America is an island of free speech in an ocean of political correctness. American columnists have to worry about deadlines and the future of print media, not about being hauled into court over the sensibilities of some protected group. But conservative columnists in Canada, Europe, Israel and Australia have to write with one eye on the keyboard and the other on the door.
The strangest case of free speech suppressed by political correctness may have come out of Australia where Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt was dragged into court under the Racial Discrimination Act by a group of white aborigines who complained that he had questioned their authenticity.
The first rule of White Aborigine Club is that no one talks about it. Australia has a surplus of white aborigines who hold down university positions teaching aboriginal culture, pick up aboriginal scholarships and receive all sorts of preferential treatment. These white aborigines are not albinos, they are "Ward Churchills" -- white men and women who claim to be aborigines because of some ancestor. And to question their authenticity all you need is a pair of working eyes.
Ward Churchill got away with claiming to be Native American by braiding his hair, wearing sunglasses and being so militant that no one questioned whether he was an American Indian or an American Imposter until he had tenure and a nationwide speaking tour denouncing the "white man’s crimes" against his people.
The white aborigine faces a more uphill battle against common sense as it’s rather hard not to notice what he is or rather what he isn’t. This forced the Australian left to play the old game of the emperor isn’t really naked if no one talks about it. Everyone knows that many of the beneficiaries of aboriginal affirmative action are white people with European names. And no one is supposed to notice that or comment on it.
Andrew Bolt did notice and wrote several columns, adding a few photos of the melanin-challenged tribesmen. It was a sore point for the Australian left which has made Aboriginal rights a centerpiece of its identity, and whose "Ward Churchills" benefit from the academic and cultural prizes granted to them by a guilty Australia.
It is still legal in the United States to point out that the emperor isn’t wearing any pants-- but throughout much of the world it’s a federal case. In Australia that was literally so as several of the white aborigines took Bolt to Federal Court.
According to the court decision all the white aborigines had to do to win was prove that Bolt had “insulted, humiliated and offended” them and that it was done “because of the race, color or ethnic origin of fair-skinned Aboriginal people.” Or in this case the lack thereof. Since the whole point of the articles was that the white aborigines were not actual aborigines, it was a slam dunk decision against free speech and for criminalizing common sense.
The right to free speech and a free press was held to be less important than the self-esteem of a group of people who would merit howls of ridicule in any rational society. The Federal Court had not only ruled that you could not point out that a white man is not a black man, but it had also created an entirely new protected group—white men who claim to be black men.
"The members of the group referred to are fair skinned Aboriginal persons who, by a combination of descent, self-identification and communal recognition are, and are recognized as, Aboriginal persons."
“Fair-skinned aboriginal person” had become the newest protected class and race was now completely subjective. You could be any race you wanted to be, so long as there was an academic position, a political post or a didgeridoo lesson in it for you.
The demand for aboriginal writers, poets and activists had been filled by rebranding members from the existing supply of university grads looking for a leg up in a competitive market with lots of unemployed poets and activists. It was an innovative solution to the supply and demand problems of a politically correct human economy where diversity counted for more than ability.
But if race was a subjective experience rather than an external objective reality, if you could choose to be aboriginal rather than having the choice made for you, then the left’s racial pyramid had exposed itself as a voluntary construct. If members of the majority group identify as aborigines and gain benefits from that identification, then who is the real persecuted group?
From the aboriginal standpoint, the white left had settled aboriginal identity after having commodified it. A repetition of an old pattern by the left which embraces minorities only to exploit their identities, enhancing the value of their identities in order to profit from them. That is one of the darker secrets of the left that made it even more vital that the naked emperor charade of the white aborigine continue.
The basic question of the white aborigine case was whether a columnist could be dragged into court for commenting on what was apparent to everyone. The answer was yes. The follow-up question was whether the perpetuation of a perverse state of affairs where anyone can opt into being a member of a protected class and reap the benefits of centuries of white guilt merited the suppression of free speech by a major newspaper. The answer was also yes.
Free speech is the pivot of tolerance debates in free societies. The left must pay lip service to free speech while at the same time explaining why it can’t be permitted to be free. In Andrew Bolt’s case, the judge was obliged to claim that Bolt’s right to free speech was not being challenged because it would have been possible for him to make those same statements in a more polite fashion.
Or as the decision put it, freedom of speech is only protected if the one exercising it “has taken a conscientious approach to advancing the exercising of that freedom in a way that is designed to minimise the offense or insult, humiliation or intimidation suffered by people affected by it.”
From now on perhaps Bolt should submit his columns for approval to the Federal Court before they are printed, which will decide if they are truly deserving of free speech protection. So long as they don’t offend any white aborigines, tall dwarfs or male women.
We are not for the most part Australians, but the curse of the white aborigine is still very much with us. When we are compelled to pay lip service to politically correct absurdities, when we remain silent in the face of the manifest untruths of the cult of tolerance and when we bow our heads in guilt to the left-wing activists, who are our own white aborigines, exploiting their constructs of race to hold power over us—then we are under the curse of the white aborigine.