The Bolt trial over Racial Vilification allegations has been rich as chocolate cake in irony. Bolt objecting to having his words picked over and parsed! Oh deary me. Bolt upset by having his jokes misunderstood? Well, well.

It has all been said by others, better than I can say it.

Bernard Keane

Ted Lapkin

A more nuanced view by Richard Ackland

But for the record, I declare my own position to be pro freedom of speech. There are limits, of course. Bolt’s errors of fact are just that, and he should be ashamed of them. I disagree with almost everything he says.

But – the old cliche – I defend his right to say it.

The fault is with the legislation. As Jesuit priest Frank Brennan has been observing for years, it is poorly drafted, wide enough to take many trucks and quite possibly achieves the opposite to its intentions.

Yes, all rights have limitations. Yes, they carry with them responsibilities.

And yes, people who have been on the end of Bolt’s wilful misinterpretations and cruelty can be forgiven for feeling some pleasure at his present discomfort.

But he should not be in court for writing something which, let’s face it, most of us have heard expressed in pubs and clubs and cafes.

He did not incite violence. He did not cause physical harm.

Freedom of speech really matters. Few things matter more. This is not a case in which it should be limited or compromised.

I hope Bolt wins his case. Then all his critics can be reassured that they are entirely free to say just how much they hate him.

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