Bad news for democracy when frank discussion is shut down

Bad news for democracy when frank discussion is shut down, by Chris Kenny.

The great divide in Australia is not the mountain range stretching along our eastern seaboard, but the boundary between those prepared to say what they think and those who deign to keep debate within confined parameters.

The country is divided between the political/media class who set and abide by the rules of political correctness, and the mainstream and mavericks who dare to talk outside this artificial range of acceptability.

The range of “acceptable” viewpoints is called the Overton window. Control that and you control all culture and policy. That’s a goal of political correctness.


Climate change, Islamic extremism and immigration are the issues most affected, although discussions on gay marriage, gender and indigenous affairs are similarly constrained. Ask Bill Leak.

Incredibly, in this information age, it is not only certain opinions that are frowned on but unpalatable facts as well.

Evidence and data are shunned in favour of the views preferred by the so-called elites, or the group Robert Manne self-identified as the “permanent oppositional moral political community”. This community commands establishment strongholds in academe, media, political parties and, increasingly, even big business.

From these positions of privilege its members seek to define themselves by opposition to what may be mainstream views. Others who express angst or scepticism about the totemic issues are derided and mocked as racists, sexists, homophobes, Islamophobes and climate deniers.

You don’t say. Facts, too, are PC or non-PC nowadays.

Despite a political/media class preaching incessantly on climate alarmism, republicanism and the need for open borders, the silent majority have used the anonymity of the polling booth to strike down a carbon tax, reinstate border protection and support the constitutional monarchy.

At this year’s election both major parties ignored such voters: Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull fought the election from the same side of the politically correct divide. It probably cost Turnbull a comfortable majority.

Which is why the last Australian election was so boring and inconsequential.

These are strange times. Journalists — who should be professional contrarians — are part of the problem. Many barracked for Labor’s proposed de facto regulation of print media content. Now they dismiss concerns about section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act even though it saw two of Andrew Bolt’s columns banned. And they have signed petitions against Leak’s cartoons.

Bureaucrats, politicians and academics discuss the need for spending restraint while awarding each other unaffordable increases in wages and perks. Even at local government level, those on one side of the divide diss the national day most of us embrace.

It is not, to use their favorite word, sustainable.