#WoodfordFF is NOT about Free Speech

As the Woodford Folk Festival story hits the Brisbane Times and goes international, I think it's time for a reminder.

Many commentators speaking on the topic of Meryl Dorey's upcoming appearance at Woodford Folk Festival have raised the spectre of free speech. It is time to put that spectre to rest.

Let us lay aside the fact that Australia has no statutory right to free speech.

Let us lay aside the commonly understood principle of falsely yelling "fire!" in a crowded theatre.

The Woodford scandal - and it has become a scandal - is not about free speech. It is about privileged speech, and specifically the implicit endorsement of, and provision of a platform to, demonstrably false information.

Everyone in Australia has the same rights to freedom of expression. Every random nut on the street is as free to state his opinion as any other. But that does not mean we should hand them a megaphone, especially a megaphone which is in part provided from the public purse.

And we certainly shouldn't put up a banner which says "we the sponsors endorse these views". And that's what an appearance at the festival implies, however much the organisers try to deny it.

Meryl Dorey is, in all likelihood, the most debunked woman in Australia. A simple Google search, of the kind Bill Hauritz is so fond of, would have turned up hundreds of examples of places where she has lied, prevaricated, misinformed, mangled and generally made a spectacle of herself. Future dictionaries will list the word "dorey" as "the antonym of 'expert'". She is manifestly incompetent to speak on her chosen topic.

So she should not be given the privilege of a free, government sponsored platform to promote her view.

Hand her a soapbox and let her stand on the sidelines, sure.

Don't give her a microphone.

posted @ Wednesday, December 14, 2011 10:27 AM


Comments on this entry:

# re: #WoodfordFF is NOT about Free Speech

Left by Carol at 12/14/2011 11:18 AM
It's also a rather heavy public health issue. The possibility of thousands of attendees being able to hear Dorey's gross misinformation (read lies) has the very real risk of endangering the lives of the wider community.

Dorey is a known danger to public health and the health of the attendees are at risk, along with everyone they come in contact with after the event. Bill Houritz is a socially irresponsible fool if he thinks that Dorey's 'alternate' view is one that has merit.

Will there be VPD epidemics in the aftermath if Dorey is allowed to continue? I don't know, but will wait and see...

# re: #WoodfordFF is NOT about Free Speech

Left by Graham Storrs at 12/14/2011 12:19 PM
Nicely put. And Carol's point is a good one. This woman's nonsense really is like shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre and people really will get hurt if she is allowed to do it. In the absence of laws against spreading dangerous misinformation, all we can do is boycott the event, and phone or write to everyone involved (including Arts Queensland, the Moreton Bay council, and the Woodford Folk Festival organisers) expressing our disgust and dismay that they are putting children's lives at risk by sponsoring this woman's dangerous message. Some groups are planning to turn up to ask awkward questions about why she persists in ignoring the facts and what credentials she has to make her wild pronouncements. I don't know if they will be allowed to, but I applaud their rationalist stand.

# re: #WoodfordFF is NOT about Free Speech

Left by anonymousType at 12/14/2011 3:06 PM
Well said. this insanity has gone on long enough.
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