Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sticks And Stones…

Let’s not get confused about what is and is not racial vilification. There has been an enormous amount of discussion relating to the incident where Petero Civoniceva was insulted by an alleged football fan. The culprit, Sper Vega, has claimed in his apology not to have intended the insult as a racial slur, only a general comment. Of course every racist claims he is not a racist. The use of the word “Monkey” clearly has racist overtones in some circumstances, and as such Mr. Vega should have known this and should have engaged his brain before opening his mouth.

I believe that his behaviour was offensive, insulting and unacceptable. I believe that what was once known as common courtesy would preclude such behaviour in any environment. If I was sitting next to Mr. Vega, I would have been offended by his behaviour and I would have felt uncomfortable for as long as he was allowed to remain there. I am not unhappy that he has been banned from attending games.

But was it actually racial vilification as many have suggested? No, it was an insult. And it was a racist insult, but is that any different from insulting somebody’s mental capacity, or physical ability, or parental lineage? I’ve been called a baboon before, and how many times have we called big brawny blokes gorillas? To be insulted is not the same thing as to be vilified. Vilification is the calculated depiction of an individual or a group as the target of hatred, often to the point of inciting violence or other actual harm against them.

One of the great Australian freedoms is the freedom to insult each other. If we are not careful we will get to the point where it will be impossible to say anything about anyone without being accused of vilification. Genuine vilification is and should be against the law. But, while I would prefer us all to be polite to each other, being rude should not be a criminal offence, only a social one.

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