A footballer as a hero of free speech: For readers not resident in the Australian State of Victoria, Sam Newman is a TV commentator on Australian Rules football. He is now in his 60s but was once a distinguished footballer himself. Comments below by Andrew Bolt
Don't like Sam Newman? Then argue back. Abuse him if you must. Take away your advertising, or - even better - just turn him off. Hell, Channel 9 can even sack him from The Footy Show if it figures his act is stale. But send him to a re-education camp? Which Maoists at the station thought of that particular "cure" for inconvenient opinions? That was Nine's executive director, Jeffrey Browne, actually.
With women switching off the boofy Footy Show and advertisers pulling ads to placate women offended by Newman's ways, the boss panicked. It's two months since Newman caused uproar by groping a half-dressed mannequin he doctored to look like Age football writer Caroline Wilson, but only now has Browne decided Newman did what he did because he is actually sick. But Browne doesn't just think Newman is sick in body, needing an indefinite break "to return to full health" after two big operations, one to remove his prostate. He seemingly also figures Newman is sick in the head, and has ordered "as a component of this rehabilitation" that he "undergo counselling to address, with professional assistance, the behaviour and issues that have attended what I now believe to be his premature return to the program". How offensive and absurd.
What is this "behaviour" that Newman must be counselled out of? It is not just the fondling of that mannequin, which was indeed plain nasty and boorish. It is that Newman genuinely holds - and has expressed - certain views that some influential people in particular do not like and think it a sin to hold. A sign of poor mental hygiene. One such opinion is that some women with powerful jobs in football were "liars and hypocrites" in their criticisms of him. Another opinion is that women in top football jobs have had little to contribute and, "for very little input they demand a lot of clout".
Such comments have made Browne as jumpy as a TV executive who's just learned he's lost his parking spot. "The Nine Network, in its entirety, is respectful of women," he protests.
And Newman will now be counselled - with that grim "professional assistance" - until his own thinking on women is "rehabilitated" to the standards Browne thinks healthy.
What makes this so offensive is that Newman is already in no doubt that a lot of people object to his views. After all, The Age has lashed him hysterically from its front page to its back, devoting to his alleged sins the kind of oh-my-god coverage it normally reserves for global warming.
Lawyers have sent him stiff letters demanding satisfaction, talkback jockeys have climbed on his back, co-host Garry Lyon has fronted him, his boss has disowned him, football executives have bounced him, and all in all it's been the most wonderful lynch party. So many professional denouncers have got their rocks off on Newman that you could build a pyramid over his body to rival Giza. That's called debate. And Newman, having gone through it, will either modify his opinions or stick to them, having considered the counter-arguments and rejected them.
His opinions may be right or, more likely, wrong - matters best left to each of us to decide for ourselves. But I am sure those opinions are sincerely held by an intelligent man, who should be allowed to hold them without now being deemed to be sick and in need of treatment. Bad opinions are best countered by arguments, not cures and counsellors.
But such is the militant temper of these group-think times that lawyers and men in white coats are called in by the powerful to do what their reasoning cannot. Some opinions must now be held by everyone - or else the treatment begins. What arrogance. What an abuse of power.
See how hard it is already for people to speak their frank mind, with so many cause-pushers so ready to denounce, abuse and sue, and so many battalions of thought-police ready to help them punish bad thinkers with fines or even jail - to win by force arguments they could not win by words.
To think we've even had Christian pastors dragged through months of hearings and mountains of legal bills for having simply quoted the Koran in ways that made some people laugh. Heavens, if I didn't have a rich boss behind me, paying lawyers, I'd probably have to shut up, too.
That's why Newman is still so loved even when so widely deplored. He reassures us there is still some freedom to say what the hell we think, and damn the consequences. But to be accurate: Newman reassures us most of that freedom when he is actually at his most outrageous - because he'd prove nothing by just baa-ing, would he?
Yet even Newman seems about to fall. Counter-arguments haven't swayed him, so it's off to the re-education camp. Excuse me, Mr Browne. Newman needs none of your "counselling" or "rehabilitation". He simply disagrees with his critics. If you don't like it, sack him. But pay him the respect of treating his views as the product of his reason, not as symptoms of bad "health". Or must I send some "counsellors" of my own around to "rehabilitate" your own unhealthy thoughts?
Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. For a daily survey of Australian politics, see AUSTRALIAN POLITICS Also, don't forget your roundup of Obama news and commentary at OBAMA WATCH