Monday, January 24, 2011

Defending Free Speech From Mob Rule

Heritage Minister James Moore should be commended for standing up for free speech:
Free speech has lost a few battles in the war against censorship lately. Banning songs from the airwaves after a single complaint, shutting up G20 protesters and the blocking of right-wing speakers on university campuses have all served to create a bleak impression of the state of open discourse. That's why we were pleasantly surprised by Heritage Minister James Moore's strong stand against those who this week attempted to force the cancellation of a screening of a film that warns of the dangers of Iran's nuclear program.
Apparently, the new screening date is February 6. It's a shame however that the National Archives cancelled the screening in the first place:
It’s a Canadian government institution, owned by the federal government and funded by taxpayers.

And they actually took instructions from a foreign tyrant.
The Library had a contract with Ottawa’s Free Thinking Film Society to screen a movie called Iranium, about Iran’s nuclear threat.

No wonder Iran wanted to censor it.

That’s not the surprising part. The surprising part is the Library complied.
Lorne Gunter looks further into this phenomenon and figures out that it becomes much easier for the violent mob to get their way when those in charge of the building hosting the event tend to share the protestors' views:
It used to be there actually had to be a violent protest before public institutions caved in and cancelled controversial events. ... Now, though, it seems the mere whiff of protest is enough for officialdom to bow to would-be protestors’ demands.
But mostly I also think political correctness has so infested the minds of most officials that they can’t bring themselves to say “no” to protestors. When pro-Palestinian protestors seek to shut down pro-Israeli events on university campuses, I think administrators give in because heeding the mob’s blackmail is the easiest way to avoid violence. But I also think they give in quickly because they share the protestors’ ideological and political stands. It’s hard to defend one’s opponents’ free-speech rights and harder still to tell those you agree with to settle down and go home.
When officials at the National Archives shut down their building Tuesday night, so that a showing of Iranium would have to be cancelled, I doubt they did so because they agree with the regime in Tehran. But they probably have more sympathy with the worldview of potential protestors than with the organizers, the Free Thinking Film Society. So it was not hard for them to hide behind the threat of violence and cancel an event they likely had little sympathy for in the first place.
I'm glad to see James Moore standing up to the mob rule and practically ordering the National Archives to honor their own words and to hold the screening. It's a pity however that there would be apparently no compensations to those who traveled to Ottawa looking forward to watch the documentary, just to find the doors shut, for those who then had to reschedule their time off at work, cancel and rebook their tickets and their hotel reservations. If those responsible for canceling the event were supposed to reimburse the audience their expenses - that would make them think twice before siding with the violent mob.

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