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Monday, January 10, 2011

Intellectual freedom in Canada: Toxic politics and control of the Internet

 Canadian free speech bloggers have been watching, with growing concern, the developments in the shooting of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and, as Glenn Reynolds puts it in The Wall Street Journal,
With only the barest outline of events available, pundits and reporters seemed to agree that the massacre had to be the fault of the tea party movement in general, and of Sarah Palin in particular. Why? Because they had created, in New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's words, a "climate of hate."

- “The Arizona Tragedy and the Politics of Blood Libel”, subhedded “Those who purport to care about the tenor of political discourse don't help civil debate when they seize on any pretext to call their political opponents accomplices to murder.” (January 10, 2011)
No, they don’t help civil debate, but they do help create the sort of climate that leads to demands for control of the Internet.

In Canada, that is no mean threat. Franklin Carter, at the Book and Periodical Council's Freedom of Expression Committee, sends me this helpful link to updated Internet-related court cases.

Anyway, I get ruddy tired of the whole business sometimes, and wrote to friends,
Stories like the one above frustrate me.

The problem is NOT what some GreenJet talk show host says, but the fact that so many listen to him uncritically or with approval.

Sure some political operative might be responsible. So could space aliens hiding in our DNA. Whoops! Don’t give the host ideas.

We should address his comments in no other terms than "Who is paying for this merde and why? Not me, I hope." Anything else is just scratching a rash and spreading the itch.

Responsible government is more often abandoned than overthrown. - d.

Today, the Toronto Star chimed in with “Could toxic politics have fuelled shooting rampage?”, with their Washington bureau’s Mitch Potter asking
Is Jared Lee Loughner a solo psychopath detached from the national reality, or the violent consequence of a rage-filled commentariat that spits a daily barrage of rhetorical bullets at the U.S. government?
Okay, at this point, a reasonable person over fifty years of age can dismiss the whole foofaraw about toxic politics in three words: Aw, get real!

I’m old enough to remember the assassination of John Kennedy, of Robert Kennedy, and of Martin Luther King, as well as the attempted assassinations of Gerald Ford and Pope John Paul II. One didn’t wonder whether, in those days, but when. Since the early 1980s, in North America we have enjoyed a long period of relative freedom from assassin politics. In no small part, that is precisely due to the proliferation of media that some want policed or controlled by government - cable TV, talk radio, and the Internet.

As Mark Steyn told the Ontario Legislature two years ago,
... free societies should not be in the business of criminalizing opinion. When you go down that road, all you do is lead to the situation that you have in, say, Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, you can't print a newspaper and say what you think, so if you object to the House of Saud, the only thing you can do is blow stuff up. I think, actually, we don't need sensitivity training in this jurisdiction, we need insensitivity training. We need to learn to rub along in a much more agreeable, rough-and-tumble fashion.
So when people say, “The government has got to put a stop to this toxic politics ...”, say a little prayer of thanks that character assassination is all it is, only rarely the real thing.

(Note: I report on this growing intelectual freedom controversy mainly for non-Canadians checking notes between assaults on free speech vs. where they are. For breaking news, go to Five Feet of Fury, Blazing Cat Fur, Small Dead Animals, or Deborah Gyapong. )

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