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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Glimmer of hope

Here's today's Calgary Herald story about the latest human rights complaint against the website. I see a glimmer of hope in it:

Civil liberties lawyer Stephen Jenuth said pitting freedom of speech against hate crimes can be uncomfortable.

"It's a matter of where do you draw the line," said Jenuth. "As a society, we have to protect ourselves against such things as people advocating genocide. But our society also has to be strong enough to accept that freedom of speech requires us to hear things we might not want to hear."

Jenuth is a leftist lawyer, a Liberal party riding president usually quoted as a pro-criminal and pro-accused voice in law and order issues. But he's also the president of Alberta's Civil Liberties association. His comment, above, is a glimmer of hope that there are still some true, classical liberals out there who understand that freedom of speech includes speech that we sometimes don't like to hear. He's not as full-throated about it as his B.C. and federal counterparts, but it's a start.

Posted by Ezra Levant on December 20, 2007 | Permalink


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I can't see this as a Left/Right thing. I worked with lots of Lefties over the course of my life and I have to say that the majority of them felt just as intimidated with the HRC's as the rest of us. I really think the proponents of these Star Chambers are made up of a small group of influential extreme-leftists, the continually aggrieved and those who have found a way to make money from it. But, perhaps I'm just naive.

Posted by: atric | 2007-12-20 9:53:22 AM

Makes sense doesn't it? Freedom of speech works for everyone, in fact it probably serves the Left in more cases than the Right.

Posted by: dp | 2007-12-20 9:55:41 AM

This article in the Herald strikes me, on balance, as quite a one-sided reporting.

Much more could have been said - like the same alleged negative information is also on Soharwardy's own web site.

Nothing was said about public comments (TV) apparently made by the AB HRC in terms of his filing not likely to go anywhere with them as web sites are a federal issue.

Why is this? There are rumors that the Calgary Herald itself may be under some sort of filing. Does anyone know for a fact if this is true?

Posted by: calgary clipper | 2007-12-20 10:13:16 AM

Go and take the poll on whether or not you would be willing to fight for your freedoms.



Posted by: John West | 2007-12-20 10:55:02 AM

I have met Mr. Soharwardy one on one and had a coffee and a chat with him for over an hour. He is an intelligent, articulate man with a passion for building bridges in our community amongst people of all faiths - including a Conservative Party voting, born again Baptist believer like myself. You would do well to to learn from his example of tolerance.


Posted by: Bob Comber | 2007-12-20 11:04:07 AM

Oh well then, I guess he must be a great guy then Bob. You should have let everybody know before, then there wouldn't have been such an uproar.

Bob may be suffering from Stockholm syndrome.

Posted by: dp | 2007-12-20 11:26:42 AM

Anyone who takes Mr. Jenuth seriously has a problem. He, in my opinion, is only an average establishment lawyer and his organization is an embarrassment to those of us who believe in getting and keeping the government off of our backs. The so called Alberta Civil Liberties Research Association has not and does not espouse any public rights causes of which I have been aware and I have intervened within the courts in more cases then this group has done in spite of the fact that I never finished grade 10 and I an homeless and sleep in a back alley. Mr. Jenuth, in my view, maintains his position with the so-called Alberta Human Rights Research Association for two reasons, 1) it allows him some publicity, and 2) because of the structure and intent of the organization, no one else wants it.

Lawrence A. Oshanek

Posted by: Lawrence A. Oshanek | 2007-12-20 11:28:51 AM


Bob is suffering the effects of taqiyya.

Posted by: Speller | 2007-12-20 11:36:42 AM

Well, I see the Shotgun has deleted a bunch of obc's comments in the offending thread. If the newspaper is right in quoting him and Templar and the police decide that these constitute incitement to commit a crime, then at least obc will be pretty easy for them to find. He has already posted elsewhere on this blog that he is the "Oswald Czolgosz" (a pseudonym derived from Presidential assassins Lee Harvey Oswald and Leon Czolgosz and which suggests he could well be dangerous) discussed in this story: http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=869cfe74-6c7c-4f23-961a-e5b478399fc1

Posted by: Fact Check | 2007-12-20 11:45:17 AM

Yeah, Bob. I'm sure he's a great guy as long as you agree with him. Try taking him to task for his lack of indignation for his prophet marrying a 6 year old and consummating the marriage when she was nine. (Ripe I'm sure for a nine year old)
Also his lack of indignation of the daily atrocities done by Muslims in the name of Allah all over the world, including here in Canada, and see what a great guy he is! Wake up, dhimmi!!!

Posted by: Markalta | 2007-12-20 11:47:44 AM

FYI Fact Check: as I wrote in the comments on another thread, the most inflamatory comment, made on Dec. 17 (quoting myself),

"was by someone named "Ja-rule" and it appears by the ip that this was the one and only time "Ja-rule" commented (from a server in Burlington ON).

That comment appeared two days after someone using the nick "Conrad-Canada" posted an extremely ugly comment about homosexuals--which Conrad-USA objected to via email btw--which was deleted.

I am assuming--without proof at the moment--that someone is using deceit in an attempt to discredit the blog before we can build our new site and impose better controls. But I emphasize that is just a guess. It could just be that someone, seeing distasteful remarks, jumped in to crank things up because they believed this would slip by."

Posted by: Kevin Steel | 2007-12-20 11:54:56 AM

Fact check

obc's comments have never struck me as "dangerous".

He's been fairly consistent in his views. I don't remember anything close to incitement.

This is about free speech, remember.

Posted by: dp | 2007-12-20 11:58:50 AM


"I am assuming--without proof at the moment--that someone is using deceit in an attempt to discredit the blog before we can build our new site and impose better controls. But I emphasize that is just a guess. It could just be that someone, seeing distasteful remarks, jumped in to crank things up because they believed this would slip by."

You know, now that this issue has hit the news, it would be very easy for enemies of the WS to do drive-by postings of hateful incitement to try to get you guys in more trouble. Since past comments have resulted in HR complaints, there is no reason to think new ones would not also do the same. So if I were you, I would be rather concerned about what could happen given unmoderated posting and the ease of annonymity of posters here.

But having said that, it does not seem that this applies to obc and his posting history. He is the one quoted in the paper and who also has clearly identified himself in other posts, so if his posts are incitement to violence under the law, he might have a day in court coming to him, too.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2007-12-20 12:05:49 PM


The Calgary Herald (linked by Ezra) wrote:

"Another user, OBC, responds by saying Muslims should be deported from western countries, adding that he'd be 'in favour of their eradication' if they 'don't behave back there.'"

Being in favour of eradicating Muslims might not be incitement, but it sounds close anyway.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2007-12-20 12:12:06 PM

Fact check-

Some comments are close to incitement, but look at it from a common sense angle.

Muslims are being eradicated in the thousands as we speak.

In many cases certain Muslims should be deported from Western Countries. Look at the violence they've commited in France, Denmark, Australia.

It's a known fact that there are home grown terrorist plots being hatched in Mosques.

Don't all these factors make for an environment that incites a verbal backlash?

Posted by: dp | 2007-12-20 12:20:11 PM

Thanks for the advice, Fact Check. I thought that we made it clear that we are rather concerned about the type and tone of discussion here. Maybe that's why "Ja-rule" chipped in on that thread 15 days after it appeared, to head off any attempt to bring this under control.

Honestly, I would like to spend more time creating the site rather than dealing with things like a nic being hijacked, with a moby, etc. The anonymity of the present system does not work. I mean, I don't even know who you are, and I'm supposed to take responsibility for your opinions? or anyone else's? in the name of free speech? We're trying to get a publication going here, and no publication prints unsigned letters. I believe very strongly in free speech, but I also believe in responsible discourse and courtesy.

Posted by: Kevin Steel | 2007-12-20 12:21:23 PM

I'd be happy to make my e-mail address available for editing purposes, but to have it available for someone who disagrees with a comment to send me a virus, I don't think so.

If you come up with a better system, I'm in.

Posted by: dp | 2007-12-20 12:26:06 PM


"Honestly, I would like to spend more time creating the site rather than dealing with things like a nic being hijacked.... We're trying to get a publication going here..."

Well, the reality is that there are probably people reading this site - posts and comments - just waiting for the next bit of hate speech to be posted so they can add a new HR complaint to the mix. And the reality also is that there could well be drive-by enemies of the WS willing to oblige them. Unless you can pre-moderate or have someone at the delete switch at all times, it might be time to turn off comments until the new site is up

But in the end, there is no way to stop annonymous posting. Even if you require a real email address, as some sites do, it is easy to create a new one solely for the purposes of posting. Pre-moderating posts is the only way to make sure the stuff you don't want stays away. If you don't pre-moderate or have someone 24/7 monitoring with quick deletions when needed, then you will always be open to hosting comments of the most undesireable sort.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2007-12-20 12:36:24 PM


What you are suggesting would put an end to this particular site. Who would bother posting a comment if there was some big brother with his finger on the delay button?

Are you going to let them win? There are plenty of websites that have no other purpose than to incite hatred. This one doesn't come close to that. In order to remain a voice of common people, you must limit your editing to the most obvious criminal, or profane comments.

Posted by: dp | 2007-12-20 12:45:29 PM

"I have met Mr. Soharwardy one on one and had a coffee and a chat with him for over an hour. He is an intelligent, articulate man with a passion for building bridges in our community amongst people of all faiths"

Bob Comber ... Can you spell 'deceit'?

Posted by: John West | 2007-12-20 1:04:26 PM

To my mind OBC has never, ever posted anything that could be construed as racist. As a matter of fact he regularly calls down those racists who do comment, with the phrase.."Blah blah so says the racist amoung us".
Get your facts checked, Fact Check. Your pitiful attempt to falsely label someone you at are at odds with smacks of the worst kind of fascism.
Your attempt to bring up OBC at every opportunity
is a flimsy and transparent attempt to bring his Nic to the attention of those that you expect are monitoring this site for fodder to advance their cause.
You Sir, are revolting.

Posted by: atric | 2007-12-20 3:53:47 PM

atric ~

Remember - Fact Check was caught by the moderator a few weeks ago posting comments under my nic.

Leftoids have no morals, as is evident by that act.

Posted by: obc | 2007-12-20 3:56:56 PM

Too true, OBC. No honour, no morals, no respect, no decency, no brains.

Posted by: atric | 2007-12-20 4:04:25 PM

DP said "I'd be happy to make my e-mail address available for editing purposes, but to have it available for someone who disagrees with a comment to send me a virus, I don't think so. If you come up with a better system, I'm in."

Most ID-verified sites require a commenter to log in under a member account which uses a mail-back method to verify you are the owner of a particular email account. That email address is never released to the general public, but is essentially key to preventing someone from posting under your nickname.

A further step to confirm real name ID might call for a token $1 paid membership that could be used to confirm real names via billing name on a credit card.

P.S. if you're worried about email viruses, just don't open attachments from strangers, or get a Mac.

Posted by: Pattern Recognition | 2007-12-20 4:10:42 PM

BTW, and I admit I'm taking advantage of relative aninymity right now, a verified first name might be the key to elevating the tone here, and thereby elevating the brand quality of the site.

Brand quality = links and traffic, which = ad revenues and there's nothing wrong with that. Right now you have lots of pageview traffic from commenters, but they're not unique visits, and based on the intensity of the comment-debates I'm guessing your clickthrough rate per unique isn't stellar, which has to be affecting rates a tad.

Posted by: pattern Recognition | 2007-12-20 4:14:08 PM


The blog has a chatroom feel to it sometimes, but for any negative aspects there are many more positive reasons to keep it running.

Posted by: dp | 2007-12-20 4:18:57 PM

My comments were more for Kevin's benefit I know commenters love message-boards, but a commercial blog can suffer for the lack of some sort of verification and non-anonymity. For one thing the pings dilute the commercial value of the blog.

There are plenty of IRC chat rooms for free & anonymous back & forth.

Posted by: Pattern Recognition | 2007-12-20 4:23:04 PM

atric ~

Always remember - and never forget:

Leftoids consider ALL conservatives to be sexists, racists, homophobes, environmental rapists, and KKK members.

Ergo, anything THEY say or do is heroic - even if it is illegal and immoral in the eyes of your average citizen.

Posted by: obc | 2007-12-20 5:00:06 PM

Wow, I guess free speech isn't too important to our muzzie friends.

Does anybody have any knowledge as to how this sort of thing can be fought? Can anybody make a CHRC complaint? Why don't we do so, I know that there is/ was fodder on at least on Canadian "muzzie" websites.

Any thoughts on this people?

Posted by: Hoser | 2007-12-20 5:18:43 PM

I have to say, the sometimes ugly tone of the comments section of this blog has been a major turnoff for me in the past, and I think some moderation is past due. People should be able to say whatever they want, but I don't think it is out of line to insist they do so in a civil manner. There are some blogs (Steve Janke, Stephen Taylor) where the quality of discourse is much higher. Here, too often, I see things deteriorate into mindless ad hominem attacks. If you want this blog to grow, it is I think worth spending the effort required to build a higher level of discourse. This is not censorship, this is simply requiring that anyone who is a guest here behaves with a modicum of politeness. I'm not optimistic, but good luck with it anyway, I will keep the WS on my daily list of things to read and hope that the quality of the publication improves over time.

Posted by: Jonathan Westphal | 2007-12-20 6:56:29 PM

Jonathan - I hope you do visit often. I also hope you post more comments.

I am always surprised at the snipers. Snipers are, in my mind, people who go on a blog or forum to post inflammatory and/or ridiculous nonsense, but don't have the courage to post using their real names. Why don't they?

I think eliminating anonymity would raise the level of discourse on its own.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2007-12-20 8:19:18 PM

Eliminating amonymity would also eliminate comments that some may find offensive, resulting in many more frivilous lawsuits by the perpetually outraged and offended. I stand by what I write and the people that know me know my feelings on many subjects. That does not concern me,but there are many in this world who would search me out and wreak havoc for my comments,therefore I would have to sanitize anything I posted. May as well remain mute. If the owners of any site desire my name,I will either give it or not post there. Simple as that. Your house,your rules,my choice ,abide or get the F out......

Posted by: wallyj | 2007-12-20 8:33:48 PM

Btw,Mr. Comber at 11:04 a.m. By all accounts Ted Bundy was a very charming likable fellow when he wasn't raping and killing.

Posted by: wallyj | 2007-12-20 8:36:35 PM

Jaws: "Snipers are, in my mind, people who go on a blog or forum to post inflammatory and/or ridiculous nonsense, but don't have the courage to post using their real names."

Be sure to include in your list of anonymous snipers not only people who post comments, but people who are authorized to make main posts. If you read more than a few of the posts by "Winston" you will see that being inflammatory is something some of the official bloggers do here all the time. In his case, he also does it under the mask of anonymity. He is not the only anonymous blogger here, but he is the most inflammatory of the anonymous bunch. at least when Adam Yoshida posts his bile (and he often is very inflammatory) he uses his real name.

I would hope that if responders are required in the future to post under their real names that this policy would extend to all official bloggers here. fair's fair. It might even make "Winston" post more reasonably.

Posted by: fact Check | 2007-12-20 8:50:28 PM

One either supports free speech or one does not. I find interesting the people claiming to support it while demanding censorship on blogs. This is exactly the kind of thinking that brought us to the present situation.

Those sensitive souls would be better not to visit blogs or talk to strangers, since their feelings may be hurt.

Posted by: Alain | 2007-12-20 11:28:17 PM

I should have explained better what was meant by demanding censorship on blogs. It is clear that blog owners have the right to establish ground rules, as many of them do. They make it clear from the start what is permitted and what is not permitted. This is not the same thing as people, other than the blog owner, complaining of hurt feelings, etc. and demanding the censorship of anyone they may find offensive.

Posted by: Alain | 2007-12-21 12:06:33 AM

The glimmer of hope really is that Mathew Johnston of the WS Blog and S. Soharwardy have settled things between themselves. S.S. was on talk radio - The World Tonight on Thurs 8:10 p.m.

The blog comments at issue were, in my opinion, over the top and they were challenged. This was recognized in an e-mail from M.J to S.S. and also that blog changes are underway was part of the e-mail (read over the air).

SS has canceled the protest scheduled for Friday/21st and is in the process of withdrawing his complaint with the federal human rights commission.

Kudos go to both of these people for getting this issue solved before it is taken in front of any human rights commission.

The time may be now for you to reflect on the upcoming (apparently) airing of the WS Magazine issue before the AB HRC in January.

Yes, you may technically have a point that printing of the cartoons was not a violation of free speech - that remains to be seen. This has been challenged but not in the right forum (it was used because it is there/inexpensive for the plaintiff but this does not make it right).

Consider the odds of a respondent "winning" in any HR Tribunal. This forum should not even have a mandate to adjudicate in areas of free speech but this becomes another/more complex issue.

The question becomes one of whether or not your publishing of the cartoons was prudent at the time it was done - given that this is Canada, not Europe or Britain - and that emotions were running very high world wide at the time. I argued then, and I still do, that it was not a prudent thing to do.

If you choose to continue pursuing this issue in the kangaroo court system you may well find yourself increasingly isolated in terms of support of others - if you have not found this already.

To have this issue adjudicated by a Human Rights Tribunal will only further legitimize this institution when it has no legitimate business being in the adjudicating of free speech. Not only do you stand to end up in a lose-lose situation but so do the rest of us in terms of libel chill going to libel freeze.

The radical elements (wherever they may be found) simply cannot be allowed to find legitimacy in racking up points with an easy win in these kangaroo courts over debatable issues.

The question becomes - is it really worth it to you to put all of this on the line over this particular issue and in this particular forum?

The Jewish Independent Newspaper/SS avoided an AB HRC hearing and I believe that you also can find a way to do this - it is about the will to do it just as the WS Blog people found a way.

Right now, I doubt that the AB HRC commission is about to stand down. This would be highly desirable but I doubt that it will happen.

Rather than putting your efforts as a lawyer into appearing as a respondent and probably going on into civil litigation - would it not be better to find a way to put this particular complaint to bed and focus your efforts into the dismantling of the AB Human Rights Commission - or at least getting them out of the business of adjudicating free speech.

Lawyers tend to think it terms of win-lose. The other and more difficult option is to go for a win-win. I can't help but think if this issue comes to a hearing that it will be a lose-lose situation.

Posted by: calgary clipper | 2007-12-21 7:30:35 AM

Jonathan and Kevin, the fastest and easiest way to elevate the tone of discussion and thin out the flame wars without having to waste hours of time moderating and seeing moderation circumvented is to enforce a verified ID system.

It's called the John Gabriel Internet D*****d Theory:

Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total D*****d.


Will people who have to sign their names to a comment necessarily be more civil? No. Will people who have to sign their real names to a comment have to face the consequences to their actions? Yes. Will that give pause to some? Maybe.

With a few exceptions you won't get an audience on TV without some sort of ID verification. I can't tromp down to Global TV and declare I'm Ezra or say, "Just call me PCD" and make a statement on air. Why should a website be any different?

If people still want anonymity you're not taking it away from them, we're just saying they'll have to find their audience via an anonymous blog of their own, or on a lower-class chat room or UseNet. (It's not discrimination when McDonalds doesn't offer a McHalal islamic-friendly burger).

Posted by: Steve Tsuida | 2007-12-21 8:08:44 AM

Ezra's original posting includes the throw away line that we must be able to protect ourselves from those who advocate genocide, and then continues with a discussion of free speech.

I think that you "must" allow advocates of genocide to post or speak their crazy thoughts just as you allow one who advocates increasing taxes or lowering taxes.

It is basically a matter of trusting the system that free speech also provides the ability to answer and counteract the "crazy" speaker with the sensible speaker.

There is danger latent within individual liberty but one reason it is desireable is to develop a more responsible and creative populus in a society with such freedom.

I would consider people who advocate Abortion to be advocating genocide. I would consider people advocating embryonic stem cell research, which destroys a live human embryo to be advocating genocide. I think that I'm on quite solid logical ground in those assertions.

I hope to win my argument through the process of education about scientific advancements which identify the moment of origin of new individual human life and through Originalist Justices and judges in our (American) legal system, who recognize that the taking of innocent human life is beyond the authority granted to government, but instead, that government is only empowered to protect innocent human life.

Common men must be able to rise up in public and speak freely on all topics without fear that by expressing their ideas and beliefs they may lose their freedoms.

And anonymous written communications (aka The Federalist Papers) were a major vehicle by which the people of America developed the basic argument and logic and belief to establish and keep their free nation. Those writers risked their lives to present their ideas. I believe that we should be willing similarly to take (huge) risks for our nations' sake.

Ultimately we can all be "found out" (you know, the CIA is tracking us when we use those supermarket discount cards) but simple basic anonymity in a blog provides a lot of legitimate protection to "risk" expression of thoughts which may well benefit others.

Posted by: Conrad-USA | 2007-12-21 9:36:27 AM

There were comments made yesterday about obc that I think need addressing. Though I might not agree with everything he says, I'll be first in line to defend his right to free speech. I think this is a big deal. There was a comment that he could actually be prosecuted for his comments. That's a load of crap. If that happens I'll gladly start a defence fund.

I'm not sure where the reasoning comes from. To suggest his frequency of postings is some sort of conspiracy is ridiculous.

Posted by: dp | 2007-12-21 4:06:49 PM

dp ~

Many of those comments came from Fat Chick - the "contributor" who was exposed by our moderator as having posted comments under my nic.

Those that attack are guilty of slander - otherwise termed as "projection".

Posted by: obc | 2007-12-21 4:38:04 PM

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