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Ward of the nanny state

The ‘free speech’ outrage over the brief suspension of Roz Ward exposes the shameless hypocrisy of the Left

11 June 2016

9:00 AM

11 June 2016

9:00 AM

If you want to know what someone utterly bereft of shame looks like, look no further than the lefitsh defenders of Roz Ward.

These are the people who orchestrated the banishment of Barry Spurr from Sydney Uni after he was revealed to have said dodgy things in private emails. These are the people who insisted that Opera Australia ditch the Georgian singer Tamar Iveri over some dumb stuff she posted on Facebook. These are the people who hounded Bjorn Lomborg out of the University of Western Australia for the sin of being a ‘climate contrarian’. These are the people who whooped with glee when Clementine Ford had a bloke sacked from his job for the neo-Victorian crime of verbally dishonouring her on Twitter. These are the people who want offensive mags with boobs taken off shop shelves, who want moral forcefields erected around Oz to keep out sexist black rappers, and who will Twitch-hunt into oblivion anyone who isn’t head-over-heels in love with the idea of gay marriage or transgenderism.

And yet now they cry ‘Censorship!’ over Ward’s suspension from La Trobe University. They say it’s McCarthyism to sack someone for expressing an opinion on Facebook. They holler ‘this is intolerance!’ in response to Ward’s two-day suspension — two days! — for branding the Aussie flag racist in what they’re calling a mere ‘private Facebook posting’. They slam LaTrobe’s ‘hysterical response’.

As I say, no shame. None. They absolutely lack that checking mechanism most of us have, which whispers in our ears: ‘Should you really say this thing, or is it wrong and stupid and thus likely to cause you humiliation?’ How else do we explain the fact that they can devote so much of their moral energy to crushing people who have the temerity to offend them, yet then pose as brave warriors for free speech when one of their own is punished for causing people offence? Doctors should study these people’s brains, work out how their grey matter evolved beyond shame; it could provide useful scientific info.

My view on Ward’s suspension is this: it was illiberal and mad. It is fundamentally counter to freedom of thought to throw someone off campus for expressing an unpopular view. If even students and academics cannot freely engage in thought experiments — cannot mock orthodoxy and rile the sensitive and be contrarian about climate change — then freedom of speech is truly done for. The whole point of university is that it’s a zone in which thought can run riot and everything can be questioned.

And Ward’s suspension was mad because it helped transform this painfully square, bespectacled spouter of bland chattering-class platitudes into a mortal threat to society. Ward, like so much of today’s gay-rights lobby, is just boring. I share the view that the Safe Schools Coalition, which she co-founded, is a potty, unnecessary meddle in schoolkids’ minds and lives and should be wound down with haste. But the idea (as expressed in this magazine) that it’s a sinister Marxian war on the status quo is bonkers. It’s just finger-wagging; a stab at taming what are seen as the gruff instincts and violent tendencies of your average Aussie kid; a glammed-up version of the kind of haughty moral intervention which in the past would have been spearheaded by nuns or old ladies with a blue rinse (though they would have told kids ‘Be nice for Jesus’ rather than ‘Be nice for trannies’). Safe schools, safe sex, safe internet… Ward and her ilk are dullards in drag, moral panickers masquerading as edgy queers; yet courtesy of La Trobe’s silly suspension they can now fantasise that they’re society-rupturing rebels.

But when media leftists slam Ward’s suspension as illiberal, we should be sceptical. Because these people do far worse to others than La Trobe did to Ward.

Take New Matilda, the misanthropic online mag. It has published numerous articles about Ward’s suspension, ridiculing the punishment of an academic for her private comments. This is the same mag which led — actually led — the campaign to unseat Spurr as poetry prof at Sydney because he wrote jokily sexist and racist stuff in private emails. Back then, New Matilda said Spurr’s private correspondence was fair game because his role in reviewing the national curriculum meant he could ‘influence what will be taught to every child in every school’. The exact same could be said of Ward, who aspires to correct and instruct every kid in Oz. The difference is that New Matilda likes Ward’s petty prejudices, but disliked Spurr’s, meaning she should enjoy free speech but he should be destroyed. It’s more than hypocritical — it’s foul.

Same at Guardian Australia. That online paper has made itself Oz’s key host of the new intolerance since it bounded Down Under three years ago with a raised nose and a mission to civilise. Barely a week passes without a Guardian writer calling for some laddish mag or uncouth hip-hopper to be censored / crushed / quarantined. Yet now it screams ‘McCarthyism!’ at La Trobe and the right-wingers who (stupidly) supported Ward’s suspension.

There’s more to this than shamelessness and un-self-aware hypocrisy. More importantly, these people haven’t learnt the key lesson of freedom of speech. Which is that if you expect it for yourself, then you must defend it for your enemies, for those you hate, for people you think of as scum. If you want the freedom to call the Aussie flag racist — and you absolutely must have that freedom — then you must fight for the freedom of others to say climate change is bullshit, gay marriage is stupid, and Clementine Ford is fat. Free speech is either enjoyed by everyone or by no one.

Thomas Paine made this point 200 years ago: ‘He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.’

Boom. That’s it. Leftists want to know who’s responsible for the suspension of Ward? They are. It’s their fault for cultivating an alarmingly intolerant climate in which people who say outré things can expect punishment. Ward was devoured (though not for long) by a monster of their making. Will they now change, having been burnt by their own intolerant flame-licking, and stop hounding people who offend them? Of course not. Because they have no shame.

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