Passing Bull 348 – More on the Thought Police

Last time, I said:

…. I avoid any entry into what are called ‘culture wars,’ or any stuff about ‘woke’, or ‘cancel culture’, or the like.  It is peddled by people of small minds and eager appetites for moulah.  It’s a bit like reading history from the Left – another word I try to avoid – when you just switch off when the word ‘masses’ looms into view.

I do fear that the world is going mad – quite mad.

Some people are upset that two speakers invited to the Adelaide Writers’ Week, who happen to be Palestinian, have expressed views that they disagree with – one on Israel, the other on Russia in the Ukraine.

Well, it is very hard to say anything about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians without being shot at by at least one side. 

About twenty years ago, Sharan Burrow, then President of the ACTU, told me that she no longer commented on events in Israel.  She said it was not worth the abuse that she would certainly attract from sources all too well known to her.  It was my privilege to deal with Sharan on a difficult industrial issue.  I have not met a more decent or sensible person in Australian public life.  And yet she had been bullied out of comment on a matter of public interest by dedicated stooges.  And this in a nation that says its people enjoy freedom of speech.

One law firm, which looks to spend more time looking at itself in the mirror than practising law, has withdrawn its sponsorship.  It would of course flatly deny applying financial pressure to shut people up. 

In The Age today, someone associated with publishing has called on the person responsible for the original decision to resign.  He says antisemitism is again being normalised.  He apparently refers to ‘atrocities’ of the authors under attack and ‘hate speech.’  So far as I can see, he has not called on the pope or the king to resign, too.

He could hardly be accused of moderation himself, and his editors will just have to forget the black hole when that old chestnut ‘freedom of speech’ is wheeled out.  ‘You can say what you bloody well like, Mate – just don’t offend the boss.’

The slow death of restraint, and the tolerance it implies, to use the beautiful terms of Sir Lewis Namier, is very sad to watch.  Religion and politics, Caesar and God, are a very bad mix, especially in that part of the earth where so much of it began.

So, it was a pleasant relief to get some cool release from Waleed Aly about a low farce perpetrated by real drongos. 

There is, I gather, a band called Lizard Wizard.  Its King Gizzard has taken offence at the history of another band called Sticky Fingers.  King Gizzard believes that the front man for Sticky Fingers, Dylan Frost, was rude to Thelma Plum seven years ago, and harassed a trans woman in a pub two years later.  That history caused this king to withdraw his subjects from the Bluesfest festival. 

And in doing so, he shattered all previous world records for pure bullshit.

As a band and as human beings, we stand against misogyny, racism, transphobia, and violence…..sometimes you need to be willing to sacrifices to stand up for your values.  This is, unfortunately one of those occasions.

It is just as well we can laugh at this bullshit.  Otherwise, we would be violently ill. 

But at least King Gizzard has given chapter and verse in concrete as to why terms like ‘misogyny, racism, transphobia, and violence’ are so vacuous, poisonous, and savour of the lynch mob.  

If you want to ban things, ban these labels of abuse for what they are – the first refuge of the bully.

I will return to the subject of hate speech, and the land where it was born, on another occasion.  In the meantime, I would invite the law firm and the publisher to consider the position of King Gizzard, and to ask themselves if instead of taking themselves so seriously, it might be about bloody time just to grow up.

One last thing.  I have referred to terms of abuse that we could do without.  One thing is clear – transcendentally clear.  If you want to produce, say, a misogynist, just give a man that label falsely.  And then you have got what you wanted.  Kids have a saying about giving a dog a bad name.

And it looks like that has been going on here too.  Some people actually want to be untouchable.

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