Submission to the Australian Federal Government re possible amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975
In October 2011, I made a submission to an inquiry called by the Gillard Government – see 40 points for Australia’s Independent Inquiry into Media.
I mention this earlier effort partly because its content has some relevance to this new submission to the Abbott Government’s deliberations over Amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act.
But in addition, I mention it to note, as the postscript explains, that not only was my submission to that inquiry ignored by the Commissioners in their report. It was studiously ignored throughout the entire process. Indeed, bureaucrats in the Department of Communications declined to even list my submission on the Department’s website, alongside other submissions received and noted.
I hope this current submission has more success penetrating through to “decision-makers” in Government. However, for similar reasons to the earlier case, I doubt it. I suspect my input will once again find as much favour in the corridors of power as a bottle labelled ‘anthrax’. This is not because it is incoherent, vulgar or libelous. It’s because it is heretical.
Once again, in this new submission, I intend to fall foul of a comfortable, unspoken agreement within mainstream Australian discourse never to discuss certain “issues” – at least from unorthodox, ill-favoured perspectives. My input is therefore akin to a stink-bomb in the boudoir, or Holy Water before vampires (depending on one’s point of view..)
Therein lies the problem for anyone sharing my opinion on certain key issues. We face a culture in which ignoring our perspectives is the norm – and it is de rigeur to ridicule and vilify these views and those who hold them. The possibility of rational public debate on the matters we raise is close to zero, because the prevalent culture deems that debate itself – on these ‘sensitive’ topics – is an outrageous, unreasonable act.
THAT is the free speech disgrace – and the vilification disgrace – which would be a focus of debate right now in a truly rational society – a society in which discourse had not been warped by partisan interests for unfair advantage. Instead, I have yet to see this mentioned once in mainstream discourse.
In point 30 of my 40 points submission, which discussed bias in Australia’s national broadcaster (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation), I listed four:
- World War Two and what is commonly labelled ‘The Holocaust’
- Israel’s 1967 attack on the USS Liberty
- the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre
- the London bombings of July 7th 2005
As I wrote back then:
“This is by no means an exhaustive list. In each case, many ‘inconvenient facts’ flatly contradict the official government narratives. In each case, ABC coverage is entirely one-sided (in the case of the USS Liberty attack, there’s no mention at all of the topic on the ABC website – except in comments from the public to articles that don’t mention it!)”
Each of these four topics provides an example of a distorted official narrative that’s rather obviously adrift from the truth, yet which is subject to a stifling mass media consensus that helps suppress debate and obscure the truth.
Media suppression is largely achieved by ignoring dissidents, failing to allow them any voice in the mainstream media – and/or vilifying them in their absence, without any fair right of reply.
Of these four, the issue most relevant to the current submission is ‘The Holocaust’. This is the matter that’s been the subject of several court cases under Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act since the mid 1990s. Those proceedings – notably the Scully and Töben prosecutions – are typically mentioned as cases that demonstrate Section 18C has generally functioned well (by contrast, it’s widely acknowledged the more famous ‘Bolt case’ had a messy and somewhat unsatisfactory outcome).
I beg to differ. In my opinion, the Scully and Töben prosecutions are cases at the heart of why the 1975 RDA was amended – under strong Zionist pressure back in 1995 – to include sections 18C and D, which weren’t part of the original 1975 legislation.
Far from being a triumph of jurisprudence, the Töben case exemplifies what’s really wrong with the 1995 amendments to the RDA. Its outcome cast a chill over free historical debate in this country – and it’s the reason why, in 2013, I wrote in support of repealing Section 18C of the RDA – see Abbott is right – 18C must go!
I’ll quote at some length from that 2013 article [minor changes have been made to the original for clarity]:
Töben’s key ‘thought-crime’ appears to be his rejection of the mainstream narrative of the history of World War Two. The judgement against Töben makes it clear that it was that specific issue – a matter of historical debate – that was the nub of the case brought against him.
The judgement handed down against Dr Töben by Justice Branson on 17th September 2002 sought to restrain him from “further publishing information which conveyed the following imputations:
(A) there is serious doubt that the Holocaust occurred; (B) it is unlikely that there were homicidal gas chambers Auschwitz; (C) Jewish people who are offended by and challenge Holocaust denial are of limited intelligence; (D) some Jewish people, for improper purposes, including financial gain, have exaggerated the number of Jews killed during World War II and the circumstances in which they were killed.”
It was an extraordinarily illiberal judgement.
I’ll take the four points one by one:
(A) is meaningless without a precise definition of ‘The Holocaust’ which, as far as I can see, the judgement lacked. This term ‘The Holocaust’ was rarely used to signify events pertaining to the fate of Jews in World War Two until the 1970s. In previous decades – the 1950s/60s – ‘holocaust’ was used mainly to signify the much-feared prospect of a “nuclear holocaust”. The prevalent contemporary usage is actually quite recent.
“The Holocaust” is therefore quite different from historical events that were identified as such by protagonists at the time – such as the 1940 ‘Battle of Britain’ or the 1945 atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima. Without a precise and generally agreed definition of what is meant by the term, statements such as “The Holocaust happened” or “the Holocaust didn’t happen” are so devoid of precise content that they are, effectively, meaningless.
(B) is a matter of historical debate. Judge Branson may not like the fact that numerous serious scholars have expressed doubts that the gas chambers in Auschwitz were ever used to kill human beings, as opposed to their overt function which was to de-louse clothing and bedding and hence help arrest the spread of typhus. But like it or not, it’s a fact that serious doubts have been expressed by numerous serious scholars. The debate over what really occurred at that time is ongoing.
In effect, Judge Branson arrogated to himself the right to determine historical fact. That’s a disgraceful thing for a judge to do. Courts of law are neither equipped to act as the arbiters of historical truth, nor should they ever attempt the task. In the Enlightenment tradition, history is for historians and the general public to debate – not for judges to specify.
(C) is a curiosity. I can find no evidence that Dr Töben ever made such a claim. Perhaps someone can point me to the exact quotation/s which formed the basis of Justice Branson’s decision on this? However, even if Tobin did make such a silly comment, its hard to see how that was not a legitimate part of public discourse. If you want to hear people insulting each other for being ‘stupid’, listen to Parliament, read the newspapers, get on Twitter or go the the pub. It happens all the time. If’s is a criminal offence to say people are of limited intelligence few indeed in our society are not guilty of it.
(D) the notion that some Jewish people “have exaggerated the number of Jews killed during World War II and the circumstances in which they were killed” may cause offense to some people, but it’s extremely easy to prove that it’s a factual statement. The key word is “some”. There are numerous cases of demonstrably false claims made by some Jewish people on the events of World War Two. Some have been exposed in court; some have been openly acknowledged as false by the individuals who originally made them. If Justice Branson wished to restrain free speech on this point, he was clearly seeking to restrain people from telling (a part of) the truth. Judges have no business to do this in a civilized society that takes honesty seriously.
In short the judgement made by Justice Branson in 2002 was an extremely poor judgement that – in my opinion – should never have been made. It would surely have caused a major media outcry at the time were it not that the great majority of journalists and public commentators such as Jonathan Holmes live in fear that their careers will be jeopardised if they fall foul of the Jewish/Israel Lobby. They may also regard Töben as a distasteful character – but I suspect that’s of secondary importance. After all, Mr Holmes is clearly no fan of Andrew Bolt, yet he felt able and compelled to speak in Bolt’s defence when the latter was on trial for breaching 18C of the RDA. Yet very few public commentators had the guts to criticise the earlier judgement against Dr Töben, which in certain key respects was an even more outrageous and sinister judgement.
Defending Töben’s right to make public statements about the (so-called) ‘Holocaust’ is not simply a matter of defending an eccentric’s right to express a unorthodox opinion. It’s not equivalent to saying that people should be free to express the view that the earth is flat. The events of World War Two have remained a dominant theme in public discourse to this day. They are mentioned incessantly in ongoing political debates. If nobody could discuss them openly at all, that would be bizarre, but at least it would be symmetrical and ‘fair’ in a silly kind of way. But what the likes of Justice Branson appear to believe is that the subject matter commonly described as ‘The Holocaust’ can and should be discussed – as long as the content of discussion is within court-approved boundaries. That’s outrageous!
For what it’s worth, I no longer believe the mainstream narrative about the events of the 1930s and 1940s. Some people might call me a “Holocaust Denier” because of my views. I repudiate the term and never use it myself except within inverted commas, regarding it as a deliberately nonsensical and misleading meme, invented decades after the end of World War Two as a sneaky way to police opinion.
I used to share the now-orthodox view of what happened in German concentration camps during World War Two – indeed, until a decade ago, I never really questioned it. Then came 9/11 and my gradual realisaton that the official 9/11 narrative is a pack of lies. After that, I began to take a deeper look at historical controversies such as the JFK assassination and the (so-called) “Holocaust”. I spent some considerable time looking at different sides of these debates – reviewing for the first time perspectives and analyses that barely ever get aired in the mainstream Western media. Now I’m deeply sceptical.
If that expression of my opinions causes offence, I regret it. I try not to cause offence unnecessarily to anyone – but history matters and more generally, the truth matters. I’m offended almost every time I watch the History Channel or open one of Mr Murdoch’s newspapers. But that’s life. I don’t seek to censor people whose views offend me or ban the expression of their opinions. What I do demand is that evidence-based contrary views are not excluded from mainstream discourse. I want them expressed more freely than at present and without fear of persecution. I argue for that publicly. Oh.. and I don’t want one-sided, distorted history that may not be debated openly made compulsory in schools. In fact, when I was a boy, I was often told that was the kind of reason why Britain fought World War Two!
This article began on the theme of ‘exceptions’ – so maybe it’s appropriate to end it on the same note.
It’s not quite true that no ‘mainstream’ commentators had the guts to stand up for Töben’s right to free speech. An exception was Janet Albrechtsen. Like Andrew Bolt, she writes for the Murdoch media. Like Bolt’s output, I usually find her articles irritating, crass and well off the mark. But in 2009 she penned an opinion piece entitled “The Freedom to be Offensive” with specific reference to Fred Töben and his tangle with the RDA. She said a number of things in the article with which I disagree, but did express the view that Töben should not be jailed for his views.
However, Ms Albrechtsen used the long-established formula that makes the opinion that so-called “Holocaust Deniers” should be allowed to speak acceptable in the mainstream Western media. It’s the same formula used, for instance, by philosopher Peter Singer when he defended David Irving‘s right not be be jailed for his historical views.
Janet Albrechtsen’s trick was to thoroughly rubbish Töben’s beliefs in the same breath as defending his “free speech”. She did this prominently in her third paragraph:
‘I detest Frederick Töben’s views about the Holocaust. They are wrong. They are stupid. They are offensive. But using laws to censor his views does not enhance our democracy. It diminishes our democratic fibre by suggesting that we are too precious, or too lacking in confidence, to confront wrong words with right words. Let the man speak. These foolish views will be defeated by facts in the end.’
Without that sort of proviso, Ms Albrechtsen’s article would doubtless never have been published in The Australian. Without it, she’d probably never have wished to write it..
Janet Albrechtsen is quite entitled to her view – and to express it. But note she didn’t attempt to justify it in any way – not even by providing supporting references. She states it as a fact – something that her her readers are expected to take as given.
In its own way, that style of argument is another way of shrinking, rather than expanding, the domain of free speech. In general, it’s easier to police opinion by ridicule than via the courts. The key – and positive – difference is that the Albrechtsen/Singer approach does not land “offenders” in jail – although it does create an intellectual climate conducive to the marginalisation of the views they disparage.
What we really need – in my opinion – is full, respectful, polemic-free debate about the complexities of our history, especially about the thorny subject of World War Two that seems to get even more emotion-laden and propaganda-ridden as time goes by (not less, as is usual with historical events). We need to look back at the catastrophic major conflicts of recent history and try to understand what really happened, free from propaganda and bias. Only then can we learn the real lessons from our past.
Preventing that from happening seems to be the over-riding priority of all these “acceptable” commentators, whatever their posture on the topic of free speech.
The Töben case – and the issue of so-called ‘Holocaust denial’ – has been mentioned on numerous occasions during the extended debate over the last few weeks about changing the Racial Discrimination Act.
I’ve followed much of this debate via mainstream media and the internet, but not once – so far – have I seen a single politician, journalist or other ‘talking head’ express unequivocally the need for freedom to openly debate history without fear of legal sanction. That’s remarkable, tragic and not in the least ‘balanced’.
There are really two quite separate rights at stake
- the right (or lack thereof) to make offensive comments and statements about other people with reference to their ethnicity
- the right (or lack thereof) to debate history freely
The Zionist Lobby, with great cunning, has managed to conflate the two. It has put around the idea that anyone and everyone who queries its own preferred narrative about the events of World War Two must necessarily be motivated by bigotry and hatred. It labels all such people “fascists” (or worse!) and demands their exclusion from mainstream debate.
That is a great falsehood – and it’s obviously a falsehood to anyone cursorily familiar with the literature of what’s commonly known as ‘Holocaust revisionism’.
The first prominent intellectual to question the official’ Holocaust’ narrative (back in the 1950s, before the term ‘Holocaust’ was widely used for its current principal purpose), was the French left-wing wartime resistance fighter Roger Garaudy. Today, the official ‘Holocaust’ narrative is disputed by many on the left, right and centre of the political spectrum. Those who remain ignorant about this must surely rely only on mainstream discourse for information on the subject, because anyone who makes independent investigations can easily perceive the crude mis-characterization of opponents of ‘Holocaust orthodoxy”.
I have mixed views about the advisability of legislating against “racial abuse”. I would prefer complete abolition of 18C, in line with the clear, classical liberal principles espoused by John Stuart Mill in ‘On Liberty‘. But I also recognize the concern within many ethnic communities – and in any case, freedom to engage in vulgar vilification on the basis of ethnicity is not a “right” I seek or need.
The issue of freedom to debate history is an entirely different matter. In that case, I INSIST on an unequivocal right to free speech, in line with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This is what I wrote in response to a recent article by Guy Rundle in New Matilda, to make the point that the desire to use the RDA to censor historical opinion and debate is not a broad-based aspiration – but rather the demand of ONE wealthy and self-interested Lobby:
An array of organisations representing different ethnic groups in Australia have lined up to oppose changes to 18C, as is their right. All of them say they’re concerned that bigoted and xenophobic speech should not be encouraged by government policy.
They have a point.
On the other hand, others argue that free speech better protects minority rights in the long run, that bigotry and xenophobia cannot be legislated away and that the attempt to do so may be counter-productive.
I put myself in the latter category – siding with John Stuart Mill rather than Lenin on that particular issue. However, it’s a debate reasonable people can have. In our imperfect world, we probably should be having it. It’s a debate in which there can be plenty of common ground; left to run with mutual respect and goodwill, a reasonable and fair outcome should be achievable.
Then there’s another debate – the debate about whether people who have unorthodox opinions about history should be permitted to air them in public – or not.
It is, needless to say, an entirely different controversy about a quite different issue. Asked whether historical debate should be subject to censorship, most people DON’T believe censorship is appropriate. I gather from his remarks in this article that Guy agrees – so that he and I are on the same side in that particular debate.
So how is it that anyone spends a moment defending the part of 18C that I find most objectionable: its use to persecute unorthodox historical opinions, as in the Töben case?
This is especially puzzling given that – as far as I know – only ONE of the ethnic lobbies supporting 18C has ever sought to use it to stifle historical debate.
That lobby is “the Jewish lobby” as Guy describes it. Of course, not every person in Australia of Jewish heritage necessarily agree with the peak Jewish lobby groups on this – but it is the position of the major Jewish organisations who have expressed a view on 18C, to date. They want a law in Australia to suppress historical opinions which they dislike – and have used 18C for this purpose in the past.
By contrast, Aboriginal groups have never been so unwise as to suggest that any particular perspectives on their own history should be protected by law. Henry Reynolds is free to publish his views about the extent of massacres on “The Frontier” as Aboriginals were brutally evicted from their ancestral lands. Keith Windshuttle is free to disagree. The ABC is free to report the debate, giving both sides an airing.
That’s how history should be discussed in a free society. Under weight of evidence and by strength of argument, prevailing opinions change over time. Under this process, we’re more likely to establish the truth – although it may take time and hard work to bring crucial facts and perspectives to light.
This approach has pitfalls, but they are less serious than the pitfalls of legislating for historical truth. It’s true some folk – such as people in complete denial about the violent behaviour of Europeans as they colonized Australia – might claim there were no massacres at all. It would be a foolish claim to make – easy to refute with solid historical evidence. Yes, in theory, extreme and highly improbable claims can be made – and sometimes are. Yet to their great credit, the Aboriginal people of this country seem comfortable leaving the truth about our past to open debate.
The question that should be asked of the Jewish lobby is why – uniquely – it wants legislation to defend its own preferred view of history?
If, as Rundle asserts, “Holocaust denial” is “based on no evidence at all” it should not be hard to refute decisively in open debate.
One might think that’s especially the case in a society, such as ours, where it’s considered normal to exclude “Holocaust deniers” from any opportunity to present their case in the mass media – or to debate opponents in open forums.
But no, the Jewish lobby seems to want historical views it dislikes actually criminalized by law. This either indicates a unique certainty that they alone know the truth about history, deep insecurity that open debate may not support their version of the truth – or both.
The Roman historian Cassius Dio, writing about the Kitos War in 115-117AD, stated that no less than 240,000 Roman citizens and others were massacred by Jewish rebels in Cyprus alone in that bloody era.
Personally, I’m sceptical about that figure. It may be accurate – but I’d like more evidence before accepting it. After all, there have been many cases in history when victors have misreported conflicts – typically by downplaying their own atrocities and super-sizing the alleged misdeeds of the vanquished.
If the same principle was applied to the Kitos War as is applied to the Second World War, I would be labelled a “Kitos Denier” or some such term of abuse. I would never be given the opportunity to present my arguments in public. I would be publicly vilified, repeatedly and without right of reply.
There might also be a public debate about just how much I – as a Kitos War denier – should be persecuted. In this debate, my friends would argue that I should not be subject to jailing for my “malign and demented” views; those less friendly would push for criminal sanctions.
It is possible for societies to treat all history in this way – as a subject area to be affirmed or “denied”, with the latter subject to persecution. It is not possible for a society in the Enlightenment tradition to treat history in this way.
We can persecute “deniers” or we can uphold the Socratic tradition. We can’t do both.
In terms of the Government’s exposure draft of its proposed amendments to the RDA, I have a hierarchy of preference.
My first preference is complete abolition of 18C and D, without replacement.
My second preference is that the current proposed amendments are enacted, in full – in particular with the inclusion of the amended version of 18D which appear to provide a robust defense/exclusion for anyone engaged in serious discussion.
My third preference is that the RDA is left exactly as it is.
My last preference – and my greatest fear – is that the RDA will be amended by Government and/or the Parliament in a way that’s even more restrictive than now of the right to openly debate history and articulate heterodox historical opinions and analysis.
I expressed this concern in another comment that I made to another New Matilda article, in this case by Ben Eltham on the Bolt case and 18c:
While I think Brandis – and possible Abbott – may have genuinely held libertarian views about free speech, I don’t trust the Coalition on this issue (although sadly, I trust Labor and the Greens even less.. on this one issue).
The net result of 18C on the thorny topic of judicially-enforced historical ‘truth’ has been a handful of show trials (eg Scully and Töben), while more-carefully worded querying of 1930s/40s history has not, so far, been persecuted.
But there has been a more important effect. That has been to give the mass media a rationalization for why they report and discuss “The Holocaust” with such egregious bias.
Roughly a decade ago, I emailed Phillip Adams to ask why, after an hour-long, utterly one-sided interview he gave to one of David Irving’s most prominent critics on Late Night Live, in which Irving was repeatedly vilified, he didn’t invite Irving to reply. Adams responded that he didn’t think Irving would dare accept. I emailed David Irving (for the first time) to ask him directly if he was willing to be interviewed on Australian radio. He said he most certainly was – but doubted the offer would come to anything. He was right. When I emailed Adams again to say Irving accepted, he ignored my correspondence.
When I re-read Adams’ emails, he did at one time mention there might be ‘legal issues’. I presume he had in mind the Töben case. As long as 18C is on the statute books, it facilitates wholly one-sided coverage of this important history in mass media, schools, academia and public discourse in general. Someone like Adams or his producer can avoid accusations of bias by claiming they are compliant with the law.
So what could be worse than 18C to someone of my views? That’s easy. We could have laws as strict as Germany, France or Israel – laws specifically and purposefully outlawing heterodox historical opinion. This often leads to extreme nuttiness. In France, for instance, it’s illegal to challenge the verdict of the Nuremberg Trials. Those trials, inter alia, found the Germans guilty of the Katyn Massacre. Yet over 20 years ago Gorbachev admitted that the Soviet Union was responsible for that massacre and apologized to the Polish Government!
My fear is that, when the dust settles on this debate, Australia may end up with more – not less – irrational laws on the judicial enforcement of historical fact, with all “sides of politics’ cheering loudly.
If my worst fears are realized, Australian jails will probably start to house more and more dissidents who openly dispute judicially-enforced historical orthodoxy.
This would not be pleasant for those involved – but ultimately it may come back to haunt the ‘enforcers’. Indeed, I believe the Zionist Lobby, epitomized by AIPAC, may rue the day it ever pushed for such an unjustifiable legal advantage.
One pleasant surprise, for me, over the last month, was the publication in full of a comment I posted on the Castan Centre website, in response to an article re amending the RDA by Sarah Joseph. I was surprised because my comment was somewhat combative in tone – although I sincerely believed what I wrote.
It may be a suitable way to conclude this submission:
Freedom to debate history without fear is the key freedom that concerns me.
I’ve summarized my views about this most recently here.
Prior to the 2013 Federal election, I wrote in support of abolishing 18C here.
The Zionist Lobby – uniquely among Australia’s ethnic/religious lobbies – has used the RDA to censor historical views it doesn’t like – and to get judges to determine what constitute acceptable (and legal!) historical opinions. I fear it may now be flexing its muscles to obtain even more legal support for its efforts to silence critics of its actions, views and above all of its historical orthodoxies.
This would be very imprudent over-reach – as it would necessarily throw the spotlight to the very opinions which Zionists are most keen to enforce as orthodoxies, without any fair and open debate.
It has been at least two decades since Australians experienced anything resembling genuine debate in ANY of our mass media on the veracity of the official ‘Holocaust’ narrative. That, one might think, represents quite a success for those who most care about protecting that narrative.
Have AIJAC and its allies never heard of the expression “Quit while you’re ahead”?”