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The Case Against Steyn



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Mark, thanks for posting the complaint against you. It is an appalling document. “Appalling” may not do justice to it, actually. “Totalitarian” is more accurate. This is a totalitarian document. If this complaint carries — or is even partially vindicated, and it’s basic framework is taken at all seriously — free speech in Canada will be on its last legs. The only good thing to be said for this offense against freedom is how vividly obvious it makes the corruption of the term “human rights,” as interpreted by today’s censorious multiculturalists.

If this complaint carries, public discourse on the war on terror, Muslim immigration, and related topics would be transformed beyond all recognition (in Canada). It is as if, instead of simply rebutting or railing against conservatives and Republicans, liberal Democrats went to the Supreme Court and had the right side of the blogosphere, and nearly all conservative opinion magazines, placed into receivership. It is evident that the complainants are aware of this. They are determined to fundamentally reshape a kind of journalism “that has become increasingly pervasive in Canada in the last few years.” So this is not really a complaint against any particular factual claim or rhetorical move. It is instead a request that vast sections of heretofore legitimate reporting and opinion journalism be altogether banned.

The macabre totalitarianism here comes out most clearly in the sections condemning protests against the very “human rights” laws and multiculturalist ideology, resorted to in the complaint itself. The result is a bizarrely infinite regress of despotism. (See page 13.) These folks are making a bogus claim of religious and racial discrimination in order to persecute a writer, thereby launching a lawsuit on frivolous grounds. And what are they complaining about? Why, writers who say that Muslims make bogus claims of religious and racial discrimination, in order to persecute writers, and launch lawsuits on frivolous grounds.

Your attackers object to claims that Muslims at large believe in “burning books of learning.” Yet they not only want to burn your book, so to speak, they object even to articles or reviews that provide a “guise of legitimacy” to “recognized Islamophobes” like Bruce Bawer and Claire Berlinski. So the complainants would not only ban your article, and by extension, your book, they would ban the entire genre of books touching on problems raised by large, relatively unassimilated Muslim immigrant communities in the West. And to top it off, they’d ban anyone who has the temerity to protest the very laws that (in the complainants’ view) allow book banning itself. These guys have got us going and coming. “Totalitarian” is not too strong a word — although I recognize that, simply by saying this, I have opened myself up to prosecution in Canada. (From now on I stay strictly on the American side of the Falls.)

The word that jumped out at me here was “potential.” The complainants here object less to specific allegedly false claims than to matters of degree and emphasis. How do you remain fair to non-radical and law-abiding Muslims while still pointing to possible problems with some or many Muslims, either now or in the future. You refer to what “potentially” might happen. Yet the complainants are trying to delegitimate even the citing of “potential” problems as racist. In their world, raising a “doomsday scenario” is forbidden. Of course, arguments about improper emphasis, unrepresentative examples, “fear mongering,” and such are commonplace in many or most policy debates. Al Gore is all about “doomsday scenarios.” Should critics try to ban his movie, or simply rebut it?

I could go on and rebut specific accusations, but the deeper problem here is that the underlying terms of this complaint obviate freedom of speech as such. It seems to me that you face some interesting choices here, Mark. You can grasp the nettle and hurl back a brilliant reply that unforgettably burns into our brains the menace to freedom embodied in this complaint. No one could do it better than you. Or you can refuse to have dealings with what should properly be considered an illegitimate tribunal. I don’t know which makes more sense, but it seems to me you need to seriously consider both options.



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