The Right To Criticise Denied
by Doctor Mark Cooray (1997)

Respect for opposing views (particularly those which enjoy significant popular support) is basic to democracy, a responsible media, free expression and development and progress of a nation. The reason for such respect for opposing views is the belief that the better opinion should triumph.

This is a principle which Christians in public (as well as in private) should follow and commend to others. God is a God of truth. Where truth prevails with love, the will of God prevails.

Expression of opinion is the essence of a democracy. The famous words of Voltaire come to mind:

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Hard debate and disputation is an integral part of the true democratic process. This must be accompanied by respect and toleration of the opinions sincerely held by others, based on reason and principle.

Lenin once said

"I think we must stick the convict's badge on anyone and everyone who tries to undermine Marxism ... even if we don't go onto examining his case".

This tactic has been cultivated to a fine art by many in politics, media, education, special interest groups and other areas of political activity.

Examples of the Leninist tactic involve describing people or their views as reactionary, conservative, imperialist, women haters, anti-feminist, pigs, haters of homosexuals, racists, fascists, imperialists, conceited Coalition of privilege, troglodytes, neanderthals, drones, thugs, persons who are cold of eye and hard of heart, lunatic fringe academics, failed and frustrated ex-public service mandarins, simple minded avaricious millionaires, mercenaries of the money markets, born again political inquisitors, members of clandestine clubs, flag waving anthem singing Queen toasting phonies, economic fantasies, incoherent ravings, the black and sinister hand of a clandestine and that subversive force, politically an evil view, men of straw, branch of the Ku Klux Klan, persons with an obsessive desire to maximise profits through tax evasion.

There is in these tactics, a conspicuous failure to recognise the existence of a contrary opinion. There is an all-pervading belief that there is only one approach.

All this constitutes an attempt to deny the existence of an opposing view. It is indicative of the totalitarian mentality. The totalitarian proceeds on the basis that his view is right and true and it is the only view.

Hard criticism and strong arguments, provided they are honest and are supported by and based on reason and principle, are part of rational debate. Slogans, abuse and name calling without reasons are not.

The level of debate in public life in Australia has degenerated terribly. Argument by abuse, overly vigorous assertions, cant phrases, innuendo, name calling, denunciations (attacking the man rather than playing the ball, to use sporting parlance) are extremely common.

This serves as a substitute for rational argument and an avoidance of entering into serious debate with an opponent's rationally presented arguments.

This type of language and debate has in past in western democracies been associated with extreme elements in the political system. The problem is that today it is part of mainstream politics. The Prime Minister, Premiers, Ministers of the Crown, Judges and other public figures hurl abuse and denunciations at their opponents without resorting to rational argument.

The media follows suit—and are critical of such tactics only when they are indulged in by those whose views are politically incorrect.

If people who may be deemed to be politically incorrect use the tactic described above, the media may seize on the content and provide scathing criticism. They would not do so if the tactic was used by the politically correct.

Paul Keating's use of the above tactics receives no more than very occasional criticism, unless it offends the political correct. Indeed Paul Keating frequently uses the tactic. He is seen by the media as winning political arguments when he has barely related to the views and perspectives of the opponent. He wins by abuse and denunciation.

An alternative to the Leninist tactic also common in media and politics involves ignoring politically incorrect views an policies. The media provide no exposure. They pretend such views do not exist and impose a form of censorship.

The ABC, the public affairs television and print media (national and metropolitan) which set the agenda of public debate in Australia have miserably failed to focus on the abusive nature of argument indulged in by public figures with politically correct views. Some in the media use the same tactics. The media, however, are quick to pounce on the politically incorrect when they indulge in rhetoric, unfair or extreme comment, and even when they are arguing rationally and legitimately.

The views of the moderates as well as the extremes of the "politically incorrect" spectrum are ridiculed or ignored by the media. By comparison the extremes of the politically correct spectrum are given great latitude. The activities of politically correct protest groups receive wide publicity in the media. Criticism is minimal.

Sections of the public affairs media in Australia pretend to be impartial in disseminating the truth but are overwhelmingly biased in favour of "politically correct" views and perspectives. The ABC is funded by taxpayers' money and therefore has a duty to fairly present the competing views and perspectives (particularly those which have a significant following). The privately funded media has a right to express partisan views. However independence and commitment to truth and standards are not common.

A popular view about the media is that editorial content is controlled by media proprietors. It is in fact largely controlled by the editors and presenters, the overwhelming majority of whom in the ABC and the national and metropolitan Parliamentary press galleries and TV media are left of centre, politically correct and antagonistic to liberal, conservative and traditional views and perspectives. This formulation excludes from its scope journalists outside the press galleries, radio and the regional media.

Most journalists are careful to avoid exposing or commenting on the financial interests and concerns of the proprietors. They provide support for the proprietors when a need arises. Proprietors are not concerned about ideology. Journalists who avoid embarrassing their proprietors, have the freedom to be biased and irresponsible on ideological and any matter except anything which affects the person or financial life or interests of the proprietor

There is a connection between the state of the public affairs media and the relative absence of informed, fair and balanced comment. The chief offenders in this respect are Liberal and National party MPs who do not have the guts or the guile to stand up to the media. The media control the agenda of debate and decision making in Australia and by and large the Coalition functions within that agenda.

Some of the politically incorrect views which are attacked or ignored enjoy significant popular support. Many values of the people studies demonstrate widespread support for basic moral and family values — but these are not held in high regard in sections of government, education media and special interest groups which dominate decision making and receive publicity in the media.

The core of the values and institutions which were responsible for the development of western and Australian civilisation are not also not adequately respected. But there is some evidence of a shift in attitudes.

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