White ultra right-wing racists in Australia and neoconservatives in America have both adopted a propaganda line which seeks to vilify people who identify as having native heritage. The racists of Australia and the neocons of America do this by claiming that some people who identify as having native heritage but who have lost much or all of the physical features associated with the native people of Australia or America respectively are using their racial identity for purely pecuniary reasons. However, while both propaganda memes are racially based, the reasons why Australian natives are abused in this way and the reasons why American natives appear to be abused similarly are quite different from each other.
In Australia, the ultra-racist Murdoch journalist, Andrew Bolt, was recently found guilty of racial vilification in an Australian Federal Court. Judge Mordy Bromberg found Bolt guilty of vilification by virtue of Bolt’s claim that the Aboriginal people he was referring to were not really Aboriginal and only claimed to be Aboriginal in order to gain certain financial benefits. Judge Bromberg found for the plaintiffs based on the fact that the plaintiffs, all with Aboriginal heritage, had, despite their lack of Aboriginal features, identified as being Aboriginal and had always been accepted as Aboriginal by Aboriginal people for all of their lives and long before they had any knowledge of awards or grants being available to Aboriginal people. Judge Bromberg found that Bolt had failed to support his claim that those Aboriginal people concerned had claimed Aboriginality solely for the purpose of gaining a pecuniary advantage and that, in accusing them of fraud, Bolt had racially vilified them. For Bolt the intent was to vilify Aborigines that were fair skinned and had lost the Aboriginal features of their ancestors. The accusation that they had defrauded the Australian taxpayer by claiming Aboriginality was merely an excuse that provided Bolt with yet another opportunity to push his racist propaganda in his online column at Melbourne’s Murdoch-owned Herald-Sun newspaper. Judge Bromberg saw through Bolt’s deception and found for the plaintiffs.
In America, the neoconservatives are currently pushing a similar line about racial identity against a candidate for the US Senate, Elizabeth Warren. Needless to say, Professor Warren is a Democrat and she will be running against the Republican incumbent, Scott Brown in the upcoming elections.
As seems to be the norm in American politics these days, especially during election seasons, both sides tend to dig up as much ‘dirt’ as possible about their adversary and sling it at each other in the hope that some might stick thus giving the other some kind of advantage. Usually, the kind of ‘dirt’ dug up tends to be about the honesty and integrity of the other and thus goes to credibility.
In the case of Elizabeth Warren, it appears that at some stage in her career she had claimed American native heritage by virtue of her great-great-great-grandmother being identified as a Cherokee Native American. Warren’s neoconservative detractors claim that she made such a claim in order to gain a benefit in her academic career. Following typical neoconservative propaganda practice, the author of The Weekly Standard article, Michael Warren, (presumably no relation!) isn’t quite game enough to out-rightly state that Elizabeth Warren was flat out lying about her heritage, so instead, he quotes someone else who is game enough to say she is lying and, in this way, projects his endorsement of the idea whilst avoiding any potential legal action against him for defaming her.
While the accusations made by Andrew Bolt in Australia are the same as the accusations made by the Republicans and their neoconservative supporters in the US and which are as despicable as each other, the motives for Bolt’s accusations against the Australian Aboriginals are completely different from the neocon’s accusations against Elizabeth Warren. For Bolt the motivation was quite simply to racially vilify Aboriginal people generally, while in the US the neocons were simply attempting to defame a political adversary for political reasons though, in the process, they have also managed to vilify a person of native heritage.
Bolt is complaining that he is being denied his freedom of speech by being ordered by Judge Bromberg not to vilify in future. He points to the same accusations being levelled freely against Elizabeth Warren in the US as an example how the right to freedom of speech should be applied in Australia. But this, again, is just a propaganda ploy Bolt is using. Judge Bromberg has not deprived Bolt his freedom of speech as he claims, but rather Bromberg has merely found Bolt guilty of vilification and has warned him against re-offending.
Conversely, in the US, while the neocons accusations are despicable and may be considered bordering on vilification, the accusations were made primarily and deliberately to defame Elizabeth Warren for political reasons. Warren may or may not find that she has reasonable grounds to take her detractors to court but, if she does, it will be to sue them for defaming her whereas the Aboriginal people who took Bolt to court did so because they were vilified by him. His defaming them was as a result of his vilification of them, but in the case of Elizabeth Warren, her vilification is as a result of the neocons defaming her.
The two cases have similarities but have very different motives. Bolt cannot claim they are the same and hold the US up as a shining example of free speech.