Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Nice, quiet day at home

Back, for a day, to the lifestyle of a magazine writer: interviews in the morning, a two-hour lunch with editors, a nice, slow afternoon writing and talking to people.
I can't do this tomorrow. I'd feel too guilty. I have a bunch of lectures to write and a pile of stuff to mark.
But I think I can make it through the rest of today without too much regret.

I've been thinking a lot about the Human Rights publication cases. I disagree with using the HRCs as a way of disciplining the press (for reasons I've made clear below). Canada's libel laws are the toughest in the world. Our hate crimes laws are far more than we need to dampen down any wanna-be Nazis -- and I agree with Jonathan Kay of the National Post that neo-Nazis are a non-threat. I've gone head to head with Zundel (talking to him after he was banned from holding a press conference on Parliament Hill) and found him to be a goon and a fool who is famous because of his prosecutions. I've also been able to thank my friend Keith Martin for having the courage to be the MP to move a motion to drop Sec. 13 of the Human Rights Act. I'm a firm believer of requiring the committing of an "overt act" before the state comes down on an individual. Talk, whether it's a bunch of skinheads, Trotskyites, Zundelites, Orangemen or Orleanists sitting around shooting the shit, is cheap and of no worry to anyone. When that talk turns into actions like vandalism, assault, mail box bombing or whatever, we have laws to deal with that. I'm a firm believer in keeping martyrdom to a minimum.

I am, however, concerned about all the snakes that have crawled out from under so many rocks. I wish the complaints to the HRCs had been brought by groups other than Muslims so that the anti-Muslim haters, many of whom cross the line of racism posting comments at weren't so involved in the fight. Talk of "vermin" and "extermination" has overtones that I want nothing to do with.

These are, by and large, the same people who wanted David Ahenikew stifled for his senile and stupid remarks about Jews. They are also the people who successfully demanded the CRTC -- certainly as undemocratic and arbitrary a body as any HRC -- keep al Jazeera out of Canada while decrying the same worthless body's decision to effectively ban Fox News.

I believe in pushing free speech as far as possible -- for Ahenikew, for Zundel, for Levant, Steyn, for all of them. I doubt any of them feel the same way about each other. Did Levant offer pro bono work to Ahenekew when he was charged and convicted for saying something drawn out of him by a reporter? Did Steyn stand up for al Jazeera, noting, as I did, that it might be good for a laugh and probably poses no threat whatever to the Canadian state and society? (Though I must thank Steyn for his moment of support when our mutual friend Kinsella launched a SLAPP suit against me, and wonder where Levant was back then). And there's my problem with all this. I know I might feel differently if I had strong religious views or felt discriminated against because of my color. But I live in a society where secular middle-aged short, fat, bald white male Irish Catholics are utterly fair game (as per every St. Patrick's Day) so I suppose I have developed a thick skin.

Anyway, I'm still mulling this stuff over. I'll write more later.

Update: If I knew you were coming I'd have baked a cake

I see Steyn, whose work I enjoy, and whose book I bought, has linked to me. I hope he knocks the HRC complaint out of the park. I suppose my appreciation of him is not returned and he can mock the fact that I call myself a "magazine writer". OK. But to Mark and his readers, I say this: are you becoming a mirror image of the thing that you say is a threat to our civilization? Unlike Steyn, I've actually studied censorship and fascism. My PhD thesis is on wartime censorship. I'd like to remind Steyn that it wasn't just the Nazis who undermined Weimar. It was the fight between the Communists and the Fascists that drowned out all reasonable and democratic discussion. The weak and fledgling German republic couldn't take the punishment. That's what I see here: Islamic fascism and the reaction to it attempting to polarize society and hollow out the core. And that's what worries me most.


Matt said...

Steyn regularily posts opposing views on his website. Just go to the website and look. It takes, like, 5 minutes.
Anti-Muslim Haters? Isn't that what you would probably call a Bushism? You call yourself a writer? Typical lefty, no brains.

Matt said...

I apologize. Next time, I'll read the whole post before I comment.
Don't I feel the dummy.

Robert said...

Did you really earn a Phd? Really?

Jonny Newton said...

It does look like Steyn was a little harsh on you, but I guess looking at it from his POV, it must rankle to be doubted on something about which he has staked out your views pretty plainly.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I came here from Steyn's site. I must say I think your concerns here are unwarranted. As far as I can tell, conservative bloggers have been nothing if not consistent, supporting free speech for Holocaust deniers and others whose views they actually find repugnant. I was shocked by this at first, as I always rejoiced when people like Ahenakew and Zundel got smacked down by the law.

Lately, however, I have come to the reluctant understanding that the bloggers are, in fact, right. If loathsome haters can't unburden themselves of their repellent thoughts, the day may well come when I too face legal threats for voicing my opinions on any subject. Bigots should be mocked, shunned, or shouted down by their fellow citizens, not hauled away in handcuffs.

Ellie M.

Anonymous said...

A few thoughts...

1st: Disagreeing with Muslims over their choice of religion makes me a "racist"? A bigot, perhaps, but I wasn't aware that Islam was now its own race.

2nd: I'm fully in favour of women having equal rights and gays not being put to death for simply being who they are. I will not apologize for stridently opposing a backwards religion that would remove the advances our society has made in equality for those groups.

3rd: As someone currently in the process of converting to Judaism (a rather Liberal-minded convert), radical Islam and its pronouncements in regards to Israel and Jews makes me more than a teensy bit nervous.

4th: Despite all of the above, I'm a firm believer in the marketplace of ideas. I believe that the haters are allowed to spew their venom so long as we are free to mock their ideas and bring forth better ones.

My 2 cents.

Sean M.

Pink Yink said...

Over from Steyn's site...Steyn was a little harsh on you, considering you're one of his allies. I think he took issue with you saying that he wouldn't have supported the right to free speech for those other persons, when clearly, he's gone on the record as having done so. I find your "hollowing out" comment interesting, and worth pondering. It make sense. When you take a look at most places that have fallen under dictatorships, the majority of the people were stuck in the middle just trying to live their lives between two factions. When one faction takes over completely, the middle isn't able to offer much resistance: they're just trying to keep what they've got. In a sense, I agree with you: there are two extremes here: the Islamofacists, and the Right-Wing, war-mongering racists. In between doesn't really matter if one of those factions manages to grab onto the levers of power. All reason will fly out the window. It will be a fight for survival after that.

Anonymous said...

and where would fascist hate speech laws be without people that fight them? its bad enough they've gotten this far, I seriously doubt you would offer anything other than nuanced non-objection to any of them without cases against the real champions of free speech.

Anonymous said...

Steyn may have been miffed, but the conflation of "for Ahenikew, for Zundel, for Levant, Steyn, for all of them" is inflammatory.

So is the idea that Steyn and his readers (which includes me) are becoming a mirror image of Islamic fascists, for that matter.

If you are such a war buff, what would you consider to be a reasonable accomodation of Islamofascism, Mr. Chamberlain?

Ottawa Watch said...

I'd answer your question if it made any sense.

Anonymous said...

You seem to feel that by being a vociferous opponent of Islamic fascism, Steyn and his readers are its mirror image. (Was Churchill the mirror image of Hitler, I wonder?) One side wants unrestricted dialogue but robust opposition, while the other side rejects dialogue and in fact seeks to suppress it. Your paramount concern that we reach some form of accomodation with a bunch of fascists so as not to "hollow out the core" reminds me of Chamberlain.

As for the operative part of my question, what part of "what would you consider to be a reasonable accomodation of Isloamofascism" makes no sense?

Ottawa Watch said...

All of it.

Grant said...

Dear Mr. Bourrie,

If you are concerned about "all the snakes that have crawled out from under so many rocks" you should challenge these people directly, which is really what's behind all of this.

Although you might "wish the complaints to the HRCs had been brought by groups other than Muslims so that the anti-Muslim haters, many of whom cross the line of racism posting comments at weren't so involved in the fight", for the most part these people aren't "Muslim haters" but are only concerned, as are many of us, with the right to speak and publish freely.

Because it is a Muslim organization which is supporting the suppression of what is published in our media then of course the focus would be centered on them. Attaching "hatred" to these complaints only demonstrates the media's affection for cliched thinking. Confusing religion with race only reinforces this idea.

The fact these these charges were brought by Muslims is only an indication, and vindication it seems, of why so many of us are concerned about the role of free speech and democracy in Canada.

And whatever does "Anti-Muslim haters" mean? People who hate those who are "anti-Muslim"? And are you completely unfamiliar with what's going on in the rest of the world? Are Canadians really that isolated or is it only those living in Ottawa?

This side issue of "Muslims haters" goes beyond red herrings into much larger fish altogether. You needn't "hate" anyone in order to respond to those who would diminish or remove our fundamental freedoms.

Is anyone talking of "Canadian haters" when others try to decide what we can and cannot read? That would certainly make more sense than what you're postulating. The idea might seem ridiculous but it would make more sense than what your saying. It's clear who the aggressor is in the this right-to-publish dispute. You seize this cliche of "muslim hatred" as though it had merit only because of its repetitiveness.

"Talk of "vermin" and "extermination" has overtones that I want nothing to do with".

Like me, I doubt anyone has asked you to participate in this sort of language. While implying you're taking the high road in this matter, the tone of your post suggests you're only straddling the fence.

Too often this inability to distinguish between right and wrong only encourages those who would undermine society. Muddled thinking does not translate as easily into a nuanced philosophy as the muddlers might hope.

Ottawa Watch said...

No one has asked me to participate in that language. Nor do I feel like making common cause with anyone who does.
I think my views on censorship are very clear. I oppose those who would curtail freedom of speech and the press. I have no desire to exterminate them.

Anonymous said...

"No one has asked me to participate in that language. Nor do I feel like making common cause with anyone who does".

Then why mention it at all?

What you're doing is using a trick as old as debate itself, which is guilt by association.

When the CBC was interviewing Keith Martin the only support they mentioned was that of Neo-Nazi groups, which is of course their M.O. Your mention of "all the snakes that have crawled out from under so many rocks" was equally unnecessary and quite beside the point.

Those Canadians who are advocates of freedom will handle these "snakes" when the time comes, but they shouldn't blind us to the issue at hand.

Gratuitously mentioning them at all only confuses and undermines what should be a completely straightforward issue.

Grant said...

Please pardon my pressing the wrong button. My name is Grant and I'm responding to your latest post. Thanks.

300baud said...

You seem to be implying you face discrimination based on being a fat Irishman, which caused you to develop thick skin. Would love examples. I sport quite a lot of scarring, but I can't say I've ever been attacked for being white, and the arguments that my gender got me into are not ranked among my traumatic incidents.

I hear this complaint a few times a year, but never hear it defended. Sorry if I am being off-topic.