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Voltaire Would Not Have Been Amused By Paul Walker

    Voltaire François-Marie Arouet (21 November 1694 – 30 May 1778), was a leading French Enlightenment thinker, who was infamous in his day for his attacks upon the Catholic church, and for advocating free thought and free speech. If a law such as section 18 C had existed in his day, he would have been prosecuted. There is considerable debate about this, but Voltaire by today’s standards, and by the standards of section 18 C would be regarded as an anti-Semite: http://www.nytimes.com/1990/09/30/books/l-voltaire-and-the-jews-590990.html; D. Prager and J. Telushkin, Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism, (Simona nd Schuster, 1983), pp. 128-129; L. Poliakov, The History of Anti-Semitism from Voltaire to Wagner, (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975), pp. 88-89. These authors quote quite shocking passages from Voltaire that would be in violation of section 18 C, even if  this section was reasonably constructed.

    Hence, Voltaire is a controversial figure, to say the least, but I agree that he was a keen free speech advocate. However, he was a destroyer of almost everything and he would be attacking the Australian establishment relentlessly – from a prison cell – if he was alive in Australia today.

    It is very odd that the outgoing Human Rights Commission president, Gillian Triggs, who strongly defended section 18 C, has been awarded the Voltaire Award for her “courageous” defence of free speech: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/chris-kenny/an-absurd-twist-on-voltaires-edict/news-story/39921f72584739c98f46fc590efdfd7a; https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/may/03/human-rights-commissioner-gillian-triggs-wins-voltaire-freedom-of-speech-award
The obvious point made in the media is that section 18 C stands completely against everything Voltaire stood for: The Australian, May 4, 2017, p. 2,  But, as noted above, a champion of multicultural tolerance may need to think very carefully about being associated with the Voltaire name, and what he has been associated with. We live in the age of multiple layers of paradoxes and contradictions.

 

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Sunday, 05 July 2020
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