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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Who owns you, Michael Coren?

I listened to part of the show today on 1010 CFRB Toronto called Two Bald Guys With Strong Opinions

Today's show was two guys arguing for and against CCTV cameras on public property. It was my first time listening in, and I was driving so I couldn't call in and the phone number was not mentioned. I don't know whether the hosts just pick a side for the sake of the show, or whether Michael Coren was really taking the point of view of the surveillance statist. I'm going to assume he means it.

He put one caller on the spot (who brought up the Patriot Act) by insisting he name one government program that government had actually taken advantage of. The guy choked up, maybe a little nervous. But Michael had, in the previous three minutes, brought up human rights abuses by the HRCs (freedom of speech and expression, after all, is a human right). In light of this, why doesn't Michael name us one government program that hasn't failed or been abused by government in some way? 

It was surprising and sad when Michael characterized libertarians as people who don't fully believe in the rule of law. In reality, all libertarians know that freedom is impossible without the rule of law protecting the rights of individuals. Maybe Michael just doesn't know enough about libertarian political philosophy. Here you go, Michael, why not learn about it from an easy-to-read and easy-to-understand source: Wikipedia. Or an even shorter version from Cato's David Boaz here.

Coren is in favour of the use of CCTV cameras. He's even in favour of using them to catch people for consensual crimes -- he said they should be used to catch drug dealers. In practice, that means users too. His argument is essentially an argument for a surveillance society that will help prop up the failed war on drugs.

I hear they now have loudspeakers on some of these cameras in the UK so that bureaucrats can bark orders at people if they throw a candy wrapper on the ground.

These cameras have been abused already to spy on people inside their own homes. Take a look at this, Michael. How many of these cases go unreported?

The thing that Michael needs to know is that in Canada we love our civil liberties and we don't want one camera per 14 people like in the UK. But adopting other countries' bad ideas is something governments do best. So maybe ours will adopt CCTV cameras with Michael's endorsement.

I heard a guy call in and say "if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide." Michael did not disagree. I heard that line from a Mountie who wanted to search my car. He said if I don't allow him to search my car, then that means I have something to hide. It was because of this illogic that I refused the search. The mounties don't have a right to search my car unless they suspect that there's something illegal going on. And refusing a search is not a reason to think that something illegal is going on. It's reason to think that I don't want some stranger looking through my stuff. It's also reason to think that I like freedom from tyranny.

I heard this same newspeak from Michael. He said that CCTV cameras on government property liberate us. That is like saying war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength. 

This is the London, England that Michael Coren wants for Winnipeg, Calgary, Toronto and so on.

So Michael Coren, who owns you?

Posted by Lindy Vopnfjord on October 23, 2008 in Canadian Conservative Politics, Canadian libertarian politics, Canadian Politics, Freedom of expression, Marijuana reform, Media, U.S. politics | Permalink


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I've never listened to his radio show, but I watch his TV show occasionally–and I enjoy it most of the time. I don't always agree with Coren or his guests, but he keeps the conversation civil and productive. Coren is smart, funny, and fair to his critics. What's surprising about Coren's characterization of libertarians as not believing in the 'rule of law' is that he should be very familiar with libertarianism as he used to have a regular feature in this magazine where he debated libertarian lawyer Karen Selick on a different topic each month. Coren has also had libertarians as guests on his panel and is certainly intelligent enough to have grasped the libertarian political philosophy.

I didn't hear the program myself and Coren may have just been playing loose with words (not a good practice itself), but in this case its difficult not to conclude that he was deliberately misrepresenting the position of his opponents.

For shame, Michael, I've come to expect better.

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-10-23 2:35:36 AM

I too listened to the show and disagreed with Coren on this issue. Coren is articulate and his comments are well thought out, without question. To suggest he is "owned" by anyone is rediculous.
The suggestion that they don't offer the phone numbers for listeners to repond is absurd. They are repeated so many times during the broadcast, it sometimes gets annoying. From memory, here they are:
416-872-1010 or from your cell *1010

Posted by: atric | 2008-10-23 4:24:33 AM

To suggest he is "owned" by anyone is rediculous.
Posted by: atric | 23-Oct-08 4:24:33 AM

I would suggest that Michael Coren owns himself; not to put too fine a point on it but he seems to disagree, believing that the State owns him and the other individuals in society. How else should I interpret his support for the government enforcing prohibitions on what chemicals he chooses to put into his body and tracking and surveilling his every activity in public spaces?

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-10-23 5:13:53 AM

Karen Selick made mince meat of his positions on virtually every topic.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2008-10-23 12:04:51 PM

I said I disagreed with him on his opinion about security cameras. I'm not a syncophant and choose to make my own opinions. That being said, I believe he is right more often than he is wrong.
As for chemicals in the body, this seems to be an obsession with some on this website. Oh, and I don't care one whit what Karen Selik thinks of him.
That being said, I agree with him that the State
is trying to own his body, just like The state is attempting to own all of ours.

Posted by: atric | 2008-10-23 3:28:55 PM


"I heard a guy call in and say "if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide." Michael did not disagree. I heard that line from a Mountie who wanted to search my car. He said if I don't allow him to search my car, then that means I have something to hide. It was because of this illogic that I refused the search. "

So, I should be able to videotape the cops doing their job as well. After all, they have nothing to hide, right?

Posted by: h2o273kk9 | 2008-10-23 5:13:34 PM

The pragmatic argument against these cameras is that, in the obvious case of London, they don't work.

But here's my question: once you go out in public, do you have a reasonable expectation of privacy? We don't call it "going out in private," after all...

I don't quite see the exact parallel between a police officer trying to search your private property without a warrant, and a police officer gazing at one's behaviour (through a camera) in public.

Is it the camera that bothers people because it has a bad 1970s science fiction vibe? Would a cop on the corner (as was commonplace in the past) be the same thing?

Posted by: Kathy Shaidle | 2008-10-24 5:31:17 AM

h2o273kk9 said:
"So, I should be able to videotape the cops doing their job as well. After all, they have nothing to hide, right?"

Actually, when OMG members (Hell's Angels, et al)are stopped by police on the road (traffic stop) officers are cautioned to be aware that they could be recorded, audio and/or video, in case one of the bikers attempts to provoke an incident.

Having said that, if you're recording officers going about their duties be aware that your actions will be noted, your licence plate taken down and the other officers in that detachment/division/service will be advised of who you are and your behaviour. Additionally once your identity is known you will be checked on police computers for criminal record, etc.
Recording a police officer while doing their duties just invites all kinds of attention. Not a good thing if you're trying to avoid it.

Just saying.

A resident of America's Hat.©

Posted by: Dumbass White Guy | 2008-10-24 8:21:49 AM

Hi Kathy!

Actually, I must disagree with you and Michael Coren about the camera thing.

The immediate pragmatic argument against cameras is not only that they don't work. CCTV surveillance is EXPENSIVE... and it doesn't work. London is the experiment that pretty much proves this case. There's zero point to it from a crime prevention point of view, just like the gun registry. Therefore the reason it keeps getting expanded is not crime control. Just like the gun registry.

CCTV cameras suck at catching criminals, because even the saddest sack can look up and see the camera, then do his crime where it isn't looking. This is not a hard thing to do. CCTV did not catch the London bus bombers, did it?

Where CCTV shines is watching people who are not criminals. Just like the gun registry, Joe Average thinks he has nothing to hide, so why not go along? Well, Joe in London is now subject to all manner of niggly little taxes on his comings and goings, enforced by things like license plate capture by the CCTV network.

That's not Sci Fi, that's off the shelf tech. They do it on the 407, you think they don't have a list of who went where and when? With pictures? Hell yeah they do.

Face recognition is getting to be off the shelf too. It is no good for security due to the large number of false positives it generates. Lots of people look just enough like Osama Bin Laden to trigger the machinery and close down the airport.

But gee, wouldn't it be great for following Kathy Shaidle around all day and seeing who she talks to? In London they can do that right now, but they require a human operator. Pretty soon the HRC apparatchik who's managed to wangle (or steal) access to the CCTV database will be able to type in "Kathy Shaidle" and get a live picture of you, along with a map of where you've been all day, or all week, or whatever. Machine search-able video coupled with face recognition, licence plate capture and cell phone location info, all available off the shelf now or Real Soon.

That is not "public space" anymore. That is a guy following you around all day, every day, with a movie camera. Is the movie going to be a wildlife documentary or is it going to be Michael Moore?

You wanna go through life with no cell phone, no car and a pair of Groucho Marx nose glasses? Me neither.

Posted by: The Phantom | 2008-10-24 8:28:54 AM

It's they. Them.

They're after me.

Must smoke marijuana. Will make me free.

It's a conspiracy. They're at my door.

Aaaaargh ....


Posted by: set you free | 2008-10-24 9:48:21 AM

In this case Kathy I disagree completely. Its one thing to have them at bars or parking lots on private property, quite another when every level of government can see your entire movements, transactions, even your car. How many maniacs are behind the lens? After all who knows what the watchers are doing?

Once people get used of being stalked by who knows what behind these portals into our lives. It won't be long before you see them in people homes. After all" What do you have to hide? ". There is a point where human dignity, becomes more important than security. The right to privacy is after all, a real natural law. Even Jesus felt the need at timers.


Posted by: Revnant Dream | 2008-10-24 6:55:44 PM

atric, If Michael Coren is right most of the time, then you must admit that when he's wrong, he is so wrong that he loses credibility.
John, you are right. Karen Selick was easily the more reasonable perspective.
Kalim, thank you for your clarity.


Posted by: Lindy | 2008-10-24 7:29:20 PM

sawr your "appooling" exhibit + vitriolic anti john cleese rant...jealous of the superior wit+ education, moit? I suspect so...ooo roih?

by the way : with which news group were you employed in the 6 counties of Ireland?Just curious about the source of your being such an final knowall/authority on matters related thereto...
keep working on the ol' accent moit- all you have to drop is your aitches ooh roi...

Posted by: dan | 2008-11-22 9:13:56 AM

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