Monday, January 14, 2008

First they came for Ezra Levant, and I made popcorn

So I spent the weekend watching a number of bloggers spill a lot of pixels over the issue of Ezra Levant's appearance before the Alberta Human Rights Commission. This violates the first rule of Canadian blogging:
Whatever Ezra Levant is doing/saying at any given moment, it's not worth talking about.
I mean, really. This guy couldn't even run a successful conservative rag in Alberta. He competed in the Special Olympics of North American publishsing -- and lost. Memo to all Canadian bloggers: he's not worth it.

Sadly, the quest for martyrdom that Ezra's involved in has managed to gull in some of the brighter lights of the American blogosphere in to using him as an example of why Hate Speech laws are teh evil. Reading some of them, you'd think Levant was being brough before a star chamber and tortured in to a confession. It's really a ridiculous situation -- the HRC isn't able to compel Levant's appearance, and its rulings can be appealed in court whatever the outcome -- but apparently we in Canada are a bunch of jack-booted proto-fascists. Weirdly, Glenn Greenwald essentially adopts the Goldberg thesis -- liberals are just fascists in drag!

See, I agree with Warren Kinsella on this one:
Firstly, let me say that I am a censor. I believe there are reasonable and proper limits on human expression.

Secondly, I believe that words and images have power. Words and images have the power to wound and hurt and, sometimes, persuade people to kill.

Thirdly, I believe that we are entitled, as a society, to sanction (civilly or criminally) those who use words and images to deliberately or recklessly inflict harm on others - as with laws relating to the propagation of hate, or laws prohibiting child pornography, or defamation codes, or laws designed to sanction pornography that promotes violence against women and children...

"Don't you think there is a difference between a young guy painting a happy face on his school wall - and a skinhead who paints a swastika, and the words 'DEATH TO THE JEWS' on the front of a synagogue? Isn't there a qualitative difference between one action, and the other? Hate laws are designed to address that difference, aren't they?"
I suppose you're free to argue that no, there's no difference in those two acts that should be addressed by law. You could also argue that there's no difference between a black man being killed and a man being killed because he's black. I'd disagree strongly with you, and in fact I generally argue strongly in favour of hate crime legislation. Motive is a key element in any criminal prosecution, and there's an old saying that goes something like "even a dog knows the difference between being kicked and being tripped over." What's in your head when you commit a crime is actually very material element to any crime, and it's totally within our conventional understanding of what the law should do.

All of this, of course, is outside of the issue of whether or not Ezra Levant is being oppressed (he's not) or whether he's in any danger of suffering any penalty from the state (highly, highly unlikely.) Because, well, see Canadian blogging rule number one, above. If we absolutely have to talk about this, I'd prefer to talk about more serious related issues than the pathetic wailing of wealthy white conservatives who occasionally learn that they can't, in fact, shit all over Muslims and their faith ad infinitum without consequence.


That guy said...

Greenwald really doesn't understand Canada at all, or the way our systems work. He also never, for some reason, makes the following connection: he lives in a country without hate crimes legislation -- one in which almost the entirety of the political spectrum has been taken over by a fringe movement dedicated to destroying modernity. Hmm. Could these things have anything to do with each other?

Anonymous said...

The difference between a court of law and a HRC tribunal is significant. A court has defined paranaters within the law and the presumption is of innocence. In a court the prosecutor bears the burden of proof. In a HRC tribunal, people are hand picked for their political correctness and given the power to hold a near secret trail with or without the presence of the accused and his/her counsul and demand the accused explain his/her actions/thoughts. In a democracy, this type of entity is contrary to freedom of speech, thought and belief because only those who conform to the left-wing politically correct ideology are safe from the harrassment of these groups. Conform or face the tribunal - this is why many hold reservations about the objectives of the left. Would you be so willing to accept this sort of tribunal if it was establised to ensure right-wing ideology was imposed on the unwilling?

Unknown said...

Christopher Hitchens does a better job at defending and explaining free speech than Greenwald. But Greenwald is correct on this one.

Canadian Criminal Code does have to follow jurisprudence, the bar is set high and the Crown has to prove intent to incite hate.

HRCs it is just an assummed right of a hearer not to be offended, thus having a far lower bar to jump to get a conviction.

Canada's parliamentary system is founded on the liberalism of the John Stuart Mills type, that says truth is best dicovered through free speech and debate.

The court system should be the ones to decide what is hate not an HRC.

"The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." - Karl Marx

That is what censorship is. No mater how noble the cause, the problem is in WHO decides what is offensive.

If a "fringe movement dedicated to destroying modernity" gains control, are homosexuals by there exisence offensive.

Ti-Guy said...

In a HRC tribunal, people are hand picked for their political correctness

Can you back up that assertion?

I'd be willing to be more attentive to contrary arguments if they weren't being presented so often as the hysterical speculation of paranoids.

Anonymous said...

I'd prefer to talk about more serious related issues than the pathetic wailing of wealthy white conservatives who occasionally learn that they can't, in fact, shit all over Muslims and their faith ad infinitum without consequence."

So, on this blog, we have a Lefty blogger who instinctually defends censoring of political speech, so long as it is the "right" kind of censoring. And to boot, as a good progressive (probably secular) rebel, will ally himself with religious fundamentalists to fight "The Man". While you and your rantings are otherwise insignificant, they do serve as yet another good exhibit of Leftism and its inclination to cuddle up with totalitarianism.

Anonymous said...

Canada: Freedom of Speech succumbing to Kangaroo Courts of the Human Rights Commission

Proceedings against Ezra Levant are nothing short of ridiculous, but let's consider the implications for moderate Muslims. This "investigation" will further divide Muslims and non-Muslims in Canada. It will give credence to radicals' claims that the West is at war with Islam. It will antagonize non-Muslims and moderate Muslims will be pushed towards radicalization. Regardless of the outcome, once again Islamists skillfully manipulated Dhimmi justice system and came out as clear winners. Thank you, Human Right Commission!

Sign Free Dominion Against the HRCs Petition

The Whited Sepulchre said...

When you get a chance, read the current issue of MacLean's....two different writers describe their interactions with your HRC thought police.
No matter how good the intentions, now matter how high you set the bar, it's censorship of opinions.
And yes, the penalties for the Smiley on the school and the swastika on the synagogue should be the same.

That guy said...

thus having a far lower bar to jump to get a conviction.

And yet, almost 90% of all complaints brought to such commissions never reach the tribunal stage. Most are dismissed outright, as this one will probably be.