We've written numerous times about Canada's censorious speech laws. We've lauded Ezra Levant, a man with whom some of us agree on almost nothing but whose tenacious defense of his own right to free speech we admire. We've beaten that horse.
Had I been charged with hate speech 10 years ago, I could not have fought back as effectively. If all this had happened in 1996 instead of 2006, few would have known anything about my battle. YouTube, which brought my story alive for 600,000 people by the time the traffic died down, debuted only in 2005. Before that, there was no universally surfed repository of current event–themed videos, and bloggers were much less prevalent. And without the credit card donations made possible by PayPal (which was started in 2000), it’s unlikely that I could have raised the money to cover my legal expenses.
In short, the Internet saved me. In that sense, my story isn’t just about free speech. It’s also about the way new technology has leveled the playing field between big government and private citizens.
Levant faced a lifetime ban on certain forms of speech, for publishing cartoons. This is a sample of Levant's self-defense before a bewildered government drone, who expected to be the one conducting the hearing and asking the questions. Thanks to Youtube, Google, and blogs, probably a million people have seen it.
Of course it's true that in 1996 the idea of charging a news magazine publisher with "hate speech" for publishing cartoons, even in a nation like Canada which lacks vigorous speech protection, would have been considered ridiculous. Legal theory moves on.
But not as fast as technology. The theocratic government of Iran suffered protests in 1999 that were as vigorous as those going on today. The rest of the world paid little attention, not because it didn't care, but because it didn't know. The basiji and the mullahs made sure of that.
We in America take our liberties, and our internet, for granted. I recently read of a French court decision that declared internet access, at least in a liberal technological society like France, a human right. At the time I laughed, and filed it away as something not worthy of blogging. Stupid Frogs.
I'm not so sure now. Maybe the French got it right.