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Sydney LMI talk: “to argue freely according to conscience”

Great group of Lachlan Macquarie Interns and other young politically smart people in Sydney last Thursday (some pictured above) where I was asked to discuss what is involved in a private citizen weighing into public debate.

My message was that there is no point weighing in unless you have a compelling conviction about some matter, and that it is worth taking as long as you need to “get to the heart of the matter” before expressing a view. Then, once you are convinced about what needs saying, say it in the clearest way you can so that it is useable to others. Give them a form of words, a shape of the argument, that they can make their own. Conviction and clarity.

As an example, I took the famous speech by John Milton to the English Parliament in 1643, where he was warning against the proposed censorship of the press (like our own Stephen Conroy’s recent attempt):

“Give me the liberty … to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties”

That is what I mean by “free speech”: the right to argue freely about matters of public importance, matters of conscience, matters of truth or error; free from being silenced by the governing elite. As the great free-speech warrior Mark Steyn said, free speech is the liberty we use to argue for all our other liberties. It is not a left-right thing; it is a free-unfree thing.

However, as I pointed out, the political Left does not want to “argue freely” with the likes of us; they want to exclude us from the conversation or shut us up by branding us as “bad people”.

So take any of the great controversial issues of the day:

– I may have good reason to argue against homosexual marriage, principally that by normalising the marriage of two men the state institutionalises the motherless family, but the Greens-Left will not engage us on that argument; they will shut us down as “bigots” and “homophobes”, as bad people who drive young gay men to suicide.

– I may have good reason to argue against the politically corrupted science of “dangerous man-made global warming”, on both scientific and political grounds, but the Greens-Left will not engage intelligent criticism; they will vilify us as “deniers” (like those wicked minds who deny the Holocaust) and as bad people who would destroy the future for our grandchildren rather than pay a little more now for electricity.

– I may have good reason to argue against the Victorian (and soon Tasmanian) laws that allow adults to terminate their unwanted offspring for any or no medical reason, even where the practice blurs into infanticide by aborting those older than the premature babies in our hospital nurseries, but the radical-feminist-Left will not “argue freely” on the morality and justice of such an act; they will disparage us a misogynists, as bad people who don’t care if women die again at the hands of backyard butchers…

– I may even have good reason to be concerned about unreflective large-scale introduction to Australia of a culture based on sharia law, given that the European Court of Human Rights ruled, in 2003, that “Sharia law is incompatible with the fundamental values of liberal democracy”, but the multi-culti Left will not allow free discussion on that one either; they will abuse us as racists and xenophobes, as bad people who need to be silenced by the religious-anti-vilification police.

After this discouraging opening, and a review of the recent attempts by our federal Labor-Greens government to stifle “free argument” both in the media (Conroy) and in the workplace (Roxon), I proceeded to discuss ways in which free argument by individuals and groups who have both conviction and clarity has indeed swayed the course of events…

All credit to the Australian Christian Lobby for the LMI initiative. If you know of a young post-grad who would benefit from an intensive three-month course in political and cultural history, with input from some of the country’s leading academics and public figures, point them to this link.

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