The original New Duranty Times headline on this appalling story was “Out of Step with Allies, U.S Defends Freedom to Offend in Speech,” but now they have changed it to “Unlike Others, U.S. Defends Freedom to Offend in Speech” — softening the “out of step” charge a bit, but not too much. The story glides from the Canadian case against Mark Steyn to a discussion of Nazis and racial epithets, without a shadow of a hint of the fact that what Steyn said was worlds away from Nazism or racism, but was instead essentially a straightforward presentation of Islamic supremacist statements made by Muslims. If that’s hate speech, so was reporting what Hitler said in 1935.
“Unlike Others, U.S. Defends Freedom to Offend in Speech,” by Adam Liptak in the New York Times, June 12 (thanks to all who sent this in):
VANCOUVER, British Columbia “” A couple of years ago, a Canadian magazine published an article arguing that the rise of Islam threatened Western values. The article’s tone was mocking and biting, but it said nothing that conservative magazines and blogs in the United States do not say every day without fear of legal reprisal.
The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal will soon rule on whether the cover story of the October 23, 2006, issue of Maclean’s magazine violated a provincial hate speech law.
Two members of the Canadian Islamic Congress say the magazine, Maclean’s, Canada’s leading newsweekly, violated a provincial hate speech law by stirring up hatred against Muslims. They say the magazine should be forbidden from saying similar things, forced to publish a rebuttal and made to compensate Muslims for injuring their “dignity, feelings and self-respect.”
Does the Canadian Islamic Congress have any evidence that Steyn’s article stirred up hatred against Muslims? Why, no. But that doesn’t seem to matter.
The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, which held five days of hearings on those questions here last week, will soon rule on whether Maclean’s violated the law. As spectators lined up for the afternoon session last week, an argument broke out.
“It’s hate speech!” yelled one man.
“It’s free speech!” yelled another.
In the United States, that debate has been settled. Under the First Amendment, newspapers and magazines can say what they like about minorities and religions “” even false, provocative or hateful things “” without legal consequence.
The Maclean’s article, “The Future Belongs to Islam,” was an excerpt from a book by Mark Steyn called “America Alone” (Regnery, 2006). The title was fitting: The United States, in its treatment of hate speech, as in so many other areas of the law, takes a distinctive legal path.
“In much of the developed world, one uses racial epithets at one’s legal peril, one displays Nazi regalia and the other trappings of ethnic hatred at significant legal risk, and one urges discrimination against religious minorities under threat of fine or imprisonment,” Frederick Schauer, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, wrote in a recent essay called “The Exceptional First Amendment.”
To follow the paragraph about America Alone with one about racial epithets and Nazi regalia is the New Duranty Times at its most subtly scurrilous. If someone is not familiar with Steyn’s book, he will get the idea that it is some kind of racist screed — and that, of course, is exactly the idea.
“But in the United States,” Professor Schauer continued, “all such speech remains constitutionally protected.”
Canada, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Australia and India all have laws or have signed international conventions banning hate speech. Israel and France forbid the sale of Nazi items like swastikas and flags. It is a crime to deny the Holocaust in Canada, Germany and France.
These are all foolish laws, including the Holocaust denial laws. The Holocaust happened, but laws restricting speech, even speech like this, set a dangerous precedent. The problem is that “hate speech” is in the eye of the beholder, and such laws become weapons in the hands of those who wield political power, or who are jockeying for that power — weapons to silence their opponents. The Times will never tell you, of course, that there is a worldwide and ongoing movement by Islamic jihadists and their allies and dupes to classify all critical examination of Islamic supremacism as “hate speech.” And who will be the chief beneficiary if they succeed? Why, the Islamic supremacists, and only the Islamic supremacists. We will be mute and hence defenseless in the face of the jihadist onslaught — as the State Department and DHS are well on the way to rendering us already.
Earlier this month, the actress Brigitte Bardot, an animal rights activist, was fined $23,000 in France for provoking racial hatred by criticizing a Muslim ceremony involving the slaughter of sheep.
By contrast, American courts would not stop a planned march by the American Nazi Party in Skokie, Ill., in 1977, though a march would have been deeply distressing to the many Holocaust survivors there.
Six years later, a state court judge in New York dismissed a libel case brought by several Puerto Rican groups against a business executive who had called food stamps “basically a Puerto Rican program.” The First Amendment, Justice Eve M. Preminger wrote, does not allow even false statements about racial or ethnic groups to be suppressed or punished just because they may increase “the general level of prejudice.”
The problem here is that true statements about Islam and jihad will be suppressed, and precisely as Islamic supremacists are pressing forward as never before with their program of stealth jihad against the West. We are far closer to restrictions on free speech than most people realize, with even the Times quoting learned analysts in favor of such restrictions:
Some prominent legal scholars say the United States should reconsider its position on hate speech.
“It is not clear to me that the Europeans are mistaken,” Jeremy Waldron, a legal philosopher, wrote in The New York Review of Books last month, “when they say that a liberal democracy must take affirmative responsibility for protecting the atmosphere of mutual respect against certain forms of vicious attack.”
“Vicious attack” in whose eyes? One man’s “vicious attack” is another man’s truth-telling. Who will be the arbiter? The perils of this ought to be obvious. They aren’t.
Professor Waldron was reviewing “Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment” by Anthony Lewis, the former New York Times columnist. Mr. Lewis has been critical of efforts to use the law to limit hate speech.
But even Mr. Lewis, a liberal, wrote in his book that he was inclined to relax some of the most stringent First Amendment protections “in an age when words have inspired acts of mass murder and terrorism.” In particular, he called for a re-examination of the Supreme Court’s insistence that there is only one justification for making incitement a criminal offense: the likelihood of imminent violence.
The irony of this is that Steyn’s book, which is what this article began by talking about, has not remotely inspired acts of mass murder and terrorism. Acts of mass murder and terrorism have only been inspired by words such as those being taught at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Virginia, and yet it is Steyn, not Muslim leaders in Canada who teach the same things taught in the Islamic Saudi Academy, who is on trial. Take, for example, these teachers in a Canadian Islamic school: they were suspended, but not tried. And I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if they are back at work again now, teaching the same things.
The imminence requirement sets a high hurdle. Mere advocacy of violence, terrorism or the overthrow of the government is not enough; the words must be meant to and be likely to produce violence or lawlessness right away. A fiery speech urging an angry mob to immediately assault a black man in its midst probably qualifies as incitement under the First Amendment. A magazine article “” or any publication “” intended to stir up racial hatred surely does not.
Notice how the Times is now judge, jury, and executioner for Steyn: his article, they say, was “intended to stir up racial hatred.” How do they know what Steyn intended? This omniscience regarding intentions is a cornerstone of hate speech laws, and it is vehemently absurd. And what race is Islam again?
Mr. Lewis wrote that there was “genuinely dangerous” speech that did not meet the imminence requirement.
“I think we should be able to punish speech that urges terrorist violence to an audience, some of whose members are ready to act on the urging,” Mr. Lewis wrote. “That is imminence enough.”
Harvey A. Silverglate, a civil liberties lawyer in Cambridge, Mass., disagreed. “When times are tough,” he said, “there seems to be a tendency to say there is too much freedom.”
“Free speech matters because it works,” Mr. Silverglate continued. Scrutiny and debate are more effective ways of combating hate speech than censorship, he said, and all the more so in the post-Sept. 11 era.
“The world didn’t suffer because too many people read “˜Mein Kampf,” ” Mr. Silverglate said. “Sending Hitler on a speaking tour of the United States would have been quite a good idea.”
Mr. Silverglate seemed to be echoing the words of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., whose 1919 dissent in Abrams v. United States eventually formed the basis for modern First Amendment law.
“The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market,” Justice Holmes wrote.
“I think that we should be eternally vigilant,” he added, “against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death.”
The First Amendment is not, of course, absolute. The Supreme Court has said that the government may ban fighting words or threats. Punishments may be enhanced for violent crimes prompted by racial hatred. And private institutions, including universities and employers, are not subject to the First Amendment, which restricts only government activities.
But merely saying hateful things about minorities, even with the intent to cause their members distress and to generate contempt and loathing, is protected by the First Amendment.
Here comes more sly smearing of Steyn, this time equating his work with the KKK:
In 1969, for instance, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction of a leader of a Ku Klux Klan group under an Ohio statute that banned the advocacy of terrorism. The Klan leader, Clarence Brandenburg, had urged his followers at a rally to “send the Jews back to Israel,” to “bury” blacks, though he did not call them that, and to consider “revengeance” against politicians and judges who were unsympathetic to whites.
Only Klan members and journalists were present. Because Mr. Brandenburg’s words fell short of calling for immediate violence in a setting where such violence was likely, the Supreme Court ruled that he could not be prosecuted for incitement.
In his opening statement in the Canadian magazine case, a lawyer representing the Muslim plaintiffs aggrieved by the Maclean’s article pleaded with a three-member panel of the tribunal to declare that the article subjected his clients to “hatred and ridicule” and to force the magazine to publish a response.
“You are the only thing between racist, hateful, contemptuous Islamophobic and irresponsible journalism, and law-abiding Canadian citizens,” the lawyer, Faisal Joseph, told the tribunal.
In response, the lawyer for Maclean’s, Roger D. McConchie, all but called the proceeding a sham.
“Innocent intent is not a defense,” Mr. McConchie said in a bitter criticism of the British Columbia law on hate speech. “Nor is truth. Nor is fair comment on true facts. Publication in the public interest and for the public benefit is not a defense. Opinion expressed in good faith is not a defense. Responsible journalism is not a defense.”
He is right, and that is why the British Columbia law is so pernicious.
Jason Gratl, a lawyer for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Journalists, which have intervened in the case in support of the magazine, was measured in his criticism of the law.
“Canadians do not have a cast-iron stomach for offensive speech,” Mr. Gratl said in a telephone interview. “We don’t subscribe to a marketplace of ideas. Americans as a whole are more tough-minded and more prepared for verbal combat.”
Poor, fragile Canadians. If they don’t toughen up, and soon, the delicate little dears are going to find themselves living in an Islamic state in which any critical remarks about Islam or Muhammad are forbidden, and the freedoms of non-Muslims restricted in numerous other ways besides. That could never happen in Canada? Why not? What will prevent it, when even speaking about the attempt is against the law?
Many foreign courts have respectfully considered the American approach “” and then rejected it.
Ah. They were more enlightened than us blunt, stupid Americans, semaphores the Duranty Times.
A 1990 decision from the Canadian Supreme Court, for instance, upheld the criminal conviction of James Keegstra for “unlawfully promoting hatred against an identifiable group by communicating anti-Semitic statements.” Mr. Keegstra, a teacher, had told his students that Jews were “money loving,” “power hungry” and “treacherous.”
Here again, there is simply no equivalent between these slurs and speaking about the Islamic supremacist agenda, which can be established by ample statements made by Muslims themselves. But the Times assumes they’re the same thing, and so does most of the world — unless we stand up and defend the truth.
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Brian Dickson said there was an issue “crucial to the disposition of this appeal: the relationship between Canadian and American approaches to the constitutional protection of free expression, most notably in the realm of hate propaganda.”
Chief Justice Dickson said “there is much to be learned from First Amendment jurisprudence.” But he concluded that “the international commitment to eradicate hate propaganda and, most importantly, the special role given equality and multiculturalism in the Canadian Constitution necessitate a departure from the view, reasonably prevalent in America at present, that the suppression of hate propaganda is incompatible with the guarantee of free expression.”
The United States” distinctive approach to free speech, legal scholars say, has many causes. It is partly rooted in an individualistic view of the world. Fear of allowing the government to decide what speech is acceptable plays a role. So does history.
“It would be really hard to criticize Israel, Austria, Germany and South Africa, given their histories,” for laws banning hate speech, Professor Schauer said in an interview.
In Canada, however, laws banning hate speech seem to stem from a desire to promote societal harmony. While the Ontario Human Rights Commission dismissed a complaint against Maclean’s, it still condemned the article.
“In Canada, the right to freedom of expression is not absolute, nor should it be,” the commission’s statement said. “By portraying Muslims as all sharing the same negative characteristics, including being a threat to “˜the West,” this explicit expression of Islamophobia further perpetuates and promotes prejudice toward Muslims and others.”
“All Muslims.” I’m constantly accused of characterizing “all Muslims” as this or that. I never have. I doubt Steyn did, either. It doesn’t matter, however. These hate speech promoters left truth and accuracy behind a long, long time ago.
A separate federal complaint against Maclean’s is pending.
Mr. Steyn, the author of the article, said the Canadian proceedings had illustrated some important distinctions. “The problem with so-called hate speech laws is that they”re not about facts,” he said in a telephone interview. “They”re about feelings.”
Precisely. As in this story.
“What we”re learning here is really the bedrock difference between the United States and the countries that are in a broad sense its legal cousins,” Mr. Steyn added. “Western governments are becoming increasingly comfortable with the regulation of opinion. The First Amendment really does distinguish the U.S., not just from Canada but from the rest of the Western world.”
At least for now. But it can happen here. We could lose the freedom to speak out against Islamic supremacism and jihad, and that will only enable the Islamic supremacists to advance farther into the heart of the West.
I have never done this before, but I ask whoever reads this and agrees with it to send it far and wide, along with this post. Free speech is in imminent danger, and in a way that will leave us defenseless against the jihadists. The Canada case against Steyn is just one of many indications. The UN’s “Deep” Doudou DiÃ¨ne is working on restricting free speech, and American Muslims are helping him. Pakistan just asked the EU to restrict freedom of expression so as to curb “offenses to Islam.” Finland just gave a blogger 2 1/2 years in prison for “insulting Islam.”
Yet this worldwide effort is not on most radar screens — it’s being ignored even by conservative bloggers who are generally aware of the jihad threat, as well as by those who think it’s all about Al-Qaeda and that Islam is otherwise a religion of peace. That’s why I’m asking you to send these two articles around, even to them — whatever they think of me and my work, they ought to be able to see the need to defend free speech.
If we don’t wake people up, it could be too late before anyone even realizes. Call me alarmist, call me hysterical, but it only took six months for Adolf Hitler to dismantle the Weimar Republic and impose a dictatorship. Huey Long is said to have remarked, “Fascism will come to America, but likely under another name, perhaps anti-fascism.” Now we are seeing just that: the anti-jihadists are called fascists, and are being silenced in fascist fashion, in the name of anti-fascism. It’s time to wake up. Please, try to wake someone up today.