Monday, May 25, 2009

The Speech Wars: episode 3,116

[F]ree speech doesn't mean we should go out of our way to provide a platform for every jackass who has a mouth and plans to use it. --commenter "One Truth" at Free Dominion

Nor, as commenter Todd mentioned in an earlier post on the subject of Bill Ayers and his exclusion from an academic gathering in Canada, does it mean that we should all have equal access to the means by which free speech is exercised. But in fairness to the FD folks, they aren't monolithic on the Ayers matter.

Free speech is one of those concepts that on closer inspection gets a little blurred. Should it apply to non-citizens who want to enter Canada solely to exercise it? Should something for which a speaker was acquitted four decades ago serve as grounds for exclusion? And then we have the Dick from Calgary, who's been wittering on here on the same matter, claiming that it's all or nothing: all speech or no speech, and anything in between is hypocritical.

But he doesn't really believe that, of course. I may be assuming too much, but I expect that not even Dick would defend incitement to riot, or libel or slander, or loudly swearing during a church service. A line, except for the purists who live in another world, must always be drawn. OK, where?

Dick has denounced those like myself who called for the Phelpsbrood to be banned from the country. Same thing, he says. I'm picking and choosing. Well, yes: but there's nothing arbitrary about that. The Phelpspawn wanted to enter Canada with the express purpose of breaking Canadian law. Ayers wanted to talk about education. Can you see a difference? I can see a difference. And, as my just-previous link indicates, some of my traditional sparring partners were entirely on-side on the Phelps issue.

I'm satisfied to have a very wide range of opinion expressed in word and deed, and giving offence isn't necessarily a qualifier, except among those of us who prize civility and good manners. But of course you can't legislate the latter. I draw the line, however, at deliberate hate propaganda directed at vulnerable members of our community. I see no reason whatsoever for tolerating vicious verbal assaults on our fellow-citizens because of their sexual orientation, or their "race," or their gender, or their creed.

Neither Ayers nor the pompous George Galloway were threatening to do any such thing. They were excluded because the Harper ideologues disagree with their politics. It's really as simple as that. How nice to see that some of Dick's fellow commenters over at FD have been able to grasp the obvious. And how predictable that he himself remains incapable of it.

[H/t Buckets]

No comments: