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You Can't Say That! in Australia:

The Australian:

Andrew Fraser will defy the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission by not apologising to the Sudanese community for his study linking African refugees to high crime rates. In a landmark ruling that raises fresh questions about the limits to which academics can engage in public debate, HREOC chairman John von Doussa has found Professor Fraser's comments were unlawful because they amounted to a "sweeping generalisation" that was not backed by research. ... Sudanese Darfurian Union secretary Safi Hareer complained to the human rights commission that Professor Fraser breached the Racial Discrimination Act in a letter published in the Parramatta Sun newspaper. The letter said experience showed an expanding black population was a "sure-fire recipe" for increased crime and violence. In a letter received by Professor Fraser yesterday, Mr von Doussa rejected his submission that his comments were made for "genuine academic purposes in the public interest". Mr von Doussa said while the legislation allowed for fair comment on matters of public interest and for genuine academic discussion, the comments were not made with "sufficient constraints and proportionality". ... But Professor Fraser said he would not apologise to anyone. "Even those who disagree with me should be appalled at this attack on the freedom of academic debate," he said. "This gives the lie to all those politicians who've claimed that racial hatred legislation would not curb freedom of expression in Australia."

Indeed. Imagine allowing civil rights establishment bureaucrats the power to determine whether one's speech on a public issue contained "sufficient constraints and proportionality." Shudder.

Thanks to reader Fred Ray for the link.

ChrisPer (mail):
Let's face it, Andrew's remarks were way over the usual line even in Australian newspapers letters pages which will even publish ME. I saw the letter he wrote; for an academic it was ill-judged, and I wondered whether he may have been under the influence of something more than rationality when he hit 'send'.
4.6.2006 1:31am
JohnAnnArbor:
So it should be illegal for him to say it, ChrisPer?
4.6.2006 2:25am
Patrick (mail):
That is not the least of our worries in Australia. Read, if you like, the judgment in this case heard recently in the State of Victoria, Australia, applying a relatively new law on racial vilification.

Notably:
[15] The test is whether an ordinary reasonable reader who is not malevolently inclined or free from susceptibility to prejudice would be inclined to hatred by the publication or conduct

[41]He asserts in paragraph 12. of his Witness Statement that it was apparent throughout the presentation that Pastor Scot mocked what Muslims believed and repeatedly invoked laughter from the audience when describing Muslim beliefs. He said that he observed Pastor Scot work on, and with, the emotions of the audience by provoking scorn, fear and hatred of Muslims. He asserts that Pastor Scot selectively chose quotes from Muslim religious texts, adopted questionable interpretations of them and drew unfounded conclusions without anybody challenging him. He conveyed things that were untrue. For example he pointed at conflicts involving Muslims in different parts of the world and said that in Australia Muslims are the same, but just hiding it.
...
He said Pastor Scot would incite the audience and they would respond by shaking their heads. He observed expressions of concern among the audience. He said that while there were no actual threats made, there was a feeling that members of the audience were acknowledging what Pastor Scot was saying and that something needed to be done against Muslim communities

Much of the decision is simply discussion of the evidence, but it is basically a very bad application of a very bad law.
4.6.2006 2:50am
Anirban (mail):
It seems you are expected to look for an oxymoron of politically correct scientific evidence. Reminds me of Larry Sommers.As if only one brand of liberal thought will pass the acid test, dictated by status quo. This is totalitarianism at it's core. The question remains, is this what the civil rights were supposed to be?
4.6.2006 6:10am
Anthony (mail) (www):
Civil rights should protect the freedom of speech, not the freedom of facts. I greatly doubt that the evidence presented by Fraser was based on any serious scientific research.
4.6.2006 8:27am
Eric Rasmusen1 (mail):
If Professor Fraser had presented facts backing up his assertion that an expanding black population results in higher crime, would that have made his legal situation better--- or would the court simply have said that his facts weren't good enough?

If someone else had asserted that an expanding black population would *not* result in higher crime, would that person be in similar legal trouble, if they did not present some numbers to back up their position?

In general: ought we to forbid citizens who don't know econometrics (and hence can't do the relevant scholarly analysis, or fully understand that which others have done) from making factual assertions when discussing public policy? It might actually make the world a better place to ban non-economists from public discourse, but it's a big step to take.
4.6.2006 9:55am
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Anthony, freedom of speech is not about having to defend the accuracy of your facts on pain of a criminal or civil penalty. If Fraser's evidence is indeed wholly unscientific, which I concede it may be, then he should be, and likely will be, alienated by his fellow academics. His career will suffer the consequences of apparent bias and shoddy research.

Also, unless I'm mistaken, we did not have a process where the Commission, as a sort of constructive plaintiff, had to prove that Fraser's facts were wrong, or that he had any kind of intent to injure the group he described. They just found his comment offensive in a non-adversarial proceeding, and that was the end of that.

The point is, you don't need to babysit a robust liberal society in this way. If an idea is particularly repugnant, it will not survive in the market. Its speaker will shortly become "a miserable merchant," whose wares remain unsold. If on the other hand, his ideas take hold and find support, then maybe there is something to them after all.
4.6.2006 10:00am
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Anthony, freedom of speech is not about having to defend the accuracy of your facts on pain of a criminal or civil penalty. If Fraser's evidence is indeed wholly unscientific, which I concede it may be, then he should be, and likely will be, alienated by his fellow academics. His career will suffer the consequences of apparent bias and shoddy research.

Also, unless I'm mistaken, we did not have a process where the Commission, as a sort of constructive plaintiff, had to prove that Fraser's facts were wrong, or that he had any kind of intent to injure the group he described. They just found his comment offensive in a non-adversarial proceeding, and that was the end of that.

The point is, you don't need to babysit a robust liberal society in this way. If an idea is particularly repugnant, it will not survive in the market. Its speaker will shortly become "a miserable merchant," whose wares remain unsold. If on the other hand, his ideas take hold and find support, then maybe there is something to them after all.
4.6.2006 10:00am
Steve:
Libel is a recognized exception to freedom of speech. Try thinking of the publication of knowingly false or reckless statements about a racial or ethnic group as something of a group libel. I think you'll find it satisfies all the remaining elements of the offense.
4.6.2006 10:40am
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Steve, my knowledge in this area is limited, but I don't think group libel is a recognized offense. Also, to establish libel, the plaintiff must establish falsehood and intent. Here, in a non-adversarial proceeding, the Commission seems to have established lack of sensitivity/ Boo-freaking-hoo.

Incidentally, if Australian crimes rates among ethnic groups resemble ours, then good luck proving Fraser wrong.
4.6.2006 10:51am
Anirban (mail):
Stories of Andrew Fraser appeared in quite a no. of newspapers, with some other information

Prof won't say sorry for race comments in sydney morning herald and The Age reveals how one lawyer in front of media attempts browbeating him to apologise saying he will go bankrupt otherwise .Sadly I can't figure out what the 'freedom of garbage' is.

Academic won't be muzzled of The Australian links him with the Neo Nazis and extreme right-wingers.Low IQ and high testosterone levels a recipe for crime ? . Reminds me of 'Bell curve' controversy.

" lies and lies still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest"

May apply to Prof, Fraser and others equally. May be the devil is in details, but unless we cant tolerate what a garbage speech is, very soon everyone's speech is doomed.
4.6.2006 11:30am
Steve:
Steve, my knowledge in this area is limited, but I don't think group libel is a recognized offense.

I don't think it is, either, at least in the sense that you can't "libel" an entire ethnic group. What I'm suggesting is that there are a number of similarities to something our law has long recognized as an exception to free speech.

I don't claim it's a perfect analogy but I do think it's worth thinking about before one concludes that laws against maligning a racial or ethnic group are obviously wrong.
4.6.2006 1:02pm
Brett Bellmore (mail):
Good point, we should definately reconsider the legitimacy of libel law. It's clearly putting us on a nasty slippery slope these days, now that the presumption for freedom of speech has been weakened.
4.6.2006 1:57pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Even if you suggest this is good law, or at least not immediately bad law, does anybody think it will be applied equally to all groups?

Is everybody on this board ready to go before a court to insist that what was said about, say, Christians is not illegal?

Of course not, and nobody ever expected the thing to apply equally. That's the point. We pick and choose who gets protected and who does not. The structure of the law be damned. The point is to pick the folks who are unpopular with the mass media and the professoriate for application of the law. Everybody else gets a pass.

As if this is a surprise.
4.6.2006 2:56pm
davod (mail):
Patrick:

There are two pastors involved in the Melbourne dust up. Both have been threatened with jail time if they do not repent/recant their evil deeds (I believe one of the deeds was reading from the Koran.) The irony (not a strong enough word) is that one of the pastors is a refugee from, I believe, Pakistan, where the threat of death hung over his head for preaching the gospel.

And now he gets silenced by some trumped up Justice of the Peace. No trial. Just summary judgement.

This is the dread of all conservatives. When PC policies get used by the other than PC people to silence opponents.
4.6.2006 4:41pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Davod.
Am I missing something? Are you saying the JP in this case is not PC? Seems PC as hell to me. Jailing people without due process for saying something the liberals don't like. What's not PC about that? Sounds like a campus speech code applied to wider society. A PC's nocturnal emission.

Now, if he were jailing some imams for nasty remarks about Christianity, I'd say he wasn't PC. That's not what the law is for, anyway.

My guess is that, with a bit of effort, he could find some nasty stuff from the imams. He hasn't. I wonder what would happen if somebody taped a mosque sermon and brought it to him. Nothing, that's what.

Those who claim this law was designed to go both ways have a kind of botoxed face, to avoid the inevitable smirking, winking, and nudging.
4.6.2006 5:10pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Notice that the name assigned to this body—"Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission" -- means exactly the opposite of what it actually is. This holds true in the US as well. For example, the EEOC is more about unequal opportunity when it comes to the application of affirmative action. We are plagued this kind of thing in the modern world where titles (especially from the government) often mean the opposite of the reality behind the title. I call it the "denial of the assertion."
4.7.2006 3:11am
Some Guy (mail):
Say what you want, but there is only one English speaking nation on earth that has a historical cultural respect for individual rights (and even that has been eroding over the past 40-50 years).

And that country does not have a Queen.
4.7.2006 12:37pm