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Monday, July 31, 2006

MSM vs. the blogs

Antonia Zerbisias of the Toronto Star and Adam Radwanski of the National Post criticize this blog for its unrestricted debate on Islam and its place in Canada. Both of them lament that we did not censor RightGirl's post on the subject, or many of the comments in response to it.

I think we have a better approach: instead of running our blog as a command and control system -- with an editor in chief, and hierarchical approval processes, like we run our print magazine -- we leave it to the spontaneous order of the marketplace of ideas.

So we don't sift and choose. We let it all hang out. It's blogospheric.

Instead of one person or a committee censoring or approving blog posts or comments -- as Zerbisias does with the Star (the Post's defunct blog didn't allow comments, and neither does Radwanski's own) -- we let the bloggers and commenters battle it out in an unrestricted contest of ideas.

This was demonstrated most vigorously by Chris Selley, who rebutted RightGirl's post in a post of his own. Other bloggers rebutted her more indirectly. And many commenters did, too.

Hundreds of comments were made, in fact.

I think it is a better approach to let the marketplace of ideas sort these things out. Artificially censoring what can and can't be written -- like Zerbisias does -- or not permitting feedback at all -- like Radwanski does -- are old media calling cards. In the new media, if you don't allow people to react and respond, they'll go elsewhere where they can. It's quite democratic, and like other aspects of democracy, it can be grubby.

In the end, I believe that by maintaining a balance of views on the blog -- libertarians, conservatives, hawks, isolationists, people from different countries and different religions -- we will get a great debate. I acknowledge that some of the comments have been less than smart, or even vulgar. But that, too, is the nature of democracy, and it is far more interesting reading than the bowdlerized letters to the editor of the MSM.

Give Zerbisias and Radwanski some credit: At least they know what a blog is, and have one themselves. But I'm loathe to accept criticism about our rough and tumble free comments threads from writers whose own newspapers don't allow them to have free comments threads. It's like when Zerbisias came out against the Danish cartoons -- the fact that her employer had ordered her to comply with their censorship undermined her claim to independently having come to that journalistic conclusion on her own, and she knew it.

The Western Standard will continue to have the freest blog of any in Canada affiliated with a corporate media organ. That will ruffle the feathers of politically correct enforcers, but it will also continue to make us a center of the debate, and give us 2-million page views a month and growing. In fact, the very idea of an MSM enforcer shaking a finger at too-rough bloggers sums things up pretty well -- an impotent scold who can't get the public to obey their politically correct line. That's the MSM in a nutshell.

To me this is a no-brainer -- just like showing the cartoons.

Continue to read the Western Standard's blog if you believe in free speech and a clash of ideas, and if you believe that the correct response to inappropriate speech is not censorship, but rather more speech. And, for our lucky print subscribers, keep reading our mag for thoughtful writers like Salim Mansur who help us navigate through the issues of our age. It will be a lot more interesting than reading the censored mush of the MSM.

Posted by Ezra Levant on July 31, 2006 | Permalink


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Thank you, Ezra.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-07-31 4:20:54 PM

we'll never see an exchange like this at the cbc or any other msm outlet with their staged Q&A's, good for you levant, you got big gonads.

Posted by: Not the cbc | 2006-07-31 4:30:44 PM

Hi Zerb,
Come on in, the water's fine.
Love and Kisses,

Posted by: h2o273kk9 | 2006-07-31 4:41:29 PM

Some online Canadian web commenting sites are racist and bigoted. It's a pity that some people think the shotgun blog is one of those places.

A true liberal allows free speech to flourish, which necessarily includes repulsive and wrong ideas. Here at the shotgun blog we take apart flawed and bigoted philosophies so that everyone can publicly see the error.

Naturally some news organizations will remain hostile and suspicious, but that's only because they can't comprehend someone actually *beliveing* in true liberalism--after all, they don't.

Posted by: Liberty | 2006-07-31 4:42:58 PM

Zerb's going to put lipstick on the pigs who comment at her blog, she's issued a warning to her antisemetic fan club:

"Just do me a favour will you? Keep it down to a low roar. I am now being bloody ruthless about deleting or editing comments. No appeal."

Just like Rabble! The left has always needed secret police, censorship, informers.

Posted by: anon | 2006-07-31 4:45:06 PM

Zerbisias is true to her socialist mindset but Adam Radwanski is a puzzler here, surprising stance, but that's what free speech is all about. This is an example of how the MSM operates to stifle wide range opinion which would put a damper on their obvious agenda.

Posted by: Liz J | 2006-07-31 5:08:25 PM

The MSM "grades" to the "Bell Curve". They take the first standard deviation of opinion, "normalize" the results according to bias, and publish that as "Canadian values". It's nothing more than a poor cup of tea (warm, no cream, artificial sweetener.) No bite, no zing, no danger. No effort. Pablum.

Too many opinions are rote. Recycled Pablum. Politically correct. Inoffensive. Boring.

Let's get the full range of thought, including extreme opinions, the ones that generate some emotion other than boredom. Force some thought about the source of an opinion, the basis of a long-held belief. Incite thought, not just discussion. Come up with proof to back your opinion, not insults. Be civil.

I oppose hate-speech laws on the simple basis that someone must decide the definition of hate speech in a given situation, and I don't trust their ability to decide fairly, free of political bias and influence. Besides, it allows those full of hate to reveal that hate and so expose themselves.

I oppose personal insults on a public forum; it destroys the credibility of the entire forum.

Free speech has limits, but not as extreme as the MSM enforces.

Posted by: foobius | 2006-07-31 5:11:00 PM

If I were a gambler, I'd bet that, sooner or later, the Shotgun is going to have a problem that only moderation and editing of comments will correct. The darndest things happen on the internet. I wouldn't be surprised if a pack of lefties embarked on a spam project here, pretending to be the most bigoted of "neo-cons", splattering hate speech all over every thread. Kripes, some of the conservative comments here already do a lot more harm than good.

Posted by: anon | 2006-07-31 5:20:47 PM

Thank You Ezra for letting us have a place where discussion can take place freely. There are few left in this society of PC-Craziness. Keep up the good fight!

Posted by: Big Makk | 2006-07-31 5:31:30 PM

The extremist opponents of the Shotgun have already embarked on spam projects here, Anon, and the extremist proponents of the Shotgun have already splattered over many threads, and yet if anything the Shotgun seems to sporting a solid of head of steam, and the rational participants hereto tend to, after a time, or a few times anyway, take the bull by the horns and wrestle a degree of civility out of the participants.

As I say, this sort of thing has happened more than once already, yet it remains that case that it can be reasonably argued that sight of the high road has not been lost. Indeed, a few have been dewelcomed, but not because of their opinions per se, it has always been because of their majestic disregard for even the most basic social conventions.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-07-31 5:39:14 PM

“You decide”, Right Girl’s disingenuous statement preceding her last two news item posts on the Western Standard blog. Anyone following Right Girl the last couple of weeks knows what she would truly have readers decide: Ban Islam in Canada as a means of confronting Islamofascism and the terrorism and violence that accompany it. Well, I’ve followed the debate and joined in it hoping that Right Girl and her supporters would conclude that such a tactic would cause much more harm that good. This doesn’t appear to be the case. So, at this point I have decided. Right Girl is a dangerous bigot. I wish Right Girl would consider the tiny country of Israel; surrounded by enemies, attacked repeatedly by Islamic foes and Islamofascist terrorists. Israel would never consider banning Islam. Indeed, Israel has Islamic parliamentarians in its Knesset. Jews know all about the banning of religion. Right Girl should also know that she has no significant support among North American conservatives. That said, I applaud the Western Standard for allowing this debate to happen.

Posted by: Rodger Beals | 2006-07-31 5:39:32 PM

It is arguably correct to assert, as you have Rodger, that Right Girl's supporters have not concluded that such an approach would be less than optimal (that's why they're called supporters). However, I do think we should be careful to not elide the data regarding the critical commentary by opponents of such an approach. Those of us who have been spending many hours making just such points don't appreciate inaccurate characterizations of the situation.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-07-31 5:47:52 PM

although in many ways, after years involved in the military which is as political as you can get in canada, im like most canadians who dont give a shit about politics. But i do find it strange that the ndp and liberals are so quick to accomodate any actions against israel, when they are supposed to be the great defenders of womens rights. but for some reason they and there media friends ignore or censor any critism of there friends and victims in the muslim world

Posted by: john A | 2006-07-31 5:52:46 PM

I don’t believe in censorship, hate laws or politically correct “scolding”.
I have therefore enjoyed my WS subscription and the Shotgun … except, when it has gone in the tank over the past few months with … let’s call it uncivilized behaviour…swearing for example.

Maybe this ship has righted itself and we can carry on with the rough and tumble waves that blow in from the left.

Thanks for the bandwidth.

Posted by: nomdenet | 2006-07-31 5:59:09 PM

I'm going to have to disagree with you here, John, on a sub-matter of your previous comment. Citizens who don't care about politics are being irresponsible. As Victor Davis Hanson wrote in the City Journal, on 2003-10-27:

"Nothing is more foreign to European statist utopianism than the American emphasis on individual liberty, local self-government, equality under the law, and slow, imperfect reform. America has always been immune to utopian fantasies—indeed, it has always opposed them. The skeptical Founding Fathers, influenced by the prudence and love of liberty of the British Enlightenment, built the American republic based on the anti-utopian belief that men are fallible and self-interested, love their property, and can best manage their affairs locally. The Founders saw the café theorizing of Continental elites and French philosophers as a danger to good government, which requires not some grand, all-encompassing blueprint but rather institutional checks and balances and a citizenry of perennially vigilant individual citizens."

That's us, John, if we want to better our society: perennially vigilant individual citizens.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-07-31 6:00:54 PM

Vitruvius, say what?

Posted by: Rodger Beals | 2006-07-31 6:02:46 PM

I think she can sail on, Nomdenet, at least if people like you stick it out and keep pointing people in the direction of the high road. We all need to remember that ideologies are like lighthouses. They provide beacons that help us navigate away from the shoals of structureless random thought. Nevertheless, they are built upon the rocks themselves. If we get too close to the lighthouses, we wreck there too. Forever adrift and yet navigating to the best of our ability, we float in a fluid state, neither solid nor gaseous, blown by the winds of time.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-07-31 6:04:33 PM

Sorry I wan't more clear, Rodger, but I don't understand what what? Perhaps you could slightly elucidate my inadequate expression, and then I could expound further in an attempt to correct my error.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-07-31 6:08:57 PM

The Shotgun is akin to a room where unfettered debate is allowed to occur. There are stretches of time where I peek in, notice that certain people have taken over proceedings, and I move on, knowing that the room stays open.

As for Radwan and Zerb, it's just a case where two non-respected members of the MSM have taken a snapshot of a single point in time -- when one of the room's visitors, RightGirl, was standing on the table trying to draw attention to herself, and they're trying to make the case that that's an accurate portrayal of what happens in that room. Apparently they missed Dr. Gardiner's posts, and Winston's, and D.J. McGuire, etc, etc.

As an aside, has anyone ever seen anything insightful or worth reading from Radwanski? Seriously. He's like a poor-man's Jeffrey Simpson at quarter speed, and without the connections.

Posted by: EBD | 2006-07-31 6:09:55 PM

im sorry if i sound cynical to you vitruvius.
actually im quite impressed with the free flow of opinions i see here from all sides. its refreshing in our culture of censorship and correct messages. i have seen that to much in our world, in my travels.

Posted by: John A | 2006-07-31 6:18:26 PM

I have been aware of Mr. Radwanski's commentary for nigh on ten years now, EBD, and I've not noticed anything particularly noteworthy. I think you've put your finger on their take, EBD: they wait 'till there's a bit of a nasty stretch, and then they dive in and mis-characterize the situation with malice aforethought.

Over the years I have also noticed that in other places where citizens can gather pursuant to clauses 2(c) and (d) of the Charter, the general tenor of the situation tends to rise and fall over time (speaking from my perspective, of course). Nevertheless, it is often the case that via a combination of setting a good example, and patience, a net advancement can be achieved.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-07-31 6:21:05 PM

Can you imagine The Rad and Zerb on a panel with:

Steyn, Frum, David Warren, Salim Mansur and Robert Fulford.

When you think about it , the left has no talent or the talent left. That’s why the MSM is so emotional and hysterical - that's all they've got to throw at us.

Posted by: nomdenet | 2006-07-31 6:24:24 PM

Don't forget Blatch', Coyne, Jonas, and Murphy.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-07-31 6:33:35 PM

Censorship is moronic, but then so was that post. RightGirl and her loony Left opponents deserve each other.

Posted by: Nav | 2006-07-31 6:40:06 PM

I can only suggest folks that you also read this great post by Kathy Shaidle.


Posted by: MikeP | 2006-07-31 6:43:53 PM

Just restate your point, Vitruvius if you don't mind. Probably my limitations but I'm not following your points and I'd like to respond. BTW, enjoyed your VDH quote. Can't go wrong there.

Posted by: Rodger Beals | 2006-07-31 6:50:48 PM

Hmm, if it's not the VDH comment, it must be the 5:47 comment. In that case, Rodger, I was simply trying to reaffirm Ezra's point that regardless of RG's comment and RG's supporters, there has not actually been a shortage of opponents to their position here at the Shotgun, and many of those opponents have (in my opinion) spoken quite well in stating their objections to the perspective of RG and RG's supporters.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-07-31 7:08:42 PM

It's no coincidence that Radwanski's and Zerb's tirades came after an attack on Islam. RightGirl's suggestion, while blunt, raises the most important issue of today's 1938 redux: is Islam itself a threat to the freedom of the world, and is Islam a "religion" the way Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism are religions.

The left resorts to ad-hominem attacks ("bigot", "right-wing extremist") when they have no substance to their point of view. Since the destruction throughout the world being wrought in the name of Allah does not fit neatly in the leftist world-view, they channel their mental confusion into worthless anger and calls for censorship.

Long live Ezra, long live the Western Standard!

Posted by: NCF TO | 2006-07-31 7:11:24 PM

Thanks for the restatement, Vitruvius. I think I'm apple to your orange. I read your later post and was citing the VDH quote in that. I agree with your restatement. I think the opposition to RG has been ample and powerful.

Posted by: Rodger Beals | 2006-07-31 7:17:07 PM

I'm very happy with WS and their support for freedom of speech.

I also want to express my support WS and RG.

Posted by: Canadian | 2006-07-31 7:25:47 PM

to further free debate lets have one of those open forums on the cbc where they stack the audience with there friends and have it hosted by that guy who is supposed to appeal to young viewers. and throw in some of those old media types who get excited if the pm doesnt bow down to the ottawa press gallery. no wait a minute, its already being done.

Posted by: John A | 2006-07-31 7:37:17 PM

Well Ezra, you're making the MoonBat's head's explode: http://myblahg.com/?p=1122

Robert's a special pet of Zerbs... You must be doing something right.

Let Freedom Reign!

Posted by: Richard Evans | 2006-07-31 7:40:33 PM

Another thanks for allowing free speech. It is interesting to see the very different interpretations of RG's comments. I took it more as an idea being tossed out for discussion, since neither the authorities nor MSM would admit that Islam is not a religion of peace.

As to the claim that most who commented on the topic supported banning Islam, clearly these people do not seem able to count. Re-read the comments and you will find that most agree that the present situation cannot continue but do not agree with a total ban.

Of course the Left remains the most intolerant when it comes to anyone who does not agree with them.

Posted by: Alain | 2006-07-31 7:50:50 PM

I would like to make a suggestion to the cbc in toronto(its one and the same), that to show islam at its finest, they should show the next beheading in saudi arabia. Then they could have a panel discussion but george whats his name, on its merits, from a hip youth standpoint

Posted by: john A | 2006-07-31 8:02:55 PM

"Instead of one person or a committee censoring or approving blog posts or comments -- as Zerbisias does with the Star (the Post's defunct blog didn't allow comments, and neither does Radwanski's own) -- we let the bloggers and commenters battle it out in an unrestricted contest of ideas."
BS alert!

Posted by: JKelly | 2006-07-31 8:33:20 PM

Look, Kelly, if you're going to claim BS, you would probably be well advised to state you case clearly, instead of providing context-free links.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-07-31 8:41:08 PM

Toronto is not Sodom.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-07-31 8:55:09 PM

Thankyou for this blog Ezra
Radwanski is just upset that conservative voices are being heard. He seems to long for the days when there was just the conventional wisdom of Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather, that wonderful (to him ) time before Fox News and talk radio (read Rush Limbaugh).

Posted by: ex-liberal | 2006-07-31 9:35:09 PM

The great thing about freedom of speech:
it makes it easier to spot the idiots.

-hat tip, rightwingnews.com

Posted by: Pete E | 2006-07-31 10:06:04 PM

Alright, I'll take your word for it. In future I shall expect to see ALL opinions posted on your blog.
Western Standard will be more democratic, though maybe less kind and gentle.
I can live with that.

Posted by: We'll see | 2006-07-31 11:28:51 PM

Vitruvirus, you are right. Toronto is not Sodom. It sure as hell smells like it though :)

Posted by: Big Makk | 2006-07-31 11:55:18 PM

Blogs are a plus-more people can share info and opinions. Blogs allow for people to disagree or agree or add info with the main blog posting article. Whereas in newspaper columns others can't under the column give their opinions too on the column-it's more dictorial.Of course "some" newspaper coulmns are great.

Posted by: Larry | 2006-08-01 12:30:23 AM



Sounds like you don't want to offend newspaper columnists.

Go ahead. They know about as much as you do, but are in a position where they can vent without being challenged.

Challenge on!

Posted by: Set you free | 2006-08-01 1:32:47 AM

If I'm not mistaken, SYF, Larry was simply acknowledging that one or more of the columnists already mentioned in this thread, namely Steyn, Frum, Warren, Mansur, Fulford, Blatchford, Coyne, Jonas, and Murphy, are great.

And don't forget Levant, Libin, Sowell, Williams, Lemieux, &c. Noting that there are some columnists that one admires hardly makes it sound like one is afraid to offend columnists.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-08-01 8:54:48 AM


OK, I claim Mel Gibson syndrome.

I was slightly inebriated after driving home within the speed limit.

It makes more sense this morning, oh Voice of Reason.

Posted by: Set you free | 2006-08-01 9:15:29 AM

Just to clarify something, that was raised (not unjustifiably) in Ezra's post: The reason for not allowing comments on my own blog is a practical rather than a philosophical one.

To protect against both spam and libel (against others, not myself), I wouldn't want to run comments unless I was able to monitor them. And for practical reasons, that's not feasible - partly because of time constraints, and partly because the way that my blog is set up, I can only update/edit from certain computers.

By the way, that same slightly dated blogging method I use is responsible for the lack of updates the past few days (my home computer melted down). It's not that the blogosphere has collectively taken out a hit on me or something.

Posted by: Adam Radwanski | 2006-08-01 9:24:04 AM

One thing I have discovered, is that RG has massive cannon gonads, whereas a few other posters (names witheld, by virtue of the fact that it may get their knickers up the yin yang, so far they may require medical attention) have fake 1 mm ball bearings, made out of putty!

Posted by: Lady | 2006-08-01 10:18:37 AM

Never bring gonads to a cerebrum fight.

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2006-08-01 11:57:23 AM

Is that why you had yours removed?

Posted by: Lady | 2006-08-01 2:01:23 PM

lady, are you asking vitr. or rads or both?

Posted by: clarification | 2006-08-01 3:15:35 PM

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