It’s not just about ideology

The ‘Speechers’, as we’re sometimes called, have a tendency to be driven by very powerful ideological reasoning – call it libertarian, call it pro-freedom, call it what you will. The core belief of this ideology being, of course, freedom of speech. Some may take this further than others: some may only extend this free speech absolutism to political speech; some, such as myself, may take it to the extent of being against all government interference in any of our speech whatsover- including threats, fraud, holocaust denial, and so forth ( although in some of these cases, it’s more a matter of re-directing the focus of the laws than out-and-out rejecting the laws ).

The Speechers have come to their beliefs regarding freedom of speech from all sorts of varying angles, religious, or political in nature – although mostly irrelevant; so long as the ideology itself has champions, it doesn’t particularly matter their previous background.

But is the Speecher movement just an ideological movement? To go back to the ‘previous background’ of the Speecher movement’s members – as I just said I shouldn’t do – most support, be it from a religious angle, a libertarian or classical liberal angle, or a secularist, pro-Freethought angle, seems to come from ideological camps. So the foundation is ideology. The language of the Speecher movement would seem to denote an ideology; there are certainly steadfast beliefs at play. On the surface of things, the Speecher movement looks ideological in nature as well, especially since a lot of its theory ( particularly, I would argue, in libertarian circles ) is at least partially theoretical. But even though it looks and sounds as if it’s an ideology, ( although if it were – it would make me no less willing to defend it ), I think that behind the Speecher movement can be found a very large amount of pragmatism; a very deep sense of realism that I think the opponents of the Speechers, the Jennifer Lynches, the Barbara Halls, the Richard Warmans, of this world cannot or will not grasp

One major pragmatic reason, of course, is the law of equal returns. That is, if you are willing to punish people for certain words, or certain statements, under a law which deals in thoughts and feelings – perceived hatred, unpopular opinion – then you should be ready to get punished under that same law should your own words or opinions become unpopular in society. In other words, don’t enforce majority rules unless you’re sure you’re always going to be the majority. This is, I think, the main reason that most, if not all, laws dealing with speech are misguided – the people enforcing them just can’t concieve that they might not be the arbiters of ‘moral’ society for all time. Opinions shift, majorities shift, and whenever you make a habit out of punishing the minority of opinion – no matter how extreme – then you run the risk of having that power turned against you in the future, or against future generations.

Another reason, very tied in with the first, is that when one puts in a speech law to deal with one undesirable element, then it opens up the door for a predatory use of that law against the people whom that law was put into place to protect. When I say this, I’m thinking of Holocaust denial laws, as have been put in place in Europe. They were initiated to discourage anti-semitism – at least, on the face of it – and perhaps they even accomplished that goal to an extent ( indeed, the threat of people like Ernst Zundel and David Icke could have had a grave impact upon society without these laws in place for protection ).

But then Muslim lobby groups seemed to get hip to the game, starting to demand equal coverage under ‘hate speech’ provisions, and using already-existing speech laws to ease the way for blasphemy and speech laws catered to their own tastes. In many cases, such blasphemy laws, if ever passed – that is, in a body with significantly more clout than the U.N. – would undoubtedly be used to sanctify actions and words meant to do harm to the Jewish peoples who were supposed to be protected by Holocaust denial and speech laws in the first place.

Examples of this can actually be seen in Canada, with its HRC system. For instance, the complaints against Ezra Levant by Syed Soharwardy and the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities before the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission; the complaints against Macleans magazine by Mohamed Elmasry of the Canadian Islamic Congress, and several other parties, before the Ontario and Canadian Human Rights Commissions, and their complaint-gone-to-trial before the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal; or the complaint against the Halifax Chronicle Herald by Ziullah Khan before the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. All of these complaints had to do with speech. All of these complaints were, very arguably, political in nature: for publishing cartoons, or for writing articles. All of them were brought by Muslim complainants, and in one case against a Jewish person – Ezra Levant.

I mention that last fact because, in effect, Canada’s system of Human Rights Commissions received a lot of support in their formation, and still receive a lot of support, from Jewish lobby groups in Canada. I hate to say those words, because it makes me sound like some crank in his mother’s basement spouting off about Da Jews ( if I ever say something about the National Post being run by Woody Allen, then that’ll be a sign that things have gone too far ), but it’s true – although some groups, such as B’nai Brith, are becoming rather disillusioned with the process.

So if the systems were put in place to protect Jewish people from racism, why is it that Muslim groups have been using it to go after Jews? And not just with the complaint against Ezra Levant. B’nai Brith was taken to the Manitoba Human Rights Commission after a Muslim raised a complaint because of supposed ‘offensive’ language  – hence the aforementioned disillusionment with the system. B’nai Brith went through the ringer for five years on that one, at great expense. Ezra Levant went through the ringer for around nine hundred days, at great expense. Neither ‘offended’ Muslim party had to pay a dime ( although Syed Soharwardy got a lot of negative press and PR for doing what he did; not to mention that Ezra took the time to dig up some of the more…beatey… moments in the lives of the women of Syed’s Mosque. )

So, to re-cap, there’s a major pragmatic reason to be against hate and other speech laws and provisions, or at least distrustful of them. And that reason is that those laws, essentially driven by political motives and bias to begin with ( albeit protective ones ), can easily be perverted and shifted and turned against the very people that they were meant to protect. Once you open up the door, even just a little bit, to a forum for politically-driven grievances, then you open up the door to a massive abuse of that forum. And that’s not just ideology.

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5 Responses to It’s not just about ideology

  1. mbrandon8026 says:

    Good one Walker.

    Well said.

    You could have turned this into a tome, if you were then to go on to the absurd interim conclusion as to how it has extended into non gays (Dr. Darren Lund) using Alberta’s hate speech law to muzzle Rev. Stephen Boissoin for THE LETTER to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate that he sent in 2002 criticizing in no uncertain terms the gay agenda, and which is still before the courts over 7 years later.

  2. Thanks!

    You’re absolutely right. There are just so many abuses of this system that it’s hard to know where to start. Even in Alberta, there’s so much to criticise. Like that complaint, against a music store for selling a CD with a song called ‘Kill The Christian’, before the Alberta HRC, which was thrown out because the complainant wasn’t part of any particular group in need of ‘protection’. Remember that one?

    Maybe I should write about that sometime. I thought it was pretty outrageous when I read about it.

  3. Walker:

    I’ve got a column half-completed already about the O-Negative CD issue, so I got dibs.

    Great column. You capture the essence of why the free-speech issue is not driven solely by one or several ideologies – rather, anyone who has awoken to the sordid possibility that their own thoughts and speech, moderate as it might seem at present, could be criminalized if deemed unpopular by their “bettors”.

  4. Haha – alright, you get dibs on this one!

    Thanks – I think you’ve got it exactly. This is something we should all be concerned about, because things could change at any moment, and even people with relatively moderate views could find themselves getting the sharp end of the stick in the future.

  5. Shlomo Morell says:

    QUOTE: indeed, the threat of people like Ernst Zundel and David Icke could have had a grave impact upon society without these laws in place for protection END QUOTE

    Yes, indeed, who knows what would happen if David Icke were allowed to tell people the Queen was really a space lizard. Surely, society must be protected against Icke.

    Zundel, too. Who knows what would happen if Zundel were free in Canada, like he was for 40 years?

    Good thing Jews jailed and deported him.

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