No exceptions for free speech
Isn’t it funny that the ones who want to restrict free speech end up being the same people who won’t shut up about their feelings being hurt? It’s hard not to notice that the ones whinging about hate speech are the ones who stage protests all the while holding placards reading “behead those who insult Islam”. I would expect free speech to be defended at a university, traditionally an institute espousing truth and liberty, but instead we see a growing trend of cowardice spreading like a foul cloud of intractable dust, with the farcical act of a cartoon being pulled in ANU’s student newspaper Woroni being the latest case. No idea is safeguarded from criticism, and the decision of ANU’s administration to dogmatically decide which ideas can and cannot be satirised is a terrible case of hubris. What right do they have to decide what people read? Who at all is qualified to make such decisions? Too long we have had to tiptoe around certain issues, or ignore them completely, in fear of offending some poor defenseless group who may not like what is said about them. Well fuck that. Not any more. It’s time administrations and individuals everywhere grew a backbone and stood up for our inalienable right to free speech.
Who is Michael Spence? Michael Spence is a guy doing his job
I am a fence-sitter. I dislike conflict and avoid it like the plague. I don’t know if I agree with the recent strikes and, honestly, am not informed enough to express support for either side (my own fault, really). Like many students, I have crossed picket lines. (Only once was I actually stopped. It was a lecturer, and I did let her talk to me before apologising and heading to Fisher). Unlike some, I do have class. Celtic Studies is funded externally, and my lecturer holds his classes off-campus out of respect to the strikers. Whatever you think of them, protestors deserve respect for acting on their beliefs, and I’ve had words with friends who I felt had behaved aggressively towards them.
But I am writing now in response to several articles which appeared in the Week 11 Honi Soit. They discuss the presence of the NSW Police at the recent strikes and convey some of the reactions this has prompted. It is clear that in several cases, the police acted brutally. The use of the Public Disorder and Riot Squad against a strike-driven protest is a clear over-reaction. I do not believe that anyone was engaged in the kind of lawless, pack-driven violence which a police force of that kind is trained to deal with. Reading the personal accounts of Edward McMahon and Tom Raue is awful and the experience must have been quite horrifying.
But where exactly is everyone’s horror, anger and frustration directed? Apparently much of it is towards the Vice-Chancellor. And yet the Riot Squad is not an arm of the VC’s office!
Apparently, at least one member of Campus Security was seen conversing with the police. That is hardly surprising, given that they are in similar lines of work and from their point of view, they were both there to do the same job. But that in and of itself is not conclusive proof that Dr. Spence orchestrated any sort of interaction between the University and police or had a say in police movements, as several of the articles appear to imply. Certainly, Dr. Spence’s responses do not appear that supportive. But he’s not on the side of the strikers, so what were you expecting? Actually, I would much rather like to hear about the rest of University administration. Who exactly is involved in managing security? Who actually liaises with the police? Dr. Spence is certainly our head, but there’s a whole body underneath him. Our frustrations might be better directed by examining the entire system before we head straight to the top.
These incidents of police brutality are alarming, but they are nothing in comparison to some of the atrocities that are committed daily by various state institutions across the world – especially where there is intense impoverishment or social unrest. That is not to say that we should not hold the NSW Police responsible, or demand that they explain their actions and I applaud those students who are reporting the matter to our Ombudsman. Inappropriate action by police officers is a serious issue, and we should work to develop a Force which we can trust and respect. Whatever its failings, Australia is a democracy and its people have a right to oversee the functions of the institutions which are intended to protect and serve it.
But progress is not built on vilification, and I am sick and tired of the constant Spence-bashing.
B Arts (Hons), IV
Show him the Dore
I’m writing in response to Alex Dore’s reprehensible and completely unfounded attacks on Tom Raue in the last edition’s letter’s section.
In his letter, Dore seems to be tossing up between claiming that Police Brutality didn’t even happen, and that since it did happen it was obviously the protester’s fault, since they obviously intimidated and “pushed” the police into violence (something for which there is absolutely no evidence because, let me see, it didn’t happen). But leaving aside the obvious logical flaws in this bizarre and deliberately insulting position, I thought I’d enlighten readers about the deja vu that greeted most of us reading about yet another of piece of utter crap attributed to the legendary Alex Dore.
Whilst we’re talking about things that are documented as opposed to those which aren’t, there are no slim pickings when it comes to SULC and Alex Dore
Alex Dore was one of the masterminds behind the Will and Grace Campaign, one of most despised, bottom feeding campaigns recently. Details of the widely and independently documented antics of Will and Grace Campaigners were shown (in Rachel Addy’s brilliant letter) on the very same section of (Honi Soit W12) as Dore’s letter. I myself was personally witness to his campaigners harassing other candidates/campaigners votes. Dore and SULC originally planned to run four candidates in the recent election, but narrowed down to two after realising that fronting a bunch of air-headed candidates who know absolutely nothing about the USU would do more harm than good to their image.
And that’s not all. Everyone remembers that it was Alex Dore’s Liberal club which embarrassed the entire university by inviting Allan Jones to one of their events and then tweeting “Brilliant speech… It’s no wonder he’s this nation’s most influential broadcaster”. Oh, and Jones used the event to make offensive personal attacks (sound familiar?) for which both he and the SULC exec failed to sincerely apologise. Even earlier this year they sunk to new lows with disturbingly racist tweets about Aboriginal winners at the Logies. Or how about the fact that Alex Dore and his thugs the executive of SULC demonstrated such a sufficiently repugnant style of politics that last year, a group of their own members we’re sufficiently motivated to break away and start their own club. A club which Dore and co. preceded (in deliberate violation of USU regulations) to try to shut down 3 times. It doesn’t even worth mentioning the rather trivial rumours of a certain “male member” from SULC almost (or actually, depending on your sources) getting into a fist fight after attempting to stack out a meeting of the UNSW Liberal club.
Alex somehow manages claim that the protestor’s position is untenable because claims of police violence have been made in the past. Raue is quoted as saying “and dragged one protester by his neck” in relation to a rally last year, which A) isn’t a claim about what happened to him and B) is clearly visible in several videos taken of the incident including one published by the SMH. Secondly, video of multiple protestors being pushed to the ground at the last rally, and one particular protestor being put into a headlock unprovoked, was widely circulated and broadcast on national television You would have to seriously question the intelligence and the sanity of someone claiming that these things didn’t happen. And against all this, Dore has vague, undocumented and unsubstantiated claims about protestors spitting on people who cross picket-lines or best of all “threatening police”.