The mythical battle for free speech

SBS presenter Scott McIntyre was sacked for breaching the SBS social media policy, over a series of incendiary tweets he issued late on ANZAC Day in which he said mean things about the Diggers and basically called out the whole ANZAC legend as a load of jingoistic, whitewashed rubbish.

We have a few things to say about this.

  1. SBS' action in summarily dismissing McIntyre was gutless, disproportionate and unfair – regardless of its legality. The broadcaster cravenly succumbed to the cries of the mob.
  2. Regrettably, the mob in this case included the Communications Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who joined in the social media backlash and dobbed McIntyre in to SBS's boss.
  3. There are serious questions over whether SBS was within its rights to terminate McIntyre for his tweets, which were on his personal Twitter account although his profile identifies that he works for SBS. Did he really damage SBS in any way?
  4. Let's get one thing straight: this has nothing to do with free speech. This is just another battle in the ongoing culture wars which are being fought over the Australian narrative. McIntyre's crime was to speak out against the prevailing, government and media-sanctioned version of the ANZAC myth, which has progressively taken its place at the absolute centre of the supposed Australian identity. In that version, we're a nation of rugged (white, Christian, male) individualists whose character was forged in the disastrous Gallipolli campaign into which we were thrown by uncaring and incompetent English officers but which we faced with courage, sacrifice and mateship. Any discordant note to that song is popularly regarded as treason.
  5. We don't have free speech in Australia; we never did. Those who shout loudest about our "right" to free speech are the same ones who shout down a Scott McIntyre when he dares express his opinion, if it isn't in line with the accepted historical "truth" about Australia and its people. People have the right to be bigots, you know. But apparently they don't have the right to call bullshit on any aspect of the carefully manicured Australian narrative.
  6. McIntyre isn't a martyr to free speech; he's just another victim of the culture wars. He joins Gillian Triggs and everyone else who has dared to depart from the Team Australia songbook.