Public backlash to racist tirade

Last week, there was a widely-reported story about a New South Wales woman who racially abused a number of fellow passengers on public transport. Thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones, the rant was caught on camera and uploaded to the internet.

Nick Cater picks up the story in his column for The Australian ($) today:

IF you make an idiot of yourself on a train these days, you might find yourself on YouTube. If you’re content to sit politely next to perfect strangers and try hard not to invade their personal space, you won’t.

Common decency, conventional courtesy and civic restraint are of little interest to video-sharing websites which have a preference for weird stuff — self-lubricating NRL stars, major league meat ball eating competitions and foul-mouthed, Sinophobic commuters like Karen Bailey.

Bailey’s crass behaviour should remind us “how virulent racism is in this country,” suggests The Sydney Morning Herald’s Sam de Brito. “Any person who mixes with a cross section of Australia is not surprised by racist language or sentiments.”

If we were to follow de Brito’s logic we would further conclude that the planet is being overrun by biped cats and dancing dogs, since these too appear on YouTube. Yet real-life experience suggests otherwise; the behaviour of most pets is wholly unremarkable.

The Bailey episode has been used by the anti-free speech crowd as an example of why section 18C should not be repealed.

Cater points out how incredibly weak this argument is. Section 18C didn’t stop this incident from happening, and she hasn’t been sued by anyone under section 18C. Instead she’s been charged by police for using offensive language.

But the basis of the significant public backlash launched against Bailey has had nothing to do with the law. And there’s the rub.

The lesson from this incident is precisely the opposite of what the censors wish it to be – that our community is capable of fighting racism without any “help” from a controlling  government.

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