There's been some talk in the blogosphere, in comments, and also in private about my choice in using the word fascist to attribute to those who support Section 13(1) of the Human Rights Act.
A Jewish friend of mine, who mostly agrees with my position, has appealed to me to avoid using the word, given the specific context of the past century. I understand the position. I even sympathize with it. I told them as I'll tell you, that I did not choose the word to deal out strategic hurt against members of the Canadian Jewish Congress. I'm not a malicious person like that.
But here's the thing: I believe the CJC is doing a great disservice to the Jewish community in their defense of Warman, the Human Rights Commissions and their support for prosecuting thought crimes.
Nazis used secret courts, secret judges and secret evidence to dish out the terror they did on the Jewish people of Western Europe. Certainly, Human Rights Commissions in Canada have not committed the same atrocities that were committed in the Nazi courts. But I suppose my point is—as is the point of many free speech advocates and libertarians—is that it's only a matter of degree.
It's a matter of degree that we empower the quasi-judicial bodies to dole out punishment against citizens who they deem to have expressed political thoughts in a matter that is unreasonable. Or that they have said or written something that is deemed "likely to expose someone to hatred or contempt", to quote the wording of the law.
And we note that it is no longer just "hate speech", but rather "hate and contempt speech" that is now unlawful. Where does it end?
Will an organization like the CJC, during the next global crisis, seek to add a rider to the reactionary omnibus bill of the day to prohibit "mean speech" too? We setup these hyperboles to make our point, but suggesting that the Ezra Levant case or the Mark Styen case was inevitable ten years ago would have been dismissed as hysterical as well.
It's not like this isn't happening in the civilized world, anyways. The United Kingdom has an Anti-Social Behavior Act, which allows judges there, to issue orders to people to change their daily behavior. There have been orders requiring people to dress a certain way. Even crazier, two teenagers were charged with anti-social behavior for only wearing a single glove. The court ordered them they were to wear two gloves, or no gloves at all.
I'm not making this crap up.
I don't like the state. I have contempt for the state. I only get solace in the fact, that the state is an extension of me, to protect me, but not to command me. I do not answer to the state. The state answers to me.
To argue for expanded powers of the state to regulate my speech and my thoughts is nothing short of fascist to me. It is a fascist tendency, leading us towards contemporary fascism in the name of "social cohesion" and "harmony".
Maybe my contempt for government will lead someone to pull a Tim McVeigh here in Canada? Maybe? Perhaps I should be silenced. By being anti-government, am I not exposing people who work for the government to "hatred and contempt"? If you think so, you can find information on filing a complaint against me here.
We comfort ourselves in that we are creating these statist bodies in the name of protecting everyone. We're not shipping the Jews off to camps to be murdered this time, so its not the same thing, right? But maybe it's exactly the same thing. Did you think, that maybe it's the exact same, evil human tendency to want others to see the world in our way, and to resort to authoritarian means by which to achieve that vision? Did you think that maybe your logic looks exactly like the logic of those who you wish to silence?
The problem is, that I am not willing to have an argument about the utility of someone's speech, which is what this comes down to, isn't it? It's about whether we as a society find utility in a racist or bigoted rant. That, if we find disutility in it, it's fair game for prosecution.
It's not our individual or collective responsibility to judge the utility of someone's expression, and sic the arm of the state on expression we deem hurtful.
People like Warren Kinsella and the CJC are arguing about the utility of the speech. That, is the speech harmful to society, and hurtful to individuals? Could such speech lead to violence?
These are all meaningless questions, because they are outside the premise of the debate. Because I would turn around in say that: no, there is little utility to the speech. It may be harmful to society. It will definitely be hurtful to individuals. It may even, through some obscure causal path, lead to violence.
The question is, do we have a right to charge people with a pre-crime? Do we have the right to even suppose what the consequence of a particular flavor of political speech is? I don't think we do.
I apologize for any pain that the word fascist illicits in people. But I will not minimize my feelings on this issue. I will not sanitize my perspective. This is the real world, folks.
In the real world, your views get challenged. In the real world, when you hold a position, as the CJC does, you sometimes get scrutinized. Harshly. In the real world, when you hear something that hurts your feelings, you can forget about it. In the real world, when you pass laws that limit people's right to even express their feelings, you've done a great deal more harm than I can even put into words. You may even have increased the chance they'll turn to violence, since you've chosen to deny them their right to express themselves. Throwing someone in jail for being overtly homophobic—as has happened in Scandinavian countries—does not change someone's mind. It simply drives their thoughts underground.
The claim that hate speech explicitly increases the probability of hateful action is a difficult proposition to prove. In fact, on it's own, it's nothing short of a classic logical fallacy known as post hoc ergo propter hoc, which literally means "after this, therefore because of this". In this case, the argument is that: racists who have engaged in hateful speech have in some cases, consummated their hatred in violent action, therefore it is appropriate to outlaw hateful speech to head off the subsequent violent action.
This is tenuous logic.
When you're going to abridge a fundamental right, like freedom of expression, you better be willing to prove that: if the racist was not allow to speak, it would have precluded the violent action. Otherwise, the case that abridging the right does more good than harm, by this standard alone is logically invalid.
After all, if people can't speak publicly, they'll speak privately. Has the banning of neo-Nazism in German discourse prevented various fire bombings? Or has it just made people feel better? If we're talking about a trade of my rights for your feelings, then I think the conversation is already over.
So don't ask me to retract. Don't ask me apologize for the way in which I characterize your position. I have none to give you. I view you as committing an evil act, against my sovereign right to express myself.
I have no interest in going off on some racist, neo-Nazi rant. Because I'm neither racist, nor a neo-Nazi. But I may, from time to time, criticize political-radical Islam, as Ezra Levant and Macleans Magazine have made the mistake of doing. I think there are valid criticisms to be made there. I will not tolerate you, giving the tools to people, to come after me, to prevent me from making those criticisms. That is evil. And I dare say, almost makes you evil by extension.
You say these words demean my position. I say that's your right to say that.
Those of you who like to make the vapid and disingenuous connection between people like myself and neo-Nazi's, in that I support repeal of Section 13(1) of the Human Rights Act, and they just happen to as well—that the quality of my character is in doubt as a result—should take great solace in the fact that you too, share the pleasant company of the likes of: Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Adolph Hitler, Muammar al-Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, and so on.
Except of course, by demanding the arm of the state, you actually have more in common with the aforementioned than I do with any neo-Nazi. For one, because the neo-Nazi's don't support free speech, in reality. They are, in fact, my enemy. But you are in agreement with these great names in history insofar as it pertains to statist tendencies to enforce political speech codes. Different subject matters, same idea.
So in the tenuous-association game, I don't really think the pro-HRC people come out on top here.