* Who he is:
Born in Adelaide in 1959, Andrew Bolt is a newspaper columnist (Melbourne’s Herald Sun, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, Adelaide’s advertiser), radio commentator (Melbourne talk radio), blogger of the most-read political blog in Australia, and TV host (Channel 10’s The Bolt Report). Author of the book ‘Still Not Sorry‘ which was released in 2006. Thanks Rupert Murdoch.
* What he did:
In 2009 Andrew Bolt published two articles on racial identity under the headlines “It’s so hip to be black” and “White fellas in the black”. In them he criticised fair-skinned Aborigines for what he argued was a choice they made, as people of ‘mixed racial background’, to emphasise their indigenous heritage over their white heritage. According to him they did so in order to win grants, prizes and career advancement.
On Thursday 29 September 2011 Bolt and his employers The Herald and Weekly Times were found guilty of breaching Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act. Justice Mordy Bromberg in his judgement found Bolt’s 2009 articles contained “errors in fact, distortions of the truth and inflammatory and provocative language”. The case was bought to court by Pat Eatock and a group of eight other Aboriginals claiming Bolt had ridiculed, offended, upset and demeaned them. The nine chose not to sue as rather than receive damages they sought a public correction and a promise not to repeat his attacks.
Excerpts from the original articles:
“this self-identification as Aboriginal strikes me as self-obsessed and driven more by politics than by any racial reality. It’s also divisive, feeding a new movement to stress pointless or even invented racial differences we once swore to overcome. What happened to wanting us all to become colour-blind”?
“I’ve never before seen so many Australian-born people identify themselves by their ethnicity, whether by joining ethnic gangs, living in ethnic enclaves, forming ethnic clubs, demanding ethnic television, playing in ethnic sports clubs, or grabbing ethnic prizes and grants.”
* Parrhesiastic score-card:
Speaks the truth– Bolt’s insistence that the fair-skinned Aboriginals did so in order to claim grants and prizes and not any ‘real’ Aboriginality is bogus, with even his lawyers conceding before the case began that the 9 persuants had identified as black from childhood and were raised as Aborigine. – FAIL
Speaks the truth upwards – do Aboriginal people in present-day Australia, whatever the colour of their skin, hold more enforcable power than a media commentator of Mr Bolt’s popularity and reach? No. – FAIL
Speaks the truth out of a sense of duty – who’s interests are served in Bolt’s initial 2 articles? Who does he frame as ‘at risk’? White Australia of course – of being ‘duped’ by fashionable, accolade-seeking pretend Aboriginals and having non-White Australians insist on their difference. A duty to protect the powerful then? – MASSIVE FAIL
* Andrew Bolt’s frame:
These are the rationalisations, the specific way events must be looked at in order for Andrew Bolt to be seen as he wishes to be seen – innocent, fair-minded, right. Three frames stand out from his own writing on the matter on his blog.
1. I am the real victim here – that’s right – white is the new black. And the people really suffering in the world are wealthy white men. Cos black and poor folk keep demanding shit. Its a hard world, but somebody’s gotta rule it.
His words –
- “For a long time, I have felt like an outsider here…” (in a country dominated by White European (un)settlers, I find it hard to feel at home. Especially when those black fullas start asserting their identity)
- “In two columns in particular – and that’s where this misery started – I wrote about…” (yes poverty isn’t misery, mass incarceration isn’t misery, vilification for your ‘race’ isn’t misery. Being held responsible for what you wrote. THAT’S misery).
- “frankly, the most offensive thing said by anyone in this case was the vilification of me by the claimant’s own barrister, Ron Merkel QC, who accused me of having a eugenics approach towards race” (When I cast aspersions on others it is because I am making genuine and needed inquiry. When others cast aspersions on me, I cry foul)
2. Freedom of speech comes before all other injustice – what matters most about this case, is what matters most to me and mine. Hence my right to free speech supersedes all other superficial claims of harm.
- “For expressing such views, in such language, I have lost my freedom to put my argument as I did. And be warned: use such phrases as those yourself, and you too may lose your right to speak” (be afraid fellow white people)
- “the multiculturalists win. They win, because no one now dares object for fear of what it will cost them in court.” (This is not a case about demeaning brown folk. That is just a side issue. What is most important is what matters most to us white folk. We lost our right to chastise and ridicule our black to light brown charges.” <go back to: I am the real victim>)
3. We are ALL Australians –
- “Its time we put aside racial and ethnic divisions. As multicultural Australia strives for harmony, these distinctions merely reinforce existing barriers” (I’ll point out your Aboriginality when I need to. You however must not mention it at all. Got it?)
- “No ethnicity. No nationality. No race. Certainly no divide that’s a mere accident of birth” (you and I brown person do not look different, have different cultural ways of being, different histories, different advantages. In fact I think we were born twins)
- “But I also believe that many people now increasingly do insist on asserting racial and ethnic identities, and that we increasingly spend money and pass laws to entrench them” (Just because the laws and stuff were invented by my people for my people, doesn’t mean you can insist on a few of your own. And you want us to pay for them too? Cheek).
- “That’s why I believe we can choose and even renounce our ethnic identity, because I have done that myself”. (I can wander around Australia and no one knows what ethnicity I am. Why can’t you?)
* In the media:
Example of how media commentators take up/reiterate or even inform Bolt’s frames.
Chris Merritt at The Australian:
Rupert Murdoch’s conservative broadsheet The Australian is the biggest-selling national newspaper in the country.
- “The question of whether Bolt’s columns were offensive was decided by Bromberg using a procedure that is almost guaranteed to favour racial groups claiming to be offended”. (1. I am the real victim here AND 2. Freedom of speech comes before all other injustice – 2 for 1!)
- “If that is scraped away, this judgment has one benefit: it shows just how easily the Racial Discrimination Act can silence unpopular opinion” (2. Freedom of speech comes before all other injustice)
- “The court’s “Bolt principle” will encourage Australians to see themselves as a nation of tribes – a collection of protected species who are too fragile to cope with robust public discourse. Unless this is overturned on appeal, it will divide the nation” (3. We are ALL Australians)
While no percentage analysis has been done, the vast majority of newspaper articles written on the court’s findings in the 24 hours that followed focused on the potential infringement on ‘free speech’. A theme echoed in the following…
* Public/Political reaction:
Queensland’s Senator George Brandis says the Racial Discrimination Act needs changing. (racial discrimination is a far lesser evil than the denial of one’s right to say what one wants. According to white folks. Cos they know)
Liberty Victoria president Spencer Zifcak – the Racial Discrimination Act is too broad and could be unconstitutional. (as above)
Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes – The Racial Discrimination Act is an Orwellian law. “A democracy is at the very least a free marketplace of ideas, and a free marketplace of arguments against those ideas. But it is never, never, a stifling or a suffocation of ideas.” (when we say ideas, we mean our ideas. Those ideas you have and spout about being anything other than an Australian? Those definitely have to go)
Institute of Public Affairs director John Roskam said today’s ruling would harm healthy debate in Australia. “It’s alarming, Australia (as a nation) is less free today than they were yesterday” (when we say less free we don’t mean those asylum seekers we like to lock up. Or the disproportionately large number of Aboriginal people languishing in prison. We mean those of us who count. We now have to consider whether what we wish to say about brown people might hurt them. The African American slave is our spiritual brother)
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott – “We should never do anything in this country which restricts the sacred principle of free speech” (we’re so white… err I mean right, even God agrees with us)
In the media hours following the court’s judgement, in the many interviews and column inches Bolt wrote on his ordeal, he did not acknowledge nor apologise for the offence and suffering he meted out in his original articles. An injustice that had been verified in the Federal court. 73-year-old Aboriginal rights activist Pat Eatock, elated in victory following the finding expressed the following: “We will never get an apology from Mr Bolt. But we will I hope get some sort of acknowledgement through the press that what he wrote was just totally unacceptable”. Sadly Pat, no. The popular press preferred Mr Bolt’s frames to the guilty charge itself. As Princeton (US) Professor Cornell West says “white anxiety has always been more important than black suffering”.