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Monday, July 14, 2008

Intellectual freedom in Canada: First order of business is comedy!

Yes, absolutely, the first order of business is definitely comedy, on Saturday night, July 19, celebrating 40 years of stand up comedy "an event that embodies our right to free speech (while we still have it)"

Details: Tickets $20 at Comedy Bar, 945B Bloor St. West, show starts 9:00 pm July 19, all proceeds to Guy Earle's defense. Earle is the comic charged by the BC human rights tribunal because some hecklers were offended by his response after they dissed him.

Comics: Register online: One minute each, only 40 spots available. 60 seconds to shoot your mouth off.

Mark Steyn, himself a funnyman in prose, talks about Earle on the Hugh Hewitt show here:
MS: ... these hack bureaucrats simply don’t get it, and they want to expand their powers. The British Columbia judges, the ones in my case, have now moved on to prosecuting this fellow called Guy Earle, who is a stand-up comedian. And basically, two people who’d been barracking him during the show complained that he’d been rude to them, as comics often are. You have to, if you’re doing live stand-up, you have to be able to put down hecklers. Unfortunately, in his case, the hecklers were two lesbians, and they’ve now complained (laughing)…

[ ... ]

I think jokes are one of the absolutely critical things that distinguish free societies from unfree societies. I love that line of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s – “There are no jokes in Islam.” He says, you know, if you think you’re down here to have fun, have a laugh, have a good time, have a big giggle, a chuckle, split your sides, forget it. There are no jokes in Islam.
The ayatollah had obviously never met some of my Muslim friends who are well acquainted with a good joke. Just as well on both sides I am sure.

Meanwhile, civil rights lawyer Ezra Levant, has suggested to a US Congress committee that they put Canada on a rights abuse watch list:
So what can Americans do?

1. The first thing you can do is what you always do: continue to monitor the erosion of freedom around the world, including through Congressional committees like this one. Publish annual reports shaming foreign countries for their abuses of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Put Canada on that list, to let our government know what they’re doing isn’t acceptable.

2. And rededicate yourselves to your First Amendment. Understand that the erosion of freedom doesn’t always happen with a bang – it can happen with a whimper. And that, when it comes to free speech, it’s usually unpopular people who are censored first. But if they can go for a neo-Nazi yesterday, it’s Geno’s Steak House today, and then a Christian pastor or a news magazine tomorrow.
I think that might be a good idea. A few independent American news outlets might cover the ongoing mulching of civil rights here. The others will cover the latest fashions in belly rings.

Friend Franklin Carter of the Book and Periodical Council of Canada also calls my attention to an important clarification of our libel laws. In "The right to be 'wrong-headed'," media lawyer Brian MacLeod Rogers of Toronto explains,
The Supreme Court of Canada's decision in WIC Radio Ltd. v. Simpson (2008 SCC 40) clarifies and strengthens a defence that had fallen into murky depths and had become too unreliable to be counted on when most needed. Nothing can be more important in a democracy than to have citizens feel that they can speak freely and openly about their views – however wrong-headed those views may seem to others.

In their ruling, all nine judges said
that "public controversy can be a rough trade and the law needs to accommodate its requirements." An "overly solicitous regard for personal reputation," the court added, should not be permitted "to 'chill' freewheeling debate on matters of public interest."
But do let's remember that, for those of us lucky enough to live in or near Toronto, the first order of business is comedy, comedy, comedy Saturday night. I am buying my ticket tomorrow.

Please note: This is late nite comedy. Don't bring Aunt Censoria. Get her to babysit Bowser the Schnauzer.

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