Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Michael Ignatieff Agrees: Americans Have Too Much Free Speech

So don't expect him to protect freedom of speech here in Canada:
Freedom of speech is an American concept according to a scholarly work edited by none other than current Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff. If Levant and others hope that Keith Martin's motion to abolish Section 13 of the Canadian Human Right Act was a sign that the Liberal Party was more committed to this issue than the other parties, they're sorely mistaken.

Most of Ignatieff's book is available via a Google books preview. Enough of it is available that you can get Ignatieff's main thesis, and the thesis of the writer who authored the section on the First Amendment. Entitled "American Exceptionalism and Human Rights," Ignatieff argues that America has done much abroad to promote human rights, while her domestic policy has ignored those very same standards. From the chapter on the First Amendment entitled "The Exceptional First Amendment" by Frederick Schauer:
On this cluster of interrelated topics, there appears to be a strong international consensus that the principles of freedom of expression are either overridden or irrelevant when what is being expressed is racial, ethnic or religious hatred. Going back at least as far as the 1965 Race Relations Act in the United Kingdom, Section 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and Article 20 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and continuing through numerous other national and international laws, treaties, conventions, covenants and understandings, the incitement to racial hatred and other verbal manifestations of race-based animosity are widely accepted as lying outside the boundaries of what a properly conceived freedom of expression encompasses. Consistent with this worldwide consensus and international mandate, the typical non-American domestic regime prohibits various forms of racially hostile speech, with "hate speech' being the common umbrella term of much of the speech that is commonly prohibited for reasons of its contribution to intolerance on the grounds of race, religion, ethnicity, national origin and, less commonly, gender and sexual orientation.
Sounds promising, doesn't it?

And another thing: the article which describes Michael Ignatieff's stand on free speech also quotes this passage by Pearl Eliadis: "My support for free speech stops at the same limits established in all civilized democraies: not only hate speech, but child pornography, libel and defamation. This is hardly 'un-Canadian,' to use Levant's word."

Yeah, as if Ezra Levant or anyone else for that matter ever demanded libel and defamation, not to mention child pornography, to be treated as free speech. Even when it comes to "hate speech" which Eliadis conveniently leaves out, there's a difference between direct incitement to violence and merely publishing a cartoon or writing an article that hurts some activist's feelings.

What we demand is the right to disagree - with one's views, with one's culture or with one's lifestyle. To publicly disagree without fear of being hauled in front of a quasi-judiciary tribunal where truth is not a defense, where hurt feelings matter more than facts, where the presumption is 'guilty until proven innocent' and where the process itself is the punishment. Too bad that so many of our opponents either fail or refuse to understand that.

No comments: