Well, possibly. HeathG at Catallaxy links to media reports of a new thought bubble from Emperor Palpatine…er…Ruddock to ban material that “advocates terrorist acts”.
In the wake of stories in the Daily Terrorgraph about various Muslim clerics circulating rather inflammatory DVD sermons, it seems Ruddock wants to be seen Doing Something About It. From a doorstop given by Ruddock:
The Commonwealth in its paper outlined how it might proceed to amend the Classification Act. In the discussions today, the State Attorneys have agreed that officers should now â and I might use the words from the actual agreed text ââMinisters agreed to request officers to report back by July on amendments to the Code and Guidelines â thatâs the cooperative measure â that could be made to ensure that material that advocates terrorist acts is adequately captured.â?
I will put off consideration as to whether there should be any Commonwealth legislation to give officers the opportunity to deal with those issues by incorporating in the Code and if necessary in the Guidelines, provisions that will require the classification body and the Review Board to take into account advocacy. That should be advocacy that deals with, direct and indirect, encouragement of people to carry out terrorist acts.
Let’s see now. As a commenter at Catallaxy points out, V for Vendetta was widely described as “glorifying terrorists”. But there’s plenty more where that came from. Star Wars is a six-movie saga largely devoted to glorifying terrorists. And it’s not just science fiction. How about Michael Collins. For that matter, what about every single American movie about their independence, given that that was arguably viewed as terrorism by the British at the time?
On the merits of the issue, aside from the overriding principle that free speech should be restricted for only the most compelling reasons, you might wonder what precisely this will achieve in practical terms. The material this is actually targetted at – inflammatory preaching by extremist imams – will just be placed on various internet servers well beyond Australia’s jurisdiction, and given extra credibility as “the words the infidels don’t want you to hear”. Kind of like what happened when Ken Park was refused classification, in fact. But the Torygraph will probably be happy that the Government Is Doing Something – which is probably the whole point of the exercise anyway.
Thankfully, the Labor states seem to be aware of the potentially overbroad reach of these mooted changes, stating that “any changes to the law could impinge normal political discussion.” While it’s nice to see the states standing up for basic freedom of speech, there’s also a political observation to be made here. There was a time when the states would happily go along with any proposal by the federal government, no matter how draconian, as long as it has the t-word in it. Have those days finally passed?