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Brownstone Institute

Is the Overton Window Real, Imagined, or Constructed?

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15 minute read

From the Brownstone Institute

BY Jeffrey A. TuckerJEFFREY A. TUCKER 

Ideas move from Unthinkable to Radical to Acceptable to Sensible to Popular to become Policy.

The concept of the Overton window caught on in professional culture, particularly those seeking to nudge public opinion, because it taps into a certain sense that we all know is there. There are things you can say and things you cannot say, not because there are speech controls (though there are) but because holding certain views makes you anathema and dismissable. This leads to less influence and effectiveness.

The Overton window is a way of mapping sayable opinions. The goal of advocacy is to stay within the window while moving it just ever so much. For example, if you are writing about monetary policy, you should say that the Fed should not immediately reduce rates for fear of igniting inflation. You can really think that the Fed should be abolished but saying that is inconsistent with the demands of polite society.

That’s only one example of a million.

To notice and comply with the Overton window is not the same as merely favoring incremental change over dramatic reform. There is not and should never be an issue with marginal change. That’s not what is at stake.

To be aware of the Overton window, and fit within it, means to curate your own advocacy. You should do so in a way that is designed to comply with a structure of opinion that is pre-existing as a kind of template we are all given. It means to craft a strategy specifically designed to game the system, which is said to operate according to acceptable and unacceptable opinionizing.

In every area of social, economic, and political life, we find a form of compliance with strategic considerations seemingly dictated by this Window. There is no sense in spouting off opinions that offend or trigger people because they will just dismiss you as not credible. But if you keep your eye on the Window – as if you can know it, see it, manage it – you might succeed in expanding it a bit here and there and thereby achieve your goals eventually.

The mission here is always to let considerations of strategy run alongside – perhaps even ultimately prevail in the short run – over issues of principle and truth, all in the interest of being not merely right but also effective. Everyone in the business of affecting public opinion does this, all in compliance with the perception of the existence of this Window.

Tellingly, the whole idea grows out of think tank culture, which puts a premium on effectiveness and metrics as a means of institutional funding. The concept was named for Joseph Overton, who worked at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan. He found that it was useless in his work to advocate for positions that he could not recruit politicians to say from the legislative floor or on the campaign trail. By crafting policy ideas that fit within the prevailing media and political culture, however, he saw some successes about which he and his team could brag to the donor base.

This experience led him to a more general theory that was later codified by his colleague Joseph Lehman, and then elaborated upon by Joshua Treviño, who postulated degrees of acceptability. Ideas move from Unthinkable to Radical to Acceptable to Sensible to Popular to become Policy. A wise intellectual shepherd will manage this transition carefully from one stage to the next until victory and then take on a new issue.

The core intuition here is rather obvious. It probably achieves little in life to go around screaming some radical slogan about what all politicians should do if there is no practical means to achieve it and zero chance of it happening. But writing well-thought-out position papers with citations backed by large books by Ivy League authors and pushing for changes on the margin that keep politicians out of trouble with the media might move the Window slightly and eventually enough to make a difference.

Beyond that example, which surely does tap into some evidence in this or that case, how true is this analysis?

First, the theory of the Overton window presumes a smooth connection between public opinion and political outcomes. During most of my life, that seemed to be the case or, at least, we imagined it to be the case. Today this is gravely in question. Politicians do things daily and hourly that are opposed by their constituents – fund foreign aid and wars for example – but they do it anyway due to well-organized pressure groups that operate outside public awareness. That’s true many times over with the administrative and deep layers of the state.

In most countries, states and elites that run them operate without the consent of the governed. No one likes the surveillance and censorial state but they are growing regardless, and nothing about shifts in public opinion seem to make any difference. It’s surely true that there comes a point when state managers pull back on their schemes for fear of public backlash but when that happens or where, or when and how, wholly depends on the circumstances of time and place.

Second, the Overton window presumes there is something organic about the way the Window is shaped and moves. That is probably not entirely true either. Revelations of our own time show just how involved are major state actors in media and tech, even to the point of dictating the structure and parameters of opinions held in the public, all in the interest of controlling the culture of belief in the population.

I had read Manufacturing Consent (Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman; full text here) when it came out in 1988 and found it compelling. It was entirely believable that deep ruling class interests were more involved than we know about what we are supposed to think about foreign-policy matters and national emergencies, and, further, entirely plausible that major media outlets would reflect these views as a matter of seeking to fit in and ride the wave of change.

What I had not understood was just how far-reaching this effort to manufacture consent is in real life. What illustrates this perfectly has been media and censorship over the pandemic years in which nearly all official channels of opinion have very strictly reflected and enforced the cranky views of a tiny elite. Honestly, how many actual people in the US were behind the lockdowns policy in terms of theory and action? Probably fewer than 1,000. Probably closer to 100.

But thanks to the work of the Censorship Industrial Complex, an industry built of dozens of agencies and thousands of third-party cutouts including universities, we were led to believe that lockdowns and closures were just the way things are done. Vast amounts of the propaganda we endured was top down and wholly manufactured.

Third, the lockdown experience demonstrates that there is nothing necessarily slow and evolutionary about the movement of the Window. In February 2020, mainstream public health was warning against travel restrictions, quarantines, business closures, and the stigmatization of the sick. A mere 30 days later, all these policies became acceptable and even mandatory belief. Not even Orwell imagined such a dramatic and sudden shift was possible!

The Window didn’t just move. It dramatically shifted from one side of the room to the other, with all the top players against saying the right thing at the right time, and then finding themselves in the awkward position of having to publicly contradict what they had said only weeks earlier. The excuse was that “the science changed” but that is completely untrue and an obvious cover for what was really just a craven attempt to chase what the powerful were saying and doing.

It was the same with the vaccine, which major media voices opposed so long as Trump was president and then favored once the election was declared for Biden. Are we really supposed to believe that this massive switch came about because of some mystical window shift or does the change have a more direct explanation?

Fourth, the entire model is wildly presumptuous. It is built by intuition, not data, of course. And it presumes that we can know the parameters of its existence and manage how it is gradually manipulated over time. None of this is true. In the end, an agenda based on acting on this supposed Window involves deferring to the intuitions of some manager who decides that this or that statement or agenda is “good optics” or “bad optics,” to deploy the fashionable language of our time.

The right response to all such claims is: you don’t know that. You are only pretending to know but you don’t actually know. What your seemingly perfect discernment of strategy is really about concerns your own personal taste for the fight, for controversy, for argument, and your willingness to stand up publicly for a principle you believe will very likely run counter to elite priorities. That’s perfectly fine, but don’t mask your taste for public engagement in the garb of fake management theory.

It’s precisely for this reason that so many intellectuals and institutions stayed completely silent during lockdowns when everyone was being treated so brutally by public health. Many people knew the truth – that everyone would get this bug, most would shake it off just fine, and then it would become endemic – but were simply afraid to say it. Cite the Overton window all you want but what is really at issue is one’s willingness to exercise moral courage.

The relationship between public opinion, cultural feeling, and state policy has always been complex, opaque, and beyond the capacity of empirical methods to model. It’s for this reason that there is such a vast literature on social change.

We live in times in which most of what we thought we knew about the strategies for social and political change have been blown up. That’s simply because the normal world we knew only five years ago – or thought we knew – no longer exists. Everything is broken, including whatever imaginings we had about the existence of this Overton window.

What to do about it? I would suggest a simple answer. Forget the model, which might be completely misconstrued in any case. Just say what is true, with sincerity, without malice, without convoluted hopes of manipulating others. It’s a time for truth, which earns trust. Only that will blow the window wide open and finally demolish it forever.

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

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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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