Episode 284 – The Capitol Coup and the Myth of Free Speech

In this episode we discuss:

Trump and the Insurrection
The long list of Republicans who voted to reject election results
Free Speech
My interview on SBS
Sam Harris
The Great Reset
National Anthem
Contraception: the way you take the pill has more to do with the pope than your health
A Kids TV show featuring a giant penis

Trump and the Insurrection

Don’t feel sorry for America. Now Americans know what it feels like to have a bunch of Americans openly attempt to overthrow their democracy.

Can we all agree America is a failed state and not to be admired or relied upon?

Is this one of the darkest days in American history?

The long list of Republicans who voted to reject election results

From Forbes

Even after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol and forced lawmakers to go into lockdown, 121 House Republicans voted to decertify the Arizona’s electors (about 83 voted to accept) and 138 House Republicans voted to decertify Pennsylvania’s electors (about 66 voted to accept) in an effort to overturn President-elect Biden’s victory.

Free Speech

The Myth of Free Speech

From Josh Bornstein (a lawyer with Maurice Blackburn)

Contrary to suggestions otherwise, Voltaire would have applauded the decision by Twitter and Facebook to suspend the access of Donald Trump to their platforms. Much like John Stuart Mill, the British philosopher and guru of classical liberalism, Voltaire supported criminal laws against libel, slander, incitement to violence and treason. Mill is credited with developing “the harm principle” under which laws restricting personal freedom should be promulgated “to prevent harm to others”.

The decision of Facebook and Twitter to suspend Donald Trump’s access to their platforms was consistent with the harm principle. It was designed to avoid further terrorist violence. Trump incited a violent, fascist coup attended by, among others, many neo-Nazis in which five people died. Shortly before the assault on Capitol Hill, Trump told the mob to “fight much harder”, telling them that “you’ll never take back our country with weakness … you have to show strength”. He urged that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country any more”. Ordinarily, incitement to violence attracts a criminal sanction and Trump may yet face criminal charges.

Nevertheless, the social media ban on Trump has elicited a predictably tribal response from Trump sympathisers replete with misconceived appeals to philosophers and principles that simply don’t exist. Unlike many other politicians across the world, the members of the Morrison government refuse to condemn Trump for his incitement of a fascist coup and the terrorist acts that he inspired precisely because the Coalition is now riddled with Trumpists. For the same reason, Prime Minister Scott Morrison will not seek to rein in the dangerous misinformation spread by backbenchers like Craig Kelly.

If the human rights of a US President and fascist agitator are to engender another debate about free speech in this country, it’s critical to appreciate our existing legal framework. For much of what passes for debate about free speech is confused and misconceived.

Speech has never been free. There has never been a law that guarantees absolute free speech and there never will be. Laws restricting speech that harms others are as old as Methuselah. The Ten Commandments proscribed bearing false witness “against your neighbour”. In the words of the High Court: “Within our legal system, communications are free only to the extent that they are left unburdened by laws that comply with the constitution.”

The many laws that regulate speech recognised that words can cause immense harm. It’s unlawful to falsely publish statements. A false accusation of terrorist affiliation or paedophilia can have catastrophic consequences for the victim. Defamation laws are an important check on abuses of power. In recent years Alan Jones, Miranda Devine and Mark Latham, among others, have been made accountable for the damage that they have caused others by their words.

The numerous laws that restrict freedom of speech in Australia include those dealing with consumer protection, workplace bullying, electoral regulation, copyright, confidential information, privacy, obscenity, racial discrimination, nuisance, treason and contempt of court.

If a corporation deceives or misleads customers in the course of business, it can be sued under competition laws. Fraud, a criminal offence, also punishes those who deceive others with their speech. Speech that involves grooming a minor is also a criminal offence.




In 2018, Attorney-General Christian Porter controversially decided that a whistleblowing ASIS officer and his lawyer, Bernard Collaery, should be prosecuted for breaching section 39 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001. That law deems it a criminal offence for a person to communicate any information that was prepared by the Australian Secret Intelligence Service in pursuit of its functions. It is no defence to a prosecution that the communication was about illegal conduct by Australia’s intelligence service.

When the member for Wentworth, Dave Sharma, takes umbrage about private companies regulating the speech of others, he clearly hasn’t considered the standard private sector employment contracts that bind millions of employees in Australia. Employment contracts severely limit employee rights to speech and expression both at work and outside work. In fact, in 2015 a number of Mr Sharma’s colleagues ensured that SBS sacked its sports reporter Scott McIntyre over his tweets criticising the glorification of war on Anzac Day.

While the First Amendment in the US constitution is said to enshrine the strongest protections for free speech, it too is widely misunderstood. It imposes important limits on the US government’s ability to suppress speech but does not provide an unqualified right to free speech. The First Amendment doesn’t inhibit the private sector from restricting the speech of its employees. Ask Lynne Gobbell who was legally sacked because her car sported a John Kerry bumper sticker in the lead-up to the 2004 presidential election.

The First Amendment in the US Constitution is widely misunderstood.CREDIT:AP

The great irony of the recent actions of Facebook and Twitter is that these immensely powerful, unregulated monopolies have caused incalculable harm by fuelling the age of disinformation. In the absence of proper regulation, the companies have propagated an extraordinary array and volume of harmful speech in the form of disinformation, lies, hate speech and conspiracy theories.

In 2019, a study by Oxford University found evidence of digital disinformation campaigns by a government or political party in 70 countries. In the last decade disinformation disseminated by Facebook alone has been linked to atrocities perpetrated in Myanmar, India, Pakistan, New Zealand and the Philippines.

Like the destructive, marauding monopolies of the Gilded Age, the digital behemoths need to be broken up and properly regulated. Major anti-trust lawsuits aimed at breaking up the Big Tech companies have been launched in recent months by US states, justice departments and the Federal Trade Commission. These actions may take years but it is vital that they succeed.

Facebook and Twitter evaded proper regulation by their early success in persuading naïve US lawmakers that they were not publishers, but technology companies. The result was section 230 of the Communications Decency Act which provided the companies with statutory immunity from liability for content published on their platforms. The fastest way to arrest the enormous damage done by these platforms is to reverse gear completely and render them liable for the harm caused by what they publish.


The Argument against Censorship

From Mintpress News

Journalist and press freedom proponent Glenn Greenwald strongly opposed Obama’s call for social media giants to get tough on Trump, warning of the consequences of such an action.

A handful of Silicon Valley oligarchs decide who can and cannot be heard, including the President of the United States. They exert this power unilaterally, with no standards, accountability or appeal. Politics now is begging them to silence adversaries or permit allies to speak,” he wrote.

Unfortunately, “after yesterday, that tech oligarchs should police our discourse is a virtual consensus,” the co-founding editor of The Intercept lamented.

The latest edition of the Reuters Institute Digital News Report notes that 63% of Americans (over 200 million people) use Facebook, and 29% use Twitter (95 million people). Both platforms have become key gateways and distributors of news around the world. Facebook in particular is by far and away the most widely used news source in the United States. And both have extensive and deepening ties to the U.S. government, relying on semi-governmental organizations to curate news feeds, deciding what sources to promote and what to de-rank, de-list or even delete.

It is doubtful that any new bans will stop at only the president, however. Indeed, after the 2016 election and the dubious accusations that Russia had taken over social media, swinging the result for Trump, big tech platforms such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Bing changed their algorithms, supposedly to promote more trustworthy sources and demote unreliable ones. The instant effect, however, was a collapse in traffic for high-quality alternative media sites. Overnight, Consortium News’ Google traffic fell by 47%, Common Dreams’ by 37%, Democracy Now! By 36% and The Intercept by 19%. MintPress News suffered similar, unrecoverable losses.

Late last year, it was also revealed that Facebook had intentionally choked traffic to the left-leaning magazine Mother Jones because of its political orientation, despite personal assurances to its bosses that it was doing no such thing. Partially as a result, conservatives and the far-right dominate Facebook, with figures like Ben Shapiro amassing fortunes and massive followings, despite his well-known and well-documented constant violation of the platform’s terms of service. Perhaps his personal relationship with Zuckerberg, who reportedly enjoys listening and debating with him, helps. In contrast, anti-war voices are constantly throttled far more aggressively than even Mother Jones, if not banned outright.

Big tech representatives have argued that they cannot hold the right to the same hate-speech standards as the left, because, as one Twitter employee told Motherboard, many Republican politicians would immediately have to be banned for spreading white supremacist hate. “Content from Republican politicians could get swept up by algorithms aggressively removing white supremacist material. Banning politicians wouldn’t be accepted by society as a trade-off for flagging all of the white supremacist propaganda,” he reportedly said.


My Thoughts

Its impossible to regulate the Tech Giants. We don’t know how their algorithm works but it influences by promotion and censorship all the time.

I don’t use Twitter. I don’t rely on Facebook (or any single source) for news. Shame on those who do.

They can control content to some extent. They should be considered publishers not platforms. They should be sued for transgressing laws regarding defamation, incitement etc.

They should be able to block users on grounds that protect them from liability or on objective grounds that apply to everyone provided those grounds are publicised. Eg we block posts that deny vaccines work.

I’m becoming less concerned by forcing open access because of their monopoly power. The more they unnecessarily censor, the more they will lose customers. Also, we could split them up which would be easier than enforcing open access.

People will move to rival platforms or will simply abandon Facebook and Twitter.

Young people have already abandoned Facebook.

Platforms will become just like other media publishers. Choose the flavour of bubble you like to inhabit.




Thanks Paul Evans and Wayne Seaman for your annual donations.

And Greg Clark for $66.60

Thanks to David Cox for a Christmas bonus donation

And to Daniel for this link



My interview on SBS

Satanism recognised as a religion by the Sunshine Coast University Hospital

The link

Play clip John Dickson knitting club


– The comments of the Muslim Imam and John Dickson, Christian apologist & member of the Sydney Anglicans whose Connect RI program is widely used in Qld state schools, are a good insight into the kind of prejudicial attitude that enter the school classroom unchallenged via RI. Such casual bigotry strengthens our resolve to have divisive RI removed from Qld classrooms; a teacher-delivered, department-approved syllabus regarding a diversity of religious and non-religious worldviews would be a far better use of classroom time and, hopefully, would see the end of the casual bigotry and scoffing of other ways to live life and find meaning as revealed by the closing comments of this radio segment.

Sam Harris


Sam Harris – Are you in a cult

Sam Harris – audience capture

Re pro lockdown

It is not about irrational fear

Anti lockdown say pro lockdown are irrationally fearful


That should be said about anti China

The Great Reset

What is it?

Paul  and Karin posted stuff

National Anthem

Australians all awoke today to discover that we are “one and free”.

Cam Reilly

I like the new line:

For those who’ve come across the seas We’ve boundless plains to share….

Unless you are fleeing from a war-torn country, then we’ll throw you in a concentration camp.


Contraception: the way you take the pill has more to do with the pope than your health

By Susan Walker in The Conversation

Senior Lecturer in Sexual Health, Anglia Ruskin University

Disclosure statement

Susan Walker has received funding from Bayer PLC and is engaged as an advisor to Natural Cycles, which markets a contraceptive app.

The way women have been advised to take the combined contraceptive pill for the last 60 years unnecessarily increases the likelihood of taking it incorrectly, leaving them at risk from unplanned pregnancy. And this far from ideal situation is the result of a cosmetic quirk of pill design, based on long redundant historical context.

This is because standard combined oral contraceptive pills – such as Microgynon, Rigevidon or Marvelon – are designed to be taken for 21 days, followed by a seven-day break, during which time the woman doesn’t take the pill and experiences vaginal bleeding. Pill-taking women therefore have what seems like a “period” every month.

But this “period” is far from necessary. Shortly before his death in 2015 I attended a lecture given by Carl Djerassi, the “father of the pill”. He remarked that the seven-day break, and resultant withdrawal bleed, was designed into the pill in the late 50s in an attempt to persuade the Vatican to accept the new form of contraception, as an extension of the natural menstrual cycle. As is well known, this did not succeed: Pope Paul VI forbade artificial contraception. Despite this, the seven-day break has remained as a component of the combined oral contraceptive pill.

… many clinicians now favour extended or continuous pill regimens where three or more packets of pill are taken consecutively and only then does a woman have a pill-free week, or a shortened pill free interval of four days.

A Kids TV show featuring a giant penis

Denmark launches children’s TV show about man with giant penis

Critics condemn idea of animated series about a man who cannot control his penis, but others have backed it

John Dillermand has an extraordinary penis. So extraordinary, in fact, that it can perform rescue operations, etch murals, hoist a flag and even steal ice-cream from children.

The Danish equivalent of the BBC, DR, has a new animated series aimed at four- to eight-year-olds about John Dillermand, the man with the world’s longest penis who overcomes hardships and challenges with his record-breaking genitals.

Unsurprisingly, the series has provoked debate about what good children’s television should – and should not – contain.

Sesame Street creates Rohingya Muppets to help refugee children

Read more


Since premiering on Saturday, opponents have condemned the idea of a man who cannot control his penis. “Is this really the message we want to send to children while we are in the middle of a huge #MeToo wave?” wrote the Danish author Anne Lise Marstrand-Jørgensen.


The show comes just months after the TV presenter Sofie Linde kickstarted Denmark’s #MeToo movement.

Christian Groes, an associate professor and gender researcher at Roskilde University, said he believed the programme’s celebration of the power of male genitalia could only set equality back. “It’s perpetuating the standard idea of a patriarchal society and normalising ‘locker room culture’ … that’s been used to excuse a lot of bad behaviour from men. It’s meant to be funny – so it’s seen as harmless. But it’s not. And we’re teaching this to our kids.”

Erla Heinesen Højsted, a clinical psychologist who works with families and children, said she believed the show’s opponents may be overthinking things. “John Dillermand talks to children and shares their way of thinking – and kids do find genitals funny,” she said.

“The show depicts a man who is impulsive and not always in control, who makes mistakes – like kids do, but crucially, Dillermand always makes it right. He takes responsibility for his actions. When a woman in the show tells him that he should keep his penis in his pants, for instance, he listens. Which is nice. He is accountable.”

Højsted conceded the timing was poor and that a show about bodies might have considered depicting “difference and diversity” beyond an oversized diller (Danish slang for penis; dillermand literally means “penis-man”). “But this is categorically not a show about sex,” she said. “To pretend it is projects adult ideas on it.”

DR, the Danish public service broadcaster, has a reputation for pushing boundaries – especially for children. Another stalwart of children’s scheduling is Onkel Reje, a popular figure who curses, smokes a pipe and eschews baths – think Mr Tumble meets Father Jack. A character in Gepetto News made conservatives bristle in 2012 when he revealed a love of cross-dressing. And Ultra Smider Tøjet (Ultra Strips Down) caused outrage in 2020 for presenting children aged 11-13 with a panel of nude adults, but, argues Højsted, such criticism was unjustified.

“What kind of culture are we creating for our children if it’s OK for them to see ‘perfect’ bodies on Instagram – enhanced, digitally or cosmetically – but not ‘real bodies’?” she said.

DR responded to the latest criticism by saying it could just as easily have made a programme “about a woman with no control over her vagina” and that the most important thing was that children enjoyed John Dillermand.

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