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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Intellectual freedom in Canada: Comedy and libel - a quick update

About next Saturday's comedy show, Mark Steyn writes,
Denyse O'Leary's misgivings about the event may well be borne out, but, if I weren't going to be several thousand miles away, I'd certainly be there myself - and I urge all freespeechers in the neighborhood to attend: Be there even if you're square. No doubt many of the participants were hitherto entirely relaxed by the thought police cracking down on Swift Current White Supremacists and the First Church of Christ the Same-Sex-Marriage Disparager. But the reality is that any truly free society will have its share of anti-Semites and homophobic pastors and right-wing blowhards and left-wing pottymouth comics, and, if you give the government license to squash the liberties of selected citizens, you soon find they're selecting all kinds of other folk. So, if you're in Toronto this Saturday, do check out Guy Earle and co.

Now, please let me clarify: I sincerely hope my misgivings are misguided. That is, the comics should aim principally at real threats, not convenient joke topics.

In our society today, the would-be neo-Nazi in the basement apartment (Aryan Storm Eagle on an obscure Internet site but in real life an unemployable schmuck whose landlady bullies him when he forgets which day of the week he is allowed to use the ironing board) - that guy is not a threat except to himself.

However, the social worker with a string of degrees and a self-imposed mission to wipe out hurt feelings everywhere IS a threat. Many in our society are bafflegabbed by her jargon, feel more secure when she is running their lives, and don't think that growing up is all that great an idea anyway.

For what it is worth, I have always thought that Aldous Huxley's Brave New World was a better dystopian picture of our society than Orwell's 1984. Huxley got the most important thing right - infantilizing people is far more effective than terror for gaining control.

In my view, we need to aim at Nanny Monster, not at Aryan Storm Schmuck.

See also: Intellectual freedom in Canada: The first order of business is comedy!

Meanwhile, Franklin Carter of the Book and Periodical Council kindly writes to add:
Incidentally, Brian MacLeod Rogers has organized a coalition of interested parties to support the newly minted PIRJ defence against libel charges in Ontario.

PIRJ stands for "public interest responsible journalism." The Ontario Court of Appeal created this defence late last year while reviewing Cusson v. Quan, a newspaper libel case.

In late June, the Governing Board of the Book and Periodical Council voted to join Rogers's coalition and defend PIRJ.

In the not-too-distant future, the Supreme Court of Canada will decide whether PIRJ remains on the lawbooks as a valid defence against libel charges.

So you might want to watch for news about Cusson v. Quan and the PIRJ defence.


Be sure I shall, Franklin. People who are used to praise tend to think that media should be their private public relations firms. Hurt feelings abound when they don't get what they want, so they sue. Good luck to the PBC.

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