute may not be what we think, and may not cover what we are dealing with in Andrew Bolt’s case, but people cannot claim that “we don’t have a Bill of Rights (and we need one)”.

    John Angelico

  • Thanks guys

    Michelle Malkin in the US is even talking about the Bolt case:

    “When I commented about the court case on Twitter tonight, a liberal Australian wrote to me: ‘So you think it’s right for headlines such as ‘White fellas in the black’ to be used? What if your Asianess was questioned?’ To which I replied: ‘People question my Asianness every damned day. So what? Thank God it’s not a CRIME here in America.”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • [“Clause 22 of the Judgement Summary:
    “In reaching those conclusions, I have observed that in seeking to promote tolerance and protect against intolerance in a multicultural society, the Racial Discrimination Act must be taken to include in its objectives tolerance for and acceptance of racial and ethnic diversity. At the core of multiculturalism is the idea that people may identify with and express their racial or ethnic heritage free from pressure not to do so. People should be free to fully identify with their race without fear of public disdain or loss of esteem for so identifying.”]

    Thanks John for that little snippet. Did no one notice the bait and switch in this? the whole paragraph was multiculturalism over and over, then they slip in “race”, as if they are trying to make them the same thing.

    Egyptian Christians and Egyptian Muslims may come from the same country but they share absolutely zero in the way of culture. Indonesia Christians and Indonesia Muslims come from the same country but share no culture. (besides what is forced on the Christians).

    I think it is time to take a stand and call these bait and switch liars for what they are, liars. We are a multiETHNIC country, who’s laws and customs are based on the English Judao-Christian culture. Not being a lawyer or anything, I am pretty sure a legal distinction can be made for this, if not I still live in hope of some amount of intelligence to come out of this before we are turned into the worlds biggest gulag.

    Neil Waldron

  • Christians have been warning about these trends for years now and nothing has changed, so I am not sure where we are getting the hope from that it will change. Not until we and that is we as a nation realise our need for God and His plan for self-government. We can call for more and more external laws, but they won’t fix anything beyond restricting the flow of God-ordained “abundant” life. To increase external law is rather like saying “we have less crimlification laws just doesn’t understand His Lord and what He says in His Word and how society, if ever reformed will be reformed through the reformation of each and every member of it. Thus is His care for all His people, one by one.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • Thanks Bill
    It is not only the racial vilification laws but all vilification laws that need to be repealed.
    I have been asking MPs now for some time and other organizations (including ACL) about how to go about doing this.
    I also had a recent opportunity to speak very briefly to the NSW Attorney General on this issue. When I asked him about repelling the anti vilification laws he said 2 things,
    Firstly, very few people have been prosecuted under these laws so they are not very significant.
    Secondly, ‘it will never happen’.(repelling vilification laws)

    He is actually a very strong conservative person and I think it is pure ignorance that he could suggest that the anti vilification laws are not significant- plenty of people and organizations have been threatened with prosecution,unless they apologize and make retribution and unfortunately, to date, most have bowed the knee to this absurdity.

    While I have much respect for our Attorney General I think he is wrong on the first point and I would like to think he can be proved wrong on the second.

    Annette Williams

  • This week I responded to a SMH article in which Sarah Hanson Young (Greens Senator) argued that same sex marriage was inevitable.
    In one of my comments I made a list of arguments based on facts and studies about many of the dangers of promoting homosexuality in our community (thanks largely to your book, Bill)
    I also made the comment that based on the one truth that homosexuality is a more unhealthy lifestyle than heterosexuality we should be very careful about its promotion.
    As expected – these comments were not published.
    If this is not one very detrimental result of vilification laws on free speech than I don’t know what is.
    Annette Williams

  • James,
    Just inform us poor ignorant dopes how Andrew Bolt’s opinions are “dishonest” and even “inflammatory”. When he is on radio, he is always gracious, well-reasoned, and fair to callers, unlike some “shock jocks” I could name. And his newspaper columns draw from a whole array of facts, which he has gleaned from his own researches, often not reported, or at least grossly underreported, by the media.
    These sorts of sweeping, negative generalisations are all too often the stock-in-trade of his left wing critics. Is that where you are coming from?
    But at least you allow him the right to speak. We can be thankful for that in these times when the jackboot of political correctness is ever lurking around the corner.
    Murray R. Adamthwaite

  • Thanks guys.

    Andrew Bolt writes:

    “His Honour cited a long list of these bad comments of mine, such as ‘seeking power and reassurance in a racial identity is not just weak’ and ‘it is also divisive, feeding a new movement to stress pointless or even invented racial differences’. For expressing such views, in such language, I have lost my freedom to put my argument as I did. And be warned: use such phrases as those yourself, and you too may lose your right to speak.

    But as I say, Justice Bromberg insists he hasn’t stopped debate on racial identification, unless, apparently, your adjectives are too sharp, your wit too pointed, your views too blunt, your observations not quite to the point, your teasing too ticklish and your facts not in every case exactly correct. And even then, having jumped every hurdle and written with the forensic dullness of a Reserve Bank governor, you will run the risk of a judge deciding that whatever you’ve written is, after all, the very opposite of what you really meant. Despite Justice Bromberg’s assurances, I feel that writing frankly about multiculturalism, and especially Aboriginal identity, yesterday became too dangerous for any conservative. It’s simply safer to stay silent, or write about fluffy puppies instead. And so the multiculturalists win. They win, because no one now dares object for fear of what it will cost them in court. Hope they’re satisfied, to win a debate not by argument but fear.”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi Bill, it was that last quote of Andrews that you posted that stood out to me.The Judge says he hasn’t stopped the right to express an opinion on the one hand but underlying there is implied an incredible intimidation if you try. How sneaky is this? One wonders where this judge is coming from and where his alliances are. Of course the major problem is with such bad legislation but it does take a certain spirit to come up with such an interpretation. It seems this goes beyond the plain meaning of the law and it reminds me of the weird and wonderful picked out of thin air we have seen come out of the supreme court in the USA.
    Rob Withall

  • Thanks Joel

    Yes it is a great piece. Here is part of it:

    “Make no mistake, the Bolt case and the swarm of Left-wing lawyers who have urged it on, acting pro bono or commenting approvingly from the sidelines, are all part of an illiberal movement in Australia to crush dissent. At a time of extraordinary political disharmony following the ousting of Kevin Rudd, the hung Parliament and the rise of the Greens, there is a concerted attempt to shut down conservative voices.”

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Does freedom of speech include questions?

    Someone has got to continue the discussion that Andrew Bolt is involved in. The question is; When is a person of aboriginal descent to be excluded from any benefit because of that descent under Australian law?

    I think that we have been somewhat generous allowing a person with 1/8 or 1/16 aboriginal blood to benefit from their aboriginality. I can fully understand and support a person being proud of their aboriginal background no matter how far back and diluted it is, but to benefit at law and in welfare is another thing.

    I fully expect that the government(s) of Australia will not be able to resolve this issue in the near future, and this partly because of a perceived guilt and/or moral imperative arising from the unfortunate parts of European history in this nation. It is also because the government(s) of Australia are still seen to be a white man’s forum and powerbase.

    BUT it still needs to be resolved.

    Perhaps the aboriginal people can resolve this for our nation by taking the lead in this discussion. Could I be so bold to ask what some people think about this? How about it Larissa Behrendt, Geoff Clark, Bindi Cole; anyone?

    Many years ago at Blaxland Uniting Church we were visited by a number of aboriginal people including Pastors Bill Bird and Peter Walker. NB Bill Bird (at least) was part of the “stolen generation”. The congregation of the church was ready to hear their stories, we were ready (we thought) for anything that might have been said.
    But we were stunned when Ps Bill began by asking us to forgive him for having, for many years, a bad attitude to us white people.

    Bitterness and resentment are like river valleys that can never be filled no matter how much water is put into them. Ps Bill had found the secret of how to put a dam in his canyon of bitterness. Now there was enough refreshing water for all to enjoy. Well done Bill Bird!

    Bruce Knowling

  • Maybe I just can’t see it but I fail to see how the judges decision can be based on his following Part Quote….
    The Racial Discrimination Act must be taken to include in its objectives tolerance for and acceptance of racial and ethnic diversity. How can you equate tolerance to being an activist ???

    World English Dictionary
    — n “a policy of taking direct and often militant action to achieve an end, esp a political or social one”

    – n “one who advocates a doctrine of direct action,” 1915; from active (q.v.). Activism in this sense is first attested 1920; earlier (1907) it was used in ref. to a philosophical theory.
    Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition

    Dennis Newland

  • Dear Bill, As far as I can see the ‘sorry’ politics has done little but fuel feelings of resentment and vengeance amongst aborigines towards the white population of Australia. It has reached the point where much of the indigenous population is permeated with a ‘victim mentality’ and a determination to milk everything they can from white Australia as retribution. Western Australia’s police commissioner made some very courageous but accurate comments this week about the indigenous population’s over representation in the jails.

    Even the Catholic Church was heavily involved in the ‘sorry’ politics though I hasten to add its involvement was well intentioned. I went along purely to emphasise my point that Darwin’s theory of evolution had largely contributed to the ill treatment of the indigenous people but little interest was shown in that argument. You simply cannot call yourself a Christian and believe that God made rubbish .The book of Genesis makes that very clear. It says that God created the world and man and looked around and saw that everything He had made was ‘good’. Darwin wouldn’t have intended such an outcome but ‘a weaker race’ which is going to die out can be a very convenient justification for some to treat the indigenous population badly. Apparently Darwin’s theory was well supported in Australia.

    Bishop Salvado of New Norcia has been criticised by some left wing modern scholars for being too paternalistic and encouraging them to be farmers and tradesmen but the Catholic Church in Western Australia neither had the means or the neccessary government co-operation to help some indigenous people to become leaders. This aim should have been actively pursued from the beginning but the Darwinists wouldn’t have thought they were capable. Bishop Salvado wrote how one little black fellow learned the alphabet in ten minutes.

    An Anglican minister [his name escapes me] admired his methods and had visions of implementing them in the north of the State but he was actively hounded and persecuted for trying. Both these men knew that ‘God does not make rubbish’ but obviously many others did not keep that belief in the forefront of their minds when dealing with indigenous people. If enough people had done that we would not have the problem we have today.

    A lack of Christianity is what has harmed the indigenous population.

    Patricia Halligan

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