Aboriginal Memes, is Free-Speech Taboo in Australia?

A shit storm is currently brewing over a controversial Facebook page entitled “Aboriginal Memes” the page is now offline but I collected the photos from it so you can see what the fuss is about. Photos Now offline. (I think I’ve made my point.)

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has weighed into the debate over a racially abusive Facebook page, saying he thinks it should be taken down. 

SBS reported yesterday on the Facebook page, which allows posts with racially abusive “memes” about Indigenous people. The page was temporarily removed, before re-appearing on the site with a tag noting that the content contained “controversial humour”.  

World News Australia

However the really horrific thing that I personally found about this page was not the content at all, but rather the fanatical Anti-freedom of Speech groups that setup for the sole purpose of suppressing another persons speech. Yes, that speech is distasteful but supporting free speech means that we must often defend distasteful things.

A page Called Make Facebook Shut Down Aboriginal Memes

Has sprung up in protest of the Aboriginal Memes page  however this situation is nothing more than people seeking to suppress another person’s speech because they happen to find it distasteful. I find it disturbing how many people are radically opposed to freedom of speech in this country. Except of course when it’s their own speech then all of a sudden they are suddenly in favour of it.

But this only shows a gross lack of consideration for what free speech means for all of us. Because you cannot possibly claim to support freedom of speech while simultaneously seeking to suppress another. Free Speech is a right that must be given to everyone on equal ground regardless of its content.

When supporting the Freedom of Speech  you don’t need to agree with the opinions of others but unless you are prepared to defend their right to say whatever they like you cannot call yourself a supporter of Free-Speech and nor can you reasonably expect others to respect your rights when you do not extend that courtesy yourself.

I hate having to defend those whom I disagree with, but it seems I am required to do so more and more often in order to defend free speech these days. This is one of those times.

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. Evelyn Beatrice Hall

13 thoughts on “Aboriginal Memes, is Free-Speech Taboo in Australia?

  1. Graham Coghill

    I'm disappointed, Dan. This blanket support for 'free speech' without any nuances seems to me to be remarkably like a religious attitude towards the sacred. Is it really as simple as "speech" when it involves the formation of a community of followers, encourages abusive comments and involves images that can be cloned and spread without limit?

  2. Dan Buzzard

    I am frequently accused of "Hate Speech" by religious fundamentalists. If I were to only ever post content that was polite and approved by every one, then I would not have a blog at all.

    Freedom of Speech covers all speech irrespective of it's content. Otherwise who is to be appointed the judge of what is and is not permissible? I know there are certainly plenty of religious organisations who would like that job.

  3. Annoyed

    Could you please remove content reguarding [omitted]. This was not a direct threat but intended to highlight that finding out who wrote racist comments wouldnt be as hard as they may think. Clearly not a direct threat when [omitted] did not state that she would be the one to track them down. It did not suggest violence but the ability to potentially name and shame!

  4. Dan Buzzard

    Hi, I don't normally remove things. However in this case I'm willing to make an exception.

    It is removed.

  5. Polemicol

    Extending your belief in unrestricted free speech, you wouldn't mind me publishing your address and phone number, work details, medical records and an essay full of lies about your criminal activity including links to pedophiles, sex slavery and drug dealings ….. All in the name of free speech of course 😉

    Fortunately for you there are laws that protect your privacy and offer you damages for defamation because freedom of speech doesn't extend to everything.

  6. Dan Buzzard

    Of course I would mind if you were to spread lies about me, however you are entitled to do so. Free speech does indeed mean that you can lie about someone and spread hate and scaremongering.

    The best antidote to distasteful speech is more speech. Ridicule the bigots, loudly proclaim evidence of their wrongness, I do it all the time and it robs them of their power as their credibility is undermined by facts. Censorship is never a solution; the people seeking to suppress that Facebook page remind me of the fanatics who wanted to suppress the Danish Cartoons a few years back.

    Facebook is full of people talking about tracking down the creators of the page, with suggestion of vigilante style justice. What legitimate reason is there to track these people down? Intimidation appears to be on the agenda.

    As for publishing a person’s private address of phone number. What you would be doing is violating their privacy as the information posted is not your opinion but rather information you should not have been able to possess in the first place (i.e details leaked in a security breach) . Of course some smart arse could always say “It’s my opinion that so and so live at [insert address here].” However you are certainly free to publish any information that’s lawfully made available to you and can incorporate it into any speech that you see fit.

  7. John

    Um, aren't you being just a tad hypocritical putting this disclaimer on a free speech article — "Due to abuse all comments will now be approved by a moderator before they appear." ?


  8. Dan Buzzard

    Not at all.

    FreeSpeech doesn't grant me access to the pages of a newspaper, that's up to the publisher who owns the paper. Just as I get to decide what goes up; or doesn't go up on my own website.

  9. WorkingInDust


    Typical straw man argument there. Yet you fail to notice that if you published outright lies about somebody (as your comments suggested) you'd be subject to a pretty expensive libel suit.

    Yes this racist crap is offensive, but this is also the internet. It will die down by next week. The only people keeping it alive are people like you (ever hear of the Streisand Effect'?).

    In every society there are going to be people that don't like other groups because of fear which is based on ignorance. Calling for law(s) to suppress racism in the vain hope that it will go away is like a little child sticking fingers in ears running in circles yelling 'LA LA LA LA LA LA!!! I CAN'T HEAR YOU'.

    The only cure for hate speech is more speech.

  10. biscuitduchat

    FreeSpeech doesn't grant me access to the pages of a newspaper, that's up to the publisher who owns the paper. Just as I get to decide what goes up; or doesn't go up on my own website.

    To this end, could calls for Facebook to remove the Aboriginal Memes page be a case of removing the authors of their platform to circulate the images in question, rather than removing their right to speak?

    I have been thinking on this for a few days, since reading this post. I claim to support free speech (to the extent where I hope that I would defend the Westboro Baptists' right to picket on public property, sickened as I'd be to do so) and I have been questioning whether I compromised my ideals in joining the 'Shut Down Aboriginal Memes' page. It was easy to be disgusted by the material in question, supporting a call to not enable it to be circulated took one click of the mouse. Other simple ways to publicly assert that I found the material and the idea that so many people found it acceptable to be hideous weren't apparent to me at the time; nor are they now, particularly with the time and resources I have available and frankly, how far down my list of priorities the issue is.

    Cheers for the food for thought, in any case.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *