John Baglow

"Stain on Canadian democracy removed"

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hate1.jpg

Gosh, for a moment there after reading that Toronto Sun hed I wondered if a gaggle of Conservative MPs had taken up Joe Oliver’s offer of a drink.

But no. It’s just the fatuous Salim Mansur, the charming fellow who once accused Jack Layton of having “gone to bed with Islamists,” cheering the demise of hate speech provisions in the Canadian Human Rights Act. Because the free expression of hatred is so, you know, democratic.

For an associate professor at the University of Western Ontario, Mansur appears untroubled by questions of accuracy. He leads off his arguments thus: “[A]uthorities have shut down freedom of expression, as the University of Ottawa…cancelled the appearance of Ann Coulter, an American conservative author and political commentator, in March 2010.”

Simply not so. Coulter cancelled her own appearance, citing security concerns. But this false statement is the springboard for the argumentum ad verecundiam that fills up his article.

“The origin of freedom lies in breathing,” wrote Elias Canetti, recipient of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Literature. In other words, free speech is the foundation upon which all other freedoms rest.

“In other words,” phooey. Here’s the whole quotation:

The origin of freedom, lies in breathing. Anyone can draw breath from any air, and the freedom to breathe is the only one that has not really been destroyed to this day.

Canetti isn’t talking about free speech here, but about being human. Enlisting a half-quote in support of Mansur’s narrow aims is a bit much. But Mansur and his political compatriots appear to have no problem with that sort of intellectual dishonesty.

Then the Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo is frogmarched into the game:

While denied permission by the Chinese leadership to receive the Nobel Prize, Liu Xiaobo sent the following message to his well-wishers: “Freedom of expression is the foundation of human rights, the source of humanity, and the mother of truth. To strangle freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, stifle humanity, and suppress truth.”

Liu, virtually a martyr for the most basic human rights in a country ruled by despots whom Stephen Harper likes to do business with, would be anything but pleased at having his words so twisted. He has never—at least that I can find—argued for the rights of haters to attack Muslims and gays and Blacks with impunity. I suspect he’d be happy just being able to criticize the government without being packed off to prison for eleven years.

I mean, get a grip, Salim. These folks are talking on a far grander scale than you could ever imagine.

Meanwhile, basic questions remain untouched. Is taking the leash off hatred a positive move for a society? Will it improve political and social discourse? Will it enhance or diminish minority rights? If individual defamation is legally actionable, why should group defamation be tolerated?

Mansur can’t, or won’t, help us with these questions. He’s too busy chortling about stain removal, seemingly unaware of the one that is already spreading.

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This page contains a single entry by John Baglow published on June 16, 2012 4:04 PM.

Speech Warriorâ„¢ hypocrisy--a postscript was the previous entry in this blog.

"Your lowest common denominator and comrade" is the next entry in this blog.

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