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Posted

Apr 9, 2012

Andrew Bolt does not support "Amazon bombing" critics' books, and he wishes his readers would stop following the link he gave them

What's it called when someone tries to get a m

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Pure Poison IconWhat’s it called when someone tries to get a mob of supporters to run across to the Amazon entry for an opponent’s book and leave negative reviews? Amazon bombing?

We hope no-one suggests that that is exactly what Andrew Bolt was doing with this post today:

Nor may you safely say no to Heiss, not publicly, if you live in Australia.

But the United States, unlike Australia, has a constitutional protection of free speech – and a cultural predisposition towards it.

So it will be interesting to see what Heiss, her publisher or her supporters will do to stop the US-based Amazon site from publishing the kind of comments that have been removed in Australia by the ABC and Random House.

See? He’s just ASKING QUESTIONS. He’s very definitely not doing anything more than that. And if you’re confused – or you’d already clicked on his Amazon link to race across and give Heiss’ book a negative review under the misunderstanding that that is what he was advocating – Andrew tries to set the record straight:

Note: I am not trying to incite anyone into attacking Heiss’s book. She is entitled to express her point of view. I am simply pointing out that I am not entitled to express my own, and nor is anyone of like mind who disagrees with Heiss. This is not a hate-Heiss session, but a protest against limits to free speech in debating an issue I believe is of significant public importance.

And that’s why I doubt there was a sudden stampede of WHERE IS MR BOLT’S FREE SPEECH? one-star reviews after the Southbank Martyr’s post went up. If there was, I’d be as surprised as I’m sure he would be.

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115 comments

115 thoughts on “Andrew Bolt does not support “Amazon bombing” critics’ books, and he wishes his readers would stop following the link he gave them

  1. zoot

    This seems the right thread for this link: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3911
    Geoff Pullum discusses the limits to freedom of speech. The post contains strong language.

  2. zoot

    Mondo, I’ll add my thanks and point out that Angra’s first paragraph said it all – you’re a gentleman. BTW I generally agree with you regarding freedom of expression.

  3. Fran Barlow

    I assume Mondo, that you are experiencing long delays when trying to effect the sign in. Older IE browsers (eg IE7) loads a plug-in that is nixed by many enterprise security firewalls. If you upgrade to IE8 you can disable this and the page should load quickly (or you can use another browser and get a similar result)

  4. Angra

    mondo – thank you. It’s refreshing to debate an issue with someone whose views you may disagree with, but both have a respect for the truth and a logical argument without resorting to simple abuse as we find so often on right-wing blogs. I guilty too sometimes, out of frustration, or too much good Shiraz.

    A quote from a TV programme (forget which) comes to mind. “We may not have been friends, but we were the best of enemies.”

    (Anyone know where this came from?)

    But returning to the original theme, would Bolt’s comments be any more or less offensive if directed against Gays or Jews or even poor people?

    Offensive speech is – well – offensive. Maybe this should not be illegal – just walk into your local pub and get involved in a disussion about sex, politics or religion. But the point is the Bolt isn’t just in his local pub, he has a high-profile platform on one of the most widely-read media outlets. This is a privilege the vast majority of us don’t have, so maybe he should be a bit more considered in his output and accept that with media power comes responsibility. Without this, then the media becomes fully culpable of Stanley Baldwin’s famous criticism. (Worth repeating)

    “What the proprietorship of these papers is aiming at is power, and power without responsibility — the prerogative of the harlot through the ages.”

  5. Rich Uncle Skeleton

    And credit where it’s due to you Mondo, you were able to admit that your mind had changed.

  6. mondo rock

    I have so much trouble logging into this site from work these days it’s ridiculous – I’ve been trying for the past day and a half and have only just managed to get on.

    I only note this in case others here thought I was avoiding the thread given the (frankly persuasive) comments from Angra and Zoot above. So the articles do remain available on-line despite my belief to the contrary, and still contain the same argument (although with minor corrections made around the errors of fact found in the judgement).

    So I am forced to admit that the ‘punishment’ doled out to Bolt is far less restrictive than I had originally assumed. The ‘suppression’ of his views exists only in print – i.e. News can’t print the articles any more – the articles are still out there (although in slightly modified form) and available on-line.

    So I was wrong in that aspect of my argument and I admit it. I still believe that the print restrictions are undesireable in the context of free speech (such restrictions would never be tolerated in the US under their Bill of Rights, for example) and that to a certain extent the process of the court proceedings can be legitimately described as a punishment imposed for excercising free speech, but that doesn’t change my error.

    I still oppose making “offending language” the basis of legal action against an individual, and as such still oppose both the prosecution of Bolt and the relevant section of the RDA, however I will stop referring to the court decision as a ‘suppression’ of Bolt’s speech from now on.

    Credit where it’s due – Zoot and Angra: you proved your position and changed my mind.

  7. zoot

    Mondo @106: What Angra said at 107.

    Angra @107: I believe that is what the court intended.

  8. jules

    “But more to the point – ‘tasteless’ should never be grounds for censoring opinion. “Causing offence” should never be grounds for censoring opinion.”

    Tasteless is one thing – and what gets called “causing offense” is another, cos what gets written off as causing offense can be an attack on people that does more harm than just “cause offense”. Why is it that we are having a panic about bullying right now? Its cos the harm is greater than people were prepared to admit for …. well for generations.

    I take issue with the whole “its just cauising offense” thing cos its more than causing offense. Its about how much respect and dignity humans are afforded.

    (Comparing the palestinians to the Jews in the 30s is stupid tho. Comparing any attempted genocide to another is stupid. (And yes an attempted genocide is what is happening in the ME and yes like germany in the 30s its being driven by rabid right wing nationalist thugs – so there are similarities, and plenty of differences too.))

    We are all free to speak our minds. And free to take the consequences.

    Which in Bolt’s case meant having a corrective notice published next to his column twice. He didn’t even have to apologise, which is ridiculous but still a defense of his free speech cos he’s not being forced to say something against his will.

    Bolt is still free to speak his mind. And take the consequences and if he had the courage of his convictions he would. That he doesn’t speaks volumes. (He could even set up a private blog seperate to his professional one and make his comments there.)

    And as far as the book goes. Without the court case no one would know about the views of those individuals and this book wouldn’t have been published. So its a clear case of people being empowered by our democratic systems and thats good. We shoul;d be proud that our systems do work at times.

  9. Angra

    Mondo – Bolt appears to have published the court decision but kept his original article on-line and on the same page.

    Is this what the court intended?

    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/column_white_is_the_new_black

  10. mondo rock

    Zoot – can you please point me to the website where Bolt’s articles are now hosted. The ones where he argued that the “white skinned” plaintifs choose to identify as Aborigines and that they have benefitted from it?

    I have looked for them several times and cannot find them – in fact I believe that News Ltd has been specifically ordered to take them down and that they will be in breach of a court order if they publish them again. If that’s not the case then I concede you are right and the views have not been “suppressed”. If it is the case however . . . .

    Jules I’ll take it as read that you missed the 20 something other palestinian people killed the other day in the one for one individual, and pretend that comparing holocausts isn’t tasteless.

    But Jules – the Leunig cartoon did make that comparison and, in my view at least, it was valid. From what you’ve written above it appears that you agree with me (and Leunig) – i.e. the palestinians are now facing conditions comparable (though obviously not on a comparable scale) to the jews under Hitler. But more to the point – ‘tasteless’ should never be grounds for censoring opinion. “Causing offence” should never be grounds for censoring opinion.

    Obviously he resents doing that to a bunch of darkies and you’re supporting his right to do that.

    His right to feel resentful? Well yes – I fail to see how anyone could try to prevent someone from feeling resentment. If he wants to resent people and think of them as “darkies” then that’s his right. Do you seriously disagree?

    But its not oppression is it. Its protection for people who would other wise have no come back. no way of putting the truth of their lives on the public record.

    No way of putting their view on the public record? Are you serious? This thread is about a BOOK written by one of the plaintiffs in direct response to the claims Bolt made!!! How can you seriously argue that these plaintiffs have no come-back when one of them has just published a book explicitly defending their position!! Surely your assertion in this regard has been conclusively disproven by the reality of Heiss’ book?

  11. jules

    “If a group of Jews had tried to prosecute Michael Leunig for his cartoon depicting the Palestinians as the new holocaust victims I would be equally critical of them because of their actions in attacking and undermining the principle of free speech. Would you, in that case, accuse me of attacking the Jews?”

    That is giving Bolt’s view more legitimacy than it deserves tho, isn’t it? I mean he {EDIT: We can’t really publish commentary on the details of the decision.} and the court found that and ordered him to apologise and issue a correction.

    I’ll take it as read that you missed the 20 something other palestinian people killed the other day in the one for one individual, and pretend that comparing holocausts isn’t tasteless.

    Its more than “offending people” its causing harm to them – they said it did and a court agreed. If you lie about someone in a politically charged environment then you need to be able to show you acted in good faith. That appears not to have happened.

    So a person was shown to be acting in bad faith, and that their column was responsible for falsehoods about individuals, deliberate or not, And the individuals hurt had to take legal action, with the chance of losing, to defend their right not to be put in that position.

    When it comes down to it, the assault on free speech extended to making bolt apologise and admit he said the wrong thing. A retraction can’t turn back time and make something unsaid, its a forced apology and an admission of inaccuracy. So Bolt had to admit he was inaccurate, tho not deliberately, and apologise for the harm caused by his factually inaccurate statements. Obviously he resents doing that to a bunch of darkies and you’re supporting his right to do that.

    Attack on free speech my arse. As someone else pointed out on this or another thread, another columnist asked the same questions in what appears to be good faith in a major newspaper, and without judging the rightness or wrongness of what she said, at least she was tactful and approached the problem reasonably.

    “You know what Jules – I actually agree with you here. If Bolt were a greater man than he is he would publish his views and to hell with the consequences. If his true interest was in defending free speech, instead of playing the martyr, he would ignore the court order and bloody well stand up for his principles. He’s not a hero though, clearly, which is fully consistent with my understanding of the man.”

    Yeah it seems that way. Which means he is … well to me, what he is saying is not something he believes in enough to put himself on the line. To me thats obvious – I could be wrong, but the court seems to agree. And he has a major voice in today’s media. Yet he can’t be bothered to get his facts right and caused people harm in the process. So the court is there to force him to not abuse his power in the same way the law prevents strong people from taking stuff from weaker people. To a degree.

    “But again – while Bolt’s individual failings when faced with this state oppression are interesting, they are not really relevant to my argument.”

    But its not oppression is it. Its protection for people who would other wise have no come back. no way of putting the truth of their lives on the public record. Thats why we have a civil society for all of us.

  12. Eric Sykes

    mondo talks the usual far right r@kist talk but then says he isn’t and claims he’s not:

    “who prosecuted Bolt for offending them”. “suppress a viewpoint that offends them”. “the validity of my view”. “attacking and undermining the principle of free speech”. “our Government’s decision”. “limited this right to a specific racial group”. “state oppression”. “not really relevant to my argument”.

    It is not about offence it is about racial discrimination; it has nothing whatsoever to do with free speech; it was not the government what done it, it was the courts; it is not limited to a specific racial group; nobody is oppressed by it; ….and of course..

    …anything that presents any other perspective on the event is not relevant to mondos spectacularly reasonable and completely uncontroversial argument.

    And mondo continually has the bare faced audacity to claim to be left. I am not sure why, since he so obviously isn’t.

    But then he’ll do The Coasters “…why’s everybody always pickin’ on me?….” whenever he gets the chance.

    Oh and he was leaving forever a while ago because evryone had been pickin’ on him sooo much but just like Douglas MacArthur he’s come through and he has returned, still spouting right wing bile.

  13. zoot

    … it has to do with their decision to use the law to suppress a viewpoint that offends them.

    mondo, either you don’t know the meaning of “suppress” or you didn’t understand the judgement handed down against Blot.

  14. mondo rock

    I don’t see this “attacking our free speech bullshit” as anything other than attacking indigenous people for daring to stand up for themselves. I’m sure thats not what you mean to do but to some people it might come across that way.

    Not only is it not what I mean to do, it’s quite literally not what I’m actually doing. My criticism of those who prosecuted Bolt for offending them has nothing at all to do with their Aboriginality, it has to do with their decision to use the law to suppress a viewpoint that offends them.

    I fully understand how easy it is to misrepresent my view as an attack on Aboriginal people – hell, there are multiple posters here who have done this to me ad-nauseum – but that doesn’t undermine the validity of my view in the slightest.

    If a group of Jews had tried to prosecute Michael Leunig for his cartoon depicting the Palestinians as the new holocaust victims I would be equally critical of them because of their actions in attacking and undermining the principle of free speech. Would you, in that case, accuse me of attacking the Jews?

    It should be entirely clear from my arguments to date that I don’t agree with our Government’s decision to grant anyone a legal right to suppress speech that they find offensive. That they have limited this right to a specific racial group is interesting in its own way, but it is essentially irrelevant to my complaint.

    If certain parties really valued free speech and believed what they were saying they wouldn’t let state oppression interfere with their message. They would be brave enough to make their stand and bear the consequences like every other hero of liberty in history.

    You know what Jules – I actually agree with you here. If Bolt were a greater man than he is he would publish his views and to hell with the consequences. If his true interest was in defending free speech, instead of playing the martyr, he would ignore the court order and bloody well stand up for his principles. He’s not a hero though, clearly, which is fully consistent with my understanding of the man.

    But again – while Bolt’s individual failings when faced with this state oppression are interesting, they are not really relevant to my argument.

  15. fred p

    {Snip – Sorry Fred, I take your point, however we have some readers who have in the past stretched what appear to be innocent observations, into personal attacks on their character. They then like to call our publisher and complain that they are being defamed. We can’t allow that.

    For future reference, some people believe that if you accuse them of making something up then you have called them a liar, even if that wasn’t what your comment meant in context. – Dave}