Ville de Granby Takes The Lead In Protecting Endangered Official Feels

[AP: Ville de Granby, Québec, Canada] Shouting their slogan Je suis important, vous ne pouvez pas irriter mon cul délicate, public employees celebrated a legal victory over internet abuse this week in Granby, a town in southern Quebec.

That victory came when the Granby municipal council unanimously passed an amendment to expand Article 17 of the municipal code. For years that code has forbidden the populace to "provoke, insult, revile, blaspheme or harass" police officers or municipal employees in the course of their duties. Last week's amended explicitly expanded the ban to prohibit insults online or in social media.

"This measure patches a gaping hole in our protection," said Robert Riel, deputy mayor of Granby. "People felt free to insult public employees online. Now they know they can't." Riel — occasionally pausing to collect himself — described how his ability to do his job had been ruthlessly disrupted by citizens criticizing his competence, his policy choices, and his 2010 arrest for attempting sexual intercourse with an award-winning snowman in Granby's public square during the town's Winterlude festival.

"That snowperson was extremely realistic and provocative," Riel added. "But my feelings are just as real."

Though it had strong support from elected officials, local police were the driving force behind the recent amendment. For two years, Granby law enforcement has been the target of relentless criticism, questioning, and even satire by the Facebook group Les policiers zélé de Granby, without any regarding to their rights as public officials and Canadians to be protected from offense. Some of the unflattering commentary was not even in French. Marco Beauregard, directeur of the department, recounted the toll that insults have taken. "My officers are out there ever day, putting themselves on the line," he said. "I owe it to them, and to their families, to do everything I can to make sure they come home at the end of the shift with their feelings intact."

Officers have reported being upset, disquieted, and even hurt by social media comments. "How can a public officer do his or her job," Beauregard demanded, "when people feel free to question the way they do it — and even to mock them? What makes them think they can talk about whatever they want?"

"My journey of improvement on anger-management issues is not an appropriate topic of public conversation, especially after last September," argued Beauregard, referencing an incident that led to the partial destruction of a traffic barrier, two police cars and the lobby of a local Tim Hortons.

"Being Canadian means standing up for your rights," said municipal council member M. Pascal Bonin. "That's all we are doing — using our authority to stand up for our right not to be insulted. It's a fundamental right, and it shouldn't yield to anything."

Bonin himself has been the target of rude jokes regarding his name, despite his repeated and patient explanations that it is pronounced Bon – eeen. "If citizens can say what they want about civic employees, you're going to see the whole culture of public life change," he said. "Before you know it, the only sort of people who will run for office or take a public job are the hardened sort that can just shrug off criticism as part of their job, or who think that they are only there to serve the public."

"And what would that look like," Bonin asked, shuddering.


As we've discussed many times before, our friends in Canada have a government with very strong opinions about what opinions are "acceptable" — meaning what opinions may be uttered without prosecution, fines, cease-and-desist orders, and reeducation. It's not to American tastes to create vast bureaucracies with the power to regulate and punish speech based on vague guidelines, but Canada is a sovereign nation, and can do what it wants.

Pity poor Professor Cameron Johnston at York University. He was just trying to make this fundamentally Canadian concept clear to the students in the class he was teaching by giving examples of unacceptable opinions. Really, reminding them that some opinions are unacceptable was, in the Canadian context, an act of great patriotism, akin to starting an American lecture with the Pledge of Allegiance and possibly a barbecue. In the course of being so very Canadian, Prof. Johnston mentioned that the sentiment "all Jews should be sterilized" was "unacceptable."

Regrettably, Professor Johnston doesn't get it.

See, it doesn't matter that he uttered the words in a context — the context of identifying the sort of opinions that are unacceptable to Canada. He still uttered them.

By uttering the words, Prof. Johnston committed speechcrime. That's a strict liability crime; intent is irrelevant. Moreover, in thinking that he could utter a series of offensive words by putting them into a specific disapproving and pedagogical context, Prof. Johnston committed a hate crime against the Moron-Canadian community, which is too stupid to grasp context, and the Entitled-Canadian community, which believes that it is un-Canadian to require them to pay close enough attention to follow context. Prof. Johnston knew or should have known that his class of 450 people would include members of the Moron-Canadian and Entitled-Canadian community.

And indeed it did — in the form of Sarah Grunfeld, a member of the Moron-Insipid-Entitled-Canadian community. Sarah Grunfeld was outraged to hear, sort of, that her professor thought that all Jews should be sterilized, and started quite a stir, complaining to York University officials and various community members. Tumult and inquisition ensued. The Canadian media acted in an appallingly un-Canadian manner, focusing on the so-called "context" of Professor Johnson's words and the utterly irrelevant detail that he was Jewish. Grunfeld, raised by her actions into a position of leadership in the Entitled-, Insipid-, and Moron-Canadian communities, did her best to set them back on the path of right thinking:

Grunfeld said Tuesday she may have misunderstood the context and intent of Johnston’s remarks, but that fact is insignificant.

“The words, ‘Jews should be sterilized’ still came out of his mouth, so regardless of the context I still think that’s pretty serious.”

Grunfeld also expressed skepticism that Johnston was in fact Jewish.

Asked directly by a reporter whether she believes Johnston is lying, she was unclear.

“Whether he is or is not, no one will know,” she said. “. . . Maybe he thought because he is Jewish he can talk smack about other Jews.”

Grunfeld demonstrates that with proper accommodation, Moron-Canadian students are able to learn the most important lessons that modern universities offer, such as the lesson that there is no objective reality. Is the person-object-construct we call "Professor Johnston" Jewish? What a childish question, reflecting a retrograde, linear belief system. Whatever "Professor Johnson" or other social constructs like "The Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs" might say, whether the "Johnston" person-object is "Jewish" depends on the shifting perceptions of people like Grunfeld and on advanced scholarship by deep thinkers.

Shockingly, some Jews in Canada are contributing to the continuing wordcrime, failing to cherish Canadian values:

In response, Sheldon Goodman, the GTA Co-Chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs issued the following statement:

“Upon hearing of this incident, we immediately contacted York University as well as Professor Johnston directly. While York is currently looking into the matter, it appears that a very unfortunate misunderstanding has taken place. We believe Professor Johnston’s use of an abhorrent statement was intended to demonstrate that some opinions are simply not legitimate. This point was, without ill intentions, taken out of context and circulated in the Jewish community.

“Professor Johnston, himself a member of the Jewish community, may regret his wording but should not see his reputation tarnished. This event is an appropriate reminder that great caution must be exercised before concluding a statement or action is anti-Semitic.”

Sheldon "Goodman" doesn't get it. He's focused on "context." He's using "logic" and "inquiry." He might as well come right out and label Sarah Grunfeld and all the members of her dull-witted inattentive community as second-class citizens. Fortunately there are other Jewish-Canadians who are better assimilated into Canadian values. B'nai Brith of Canada, which has a record of supporting Canadian values about speech, is fully supporting the Moron-Canadian community by running Sarah Grunfeld's statement in full. In that statement, she speaks out bravely against all the bigots who wrongfully demanded her to absorb hate-concepts like context, comprehension, and caution:

I stand by my initial concern brought to the University’s attention immediately after the incident that when Professor Cameron Johnston made the abhorrent statement in his class that all Jews should be sterilized, he failed to qualify the statement clearly as an unacceptable opinion held by others. His delivery of this statement, made in a class of 450 impressionable students, was offensive to me and to others in the room.

I have since been grossly misquoted and ridiculed by the media, and attempts have been made to assign blame to me with the false claim that I simply “misheard” or “half heard” what was said. Meanwhile, the professor has not been called to account in any way for his “miscommunication”.

But Sarah's not done. Showing great insight far beyond her years and apparent natural abilities, she identifies what the real crime is here: that people — people like her — will be deterred from making careless, stupid accusations of racism if those accusations are actually subjected to scrutiny, and if the accusers are burdened with hateful responsibility for paying attention to what's going on around them:

It has been a very painful experience for me to see how the university has closed ranks and reneged on its assurances to me. I understand that there may have been a miscommunication, but any miscommunication was on the part of the professor, not me. The media has been complicit in allowing a false interpretation of my actions to be circulated widely, which can only have a chilling effect on the ability of students to have any kind of a voice on campus.

Well said. There ought to be a government inquiry — perhaps by Jennifer Lynch — into whether universities and the media are chilling stupid people from being stupid.

Meanwhile, if Sarah Grunfeld feels that Canada is a cold and barren place that refuses to celebrate her differences, she should consider coming here to America. Sure, we don't have Human Rights Councils like Canada. But there are signs that our universities and their administrators are coming around to Sarah's way of "thinking," and doing what they can to protect the moron community. At Brandeis University, Professor Donald Hindley uttered the word "wetback" in the course of criticizing people who use it; the 50-year teaching veteran was found guilty of racial harassment and forced to admit an ideology-monitor to his class. At Widener University School of Law, administrators are defying a hearing panel that cleared professor Lawrence Connell, and insisting that he be punished for using the term "black folks" in class and using the name of an administrator in an exam hypothetical.

And surely I need not offer you links to establish that modern America is, in fact, very welcoming to morons.

Come on down, Sarah. You've got lots of friends here.

The Vancouver Riots And The Modern Consequences Of Bad Behavior

A couple of nights ago, after a disappointment in a hockey game, a number of folks in Vancouver rioted. They smashed windows, looted stores, and overturned and torched cars. This was not a crowd of the dispossessed. This was a crowd of hockey fans.

I confess that I'm quite surprised that Canadians riot. I was under the impression that they were too polite. Riots involve rudeness. There's an unacceptable risk that someone might say something cutting that could hurt someone's feelings based on social condition or ethnic group membership or something.

Anyway, regrettably for them, these were not practiced rioters, and few came equipped with masks. In the age of the cell-phone camera, misbehaving in public carries with it a grave risk of worldwide exposure (as Hermon Raju, our friend from yesterday's post, might tell you). The rioters did not heed those risks; they capered for the cameras.

Now come the modern consequences.

Within hours, people on the internet began collecting the pictures and identifying the rioters, particularly those who were doing notably obnoxious things like setting police cars afire. With the aid of such identification, police have already arrested some. As I said, these were not the dispossessed — they were people like Air Cadets on their way to college and water polo stars with scholarships. Many of these were Canada's privileged. They had Facebook pages.

Now, thanks to the magic of Google, any inquiry into their names yields evidence of their bad public behavior.

How should we feel about that?

The comments in the posts linked above are a microcosm of the public debate over this phenomenon. Some advocate deliberate public shaming of people who engage in bad public behavior. Others accuse shamers of vigilantism, judgmentalism, and failure to respect the presumption of innocence, and assert that modern Google-fame is a disproportionate punishment that will follow bad actors for too long, because such people "just made a mistake."

Here's my take, which is not terribly different than what I've been writing about this phenomenon for three years:

Vigilantism: Exposing people to the social consequences of their misbehavior is not vigilantism. Subjecting them to physical danger is. That's why decent people involved in this process don't post home addresses or phone numbers, and delete them when they are posted.

Proportionality: The proportionality argument is at least somewhat misguided. First of all, bad behavior doesn't go viral on the internet unless it's really notable. Garden-variety assholes don't get top Google ranking. You've got to be somewhat epic to draw this modern infamy — by, say, being a water polo star on a scholarship trying to torch a cop car because your hockey team lost. Second, lack of proportionality is self-correcting. If conduct is actually just not that bad, then future readers who Google a bad actor's name will review the evidence and say "meh, that's not so bad. Everyone acts up now and then." Saying that bad behavior should not be easily accessible on the internet is an appeal for enforced ignorance, a request for a news blackout. It's saying, in effect, I'm more wise and measured than all the future people who might read about this; they can't be trusted to evaluate this person's actions in the right light, like I can.

"They Just Made A Mistake": The argument that bad actors shouldn't become infamous because they "just made a mistake" is a riff on proportionality. The same criticisms apply: it takes a hell of a mistake to go viral, and future viewers can make up their own minds. Plus, this argument is often sheer bullshit. Trying to torch a cop car because your hockey team lost is not a mere faux pas; normal and decent people don't do it.

Can internet shaming be disturbing? Of course. Threads about Hermon Raju are filled with racist and misogynist drivel. Threads about the hockey rioters are filled with calls for murder. But that's not too different from the way any thread on the internet goes — the trolls are always with us. Moreover, bigotry-driven shaming is self-defeating. Shaming depends on shared values; if communities don't share the values, the shaming doesn't work.

One of the criticisms of modern society is that we're indifferent and best and rude at worst too each other because we're anonymous. We get away with things in big-city life that we couldn't in small-town life because the consequences of our behavior don't follow our name. Can the internet be the antidote for that phenomenon, at least for epic bad behavior? Can it be an effective deterrent to bad behavior in public? Can cell phone cameras be the arms in the catchphrase "an armed society is a polite society?"

What do you think?

New York Times Co. v. Sullivan: My Love Letter To The United States Supreme Court, And The First Amendment

A rule compelling the critic of official conduct to guarantee the truth of all his factual assertions–and to do so on pain of libel judgments virtually unlimited in amount–leads to a comparable "self-censorship." Allowance of the defense of truth, with the burden of proving it on the defendant, does not mean that only false speech will be deterred.

It was fashionable well before 1964, when Justice William Brennan wrote those words, to criticize the United States Supreme Court for "judicial activism" in which the Court stretches the words of the Constitution beyond their plain, or literal, meaning to invent new freedoms beyond those obviously meant by James Madison and other authors of the United States Constitution.  In 1964, it was obvious to L. B. Sullivan, the Public Safety Commissioner of Montgomery Alabama, that the First Amendment did not permit the New York Times to publish an advertisement falsely attributing barbaric treatment of Martin Luther King and other civil rights protesters to the Montgomery Police Department.

After all, the words "Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press" don't explicitly say anything about state law, or the law of libel, or about the importance of free debate on political issues.  L. B. Sullivan convinced a jury of twelve of his fellow white citizens of Montgomery that the New York Times had published these false statements:

In Montgomery, Alabama, after students sang "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" on the State Capitol steps, their leaders were expelled from school, and truckloads of police armed with shotguns and tear-gas ringed the Alabama State College Campus. When the entire student body protested to state authorities by refusing to reregister, their dining hall was padlocked in an attempt to starve them into submission.


Again and again, the Southern violators have answered Dr. King's peaceful protests with intimidation and violence. They have bombed his home, almost killing his wife and child. They have assaulted his person. They have arrested him seven times–for "speeding," "loitering" and similar "offenses." And now they have charged him with "perjury"–a felony under which they could imprison him for ten years.

When in fact the protesters at the Alabama capitol sang "The Star Spangled Banner," not "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," and Dr. King was arrested only four times in Montgomery, not seven times.

So of course Mr. Sullivan was entitled to a libel judgment, to protect his reputation and that of the Montgomery Police, from outsiders such as the New York Times who printed lies, libel, and calumny without knowing the true facts.  That Mr. Sullivan was a government official, and that the false criticism concerned the government of which he was a part, meant nothing.  Facts is facts, and a false statement about the Montgomery Police Commissioner is every bit as actionable as a false statement about the lowest bum on Montgomery's skid row.

Except that it isn't.  Meddling Justices of the Supreme Court found, for some reason, that it's important for newspapers, and private citizens, to speak out about outrages such as firebombings, police beatings, and school padlockings, even if they get details like the song protesters sang as they were clubbed over the head, or the number of times Martin Luther King was arrested, flat-out wrong.  According to the activists of the Supreme Court, in order to maintain a libel action, a public figure like L. B. Sullivan would have to prove actual malice, that the statements over which the suit was filed were not just false, not just disparaging, but utterly unreasonable, founded on no investigation, and made with no intent save to harm reputation.  Something like (since a dead man can't file a defamation action):

L. B. Sullivan sexually molests puppies every Sunday morning in the back alley behind the Piggly Wiggly.

That's clearly malicious, and if by some miracle the cyborg body of L. B. Sullivan lives on today, I apologize to him.

But the Court held that the right of the public to criticize their government includes the right to criticize public officials, and that that right is too important to have it bogged down by lawsuits about whether Inspector Callahan, the San Francisco police detective who killed an unarmed suspect in the Scorpio murder case, fired six shots …

Or only five.

Of course, for those who disapprove of all this debate, all this criticism of the better sort of people like L. B. Sullivan, and all this horrid untidiness in which the hoi polloi are free to say the vilest things about government officials, there's a better land.  A land where ordinary people don't have the right to exaggerate the number of times some uppity protester got arrested.

That land is Canada.

In Canada, you'd better watch what you say if you want to criticize The Man.  You'd better make sure every word is the literal truth, and that you can back it up with records.

Ask Ezra Levant.

Ezra Levant, the Canadian blogger who was just ordered to pay a $25,000 judgment to Giacomo Vigna, a Canadian government official and lawyer, for … making fun of Vigna.

Giacomo Vigna is a professional censor.  Levant, who has a history as a free speech activist and opponent of Canada's censorship commission, has been censored for the offense of … criticizing a censor.

Specifically, Vigna is an attorney for the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the government body charged with censoring hate speech.  In March 2008, Levant made fun of Vigna for his successful efforts to halt a hearing in which staff of the Human Rights Commission were to be cross-examined about their curious activities on the internet (among other things, former HRC lawyer Richard Warman, a professional plaintiff, used a pseudonym to reveal the name of and post an apology by an ex-white supremacist on an internet forum populated by neo-Nazis).  Vigna claimed, in an effort to halt the hearing, that:

I don't feel in a serene state of mind to proceed with the file today. I don't feel very well. I feel dizzy, I feel anxiety, and I am not in a serene state of mind to proceed with this file today.

And got the hearing, in a high-profile and politically charged speech prosecution, put off with the promise he would produce a doctor's note.  For which Vigna was richly, and deservedly, mocked by Levant.

Levant's mistake?  In mocking Giacomo "Serenity Now!" Vigna after the fact, Levant was unaware that Vigna had in fact produced a doctor's note.  Perhaps something along the lines of:

Please excuse Giacomo from court.  He was not in a serene state of mind last Tuesday.  He didn't feel very well.  He felt dizzy.  He felt anxiety.  He was not in a serene state of mind to proceed with a hearing that would have been embarrassing to the government agency he serves.  I should know.  I am a medical doctor.  I own a mansion and a yacht.

Of course, in a world where doctors prescribe marijuana for "high anxiety" and the like, I'm sure it was easy for Vigna to get a doctor's note.  Just as easy as it was for Levant to overlook that fact, as the note was never put into evidence in the trial Levant was covering.

And a costly mistake it was.  It cost Levant $25,000, on top of untold legal fees, to learn that lesson.  And it will cost him more on appeal, the outcome of which isn't certain in a country as hostile to free political speech as Canada.

Levant, wisely, hasn't said a word about the verdict.  Neither have many of other Canadian bloggers from whom we'd expect to hear after a travesty like this.  They're probably taking stock of their options, with their lawyers, because they're being sued by the censors themselves.

And that's the point.  Vigna didn't file this suit to salvage his reputation.  A prosecutor who would beg off from trial by whining about his inner feelings will have no reputation to save once word gets out.  Vigna filed this suit to stifle Levant's legitimate criticism of his agency and his methods.  To make an example of Levant, and to warn more timid souls who would dare to criticize the censors of the Canadian Human Rights Commission.  To censor an inconvenient critic who couldn't be silenced by the usual accusation of hate speech.

And so I sit here, safe in my American home, writing of Ezra Levant's misfortune in living in a country where he could be bankrupted for making a small mistake of fact in criticizing the actions of a government official.  A government official who could sue me for saying many of the same things, had I the misfortune to live in his miserable country.

After all,  I am explicitly comparing Giacomo Vigna to a man who ordered the arrest and beating of Martin Luther King.

I have a lot to be thankful for this holiday.  I'm thankful for the First Amendment, and I'm thankful for my activist Supreme Court, which invents rights out of nowhere to protect me from government officials like L. B. Sullivan, and like Giacomo Vigna.

Censorious Goons Will Be Censorious Goons, Eh?

Oh, Canada.

You continue to be a haven for speech-despising thugs.

Today's main culprit: our old friend Richard Warman, crusading censor of incorrect thought and expression. Warman, you may recall, has a penchant not only for using Canada's malevolent and totalitarian speech bureaucracies to suppress incorrect thought, but also for suing people who criticize him for doing so. He's also got a knack for endangering the lives of the most pitiful of his foes, even when they roll over and show their belly, and of a generally thuggish approach to public discourse.

So it should be no surprise that, once again, he is suing Canadian bloggers, this time for merely linking to posts criticizing him.

The suit arises, indirectly, from British Colombia's shamefully censorious and unprincipled pursuit of pundit Mark Steyn. I don't agree with the Canadian blog Blazing Cat Fur on much, but I agree with its consistent strong stance against Canada's totalitarian speech laws, which are premised on the concept that certain favored groups have a protected right not to be offended. Blazing Cat Fur has drawn Warman's ire, and he has sued for $500,000 Canadian (which in this poor economy is almost as good as real money), complaining that Blazing Cat Fur wronged Warman by linking to a Mark Steyn post about him and by allowing rude comments, including one that — brace yourself here — calls him "Billy."

As I said, I don't agree with Blazing Cat Fur about a lot of things. They've written some things there that make me angry. But because I'm not a moral defective or a big girl's blouse, I articulate my disagreement if I am in the mood, or otherwise just get over it. But there are creatures in this world, creatures like Warman, who revel in abusing the system to inflict harm upon their detractors. Even a frivolous and patently abusive suit can be financially ruinous — Canada is even worse than the United States in that regard, as at least many U.S. jurisdictions have anti-SLAPP statutes.

Blazing Cat Fur could use your help fighting the good fight. Consider a donation to their defense fund. Or, at least, consider publicizing the issue and speaking out against a system that allows censorious thugs to sue citizens for pointing out that they are censorious thugs —- whether you are talking about Warman, or about Canadian cops who harass citizens for blowing bubbles and then sue people who make fun of them for doing so. The tide may be turning in Canada against such things, but for now the censors and their apologists are firmly entrenched there.

Hat Tip.

Canada, Having Set The Bar High, Struggles To Remain Very, Very Silly

There are few things that can make me sympathetic to PETA.

On such thing is Canada. More specifically, Canada's stubbornly unserious and unprincipled approach to freedom of expression.

PETA encountered it when they tried to put up one of its belabored cheesecake-picture campaigns in Montreal, only to be thwarted by the Montreal branch of Canada's speech bureaucracy.

In an email to PETA, Montreal City Commissioner Josee Rocheford said the ad "goes against all principles pubic organizations are fighting for in the everlasting battle of equality between men and women."


Montreal authorities responded by insisting their decision was based on men and women’s equality.

Yet men and women are not, in the Canadian sense, equal. For instance, I see no evidence that Montreal, or any other part of Canada, insults the intelligence and character of men by censoring political advertisements that might possibly offend the masculine heart. As far as I can tell, only the fairer sex is treated to such disdainful and neo-Victorian protection — part of Canada's heritage since it accepted MacKinnonite-Dworkinite twaddle as a justification for censorship.

I, for one, think that women's actual, non-Canadian equality — equality of intellect, character, potential, and intestinal fortitude — is not and cannot be threatened by further sophomoric attention-seeking from PETA. The women I know are tougher than that.

Of course, I haven't been to Montreal recently.


The Bar Has Been Raised, M. Obama

Oh Canada. Home of all so many delightfully goofy things. And yet, it's somehow comforting to know that their politics can be just as scummy as ours. The Prime Minister, Steven Harper, has previously taken a hardline stance against the patronage appointment of Senators in Canada. Seems some wags refer to being appointed to Congress (only one Province even has Senatorial elections) as "cash for life." So, now Harper appoints a bunch of party cronies and people he likes to the Senate.

There's nothing worse than people remembering your past statements. Tres inconvenient!

By the way, one of Harper's appointments bears special mention. ex NHL coach Jacques Demers is now a proud Senator. You may remember (although it's hockey so probably not..) that M. Demers admitted in his own biography (presumably written by someone else) that he is "functionally illiterate."I think I'll just end by letting you insert your own joke here. Consider it my Friday gift to you.

Oh, Yeah? Well, You're Guilty of DOUBLE SECRET REVERSE CHILL!!!

I keep thinking that Canada's champions of censorship can't get any more ludicrous and offensive. And they keep coming back and saying "Oh, Ken, ye of little faith." Well, they don't actually talk to me. Except in my head. You know, I think I'm straying from the point.

Canada's appalling Human Rights Commissions — which we have frequently criticized here for their tendency and capacity to punish unpopular speech through bureaucracy without due process or remedy — have been under heavy political fire in Canada recently, as the public starts to grasp their illiberal censorious nature and the politicians sense the way the wind is blowing. But the Human Rights Commissions and their apologists are not going down without a fight. And a new hero has emerged — Richard Warman need no longer shoulder the mantle of nanny-state wiffle-life censorship alone. No, Chief Commissioner Jennifer Lynch has stepped up.

Sort of.

[Read more…]

The Internet Is A Powerful Ally

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.

And we're going to beat it again.

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.

"Could I Try the Heart?"

That was the question Canada's Governor General, Michaelle Jean, asked after trying a little bit of seal meat at an Inuit Festival. Ms. Jean was taking a shot at the EU, which Monday banned seal products because they determined the seal hunt was cruel. The EU responded by calling her Mola Ram act as "too bizarre to acknowledge."

I have to admit, it would never occur to me to eat the raw heart of any animal. The idea that a representative of the Queen's government (ceremonial, admittedly..) would be cutting seals up and eating their heart is sort of quaint. This is the sort of thing we should be getting Joe Biden to do.