The same people who defended Israel Folau’s freedom of speech are criticising Cody Walker’s decision to not sing the national anthem. The hypocrisy highlights an obvious point.
The problem with us, to use the words of Peter Garrett, is that we have a short memory. A week removed from the Israel Folau decision, one that split the nation along the line of free speech, we find ourselves at the same intersection, but with some clearly forgetting which route they previously took.
Yesterday, Cody Walker announced that he would not sing the national anthem at the upcoming State of Origin, because he feels it doesn’t represent him, and the indigenous population writ large. In response, the mood has been mostly congratulatory. Mostly.
Indigenous rugby league star Cody Walker will not sing Australia’s national anthem at next Wednesday’s State of Origin saying it “doesn’t represent myself or my family”. #9Today pic.twitter.com/RiC4aPeN8n
— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) May 28, 2019
The other part of the conversation swirls around Walker’s protest, in that he’ll take the white man’s money, but not stand for the white man’s anthem. Which, considering the lessons of last week, is extremely hypocritical. The tone was allowing everything to be said because we have a right to say it. Allowing Folau’s brand of free speech but denying Walker’s illuminates how much the issue isn’t about free speech at all, it is mainly about the contours of one’s own discrimination. Clearly, the national conversation is defending the beliefs of those we agree with, while castigating the opposite. The freedom of speech itself has nothing to do with it.
.@BenFordham: I’m a believer in free speech – if Josh Addo-Carr and Cody Walker don’t want to sing the national anthem, that’s their call. But I also reckon the coach has a right to tell players what behaviour he expects from them.
— The Bolt Report (@theboltreport) May 30, 2019
Ben Fordham’s piece to camera on Sky News is typical of this type of thinking. An adjacent issue is discussed, but the subtext remains the same. Fordham stating that while he agrees with free speech, he believes that the coach should set the tone as a team. His point is obfuscated in his example, in this instance, Brad Fittler, the coach of NSW (and previously Lebanon) told his players that if they were to play for the country, they’d learn the anthem.
It’s classic whataboutism, as Fittler (also a foreigner) was addressing a Lebanon squad that included four Australian-based players, Robbie Farah, Tim Mannah, Mitchell Moses and Michael Lichaa. But at the root of it, and Fordham’s point, it’s another telling one what they can and can’t say. Clearly, that’s not freedom of speech.
It’s nothing but a diversion. Hiding behind the bible, or the subjective nature of nationalism is merely a means to an end. The fact that Barnaby Joyce is looking to enshrine the national delusion into law, it might be time we examine what we’re actually saying.