Ethnic privilege: Trying it on for $1.6m

Ethnic privilege: Trying it on for $1.6m, by Hedley Thomas.

Sokhom Prins is an Australian citizen who traces her ethnicity to Cambodia.

If you have the misfortune of being branded a wicked, white-supremacist racist in one of her social media rants or group emails, be mindful about how you tell her where to go. You may (like me and my colleagues Janet ­Albrechtsen and Chris Merritt, along with The Australian’s chief executive, Nicholas Gray, and parent companies News Corp and Nationwide News) be ­accused of racial hatred under section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act in a formal complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

When the hollowness of such a complaint is identified there and terminated, you may (as we now are) then be sued in a Federal Circuit Court damages claim seeking $1.6 million. …

The next morning The Australian’s cartoonist Bill Leak, who had been abused and denounced by Prins in her posts, died. He had been under significant stress after being the subject of a social media campaign and a complaint to the HRC for one of his most brilliant and honest cartoons, and falsely smeared as a racist. …

It is usually a waste of time and energy to engage with people such as Prins. But on the day we discovered that Leak had died, it seemed appropriate. My reply to her said simply: “Chris Merritt wrote a powerful and very direct rebuttal today to your ugly, ­defamatory rants, which included our friend and colleague Bill Leak. I respect your right to continue to make a fool of yourself. As you will respect my right to have freedom from loons and nutters. But can you please remove my email address from your spam and leave me to (what you regard as) my ­appalling racism? It’s a simple ­request. Please stop sending me your hateful, racist garbage. ­Alternatively, f..k off.”

Albrechtsen, who was in the email chain, replied in a note of support. She added: “Sokhom, you have identified the wrong enemy. Best take off now.”

In her subsequent 18C complaint, Prins says that I referred to her as a “fool, loon and nutter” ­because she was Asian, and that my request to her to go forth and multiply really meant that she should go back to Asia. Albrech­tsen was guilty of racial hatred under 18C, according to Prins, ­because, when she wrote “best take off now”, she was telling her to “go back to your country”.

The commission’s Jodie Ball rejected the claims that our ­responses to Prins were racist or had anything to do with her ­ethnic origin. … But Prins wants her day in court.