Kerryn Pholi’s argument (The Australian, “Feelings no motive for respect”, 8/12) is founded on the fallacy that Andrew Bolt was convicted simply because the people he offended were Aboriginal. This is a cross-eyed misrepresentation of Justice Bromberg’s ruling: Bolt used race as the means to cause offence, and thus breached the Racial Discrimination Act.
It is one thing to raise sincere questions about racial identity. It is quite another to defame specific individuals, using their race as a tool to manufacture controversy, as Bolt did. He may well have suffered a heavier penalty had the plaintiffs chosen to prosecute him under ordinary defamation law, but their concerns were broader.
Pholi repeats the Right’s melodramatic conceit that the Bolt case somehow “shut down dissenting voices”, as if regurgitating the clichés of street bigots were a form of insurrection or intellectual boldness. In fact, Bolt’s nasty piece is still freely available on the Herald-Sun website. There is a big difference between real censorship and merely being held accountable for one’s actions.