Andrew Bolt’s defeat in a court case where it was found he caused hurt and offence to nine fair-skinned Aborigines must surely be a devastating setback for the commentator.
No – only kidding.
The history of Andrew Bolt’s career is a history of people hurling abuse at him while his stocks have only risen – moving from a journalist, columnist and blogger to radio commentator, and now host of a successful television show. He must now be very close to Australia’s most widely read and heard opinion maker, and his trajectory has only followed the level of vitriol directed at him.
It strikes me that Google Trends measures Andrew Bolt’s success better than just about anything else, and every controversy has just propelled him further into the stratosphere.
While Bolt’s stocks rise, whether he deserves it or not, the judge in the case will ultimately end up being remembered as someone who threatened free speech in this country. When the Government changes, it appears likely that the laws Bolt fell foul of will be overturned.
While the plaintiffs may feel they have had a victory, even if Bolt decides to comply with orders to apologise, a forced apology is surely the most hollow of apologies – and could easily be subverted with a subtle turn of phrase.
In the meantime, now is possibly the best time in the history of Australia to claim aboriginality. As Keith Windschuttle has noted:
For instance, in December 2000, the Brisbane Courier-Mail reported complaints by Aboriginal activists in the Wide Bay district of Queensland about more than 100 locals of Sri Lankan descent who had received millions of dollars worth of benefits, including housing loans, business loans, study grants, employment preferences and legal assistance by posing as Aborigines. One of these imposters was charged with illegal fishing. He responded by claiming his right under the Native Title Act and persuading Aboriginal Legal Aid to defend him. He eventually lost the case when prosecutors demonstrated he had no Aboriginal ancestry. It is unlikely that this exposé would ever have been made in the first place had the threat of racial vilification been in the minds of those who blew the whistle