Friday, September 18, 2009

On namecalling

In a fit of evening enthusiasm, Jay Currie has sprung to the defence of his pal Arnie Lemaire, aka Blazing Cat Fur, aka Mr. Kathy Shaidle, after my last post. His increasingly heated repartee in the comment thread here included the accusation that I had libeled BCF by permitting a defamatory phrase to be published--one that he cheerfully reproduced himself, however, making him as vicariously liable as I.

To his credit, Blazing Cat Fur has as yet shown no stirrings of litigiousness, contenting himself with his usual low-level baiting from the safety of his lair. But Currie took it upon himself nevertheless to ride in on his white horse to rescue what he imagined was a pussy in distress.

That got me thinking again about the rough-and-tumble nature of the blogosphere, which, over time, has gradually schooled me into raising my personal bar when it comes to freedom of expression. I posted upon that at length some time ago, and won't repeat myself here. Suffice it to say that when I am offended, I am usually content these days to ignore it or to offend right back. I believe deeply in civility, and generally insist upon it at my place, but being uncivil to the uncivil has sometimes proven a temptation too great to be resisted.

But it is ironic that Jay now apparently wants to lower the bar once again, although this isn't unexpected. The Speech Warriors™ have their obvious agenda, but setting that aside, they pretty much believe that anything goes--until, that is, their own ox is gored. Then there aren't enough fainting-couches to hold the lot of 'em, or enough pearls to clutch.

I have myself been called a "terrorist supporter," a "traitor," a "Nazi," a "shill for Hezbollah," and endless variations of "anti-Semite," in one instance by Jay himself, although he quickly apologized. (I'm not going to provide links unless readers sincerely doubt me on this.) That sort of thing is fairly typical of the conservative style of badinage, in fact, and is arguably far more defamatory than the comment I excised. Maybe they just don't listen to themselves. In any case, I've grown used to it.

If we are all to accept the new standard that Jay seems to be advocating, however, then I would suggest that he's digging a fairly deep hole for himself and for a lot of his buddies. Let's charitably assume, then, that he wasn't being entirely serious.

On the main issue, however--Arnie's political likes and dislikes--Jay seems serious enough. As noted in the earlier post, words that appeared to be Arnie's were in fact Ezra Levant's. This was an Aha! moment for Jay, but for the life of me I can't see why. Quoting someone else's hateful words approvingly is an equally hateful act. Is Canada a "Gentile homeland?" Doesn't that expression have a vague, sour whiff of Blut und Boden about it?

Can't be, is the triumphant response. Why, Ezra Levant is Jewish. (This doesn't seem to work when I quote Norman Finkelstein, for some reason, but never mind.) And that brings me to something I've been wanting to say for some time, with which I'll conclude.

My main objection to Levant, apart from his logorrheic style and his deliberately misleading summaries of human rights cases, is his frenzied attempts to be edgy. There's something almost self-destructive about the way he carries on, and it's gotten him into a heap of trouble over the years, but that doesn't faze him one bit. And part of his shtick is to use terminology that, in the mouths of anyone not Jewish, would be denounced (and rightly so) as anti-Semitic.

Now, the last thing I'd call Ezra is a self-hater. He is, rather, a provocateur who enjoys peeing on other people's carpets. Whatever his beef is with the Canadian Jewish Congress--and it seems to be a longstanding one--he
is never content simply to pose his arguments. His screeds are invariably bedecked with gratuitously offensive terms, like "official Jews," or "Jewville." Bernie Farber isn't exactly my best friend either, but the invective that has been flung his way by Ezra is beyond indecent.

If that were confined to some heated discussions within the Jewish community--and such discussions are not unknown there--that would be one thing. But Ezra has attracted a following, who mindlessly lap this stuff up. They now feel quite at liberty to use the same sort of vocabulary, which objectively speaking is classically anti-Semitic, because of the enormous alibi with which Levant provides them.

Does that mean that all of his acolytes are anti-Semites? Obviously not. But by effectively giving licence to use hateful terminology, Levant has contributed to its currency. And who, watching from the shadows, is benefiting from that?

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