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Brownstone Institute

Did Lockdowns Set a Global Revolt in Motion?

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18 minute read

From the Brownstone Institute

BY Jeffrey A. TuckerJEFFREY A. TUCKER 

It does seem like the backlash has empowered populist movements all over the world. We see them in the farmers’ revolt in Europe, the street protests in Brazil against a sketchy election, the widespread discontent in Canada over government policies, and even in migration trends out of US blue states toward red ones.

My first article on the coming backlash – admittedly wildly optimistic – went to print April 24, 2020. After 6 weeks of lockdown, I confidently predicted a political revolt, a movement against masks, a population-wide revulsion against the elites, a demand to reject “social distancing” and streaming-only life, plus widespread disgust at everything and everyone involved.

I was off by four years. I wrongly assumed back then that society was still functioning and that our elites would be responsive to the obvious flop of the whole lockdown scheme. I assumed that people were smarter than they proved to be. I also did not anticipate just how devastating the effects of lockdown would be: in terms of learning loss, economic chaos, cultural shock, and the population-wide demoralization and loss of trust.

The forces that set in motion those grim days were far more deep than I knew at the time. They involved a willing complicity from tech, media, pharma, and the administrative state at all levels of society.

There is every evidence that it was planned to be exactly what it became; not just a foolish deployment of public health powers but a “great reset” of our lives. The newfound powers of the ruling class were not given up so easily, and it took far longer for people to shake off the trauma than I had anticipated.

Is that backlash finally here? If so, it’s about time.

New literature is emerging to document it all.

The new book White Rural Rage: The Threat to American Democracy is a viciously partisan, histrionic, and gravely inaccurate account that gets nearly everything wrong but one: vast swaths of the public are fed up, not with democracy but its opposite of ruling class hegemony. The revolt is not racial and not geographically determined. It’s not even about left and right, categories that are mostly a distraction. it’s class-based in large part but more precisely about the rulers vs. the ruled.

With more precision, new voices are emerging among people who detect a “vibe change” in the population. One is Elizabeth Nickson’s article “Strongholds Falling; Populists Seize the Culture.” She argues, quoting Bret Weinstein, that “The lessons of [C]ovid are profound. The most important lesson of Covid is that without knowing the game, we outfoxed them and their narrative collapsed…The revolution is happening all over the socials, especially in videos. And the disgust is palpable.”

A second article is “Vibe Shift” by Santiago Pliego:

The Vibe Shift I’m talking about is the speaking of previously unspeakable truths, the noticing of previously suppressed facts. I’m talking about the give you feel when the walls of Propaganda and Bureaucracy start to move as you push; the very visible dust kicked up in the air as Experts and Fact Checkers scramble to hold on to decaying institutions; the cautious but electric rush of energy when dictatorial edifices designed to stifle innovation, enterprise, and thought are exposed or toppled. Fundamentally, the Vibe Shift is a return to—a championing of—Reality, a rejection of the bureaucratic, the cowardly, the guilt-driven; a return to greatness, courage, and joyous ambition.

We truly want to believe this is true. And this much is certainly correct: the battle lines are incredibly clear these days. The media that uncritically echo the deep-state line are known: SlateWiredRolling StoneMother Jones, New RepublicNew Yorker, and so on, to say nothing of the New York Times. What used to be politically partisan venues with certain predictable biases are now more readily described as ruling-class mouthpieces, forever instructing you precisely how to think while demonizing disagreement.

After all, all of these venues, in addition to the obvious case of the science journals, are still defending the lockdowns and everything that followed. Rather than express regret for their bad models and immoral means of control, they have continued to insist that they did the right thing, regardless of the civilization-wide carnage everywhere in evidence, while ignoring the relationship between the policies they championed and the terrible results.

Instead of allowing their mistakes to change their own outlook, they have adapted their own worldview to allow for snap lockdowns anytime they deem them necessary. In holding this view, they have forged a view of politics that it is embarrassingly acquiescent to the powerful.

The liberalism that once questioned authority and demanded free speech seems extinct. This transmogrified and captured liberalism now demands compliance with authority and calls for further restrictions on free speech. Now anyone who makes a basic demand for normal freedom – to speak or choose one’s own medical treatment or to decline to wear a mask – can reliably anticipate being denounced as “right-wing” even when it makes absolutely no sense.

The smears, cancellations, and denunciations are out of control, and so unbearably predictable.

It’s enough to make one’s head spin. As for the pandemic protocols themselves, there have been no apologies but only more insistence that they were imposed with the best of intentions and mostly correct. The World Health Organization wants more power, and so does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even though the evidence of the failure of pharma pours in daily, major media venues pretend that all is well, and thereby out themselves as mouthpieces for the ruling regime.

The issue is that major and unbearably obvious failures have never been admitted. Institutions and individuals who only double down on preposterous lies that everyone knows are lies only end up discrediting themselves.

That’s a pretty good summary of where we are today, with vast swaths of elite culture facing an unprecedented loss of trust. Elites have chosen the lie over truth and cover-up over transparency.

This is becoming operationalized in declining traffic for legacy media, which is shedding costly staff as fast as possible. The social media venues that cooperated closely with government during the lockdowns are losing cultural sway while uncensored ones like Elon Musk’s X are gaining attention. Disney is reeling from its partisanship, while states are passing new laws against WHO policies and interventions.

Sometimes this whole revolt can be quite entertaining. When the CDC or WHO posts an update on X, when they allow comments, it is followed by thousands of reader comments of denunciation and poking fun, with flurries of comments to the effect of “I will not comply.”

DEI is being systematically defunded by major corporations while financial institutions are turning on it. Indeed, the culture in general has come to regard DEI as a sure indication of incompetence. Meanwhile, the outer reaches of the “great reset” such as the hope that EVs would replace internal combustion have come to naught as the EV market has collapsed, along with consumer demand for fake meat to say nothing of bug eating.

As for politics, yes, it does seem like the backlash has empowered populist movements all over the world. We see them in the farmers’ revolt in Europe, the street protests in Brazil against a sketchy election, the widespread discontent in Canada over government policies, and even in migration trends out of US blue states toward red ones. Already, the administrative state in D.C. is working to secure itself against a possible unfriendly president in the form of Trump or RFK, Jr.

So, yes, there are many signs of revolt. These are all very encouraging.

What does all this mean in practice? How does this end? How precisely does a revolt take shape in an industrialized democracy? What is the mostly likely pathway for long-term social change? These are legitimate questions.

For hundreds of years, our best political philosophers have opined that no system can function in a sustainable way in which a huge majority is coercively governed by a tiny elite with a class interest in serving themselves at public expense.

That seems correct. In the days of the Occupy Wall Street movement of 15 years ago, the street protesters spoke of the 1 percent vs. the 99 percent. They were speaking of those with the money inside the traders’ buildings as opposed to the people on the streets and everywhere else.

Even if that movement misidentified the full nature of the problem, the intuition into which it tapped spoke to a truth. Such a disproportionate distribution of power and wealth is dangerously unsustainable. Revolution of some sort threatens. The mystery right now is what form this takes. It’s unknown because we’ve never been here before.

There is no real historical record of a highly developed society ostensibly living under a civilized code of law that experiences an upheaval of the type that would be required to unseat the rulers of all the commanding heights. We’ve seen political reform movements that take place from the top down but not really anything that approximates a genuine bottom-up revolution of the sort that is shaping up right now.

We know, or think we know, how it all transpires in a tinpot dictatorship or a socialist society of the old Soviet bloc. The government loses all legitimacy, the military flips loyalties, there is a popular revolt that boils over, and the leaders of the government flee. Or they simply lose their jobs and take up new positions in civilian life. These revolutions can be violent or peaceful but the end result is the same. One regime replaces another.

It’s hard to know how this translates to a society that is heavily modernized and seen as non-totalitarian and even existing under the rule of law, more or less. How does revolution occur in this case? How does the regime come around to adapting itself to a public revolt against governance as we know it in the US, UK, and Europe?

Yes, there is the vote, if we can trust that. But even here, there are the candidates, which are that for a reason. They specialize in politics, which does not necessarily mean doing the right thing or reflecting the aspirations of the voters behind them. They are responsive to their donors first, as we have long discovered. Public opinion can matter but there is no mechanism that guarantees a smoothly responsive pathway from popular attitudes to political outcomes.

There is also the pathway of industrial change, a migration of resources out of legacy venues to new ones. Indeed, in the marketplace of ideas, the amplifiers of regime propaganda are failing but we also observe the response: widened censorship. What’s happening in Brazil with the full criminalization of free speech can easily happen in the US.

In social media, were it not for Elon’s takeover of Twitter, it’s hard to know where we would be. We have no large platform in which to influence the culture more broadly. And yet the attacks on that platform and other enterprises owned by Musk are growing. This is emblematic of a much more robust upheaval taking place, one that suggests change is on the way.

But how long does such a paradigm shift take? Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions  is a bracing account of how one orthodoxy migrates to another not by the ebb and flow of proof and evidence but through dramatic paradigm shifts. An abundance of anomalies can wholly discredit a current praxis but that doesn’t make it go away. Ego and institutional inertia perpetuate the problem until its most prominent exponents retire and die and a new elite replaces them with different ideas.

In this model, we can expect that a failed innovation in science, politics, or technology could last as long as 70 years before finally being displaced, which is roughly how long the Soviet experiment lasted. That’s a depressing thought. If this is true, we still have another 60 plus years of rule by the management professionals who enacted lockdowns, closures, shot mandates, population propaganda, and censorship.

And yet, people say that history is moving faster now than in the past. If a future of freedom is ours just lying in wait, we need that future here sooner rather than later, before it is too late to do anything about it.

The slogan became popular about ten years ago: the revolution will be decentralized with the creation of robust parallel institutions. There is no other path. The intellectual parlor game is over. This is a real-life struggle for freedom itself. It’s resist and rebuild or doom.

Author

  • Jeffrey A. Tucker

    Jeffrey Tucker is Founder, Author, and President at Brownstone Institute. He is also Senior Economics Columnist for Epoch Times, author of 10 books, including Life After Lockdown, and many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

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Brownstone Institute

WHO Accords Warrant Sovereignty Concern

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From the Brownstone Institute

BY Ramesh ThakurRAMESH THAKUR 

In agreeing to undertake to implement the WHO advisories, states will be creating a new system of pandemic management under the WHO authority and binding under international law. It will create an open-ended international law obligation to cooperate with the WHO and to fund it.

On 11 March, my article criticizing what appeared to be a slow-motion coup d’état by the World Health Organization (WHO) to seize health powers from states in the name of preparing for, conducting early warning surveillance of, and responding to “public health emergencies of international [and regional] concern” was published in the Australian. The coup was in the form of a new pandemic treaty and an extensive package of more than 300 amendments to the existing International Health Regulations (IHR) that was signed in 2005 and came into force in 2007, together referred to as the WHO pandemic accords.

The two sets of changes to the architecture of global health governance, I argued, will effectively change the WHO from a technical advisory organisation offering recommendations into a supranational public health authority telling governments what to do.

On 3 May, the Australian published a reply by Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, co-chair of the WHO working group on the IHR amendments. Bloomfield was New Zealand’s Director-General of Health from 2018–22 and received a knighthood for his services in the 2024 New Year’s Honours list. His engagement with the public debate is very welcome.

Rejecting the charge that the WHO is engaged in a power grab over states, Bloomfield wrote that as a one-time senior UN official, I “would know that no single member state is going to concede sovereignty, let alone the entire 194 members.”

I bow to the good doctor’s superior medical knowledge in comparison to my non-existent medical qualifications.

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same with respect to reforms across the UN system, or sovereignty, or the relationship between “We the peoples” (the first three words of the UN Charter), on the one hand, and UN entities as agents in the service of the peoples, on the other. On medical and not health policy issues, I would quickly find myself out of my depth. I respectfully submit that on sovereignty concerns, Dr. Ashley may be the one out of his depth.

On the first point, I was seconded to the UN Secretariat as the senior adviser to Kofi Annan on UN reforms and wrote his second reform report that covered the entire UN system: Strengthening the United Nations: An Agenda for Further Change (2002). The topic of UN reforms, both the case for it and the institutional and political obstacles frustrating the achievement of the most critical reforms, forms a core chapter of my book The United Nations, Peace and Security  (Cambridge University Press, 2006, with a substantially revised second edition published in 2017).

I was also involved in a small Canada-based group that advocated successfully for the elevation of the G20 finance ministers’ group into a leaders’ level group that could serve as an informal grouping for brokering agreements on global challenges, including pandemics, nuclear threats, terrorism, and financial crises. I co-wrote the book The Group of Twenty (G20) (Routledge, 2012) with Andrew F. Cooper, a colleague in that project.

On the second point, I played a central role in the UN’s reconceptualisation of sovereignty as state responsibility and citizens as rights holders. This was unanimously endorsed by world leaders at the UN summit in 2005.

On the third point, in Utopia Lost: The United Nations and World Order (1995), Rosemary Righter (the former chief leader writer at the Times of London) quoted Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s description of the United Nations as “a place where the peoples of the world were delivered up to the designs of governments” (p. 85).

So yes, I do indeed know something about UN system reforms and the importance of sovereignty concerns in relation to powers given to UN bodies to prescribe what states may and may not do.

In agreeing to undertake to implement the WHO advisories, states will be creating a new system of pandemic management under the WHO authority and binding under international law. It will create an open-ended international law obligation to cooperate with the WHO and to fund it. This is the same WHO that has a track record of incompetence, poor decision-making, and politicised conduct. The insistence that sovereignty is not being surrendered is formulaic and legalistic, not substantive and meaningful in practice.

It relies on a familiar technique of gaslighting that permits plausible deniability on both sides. The WHO will say it only issued advisories. States will say they are only implementing WHO recommendations as otherwise, they will become rogue international outlaws. The resulting structure of decision-making effectively confers powers without responsibility on the WHO while shredding accountability of governments to their electorates. The losers are the peoples of the world.

A “Litany of Lies” and Misconceptions? Not So Fast.

Bloomfield’s engagement with the public debate on the WHO-centric architecture of global health governance is very welcome. I have lauded the WHO’s past impressive achievements in earlier writings, for example in the co-written book Global Governance and the UN: An Unfinished Journey (Indiana University Press, 2010). I also agree wholeheartedly that it continues to do a lot of good work, 24/7. In early 2020 I fought with a US editor to reject a reference to the possible virus escape from the Wuhan lab because of WHO’s emphatic statements to the contrary. I later apologised to him for my naivete.

Once betrayed, twice shy of the message: “Trust us. We are from the WHO, here to keep you safe.”

Sir Ashley was merely echoing the WHO chief. Addressing the World Governments Summit in Dubai on 12 February, Director-General (DG) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attacked “the litany of lies and conspiracy theories” about the agreement that “are utterly, completely, categorically false. The pandemic agreement will not give WHO any power over any state or any individual.”

DG Tedros and Sir Ashley do protest too much. If Australia chooses as a sovereign nation to sign them, that does not mean there is no loss of effective sovereignty (that is, the power to make its health decisions) from that point on.

This is why all 49 Republican senators have “strongly” urged President Joe Biden to reject the proposed changes. The expansion of “WHO’s authority over member states during” pandemic emergencies, they warn, would “constitute intolerable infringements upon US sovereignty.” In addition, 22 Attorneys-General have informed Biden that the WHO writ under the new accords will not run in their states.

On 8 May, the UK said it would not sign the new treaty unless clauses requiring transfer of pandemic products were deleted. Under Article 12.6.b of the then-draft, the WHO could sign “legally binding” contracts with manufacturers to get pandemic-related “diagnostics, therapeutics or vaccines.” Ten percent of this is to be free of charge and another ten percent at profit-free prices. In the latest, 22 April draft, this last requirement comes in Article 12.3.b.i in slightly softer language.

The UK wants to retain the right to use British-made products first to address domestic requirements as judged by the government, and only then to make them available for global distribution. The draft, the government fears, will undermine British sovereignty.

On 14 May, five senators and nine representatives from the Australian parliament wrote a formal letter to PM Anthony Albanese expressing deep concern over the likely prospect of Australia signing the accords that “will transform the WHO from an advisory organisation to a supranational health authority dictating how governments must respond to emergencies which the WHO itself declares.” If adopted and implemented into Australian law, they wrote, these would give the WHO “an unacceptable level of authority, power and influence over Australia’s affairs under the guise of declaring ‘emergencies’.”

“Legally Binding” vs “Loss of Sovereignty” is a Distinction without a Difference

They can’t all be part of a global conspiracy to peddle a litany of lies. The WHO is offering up a highly specious argument. Sir Ashley didn’t really engage with the substance of my arguments either. He dismissed criticism of the proposed changes as “an attempt by the WHO to gain the power to dictate to countries what they must do in the event of a pandemic” as a “misconception.”

The G20 Leaders’ Bali Declaration (November 2022, paragraph 19) supported the goal of a “legally binding instrument that should contain both legally binding and non-legally binding elements to strengthen pandemic planning, preparedness and response (PPR) and amendments to the IHR.” In September 2023, the G20 Delhi Leaders’ Declaration (28:vi) envisioned “an ambitious, legally binding WHO” accord “as well as amendments to better implement” the IHR.

Lawrence Gostin, actively involved in the negotiations, was co-author of a report last December that said containing transnational outbreaks under WHO leadership “may require all states to forgo some level of sovereignty.” A joint Reuters-World Economic Forum article on 26 May 2023 stated: “For the new more wide-reaching pandemic accord, member states have agreed that it should be legally binding.”

The WHO itself describes the IHR as “an instrument of international law that is legally-binding on 196 countries.” Last year it published a document that includes section 4.6 on “legally binding international instruments” such as a new pandemic accord.

I get the argument that sovereign states are voluntarily agreeing to this. In terms of legal technicality, it might well be more accurate, as Libby Klein suggests in her draft letter to Australian MPs, to use words and phrases like “ceding autonomy,” “yielding “effective control over public health decisions,” “outsourcing public health decision-making to the WHO,” or “offshoring our public health decision-making.” This is the legalistic distinction that Bloomfield is effectively making.

However, simply because states must voluntarily sign the new WHO accords doesn’t mean they will not be ceding sovereignty once the accords are adopted. With all due respect to Dr. Tedros and Sir Ashley, this is a distinction without a difference. Every single “legally binding” requirement will mean a transfer of effective decision-making power on health issues to the WHO. That is a curtailment of state sovereignty and it is disingenuous to deny it.

Since the creation of the United Nations in 1945, states have been required to conduct themselves increasingly in conformity with international standards. And it is the UN system that sets most of the relevant international standards and benchmarks of state behaviour.

For example, for centuries countries had the absolute right to wage wars of aggression and defence as an acknowledged and accepted attribute of sovereignty. By adopting the United Nations Charter in 1945, they gave up the right to wage aggressive wars. I am very glad they did so. Just because the surrender of this aspect of sovereignty was voluntary, it doesn’t mean there was no surrender of sovereignty.

Similarly, by signing the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), Australia and around 185 states surrendered their sovereign right to make or get the nuclear bomb. Again, I am very glad they did so.

Article 10 of the treaty does permit withdrawal after a three-month notice to other states parties and the UN Security Council:

Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treatyif it decides that extraordinary events…have jeopardisedthe supreme interests of its country.

Australia could still act as a sovereign state and pull out of the NPT but, absent exculpatory events, only at the reputational cost of acting illegally under international law.

North Korea first announced withdrawal from the NPT in 1993, suspended the withdrawal, withdrew in 2003, has conducted six nuclear tests since 2006, and acquired up to 50 bombs. Yet, the UN has refused to accept the withdrawal and it is still listed on the UN website as an NPT member, with the explanatory note that: “States parties to the Treaty continue to express divergent views regarding the status of the DPRK under the NPT.”

Like these two important examples, states will lose key parts of the right to exercise their sovereignty over national policy settings and decisions on health if the WHO accords are adopted. It is their sovereign right to reject the treaties now. They should exercise it before it is too late. The complications entangling the post-Brexit referendum in the UK demonstrate only too vividly how challenging it can be for a state to extricate itself from a supranational authority despite the sovereign right to do so.

The best way to allay these fears and concerns would be to return responsibility to where accountability lies: with the national government and parliament. States should learn to cooperate better in global pandemic management, not hand effective decision-making powers and authority to unelected and unaccountable international technocrats.

The Effort Should Be Put on Indefinite Hold

It is an iron law of politics that any power that can be abused, will be abused by someone, somewhere, some time in the future. For current examples of overreach by a technocrat, look no further than Australia’s eSafety Commissioner. The truly frightening thing about her example is the realisation of just how much her efforts have been deliberately embedded in a global campaign to “bureaucratise” and control the internet.

A softer conclusion is that powers once granted over citizens to authorities are far more difficult to claw back than not giving them the powers in the first place. Thus far from retreating, the Censorship-Industrial Complex is simultaneously being broadened to embrace additional sectors of governance and public policy and globalised.

report from Leeds University documented that pandemics are rare events. They are not becoming more frequent. For poor countries, their global disease burden is much lower than that of the big killer diseases like TB, malaria, and HIV/AIDS. For industrialised countries like Australia, the disease burden has been greatly reduced since the Spanish flu with improved surveillance, response mechanism, and other public health interventions.

There is no emergency justifying the rushed process. An immediate pause and a slow and deliberative process would lead to better policy development and deliver better national and global health policy outcomes.

“Pause for thought, argue for a wider delay, think it through properly. And don’t sign till it’s right.” David Frost, who led the UK Brexit negotiations.

Just so.

Author

  • Ramesh Thakur

    Ramesh Thakur, a Brownstone Institute Senior Scholar, is a former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, and emeritus professor in the Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.

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Brownstone Institute

Musk Wins Latest Censorship Battle in Australia

Published on

US billionaire Elon Musk, Australian eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant

From the Brownstone Institute

BY Rebekah BarnettREBEKAH BARNETT

Can Australia’s eSafety Commissioner block content globally on demand? Not today, ruled the Australian Federal Court, in a win for Elon Musk’s social media platform X.

In a decision on Monday, Justice Geoffrey Kennett refused to extend a temporary injunction obtained by eSafety last month, which forced X to remove footage of the Wakeley church stabbing, an alleged religiously motivated terror attack.

Under the Online Safety Act (2021), the eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, has the authority to order removal of such ‘class 1 material’ within Australia under threat of hefty fines.

eSafety argued that X had not gone far enough to block the content from Australians, as a geo-block can be circumvented by a VPN. X argued that eSafety was effectively seeking a global ban on content, straying outside of the Australian online harm regulator’s jurisdiction.

eSafety applied to the Federal Court to extend its temporary injunction against X, with a hearing taking place on Friday 10 May. The temporary injunction was due to expire at 5pm on Friday, but was extended to 5pm Monday—to allow time for Justice Kennett to deliver a decision on the matter.

In his decision, Justice Kennett held that X had taken “reasonable” steps to block the stabbing content as required under Australian law, and that eSafety’s request for a global ban was not reasonable.

Therefore, “The orders of the court will be that the application to extend…is refused,” said Justice Kennett, meaning that as of 5pm Monday, the injunction is no longer effective.

In a statement on the Federal Court decision, eSafety said that the matter will return to Court for a case management hearing on Wednesday, 15 May.

Source: X

“The application for this injunction should have never been brought,” said Dr Reuben Kirkham, Co-Director of the Free Speech Union of Australia (FSU) in a statement, questioning the validity of the Commissioner’s bid to enact a global content ban on X. “The eSafety Commissioner is overreaching and behaving more like an activist than a responsible public servant.”

Dr Kirkham, who was present for the hearing, told Dystopian Down Under that he counted 12 lawyers present (seven for X, five for eSafety), which, if eSafety is ordered to pay costs, will lump taxpayers with “a considerable amount of unnecessary legal costs.”

Digital civil liberties nonprofit the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) echoes FSU Australia’s position, stating that, “no single country should be able to restrict speech across the entire internet,” and likening the Commissioner’s actions to “[using] a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

An affidavit submitted by the EFF to the eSafety vs. X proceedings called for the Court to consider the international impact that a ruling in eSafety’s favour would have in setting a precedent for allowing one country to enforce content bans on citizens of other countries.

“If one court can impose speech-restrictive rules on the entire Internet—despite direct conflicts with laws [in] a foreign jurisdiction as well as international human rights principles—the norms of expectations of all internet users are at risk,” stated the EFF in an article summarizing the affidavit.

X’s Global Government Affairs posted about the hearing, stating, “We’re glad X is fighting back, and we hope the judge will recognize the eSafety regulator’s demand for what it is—a big step toward unchecked global censorship—and refuse to let Australia set another dangerous precedent.” At the time of publishing, no updated statement on the Judge’s decision had been issued.

Source: X

Dr Kirkham calls the Commissioner’s application to extend her injunction against X “part of a pattern where the eSafety Commissioner’s office seemingly engages in gamesmanship rather than respecting the rule of law or acting as a model litigant.”

Indeed, the ruling in X’s favour comes amidst mounting controversy over the eSafety Commissioner’s ongoing battle with X, which appears to be driven partly by Julie Inman Grant’s global censorship ambitions, and partly by personal feelings.

Inman Grant, who formerly directed Twitter’s Public Policy (Australia and Southeast Asia), has repeatedly criticized Elon Musk since his purchase of the Twitter platform in 2022.

Moreover, Musk’s advocacy for a broad interpretation of free speech on the internet conflicts with Inman Grant’s professed view of free speech as a right that needs to be “recalibrated” for online spaces.

YouTube video
For its part, X has failed to comply with routine reporting to the eSafety Commissioner’s satisfaction, leading eSafety to initiate civil penalty proceedings against X in December last year. If found non-compliant, X could be fined up to AUD $780,000 per day, backdated to March 2023, when the determination of non-compliance was made.

Perhaps the biggest controversy between X and eSafety centres on the highly charged and subective issue of gender ideology.

Inman Grant has enforced the removal of a string of posts on X questioning gender ideology, including one suggesting that men can’t breastfeed, and another about a trans-identified male who allegedly injured female players during a women’s football game in NSW.

In an internationally high-profile case, the Commissioner recently issued a removal notice over an acerbic gender-critical post by Canadian activist Billboard Chris, raising questions over whether the Government should be able to police opinions and censor statements of biological fact on the internet.

FSU Australia is currently involved in Administrative Appeal Tribunal proceedings on behalf of Billboard Chris (real name Chris Elston) against the eSafety Commissioner. Additionally, X has threatened to sue eSafety over the matter.

Source: X

Returning to the issue of the Wakeley stabbing footage, Inman Grant’s attempt to globally ban the content has been supported by the Australian Government, which leveraged the incident to call for more censorship, including the reintroduction of an unpopular misinformation bill.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has also responded to calls to address violence against women by proposing to further expand eSafety’s budget and remit, which could see deep fake pornography and “other misogynistic material” censored by the regulator.

No one will argue against explicit pornography being blocked from children’s view, but it is around the grey edges of definition creep on terms like ‘harm,’ ‘adult cyber abuse,’ and ‘misogynistic material’ where disagreements will undoubtedly kick off.

In a move of ‘no confidence’ against eSafety, FSU Australia has launched a petition to abolish the office of the eSafety Commissioner altogether, arguing that a combination of parental controls and platform incentives will suffice in keeping children safe on the internet.

A more moderate approach may be to curtail eSafety’s remit to its original function of dealing with child abuse content (as in 2015), and revenge porn (as in 2017), before the regulator’s purview and powers were significantly expanded with the introduction of the Online Safety Act in 2021.

However, in the media and political conversation, there is little appetite for a moderate approach, as conveyed in a viral guest appearance by media personality Tracey Holmes on a recent episode of the ABC’s failing show Q+A.

Calling out the double standard in the censorship conversation, Holmes told the studio audience,

“I don’t agree with any kind of censorship in a general sense. I don’t think Elon Musk is contributing to any social cohesion split inside this country. I think our mainstream media is doing enough of that. I think our politicians do enough of that…

“Of course there are fault lines everywhere, but there’s only one way you can stop those fault lines from getting bigger, and that is to have the ability to have the town square to hear different points of view…

“And I think unfortunately we’ve been fed ‘this side or that side’ for so long, people are giving up on mainstream media, that’s why they’re tuning out. That’s why they’re going to YouTube…we have let them down.”

Hopefully, some higher-ups in the corporate media tuned in to hear what Holmes had to say.

Read more about the judge’s decision

Republished from the author’s Substack

Author

  • Rebekah Barnett

    Rebekah Barnett is a Brownstone Institute fellow, independent journalist and advocate for Australians injured by the Covid vaccines. She holds a BA in Communications from the University of Western Australia, and writes for her Substack, Dystopian Down Under.

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