Thursday, May 17, 2007

Julian Burnside -Enemy of Free Speech?

Julian Burnside has called for politicians who lie to be jailed, in 2005 he was a co recipient of the Free Speech Victoria Voltaire award. According to their website it is given on the following grounds - "FREE SPEECH VICTORIA honours citizens who have done the most to defend the right to speak freely with an annual award, called The Voltaire."

I have written to Terry Lane and Franciscus Henri asking that FSV withdraw Burnsides award. Below is a copy of an article I have submitted for their on-line magazine 'Speakeasy'. If I get a reply or the article gets published I will post it. The sad thing is that an organisation like FSV could have been a wonderful thing if it had been apolitical from the start however it appears to have been founded by the usual crowd of left wingers, they are keen on freedom for themselves but not the rest of us. Funny how the left always emerges on the side of oppression.


Dear Mr Henri

I submit the following article for your speakeasy papers.

Stephen Williams

The following is taken directly from the Free Speech Victoria website.

“We have supported individuals of all political persuasions in their right to speak freely, without fear of prosecution or penalty. We do not express an opinion on what people say, merely on their right, as free citizens, to say what is on their mind.”

The organisation has an annual award – ‘The Voltaire’ the recipient of which is deemed to –“Honour citizens who have done the most to defend the right to speak freely with an annual award, called The Voltaire.”
Except for the first award most Voltaire’s seem to have been awarded to those pushing ‘left wing’ political causes. This was most apparent when Julian Burnside and Kate Durham were the recipients in 2005. There has not been a single ‘right of centre’ recipient. I am what I suppose many of the media would call ‘conservative’, I believe in personal freedom, free speech, limited government, free markets and the list goes on. I was initially attracted to ‘Free Speech Vic’ as I was horrified by the attempts by successive governments (Liberal and Labour) to restrict freedom of speech and freedom of information. However I was deterred from joining by the overt political bias of this organisation. There is now a chance that the organisation can demonstrate that it regards freedom of speech higher than political allegiance.
Recently Julian Burnside has called for politicians who lie to be jailed. He made this demand in the context of those who dispute or are sceptical regarding climate change and/or its causes. This is an extraordinary statement for anyone to make much less a champion of free speech. Leaving aside the fact that there is no proof of man caused climate change just a lot of computer models), who would determine that a person was lying? If it was a court how would the burden of proof be determined and whom would it lie on? Why restrict this to politicians and where would it end? This proposal from Burnside is the anathema of free speech. I therefore ask that Free Speech Victoria request Mr Burnside to return his award and if he refuses that FSV makes a public statement saying that his award has been withdrawn even if he refuses to return it.
FSV could have been a great agent for free speech and change in Victoria however unless it actively becomes a non-political organisation it will die a slow death. This is a chance to remake FSV if the chance is not taken then the state will be poorer for it.
P.S. I have emailed Terry Lane about this award and having it withdrawn he has not yet returned any message.


Julian Burnside said...

You have not understood my point.
I accept that people can say that climate change is nonsense: they can say there is no connection between smoking and lung disease, they can say the earth is flat. I support their right to say such things. But only if they truly believe it.
If politicians say global warming is not real, and they say it because lobbyists have persuaded them to say it rather than out of a belief that the science is wrong, then that is a lie.
Free speech does not justify lying and it does not justify misleading the electorate to appease vested interests. If you want to protect free speech, it is important to understand what the speaker is doing. If you want to criticise my views, it is important to understand what I am saying.
---Julian Burnside

Bill Cooper said...

I have received a reply from FSV and they say they will consider publishing my letter to them - with a response, fair enough.

Mr Burnside has seen my opinion and has posted a comment (above). He seems to be saying that politicians will tell lies to further a lobbyists argument. I find that proposition difficult to accept, I would believe that a politician could agree to a lobbysists argument and then argue that position themselves but to argue a point you believe is a lie would require some other motivation possibly bribery. Either way you are going down the path of corruption and there are means to address that problem.
Another aspect of Mr Burnsides proposition would be lawyers presenting their clients arguments. Surely every legal practioner has at times strong doubts about the veracity of their clients defence. Whilst I accept that the lawyers and barristers must do their best to put their clients case they must at times have difficulty believing the defence. If they doubt it and put that argument surely they are lying to themselves and the court, if so how would you prove it and what could be done about the problem.

The whole problem of people lying and what to do about it is more difficult than I can handle. My point is advocating the locking up of people for arguing a point whether they believe it or not is wrong. That sort of practice is really only accepted in totalitarian regimes if politicians and others are found to acting corruptly then that is a whole different game and there are existing ways to address that problem.

Anonymous said...

Given that manmade global warming has not been proven is Burnside prepared to argue for the conviction of politicians who claim it is a fact, when it is clearly not, because of persuasion by lobbyists?
Anyway, rationalists wouldn't give the time of day to hyperbolic, patronising grandstanders like Burnside. He's a conceited fool.

Té la mà Maria said...
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