|Issue No 17||11 June 1999|
Speech Isnít Free - Itís Not Even Cheap
The Daily Telegraph's treatment of our pursuit of Piers Akerman is the strongest possible rebuttal of its own claims that we are enemies of freedom of speech.
The charges were raised last weekend, in an extraordinary column by Piers' off-sider Michael Duffy -- accusing me of "incipient facism", "thuggish tactics" and "one of the most offensive attacks on freedom of speech." Fighting words, indeed.
In a full-page diatribe ironically titled "Right to Speak up for Tolerance", Duffy elevates our $1000 bounty on Piers into some higher attack on the values that made our nation great.
I'd argue this is a perversion of any notion of freedom of speech; turning it into a slogan which hides the reality that the public forums are dominated by a small group of middle aged men with a reactionary world-view.
This point is best illustrated when my boss, Michael Costa, (who was criticised in the piece for not disciplining me!) attempted to get a letter to the editor printed in the Telegraph in reply to Duffy's column.
Guess what? The Telegraph, the self-proclaimed champion of free speech and the need to hear all views, refused point blank to print it.
When Costa's secretary rang the Telegraph Letters Editor late in the week to ask whether we'd get a run she was told: the Telegraph does not publish letters just because they come institutions like the Labor Council, and that the Daily Telegraph must represent the views of everyone in the community, not just Michael Costa.
So how does this decision fit in with the rehtorical argument of freedom of speech.
While Piers continues to indulge his own thin skin and carp on about the "fatwah" against him, his critics are given no column inches in his news paper to argue their case.
Which makes the claim that Workers Online is silencing Piers seem pretty hollow.
Where have we impinged on your freedom to speak, Piers? You chatter on incessantly about the "chatteirng classes", and devote your columns to promoting your own political agenda while complaining that "political correctness" has silenced you. For someone who's been silenced, you still seem to be making a lot of noise ...
Which is really the point of the issue.
The Daily Telegraph purports to present news, but it really promotes agendas in line with its own political prejudices.
It instincitvely bashes unions without having an industrial reporter, it monsters ideas without engaging with them first, it tells its readers how to think rather than providing them with information.
As Costa noted in his unpublished response to Duffy: "If the people the Telegraph regularly attacks such as Aboriginals, the unemployed, homosexuals or trade unionists had the same access to your pages (the very people the real "facists" have always targetted), then you could justifiably pontificate about a principle like free speech."
The Telegraph printed a heavily edited version of Costa's letter Saturday. It also ran a front page story on the sacked Oakdale miners -- although it managed to avoid any mention of the CFMEU in the story or editorial. Does any of this invalidate the above theory? I think not ...
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Women: Equal Pay - We've Come A Long Way
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Activists: Throwing Off the Chains
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LaborNET is a resource for the labour movement provided by the Labor Council of NSWURL: http://workers.labor.net.au/17/d_pierswatch_piers.html
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005