Bolt and Blair Don’t Believe in Free Speech After All


I had an entirely different post ready to go and lined up for today. All I had to do was press the button and it was up. Then I could have gone and had a relaxing morning picking my toenails and watching the hideous minor birds fight over a piece of toilet paper.

But no – Andrew Bolt and Tim Blair had to ruin that for me.

“Defenders of Free Speech Must Damn Pickering”

The headline screams out at you from Bolt’s site, like a feisty school librarian who has just discovered that someone is reading the latest issue of Mad magazine beneath an enormous copy of War and Peace. Bolt condemns Pickering, and simultaneously condemns the reader if you don’t condemn Pickering as instructed.

I switched over to Tim Blair’s site and his headline was similar:

“Larry’s Latest Leap too Far.”

Bloody hell, I thought. What’s going on here?

Random penis.

It transpires that at a recent meeting of the Q Society, of which neither Bolt nor Blair were in attendance, cartoonist and writer Larry Pickering said a few things about Muslims and gays. According to Bolt:

And shame on all the conservatives and libertarians who did not howl him down when he said that while, “I can’t stand Muslims … they are not all bad [because] they do chuck pillow-biters off buildings”.

I prefer the epithet “shirt-lifters” myself, but each to his own.

But my God, the Australian Left must love mornings like this when they wake up and discover that two of the supposedly most strident conservative opinion writers are doing their dirty work for them. Bolt is having one of his infrequent public meltdowns where he undoes all of the previous good work that he has done. Tim Blair’s response is more subtle. He dismisses Pickering as not being worthy enough to be in their club. It is similar to the schoolyard freeze-out. Both columnists are being bullies but it is Blair who is the more insidious of the two.

I don’t need to provide any more quotes because everything that needs to be refuted is in the article heading and the quote that I have used thus far. Andrew and Tim, when you say, “I believe in free speech but…” that just means that you don’t actually believe in free speech. The whole point of free speech is in making people upset. Speech that doesn’t make people upset is immaterial to the argument.

Now here we have some speech that has made the two of you upset and suddenly Pickering must be “damned” and “howled down” by all conservatives everywhere. How interesting. So what you are both saying is that when push comes to shove you don’t actually believe in free speech after all. You are two members of the, “I believe in free speech but…” brigade. Which makes you both hypocrites, which is the usual domain of the Left. Milo Yiannopoulos was recently “howled down” by a violent mob before he even got the chance to speak. Is that the sort of howling down that you are referring to, Andrew? If not, exactly what type of howling down is acceptable and where does the line begin that differentiates between these two extremes?

The answer, of course, is that there is no difference. Howling down is simply howling down. We don’t need to damn Pickering. We simply need to politely say that we disagree if we happen to disagree at all. But Andrew and Tim do not own conservative opinion or public discourse. They are not the deciders of when someone steps across an invisible line. Each of us have the brains and foresight to make up our own minds on these matters. We will not be told by them when we must damn someone for something they have supposedly said. And not following Bolt or Blair’s instructions does not then disqualify us from the conservative side.

But I tell you what should disqualify somebody from the conservative side: saying, “I believe in free speech but…”.

This article was originally published at where Adam Piggott writes regularly and brilliantly.