There’s been plenty written about 18c in the past few months with many media organisations and personalities coming out strongly for repeal. Some of those have personally been at the pointy end of the law and are acutely aware of its dangers. This article doesn’t seek to add to their important work but instead brings attention to the love affair the left has with 18c and their strategy for keeping it.
Normally the words “what you can learn” and “Twitter” aren’t found in the same sentence. Twitter is to learning and discourse what Married at First Sight is to relationship guidance. However, if you carefully watch the commentary and responses that takes place on social media platforms you can learn quite a bit about the established strategies and narratives the left intends to pursue on certain subject matters. Discussion about 18c is a case in point. Invariably when an article comes out or an individual posts something about repealing 18c you will see a certain phrase, or a variant thereof, continually being recycled.
“What insult do they want people to be able say that they cannot say now?”
If that phrase is familiar to news watchers, it’s because it was the phrase used by Bill Shorten in Parliament in on 21 March against the Prime Ministers latest proposals. Continual use on social media for months now is a key indicator of the strategy the left intended to use to blunt any proposals. The argument is or course invalid because the premise and the conclusion have no connection. There is no hoard of Australians out there chomping at the bit just waiting for the law to be changed so that they can finally throw off restraint and insult all and sundry. No one of any level of sanity wants to go around insulting anyone. What sane people want to do is be able to think and speak freely about activities they believe need questioning and analysis. Without a government boot on their neck and without the Q&A crowd sneering at their views on the taxpayers dime.
Invalid argument or not, the strategy of the left is not logic or discourse leading to rational solutions. Their intent is to create a cudgel with which they and their media allies can beat opponents and put them on the defensive. From their perspective they are adopting the old military adage, ‘the best defence is an offence’. If there’s any hat tip I can give to the left, it’s their inventiveness and level of organisation. They do not sit idly by hoping that they can just win the next election and start implementing some of their agenda. They are active in every aspect of society working to affect change in their image. In office or out of office, they are watching what the other side are doing and planning responses accordingly. The current 18c debate is a classic example of this.
For those with the authoritarian impulse nothing is more precious than the control of public discourse, determining what is and isn’t acceptable to speak and by extension, to think. The end being to not have a discussion at all but lead people to conclude, by absence of alternatives, that there is only one way forward. I recall that this was the method used in Soviet classrooms and media for decades. I’m heartened to also recall that when given the chance to throw it off at the end of the Cold War they couldn’t do it fast enough. The lesson we can learn from this is that the strength of our argument is not enough because the fight will not always be over comparative merits of opposing views. The fight is often fought in the realm of one-line summations that stick in the mind of the public. The realm of the emotional impression that leaves a lingering idea in the mind that 18c protects the defenceless from evil and that trying to change such a wonderful bulwark against hate could only be the idea of hateful bigots. Hence the continual repetition of the totally illogical conclusion promoted by the leader of the opposition yesterday.
Pay attention to what they’re saying and you’ll get a good indicator of what they’re planning and we can adjust accordingly. Those who love the societal gifts of the enlightenment cannot afford to sit back and allow the left to determine the rules of engagement or we will lose more of those gifts as the years roll on.