One of the themes of my sold-out tour Down Under is the "habits of liberty". You can have theoretical freedoms enshrined in law, but they will not matter a whit if a people are no longer willing to exercise the habits of speaking freely, acting freely, living freely.
So I was interested to see the same theme has been taken up by a US Federal Communications Commissioner:
The American traditions of free expression and respectful discourse are slipping away, and college campuses and Twitter are prime examples, according to a member of the Federal Communications Commission.
"I think that poses a special danger to a country that cherishes First Amendment speech, freedom of expression, even freedom of association," FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai told the Washington Examiner. "I think it's dangerous, frankly, that we don't see more often people espousing the First Amendment view that we should have a robust marketplace of ideas where everybody should be willing and able to participate."
If you notice, fewer and fewer young people are even willing to pay lip-service to a "marketplace of ideas". I used the phrase to no great effect among the audience and panelists of the ABC's "Q&A" on Monday night and found few takers. If you put the "marketplace of ideas" up against the strict enforcement of correct views on gays, climate change, transgender rights, Islam, etc, on virtually any campus in the western world and took a vote, the "marketplace of ideas" would lose. John Hayward adds:
Pai makes another vital point about the importance of embracing free-speech ideals. "The text of the First Amendment is enshrined in our Constitution, but there are certain cultural values that undergird the amendment that are critical for its protections to have actual meaning. If that culture starts to wither away, then so too will the freedom that it supports," he warned.
The FCC commissioner touched on an alarming trend that goes well beyond free speech, although it is most clearly on display in that arena: the camouflaging of government power through "voluntary" cooperation between Big Government and Big Business. Pai spoke of influential officials musing that certain information sources, such as the Drudge Report or Fox News, have gained too much power to influence public discourse... at which point Internet service providers might take the hint, using their "private-sector" powers to quietly implement speech restrictions the government can't order directly.
The German government provided a direct example of this by making deals with Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms to suppress... unhelpful dissent over Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee policies.
As indefatigable free-speech champion Mark Steyn put it last week: "It is remarkable how easily vast numbers of people now accept that truth is subordinate to the needs of ideological conformity – as we saw in Europe on New Year's Eve, when politicians, police and press colluded to cover up mass sexual assault – and, as their cover-up unraveled, millions of self-described progressives and feminists indignantly insisted that the cover-up had been the correct call."
It is extraordinary how little pushback there is even from conservatives against the creation of new thought-police regimes. Reader Nicola Timmerman writes:
Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne has announced her government will create a new anti-racism directorate. Part of her justification is the debate over Syrian refugees. (And what does the black lives matter movement have to do with Ontario, anyway?)
And now the provincial conservative opposition leader Patrick Brown has said that this is a long overdue idea!
He sees the directorate as a sign "the government, the state, takes some of these issues very seriously." He envisions the office as "sort of the linchpin... the machinery to address all of these concerns that have come up from the community" and turn them into public policy.
Mrs Nicola Timmerman
So Patrick Brown, "conservative" leader of the opposition, has no more use for "the marketplace of ideas" than the party of Big Government bureaucracy.
~At my debut appearance in Cloncurry on Wednesday, I was slightly overwhelmed by the distances some IPA supporters had traveled for Steyn-and-a-4X at the Post Office Hotel. Bill had made the trip from Cairns, which is a mere 13 hours and 1,200 kilometers - plus another 13 hours and 1,200 km back. And he was by no means the bloke who'd come the farthest (one lady had come from just south of Darwin). We were chatting beforehand, and Bill mentioned this story:
The decision to make a third of meals for Australian troops halal-certified has angered military members, veterans and politicians, with less than 100 Muslims serving in the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
Deputy Chief of Army Major General Rick Burr has approved demands that four of 12 combat menu options be halal-certified.
Bill is in the Royal Australian Navy, and says a mere 27 of his comrades are Muslim. Which sounds about right. As I said to Chris Kenny on Viewpoint, back in the Mother Country there are more UK Muslims serving in the armed forces of ISIS than as soldiers of the Queen.
And yet a third of the ADF's meals are now halal-compliant. According to Frederick the Great and/or Napoleon, an army marches on its stomach. According to Major General Rick Burr, the Australian Army marches on its enemy's diet. Odd.
Media Watch was followed by Q&A's idea of balance: a Liberal minister and centre-right commentator against a Labor frontbencher, a Greens senator, a Guardian journalist and a studio audience that broke into applause when Canadian commentator Mark Steyn raised the possibility of a socialist US president.
And from The Australian's letters page:
Q&A has again displayed its political agenda. The panel on Monday included Mark Steyn. In commenting on the reaction to Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the US, he concluded we could see for the first time a socialist president. This was greeted by enthusiastic applause. Even Tony Jones could not ignore the bias and was clearly embarrassed.
Reg Brownell, Camberwell, Vic
SteynOnline reader Graham Coombes clarifies:
Q&A select their studio audience with a questionnaire so they supposedly have a mixture of typical voters. Now anyone could put anything down as their voting preference so as to get into the audience. So many ALP / Greens would be there, posing as Conservatives (LNP) . This explains the predominance of leftist questions, AND the cheering for socialist Bernie!
For US readers, that's the equivalent of the way the "conservative" and "liberal" call-in lines seem to get gamed on C-SPAN. Evidently conservatives are too honorable to be willing to cross-dress as greens or socialists.
~Following my Aussie Song of the Week, SteynOnline readers continue whistling through the graveyard of rock'n'roll:
Re Dan Hollombe's usual suspects for greatest whistling rock song of the Sixties:
All good nominees and I tend to agree with him the whistling in "Georgy Girl" doesn't sound anthropogenic. Not withstanding, your greatest Sixties whistling rock song is unquestionably "I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman" by Whistling Jack Smith.
Unlike the others whistling is the raison d'etre of the song.
Yeah, we might have to clarify the ground rules here. An all-whistling category is different from Best Whistling In An Otherwise Non-Whistled Performance category. Now I think about it, non-anthropogenic-whistling-wise, I should probably put in a plug for Andy Findon's excellent penny whistle on my Feline Groovy version of "The 59th Street Bridge Song". I essay a bit of anthropogenic whistling on "The Pussy Foot", but, alas, only wolf-whistling.
~On Thursday evening at 7.30pm Oz Eastern Time I'll be joining my old editor at The Australian, Tom Switzer, on his ABC radio show Between The Lines. Hope you can tune in. On Friday my Aussie tour continues live in Melbourne with Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt.