Monday, February 25, 2008

A Jewish guy, a Pakistani, and an Irish guy walk into a bar. . .

The bar is in Toronto, Canada's largest city, where nearly half the people are foreign-born.

Some crazy redneck walks up to our threesome, notices the guy in the middle is a Jew because he's wearing a kippah, and the redneck unleashes a stream of antisemitic invective. And he won't stop. And he won't go away.

The bar is crowded. Everybody's furious and disgusted. Nobody's quite sure what to do.

The Pakistani guy says: "Look, I'm a lawyer. How about I file a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission?"

The Jew objects, and says: "The marketplace of ideas needs its fearless mavericks."

The Irish guy turns to the redneck and punches the guy's lights out. Everybody in the bar returns to their quiet conversations. End of story.

This wasn't a story about which way is best. The point is, it's about all of us, and this is a crowded bar.

Two good things about Jonathan Kay's column:

The first is that it shows there's something rather less than true about the things we always hear about how the "Jewish lobby" controls the media in Canada. The Asper family's flagship National Post has been going after the Canadian Jewish Congress so much lately it's now winning popularity contests all over the Neo-Nazi and Anti-Zionist interwebs.

The second is that there are a some important things in the column that Kay gets quite right.

Where he's wrong is in thinking that the ongoing free speech hulabaloo in Canada is merely "a struggle for the political soul of the Jewish community," and and that "anti-Semitism is completely extinct in our society's respectable mainstream."

If he really thinks that, he needs to get out more.

This is a fine bar, especially when it's noisy and crowded. There's all sorts of interesting people here.

I think I'll go buy this guy a beer.


Blogger unaha-closp said...

When you buy that guy a beer can you ask him something from me?

He says - "The conservative approach (and I include Martin here as a conservative, he used to be a Reform MP after all) to this issue seems to be simple: deny there's any hate problem at all in Canada and then fight to eliminate the most effective means of fighting any hate in Canada."

Why in his opinion is a quasi-judicial prosecutor with ability to levy a small fine "the most effective means of fighting any hate"?

The logic seems massively flawed.

His example is a case of incitement leading to a bashing that occurred in 2002, under the sole remit of the commissions. Seems in this case that possibility the HRC may levy a small fine was completely ineffective in preventing the publication of a call for citizens to eliminate homosexuals. I'd love to know why he thinks otherwise

4:28 PM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

The Canadian commissions seem to be the worst of all alternatives. The weighting of bias towards the prosecution is such that any innocent who is accused is doomed to be found guilty or faced with massive legal costs to clear their name. Any guilty party is going to be let off without punishment of any real consequence. And with some dubious standards of evidence gathering by commission investigators a subsequent prosecution of any guilty party in a real court may be jeopardised.

Surely the preferred place to deal with such cases would be the courts where a meaningful punishment of the guitly can be imposed, rules of evidence are observed and an innocent accused is afforded realistic means to mount a defence.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Hey, Unaha. Calm down. You don't have to convince me. I agree with you.

The point is, it's not just up to you, or me, or the Canadian Jewish Congress, or the National Post. It's also up to the Queer Liberal, and about 35 million other Canadians, because this is not just about antisemitism, and it's not just a struggle for the "Jewish soul."

I'd buy that Queer Liberal guy a beer any time. Two reasons.

His views are a legitimate contribution to the debate. Not my views, but still.

He and I agree is that now and then, somebody walks into the bar with "views" that are not "legitimate," and it's a problem.

I'm not convinced that the Jewish guy in my little fable is right, or the Pakistani guy. I'm leaning towards the Irish guy, but I know that approach is not, em, what's the term people use nowadays... "sustainable."

5:08 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Terry, did you get my email re: Ubyssey Literary Supplement? I sent it to your gmail, but never heard back.

Good allegory, btw.

9:46 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Er, Matt: Yep. Just noticed it in my overstuffed inbox. Will respond.

11:57 PM  
Blogger Matt Guerin said...

Thanks, Terry, for the link. I'm free for that beer anytime. Yes we're all in this "bar" together, I agree. I also agree that the process of going through a human rights complaint needs to be cleaned up and made more fair than it currently is - although I have yet to hear of one case like this where the final result was somehow unfair or unjust (ie. the Stephen Boissoin case in Alberta in 2002 was hate speech and the right result, in my opinion.) We have yet to hear from the Ezra Levant case, so I could stand corrected on that if Levant is somehow found guilty.

My point is the optics of deleting the anti-hate speech protections in the HRA are simply not good: it encourages hatemongers and takes away one of our tools for fighting or discouraging hate speech. If a law is broken once, does that mean it's ineffective, as unaha-closp argues? I don't think so.

5:49 AM  
Blogger Blazing Cat Fur said...

And no Human Rights Commissions were injured during the making of this event;)

6:22 AM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Hi Matt.

I'm an Alan Borovoy man when it comes to these things.

But what's been troubling me lately is that the very intellectual basis of unity that's required for spirited arguments, and for civil disagreements to unfold and resolve, is being eroded and eaten away.

I see no solution to that problem in either the libertarian approach or the interventionist approach. Neither are sufficient to the task of dealing with those voices in the cacophony that insist on bullying and drowning out all the others.

Something like that, anyway.

10:49 AM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

The discretion to levy a small fine is not an effective deterrent.

2:53 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

It may not be an adequate deterrent, but then I haven't seen any evidence of recidivism in these cases. And if it were just a "small fine," why do libertarians say it's so much more than that?

Again, I'm with Borovoy on this.

I'm just saying.

4:08 PM  
Blogger unaha-closp said...

The same sort of penalty is used for cannabis possession and speeding, both of which have high levels of recidivism.

Libertarians find any prosecution of thought crime abhorrent - a statist bound on individualism.

6:48 PM  

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