Monday, January 21, 2013

Australia to have the most onerous discrimination law?

The Federal Labor Government is proposing a new Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination law which redefines discrimination as "conduct that offends or insults".

You just have to shake your head at that definition. It doesn't take much to offend some people, so the limits this law would put on free speech are potentially very onerous. The Victorian Attorney-General got it right when he observed that:
Many people may be subjectively offended or insulted by the simple expression or manifestation of views different to their own.

To make such expressions of views in workplaces, schools, clubs and sports prima facie unfavourable treatment and hence discrimination ... appears to substantially erode freedom of expression.

Even the Human Rights Commission is critical of the proposed law:
Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs thinks the broad definition will spark too many lawsuits.

She said the words offend and insult "have to go".

"There is no need to set the threshold so low," she said. "I would suggest the government consider taking the words 'offensive' and 'insulting' out (of the legislation).

"It does raise a risk of increased litigation".
 
And what does this say about liberal society? Liberals go on and on about individual freedom, and yet here we are facing a law which makes it an offence to say something that someone else, subjectively, thinks is offensive.

How do we explain this? I think part of the explanation is this: liberals pursue a freedom which is understood to mean an absence of impediments to self-determined choice. Because this is the liberal "good" it means that liberals focus on a "negative" morality, i.e. a morality of non-interference. The idea is that we all get to pursue our self-determined goals, only if we agree to leave each other to pursue these goals: therefore the good person is the one who shows respect for others and their choices, who is non-discriminatory, who believes in equality, who is tolerant, who is non-judgemental, who isn't prejudiced and so on.

The problem is that there is nothing to stop a negative morality of non-interference being pursued to the point that it itself becomes coercive or even tyrannical. And that is what we are seeing in the proposed Australian anti-discrimination laws.

I'll finish by congratulating the Law Society of South Australia for its submission to the inquiry on the proposed law:
The Law Society of South Australia told the Senate inquiry it "condemned" the new definition.

"The robust expression of opinions, short of incitement to hatred, is a strength of our social and legal system," its submission states.

"It should not be curtailed to protect subjective offence that individuals may feel when their beliefs or attitudes are criticised."

24 comments:

  1. I really hope this excellent law is put on the books. I would move to Australia just to file complaints against people whose "conduct" offends me. Any person who is doing something other than what I would do under the same circumstances, and thereby implying that my hypothetical choice would have been wrong, could expect a visit from the police. You see, if I disapprove of a man's behavior, that man is disrespecting my judgments.

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  2. When they say "Individual Freedom" they me you are free to be a homosexual, period.

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  3. How do we explain this? I think part of the explanation is this: liberals pursue a freedom which is understood to mean an absence of impediments to self-determined choice. Because this is the liberal "good" it means that liberals focus on a "negative" morality, i.e. a morality of non-interference.

    I have a simpler explanation: liberals are unprincipled in their pursuit of power. When liberals are the opposition, the valorize "speaking truth to power." When they are in power, they attempt to suppress and punish opposing viewpoints.

    Liberals seek to suppress speech that "offends or insults" only because they believe themselves in a position to define what constitutes a punishable offense of these conditions.

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  4. To expand on my previous comment, liberals have created Orwellian definition for what constitutes an offense or an insult to serve their pursuit of power; a pejorative verbal statement is only offensive or insulting if it is backed by institutional power or privilege. In this schema, power and privilege is only held by people who are white, male, heterosexual, or Christian. Therefore, any verbal attack directed at a member of these privileged groups cannot be construed as "offensive" nor "insulting", while anything a member of these groups says about another group may be construed as a punishable offense.

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  5. The emphasis on "offensive and insulting" can also be explained by the post modern discourse favored by liberals.

    The characteristics of post modern discourse are given in the post by Kenneth Westhues linked above, who draws on previous posts by Steve Sailor and Alastair Roberts. Some of them are:


    "sensitivity, inclusivity, and inoffensiveness are key values";
    • priority on "cooperation, collaboration, quietness, sedentariness, empathy, equality, non-competitiveness, conformity, a communal focus";
    • "seems lacking in rationality and ideological challenge," in the eyes of proponents of modern discourse;
    • "will typically try, not to answer opponents with better arguments, but to silence them completely as ‘hateful’, ‘intolerant’, ‘bigoted’, ‘misogynistic’, ‘homophobic’, etc.";


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  6. CCR, thank you.

    PPM wrote:

    When liberals are the opposition, the valorize "speaking truth to power." When they are in power, they attempt to suppress and punish opposing viewpoints.

    Which is true and worth pointing out to liberals when they use state power to limit opposing points of view.

    But I don't think it's right to say that liberals never actually believed in a concept of freedom, it was all just a power play.

    Most liberals over the past two hundred years or so have believed that a certain concept of freedom was central to their belief system.

    And yet this concept of individual freedom has eventually delivered us to onerous restrictions on speech.

    Does this mean the particular liberal concept of freedom was flawed? I think it was. If we're not clear on that, then we won't cleanse our system of it.

    BTW, those articles you linked to were very interesting.

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  7. But I don't think it's right to say that liberals never actually believed in a concept of freedom, it was all just a power play.

    On the timescale of 200 years, I agree. But starting in mid-20th century, I think that the "negative morality of non-interference" that you describe was weaponized using postmodern relativism. When non-interference is defined solely by the "oppressed class", it can be used as a tool of Marxist class warfare.

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  8. PostPatriarchalMan: "On the timescale of 200 years, I agree. But starting in mid-20th century, I think that the "negative morality of non-interference" that you describe was weaponized using postmodern relativism."

    I don't think it was post-modern relativism that did the damage starting in the mid-20th century, but I think it was from the mid-20th century on that the damage was done. There has been a revolutionary change in what liberalism means, and how aggressive it is. It is a different character of movement, not a linear development of the same movement. It is far more collectivist (though often covertly so), and it reserves practical individualism for its enemies such as whites (who are forbidden to organize for their collective defense) while advancing itself in "communities" that are often state-subsidized.

    New liberalism demands a lot of conformity, and a high level of control of speech and thought. The "non-conformity" that is admired is only non-conformity with whatever opposes or is attacked by new liberalism or cultural Marxism, and that is not much freedom. Even the East German state would give you freedom not to conform to whatever it did not approve of.

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  9. I do not mean that liberalism was all right up to the second half of the 20th century, when it became wrong. Liberalism was flawed all the way along.

    I'm just pointing out that in the second half of the 20th century liberalism became a different and worse beast. If you had told earlier liberals that liberalism was going to entail mass non-white immigration into all and only white countries, plus forced integration and assimilation, they would have thought you were demented. That was not their agenda, and they would not have seen how it ever could become part of the agenda. They would not have believed that liberalism, their cause, would be all for hounding and ruining anyone who objected to this.

    If you had told them that in Denmark it was going to be obligatory for men's and women's haircuts to cost the same, they would have thought that was asinine, but they would have believed that liberalism might come to that (at least among peculiar foreigners), because that does have a colorable relationship to enforcing social equality.

    If you had told them you were going to have publicly funded art galleries for proletarians, they would have been all for it. They would not have believed that these art galleries would be showing "transgressive" art such as Piss Christ.

    If you told them that such "transgressive" speech was subsidized and protected, but that acts like quoting the Koran accurately (from a Christian point of view and critically) would be punished by prison, as is the case in Australia, they would not have believed it.

    There has been a great change in liberalism. You could argue it's just a phase change, like water getting hotter and hotter over a fire and then becoming steam. But I think it's obvious that we are up against something that previous generations never dreamed of.

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  10. I don't dispute that liberalism can be "weaponised" or that it has become particularly virulent in the post WWII era.

    But I'd make a few points about this. First, Western culture wasn't always so dominated by liberalism as it is now. There were other influences on the elites. One of these influences was an aritocratic code. Aristocratic influence in England, at least, remained quite strong until the early 1900s. The other influence on the elites was Christianity, which began to wane amongst the elites from about the 1880s.

    The result was that from about the 1930s onwards, liberalism was set to go it alone, unmodified by any other non-political influences. This is one reason for the more radical manifestations of liberalism in recent decades.

    The second thing to remember, though, is that there were very significant changes in Western societies well before WWII. There was a long period of nihilism amongst the intelligentsia which ran from at least the 1880s to the 1950s. People were writing about the decline of the West; about the cultural landscape as a wasteland; about the perils of modernism from the late 1800s through to the early 1900s. Many people thought a decisive loss occurred around the time of WWI.

    There's always a period of hollowing out, I suspect, before the collapse actually happens.

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  11. Daybreaker, I wrote the above comment before you posted your last comment.

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  12. Mark, gotcha.

    I actually agree in part. I think WWI did tremendous damage. I think it forced a reinterpretation of what all western civilization leading up to it had been about, at a time when healthy influences were in retreat, and the worst (who wanted more to wreck white Christian civilization than to mend it) were able take this disaster and run with it. That is where we got the rise of Communism, and in reaction the rise of the Nazis, and so much evil comes from that. The cultural Marxist are still not done today.

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  13. Off-topic: the 77% wages fantasy never ends. This is the weakest argument I've ever seen for why the state should not be indoctrinating little boys into being whipped doormats for girls. It's also an indication of how feminist mothers deal with the contradiction when they doctrines they support run directly counter to their interest as mothers in the welfare of their own sons. On some level, they do feel an objection. And then they go and enforce the consensus politically correct position anyway.

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  14. Does that mean I can litigate against the Pope? His claims of infallibility offend me.

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  15. Professor Triggs said discrimination cases should be based on the higher test of "intimidation, vilification or humiliation".

    ...

    Tasmania's Anti-Discrimination Commission, however, wants to keep the words "insult and offend" and add others as well.

    "To provide greater certainty, this clause could also include the words humiliate, denigrate, ridicule or degrade to describe some of the specific types of behaviour that constitute unfavourable treatment," it told the inquiry.

    -

    How often did you used to hear the word "humiliate" used in a legal context as an actionable wrong, before Muslims came into our countries in large numbers? They are the ones who find everything "humiliating" and a legitimate cause for retaliation, including violent retaliation.

    Muslims have a hair-trigger on this issue, because their supremacist religion is against non-Muslims having authority over Muslims, and because when Muslims get in authority, their holy law says to impose various humiliations and disabilities on non-Muslims. These commands and the attitudes that go with them are not mere pro-forma; the "jizya" tax on non-Muslims has been collected with active physical insults like slapping the faces of the victims to make them feel the sting of humiliation. Pious Muslim communities simmer with desire to inflict humiliations as well as harm on non-Muslims, and readily turn vicious (when they think they have the strength), if they are "humiliated" by offensive conditions such as non-Muslims rebuilding damaged churches, or enjoying positions of authority, or just not being beaten down enough.

    I do not think that writing the pet grievance word of Muslims into the legal code of a Christian country is a good idea.

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  16. This was the plot of Bradbury's Farenheit 451. Every book was offensive to someone, so they all had to be burned.

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  17. JMSmith said...
    I really hope this excellent law is put on the books. I would move to Australia just to file complaints against people whose "conduct" offends me. Any person who is doing something other than what I would do under the same circumstances, and thereby implying that my hypothetical choice would have been wrong, could expect a visit from the police. You see, if I disapprove of a man's behavior, that man is disrespecting my judgments.


    Oh did you think this law would ever be applied to favor traditionalists? Tsk, tsk, silly you. If you pronounced yourself offended or insulted at some liberal excess (like vomiting on Australia Day) you would be laughed out of court. Then no doubt you would be prosecuted for your offensive, insulting racism and homophobia.

    If Boromir puts on the Ring and tries to use it for good, he is doomed to disappointment.

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  18. Such laws are the toys of those who have the legal personnel and systems in place to ensure that the right precedents are set and the wrong ones are not set. The liberal crowd has always had a disproportionate share of people who make very good lawyers, and since the cultural / legal revolution of the 1960s it's been practically a shutout.

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  19. "How do we explain this? I think part of the explanation is this: liberals pursue a freedom which is understood to mean an absence of impediments to self-determined choice. Because this is the liberal "good" it means that liberals focus on a "negative" morality, i.e. a morality of non-interference."

    Good point - the paradoxical thing about liberal societies is they ultimately end up losing more freedoms with every illegitimate freedom they usurp. Lack of basic morality means more laws are needed to force people into basic civility. You can't be both a libertine and a libertarian.

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  20. liberals pursue a freedom which is understood to mean an absence of impediments to self-determined choice. Because this is the liberal "good" it means that liberals focus on a "negative" morality, i.e. a morality of non-interference.

    But this is not true. Liberals only believe there can be no impediments to self-determined choice when they want to flout tradition. They only believe in the morality of non-interference when the Right wants to stop them from doing something they want to do.

    All this goes out the window when the Left's ox is being gored. If you want to choose, as a matter of self-determined choice, to be a racist / sexist / homophobe, they most emphatically WILL place impediments in your way, and they think interference with your evil, unacceptable choices are morally imperative.

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  21. But anon,

    A morality of non-interference is still a morality. If you are seen to contradict it your actions will be thought to be unjust and immoral and therefore illegitimate and unworthy.

    Yes, that leads to a certain type of paradox, namely that in order to defend a morality of non-interference a liberal has no option but to practise interference.

    But if you control the terms of debate you can get away with this. You can disregard some choices as hateful or prejudiced or, if you're feeling nice, as being merely the result of temporary economic distress.

    In fact, this problem is seen not only in attacks from the left on the right, but in the way that the left argues internally.

    If we're not supposed to interfere but accept whatever values or choices are made by others, then how can people on the left assert their political positions against others on the left?

    Either the left just happily tolerates opposing views (not likely to happen - it's within the nature of politics to want to have your viewpoint gain ground) or else there has to be some way a leftist can make their opponents' choice making status subordinate to their own.

    It's the latter that takes place. A leftist woman, for instance, might try to win ground against a leftist man, not by the strength of her arguments, but by claiming that a man's choice making status is lower than her own.

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  22. A morality of non-interference is still a morality. If you are seen to contradict it your actions will be thought to be unjust and immoral and therefore illegitimate and unworthy.

    You are making the error of assuming that liberals are, or want to be, fair and consistent. They don't. The morality of "non-interference", broadly applied to all, is not their morality.

    "Conservatives shall not interfere in liberal beliefs, actions, or organizations; liberals MUST interfere in conservative beliefs, actions, and organizations." <-- THAT is what they believe!

    in order to defend a morality of non-interference a liberal has no option but to practise interference.

    They interfere with conservatives even when the conservatives pose no threat to the morality of non-interference.

    If we're not supposed to interfere but accept whatever values or choices are made by others, then how can people on the left assert their political positions against others on the left?

    Since they believe truth and morality are relative, they have no obligation to assert their political positions against others on the left. They can simply say that others on the left are "doing what's right for them".

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  23. You are making the error of assuming that liberals are, or want to be, fair and consistent.

    I'm assuming that liberals understand the world in a radically different way than I do.

    Liberals are not just arbitrarily using power on a whim. If they were we wouldn't see so many different Western countries develop along similar lines.

    There is a liberal mindset which has developed from a certain way of understanding the world.

    The more clearly we name it, the more clearly we give a choice of direction to people.

    They interfere with conservatives even when the conservatives pose no threat to the morality of non-interference.

    Yes and no. I think it's true, as I wrote recently, that some liberals see the white, conservative, Christian, male as a symbol of an order or authority that they oppose or even fear as they hold it to be limiting to their own selves.

    So these kind of liberals are going to interfere with conservatives no matter what, as they see conservatives as a kind of existential threat.

    But in general conservatives get into most trouble when violating the code of non-interference.

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