Freedom to hate is not free speech


Steve Gumerungi Hodder, an Aboriginal broadcaster in Central Australia, has taken legal action against Google to compel them to remove links to a site promoting extreme racism in the guise of humour. On January 27, Green Left Weekly ran an article by Edmund Parker arguing against using legal action in the fight against racist ideas. Hodder responds below.

Firstly, I would like to congratulate GLW, specifically on their commitment to highlighting important information, discussions and opinions relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice and human rights issues, which are often overlooked or straight up ignored by most mainstream media in this country.

Edmund Parker's piece ("Can you fight racism with censorship?" GLW #823) which highlighted the dilemma and complex issues involving internet content and rights over-ruling others, actually reminds me about the NT intervention and debate about the rights of the child superseding other rights.

While I would agree that the freedom to speak one's mind is a crucial pillar of democracies we hope our nations to be, it is hard to accept that any individual with basic community standards of civility would appreciate the vitriol and racist sentiments expressed on the website/page in question as meeting expectations of the 'allegedly' intended satire.

Having been a privileged visitor last year to Buchenwald, a Nazi "Worker's Camp" in central Germany, and remembering the weight on my heart and sense of foreboding that came from being in such a place of atrocities, I can say with conviction that the freedom to hate should not qualify as the right to free speech. Everyone should enjoy the opportunity to express frustrations and opinions but not when those views set out to infringe on the freedoms of others, especially already victimised, marginalised, alienated or oppressed communities or people.

While I don't like to resort to hypotheses normally, (they are used so often to denounce Aboriginal concerns in Australia, for example: "They should be happy the British came, they'd all have been killed if the Japanese had got here first.") in that instance, how many lives might have been spared if other groups in Europe and especially Germany had copied the unions in Britain, who took action to shut the Nazis out of Britain in the '30s.

As Mr Parker may be aware, I do support the advancement of Aboriginal Territorians and all First Australians through supportive social mechanisms — rather than restrictions on choice as per the government's strategy to "enable responsibility", i.e. income management.

So, for a non-Indigenous writer (I presume) to (potentially) be suggesting to an Aboriginal Territorian what types of racism should be a priority seems parallel to the government's method of telling Aboriginal people what they should aim to achieve and how, rather than asking them and working with them to achieve agreed aims and objectives.

Something probably unknown by Mr Parker is the fact that, even though the site in question claims to be user editable, following my attempt to edit the racist material (by, admittedly, trying to blank the page), it was re-modified to its original state. I was also "banned" from making any further edits and told I was "a petrol sniffing piece of shit." So those who claim to stand for the right to free speech and support democracy have gone against the very principles they claim to hold so dear.

Racism is born from fear and ignorance which, if allowed to run unchecked, can fester and spread.

While I do not wish to deny anyone the opportunity to say their piece (we should all be able to speak our minds), when some minds are too ignorant to distinguish between hate and humour, a line must be drawn to highlight the difference between the two.

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