Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Very Entertaining Site These Days

I've written about the harassment via human rights commissions of Macleans magazine, but had forgotten that Ezra Levant, as publisher of the Western Standard, was in a process of his own. He has shut down the print magazine, and sold the rights to the corresponding Web pages, but is blogging up a storm at, and putting on quite a show.

On Friday he was invited for an interrogation from a bureaucrat representing the Alberta Human Rights Commission regarding the decision of the Western Standard to publish the Danish Mohammad cartoons. He insisted on videotaping the interrogation, and has been publishing excerpts actively on the Web. They are very funny in many ways and very chilling.

I think he gets over caught up in his responses about how dishonorable his challengers are; on the other hand, I still believe that a proper human rights commission would have simply tossed this out. Levant makes the key point here:

I talked about the chilling effect that human rights complaints have not just on the victims -- e.g. the people and companies named in the complaints, like we were -- but on other media who see what could happen to them if they dare upset thin-skinned whiners. It's similar to the phenomenon of libel chill, except it's worse. Libel chill is when reporters are worried about writing a story for fear of being sued. But that's not much more than a healthy fear -- if a story's facts are true, it's defensible in defamation law. More than that, any would-be plaintiff would have to finance his own lawsuit, be subject to well-known rules of court, and have to pay the costs of any failed nuisance suits. None of those restraints are checks againt "human rights commission chill": truth is not a defence; plaintiffs complain for free; taxpayers pay for the prosecuting lawyers; rules are arbitrary; legal precedents are not applied consistently; and instead of judges, tribunals are stacked with activists, many not even lawyers.

The worst part is that there is no deterrent to spurious complaints -- there is no cost to making false accusations. That's where the "human rights chill" comes in: why would any rational publisher or editor report on sensitive subjects (read: radical Islam) if they knew they would be tagged with a no-win complaint?

That's the point I was making. And after I made it, Officer McGovern said "you're entitled to your opinions, that's for sure."

Well, actually, I'm not, am I? That's the reason I was sitting there. I don't have the right to my opinions, unless she says I do.

I feel very sorry for Commissioner McGovern, in that she appears to believe she is engaged in a rational process, but does not seem to get the real problem. She is sincerely engaged in a completely bogus process. And I suspect it can only lead to her being publicly embarrassed.

And here I show a lot of faith in my country. One good place to read about this case if the Wise Law Blog - Garry Wise links to the comical complaints against Macleans, and also predicts that the process will come out "right", though he seems not to get the point that there never ought to have been a process in these particular cases, and his arguments for there being one all point to considerations that miss Levant's points above.

My hope is that there will be a long period of silliness here (it is after all a very silly country) and when we come out of it with Levant and Macleans having paid some dues for the rest of us, we'll fix it. Well, I hope so. I think the grip of that fatuities of the '60s generation (what they call in Europe the '68ers) is loosening and maybe we can get back to what really ought to be liberalism. We remain pretty far from it now.


At 5:20 PM, Blogger Allan said...

If you read Garry J. Wise's blog carefully
it is clear he is a typical Canadian 'Kool-Aid drinker'.

Although he reluctantly admits
that the cases against Steyn and Levant are not justified
his heart clearly is with the parasites
on the HRC kangaroo courts
and he does say
that the complaints against Steyn would be actionable
if the same words had been uttered in different circumstances
(in the workplace, for example).

I quote from his blog:

"The complaints against Steyn way well be dubious
as a matter of law,
but let us not confuse who the "good guys" are here."

when attempting to post comments to his blog
avoid making moral judgements
about the members of the HRCs
or insinuations
about Mr. Wise's possible political motivations
else your comments may not appear.

At 5:28 PM, Blogger Alan Adamson said...

I do read it carefully. And I was just careless in my own views. This whole process should not exist. Garry thinks it is unproblematic that is does exist. I think Ezra Levant makes it very clear why this is NOT GOOD!!

I should perhaps apologize. I wanted to agree with Garry that we were likely not quite the moral equivalents of a major repressive state.

But mostly I think we seem to be trying to get there. He says there are big obstacles. I think he is right. But neither Ezra Levant nor Macleans should have been pressed to make us make this decision again. (As a side point, and I think it is deeply irrelevant, I agree the statements could be actionable in a workplace - surely depends on the employer and constraints on him/her. But not in the public space at all!)

I thought I lived in a country where the decision had long ago been made.

At 9:01 PM, Blogger Allan said...

I agree the statements could be actionable in a workplace
surely depends on the employer and constraints on him/her.
But not in the public space at all!

I'm not sure what you mean by this.
Are you saying that the state has the right to enforce 'speech codes' in the workplace?
That would seem to be Mr. Wise's position.

At 9:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Canada: Freedom of Speech succumbing to Kangaroo Courts of the Human Rights Commission

Proceedings against Ezra Levant are nothing short of ridiculous, but let's consider the implications for moderate Muslims. This "investigation" will further divide Muslims and non-Muslims in Canada. It will give credence to radicals' claims that the West is at war with Islam. It will antagonize non-Muslims and radicalize moderate Muslims. Regardless of the outcome, once again Islamists skillfully manipulated Dhimmi justice system and came out as clear winners. Thank you, Human Right Commission!

At 6:04 AM, Blogger Alan Adamson said...

Yes, I don't think I really like such restrictions in the workplace, but I have a smaller concern about state intervention there.

This state intervention has nothing to do with that at all.

At 12:58 PM, Blogger Allan said...

State intervention in the workplace concerns me as much
if not more
than intervention in the public domain.

And don't forget
Universities and Colleges are workplaces
and even students are learning how to use the HRCs.
This may seem far-fetched
(an action against Macleans would have seemed far-fetched
not so long ago)
but it is not.
I once was blackmailed by a student
who threatened to take me to the HRC.
It came to nothing
but I can assure you
even the threat
of being dragged to one of these kangaroo courts
is no laughing matter.

At 1:18 PM, Blogger Alan Adamson said...

Well, I agree I don't like it and you pick an interesting workplace for a test case. A University professor usually has even fewer resources than Macleans.

What appalls me most is that the complaint process is costless, and this is not confined to the public arena, and it simply invites worthless complaints and the sort of blackmail you experienced.


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