Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Free Speech, Who Needs It?

THERE are a couple of things all civilised folk must surely detest about America. The first is its President and the second, only slightly less offensive, is the serving of salad before the main course, rather than with it. Still, they do have the First Amendment, a magnificent statement:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Who could disagree with something quite so noble? Why, the very first witness to go before today's Media Inquiry, Deakin University Associate Professor and avowed Trot Martin Hirst, who tweeted the following observation after leaving the stand:

 50 minutes on US case law regarding Why? This is Australia, US 1st amendment is an anachronism in my view

What is it about the First Amendment the journalism professor finds so outdated?

UPDATE: Actually, there is something else to like about America -- its citizens come up with sites like Rate My Professor, where those paying for an education can let others know if they are getting their money's worth. Wouldn't it be just wonderful to have a similar outlet in Australia?


  1. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.November 8, 2011 at 7:33 PM

    So this guy advocates dismissing the fundamental principles of freedom enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. He teaches journalism somewhere. Quick, tell the world. He must be right.

  2. Take the taxpayers money from them ,Sink or Swim, drowning would be endemic!!

  3. The Drum has a poll on the media inquiry, but those that hate free speech seem to be winning.

  4. A charitable interpretation is that, being a professor of journalism, and therefore (we may assume) semi-literate, Hirst guessed that “anachronism” means something like “irrelevance”.

  5. An "associate professor", "journalism", provincial uni, yawn...

  6. I bet he has a lively gay time sipping those martinis

  7. mojo, Unrepentant YankNovember 9, 2011 at 2:41 AM

    I'm sure we Yanks couldn't give a rodent's rear end about the good Associate Professor's opinion on the matter. He's cordially invited to mind his own business.

  8. Wish we had the same written in our constitution, as well as the right to bear arms. I really do.

  9. As I understand it, Deakin University encompasses the former Burwood Teachers College as well as parts of the old Gordon Institute at Geelong whose forte, IIRC, used to be training wool classers. ATAR entrance cutoff in 2011 to the Deakin faculty of Media and Communications at the Geelong Campus was a stunning 59.05.

    It would be innacurate and unfair to compare Prof Hirst's job to that of a zookeeper, but if I were an 'Associate Professor' at such a place, I wouldn't necessarily want to boast about it.

  10. 'ethicalmartini'

    Oh, FFS.

    'Pretentious? Moi?'

  11. I am sure Mr EthicalMartini would get the trots if he indeed saw his name on a website called Rate My Professor. What is it about freedom of speech that scares these hypocrites?

  12. PhillipGeorge(c)2011November 9, 2011 at 9:20 AM

    It was Christianity that 'made' the West - both the Skeleton and the Flesh. "separation" of Church and State was and explicit attempt to remove the Executive and Parliament from involvements with sectarianism.

    Revisionists simply wished it to be the abrogation of Christianity.

    To wit, Rationalism, Scientism, Gay Utopianism, and Sacred Secularism have become the new religions - all bastard children involving epistemological impasses, logical absurdities, moral relativity or axioms which are aesthetically repugnant.

    You live in a very religious world, and are now making "sacrifices" to save the planet and journalism

  13. "It would be innacurate and unfair to compare Prof Hirst's job to that of a zookeeper.."

    With an ATAR cutoff of 59.05, it's more akin to childminding. Way to go Trot!

  14. sorry, I am semi-literate and I think I know the difference between anachronism and irrelevant, but I'm happy for you to enlighten me in your special way.
    'Anachronism' something that is of a previous time that may not be quite so relevant (so there is perhaps a link?) in the modern contemporary world.
    In relation to the first amendment I think the fact that it is always being tested in the courts shows that it is contested and shows that it may well display the characteristics of an anachronism - that is, it it showing its age.
    Further, societies move on, this is not America of the revolutionary years anymore. When the 1st amendment was drafted it was a frontier country, young and flexing its muscles. America today is a very different place full of decay and exercising imperial power across the world. the first amendment has not saved it from that malaise. Our values have changed and so have our ideas.
    I also note that the 1st amendment is not absolute, it bans certain things too:
    The Supreme Court has often defined certain speech, also known as “at risk speech,” as being unprotected by the First Amendment:

    * Burning draft cards to protest draft — prohibited because of superior governmental interest.
    * Words likely to incite imminent violence, termed “fighting words.”
    * Words immediately jeopardizing national security.
    * Newspaper publishing false and defamatory material — libel.

    We may today in our enlightened way agree or disagree with some of these bans. I for one don't agree with the ban on burning draft cards as I do not support the idea of a higher national / state interest in such matters of political dissent.
    I do however support the ban on 'fighting speech' and this is the essence of the Racial Discrimination Act, for example, in Australia.
    So, in the context of the tweet that this blog found so outrageous (you can read above) my comment that the 1st amendment is anachronistic should not be read as an attack on the right of free speech.
    My comments at the media inquiry on Tuesday (mainly answers to questions from the inquiry chair that I did not know were coming as I was there to talk about something entirely different) will be published in full in the next 48 hours, read them for yourselves and then judge me on that.
    I have never met the 'professor' nor he me. But he launched an attack on my person without provocation and then reacted in a very snippy way when I responded in a light-hearted fashion. It seems he is infringing my freedom of expression to denounce me and my reputation in such a manner.
    It was, IMHO, troll-like behaviour.
    I have no problem with a conservative viewpoint being put, but you guys get very personal very quickly and are at the same time provocative and defensive when people like me try to stick up for themselves.
    I spoke at the media inquiry about the need for civilised discourse - that is engaging with ideas, not slandering your opponents, - try it.
    Take a deep breath and exhale, close your eyes, relax and repeat after me - a trotskyist is not a stalnist; trots do not eat babies, permanent revolution doesn't mean gulags
    we're all individuals.
    BTW: I can quote orwell too.

  15. Five seconds into an Abbott Prime Ministership, he will be defaecating into his underwear (hopefully only figuratively) and screaming for the US First Amendment to be written into the Australian Constitution immediately. Probably while blaming Abbott for not already having done so.

  16. Professor, thanks for posting my reply, so far you are doing a lot better than either Andrew Bolt or the Telegraph who have left my comments in moderation.
    I also want to point out that a tweet of mine you attempt to link to comes up blank in another post, I did not (as one of your readers suggested to me privately) delete anything from the feed.

  17. Ethical: there was never the slightest possibility your response would not be published. That said, I believe you are wrong on matters of both fact and interpretation, not to mention a tad inconsistent in decrying "troll" behaviour at the Billabong when your opening shot was directed at "a second-rate blog".

  18. A tad inconsistent? you are too kind to hirst IMHO Bunyip. But whatere it's your blog.

    There was never the slightest possibility Hirst's response would not be published? That can't be right. If Hirst wrote something defamatory, a violent threat, disclosed some private information abt someone you would not publish that because it would expose you to liability. Hirst is .... from Deakin IYKWIMAITYD. I'd say there's always a possibility with him that a post might not be published. ;-)

  19. My earlier comment (on “anachronism” and “irrelevance”) was intended to be what is known—even, perhaps, to a few of the more learned journalists—as a jest.

  20. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.November 10, 2011 at 11:05 AM

    'Ethical' : I disagree with you. The fact that the First Amendment is regularly raised in the Courts for interpretation more likely attests to its robust utility and contemporary relevance. Such testing has delivered outcomes of which you approve as well as those you dislike. The latter may be sad for you, but in the opinion of many all the better for the security of the American Nation. With regard though to your desire to expunge 'fighting words', Andrew Bolt's comments, for which he has been convicted under the latest version of The Malleus Maleficarum, wouldn't incite a flea to bite. Yet the complainants chose not to pursue the available remedy of defamation. Smelly, no?

    But let us look at your sense of hurt, and turn ort attention to modes of discourse. It is true that like beauty, wit is often interpreted through the prism of the beholder's view of it. But cher Associate Professor, wit is also a two-edged sword, and your argument is more likely to be appreciated in some fora well beyond The Twittery if it is framed to show that you have wit as well as views. Wit should amuse and satire should bite. There's nothing second rate about the Bunyip's nip.