Another week, another litany of confected outrage attempts by the Queensland Labor government. The same bunch who refresh their twitter feeds waiting for the next “scandal” and cry out in “disgust” when conservative folks so much as breathe the wrong way are sadly in the driver’s seat, running our proud state into the ground.

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The schoolyard antics we saw in 7th grade are put on show regularly inside the current government, with many of the most serial offenders holding the most lucrative positions, only demonstrating the political currency of a muckraking operative hack in contemporary times. Many within their ranks aspire to the gold standard of mudslinging exemplified by Deputy Premier Steven Miles, who Opposition Leader David Crisafulli labelled a wannabe “attack dog” and an indisputable “embarrassment to Queensland”, yet many fall short of his antics.

A new contender who appears to be one of the rising stocks of the ALP is Minister for Youth Affairs, Meaghan Scanlon. In her maiden speech, Scanlon claimed to “value the contribution of all young people” and actively purports to be a supporter of young folks in politics, often snapping selfies with members of the YMCA Queensland Youth Parliament.

Although, like many politicians, Meaghan frequently finds it difficult to practice what she preaches, taking to twitter last month to share her faux outrage about how a 21-year-old private citizen reacted to a Courier Mail article. The Courier Mail poll prompted readers to pick a side on whether symbols of hate should be added to the state’s vilification and hate crime laws.

Amongst the plethora of respondents, I happened to be against the proposal as a staunch advocate for freedom of speech and communication, irrespective of whether I agreed with or detested the sentiments being espoused. Her post of condemnation, which has since been deleted, read “He’s at it again. Is this the type of racist attitude that LNP Queensland, David Crisafulli and Scott Morrison endorse? When asked if Nazis symbols should be outlawed, Barclay McGain said no. Here’s Barclay just last month at a Young LNP event with George Christensen”. Slow clap for Meaghan, it was a good effort.

The since-deleted tweet by Meaghan Scanlon MP (Qld Labor)

Ticked all the boxes: she included a carefully crafted rhetorical question, attempted guilt by association, even incorporated one of the -isms. By the way, the “Young LNP event” was a charity fundraiser which raised nearly $10,000 for mental health organisations in the wake of the suicide of Wilson Gavin, himself a victim of rabid internet trolling and a young Queenslander, the people Scanlon purports to support. Regardless, nothing to get in the way of a political hitjob, even if we must sacrifice all dignity and humanity, right, Meaghan?

For her sake, perhaps we should at least weigh up the merits of Scanlon’s assertions.

Does being a free speech advocate make someone a racist? Even worse, does it make them a Nazi?

The answer: of course not.

As a Zionist, I bear no sympathy to Nazi Germany or identarian politics. The millions of people who’ve been brutally murdered under the banner of the swastika makes it a detestable symbol of hate and pure evil. Any inkling of support for the ideology in contemporary society speaks to historical ignorance and perhaps a yearning for attention on the part of the individual.

Yet I and many others do not believe that banning stitch patterns on a piece of cloth, as this piece of legislation intends, does anything to change attitudes, end bigotry or prevent hate crimes from occurring. In fact, all it does is give these deranged people the mainstream attention they so desperately crave.

Free speech is a matter of principle, not politics. I believe in the right of an ardent socialist to proclaim their desire to “eat the rich” just as I do the right of a right-wing skinhead to preach delusional conspiracy theories. As Orwell once said:

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

Even if it is morally reprehensible.

Our liberal democracy was built upon the exchange of free and unfettered communication. Whether it be Nazi Germany, Mao’s China or Castro’s Cuba, the first step on the road to authoritarianism was impediments on freedom of speech. If we truly want to root out all evil words and symbols, where do we stop?

As former US President Ronald Reagan reminds us:

“Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom, and then lost it, have never known it again.”

We should be unabashed of our belief in a free society, as it is fundamental to the functioning of our liberal democracy. Shouting down alternative viewpoints, particularly those belonging to young people, with labels like “racist”, “sexist” and “homophobe” only seeks to stifle rational and civil debate on the issues that matter. No one denies that there are hateful elements of our society, indeed no one denies that racism still exists, but the method in which we look at mending this divide needs urgent reform. The once “liberal” left of the 1980s has borne its ugly authoritarian underbelly in recent times with government often viewed as the answer to solve our societal dilemmas.

Instead, let us look to each other for solutions. Whilst speech ought to be free from government sanction, it is not free from all consequences. The invisible hand of the free market coupled with conscious consumers allows people to express their condemnation via who they choose to associate with, who they bargain with or communicate with. A shopfront emblazoning hateful symbols in a typically competitive industry is bound to be boycotted, shunned, and eventually forced into bankruptcy. In it of itself, that is a beautiful thing. As a society, we didn’t require government interference.

Whilst Annastacia Palaszczuk, Meaghan Scanlon and Queensland Labor can try and scam taxpayers into paying for Nazi skinheads to sit around in a cell all day playing noughts & crosses, it’s clear that there is a better alternative. Scanlon will continue to stir the pot of confected outrage, after all, it was the method in which she was first elected, but perhaps the “villainous” defenders of free speech aren’t the “racist Nazis” she makes them out to be.

As we’ve seen, the demand for racism from the Left clearly outweighs the supply so much so that they’ve resorted to spending their Friday nights analysing the Facebook reactions of a 21-year-old private citizen. As a society, I hope we can wake up to these shenanigans, call them out and perhaps give Meaghan something more productive to work on within her portfolio of Minister for Youth Affairs, whilst also recognising that free speech is the bedrock that our country was built upon.

Barclay McGain is an Economics student at the University of Queensland who writes articles for various conservative platforms. He is a political activist on campus, standing up for conservative and libertarian beliefs. He is a former minister of the YMCA Queensland Youth Parliament and a proud member of the Institute of Public Affairs' Generation Liberty program.

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