The more I read about events in
"Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press"
The Canadian public has finally taken notice of the tyranny of these courts -even as much of the Canadian press has not- but I fear it’s too late. The defense of speech rights seems to already be lost. How else can one explain this defense of the Human Rights Commissions by the supposedly conservative Attorney General of Canada?
"Dr. Tsesis has developed an extensive critique of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ notion of the “marketplace of ideas,” and reaches similar conclusions: Beyond the theoretical difficulties of Holmes’ marketplace of ideas it is simply untrue that the dissemination of vitriol defuses racism, sexism, or anti-Semitism. Experience disproves the notion that falsehood is always vanquished by truth. To the contrary, history teems with examples of times when lies, distortions, and propaganda empowered groups like the Nazis to repress speech and perpetrate mass persecutions … Even when both true and false beliefs are available, persons often cling to the false to retain power. In spite of the availability in the
It is difficult to realize the sheer antipathy this line of thought has toward liberal western democratic tradition without suffering a stroke, but I'll do my best. We'll take it line by line:
"Dr. Tsesis has developed an extensive critique of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ notion of the 'marketplace of ideas,'"
Firstly, who was Oliver Wendell Holmes? Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court in the early 20th Century. Holmes stance was that the protections of the First Amendment gave citizens the right to "do harm" with their speech, i.e. insult a person, group, government, etc. unless that speech constituted a "clear and present danger" of causing harm that has been prohibited by law, i.e. injury, death, destruction of property, etc. Basically, someone can write "Eric Schimweg is an asshole" on a sign in their yard or the community newsletter. However, someone may not write "Eric Schimweg's neighbor would do the community a service by beating him to death with his own golf clubs" on a sign or in a newsletter if it provoked my neighbor to inflict bodily harm on my person.
Holmes believed that ideas should sink or swim of their own merit in a "marketplace of ideas". (Ironically he didn't believe in an economic free market). He famously defended the right to dissent during World War I when the
"Beyond the theoretical difficulties of Holmes’ marketplace of ideas it is simply untrue that the dissemination of vitriol defuses racism, sexism, or anti-Semitism."
Holmes believed that vitriolic speech should be allowed into the marketplace of ideas so it could be debated and refuted. Let ideas see the light of day, and let them sink or swim on their own merit. To prohibit offensive speech is to prohibit its dissection and disproval in the full view of the public. Making ideas and speech taboo is to give them more power. Why do some kids carve a swastika into a bathroom stall? Its not because they believe in Nazism or Fascism, it’s because they want to shock and rebel with a forbidden symbol they know little about. As Mark Steyn -who's writing has sparked Canadian human rights complaints- has put it: "what would (Hitler) be most steamed about? That in some countries there are laws banning Nazi symbols and making Holocaust denial a crime? No, that wouldn't bother him: that would testify to the force and endurance of his ideas - that 60 years on they're still so potent the state has to suppress them. What would bug him the most is that on Broadway and in the West End Mel Brooks is peddling Nazi shtick in The Producers and audiences are howling with laughter."
As for stopping "racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism", those are worthy goals, but as Canadians are now discovering, if you create weapons to stifle speech, those weapons can be used to stop discussion on important issues and questions, like sharia law in
"Experience disproves the notion that falsehood is always vanquished by truth."
This is perhaps the most alarming part of the Attorney General's statement. If we accept the premise that falsehood must be suppressed in order to save truth, because truth can't be trusted to win out on its own, we come upon a sticky question: Who is to decide what is falsehood and what is truth? Is it what the government decides? Shall unelected Human Rights Commissions decide? Is this what we've come to in Western Civilization? The people can't be trusted to make up their own minds? The government must push and cajole them into the correct way of thinking? Does anyone really think that governments can be trusted to be the arbiters of truth? Joseph Goebbels had his own version of the truth. So did Stalin and Mussolini. The British parliament saw "the Right of the People to alter or to abolish" a government that fails to secure their rights as a falsehood. In the marketplace of ideas, some colonists agreed with them, some didn't. In the conflict that ensued, a (mostly) free
"To the contrary, history teems with examples of times when lies, distortions, and propaganda empowered groups like the Nazis to repress speech and perpetrate mass persecutions …"
I can't imagine the Attorney General didn't recognize the contradiction in this. We must repress speech in order to stop others from repressing speech. How long until this descends into Jacobism? Shall we establish a tyranny in order to keep others from establishing a tyranny?
This is ultimately a rejection of Democracy. The people can't be trusted. An enlightened dictatorship will protect all. (Directory anyone?) Sound far fetched? Perhaps, but is it such a reach to conclude that if the people can't be trusted to decide what to read and think, how can they be trusted to vote?
"Even when both true and false beliefs are available, persons often cling to the false to retain power."
Again, who is to decide what is true and what is false if not the people themselves? Freedoms of Speech, Press, and Religion among others are specifically designed to protect minorities from a hateful or oppressive majority. Take these away, and the government is able to create its own reality, free from dissent.
"In spite of the availability in the
Here is a perfect illustration of a government creating its own truth. The Civil War was not specifically fought to abolish slavery. That is a falsehood. The abolition movement was born in an environment of free speech, both in the
Imagine if Uncle Tom's Cabin were examined in terms of truth and falsehood. Certain depictions and stereotypes in that landmark novel are at least exaggerated if not untrue. Imagine if Harriet Beecher Stowe were sued the way Maclean's magazine in