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Friday, August 08, 2008

Roundup, plus, Focus, guys, focus: To restore civil rights, get our laws changed, don't attack individuals

The current "human rights" complaint against Alberta publisher and lawyer Ezra Levant has been dismissed, pending a possible appeal. The Ez writes, among other things, "I'm not Muslim, but I cringe for my Muslim friends":
If I was a Canadian Muslim, I would weep at being "represented" by such buffoons.
Yes, exactly, Ez.

I have often thought, if I were a Muslim, I would be furious that so many well-meaning salaried ninnies think that crackpots and extremists speak for me. ("They claim to respect me, and yet they think I listen to these goofs ... ?")

As a Christian, I am annoyed when people suppose that any crackpot with a Bible speaks for me. Or the woman who claims to have seen the Virgin Mary in her cheese sandwich, even ...

However, we should not consider The Ez's dismissal evidence that the civil rights problem is solved. As I mentioned to a friend recently,
The religion censor backed down in the face of organized opposition, but the censor should actually be told to look for another job. We are all better off without a religion censor.
We should NOT want the "human rights" commissions to go back to their usual tack of oppressing little people who, unlike The Ez, are not defamation lawyers.

Levant also notes the recent Jesus Sucks complaint to the BC Human Rights Commission.

Basically, someone hired a plane to fly past Toronto with a banner “Jesus Sucks!” A BC resident filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Commission (yes, I know, it is 3000 miles away – but that is how goofy things are here). Levant comments:
The stunt was part of a television contest to see who could be the most offensive. Hotz claims he originally wanted to have a banner saying "Heil Hitler" or "Guys are stupid", but the airplane banner company refused, saying those messages were too offensive. Apparently "Jesus sucks" isn't.

The whole joke rather imploded on itself. It wasn't funny, but it wasn't even daring -- saying "Jesus sucks" is about as banal as it comes, especially in pop culture or "the arts". I mean, after Piss Christ or even the Da Vinci Code, is a two-word childish insult really that edgy? I thought Charles Lewis had a good treatment of the failed stunt, but he downplayed the timidity of taking on Jesus. Heil Hitler would have been edgier -- and perhaps even funny, coming from Hotz, a Jew himself. But that would likely have meant a tearful phone call from his mother, and Hotz isn't quite that brave. A human rights complaint or three might have emanated from that, too, not to mention trouble from the CRTC for airing same. So Jesus sucks it had to be.

"Mohammed sucks" wouldn't be funny, but it would have truly shown guts -- both as a political statement and as an act of personal courage -- it was precisely the sort of thing that got Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh murdered, and van Gogh was more nuanced.

Christians have turned the other cheek to this kind of things since, well, Jesus's time. He put up with rather more execration than a two-word insult. But Skoreyko is making an important point: if Canada's human rights industry will protect every other group from hurt feelings -- gays, Muslims, blacks, etc. -- will it also protect Christians, from such a clear and explicit attempt to offend them?

Hotz precisely meets the test of Canada's hate speech laws: what he did was "likely to expose a person to hatred or contempt". That's the wording in the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Alberta code, the B.C. code and other provincial HRCs. If Hotz was a skinhead, and the banner said "Jews suck", he'd already have had a human rights officer at his door, and probably a policeman, too.

I don't know Skorekyo, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't actually believe that he can get "justice" from the BCHRT. I don't think he wants it. I think he wants the opposite: he wants his case to be thrown out, so that he can prove what we all know to be true. In Canada's human rights industry, only certain political and religious views are protected from hurt feelings -- and Christians aren't one of them.
As a Christian, I strongly discourage Christians - in principle - from bringing complaints to these illiberal commissions - the "human face" of fascism.

But if Skoreyko intends what The Ez thinks he does, I agree that his complaint could serve as a useful demo of what the commissions have really degenerated into.

Another upcoming battle doesn't involve the "human rights" commissions; it involves an author, Howard Rotberg, who is suing Chapters because he says that smeared him as a racist when a reading turned unruly.

We'll see what the court says. But, I must say, smearing people as haters of whatever variety is very easy in the "human rights" commission environment. Haters, in the current environment, are people who say something negative about a person who has claimed "victim" status. Neither truth nor fair comment, nor good intent are relevant, and accumulating evidence for one's position is merely further evidence of "hate."

Also, Mark Mercer of the St. Mary's Department of Philosophy points out,
One effect of our laws and policies against hate speech has been to chill and deform public discussion of controversial or sensitive matters.

That wasn’t the intention behind these laws and policies, at least not among those who first drafted them. Members of the Cohen Committee, way back in 1966, were seriously concerned that their recommendation to make unlawful the wilful promotion of hatred against identifiable groups would catch only the haters and leave the rest of us alone. Some members of the committee were prepared to abandon recommending any law, even at the cost of letting neo-Nazis speak freely, if they thought a law would put non-hateful speech at risk.

But times have changed, and with them have changed intentions and purposes. Nowadays it looks as though the main purpose of laws and policies in Canada against hate speech is precisely to make people think twice before offering their opinions or expressing their emotions.
And that suits some people very well indeed. Everyone's private beliefs become public business. So they get to run Orwell's dystopia, Nineteen eighty four, or better yet, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World - with no risk, no fighting.

Focus, guys, focus: To restore civil rights, get our laws changed, don't attack individuals

Meanwhile, I really hope that the discussion can be kept on track. That is the key to restoring civil rights. Recently, I wrote to Blazing Cat Fur blog about that very thing:
Hi, I'm Denyse O'Leary, Toronto, and I blog at The Post-Darwinist , as well as The Mindful Hack and Colliding Universes.

I think our joint concerns are better served if we keep in mind that neither [complainant] Soyarwardy nor any other Muslim immigrant invented the system that oppresses Canadians today.

He and others simply use the system that WE put in place.

I wish people would stop directing any attention - let alone attack - against the people who provide employment for liberal fascists merely by using the system. Direct it - please! - at the government in Ottawa that continues to uphold the system.

Suppose I belong to a religion that says cats are unclean. I charge the makers of a famous brand of toilet paper for offending me by their "fluffy white kitten" ads ...

The appropriate response is not to slang my religion but to assail the government for permitting a situation where my ideas suddenly acquire such power in the land - in a normally functioning country they never would.

One outcome of freedom of religion (= believe what you want, but obey the laws) is that people will believe a variety of things. The government of such a country must avoid becoming the judge of religion that the Human Rights Commissions clearly wish to be.

If only, every time we got mad at a foolish complainant, we directed our attention to demanding that the system be dismantled instead!

Absent the system, the foolish complainant is just someone with an opinion, and we've always allowed that.


See also: Liberal fascism: A survival manual for non-fascists in Canada and Europe

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