A win for sense over an Or­wellian coun­cil

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - OPINION OUR & YOURS - PIERS AK­ER­MAN

AF­TER more than a year the Aus­tralian Press Coun­cil be­grudg­ingly found that this news­pa­per did not breach its stan­dards in pub­lish­ing an ar­ti­cle I wrote about the se­ri­ally ob­jec­tion­able Yass­min Ab­delMagied, the hi­jab-ed heart­throb of the luvvies’ kas­bah.

The full ad­ju­di­ca­tion is worth read­ing not so much for its find­ing but for the per­cep­tions of bias con­veyed, un­wit­tingly per­haps, by the words its author used.

This may be an ex­am­ple of the un­con­scious bias ias we are now told by the hys­teriys­ter­i­cal pur­vey­ors of uni­ver­sal vic­tim­hood ood lies within all who are not, to use their ter­mi­nol­ogy, woke.

In my col­umn mnn on April 30, 2017, I used Ab­del-Magied gied and her pop­u­lar­ity y with the mul­ti­cul­tural lobby to high­light the fatu­ous na­ture of the mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism pol­icy that has sadly balka­nised Aus­tralia. The di­vi­sive pol­icy does not bring us all to­gether as happy lit­tle Vegemites, even when we sway and nod to the 1987 song I Am Aus­tralian with its meant-to-bind-us-all-to­gether re­frain “I Am, You Are, We Are Aus­tralian”. In­stead, we are this-and-that-and-theother but don’t you dare mis­take me for some­thing else or you’ll wind up be­fore one of the ag­gres­sive iden­tity courts.

But a pin-up poster girl for iden­tity pol­i­tics like Ab­delMageid con­sid­er­ably erodes the case for multi-kulti.

A young, out­spo­ken fe­male Mus­lim who dar­ingly sought ad­vice from Is­lamic hard­lin­ers and who tweeted against Anzac Day would have been cat­nip to her spon­sors at the Left-lean­ing ABC and DFAT, yet to meet a white per­son who was not an age­ing neo-colo­nial­ist pale male.

Call­ing her, as I did in the piece, a “silly Mus­lim wo­man”, “stupid” and some­one who “was al­ways bound to ut­ter great inani­ties”, “a fool”, a “nonen­tity” and a “halfwit” was al­ways go­ing to en­rage those who had placed her on a pedestal.

And so the com­pli­ant Press Coun­cil in­dulged an anony­mous com­plainant agree­ing to hear an empty claim and sub­jected me to an or­deal by dis­torted process that oc­cu­pied me and tied up pre­cious re­sources o of this pa­per. Thh The com­plaint sho should o never h ha have been ac­cce cepted but w was be­cause th the coun­cil is y yet an­other in­sti­tu­tion i which wh has suc­cumbed cum to all of the Left­ist Lef po­lit­i­cal fads from cli­mate change to iden­tity pol­i­tics.

That it has fallen so far be­low the stan­dards which pre­vailed when I sat as an oc­ca­sional al­ter­nate mem­ber dur­ing the 1980s and 1990s is largely be­cause the ma­jor pub­lish­ers which pro­vide the bulk of its bud­get are fright­ened (with good rea­son) that re­pres­sive La­bor gov­ern­ments would (as has been se­ri­ously threat­ened) im­pose dra­co­nian state cen­sor­ship.

For­mer La­bor prime min­is­ter Julia Gil­lard and her com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter Stephen Con­roy suc­cess­fully man­aged to bully the me­dia into drop­ping in­quiries into Gil­lard’s 1990s in­volve­ment in pro­vid­ing legal ad­vice about set­ting up a fund that was then used by her then boyfriend Bruce Wil­son as a union slush fund. Then she im­posed the point­less but puni­tive inquiry by for­mer Fed­eral Court judge Ray Finkel­stein QC, to demon­strate that La­bor was ca­pa­ble of im­pos­ing a regime of un­prece­dented me­dia reg­u­la­tion.

The only ma­jor news­pa­per in the coun­try that doesn’t be­long to the Press Coun­cil is The West Aus­tralian, which has found a most sat­is­fac­tory struc­ture to deal with le­git­i­mate com­plaints.

It should have been ob­vi­ous to all that the Press Coun­cil was strug­gling un­der the weight of its ide­o­log­i­cal bag­gage when in May last year un­der the for­mer chair­man, Pro­fes­sor David Weis­brot, the deputy chair­man of ag­gres­sive Left­ist lobby group GetUp!, Carla McGrath, was ap­pointed a public mem­ber of the coun­cil.

In en­thu­si­as­ti­cally an­nounc­ing her ap­point­ment the APC wrongly de­scribed her as the first-ever in­dige­nous ap­pointee. It later is­sued a cor­rec­tion. There had been two oth­ers pre­vi­ously Colin Burke MBE 1982-1991 and Natascha McNa­mara AM MBE as an al­ter­nate 1992-1997 and as a full mem­ber 1997-2003.

From mem­ory nei­ther iden­ti­fied with any ac­tivist or­gan­i­sa­tions, un­like McGrath, and that may be why they dis­ap­peared down the coun­cil’s cor­po­rate mem­ory hole.

In an­nounc­ing her ap­point­ment the coun­cil noted her “strong record of en­gage­ment in ad­vo­cacy”. But nei­ther that ref­er­ence or her deputy chair­man­ship of GetUp! didn’t stop the near unan­i­mous en­dorse­ment by the coun­cil.

Th­ese sa­vants of me­dia and prin­ci­ple did noth­ing till at­ten­tion was drawn by NewsWorks Me­dia, a pub­lish­ers’ in­dus­try body, in June last year to the likely con­flict be­tween McGrath’s ap­point­ment and the coun­cil’s own stated com­mit­ment to “in­de­pen­dent scru­tiny”. Only then did the coun­cil move against her and only then did her cham­pion, Pro­fes­sor Weis­brot, re­sign.

The con­flict of in­ter­est should have been ob­vi­ous from the start but it wasn’t to a coun­cil largely blinded by the daz­zling light of virtue sig­nalling po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness.

The coun­cil in its find­ing on my col­umn stated “it is in the public in­ter­est in free­dom of speech that vig­or­ous public de­bate be per­mit­ted, even when ex­pressed in ex­treme terms, as is the case here”.

If the Press Coun­cil wants to know what “ex­treme terms are” it should con­sult Ab­delMageid’s ad­viser of choice, the Is­lamist out­fit Hizb ut-Tahrir.

But it is more than mere “public in­ter­est” in free­dom of speech that de­mands that vig­or­ous public de­bate be per­mit­ted. Free­dom of speech is one of the guar­an­tors of lib­eral democ­racy.

When bod­ies such as the Press Coun­cil talk about per­mis­sions, it is im­plicit that per­mis­sion can be with­drawn or de­nied. This is not what press coun­cils in mod­ern free­dom-lov­ing democ­ra­cies are about but it is what so-called press coun­cils in to­tal­i­tar­ian states well un­der­stand.

This coun­cil re­veals it­self in its own words. Or­well would be proud.

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