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Blowhard vs. Bureaucrat? A Defense of Free Speech.
January 15, 2008 8:43 AM   Subscribe

Blowhard vs. Bureaucrat? A Defense of Free Speech. During the controversy over the Danish cartoons of Mohammed (original Mefi thread), one of the few Canadian outlets to republish the offending images was the now-mostly-defunct Western Standard magazine run by controversial right-wing pundit and lawyer Ezra Levant. Now, Levant is facing a human rights complaint before the Alberta Human Rights Commission, and has posted his initial interview with the Commission online. Levant is frequently vitriolic, and his interlocutor mostly bored, but the issues raised are important ones. Levant's summary of the situation is here, and his opening statement to the Commission is here.
posted by Urban Hermit (55 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I'm all for free speech; as long as people are saying what I want to hear and I'm not offended.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:46 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I wish the ability to speak your mind without being brought before a tribunal was considered a human right worth protecting, rather than the right not to be offended.
posted by Falconetti at 8:49 AM on January 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


How about the right to free transcription for those of us who have YouTube blocked?

*sigh*
posted by GuyZero at 8:55 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


It was very difficult to read the (as Levant puts it) scrawled complaint, but it sounded like the complainant had other issues than just the posting of the cartoons. Is there anything from the other side in this complaint?

At first blush this seems completely ridiculous, not to mention dangerously oppressive. But I would like to understand the other side's position.
posted by gurple at 8:58 AM on January 15, 2008


Having read the postings and the original complaint, I would say that while this is pure harassment the fact that the human rights complaint system can be abused does not make it inherently bad. Although he does manage to give a lot of examples of poor judgements.
posted by GuyZero at 9:01 AM on January 15, 2008


Gurple: here is the complainant's account (it doesn't really explain much).

GuyZero: here's a transcript of the opening statement.
posted by Urban Hermit at 9:07 AM on January 15, 2008


Hate speech is not protected in Canada, and in fact, Canada has no guarantee of absolute Freedom of Expression (or any other right) because of the first clause:

1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:11 AM on January 15, 2008


Thanks, Urban Hermit. You're right, the complainant's press release doesn't explain much. But it does provide some humor:

Syed Soharwardy [the complainant] thanked the Prime Minister, Steven Harper for supporting Canadian Muslims. He also thanked the mainstream Canadian Media for protecting the freedom of the press with responsibility and accountability.
posted by gurple at 9:11 AM on January 15, 2008


The Noxious Fruits of Hate Speech laws: A Canadian government investigation into a newspaper publisher reveals how tyrannical and dangerous such laws are
posted by homunculus at 9:12 AM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'd feel a whole lot more sympathy for Levant's position if it weren't for the fact of its being espoused by a dickhead like Levant. His sole motivator, first, last and always, has only ever been, "What's in for me?" And if the answer is "publicity", he's there. Kind of like Canada's Dr Phil, but without the good doc's psychiatric credibility.
posted by Mike D at 9:16 AM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'd feel a whole lot more sympathy for Levant's position if it weren't for the fact of its being espoused by a dickhead like Levant.

"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." - George Orwell, Preface to Animal Farm (1946)

"Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you're in favor of free speech, then you're in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise. Otherwise, you're not in favor of free speech." Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (1992).

"The principle of free thought is not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought we hate." US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in United States v. Schwimmer (1929).

If dickheads don't have free speech, none of us do. I thank the Founders once again for the First Amendment.
posted by languagehat at 9:24 AM on January 15, 2008 [8 favorites]


Did you know there is a prominent statue of Mohammed in the US Supreme Court building. He is holding a sword and the Koran.
posted by tkchrist at 9:24 AM on January 15, 2008


I'm glad this happened to somebody who wants to have a media field day with it. In fact, I can't think of a more fortuitous person for it to happen to than a loud neocon blowhard, for at least two reasons.
posted by gurple at 9:25 AM on January 15, 2008


I'd feel a whole lot more sympathy for Levant's position if it weren't for the fact of its being espoused by a dickhead like Levant.

The guy is an utter asshole.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:28 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I really think we're going to run into differences of opinion based on country of origin on this one.

I'm from the US, and I agree with languagehat. I don't trust the government to censure speech.

But we're unusually protective of free speech. Other democracies don't have the traditions that we do. France and Germany leap to mind as countries comfortable with banning and punishing "hate speech."

I think they're wrong and we're right, but things might break on those lines.
posted by ibmcginty at 9:34 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


The complaint, like the whole cartoon hullaballoo, is a joke.
Unfortunately Levant is a joke too, so I am torn.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:57 AM on January 15, 2008


If you don't have free speech for people who want to falsely shout "fire" in a crowded theater, you don't have free speech for anyone.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:09 AM on January 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


Freedome of speech is often fought for the sake of scoundrels. It's not always the Howl trial. Sometimes it's Larry Flynt fighting for the right to say the Jerry Falwell had sex with his mother in an outhouse.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:16 AM on January 15, 2008


Publishing a cartoon of Mohammad is not analogous to yelling fire in a crowded public space.
posted by tkchrist at 10:16 AM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]



It's not always the Howl trial.

Allen Ginsberg WAS a scoundrel.
posted by tkchrist at 10:17 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


gurple: Thanks, Urban Hermit. You're right, the complainant's press release doesn't explain much. But it does provide some humor: "Syed Soharwardy [the complainant] thanked the Prime Minister, Steven Harper for supporting Canadian Muslims. He also thanked the mainstream Canadian Media for protecting the freedom of the press with responsibility and accountability."

Not so humorous. He seems to believe that he makes sense in doing so.

The complaints are not so simple and foolish. A transcription of the original 'hand-scrawled' complaint:

On Monday, February 13, Mr. Ezra Levant insulted me on air on CBC Radio at 7:00 am and called me "Raghead." He also said that the hateful cartoons are justified to be published in his magazine Western Standards. I have attached a few of his statements but his on air statements can be obtained from CBC, CTV and other media organizations. Publishing of cartoons in the Western Standards is in fact, [stretching?] hate against me. I am openly the follower and related to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Western Standards have published cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad as terrorist. It means he had defamed me and my family because we follow and related to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Prophet Muhammad was never a terrorist. He always preached love and respect. Unfortunately, I was not able to find the complete address for Western Standards. I hope the commission can find and [tr..?] Mr. Ezra Levant who is well known in the community / Calgary.

I would think that somebody who used the term 'raghead' on CBC would be censured just a little. I hope so. In any case, Mr. Soharwardy, who claims to be the founder of a group called "Muslims Against Terrorism," is at times very eloquent, and seems to understand the issue. As he says in his presentation to the Human Rights Commission (linked above):

In Islam making images of Prophets and Messengers of God have been forbidden in order to discourage people from worshiping the portraits of sacred people as mentioned in the Qur'an... However, Islamic laws do not apply upon non-Muslims, especially in a non-Muslim country like Canada. Therefore, I am not asking the two publishers of Jewish Free Press and the Western Standard to follow the Islamic laws. Had the publishers published the portraits of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), it might not have been a big issue, at least in my personal opinion. But these two publishers printed very insulting, hateful, offensive, humiliating cartoons / caricatures. These publishers have made a mockery of our religion, our prophet and each Canadian that follows the religion of Islam. [Emphasis mine.]

I tend to agree. At the very least, it's somewhat compelling, and he seems to have convinced some other people.

I doubt that anyone had any intention in reprinting those cartoons that was above-board; it seems like this guy likes the idea of stirring up shit. But even though he probaby isn't violently hateful, he should not have published those cartoons, and he should be censured for having done so. They have a very real impact, whether he intends that impact or not. And I have a hard time thinking he didn't see this coming.
posted by koeselitz at 10:19 AM on January 15, 2008


The complaints are not so simple and foolish.

yes, they are - call the guy a bigot and have done with it
posted by pyramid termite at 10:21 AM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Did you know there is a prominent statue of Mohammed in the US Supreme Court building. He is holding a sword and the Koran.
posted by tkchrist at 5:24 PM on January 15

With the level of fear-mongering the Bush administration (and cronies) generates, I can only assume the statue is guarded 24/7.

You know, just in case it tries anything.
posted by kaemaril at 10:25 AM on January 15, 2008


The "yelling 'fire' in the crowded theater" is a poor example 99% of the times it's used.
posted by clevershark at 10:28 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


But these two publishers printed very insulting, hateful, offensive, humiliating cartoons / caricatures. (from koeselitz's quote of Soharwardy's presentation)

Yes, and? Publishers often print very insulting, hateful, offensive, humiliating cartoons / caricatures. There are any number of political figures, alive and dead, who have had degrading depictions of themselves plastered all over newspapers all over the world. Why does Muhammad get a pass?

I guess I'm with the free speech extremists on this one. I firmly support the right of all these organizations to have printed these cartoons, regardless of the vileness of some of their reasons for doing so.
posted by gurple at 10:38 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


If dickheads don't have free speech, none of us do. I thank the Founders once again for the First Amendment.

Dickheads? No problem. The fuzzy lines are around the hypocrites. Can a civil society protect the free speech rights of those who speak against free speech (or freedom to live), specifically when they hold a plurality, without endangering the welfare of a marginalized group? Cases like this undermine the whole premise of hate speech laws since the cartoons cannot in any reasonable way be shown to cause imminent danger to anyone or really is there even justification for being offended, whilst the same commentator (I presume as every neocon I've listened to does though admittedly I'm not familiar with him) openly calls for the execution/enslavement/torture of whichever unlikeables of the day without facing any consequences. In fact I think this is a deliberate right wing strategy since the latter views seem to be the ones they're more interested in pushing.
posted by kigpig at 10:39 AM on January 15, 2008


Astro Zombie: Freedom of speech is often fought for the sake of scoundrels. It's not always the Howl trial. Sometimes it's Larry Flynt fighting for the right to say the Jerry Falwell had sex with his mother in an outhouse.

Yes. But freedom of speech isn't the greatest good. It doesn't trump all. And if it's Larry Flynt fighting for the right to say Jerry Falwell had sex with his mother in an outhouse, then he has some room merely because he's talking about a public figure; but if he'd said that seriously, and especially if he'd said it about a someone who wasn't a public figure or hadn't put themselves out there like Jerry Falwell has, he'd have been legally in the wrong. We have laws against libel and slander for a reason, and the Supreme Court ruling in that case has to do with obvious parody.

But this is beyond even that. Hateful speech is a thread to society, and it shouldn't be allowed. It's a fine line between being absolutely free and being free within the limits of responsibility, but that line must be judged if we want to build a society that's actually just. It's possible to create works of art that are simply incitements to hatred. The "yelling fire in a crowded theater" analogy has always been meant to signify situations where material, regardless of its intent, has an adverse affect on society as a whole. These cartoons qualify.
posted by koeselitz at 10:42 AM on January 15, 2008


I would think that somebody who used the term 'raghead' on CBC would be censured just a little.

Levant wasn't speaking on behalf of the CBC, so they couldn't really censure him. Here's a cbc.ca article about the cartoons' publication from February 13, 2006 that features a clip of a Levant interview - not the one where he said 'ragheads', though.

The Mohammed statue in the SCOTUS building was mentioned on This American Life a week or so ago, was sort of interesting.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:43 AM on January 15, 2008


Levant may be a blowhard, but he's right. Freedom of religion doesn't just mean freezing tradition in carbonite - it means that people are free to believe, not believe, and question. If I don't have the right to say that I've considered the tenants of Islam and find some of them offensive and others silly, then even as a non-Muslim my freedom of religion is infringed.

Eventually every single religion that people currently believe in will either disappear or be transformed beyond recognition. No government policy will change that, though religious conservatives would love the help.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:43 AM on January 15, 2008


gurple: I guess I'm with the free speech extremists on this one. I firmly support the right of all these organizations to have printed these cartoons, regardless of the vileness of some of their reasons for doing so.

Not that this necessarily has anything to do with the case at hand, but does freedom of speech supercede every other freedom or protection? For example, are laws against slander or libel constitutional, even though they limit the freedom of speech?
posted by koeselitz at 10:44 AM on January 15, 2008


1adam12: If I don't have the right to say that I've considered the tenants of Islam and find some of them offensive and others silly, then even as a non-Muslim my freedom of religion is infringed.

The complaintant makes it pretty clear that merely criticizing the tenets of Islam is something one is free to do. That's not the issue here at all. The issue is: is it legitimate to publish cartoons whose intent and whose effect is to incite hatred, rather than rational thought or consideration of the issue?
posted by koeselitz at 10:47 AM on January 15, 2008


The "yelling 'fire' in the crowded theater" is a poor example 99% of the times it's used.

That's because 99% of the time it's used, the person using it is assuming that even free speech "absolutists" will mindlessly agree that shouting fire in a crowded theater should not be protected as free speech, and he seeks to create some analogy to some other speech which they believe should not be protected.

The other 1% of the time, however, the person using the "shouting fire in a crowded theater" example is seriously advocating that falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater should be protected as free speech.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:50 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: Hateful speech is a threat to society, and it shouldn't be allowed... The "yelling fire in a crowded theater" analogy has always been meant to signify situations where material, regardless of its intent, has an adverse affect on society as a whole. These cartoons qualify.

That's my issue with any law that's as open-ended as these hate speech laws. Enforcement depends on interpretation. I don't agree with either of your statements above, but even if I bought into the first (hateful speech shouldn't be allowed), you and I and everyone else will have radically different ideas of what "qualifies" as hate speech.

I'm ignoring your libel question, koeselitz, because I'm embarrassingly ignorant of the intersection of libel and freedom of speech.
posted by gurple at 10:51 AM on January 15, 2008


The issue is: is it legitimate to publish cartoons whose intent and whose effect is to incite hatred, rather than rational thought or consideration of the issue?

Are you under the impression that most cartoons, or the only "legitimate" ones, promote "rational thought"? Read what gurple said up there. Every day lots and lots of nasty cartoons are published all over the world. Why does Muhammad get a pass?

Also, I don't know if you've actually seen the cartoons; I have, and frankly most of them weren't particularly inflammatory. There were a few nasty ones, but even those were on the level of your average edgy political cartoon. I don't recall anything whose intent seemed to be to get people to run out and kill Muslims.
posted by languagehat at 10:54 AM on January 15, 2008


The issue is: is it legitimate to publish cartoons whose intent and whose effect is to incite hatred

how do you know what the intent was and how do you go about proving that in a court? - and then, how do you know that any subsequent hatred is an effect of those cartoons and not due to some other cause that someone is using the cartoons as an excuse for hate?

the actual cartoonists are in denmark and aren't subject to canadian law, so it's beyond me how you can establish intent in a canadian courtroom when you can't compel their testimony
posted by pyramid termite at 11:05 AM on January 15, 2008


The complaintant makes it pretty clear that merely criticizing the tenets of Islam is something one is free to do. That's not the issue here at all. The issue is: is it legitimate to publish cartoons whose intent and whose effect is to incite hatred, rather than rational thought or consideration of the issue?

But is it the cartoons themselves that incite hatred and violence? Those violent protests (and, yes, I know that the vast majority of the protests were peaceful) didn't happen spontaneously, they were part of a concerted campaign on part of some extremist preachers. Publishing the cartoons isn't nearly as close to yelling fire in a crowded building as is telling people they need to riot because the cartoons were published.
posted by SBMike at 11:28 AM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Did you know that the original reference to "shouting fire in a theater" was in the 1919 Supreme Court case Schenck v US? Schenck was a Socialist protesting against the draft during World War I and distributing pamphlets on how to resist it. So here you have a pretty paradigmatic example of arbitrary "common sense" restrictions on speech being used in a way that suppresses an undeniably legitimate use of the First Amendment. And it wasn't some braindead Justice Alito writing the opinion, either: it was Oliver Wendell Holmes.


But this is beyond even that. Hateful speech is a thread to society, and it shouldn't be allowed. It's a fine line between being absolutely free and being free within the limits of responsibility, but that line must be judged if we want to build a society that's actually just. It's possible to create works of art that are simply incitements to hatred. The "yelling fire in a crowded theater" analogy has always been meant to signify situations where material, regardless of its intent, has an adverse affect on society as a whole. These cartoons qualify.


You're not much of a Nietzschean if you talk like this.
posted by nasreddin at 11:49 AM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Western Standards have published cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad as terrorist.

Anyone got a link to the cartoons he's talking about? Because none of the ones I saw when this first happened match up with his comments here. Some of them didn't even depict Muhammad at all, either.

I'm also unclear when it was *required* that a political cartoon incite rational thought.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:00 PM on January 15, 2008


koeselitz, I believe the term you transcribe from the original complaint as "raghead" is actually "radical" - it is difficult to make out from the handwriting, but I seem to recall there is at least one reference to it later in the recorded interview. It is also more believable - while Levant can be obnoxious, had a figure as controversial as he referred to a prominent Muslim cleric as a "raghead" live on Mothercorp Radio, the chattering classes in Canada would have been all over it long ago.

I agree with your general approach to this in that I am not a free speech absolutist, but I must join others in disagreeing with you as to the particulars. The re-publication of these cartoons was not intended to incite hatred against Muslims. At worst it was likely intended to provoke offense on the part of Muslims and ridicule of Islam's supposed intolerance on the part of others. The former aim might be contemptible and the latter uninformed, but neither should be subject to formal censure by the state.

And that is a key issue here as well - this action is not being pursued through the courts either as a tort claim or a criminal prosecution (hate speech is a Criminal Code offense in Canada). It is being handled by a quasi-judicial entity that does not necessarily offer the same respect for precedent, guarantee of due process, or required burden of proof. All the same, its decisions carry meaningful consequences, not the least of which is a chilling effect on all other media who might in the future consider publishing 'offensive' material.
posted by Urban Hermit at 12:05 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


The "yelling fire in a crowded theater" analogy has always been meant to signify situations where material, regardless of its intent, has an adverse affect on society as a whole. These cartoons qualify.
(Emph. mine)

Well, that's kind of the core of the whole business right there, isn't it? Even if I did agree with you that 'hate speech' restrictions are legitimate -- and I'm not sure I do -- I don't think the cartoons were necessarily 'hate speech.' They were pretty tame, actually; certainly no more or less edgy than a lot of Western media.

I don't think they can really be said to have been meant to incite violence against Muslims, particularly since exactly the opposite occurred. And if you accept that something is 'hate speech' because it offends someone else into being violent, then you're just created a very slippery slope: if I don't like something you say to me, I'll go out and commit some sort of violence, blame it on your 'inflammatory' comment, and suddenly you committed hate speech because I got violent. I hope even you can see the problem there.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:22 PM on January 15, 2008


These cartoons qualify.

No they don't.

Have you SEEN them? They were nothing. Mad Magazine and Chirs Rock do worse incitement and indignities to the human condition than those cartoons.

But long dead prophets get a bye. You know. 'Cause some tiny minority of religious nuts with too much time on their hands somewhere might light something on fire.

Are we always scolding people for stereotyping. So how come this one religion gets a pass that nobody else gets becuase a few members are hyper extremists who may leverage and manipulate "offense' to generate a a mob and some press. Not ALL Muslims think this is a big deal, people. And most of the ones that do NEVER SAW THE CARTOON and only heard about it third had from people with an agenda.

Jesus. H. Fucking Christ.

Ooops. I guess I should be banned. I insulted a prophet that has been dead for 2000 years! I yelled FIRE! FIRE!

Er. Wait. In a virtual environment I guess the equivalent would be "VIRUS"

"VIRUS!"
posted by tkchrist at 12:33 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's my issue with any law that's as open-ended as these hate speech laws. Enforcement depends on interpretation. I don't agree with either of your statements above, but even if I bought into the first (hateful speech shouldn't be allowed), you and I and everyone else will have radically different ideas of what "qualifies" as hate speech.

Bingo. It's funny how angry free expression on one side issues like these is "hate speech", and angry free expression on the other is "someone's right as a religious person".

As long as our society is riddled with double-standards and taboo subjects like these, hate speech laws are nothing but an excuse to enforce the status-quo and ignore debate. Hurrah, now nobody is allowed to mention the elephant in the room! This is sure to aid us in our anti-elephant efforts!
posted by vorfeed at 12:54 PM on January 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


ELEPHANTS IN ROOMS MUST BE ELIMINATED!!!

Elephants outside are ok.
posted by tkchrist at 12:57 PM on January 15, 2008


ELEPHANTS IN ROOMS MUST BE ELIMINATED!!!

Elephants outside are ok.


Well, OK, but I think we can all agree that depictions of elephants, whether inside or not, are insulting, hateful, offensive, and humiliating. These publishers have made a mockery of our religion, our prophet and each Canadian that follows the religion of Hathi!
posted by vorfeed at 1:15 PM on January 15, 2008


It turns out that Soharwardy himself is in the HRC dock because of complaints by women in his mosque for that he abused them verbally.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:32 PM on January 15, 2008


nasreddin: You're not much of a Nietzschean if you talk like this.

I'm not much of a Nietzschean at all. But neither is anybody who talks about 'freedom of speech.'
posted by koeselitz at 2:09 PM on January 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


nasreddin: Did you know that the original reference to "shouting fire in a theater" was in the 1919 Supreme Court case Schenck v US? Schenck was a Socialist protesting against the draft during World War I and distributing pamphlets on how to resist it. So here you have a pretty paradigmatic example of arbitrary "common sense" restrictions on speech being used in a way that suppresses an undeniably legitimate use of the First Amendment. And it wasn't some braindead Justice Alito writing the opinion, either: it was Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Important point to note: Schenck was overturned by a new standard: "clear and present danger." Under which standard these cartoons are certainly not illegal in the United States. People here are correct to speak as though they would have to be incitement to violence in order to be illegal. I don't believe they were; they were merely very hateful. But whatever. Soharwardy, Levant, et al will continue their wrangling. I should disentange myself from such people.
posted by koeselitz at 2:27 PM on January 15, 2008


Mr. Soharwardy, who claims to be the founder of a group called "Muslims Against Terrorism [said] "... Islamic laws do not apply upon non-Muslims ..."

Well, they do when Muslims are in charge: Captured British Sailor Faye Turney in a headscarf. Whatever precise religious injunctions might exist, it is quite normal for religious groups attempt to impose their own morality upon society. Sometimes this is good - religious resistance to Nazism, for example - and sometimes it isn't.

If Islam (or resurgent Christianity) becomes more common in Western countries then Enlightenment/post-1960s Western morality - like freedom of speech, or standards of dress, or family planning - will be challenged, and if we believe that liberal Western morality is superior then we should be thinking ahead now to how we will meet these challenges. Politely, of course.

For example, restrictions on free speech might be opposed on the grounds that laws that 'protect' religion from criticism are usually be employed by Muslim, Christian and Jewish groups against each other, leaving the state to officiate between them. Pointing out that 'protection from religious insult' might lead to the censoring of the Koran/Bible/Torah seems a good angle. (see the Australian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 for example)
posted by alasdair at 2:40 PM on January 15, 2008


I should disentange myself from such people.

The impulse is certainly understandable, though this discussion will suffer as a result.

People here are correct to speak as though they would have to be incitement to violence in order to be illegal. I don't believe they were; they were merely very hateful.

Although people were referring to the US, you are actually correct when it comes to Canada. It is a criminal code offense [S. 319 (2)] to "wilfully promote hatred" against an "identifiable group."
posted by Urban Hermit at 2:57 PM on January 15, 2008


Ugh. Ezra Levant is a moron.

The local newspaper won't even publish his editorials anymore.
posted by chugg at 3:18 PM on January 15, 2008


I can't believe how some of you people keep repeating the same argument over again. Political speech that doesn't pose an imminent threat of harm should be most protected when it's the kind of speech you like the least. Intent, hypocrisy, whether the guy is a jerk are superfluous compared to the importance of protecting our most fundamental right, be you Canadian or American. I just can't believe how willing some of you are to put the noose around your own neck to feel morally superior.
posted by fraxil at 4:02 PM on January 15, 2008


I think the eggshell skull standard should apply. If you can't get up in the morning, grab a newspaper, and read a cartoon that mocks your religion without rampaging about and starting riots, then your fragile ego should be considered your own responsibility. Um, and your actions too.

If you don't have free speech for people who want to falsely shout "fire" in a crowded theater, you don't have free speech for anyone.

Did you know that your position on this issue, being different from mine, is infinitesimally closer to an absurd, absolute position than mine? Scary, isn't it!
posted by yath at 9:31 PM on January 15, 2008


I guess I meant "crumbling skull". Ack.
posted by yath at 9:33 PM on January 15, 2008


Soharwardy drops complaint, Levant prepares to sue.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:16 AM on February 14, 2008


Oh no. So the circus continues.
posted by GuyZero at 7:32 AM on February 14, 2008


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