I wasn’t going to comment on Robert Clark’s silly (and fucking outrageous) plan to get police to issue on the spot fines for swearing in public, until I read Dee Madigan’s remarks on The Drum and realised just how this is going to affect vulnerable people:
In fact, what is considered to be ‘normal community standards’ is highly subjective at the best of times. It should not be a decision made in the heat of the moment by a policemen who, let’s face it, would be unlikely to be objective about someone they are right in the middle of having a problem with.
And it means that any person in any sort of dispute with police has a way to be charged immediately. And this is where the new laws are most insidious.
Empirical evidence in New South Wales, Western Australia and the Northern Territory shows that laws which focus on offending behaviors have a disproportionate impact on juveniles and minority groups. For example, in Western Australia, Aboriginals are 15 times more likely to be charged for swearing. And in New South Wales, offensive conduct crimes also have a disproportionate impact on Indigenous communities, and more often than not are used to deal with young people who are deemed to be showing disrespect to authority.
So, while swearing doesn’t actually hurt someone (and no, being offended isn’t the same as actually being hurt), laws that punish people for swearing can become a form of social exclusion which can be incredibly damaging to the most vulnerable groups in our society.
That’s very true. I’ve written before about how laws targeting things like begging result in homeless people being locked up because they have neither money nor identification; this is just one more quiver in the bow of the nastiest members of the police force. The vulnerable who use coarse language because it’s all they’ve ever known, will find themselves lumped with fines they can’t possibly pay. The mentally-ill, the drug-affected, those focused on bare survival – in practice, this will be a tool to make life even more difficult for those only just hanging on.
And for what? To protect our precious, dainty ears from hearing centuries-old English words? For fuck sake.
ELSEWHERE: On the subject of morons imposing their ‘being offended” on the rest of us:
A billboard company has defended its decision to bow to pressure to remove advertisements promoting safe sex among gay couples.
HIV campaigners are outraged the safe sex promotion featuring a fully clothed, hugging gay couple has been pulled from Queensland bus shelters by Adshel.
The Queensland Association for Healthy Communities launched its “Rip and Roll” advertisements a week ago and yesterday learned they were being scrapped after about 30 complaints.
You can guess by whom:
Australian Christian Lobby: People power wins in removing offending ads
If you’ve got the stomach, you can read the actual complaints here.
Got that, people we have an irrational prejudice against?
UPDATE (4.45pm): After protests, Adshel has now reversed its decision, with one of the silliest excuses ever:
Adshel CEO Steve McCarthy said the company had been the “target” of a an organised campaign by the ACL. He said in a statement: “It has now become clear that Adshel has been the target of a coordinated ACL campaign. This has led us to review our decision to remove the campaign and we will therefore reinstate the campaign with immediate effect.”
Wait, so if the ACL hadn’t admitted its link that would’ve been okay? It’s not that the objections were fatuous and discriminatory – it’s that they were organised?