Western Standard

The Shotgun Blog

« Feed a fever... | Main | It's your fault! »

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The National Post steps up

Though the National Post has not published the cartoons themselves, the paper has come out strongly in defence of the Western Standard, seeing the big picture:

Last week, the Calgary-based Western Standard newsmagazine published eight of the 12 Danish cartoons that allegedly blaspheme the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Some Muslim groups responded by demanding the magazine be charged with hate crimes, and by applying to have its senior staff hauled before the Alberta Human Rights Commission. In the interest of protecting freedom of expression, both Alberta's Department of Justice and the province's rights investigators must reject these demands summarily.

We have disagreed with the Standard over the need to reprint the cartoons that first appeared last September in Copenhagen's Jyllands-Posten newspaper. But the magazine's decision was certainly defensible: Its publisher and editor argued the best way for their readers to place the images in context was actually to see them.

If the legal actions against the Standard are successful, it will send a dangerous message: that any group in society can use mechanisms of government to censor views it disagrees with. The result would be a media environment that is timid and bland. Even those who disagree with the Standard's editorial stance should support it in its campaign to uphold the principle of free speech.

The editorial board at the National Post gets it. This is about sovereignty, and about the duty of the media to defend it. We have our rights and freedoms, and they have theirs. We live by a set of standards, and the media acts as the watchdog, calling out when we fail to live by those standards, or when those standards are threatened. It can be a dangerous role to play, but that is why the media garners so much respect (or used to).

Our standards are for ourselves. People in other nations don't have to like them, but then they have their own countries in which they implement their own standards.

And maybe that's the real difference between us and the rabid crowds screaming their fury over the cartoons:


We don't demand that those living in other countries live by our standards. On the other hand, they are demanding we die by theirs.

The media needs to make that clear. Part of that is not cowering in the face of the mob about the cartoons. And for those media outlets like the National Post that have decided not to print the cartoons, they have to be unequivocal in defending those who do.

You can't pick and choose which rights you want to defend and when to defend them. The media needs to remember that. Otherwise the mob will attack when while we dither and wring our hands.

Posted by Steve Janke on February 22, 2006 | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The National Post steps up:


With friends like those ...

From the passage you quote, they say: "We have disagreed with the Standard over the need to reprint the cartoons..."

They disagree. They think you were wrong to print them. That means that the National Post agrees with Stephen Harper, Peter MacKay, myself, and everyone else who said it was wrong. The Post piece was essentially a defence of the *LEGALITY* of what the WS did. And, of course, all reasonable people agree that what they did was and ought to remain legal. Legal protection for free speech is essential. But that does not mean that publishing the cartoons was the right thing to do. The National Post has "stepped up" and said it was wrong. Good on them!

Posted by: Mark Logan | 2006-02-22 4:47:07 PM

One more thing. You know who else said it was wrong to publish the cartoons? The editors of Jyllands-Posten, who apologized for publishing them long before the violence began.

Posted by: Mark Logan | 2006-02-22 5:27:43 PM

From further down the same paragraph, "But the magazine's decision was certainly defensible: Its publisher and editor argued the best way for their readers to place the images in context was actually to see them."

It sounds to me more like the Post is saying that it may be possible to reasonably hold either position, to publish or not publish.

Posted by: Jon | 2006-02-22 5:29:16 PM


I don't think you're right. To say that a position is "defensible" is just to say that some reasons can be offered for doing it, not that it was the right decision. It's more like saying, "I understand why you did what you did, but you were still wrong to do it."

But even if you are right, then the NP is, at minimum, implicitly criticizing the WS and all their sycophants who have continually described those who opposed the publication as unequivocally wrong and (apparently) people who are too cowardly to stand up for free speech. The NP clearly said that publication was wrong.

Posted by: Mark Logan | 2006-02-22 5:37:37 PM

Will the United Church of Canada apologize to Mr Levant?

And the Jewish Free Press? What the UCC wrote to the Imams.
We believe that the intention of publishing the cartoons has little to do with freedom of 'expression and much to do with incitement to racial and religious hatred. As you have noted in your recent press release, the cartoons suggest that Islam itself teaches, condones and encourages violence, bombings and the mistreatment of women. Furthermore, the implication is that all Muslims believe so as well. This we know to be untrue. The answer to your question of "why publish such cartoons?" we believe is simply racial hatred. In other forms it has been called Islamophobia..."

Place your bets.
Gordon Wong, Calgary's chief Crown prosecutor, said the Criminal Code requires there be an intent to incite hatred against a specific group, and his office had determined there was no intent in this case.

"The intent was to debate the issue within the articles. That's different than inciting hatred," Wong said Tuesday...'

The UCC should re-focus on its Christian, rather than mindreading, beliefs.


Posted by: Mark Collins | 2006-02-22 5:48:51 PM

The almost dead UCC should re-focus on its effor of real Christianity, rather than slander, absue, judging the others AND ALONG TIME AGO as well.


Here is the undeniable truth, his boss Conservative S Harper had sent him, embarrassingly too, out of the country to Europe, to hopefully silence all the bad criticism, as a result of the FLACK liberal Peter MacKay was getting ,for his one sided Muslim support fiasco. Likley he Peter will put his foot in his mouth there too next. Bad habits are hard to break.


Posted by: MERRIAN | 2006-02-22 6:42:45 PM

...But the Post is clearly supporting the Standard's right to publish, and to do so without fear of illegal retribution

YOU DO NOTICE HOW THE TOO OFTEN PROFIT IN MIND CANADIAN EDITORS do change their values when they find the majority of their readers did not go along with their past stated positions on the banning of anti Muslim cartoons now as well.

Posted by: paul | 2006-02-22 6:47:41 PM

The WS's RIGHT to publish and to do so without fear of ILLEGAL retribution was never in question. Ever. Which is why all you people howling as if freedom of speech was doomed if every media outlet didn't publish the cartoons right now seemed so, well, absurd.
BTW, what's a fagtroll? Is this some coinage of your own that you're hoping will supplement or replace "moonbat"?

Posted by: truewest | 2006-02-22 6:56:06 PM

Mark Logan: The editor of Jyllands-Posten expressed regret that people's feelings were hurt, and stressed that his intent was merely to stand up to violent intimidation of the media. That's all he said. You're Canadian, I suppose; violent intimidation of the media strikes you as a lovely idea. But Denmark is a free country, and you can't sanely expect them to sink so low as to live by your own medieval standards.

It's obscene, obscene beyond belief, that some government official has the power to "generously" decline to prosecute free citizens for expressing their opinions. It's good to see that your Crown prosecutor acted decently and honorably. Good for him. But the law permitted him to act otherwise, and that is insane. Any "civil servant" who has the authority to put you on trial for your views is not your "servant". He is your master. He may be a generous master, but there have been some relatively "humane" slave-owners in history, too. Does that excuse slavery, or make it tolerable? No. Never.

Down here in the US I was raised to think of Canada as a free country and a good neighbor. It's painful to realize that you're not free, and for the most part like it that way. Like discovering that your brother-in-law joined the Ku Klux Klan ten years back and never told anybody. You'd look at him a little bit sideways after that.

Posted by: Brock Floog | 2006-02-22 6:56:55 PM

UCC is no Christian church. That explains their behavior.

I challenge now the National Post to act in agreement with their position. Go ahead and publish those stupid cartoons. Not for the sake of the cartoons, but for the sake of the freedom of the press. In this situation, the cartoons is really nothing to be bothered with.

Since they were published in Egypt last October, what is happening in the world has nothing to do with cartoons. What is happening is the warming up of the war on terrorism and the Islamofacists.

The real issue is: will a gang of terrorists and murderers prevent us from living according to our values and rights?

Posted by: Rémi houle | 2006-02-22 6:58:31 PM

Obscene indeed, well said Brock Floog.

Posted by: Lemmytowner | 2006-02-22 7:45:01 PM

Truewest - Nothing will replace "Moonbat"! It's a term for the ages!!

The jury on the free speech concerns is still out until the Alberta HR Tribunal is wrapped up. We've perhaps seen the first act which introduced the players, and now we will see the plot.

Posted by: Prometheus | 2006-02-22 7:51:36 PM

Brock Floog - For the record, we not citizens in Canada, we're subjects, loyal and true, to the crown of England. All power here flows down from royalty to the commoners, not flowing up from the people to government. That's the tradition, those are the rules, and that's why garabage like you noted above is allowed to happen.

Archaic, offensive, and somewhat obscene. Also largely misunderstood by the average Canadian.

Posted by: Prometheus | 2006-02-22 7:55:22 PM

William Safire was wondering about the origins of "moonbat" (which he posits is the right-wing version of "wingnut") in his words column in the NY Times (or as folks around her would have it, the uber-liberal New York Times).
Any insight? I'm sure he'll get around to contacting ebt about the origins of "fagtroll" all on his own.
BTW: you object to a HR panel determining whether something incites hate or contempt. How do you feel about defamation lawsuits? How about defamation lawsuits filed by politicians or other public figures? How about if the politician is Don Getty? Or Ezra?

Posted by: truewest | 2006-02-22 9:21:05 PM

Truewest - I feel HR tribunals in Canada have been used to address things too petty to take through a normal proceeding (civil or criminal), or the various agents involved can't, or don't know how, to get a normative proceeding off the ground: they're are a bit of a joke when used willy-nilly. You should also be aware of my opinion on "being offended" from my earlier posts. Being offended is a terribly weak justification for any type of legal proceeding as the effects of this state of mind are entirely subjective, and conceivably anything could offend anyone at any time - this is a bogeyman not worth chasing. If the precedent is set, we'd be in tribunal perpetually.

It's different if an HR tribunal is looking at something with a concrete effect on a person: a denial of services, above market pricing with no justification, undue censorship, exclusion from a public body etc. Having one's feelings hurt should hardly qualify. If 400 Muslims in Calgary all got fired in one day from their various employers without due cause, that would qualify.

As far as defamation goes, I'd love nothing better than politicians of all stripes to be held to a standard of proof prior to opening their gobs. I'd love a searchable archive of all their speeches, verbatim, I'd love all levels of government to be required to produce annual audited financial statements, and by God I'd like election promises to be binding contracts. By requiring research, reference and accountability, the level of political debate would be taken up a notch or three, and instances were actual character damage has occurred should be reduced to none. Everyone would be calling spades spades.

Certainly, people in a public office or in the public spotlight will have their reputations questioned from time to time, but if the person doing the questioning has actuall proof to their point, there should not be an issue. Take for instance Hedi Fry's infamous comments about crosses being burnt in Prince George BC at the very same time the commons was sitting listening to her rant. It was ridiculous, fictional and offensive to everyone living in Prince George. Would a class action suit have been suitable? Certainly, and if we were a more litigious society it might have come to pass. Now if I published something to the effect of Hedi Fry is actively funding Al Queda without having some strong evidence to back it up, a suit on her part would be appropriate. There are several key differences here than compared to the cartoon situation. Firstly, the cartoon was a metaphor. It did not single out an individual's reputation, but did question the beliefs of a group based on the known factual actions of some of the members of the group, which is fair. In the Heid Fry example, the targetted group was very specific - the people of Prince George, and the action very specific - burning crosses. No proof, no metaphor no basis in reality whatsoever.

Now you're probably thinking - well this flies in the face of the free speech stance I've taken over the last three days, but keep in mind what I'm asserting: specific situations with specific actors, concrete negative impact beyond bruised feelings, and with the onus of evidence put on the person making the claims/publishing the opinion. This is very different than dealing with metaphors, "what if" arguments, satire, political commentary and it is completely different than asking the state to arbiter good taste, or playing nice.

Posted by: Prometheus | 2006-02-22 9:58:04 PM

I think you've got the wrong idea about the business of Human Rights Commissions. The vast majority of the claims involve complaints of actual discrimination -- in employment, provision of services and the like -- and the number of those involving inciting hatred or contempt (or as you put it, people being offended) is miniscule. And the cases that do succeed on these grounds tend towards the extreme end of the scale.

Nonetheless, if you think it's okay to for the population of Prince George to sue Hedy Fry in class action (and, strictly speaking, it's not, because at common law you can't defame a group, which precludes the use of a class action or any other civil proceeding, and because Fry's statement was protected by Parliamentary privilege) why would you have a problem with a group of Muslim filing a complaint against the WS or against someone else who,in their view, is attacking them them simply for being muslims?

Remember, now, we're not talking about the merits of the case here; we're simply talking about a procedure that, unlike defamation law, allows an identifiable group to seek redress from a disinterested party for statements that they feel diminish them in the eyes of others.
In this case, you (and, more significantly, the WS) say the cartoons were fair comment and hurt no one. Muslims say they were an attack and caused real damage. Clearly, there is a dispute. Why shouldn't that disagreement be heard by an independent body? Or should those who object to the what is said about them have to choose between grinning and bearing what they feel is abuse or taking matters into their own hands?

Beyond that, you seem to have some idealized view of how civil litigation in general and defamation actions in particular actually work. It has become fairly common practice for the both politicians and business people in Canada to use defamations to silence criticism, relying on teh sheer time and cost of defending such an action to silence those with comparatively shallow pockets. This isn't possible in the U.S. after Sullivan v. NY Times, since public figures must show the impugned statement, even if incorrect, were made with malice before they can recover in a defamation action.

Posted by: truewest | 2006-02-22 10:53:39 PM

"Behind the cartoon war: radical clerics competing for followers

By now almost everyone has pondered the outrage in the Muslim world over the 12 cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad that were published on Sept. 30, 2005 in a Danish newspaper.

Much of the discussion has centered on Muslim perspectives and sensitivities, but few people realize this affair erupted from a crisis in leadership of European Muslim communities, where radical imams are battling to gain the religious authority.

As European Muslims seek new identities and voices, they form a target for radical leaders. And because of the competition for followers among these Danish radical-minded Muslim groups, the "cartoon war" that could have been battled out on Danish grounds, grew into an international episode.

Radical groups have vested interests in what the Swiss-Egyptian Muslim philosopher Tariq Ramadan refers to as "couching socioeconomic problems in religious terms," and fostering a "minority obsession." Both provide Muslims in Europe with endless opportunities to avoid civic discussions and put themselves on the sidelines while blaming others for keeping them there.

Instead of a civic discussion to examine the limits of free speech and the deeply held beliefs by Muslims regarding images of their prophet, a group claiming to represent all Danish Muslims traveled to the Middle East to bring the cartoons to the public's attention there. Its leader was Ahmad Abu Laban, an imam of Palestinian descent and radical Salafi-Wahhabi inclinations, who after living for nearly a quarter century in Denmark has a limited command of the Danish language and delivers his (often emotionally laden) sermons in Arabic."

Posted by: Dudley | 2006-02-22 11:08:20 PM

Justice in Canada, Real justice, is more like pretentious justice. Where each province has it's own separate rules, standards too.

Now about the business of Human Rights Commissions and whose commissioners, like many other commissioners in Canada are politically appointed by the governing party

and whose judgements, decisions are firstly screened by the political upper ups

so there can never produce any semblance of real justice thus till we get legitimate judges, commissioners appointed impartialy.

So it is all waste of time, the discussion too.

Posted by: Dennette | 2006-02-22 11:16:49 PM

The "free press" in Canada and now not the governments themselves is who had instigated most of the positive changes, even in the governments, and that is why the Muslims try wrongfully to muzzle it as well.

The past fderal Liberals also tended to be reactionary, they waited till it was in the press before they made the suggestions others had recommended.

Posted by: FreePress | 2006-02-22 11:22:31 PM


The Calgary Sun News Calgary &Alberta Thu, February 23, 2006 Premier seeks insult's source By DARCY HENTON, [email protected] LEGISLATURE BUREAU EDMONTON -- Ralph Klein says a magazine article containing a racial slur against his wife was "extremely hurtful" and he wants to know who made the remark. The premier was particularly upset the Western Standard quoted an unnamed source, allegedly a Klein fishing buddy, who suggested when the premier retired his wife would be "just another Indian." Klein said his wife, Colleen, a Metis, is a hard-working person who has dedicated much of her life to children and Native causes. "I can tell you that I am very proud of the work that she has done," he said. "I believe the article, at least the quote in the article, is undignified and unjustified and is extremely hurtful to Colleen." He said it was insulting not only to his wife but the couple's children, grandchildren and friends. "What I find frustrating is that I am having to fight ghosts," he told reporters." http://calsun.canoe.ca/News/Alberta/2006/02/23/1458023-sun.html





Posted by: Catchy | 2006-02-23 10:25:33 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.