‘Free speech is the cornerstone of genuine democracy, but when writers publish disinformation dressed up as fact, lies as truth, slander as objective evaluation and call it free speech, they are devaluing its very essence and betraying all those who’ve fought for it.’
Dr Rosie Scott
Personally I’ve encountered this only a few times, most notably from young earth creationists, however this tactic is often used to derail any critical discussion of the validity of what is being said.
Anyone with a public platform needs to be held accountable for how they use their position, and while many in the media treat that responsibility with the seriousness it deserves, there are some notable examples that bring shame on the rest of us.
To mislead and misinform from a position of authority is disgraceful; to do so while crying ‘free speech’ only compounds the offense.
Regarding today’s Federal Court finding that Herald columnist Andrew Bolt had breached Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act, despite his legal defense pulling the free speech card, federal opposition leader Tony Abbott told reporters:
“We should never do anything in this country which restricts the sacred principle of free speech.
“Free speech means the right of people to say what you don’t like, not just the right of people to say what you do like.”
But surely saying what people do not like is not in the same category as claiming falsehoods as truth and vice versa. I don’t particularly like the fact that one day I will die, however if someone were to claim that this was not the case, they’d better have some terrific evidence to back up their claim!
Anyway. it’s heartening that this masquerade of presenting baseless claims and opinions devoid of fact as a journalistic exercise in free speech can only go so far, and that there are consequences for those that regularly disregard objectivity, truth hood and journalistic integrity.
The full summary of today’s ruling can be found here.