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Wikileaks & Free Speech

WikileaksUntruth must be repudiated, not punished

Freedom of expression, freedom of speech is vital for democracy, for unimpaired scholarly research and for rational risk management that keeps society safe. But what about hate speech, racial vilification or speech likely to cause dangerous public disorder? The need for democracy, scholarship and risk management means that freedom of speech must be sacrosanct but there is a place for a formal, transparent, expertly-informed judicial process that would make findings on free speech excesses but the only punishment of, for example, holocaust or genocide deniers would simply be the shame and ignominy of public exposure by such a process.

Abuses of freedom of speech can involve lying by commission and lying by omission. A good example involving lying by commission is given by the story of the shepherd boy who repeatedly cried wolf when there was no wolf but when a wolf did come nobody listened to his cries with dire consequences for the boy. This fable is acutely relevant to today. Thus the US Center for Public Integrity has reported that in 2 years after the 9-11 atrocity the Bush Administration told a total of 935 lies about Iraq. Failure of the System to expose Bush Administration lying led to the Iraq War and the utter devastation of that country. 
 
Endless examples can be given of lying by omission but the biggest lie by Mainstream media is non-reportage of the Muslim Holocaust and Muslim Genocide in which, since 1990 alone, 12 million Muslims have died war-related deaths due to US Alliance violence or US Alliance-imposed deprivation, the breakdown being 4.6 million (Iraq), 5.6 million (Afghanistan), 0.1 million (Palestine) and 2.2 million (Somalia) (Google “Muslim Holocaust, Muslim Genocide).
 
A malignant mixture of lying by commission and lying by omission is in the Bush (and now Obama) Administration “official version” of the 9-11 atrocity that has been uncritically promulgated by  the dominant Neocon American and Zionist Imperialist (NAZI)-beholden Mainstream media. Yet the scientific case for explosive demolition of the 2 World Trade Center buildings is compelling and numerous science, engineering, aviation, military and intelligence experts say that the US did 9-11 (Google “US did 9-11”)  Yet this informed  dissent is remorselessly ignored by Mainstream media which also ignore the horrendous consequences of the War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Afghanistan  and Somalia in terms of post-9-11 war-related deaths totaling about 2.7 million, 5.6 million and 1.1 million, respectively.
 
Remarkably, this Mainstream lying by omission extends to 9-11-related deaths within US Alliance countries such as the US, UK and Australia. According to the UNODC (2009): “the United States saw 38,400 deaths from illicit drug use in 2006”. Assuming 60% of these drug deaths were opium-related this corresponds to 0.6 x 0.9 x 38,400 = 20,740 pa and 201,000 US opiate drug deaths since October 2001 due to US Alliance restoration of the Taliban-destroyed Afghan opium industry to 90% of World market share. Global deaths from US Alliance restoration of the Taliban-destroyed Afghan opium industry now total about 0.9 x 1.25  million = 1.1  million, this including over 200,000 American, 18,000 British and 3,800 Australian victims of US state terrorism and UK state terrorism in Occupied Afghanistan.
 
Thus the War on Terror (over 9 million Muslim war-related deaths) is justified by the US Alliance war criminals in terms of the 3,000 people killed on 9-11 (allegedly by Muslim men in caves but almost certainly by the US Government) – but the opiate drug-related deaths of 1.1 million people world-wide due to the US Alliance polices in Afghanistan (this including 18,000 British and 3,800 Australians) is completely ignored by Mainstream media in the Western Murdochracies and Lobbyocracies.
 
On 28 October 2011 The Age On–line National Times published an article by Julian Assange (editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks) and Jennifer Robinson (a London media and human rights lawyer) about the recent case in which the Australian Federal Court found Murdoch media Herald-Sun journalist Andrew Bolt in violation of the Racial Discrimination Act because of a 2009 article in which he accused ''fair-skinned'' Aborigines of choosing their racial identity to get certain benefits. The article was entitled “Play ball, not Bolt, in free speech debate”. 

Key quotes: “It might seem unusual to take a stand for a bloke who has called you a ''patronizing, supercilious racist git'' when that very same man has just been prosecuted for ''race hate speech'' - but the conviction of Andrew Bolt ought to raise alarm bells for all who believe in freedom of expression. However much you disagree with Bolt, the ''hate speech'' law under which he was prosecuted is more offensive than he is… Free speech must protect all speech, however offensive. Debates that offend the ''ordinary'' or ''typical'' Australian are precisely the debates we need. It is precisely when the majority shares a view that it needs to be challenged, because if it is wrong, then we are all imperiled.”

Exercising my freedom of speech, I sent the following comment on the article to The Age in the hope that it might be published uncensored (The Age regularly censors out such comments from me and I presume from other informed credentialed people writing under their own names). However the Age completely censored out my comments (see below) even after re-submission:

"There is an intermediate position to be considered. Thus unfettered freedom of speech is crucial for democracy, for scholarly inquiry and for rational risk management crucial for societal safety.

However that should not exclude a process involving transparent, expertly-informed judicial judgment that particular assertions were incorrect or offensive. The sole punishment of the transgressor would be the ignominy of being shown to be guilty of false or offensive comments and accordingly Freedom of Speech (FOS) would remain essentially uninhibited.

Such a process would be a proper alternative to the current process in which denial of aspects of the WW2 Jewish Holocaust is criminalized in some European countries (punished by up to 10 years in prison in Austria) and several European countries have extended this approach to include denial of the 1915-1923 Armenian Genocide. Germany has suggested criminalization of denial of all major genocide episodes.

In short, freedom of speech must be sacrosanct but a formal process of judicial rebuke of FOS abuses is surely fine as long as there is absolutely no financial or custodial punishment attached."

Censorship by The Age, arguably Australia’s best Mainstream medium, is being reported so that people can get a documented record of such censorship occurring in a Western Murdochracy and Lobbyocracy and hard evidence for what they do not want people to read or to know (see the “Censorship by The Age” website).

It is argued by conservative commentators and indeed by Julian Assange (on the left) that freedom of speech of Andrew Bolt has been diminished in Australia. However Andrew Bolt has not been fined or imprisoned and he still has a column in Australia’s best-selling tabloid (the Herald-Sun) and has a TV show. In contrast, my attempt as a concerned scholar to put a sensible, informed opinion about this was repeatedly censored.

A decade ago effective free speech by Australian academics was limited as revealed in several public talks, specifically by Gideon Polya in “Current academic censorship and self-censorship in Australian universities”, Public University Journal, volume 1, Conference Supplement, “Transforming the Australia University”, Melbourne, 9-10 December 2001: and also by Gideon Polya in “Crisis in our universities”, ABC Radio National Ockham’s Razor, 19 August 2001). The above October 2011 example of censorship of an Australian scholar commenting under his own name in the public interest shows that effective free speech in Australia today is severely constrained but by the Mainstream media and Establishment - not by the Federal Court.
 
In summary, genuine democracy, scholarship and risk management all demand that freedom of speech must not be constrained.  However there is a place for formal, transparent, expertly-informed judicial process that would make evidence-based findings on falsehood and other free speech excesses.  However the only punishment of, for example, holocaust or genocide deniers would simply be the ignominy of public exposure by such a process – there should be no financial or custodial punishment. In a world of lies the truth must out and that requires untrammeled freedom of speech and authoritative, public repudiation of falsehood.

MWC News provides an excellent example of doing both.


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