The Shotgun Blog
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Another former censor comes out in defense of censorship
The National Post has published an opinion piece by Maxwell Yalden, formerly of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. In the piece, entitled "Human Rights are More Important than Anything-Goes Free Speech," Yalden chastises the Post for its "below-the-belt bashing of our human-rights institutions."
We could take Yalden apart bit by bit. Yet again, an "expert" on human rights has brought out the shouting-fire-in-a-crowded-theater example (at least he refers to it as an "old saw.") But, really, what would be the point? Yalden's not interested in debate.
Instead, I think I'll just quote what (for me) was the funniest part of Yalden's piece:
Is a 19th-century English philosopher (even John Stuart Mill, whom I admire greatly as a defender of individual rights against an overbearing state) really the best arbiter of Canadian human rights standards in the 21st century? At the time Mill wrote, England was openly racist, sexist and anti-Semitic. After two disastrous world wars and the horrors of the holocaust, we are surely obliged to judge rather differently the anything-goes theory of free speech.
I leave it up to readers more familiar with Mill's work to point out exactly where Mill's view diverges from the "anything goes" strawman Yalden has set up here. But no one I know treats Mill, or any philosopher, as an "arbiter" of human rights standards. That's because, unlike Maxwell Yalden, J.S. Mill argued for his position. We don't need to take his word on where the limits on speech ought to be drawn; we can actually assess his arguments and come to our own conclusions.
But we have to assess the arguments against censorship fairly. We can't just dismiss them because, at the time Mill wrote, England was a sexist, racist place.
Would Yalden dismiss Karl Marx for those reasons? One wonders...
Posted by Terrence Watson on April 10, 2008 | Permalink
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Another former censor comes out in defense of censorship:
I took a few minutes to read Yalden's article. He basically makes the fallacious argument that restrictions on free speech are good because lots of other countries have them as well. And anyone who challenges these restrictions is just "hitting below the belt".
What a sanctimonious idiot.
Posted by: Dennis | 2008-04-10 7:59:54 AM
>"The Internet is the public podium of the 21st century, and people of good will share the view that there have to be some restrictions on what can be promoted on the Web."
People of good will?
And who decides who has good will and who doesn't?
Why the "good" Communists at your HRC that's who.
>"By law, the Canadian Human Rights Commission is obliged to deal with complaints unless they are "trivial, frivolous, vexatious or made in bad faith."
"But that does not mean that the worth of such complaints, or lack thereof, should be judged in advance, by your newspaper or anyone else."
Trivial, frivolous, vexatious or made in bad faith?
This IS prejudgement by the HRC to determine whether the complainant is politically orthodox or not.
Now we know what Maxwell Yalden means by "people of good will".
He means fellow travellers.
Maxwell Yalden and his pals at the HRC have set themselves up as not only the arbiters of free speech, they have also set themselves up as the arbiters of who has "good will" and who doesn't.
That is double plus ungood.
No wonder the CHRC has a 100% conviction rate.
Posted by: Speller | 2008-04-10 10:12:46 AM
It's Adolph's revenge. J.S. Mill is a a preo-Nazi, white supremacist. It's no surprise to see Yalden speaking for his ethnic genetic interest.
Posted by: DJ | 2008-04-10 11:53:09 AM
Bloggers around the world have been under attack -- including Kathleen Seidel in the US. Read more at:
Posted by: Thiz 'n' Dat | 2008-04-10 8:18:35 PM
WHY DID EZRA LEVANT CENSOR posts on this blog last year? Why did he erase posts based on political ideology and to protect his supporters who were badly losing debates? It is like Connie Black criticizing other people's ethics! Calling a crook Black is a fact, whereas Levant criticizing others for being censors while practicing that which he attacks, is the height of hypocrisy! Levant wielded the sword of censorship when he is in control but cries foul when he is cut! Hypocrite.
Posted by: ROGER | 2008-04-10 10:55:18 PM
You're looking for hypocrisy in the wrong place, Ezra's deletion of blog posts has absolutely nothing to do with the sort of censorship he opposes. I'm a little embarrassed by how often I see this argument made, but let me see if I can explain it to you.
If you stood in front of the Parliament buildings and held up a protest sign or shouted political slogans and the police came to silence you, that would be censorship. If you walked into my house and held up a protest sign or shouted political slogans and I kicked you out, or called the police to do so, that would not be censorship. In my privately owned home, my property, I have the right to determine the rules and to kick you out if I don't like what you're doing. Likewise, the owner of a website has the right to limit what the commenters can say, just as he has the right to determine which writers to publish or whether to display advertisements.
You may disagree with his comment moderation policy or practice, but I'm not sure what your idea of free-speech would have obliged Ezra to do. Should he have allowed anyone to come on to the website and edit the HTML code? Should he have allowed people to post a serialized version of Joyce's Ulysses in the blog comments? Should he have tolerated comment spam and links to malicious viruses?
Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-04-11 3:04:26 AM
Well said, Kalim.
"Should he have allowed people to post a serialized version of Joyce's Ulysses in the blog comments?"
Heh, maybe that's what Karol has been up to and I just haven't noticed :-).
I wonder if Roger is being deliberately obtuse. Of course there is a difference between:
1. The government passing a law prohibiting certain kinds of speech, on one hand, and
2. Private individuals (including business and blog owners) choosing not to associate with people on the basis of the things they say, on the other.
They don't even look remotely the same. The only way I can see a person's fevered imagination putting them together is if that person thought not being able to post on the blog of his choice is just as bad as being dragged before the CHRC.
Wait. Maybe I do understand Roger and his ilk now. No wonder they're not incensed about the behavior of the CHRC: they think what's happening to Ezra is no worse than getting banned from a blog.
Christ. How I long to speak with lefties who aren't proto-fascists.
Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-04-11 12:47:38 PM
In a modern state, the Fourth Estate of the proletariate has become synonimous with the news media. While that is debatable, what is not, is that the public nature of a sphere or a venue or a forum demands equality of access and space for rebuttal. The news media is not just another vehicle of corporate commerce. The first action of tyrants and despots and totalitarian states is control of the news media, often allowing other corporate entities freedom to go about their business--to wit, China or Russia. A media forum is not akin to the private domain of your livingroom. To make such a comparison is silly. Ought a convicted criminal to be given space to air his criminal views "a la" Connie the Thief Black, is debatable? However, what is clear is the need to ensure that public space does not become controlled by any one party or government to the exclusion of the plurality of voices and opinions in society. Civil society requires an exchange of ideas between those who hold opposing opinions. Every forum ought to be required to provide space for rebuttal. One can turn down advertisements, although even such action is subject to judicial review for fairness, but one ought to have scrupulous respect for giving contrary opinions to be expressed and heard. That is what responsible journalism is about. For fascists to accuse their opponents of fascism is either plain stupidity or unwise tactics by amateurs. Fascists need to fear the promotion of the label fascist, for people can see for themselves who is who without coaching, and no amount of propaganda can make a fascist change their true colours. LOL!
Posted by: ROGER | 2008-04-11 11:08:23 PM
"However, what is clear is the need to ensure that public space does not become controlled by any one party or government to the exclusion of the plurality of voices and opinions in society."
I see. So we should give government more control over public space is used so that it doesn't get monopolized by a single party.
As much as you'd like to bleat otherwise, Roger, a single party does not control all the media in Canada. No, not even Conrad Black. So there is no need for the government to force media providers to air views with which said providers and owners do not agree.
If you don't like the way your comments get delete here on the Shotgun, you can start your own blog. It's that simple. Doesn't require the involvement of the government at all. Doesn't require forcing people to do things they don't want to do.
But about the government: you have too much faith in its power, Roger. That's what makes you a proto-fascist. That's where fascism starts: with unlimited faith in the power of government -- which is, really, the power of violence -- to accomplish great things.
I reject violence. You embrace it, as long as the violence is directed toward worthy ends. As far as I'm concerned that makes you the one who is flirting with fascism.
As I said, I long to talk to lefties who aren't constantly fantasizing about using violence against their perceived enemies (for example, you and Conrad Black.)
Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-04-12 11:00:39 AM
As loath as I am to seem like I am defending Roger, you wrote:
"I reject violence.... I long to talk to lefties who aren't constantly fantasizing about using violence against their perceived enemies...."
Do you reject violence as a method of dealing with Al-Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan? I don't. Do you reject violence as a method of law enforcement regardless of circumstances? I don't. Does that make me a fascist or someone who is "flirting with fascism"? I don't think so.
It is not fascist to believe that at least sometimes violence (whether literal violence or the metaphorical "violence" of coercion) is a necessary tool of the state. I am sure that you, too, believe that at least sometimes violence is a necessary tool of the state and when it is necessary it is at least in part because the ends are worthy. The real trick is being able to distinguish just when it is necessary and when it is abusive.
Roger might be (and probably is) an annoying idiot, but I think he lacks the intellectual consistency to be a real fascist. He's actually a lot like Adam Yoshida, come to think of it.... But I digress....
Posted by: Fact Check | 2008-04-12 11:26:22 AM
To paraphrase the war criminal Churchill, I prefer to be right than consistent.
Is it possible for you clowns to stay on topic? The topic is censorship. Ezra Levant, notorious blow-hard windbag is howling about being held accountable and responsible--apparently Ezra believes that he ought not to be held accountable and responsible! Ezra believes he is above the law, just like his hero, disgraced convicted jailed criminal common thief Lord Black. If there are no rules, then there is no accountability. The role of government is to make rules and provide for accountability. There are those who believ the government is some independent, loathed entity. This is a strange notion amongst people who claim to live in a democracy and who claim to be democrats. The government is the people and the people's voice is the government, in a democracy. The nonsense about government merely being about coercive power neglects the fact that the government represents the people and that constitutional governance is based on law, tradition, constitution and precedent. Of course liberals reject these concepts. Is it not strange that those who claim to be conservatives are actually vicious liberal ideologues? LOL! Idiots.
Fact: Ezra cannot win debate so he silences those who better him in debate.
Posted by: ROGER | 2008-04-12 11:42:57 AM
"The government is the people and the people's voice is the government, in a democracy. The nonsense about government merely being about coercive power neglects the fact that the government represents the people and that constitutional governance is based on law, tradition, constitution and precedent."
I suggest you read up on public choice economics. Try the book "Government Failure." The government doesn't represent "the people" as much as it represents the interests of government actors (politicians and bureaucrats.)
That stuff about government representing "the people" is a pretty story people like you and Richard Warman like to tell while you use the violent apparatus of the state to advance your own interests. It's not real; it's a fantasy, that, like most myths, serves a particular purpose.
I'm a liberal, not a democrat. Democratic decision making procedures are AT BEST instrumentally valuable for preserving civil liberties. In fact, I doubt such procedures yield an accurate aggregation of individual preferences. But they do allow thugs like you, Roger, to impose costs on others, who then receive nothing, or almost nothing, in return.
All while you tell them that the voice of government is their voice, too. You should be ashamed.
Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-04-12 12:39:59 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.