Canadian Arab News
|Human Rights Tribunals neither good nor bad—just necessary, unfortunately
August, 11, 2008
“Men should not think it slavery to live according to the rule of the constitution, for it is their salvation.”
—Aristotle, Politics, Book V, Chapter 9
The human rights case against Maclean’s magazine, discussed in my last column, has significance beyond the anti-Muslim defamation that writer Mark Steyn is charged with committing. Of much greater importance is the smear campaign being launched against the country’s human rights tribunals in the mainstream media and by unhinged bloggers.
Steyn’s apologists have concocted a revisionist reality in which po’ li’l Marky is not the bloviating windbag of anti-Muslim paranoia that his writing would seem to suggest; rather, he is a victim of government censorship and a poster boy for free speech. A typical example of this is the statement Maclean’s issued after the Ontario Human Rights Commission refused to hear the case:
“No human rights commission, whether at the federal or provincial level, has the mandate or the expertise to monitor, inquire into, or assess the editorial decisions of the nation’s media…We enthusiastically support those parliamentarians who are calling for legislative review of the commissions with regard to speech issues.”
On the surface, this statement seems to be a standard, reasonable defence of free speech, but it is not. It is a proclamation of arrogance and unaccountability that is so deceptively toxic it deserves be analyzed in detail… for the public good.
The Editorial Freedom Fallacy
From Aristotle to Kant, philosophers have distinguished freedom from unenlightened self-interest. The former is liberty restrained by the precepts of a moral law; the latter is the tyranny of a private will contemptuous of any moral consideration.
Since our democracy is grounded in the idea of constitutional freedom under the rule of law, one would expect the media to support moral responsibility over tyranny, but no. Moderation, informed dissent and enlightened self-interest are disparaged, whereas U.S.-style corporate despotism is embraced as the new media ideal. Anyone who tries to hold a corporation accountable to a standard higher than its own self-interest is pilloried as an enemy of freedom and subjected to character assassination.
Belief in the value of public goods, a founding principle of Canadian democracy, is being beaten out of us. When a media organ arrogates to itself the right to engage in hatemongering, character assassination, libel or fraud, it does so in the name of the new corporate “freedom” while paying lip service to the extinguished ideal of moral freedom. Such is the case with the Maclean’s statement and its bogus defence of free speech.
I could argue otherwise, I suppose, but to do so would require me to prove that the media, and Maclean’s in particular, are fundamentally honest and serve the public good, but this cannot be done. As proof, let’s assume for the sake of argument that Maclean’s is right to condemn all editorial oversight in the name of free speech. For this position to be valid, the right of free speech must be raised to the level of a categorical imperative—a standard valid for all speech.
Let’s say a magazine or newspaper published a factual, investigative article about the similarities between Israel and Nazi Germany, Israel’s systematic killing and torture of Palestinian children, or The Lobby’s corrupting influence in our government and media. Would The Lobby’s media tyrants abide by Maclean’s high-minded ethic? Of course not. Informed dissent against Israel or The Lobby is deliberately ridiculed and demonized as “hate speech.”
Before the case against Maclean’s went to the human rights commission, Mohammed Elmasry, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, brought the issue of Steyn’s anti-Muslim diatribe to the attention of Maclean’s editor Kenneth Whyte, and simply asked for a chance to respond in the magazine. Whyte responded: “I’d rather go bankrupt!”
Such arrogance and hyperbolic belligerence is not the language of a journalist who respects freedom of expression. For Whyte, Steyn and other zionists, free speech is deemed to be their corporate property—“we say what we want and nobody, certainly no governmental body, has the right to tell us otherwise.” All pretense to the contrary, Maclean’s, not the human rights petitioners, is opposed to editorial freedom.
FLUSHED WITH PRIDE: The way our national media stereoptype and dehumanize Muslims is disturbingly similar to the way Nazi Germany’s state-controlled press stereotyped and dehumanized Jews. Just as Jews were blamed for all of Germany’s ills, Muslims are being blamed for the downfall of Western culture.
The Expertise Fallacy
The Maclean’s statement also alleges that no regulatory or oversight body is competent to judge of editorial matters: “No human rights commission…has the mandate or the expertise to monitor, inquire into, or assess the editorial decisions of the nation’s media…”
This statement, though, begs the questions of whether the nation’s media have the expertise to assess the propriety of their commentary, and whether non-journalist citizens are incapable of making such assessments.
On the surface, this claim seems to say that the published word is some sort of arcane private language that only the cognoscenti of the media are able to interpret correctly. This assertion might apply if the media did publish in a private language like, say, “Newspeak,” thereby having the unique ability to say which ideas or people were double-plus-good or double-plus-ungood. Unfortunately for Israel’s media tyrants, they still have to make do with plain English, albeit in a highly bastardized form. As such, there is no empirical reason why a editorial review board could not determine if Maclean’s broke the law.
Since the Maclean’s assertion of unique expertise is made to cover all media, let’s take a fresh example. On July 10, the National Post published a commentary by Jonathan Kay, entitled “Oh, lovely: Seven years later, the Canadian Arab Federation is still peddling conspiracy theories about 9/11.”
Under the guise of having something useful to say, Kay calls the Canadian Arab Federation “radical and unhinged” for sponsoring a high-school essay contest on the ethnic cleansing of Palestine so that students could channel the CAF’s own fervid hatred of Israel.
Nowhere does Kay adduce one fact to back up this slur; neither does he show that the ethnic cleansing of Palestine is untrue. This latter task would be difficult because major zionists like David ben Gurion, Moshe Dayan, Joseph Weitz and Vladimir Jabotinsky openly admitted as much. The continuing impoverishment of Palestine and the Nazi-like sadism of “settler” Jews toward Palestinian Arabs similarly escaped Kay’s attention.
Kay goes on to imply that CAF is paranoid, delusional and supportive of “radical Islamists” because it sponsored a the July 14 Toronto speaking event “The 9/11 deception continues.” The speakers, as expected, are reflexively denounced as crackpot conspiracy theorists.
The most salient point in Kay’s screed is the conspicuous absence of any discernible intelligence, much less expertise, regarding Muslims, Sept. 11 or Israel. Maclean’s cannot whinge about human rights bodies lacking editorial expertise when a national newspaper [sic] lets someone like Kay, a tax lawyer, vent his spleen without regard to the meagrest standards of journalistic competence. The style of his ignorance and malice are so generic they could have spewed from the mind of the lowliest shill.
Expertise, or the lack of it, is not relevant to the case against Maclean’s; in fact, it is singularly unimportant. Expertise connotes education, reason and objectivity, and the less a propagandist like Kay actually knows about Muslims, Sept. 11 or Israel the better. If he had an open mind and a basic education, he might lapse into honesty, and value ethics over excrement.
The Legislative Fallacy
So far, we have seen that Maclean’s does not support free speech and believes that ignorance is strength. As such, a human rights hearing into allegations of editorial misconduct represents a threat to The Lobby’s ability to defame without shame. Not surprisingly, Maclean’s enthusiastically endorses political efforts to strip commissions of the power to investigate and rule on free speech issues.
Funny, but The Lobby had no problem using the government to act on free speech issues where Israel is concerned. In 1993, the NDP government of British Columbia passed the country’s most repressive anti-free speech legislation at the behest of The Lobby because it didn’t approve of the heretical musings of columnist Doug Collins.
Collins had for years been a pain in the zionist tuchus because he wrote for a newspaper The Lobby couldn’t intimidate. Therefore, The Lobby, led by Harry Abrams of B’nai Brith got the government to rewrite the province’s human rights legislation. Now named the Human Rights Code, the new Section 7 (1) reads:
“A person must not publish, issue or display, or cause to be published, issued or displayed, any statement, publication, notice, sign, symbol, emblem or other representation that
(a) indicates discrimination or an intention to discriminate against a person or a group or class of persons, or
(b) is likely to expose a person or a group or class of persons to hatred or contempt because of the race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation or age of that person or that group or class of persons.”
Hurting someone’s feelings or challenging a common belief is not a crime in a free society, and zionists like Ezra Levant have used this argument to justify publishing defamatory cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
In the abovementioned case, Abrams used the code to charge Collins with exposing Jewish persons to hatred or contempt, even though giving offence is not a crime. In fact Section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of expression, something that Kay, Levant and other zionists profess to support.
A verdict on Feb. 2, 1999, found Collins guilty based on four columns written in 1994, even though all he did was attack official zionist verities. Leaving aside the unconstitutionality of the code and the transparently contrived case against Collins, the fact that The Lobby employed political interference to silence a point of view casts doubt on the integrity of Maclean’s attack on human rights tribunals.
The delicious irony of all this is that legislation designed to harass an anti-zionist writer into silence is being turned on the zionists! The human rights case brought against Maclean’s in B.C. would not have been possible without Section 7. How convenient that Maclean’s endorses legislative review in the name of free speech.
Human rights commissions are as much a force for censorship as they are for freedom, and that makes them dangerous. When they happen to serve the public good, as in the case against Maclean’s, they are a benefit to society. When they are used instrumentally to serve private interests, as in the case against Collins, they are a force for repression. Until Canada has a free press, or at least one that doesn’t practise defamation and censorship to serve Israel, they will continue to be an unfortunate necessity.
See follow-up article To read, perchance to comprehend—that is the question