Thursday, February 21, 2008

Life With Steyn

Geez, I dunno.
I've had three white kids and I've never had an abortion. I named them "Mark", "The Hammer" and "Steyn" after my hero. (We call the middle child "Hammy" most of the time, except when he makes a mess and his mom gets mad).
I don't believe Muhammed was a prophet. Nor, for that matter, do I believe Moses, Jesus, Ayn Rand or Al Gore have any special connection to the Almighty.
Since the age of 18, I've spent my life working, earning every dime I've got by pounding spikes on the railway, fighting forest fires, slinging beer, making two-by-fours, writing articles and sawing fossils out of rocks in limestone quarries. I got through university mostly by doing one fucking course after another -- fall, winter and summer, for twenty years until, finally, I have the qualifications to be a prof. I've seen a tornado, peoples' guts, and serial killers up close. I've also spent four years reading everything left behind by Canada's press censors in World War II.
And I've had people try to shut me down: a notorious online SLAPP suit artist; a serial killer who forced the Ottawa Citizen to knuckle under by threatening to sue them for damage to his reputation; various scumbags who have sued me or threatened to sue me for things I've written in magazines and newspapers. The last time around, just this fall, some jerk sued me and my magazine simply because he didn't like seeing his name in a story. Our lawyers knocked the lawsuit out of the park in one one-hour hearing. We were awarded "costs" of $3000 which have not been paid. Our legal bills are $14,000.
So I do know what Levant and Maclean's are going through, and, as I've said over and over, I believe it's an abuse of process. In Levant's case, I'd feel a little more sympathetic if the guy wasn't a libel SLAPP suit artiste. In Maclean's case, the Human Rights Commission complaint seems completely out of line.
Pearl Adiadis, a human righst lawyer, wrote this piece in the Montreal Gazette. She suggests an HRC conviction -- and I use this word carefully -- would have less consequence than a criminal conviction. In this, she is dead wrong. Being on the losing end of an HRC decision would be lethal to the career of any Canadian journalist and would be a big hit to any publication. Mark Steyn would survive. He's published in places where they don't take Canada's Human Rights Commissions too seriously. Levant would be politically dead. Maclean's credibility would be hobbled. The editors of the magazine would have an HRC conviction thrown in their faces for the rest of their careers.
Yes, I do understand the stakes, and I hope the HRCs toss the complaints. I also hope the legislation is changed to prevent these abuses of process.
But I need no pestering from anonymous posters about "appeasement" of Islamofascists. I stick to my guns. Let them say what they want. Let them get up and wave their hooks and denounce the West, Christians, Jews, the New England Patriots and the Smart Car. Let them publish what they like. And if they lift a finger to actually do something, charge them, jail them, and, if they're not citizens, deport them.
Levant and Steyn did not advocate "doing" anything to anyone. Levant, in some people's minds, did something rude. It may be a crime in Saudi Arabia to do what Levant did but we are not in Saudi Arabia. Steyn's opponents want the HRC to ignore the professional discretion of journalists -- Maclean's editors -- to decide what they will or won't publish in their pages and on their cover. If someone blocked the complainants from buying five pages in Maclean's or starting their own magazine (or blog or web site) in response, they'd have a case. (By the way, if anyone does start a magazine to compete with Maclean's, give me a call. I'm in the book.)
I have suggestions for those who object to changing the Human Rights Acts to protect free speech rights: award costs to the losers in these cases; require hearings to be held in public; allow punitive damages to be awarded against those who abuse the process.
As for lumping Steyn and Levant with Zundel and Ahenekew: they fit on the list. They may not like to be there, but Steyn and Levant, like Zundel and Ahenekew, Fox News and al Jazeera, have been on the wrong end of Canadian governmental speech limitation actions. Maybe it's not the list the rest of us want to be on, but there ya go.
I do know that there's an awful lot of ugliness on the "blogosphere" and I get the very distinct impression that "freedom of speech" exists for the nutters only for themselves and not for crazy Imams and Maude Barlow. Claims of "freedom of speech", like patriotism, are refuges for scoundrels. The smalldeadanimals.com posters talk a good fight about freedom of speech, but it's all talk. Maybe they'd like to help my magazine pay off that $14,000 legal bill? Or perhaps they'd like to sign their own name and end up explaining to their spouses and kids, and their lawyer, why they're on the wrong end of a SLAPP suit by one of our country's tiresome web writers (your pick).
Levant should have known somehow the shit would hit the fan if he published the cartoons. I've seen Levant on Parliament Hill and I know he looks for trouble. (I must credit Warren Kinsella for his great line about Levant begging to be crucified, then complaining about the view). Maclean's probably never saw their HRC case coming. Hopefully, if they had, they wouldn't have done anything different. But now that these two cases have been filed and the lawyers' meters are ticking (remember that $14,000 we paid for some paperwork and a one-hour hearing?), self-censorship in Canada is even more entrenched.

Update:
I notice that Kate at Small Dead Animals is featuring a blog post that trashes the idea that a freelance journalist arrested in Afghanistan for contacting the Taliban deserves any protection. ''Free speech'' is one thing, protection of journalists is another. That seems to be the party line over there. It's come up when Harper has tried to undermine the 200-year-old concept that journalists have a right to effectively cover Parliament.

Well, how 'bout that?
One of my commenters points out the fabulous Kinsella remark about Ezra and crucifixion, that wonderfully John Lennonesque quote about crosses and views, was pinched from Enjoy Every Sandwich. Quite the blog. I just spent 4o minutes on the "journalists are scum" thread laughing my ass off.

11 comments:

Dilettante said...

Frankly I'm not sure journalists deserve special protection. What strikes me as the issue here is the secrecy and potentially unlimited duration of a detention without charge or trial.

A journalist could merit arrest, but it must be a legal one, and not something that makes a mockery out of our beliefs, the ones we claim to be exporting.

Ottawa Watch said...

His alleged crime seems to be trying to interview the Taliban. If the guy was carrying explosives or was caught fighting, things would be different.

Dilettante said...

Agreed, I did write "could".

We don't know anything about his alleged crime, and we probably never will. It's quite possible neither he nor his brother, quoted in the article, do either. It's all conjecture. That's depressing, and maybe even criminal.

Ottawa Watch said...

If there was some kind of due process, we would know.

Anonymous said...

Um, that wasn't Warren's line:
http://enjoyeverysandwich.blogspot.com/2008/02/open-letter-to-warren-kinsella-dear-mr.html

skippystalin said...

Actually, the category is "Journalists are Swine." It just sounds more biblical than scum and biblical is the only way to go with people who think they're precious because they know how to write a pyramid story.

Thanks for the kind words.

James Goneaux said...

Did Warren attribute this great line to the proper author?

Ottawa Watch said...

I believe so. There is some sort of one-sided discussion on the blog that seems to show communication between the two of them that ended to Enjoy Every Sandwich's satisfaction.

Rachel said...

oooh good post!

skippystalin said...

James,

Orignially, he didn't attribute the line to me, so I flipped out in public. Ever see a retarded person fight? The arms flail about without any rhyme or reason, teeth are bared and the target knows instinctively that nothing rational is about to happen.

I'm a lot like that. But you'd be surprised how well it works on a date, really you would.

Anyhow, Warren tasted the Fear and relented, albeit without a link. This proves that I am in fact the greatest man alive. Or not, since very few people actually read my blog, despite it being replete with boobies and ten-letter bad words.

Ottawa Watch said...

I love your blog. It's well-written, it's funny and it has wayyyyyy more truth than most of us would ever admit.
You need to hook up with Joan.