Victor sent me this link with the comment "Thought you might find this interesting... Worrisome, even." He was right, I do find it quite disturbing:
As part of a revision to defamation legislation, the Dail (Irish Parliament) passed legislation creating a new crime of blasphemy. Update: The bill went to the Seanad on Friday, July 10, passing by a single vote. This attack on free speech, debated for several months in Europe, has gone largely unnoticed in the American press.
[. . .] How does this impact free speech? Just don’t be rude.
- Atheists can be prosecuted for saying that God is imaginary. That causes outrage.
- Pagans can be prosecuted for saying they left Christianity because God is violent and bloodthirsty, promotes genocide, and permits slavery.
- Christians can be prosecuted for saying that Allah is a moon god, or for drawing a picture of Mohammed, or for saying that Islam is a violent religion which breeds terrorists.
- Jews can be prosecuted for saying Jesus isn’t the Messiah.
At risk of being too flippant, it's really just a codification of the kind of thought pattern exemplified by Canada's various "Human Rights" commissions, focusing on religion, rather than other forms of free thought and free expression.
The actual text of the new legislation goes a long way to convert the police into uniformed Revolutionary Guards:
36. Publication or utterance of blasphemous matter.
(1) A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000. [Amended to €25,000]
2) For the purposes of this section, a person publishes or utters blasphemous matter if (a) he or she publishes or utters matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion, and (b) he or she intends, by the publication or utterance of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.
(3) It shall be a defence to proceedings for an offence under this section for the defendant to prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates.
37. Seizure of copies of blasphemous statements.
(1) Where a person is convicted of an offence under section 36, the court may issue a warrant (a) authorising any member of the Garda Siochana to enter (if necessary by the use of reasonable force) at all reasonable times any premises (including a dwelling) at which he or she has reasonable grounds for believing that copies of the statement to which the offence related are to be found, and to search those premises and seize and remove all copies of the statement found therein, (b) directing the seizure and removal by any member of the Garda Siochana of all copies of the statement to which the offence related that are in the possession of any person, © specifying the manner in which copies so seized and removed shall be detained and stored by the Garda Siochana.
(2) A member of the Garda Siochana may (a) enter and search any premises, (b) seize, remove and detain any copy of a statement to which an offence under section 36 relates found therein or in the possession of any person, in accordance with a warrant under subsection (1).
(3) Upon final judgment being given in proceedings for an offence under section 36, anything seized and removed under subsection (2) shall be disposed of in accordance with such directions as the court may give upon an application by a member of the Garda Siochana in that behalf.
What's the Gaelic for "Death to the infidel"? Expect to hear a lot of it in the future.
Mark Steyn looks at the recent speech by the embattled head of Canada's official inquisition:
I'm making a serious point there about the "human rights" enforcers' perversion of Canada's basic legal principles, and I stand by it. So just to up the ante: "Is Jennifer Lynch, QC a drunken pedophile serial killer? Maybe not. But no one has decided that."
About the rest of her plaint, one thing I've learned since 9/11 is that those who receive credible death threats do not brag about them in public. As for the unflattering descriptions of her commission, I was responsible for three of them: "human rights racket"; "a fetish club for servants of the Crown"; and "welcome to the wacky world of Canadian 'human rights'". I deeply resent Commissar Lynch lifting all my best lines without credit to perk up her turgid speech. I stand by all of them, and I see I've reprised the last up at the top. Must try to work the "fetish club" line in again.
So four of the six quotations Commissar Lynch is upset about are from what Pearl Eliadis would call the "hatemongerer" — or what proper legal systems would call "the accused". In other words, the Chief Commissar of Canada's "human rights" regime is complaining that the person she is investigating has had the impertinence to respond. Which gives you an interesting glimpse into Queen Jennifer's concept of justice.
It's distressing enough that Canada has a vast inquisitorial system both at the federal and provincial level, but it's even more upsetting to find that nothing from the Levant and Steyn "cases" has made any difference to the minions of those systems. They still clearly feel that they are above criticism — in fact, they feel that any such attempt to criticize should be punishable.
Well, having been delayed from getting out of downtown yesterday for over an hour, thanks to illegal marches by Tamil Tiger supporters, I guess I've been converted . . . to supporting the Sri Lankan government. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has moved from relative indifference to active detestation of the protesting group, but I doubt that it will manifest itself in anything other than angry letters to the editor . . . and futile blog posts like this one.
Between the protests opposite the US consulate and yesterday's march, I've been prevented from visiting my client's office downtown for several days . . . and that takes money out of my pocket, as I can't bill them for time spent trying to get to their offices.
I still don't understand the logic behind the protests. Canada is not and never has been involved in political or military action in Sri Lanka. Anything the Canadian government might say on the matter will have precisely zero weight with either side in the conflict. It's not like we have a squadron of the Navy ready to swoop into action in the Indian Ocean, or any other form of power that could be projected into that area of the world. We are, literally, powerless to intervene.
Canada's diplomatic and humanitarian "voice" in that region is also non-existent, so just what is being achieved by the protest groups? Disrupting economic activity in large parts of downtown Toronto — during a period of economic hardship — garners media attention, but it's not making the Tamil cause more attractive to ordinary Canadians.
It's also, sadly, likely to create problems for Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi immigrants, as most Canadians have no idea who is or is not a Tamil (unless they're waving the banners of terrorist groups).
Update: Ottawa's chief of police is getting "racist e-mails" about the Tamil protests that blocked Wellington St. for several days.
Update, the second: Of course, we needed no further evidence of our deep unwillingness to confront terrorists and their supporters than the final sentence of this news report, "Police will be investigating the airplane message as a possible hate crime."
The possible hate crime message reportedly read "Protect Canada, stop the Tamil Tigers". Even under Canada's various anti-hate speech laws, I cannot comprehend how that message could be construed as hate speech. The Tamil Tigers were officially added to the Canadian government's list of terrorist organizations in 2006. How can it be illegal to advocate wanting to stop them?
Update, the third: Jon, my virtual landlord, sent along this rather depressing answer to my last question:
The banner mentions a protected group by name: Tamils
The phrase "Protect Canada" implies that Tamils pose a threat. The implication may lead people to distrust and possibly hate Tamils.
The fact that the Tamil Tigers organization is recognized as a terrorist group by several governments is irrelevant. Under the HRC rules, the truth is no defense.
So there you go: according to the OHRC and CHRC, the banner is a hate crime.
And you know what I am finding just a little disturbing here? The fact that I instantly came up with those points in my head as I read your question. I totally understand the logic behind this.
I do not remember drinking the KoolAid, but I am indeed full of it.
I understand how, but I do not understand why.
As a veteran, I love my Constitution too much to cheapen it by using it as a tool to restrict people's rights. It is, and always has been, a restriction on the GOVERNMENT. It's but a step from banning flag desecration to banning alcohol (we tried that, if you recall) to regulating relationships (also proposed) to seizing people's assets for the good of society.
I refuse to cross that line.
Norm Eadie says: Patriotism gives symbols meaning. Enslaving people to symbols destroys patriotism.
The Flag is a symbol of our greatness. Do not make it a symbol of our shame.
I will not destroy the Constitution for a mere symbol. To do so over a symbol that represents it would be a sick irony.
I expect to receive a donation envelope from you today — one of your fundraisers called me late Sunday night.
You can expect to receive it back, minus a check, with a paper copy of this comment. I will not pay to support fascism, no matter how noble it pretends to be.
I am saddened that so many veterans' organizations are disgracing themselves, and willing to destroy the Constitution, over a matter of free expression, one of America's founding principles.
If this filthy travesty of a proposal gets added to the Constitution, I expect to personally desecrate a great many flags, because at that point, it will represent nothing, and be a symbol of all we have lost.
Michael Z. Williamson, "So Furious I Could Start A Revolution Single Handedly", mzmadmike.livejournal.com, 2009-05-12
I am aware of that [the origin of the word "eskimo"], and I do not care. In fact, I regard with particular hatred attempts to change the language to sooth the imaginary hurt feelings of various mascots of the political Left. Unless you can tell me, off the top of your head and without looking it up, the name in any Eskimo dialect for a Virginian, I suggest your concern for their concern for our names for them is illegitimate, particularly where no English speaker knows the meaning of the insult. (None, that is, but I: it refers to them as eaters of raw fish, a slight against their relative poverty).
Besides, what could be more insulting to me that to have the Eskimos refer to themselves as ‘the People’? What does that make me? A non-people?
But it would be immature to the point of insanity for me to pretend I am insulted by the mere existence of a word in their language. Likewise, here. Insult requires intent.
I ask any and all reader please to not make corrections of this type again. They offend me. They deeply offend me. [. . .]
Let me explain that I regard political correctness as worse than a lie.
A lie is a straightforward attempt to deceive a victim. It almost honest by contrast. Political Correctness is a corrupt attempt to poison thought and speech, and to impose upon the nobility and courtesy of its victims to get them to deceive themselves. A frequent side effect of PC jargon is that it renders rational conversation difficult, indirect, or even impossible.
Innocent and well meaning people are actually fooled by this simple trick. Sad to say, most people think like magicians. They believe in the rule of true names. They think (or rather, they feel) that when they are calling one thing by another name, that the actual nature of reality changes. They put themselves in a position where they can no longer talk about real things. Words are severed from referents.
Words really do have power, but not in a magical sense. Words have power because we use words to describe our own versions of reality. Being forced to substitute other peoples' words to describe your own reality is to allow those other people to not only influence but in some ways to control your reality.
If you successfully substitute the word 'Inuit' for 'Eskimo' on the grounds that 'Eskimo' is an insult, you will have successfully convinced the next generation that all their forefathers who used the word 'Eskimo' deliberately meant and fully intended an insult, or were foolish or negligent enough to utter an insult by accident. That conviction will be false, a lie, and you (in a small way, one more straw on the camel's back) will have helped to perpetrate it.
Exactly. While I do not agree with everything Mr. Wright discusses in the rest of his post, I can't find fault with the sentiments quoted above.
Lydia also included a link to P.J. O'Rourke's wonderful review of Guidelines For Bias-Free Writing (PDF):
The book arrived with an I.U. press release stating that, I quote, Anyone who spends even a few minutes with the book will be a better writer. Well, I spent a few minutes with the book, and I feel a spate of better writing coming on.
The pharisaical, malefic, and incogitant Guidelines for Bias-Free Writing is a product of the pointy-headed wowsers at the Association of American University Presses who established a Task Force on Bias-Free Language filled with cranks, pokenoses, blowhards, four-flushers, and pettifogs. This foolish and contemptible product of years wasted in mining the shafts of indignation has been published by the cow-besieged, basketball-sotted sleep-away camp for hick bourgeois offspring, Indiana University, under the aegis of its University Press, a traditional dumping ground for academic deadwood so bereft of talent, intelligence, and endeavor as to be useless even in the dull precincts of midwestern state college classrooms.
But perhaps I’m biased. What, after all, is wrong with a project of this ilk? Academic language is supposed to be exact and neutral, a sort of mathematics of ideas, with information recorded in a complete and explicit manner, the record formulated into theories, and attempts made to prove those formulae valid or not. The preface to Guidelines says, “Our aim is simply to encourage sensitivity to usages that may be imprecise, misleading, and needlessly offensive.” And few scholars would care to have their usages so viewed, myself excluded.
If the pen is mightier than the sword, then criminalizing words is a way of disarming potential opposition, of inculcating a reflexive self-censorship in the citizenry. And, after all, self-suppression is the most cost-effective of tyranny. Political correctness isn't merely the blasphemy law of our time. It makes communication impossible. It renders a people literally illiterate: The conventions of language used by functioning societies throughout human history — irony, indirect quotation, period evocation, and, yes, even comic stereotype — are all suddenly suspect. What a strange fate to embrace.
Mark Steyn, "No Laughing Matter", Macleans, 2009-04-01
I'm sure we'll see the various provincial and federal HRC organizations codifying this list and issuing punishments on a per-use basis.
In case you didn't catch in during broadcast, you can see Ezra Levant's appearance on the Michael Coren show here.
Here's part one
Is it inherently unpatriotic or immoral to want to see a president fail? After chewing over the larger implications of that vital question, I've come to a conclusion: I am a twisted human being. Thankfully, I'm not alone.
You see, when I'm not wasting time greedily praying to be rich, I plead with some higher power to sentence my middling local representatives to painful obscurity and professional failure. My congresswoman, for instance, carries an intellectual confidence so severely out of step with her skill set that the promise of disappointment, I trust, one day will bring me great joy.
If we can't look to our politicians to fulfill our yearly schadenfreude quota, whom can we trust?
Lou Dobbs isn't usually my cup of tea, but it's tough to disagree with him on this. Christopher Hitchens, on the other hand, is always worth listening to.
Jeff Rigsby provided a link to an article discussing the original non-binding resolution.
H/T to Chris Myrick.
Old-fashioned types might think that those Britons - okay, make that "Britons" - helping to manufacture bombs for the Taliban are engaged in an act of treason. But, as a current court case in Quebec helps clarify, giving support to the Queen's enemies in their attempts to kill your compatriots is now just another vibrant, colorful manifestation of cultural diversity.
As the International Free Press Society notes, Said Namouh is on trial up north for aiding and abetting terrorism. The Crown charges that Mr Namouh distributed jihadist snuff videos, offered advice on bomb-making, volunteered his expertise for a planned truck bombing, and threatened governnments (including Canada's) with troops in Afghanistan. Defense counsel René Duvall doesn't deny any of this, but says his client's enthusiasm for violent jihad is protected on grounds of freedom of religion and (mirthless chuckle from your humble typist) Canadians' cherished right to freedom of expression. As Maître Duvall put it outside the court, "Where do you draw the line?"
In fact, the line seems to be pretty clear: If a jihadist says he wants to kill Canadian troops, he's just exercising his right to freedom of religion. If I quote what he said in Canada's biggest-selling news weekly, we'll be charged with "flagrant Islamophobia" and hauled up in court.
Mark Steyn, "Which side of the war would you like to be on?", National Review, 2009-02-22
If you haven't already seen Fitna, you can view it here.
Who is Canada's largest "hate group", as measured by the number of anti-Semitic, anti-gay, anti-black and pro-Nazi comments published on the Internet?
As I've pointed out before, it's none other than the taxpayers' own Canadian Human Rights Commission.
It is official CHRC policy for their employees to join neo-Nazi groups, and go online in full neo-Nazi drag, spewing filthy venom that would make Joseph Goebbels proud. You can see a few examples here.
This, of course, is being done in the name of human rights.
It's also why the CHRC is currently under investigation by the RCMP and the Privacy Commissioner — because in one case, they actually hacked into a private citizen's Internet account to cover their tracks as they went out surfing as Nazis.
Ezra Levant, "Canada's free speech enemies to lay Remembrance Day wreath", National Post: Full Comment, 2008-11-10
H/T to Adriana Lukas.
Linked from Small Dead Animals, a quick summary of Heather Mallick's latest even-handed analysis of the Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin:
...Sarah Palin ... fit of pique ... the white trash vote ... sexual inadequates ... she isn't even female really ... Alaska hillbilly ... "white trash" ... trailer trash ... rural, loud, proudly unlettered ... toned-down version of the porn actress ... overtreated hair, puffy lips ... "pramface" ... roughneck fuckin' redneck ... prodding his daughter ... ratboy ... fizzing with rage and revenge ... vicious and profoundly dishonest ... good fast listing... nervous wreck with deeply strange hair ... the hick vote ... ordinary hillbilly ... racism? ... racism ... "rectal fissure" ... tense no-hoper ladies ... white female marginals ...
Original article here. Canada's tax-supported national broadcaster. Incredible/Incroyable.
Update, 10 September: James Lileks indulges in an old-fashioned Fisking on this first authenticated Canadian case of Palin Derangement Syndrome:
Hapless, confused old tool of the string yankers: check! Next, we see how it’s possible to put your head up your posterior while jerking your knee, a rather difficult maneuver they don’t teach until the fifth year of yoga class:
She added nothing to the ticket that the Republicans didn't already have sewn up, the white trash vote
Classism blended with instant clueless political analysis? Check and check. Palin added several things, including an appeal to some women and enthusiasm for a race that had come to see McCain as another Dole, right down to the war-related arm injuries. (Which are a sign of age and unfitness, of course; if a Young and Dymanic candidate had developed carpal tunnel syndrome from shaking hands or repeatedly patting himself on the back, supporters would wear slings in sympathy.) She continues to brass-band her white-trash point thus:
. . . the demographic that sullies America's name inside and outside its borders yet has such a curious appeal for the right.
Leaving aside whether Europe would like us more if we did something about those horrible people they see in "The Dukes of Hazzard" documentaries, you have to love the idea of the "white trash" demo sullying our name inside our borders — she's talking about the thin crust of coastal dwellers who regard Manhattan as some sort of precious monastery that keeps the dim flickering light of civilization alive. Why, if the hillbillies disappeared, the New Yorkers would be reduced to making disparaging remarks about people from New Jersey who take the bridges and tunnels to go clubbing in LowSoHo or MoTriVil or whatever old neighborhood has been fitted out with thudding discos and fusion-sushi joints.
Why does this demographic — the white trash, I mean, not the orange trash of the Guido Jersey interlopers — have such a "curious appeal" to the right? Because the right, perhaps, thinks of them as "voters" who cast "ballots" in "elections" for people to don't consider rhinoplasty so they can look down their noses even further than God intended.
Megan McArdle considers the situation in St. Paul over the arrests of protestors outside the Republican convention:
Police are arresting journalists, which is generally an indication that they're in full-on flip-out mode. And in my own experience as a protest kid, the police are generally way too willing to use force on protesters, particularly ones they find politically distasteful. This is a small minority, but once they start something, the other officers generally have to follow them in or stand silent witness to a riot. So my natural assumption with these kinds of arrests is that the police were somehow at fault.
I've never been a political protestor, so I can't speak from personal experience, but otherwise I fully agree with Megan here. The police are probably at fault at least half the time when a protest march is disrupted (not to say that they're not necessary: every protest march gathers up temporary idiots, clueless folks, and genuine agitators or would-be Weathermen to march alongside the actual protestors. It's how the police handle things when the clueless or idiotic get a bit rowdy that dictates whether the genuine troublemakers can "get their hate on" and start the violent phase.
Some police officers should never be assigned to this kind of duty; most can. A good police administration should be able to manage that sort of aptitude-based tasking.
On the other hand, Minneapolis is not a very Republican kind of town. And the offenses cited by the Strib are the kinds of things people should be arrested for. You don't protest Republican policies by smashing windows and blocking roads. If you want the road to yourself, get a parade permit just like the VFW. Also in my experience as a protest kid, there's an obnoxious element that's looking for a fight and thinks they're entitled to smash things to show they're VEEEEWWWWWY MAAAAAAD!!!!! This number is also always numerically very small, but a few people can do a lot of damage. They can also get the police adrenaline running, at which point the pepper spray and the night sticks start flying.
So as best I can tell, there were some adolescent, violent protesters who ruined things for everyone, and fault should be apportioned about equally between them, and the hotheaded police who reacted to their nonsense by spraying tear gas at everyone.
Update: If you read the comments on Megan's post, you'll find that many of her readers feel that she's ducked the issue by discussing only the arrests at the protests, not the pre-emptive arrests I mentioned here.
Last night, over dinner, Victor was asking me about a police [SWAT] raid in St. Paul, Minnesota, which apparently targeted a protestor or would-be protestor who hadn't actually done any protesting yet. I foolishly said something like "Oh, I'm sure the police couldn't get a warrant for that kind of assault unless they had very solid evidence of a major crime."
Victor, I'm sorry. I don't know why I'd have made such an assumption, especially given the number of times I've linked to Radley Balko articles on over-aggressive police activities.
Based on this post by Glenn Greenwald, the raid in question — and several others as well — were nothing more than deliberate intimidation attempts by the police in advance of the Republican convention:
Jane Hamsher and I were at two of those homes this morning — one which had just been raided and one which was in the process of being raided. Each of the raided houses is known by neighbors as a "hippie house," where 5-10 college-aged individuals live in a communal setting, and everyone we spoke with said that there had never been any problems of any kind in those houses, that they were filled with "peaceful kids" who are politically active but entirely unthreatening and friendly. Posted below is the video of the scene, including various interviews, which convey a very clear sense of what is actually going on here.
In the house that had just been raided, those inside described how a team of roughly 25 officers had barged into their homes with masks and black swat gear, holding large semi-automatic rifles, and ordered them to lie on the floor, where they were handcuffed and ordered not to move. The officers refused to state why they were there and, until the very end, refused to show whether they had a search warrant. They were forced to remain on the floor for 45 minutes while the officers took away the laptops, computers, individual journals, and political materials kept in the house. One of the individuals renting the house, an 18-year-old woman, was extremely shaken as she and others described how the officers were deliberately making intimidating statements such as "Do you have Terminator ready?" as they lay on the floor in handcuffs. The 10 or so individuals in the house all said that though they found the experience very jarring, they still intended to protest against the GOP Convention, and several said that being subjected to raids of that sort made them more emboldened than ever to do so.
At least one result of this should be the striking down of an unconstitutional-sounding crime called "conspiracy to commit riot", which is what several of the arrested people have been charged with:
Nestor, who has practiced law in Minnesota for many years, said that he had never before heard of that statute being used for anything, and that its parameters are so self-evidently vague, designed to allow pre-emeptive arrests of those who are peacefully protesting, that it is almost certainly unconstitutional, though because it had never been invoked (until now), its constitutionality had not been tested.
Victor sent me this link with a comment that "Take a look. If it has you boiling with rage too, I think you'll see my point."
The daughter of the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Ka., told CTV.ca she and several other church members will go to Winnipeg on Saturday to demonstrate against what she described as McLean's "filthy way of life." Shirley Phelps-Roper said his life was emblematic of Canada's moral decay.
"God handed us a gift," Phelps-Roper said in a phone interview on Thursday.
She said McLean deserved his death by beheading on a Greyhound Bus last week.
"(His death was) supremely unemotional. You got God shaking in rage. There is no emotional component . . . He was a rebel against God. He was taught to be a rebel by his parents. He came from a rebel country . . . They brought this wrath upon his head. And it sucks to be him and it sucks to be them," Phelps-Roper said.
She said his brutal murder was a sign from God.
Ms. Phelps-Roper is, as they say on Fark, an attention whore. The media loves having her and her ilk around, because they can always make an otherwise unexceptional event highly newsworthy. She not only knows almost nothing about the case, she's actually boasting about knowing nothing. In her view, Tim McLean's horrible death is proof that God meant him to die.
In this instance, her band of merry morons don't even need to show up: they've got media attention paid to them and their "cause". It would play right into her hands to try to block her from entering Canada, as that would allow her more opportunities for media attention.
It would be best if the media could manage to somehow ignore her and her "church". Without the TV and print coverage, she'd be just another unhappy, paranoid whackjob with obsessions. With the media as a partner, she's able to increase the world's already bountiful supply of misery and anger. Nice work, guys.
Whole thing here.
There was much consternation yesterday when several prominent blogs were all flagged as being in violation of Blogger's terms of service and locked (with a 20-day termination notice). Castle Argghhh! was monitoring the situation, and offered sanctuary to many of the bloggers who'd been suddenly deprived of their blogs.
I have a blog over there (http://quotulatiousness.blogspot.com/, my emergency backup blog), but as I only post there when there are problems here on the main blog, I don't know if mine was one of the locked blogs . . . because Google (who own Blogger and Blogspot) quickly unlocked the blogs for their owners and sent a letter of apology with an explanation of the problem.
Personally, I think all religious beliefs — Christian, Muslim or otherwise — should be fair game for criticism and satire. Kari Simpson should have the right to speak out against homosexuality, and Rafe Mair should have the right to condemn her for it.
Many people are indeed more sensitive about possibly offending Muslims than offending Christians, either because of Western guilt or simply, old-fashioned fear. I have a real problem with that — but I certainly wouldn't want a situation where Islam can be criticized but Christianity is sacrosanct, either.
Damian Penny, "Speech Notes", Daimnation, 2008-06-29
Ezra Levant has the details:
Today's decision by the Supreme Court of Canada about defamation law has shifted the balance from plaintiffs to defendants — in other words, towards greater free speech. The court calls it a modernization, which it is — phenomena like talk radio shows, partisan TV panels and the Internet were not around when defamation law was developing (it actually goes back 400 years). It also brings us more in synch with the U.S. approach to free speech, and breaks away from the European model of soft censorship.
In other words, it should terrify Canada's human rights commissions. I had no doubt before this decision that Canada's HRCs were conducting themselves in an unconstitutional manner — exceeding the narrow censorship powers granted to them in the 1990 Taylor decision. Now it's a certainty that section 13 would be batted down by this free speech-loving court.
[. . .]
The decision doesn't end defamation suits, of course. It merely moves the fulcrum a bit, by widening the scope of what constitutes "fair comment". Fair comment must still be rooted in true facts; but if those facts are clear, and the defamer's comments are clearly his own views, the court will give latitude to even "outrageous" and "ridiculous" opinions.
The rule of thumb for writers — and bloggers — remains: get your facts straight. But the good news for free speechniks is that, if your facts are accurate, you can be dramatic, critical and even wrong in your opinions. It's good news for bloggers — and bad news for censors everywhere.
This is excellent news. Free speech in Canada has been under threat for quite some time and it's wonderful to see the SCC stepping up to help protect it.
Ezra Levant gets to say "I told you so" as the CHRC backs away from a prosecution of Maclean's:
The Canadian Human Rights Commission, like any petty tyranny, has a strong instinct for survival. As I predicted last week on the Michael Coren Show, that instinct would cause them to drop the complaint against Mark Steyn and Maclean's. And so they did.
With an RCMP investigation, a Privacy Commission investigation and a pending Parliamentary investigation, they're already fighting a multi-front P.R. war, and losing badly. Not a day goes by when the CHRC isn't pummelled in the media. Holding a show trial of Maclean's and Steyn, like the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal did earlier this month, would be writing their own political death sentence.
So they blinked. Against everything in their DNA, they let Maclean's go. That's the first smart thing they've done; because the sooner they can get the public scrutiny to go away, the sooner they can go about prosecuting their less well-heeled targets, people who can't afford Canada's best lawyers and command the attention and affection of the country's literati.
There have been lots of pre-emptive eulogies for the British lately, between the European Union's galloping bureausclerocis and the Archbishop of Canterbury's burning desire to have Sharia law introduced in the country, but perhaps we're all looking at the wrong suspect:
Police have been accused of "trampling on basic rights" after ordering protesters to take down banners accusing Scientology of being a cult.
Officers banned the placards during a demonstration against the self-styled church in Glasgow city centre last weekend. Civil liberties campaigners have warned a dangerous precedent is being set for the suppression of free speech.
Strathclyde Police's intervention follows a similar incident in London last month when a youth was left facing prosecution. The 15-year-old had refused to remove a sign stating "Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult".
Human rights lawyer John Scott claimed the episodes suggested the church was receiving preferential treatment.
He said: "Scientology is a wealthy organisation with pretty influential people involved. But that doesn't mean it's entitled to any more protection from the police - though it does appear that is the reality of the situation.
So, based on recent evidence, it's perfectly okay to murder your daughter — so long as "honour" is involved — but you can't call Scientology a cult. Fascinating.
Damon Root points out that John McCain's over-the-top expostulation (quoted in the title of this post) doesn't even come close to being accurate:
Could that possibly be true? As a measuring stick, I'd suggest using The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom, a new book by the Cato Institute's Robert Levy and the Institute for Justice's Chip Mellor.
On issues ranging from eminent domain abuse to the restriction of civil liberties during wartime, Levy and Mellor paint a consistent — and consistently depressing — picture of the Court upholding and enhancing government actions at the expense of individual rights. That's as good a definition of a "worst decision" as you'll ever get: state power trumping individual liberty.
Where does Boumediene fall on that scale? Even if you accept Chief Justice John Roberts' dissent, which argues that the Court permanently weakened the separation of powers by substituting its judgment for that of "the people's representatives," the decision hardly sinks to the depths of, say, Korematsu v. United States, where the majority upheld Franklin Roosevelt's internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
It's exactly the same as the need to defend unpopular speech to protect freedom of speech for all . . . you need to defend the right of habeus corpus even for people you deeply suspect of being terrorists or supporters of terrorism. Giving wide-ranging powers to suspend civil liberties for certain individuals or groups inevitably means weaker protections of civil liberties for everyone else, too.
Regardless of the party affiliation of the current president, any powers granted in this administration will almost certainly be accepted, used, and expanded by the following administration. If you think George Bush can't be trusted with that kind of power (and I'd strongly agree with you if you do think that), why do you think Barack Obama or John McCain would be any more trustworthy?
I wonder if these students appreciate the great irony that always occurs when censorship is involved: As a result of their case, undoubtedly more people have sought out and read the supposedly denigrating articles than would have ever done so in the normal course of events. There is perhaps no surer way to get people to read something than to tell them that they should not be allowed to read it.
Edward Greenspan, "Civil Liberties Alert: CIC's human rights complaints are an administrative fatwa", Edmonton Sun, 2008-06-16
Damon Root posted this yesterday at Hit and Run:
On this day in 1918, Socialist Party leader Eugene V. Debs gave a speech in Canton, Ohio denouncing America's participation in what we now call World War I. For this "crime," Debs would spend nearly three years rotting in prison, convicted of violating Woodrow Wilson's vile Espionage Act, which essentially made it illegal to criticize the government during wartime (Wilson later refused to pardon Debs, leaving that act of basic human decency to the criminally underrated Warren G. Harding). That's the story told in Ernest Freeberg's new Democracy's Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, the Great War, and the Right to Dissent, which received a big thumb's up from Peter Richardson in yesterday's Los Angeles Times.
Ezra Levant reports on the latest attempt to shut down freedom of speech and freedom of expression:
I think another lawsuit is coming my way.
Today, my lawyer received this letter from a radical Muslim activist in Toronto. It's a Certificate of Registration of Copyright. He claims to have copyrighted the image of Mohammed, PBUH (which stands for "peace be upon him"). In other words, it's now Mohammed, PBUH TM.
I checked it out on Industry Canada's copyright database and, sure enough, there it is: two weeks ago, Akhtar "Hector" Agha has indeed registered a "Restriction on Depiction of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)". It's right there on the government website.
I'm not sure, but I think "Hector" might be looking for a royalties payment for whenever I do something like post this picture.
H/T to Jon for the link.
For all the paper thin guarantees of the Charter, Canadians have no more rights before the law than Czech dissidents did forty years ago. This is not only the province of those few singled out for the extremity of their views or, increasingly, those singled out for their audacity to mock the Canadian Establishment. This is also about the systematic silencing of what used to be Canada across entire professions, academic disciplines, the federal and provincial civil service, the arts and the media. To merely hold as private opinion what was until recently the law of the land can now produce fines, imprisonment and — worst of all to my mind — public recantations.
There was a lot I did not like in what used to be Canada: A priggish, self-satisfied narrow-mindedness, the public imposition of private morality and a nose in every window. Much of which, I suspect, would not have bothered David Warren in the least, transparent as the imposition of his religious views on the rest of us might have been to him at the time. But it dawns on me now not a thing has changed; Canada's clothes are new but the sour expression remains.
Yet we must not despair. I share a conviction with David Warren if not the particulars of his faith. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierces me that in the end the Shadow is only a small and passing thing: there is light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.
Nick Packwood, "The chains of history always rust away", Ghost of a Flea, 2008-06-12
Andrew Coyne is live-blogging the second day of the BC kangaroo court case:
9:53 AM I remain impressed with Steyn’s ability to influence opinion even in advance of publication. I admit this seems implausible. However, we must always remember, good people of Salem, that when when it comes to witches, all things are possible, natural and supernatural…
9:55 AM Here come da pseudo-judges. The Fisher clipping is ruled out of order…
9:57 AM Now entering three reports on racism and Islamophobia in other countries: the European Monitoring Centre, a UN commission, and a third whose provenance I didn’t catch.
Brian Hutchinson gives an overview of the ongoing quasi-legal star chamber:
None of the main players starring in this quasi-judicial drama actually live or work in B. C. Not Mr. Steyn, not the editors responsible for Maclean's, and not Mohamed Elmasry, a Muslim who launched a complaint to the B. C. Human Rights Tribunal on behalf of all Muslims in this province.
Neither Mr. Steyn, nor his editors, nor Mr. Elmasry were in sight when the tribunal panel began the week-long hearing yesterday. Mr. Steyn will not testify, say lawyers for Maclean's. Nor will Mr. Elmasry, the aggrieved. So why bring the complaint forward here? Because Mr. Elmasry can. This thanks to provincial human rights legislation of a breadth and elasticity not known in other parts of Canada.
Mr. Elmasry, the president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, and a highly controversial figure himself — especially among Jewish groups — claims the Steyn excerpt denigrated and vilified Canadian Muslims and promoted hatred of an identifiable group.
He is not obliged to demonstrate what harm occurred to whom, or to what degree. Maclean's magazine and Mr. Steyn could still be found to have violated B. C.'s Human Rights Code. No proof of damage is required.
Meanwhile, if found to have violated the code, Maclean's faces sanctions, including payment to the complainant "an amount that the member or panel considers appropriate to compensate that person for injury to dignity, feelings and self respect or to any of them."
The magazine could also be ordered to stop publishing certain ideas and points of view. Lawyer Faisal Joseph, representing the complainant, asked the Tribunal yesterday to use its "discretion" and order Maclean's to publish a suitable response in its pages. That, or publish the panel's ultimate findings. Such are the frightening aspect of this case.
"Strict rules of evidence do not apply" in cases before the Tribunal, noted its chairwoman, Heather MacNaughton. A lawyer and a veteran of human rights inquiries, she made the comment yesterday afternoon, when allowing an Ontario law student — yet another non-B. C. resident — to deliver for the complainant testimony about the "Islamaphobic" Steyn excerpt.
As several writers have pointed out, it's difficult to imagine Steyn and Maclean's being found innocent: the language under which the Tribunal operates pretty much guarantees a conviction. This is, in that sense, merely the opening act of the drama . . . after they are found guilty, then the real legal case can start to unfold.
Update: Iowahawk gets to the heart of the matter:
Thanks to stepped up enforcement and random internet checks, Canadian speech crimes have been cut nearly in half over the last three years. It's a record all Canadians can be proud of, but it's only a first step.
Man's Voice (echo-y reverb)
Experts estimate that only 1/2 of 1% of all Canadian speech crimes are ever prosecuted, because most occur in the shadowy silence of private thought. It's time that all Canadians work together to recognize and report these non-verbal crimes before it's too late. If you know or suspect someone of harboring or contemplating offensive or otherwise un-Canadian ideas, please report to your Provincial Human Rights Office.
Man's Voice (echo-y reverb)
jail door slamming shut
This has been a public service announcement of the Royal Canadian Mounted Human Rights Police, reminding you to Think Before You Think.
My old drinking buddy, Andrew Coyne*, will be live-blogging the final gasp of freedom of speech in Canada starting at 12:30 EST today. Tune in, turn off, get nauseous.
Just a head's-up: I'll be live blogging the case of Mohamed Elmasry vs. Mark Steyn/Maclean's before (sigh) the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, direct from kangaroo-courtroom 105 of the Robson Square Provincial Court building in Vancouver, starting sometime after 9:30 Pacific/12:30 Eastern Monday morning and going on for, I don't know, days. Just hit refresh.
All the dense legalese, with twice the politically correct jargon!
* Okay, we drank together once. At a blogstravaganza. I doubt he could pick me out of a police line-up.
In a surprisingly liberal development, the US Army is now encouraging serving troops to write blogs:
Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who heads the Combined Arms Center [CAC] and Ft. Leavenworth, told his soldiers in a recent memo that "faculty and students will begin blogging as part of their curriculum and writing requirements both within the .mil and public environments. In addition CAC subordinate organizations will begin to engage in the blogosphere in an effort to communicate the myriad of activities that CAC is accomplishing and help assist telling the Army's story to a wide and diverse audience."
Lt. Gen. Caldwell, the former commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, is a blogger himself, contributing to Small Wars Journal. He made waves in January when he wrote that "we must encourage our Soldiers to . . . get onto blogs and to send their YouTube videos to their friends and family."
On the downside, of course, this is still not official policy for the entire army.
I've argued against hate speech laws before, not on the basis that I want to hear more of it, but that I distrust the government with the power to tell me what I can and cannot say. Kate has a different reason for being concerned about this:
I do care that "truly marginal and deeply resentful fools" get caught in the HRC web as much as I do the unsuspecting restaurant owner wanting to keep his doorway free of pot smoking loiterers.
I don't need to share their marginal views or resentment to defend their right not to be harrassed by a bureaucracy that defaults to "guilty until proven innocent".
Why? Because, it's the truly resentful who are most likely to carry their frustrations beyond verbal release into murderous violence when backed into a corner, and doubly so when those doing the backing trade in provocateurism and injustice. When the unbalanced finally snap, it's rarely the bureaucrat behind the machinery who endures their wrath — it's the innocent at their workplace, or the police officer who pulls them over for speeding who finds themselves in the crosshairs.
It's a tricky enough business dealing with these individuals within the justice system proper. The last thing we need are the thumbscrews of the human rights racket being applied to such cases.
Hate speech is a form of aggression, but it is not the same as physical assault. We have laws against the kind of behaviour that causes physical harm, but attempting to quantify certain forms of speech for the (potential, perceived) harm they may cause is the wrong way to produce a more tolerant, peaceful society.
As Mark Steyn has noted, it's one thing to attempt to muzzle neo-Nazi/KKK/holocaust deniers, but there is no legal reason why the muzzle can only be applied to far right/anti-semitic whackjobs. As our society becomes more multicultural, there are plenty of ways to offend lots of different groups of people. Just noting the facts can be enough to "harm", and the HRC model is tailored to allow perpetual offence-takers free rein.
All I'd need to say is that people from the country of Absurda commit a certain crime out of proportion to their representation in the general population, and I could be accused of hate speech against the Absurdian-Canadian community. If offence can be taken, offence will be taken . . . and with the various HRCs around to provide both a stick for beating on the "offenders" and a financial carrot for the "offendees", there'll be more folks looking for things to get offended about.
If you're a glass-half-full kind of person, you could see it as a strong positive for our culture that we haven't already been overwhelmed with bogus human rights cases. But the incentives are all stacked to create a less-free society through the enforcement of our expanding definitions of what hate speech actually is.
[. . .] off-air the chit-chat went rather more pleasantly, and, in the course of it, Mr. Awan observed that Jews had availed themselves of the "human rights" commissions for years but it was only when the Muzzies decided they wanted a piece of the thought-police action that all these bigwigs started agitating for reining in the commissions and scrapping the relevant provisions of Canada's "human rights" code.
He has a kind of point. Which is why some of us consistently opposed the use of these commissions even when it was liberal Jews using them to hunt down the last three neo-Nazis in Saskatchewan. Yet, accepting that the principle is identical, there is a difference. For the most part, the Canadian Jewish Congress, B'nai Brith and the other beneficiaries of the "human rights" regime went after freaks and misfits on the fringes of society, folks too poor (in the majority of federal cases) even to afford legal representation. These prosecutions were unfair and reflected badly on Canada's justice system, but liberal proponents of an illiberal law justified it on the assumption that it would be confined to these peripheral figures nobody cared about. You can't blame Muslim groups for figuring that what's sauce for the infidel is sauce for the believer — and that, having bigger fish to fry, they're gonna need a lot more sauce.
Mark Steyn, "I'm starring in one of those movies", Macleans, 2008-05-14
Mark Steyn recounts his discussions with the "sock puppets" both on the air and after the show. The core of the problem (aside from having extra-legal "courts" at all) is this:
I believe these Canadian Islamic Congress lawsuits — and, yes, I can hear the Socks yelling "That's a lie! They're not 'suits', they're 'complaints'," but that's a distinction without a difference if you're paying lawyers' bills and you regard, as I do, the Human Rights Commissions as a parallel legal system that tramples over all the traditional safeguards of Common Law, not least the presumption of innocence. Where was I? Oh, yeah. I believe these lawsuits are deeply damaging to freedom of expression. If they win (when they win) and the verdicts withstand Supreme Court scrutiny, Canada will no longer be a free country. It will be a country whose citizens are on a leash whose length is determined by the hack bureaucrats of state agencies.
And that leash will shrivel, remorselessly. One of the better points Khurrum made off-air was that this is the first (federal) "human rights" complaint by a Muslim group, and that when it was just the Jews and gays milking this racket we didn't have any of this talk about scrapping Section 13 and abolishing the commissions. And he's right. Which is why the Canadian Jewish Congress position is untenable. As I said in my speech to the "legal jihad" conference in New York a couple of weeks back:
Canada and much of Europe have statutes prohibiting Holocaust denial. Muslim scholars are not impressed by these laws. "Nobody can say even one word about the number in the alleged Holocaust," says Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the favourite Islamic scholar of many Euroleftists, "even if he is writing an MA or PhD thesis, and discussing it scientifically. Such claims are not acceptable." But a savvy imam knows an opening when he sees one. "The Jews are protected by laws," notes Mr Qaradawi. "We want laws protecting the holy places, the prophets, and Allah's messengers." In other words, he wants to use the constraints on free speech imposed by Europe and Canada to protect Jews in order to put much of Islam beyond political debate. The free world is shuffling into a psychological bondage whose chains are mostly of our own making. The British "historian" David Irving wound up in an Austrian jail, having been convicted of Holocaust denial. It's not unreasonable for Muslims to conclude that, if gays and Jews and other approved identities are to be protected groups who can't be offended, why shouldn't they be also?
They have a point. How many roads of inquiry are we prepared to block off in order to be "sensitive"?
It was wrong to create a special category of speech that was protected under Canadian law: holocaust denial is pure, distilled idiocy, but the best way to refute it is to let it be spoken and ridiculed. Forbidding it to be spoken created the worst possible precedent . . . and that precedent is being used now by the "sock puppets" and their controllers to create more restrictions on freedom of speech. It's no longer a question of "whether", it's just a question of "how much more?".
Remember folks, "just because Pierre Trudeau cooked it up" doesn't mean "it's chiseled in granite".
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