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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Intellectual freedom: Is misunderstanding of Internet part of Canada's "human rights" problem?

Note: I have just heard via Deborah Gyapong of the parliamentary Press Gallery that the sock puppet complaint against Maclean's Magazine and Mark Steyn at the Canadian Human Rights Commission has been dismissed. So the Commish wants to save its bacon? Too late for that, actually. Not after all this.

Maclean's has responded,
Though gratified by the decision, Maclean's continues to assert that no human rights commission, whether at the federal or provincial level, has the mandate or the expertise to monitor, inquire into, or assess the editorial decisions of the nation's media. And we continue to have grave concerns about a system of complaint and adjudication that allows a media outlet to be pursued in multiple jurisdictions on the same complaint, brought by the same complainants, subjecting it to costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars, to say nothing of the inconvenience. We enthusiastically support those parliamentarians who are calling for legislative review of the commissions with regard to speech issues.
Oh, you mean like, we should go back to a free society? But why? Wasn't the Nanny Monster good to us all? - d.

This Eye Weekly article by Marc Weisblott on the proliferation of "human rights" bodies in Canada - occasioned by Western civil rights lawyer Ezra Levant's speech in Toronto - quotes me as saying:
The commissioners strike me as middle-class busybodies anxious to meddle in anything they can,” she says. “Failed professionals ... it seems to me that they lack a sense of boundaries, and imagine that they can remake society into whatever they think it should be.
Was I too kind? Well, I won't let them off so lightly next time. They blunder into any area they please and make a mess of it.

As Weisblott notes, I have been transcribing portions of Levant's recent talk at the Canadian Bar Association offices, and that story is here.

Weisblott also offers some interesting observations about the origin of Canada's "Commission creep", for example:
Leo Adler, director of national affairs for Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre showed up to heckle Levant, claiming that since the number of anti-Semitic websites based in Canada has gone from one to 8,000 over the course of 13 years, the law is therefore more necessary than ever. The quarter century separating Adler from Levant may well just be a generation gap, however. Does the power to post something online equate to actual power?
Well, no, that's just the thing. It doesn't equate to actual power, and the people who think so do not understand the Internet.

The Internet is a horizontally integrated medium, not a vertically integrated one. Anyone who can use a keyboard can start a blog for free at Blogger (or some other host perhaps). So there are a zillion blogs out there.

Some get thousands of visitors a day, make money for their owners, and advance their careers.

Some - like the Post-Darwinist - get several hundred visitors a day and are operated as a free service to those interested in a specific topic - in this case, the intelligent design controversy (a special salute to the readers of my book By Design or by Chance?).

Many blogs are rarely updated, seldom searched, and read by no one in particular from week to week.

Leo Adler is probably thinking back to the days of vertically integrated media. Years ago, for example, being editor-in-chief of Canada's Globe and Mail meant something. Important people took note of our "Grey Lady's" editorials. If indeed the Lady had been spouting anti-Semitism, well that would certainly be a serious problem - not because someone was saying it but because people who made a difference were listening.

By contrast, in a horizontal medium like blogging, the ability to post something nasty or scurrilous online does not in itself confer any power at all, because few are usually listening, and those few are usually convinced anyway. Some bloggers may as well be ranting and cursing in their own rec rooms.

But trust the "human" face of fascism (the "human rights" commissions) to try to make thes online rec rooms illegal. Just think of the many potential career paths for fulltime government busybodies ...

This just in: The middle class busybodies of BC are actually charging a comedian! As one commenter says,
Only the comedian and restaurant were charged? What about all the other patrons? Surely they laughed a Earl’s jokes - isn’t that a hate crime in Canada too?
Anyway, here is the comedian's hilarious defence. If only there were no genuine harm done in terms of lives destroyed by crippling legal bills or unacceptable "remedies" - if only they would all wear carnival clothes. But not, alas, in "secular" Canada.

And here's John Oakley on BC's "human" face of fascism's "this is NOT funny!" decision.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy here:

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