Let’s give 18C the benefit of the doubt and allow, for argument’s sake, that it was conceived with the very best of intentions. OK, that’s my concession, but I also expect any reasonable person on the other side of the argument to acknowledge it has become a handy weapon, often a lucrative one.
Ah, this evergreen topic of insult and offence. What a maze to skip through, this business of not “insulting and offending” anyone! There’s such a rich and wondrous variety of reasons why people might dislike, sometimes intensely, anything you say or do that it boggles the mind. Even if you manage to avoid contentious topics — race, religion, money, politics, immigration, abortion, drugs, Section 18C, ABC, environment, elections, Trump, Hillary, women, sex, discrimination, human rights, terrorism, victims, Aborigines, carbon footprints, homosexuality, prostitution, conscription, vaccination, coal, renewables, oppressed sharks and pot-bellied parrots — you might yet trigger a warning of some kind.
Table conversations become more and more like valedictory dinners in a minefield. Step back from the table and its thin fare of acceptable opinion and topics for discussion and one false move detonates the big kaboom! So, rather than rile the table, you wear the standard-issue solemn face as steaming servings of politically correct tripe are dished up for general consumption. Beg to differ and, well, it could be the end of a beautiful relationship. Risqué jokes? None of those, please, unless the punch line is aimed at conservatives, which is always acceptable and necessarily so. There are now so many subjects and identity groups the Left has declared off-limits, Liberals are about the only free-range prey left.
Where would we be if anyone could tell a joke about anyone and anything? Dragged before the tax-hoovers of the Human Rights Commission, like poor Bill Leak, that’s where. An appropriate deference — indeed, a secular adoration — for the paraded virtues of the Fitzroy, Brunswick and Balmain set is required to avoid a public shunning and, once Dr Tim Soutphommasane has touted for “victims” on Facebook prepared to keep him busy and in the headlines, there will be no escaping the substantial legal costs. These morally superior, specimens struggle mightily to bring us mugs into the bright, brave future they envision for all humankind, whether the rest of us like it or not! Solemn agreement, meek acquiescence and, for those who wish to get ahead, a fawning deference that would shame Uriah Heap is what they (and their taxpayer-funded legal departments) expect and demand. They are, by their own estimation, the sole custodians of human rights’ eternal flame. Place your unfettered sense of humour before the altar of PC rectitude and surrender it as an offering to what they imagine is the greater good.
Very soon there will be no permissible topics for pointed jocularity, not unless they are the sort based on Pavlovian stimulus and response. If you have been to one of those “comedy” festivals, you will know what I mean. The stand-up guy or gal says “yada yada yada … little Johnny Howard” and the audience roars with laughter because, well, that is what good groupthinkers are supposed to do — respond on cue. Like the screamers in 1984‘s Two Minute Hate, they know and enjoy the satisfaction of howling with the mob at those they love to hate, be it howling with derisive laughter or old-fashioned, flat-out contempt.
They say the personal political, so let me ask if Section 18C protect me? As a Jew, I am sensitive to anti-Semitic insults, and 18C is presented as protecting me from this scourge. As far as an open assault, whether physical or verbal, it is not a foolproof protection as far as my safety and my family’s is concerned. For example, consider the variety of organisations declaring themselves to be “anti-Zionist” that are, in effect, no more nor less than anti-Semitic. Did 18c inhibit the mobs of chanters and bullies who, week after week, invaded the Max Brenner chocolate shops? Watch the video below if you are groping for an answer.