In his popular blog, Andrew Bolt used the example of Socrates in defence of free speech. He was not claiming to be Socrates, but citing the philosopher as his champion. My column examines the important differences between the columnist and the philosopher. A sample:
None of this means that Bolt, or any other professional or amateur commentator, necessarily deserves to be silenced by regulatory authorities. Andrew Bolt is the articulate, ardent voice of many frustrated Australians, and is popular for a reason: he says what many are thinking.
My point is this: by invoking the spirit of Socrates, Bolt invites a comparison that is not flattering. He highlights his own membership of Australia's elite, his overbearing over-confidence, and his failure to question popular prejudice. It weakens his case, rather than strengthening it. The best defence of free speech is not simply to cite Socrates' fate, but to emulate his emancipated mind.