Friday, February 29, 2008

Neither The Marketplace Nor The Tribunal: When 'Intellectual Freedom' Is Betrayed

In today's Ottawa Citizen, I take another look at the Vancouver Public Library's decision to present the morbidly anti-Israel conspiracy theorist Greg Felton as its featured author for Freedom To Read Week. I'm saying there's something dangerous going on here, but it's probably not what you think:

It is not harmless in Iran, where Felton's column appears in the Tehran Times, a propaganda front for a regime that has banned hundreds of books, just in recent months, and has shut down as many as 150 publications last year, throwing perhaps 1,000 journalists out in the street.

Neither is it harmless when Felton's writings appear in the newspapers of Arab countries where there is no free press, and no "marketplace of ideas" to sort things out, and the Khazar legend has lately returned to animate the hatreds of Israel's less literate enemies.

There is no remedy available from any Canadian human rights tribunal that can hold anyone adequately accountable for this. And to accept Felton's obsessions into the "marketplace of ideas" merely grants intellectual legitimacy to historical fiction and antisemitic legend, which debases the very purpose of free speech.

In the uproar that followed the library's decision, chief librarian Paul Whitney said it was all a matter of "intellectual freedom." It isn't.

I'm saying truth matters. I'm not claiming any special insight into the truth, but what I am prepared to claim is that if our public institutions settle into a way of thinking that regards transgressive gesture as intellectual courage, and grants legitimacy to any old version of the truth, then one version will ultimately prevail, and it will be the one proclaimed by men in shiny boots.

Michel Foucault made that mistake, and nowadays, in Iran, free speech invites the lash, and puts you in a dungeon.

The problem isn't Felton at all. It's that conception of "free speech" where black propaganda is tolerated, accepted, and even welcomed. Like Ophelia Benson says, it's people "who think it’s far more important to be sensitive and respectful than it is to think clearly or tell the unfluffy truth. I don’t know what to do about them other than keep repeating, monotonously and without subtlety, that they are wrong and deluded and fatuous."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

"What's With The Lovefest For Hezbollah?"

Michael Young, opinion editor of the Lebanon Daily Star, writes in Reason Online:

". . .A bizarre offshoot of this trend has been the left's elevation of Islamist "resistance" to the level of a fetish. You know something has gone horribly wrong when the writer and academic Norman Finkelstein volunteers to interpret Hezbollah for you, before prefacing his comments with: 'I don't care about Hezbollah as a political organization. I don't know much about their politics, and anyhow, it's irrelevant. I don't live in Lebanon.'

"In a recent interview on Lebanese television, Finkelstein made it a point of expressing his "solidarity" with Hezbollah, on the grounds that 'there is a fundamental principle. People have the right to defend their country from foreign occupiers, and people have the right to defend their country from invaders who are destroying their country. That to me is a very basic, elementary and uncomplicated question.'

"It is indeed uncomplicated if you remain mulishly unwilling to move beyond the narrow parameters you've set for discussion. . ."

Young refers to Fred Halliday on the same subject.

And here is a socialist viewpoint from the left that has not lost its damn mind.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Human evolution and "moral thinking" - the view from biology

WHENCE morality? That is a question which has troubled philosophers since their subject was invented. Two and a half millennia of debate have, however, failed to produce a satisfactory answer. So now it is time for someone else to have a go. And at a panel discussion at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, a group of biologists did just that.

Further to this, this, this and this, more evidence: If there was hope, it lay in the proles.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Taliban Jack": How The NDP Got Left Behind On The Long March To Kandahar

1. It starts with the counterculture narcissism that has steadily eroded "left-wing" politics in Canada in recent years. It has exchanged solidarity for identity politics, and replaced internationalism with cultural relativism. When you replace critical analysis with a crude anti-Americanism, all that's left is the fashionable radicalism of the liberal elites and the pseudo-leftism of the radical chic.

2. There's this huge sucking sound, and the vacuum gets filled by "anti-war" activists of the kind who lead the Toronto Stop the War Coalition and the Canadian Peace Alliance, and even the kind that runs the cult behind the Mobilization Against War and Occupation. This causes the conversation in the NDP 's activist base to go all pear-shaped.

3. To find some highbrow basis for the empty "anti-war" gesture-making that results, you've got to rely on certain academics and policy wonks to dress it all up in the fancy language of dead diplomacy, and it all ends up sounding just like the same bureaucratic racketeering that was behind the UN Special Mission to Afghanistan, which came crashing down around our heads on September 11, 2001.

Jack's got to somehow triangulate a "progressive" position on Afghanistan through these badlands, and come out the other side with something that makes sense to ordinary Canadians.

It can't be done. And if the latest poll results mean anything, it's even worse than I thought.

Hope Lies In The Proles - Iranian Version

. . .The riot broke out in Tehran on the weekend when the Iranian Chastity Police attempted to arrest a young woman they said was inappropriately dressed. The young woman resisted arrest, so the police started beating her. This prompted a bystander to come to her aid, and the police started beating him up, which brought dozens of people to the scene. They began rioting and setting rubbish on fire.

More from The Archer, with video.

Rock The Casbah:

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Pashtun "Red Shirts" Trounce The Jihadis At The Polls

Barnett Rubin blasts the persistent Rudyard Kipling stereotypes of the great Pashtun people:

In the couple of weeks before the February 18 elections in Pakistan, attacks by presumed “Taliban” killed over 140 Pashtuns in Kandahar (Afghanistan) and over 25 Pashtuns in Charsadda (Northwest Frontier Province, Pakistan). After the elections they attacked a Pashtun wedding in Swat and killed 14 people, including the bride. Despite (or because of) this terror, the predominantly Pashtun electorate of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province marginalized the pro-Taliban political parties in the February 18 elections. The staunchly anti-Taliban Pashtun nationalist Awami National Party will dominate NWFP's delegation to the national parliament and will form the next government of the NWFP in alliance with the PPP; the two parties control 60 percent of the seats in the NWFP Legislative Assembly.

All here.

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.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Into the Abyss: Afghanistan, Jack Layton, and the Fall of the New Democratic Party

The Strategic Counsel poll released this week puts national support for the NDP at what may be its lowest ebb since 2004. It's tied with the Green Party at 12 per cent. The poll also provides some solid statistical insight into how the NDP's position on Afghanistan figures into it.

Canadians rated only health care (17 per cent) higher in importance than Afghanistan (14 per cent) as a national election issue. Afghanistan was identified as being more important than even the economy (13 per cent) or the environment (12 per cent).

Canadians are split on what to do: While a clear majority (61 per cent) opposes simply extending Canada's "combat mission" beyond 2009, we become evenly divided (51 per cent in favour) if other NATO countries pitch in - which is what John Manley's recent independent panel proposes, and what the Conservatives and Liberals say they also want.

But if you think this means that roughly half of Canadian voters favour the NDP's "troops out" politics, you're not even close. Nowhere near it. A mere six per cent of poll respondents said the NDP is the party best able to manage the Afghanistan file. Only five per cent said the NDP has "the best plan for Canada's military and defence."

This may mean that barely half of the NDP's own dwindling brigade of supporters takes party leader Jack Layton seriously when he talks about Afghanistan. As for the Canadians who do, they barely register as statistical background noise above the poll's 3.1-per-cent margin of error. It could be as many as one in a dozen Canadians, or as few as one in fifty.

While Layton persists in the puerile claim that the Afghan mission is "not right for Canada," the Strategic Counsel poll shows that it's Layton's troops-out position that's not right for Canada. It's certainly not right for Afghanistan. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon calls it "a misjudgment of historical proportions," something that's "almost more dismaying" than the opportunism of the Taliban itself.

What these poll numbers show is that it's not even right for the NDP. This should have been obvious from the beginning, because there is nothing left-wing or social-democratic or "progressive" about it. It's incoherent, parochial, and wrong. It's only understandable as a mix of pop and politics, the pseudo-left posture of the fashionably radical.

Like the man says, If no one out there understands, it's time to start your own revolution. Cut out the middleman:

Thursday, February 21, 2008

"A Forum For People Who Have Whacked-Out Views"

It's just come to my attention that the Freedom-To-Be-Antisemitic forum the Vancouver Public Library is convening on behalf of conspiracy theorist Greg Felton will be introduced by the British Columbia Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee. Least that's what the Library Journal reports.

This is shaping up to be the most intellectually strange event in Vancouver since the Necessary Voices Series hosted 911-Truther Barrie Zwicker (about which I reported here ).

Meanwhile, in the UK, Ophelia Benson, co-author of the excellent book Why Truth Matters, looks at the VPL's justification for drawing Felton to its bosom and asks a couple of questions.

"Then does the library think its role is to provide a forum for exchange of any and all views no matter how uninformed, wrong, baseless, distorted, incompetent they are?

". . . Does the Vancouver Public Library, in short, really see no difference between upholding the right to intellectual freedom and affirmatively providing a platform for people to purvey, for instance, inaccurate history?"

In the Library Journal article I noticed two other things.

The first is that the library has responded to the uproar over the Felton invitation by offering to provide additional programming for the airing of "a different perspective." Spot the weirdness in that? Good.

The second is that the lunatic himself responded to the Library Journal by questioning its credibility and inviting its readers to telephone him directly to have a chat about things. Felton even posted his telephone number for you.

It's 778-322-1415.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Only Winner In Beijing Will Be Tyranny

Nick Cohen on the Beijing Olympics:

"The only justification for the Beijing games is that they will allow connoisseurs of the grotesque to inspect this ghoulish hybrid of the worst of capitalism and the worst of socialism close up. The march of China’s bloodstained allies round the stadium will merely be the beginning. The International Olympic Committee and all the national sports bureaucracies will follow up by instructing athletes not to say a word out of place.

". . .
The free-market CEOs of Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, General Electric and all the other sponsors who have made money out of China will join the communists in insisting that outsiders have no right to criticise. Any Chinese dissident who hasn’t been picked up before the world’s journalists arrive will face terrifying punishments if he speaks to them."

All that needs to be said, here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Castro Don't Surf

"Is there room in the revolution for a surf bum?"

That's the question my good friend, Tyee colleague and fellow Gulf Islands alumnus Grant (the Jewish Charles Atlas) Shilling asks among the surf bums of Havana in the Tyee today.

Grant's little essay tells you as much about Cuba as anything else you're likely to read from all the egghead pundits today in the lee of Fidel's admission that mortality is finally about to airbrush him out of life's great central committee portrait.

The Hak Maoist position embraces my sentiments on the subject.

Grant's book, The Cedar Surf, is one of the original titles in my Transmontanus imprint at New Star Books. Grant's inspiration for the Cuba trip comes from Doc Paskowitz, the 86-year-old father of Israeli surfing, who donated a whole bunch of surfboards to his Palestinian surfer comrades in Gaza, and thus struck up a proper conversation.

That is what is known as internationalism and solidarity.

This is not.

UPDATE: Grant kindly advises you all go see Doc Paskowitz.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Long Live Kosovo.

"From today onwards, Kosovo is proud, independent and free.”

"Not a single citizen of the new independent Kosovo will feel discriminated against or set aside." - Hashim Thaci.

Better see to it, too.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Kosovo's unilateral independence would set a dangerous precedent for "frozen conflicts" across the former Soviet Union.

I certainly hope it does.

Long Live Buryatia.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Greg Felton: An Amazon Taxonomy

As part of my occasional briefing notes (i.e. here and here) on the proper taxonomical classification for Vancouver's upcoming Freedom-To-Read Week (What's its family, its genus, its species? What is the proper taxonomic nomenclature?), we will now look at other specimens that occupy the same ecological niche, and exhibit the same habits of mind, as Mr. Felton.

By a crude but illustrative methodology, proposed by our comrade Hak Mao (in a British laboratory), the Canadian (i.e. results, as of this morning, are instructive.

"Customers who bought this item" (i.e. Felton's The Host and the Parasite: How Israel's Fifth Column Consumed America also bought Conjuring Hitler: How Britain and America Made The Third Reich, as well as The Synagogue of Satan: The Secret History of Jewish World Domination, along with The Power of Israel in The United States.

The author of The Power of Israel is James Petras, a senior figure at the venerable Canadian Dimension magazine and also author of Rulers and Ruled in the U.S. Empire: Bankers, Zionists, Militants. My readers might remember Petras. I introduced some time ago (see towards the bottom of this column). Petras says the Mohammed Cartoons eruption, with all its murders and burning embassies, was really a Mossad operation.

The author of the The Synagogue of Satan, also authored Secret Signs, Mysterious Symbols, and Hidden Codes of the Illuminati. The Amazon taxonomy places his The Synagogue with one related subspecies, Daniel Estulin's The True Story of the Bilderberg Group.

The title Conjuring Hitler, which customers of Felton's book also bought, are also shown to have bought After the Reich: The Brutal History of Allied Occupation.

This analysis isn't cladistics, but the phylogenics are fairly sound. The morphology holds up, you see certain patterns emerge, and the rest is idle chatter.

Know the enemy.

Friday, February 15, 2008

How Vancouver Can Redeem Itself From Freedom-To-Be-Antisemitic Week

I have not and would not propose that the Vancouver Public Library respond to public disgust by simply rescinding its decision to invite the Jew-obsessed, conspiracist, Hamas-praising, Ahmedinejad-admiring, medication-needing Greg Felton as its featured author for Freedom To Read Week.

But this is an emergency, and the Vancouver Public Library can, should and must do something:

URGENT: Gunmen have attacked the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in Gaza City and blown up its library, burning thousands of books, its director says.

This is about Freedom To Read Week, which begins in ten days. There is time.

Do something.

When Tyrants Tremble In Their Fear, And Hear Their Death Knell Ringing. . .

. . .and friends rejoice from far and near, how can I keep from singing?

That old anti-slavery hymn rings especially clear today, the day after Valentine's Day, a day when people think about their sweethearts and friends, the 18th anniversary of the day the Khomeinist regime, by fatwa, condemned Salman Rushdie to death. Yet Salman lives.

Among the friends I was thinking about was Lauryn Oates, my co-founder at the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee, who just returned to Kabul on assignment with Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. She arrived there just a few hours ago.

Today, another friend, Solidarity Committee member and Vancouver columnist Ian King, has an interview with Lauryn in the metro daily 24 Hours, from just before she left. Here's Lauryn on the grotesquely inverted politics of Canada's so-called "anti-war" movement, and its corruption of Canada's New Democratic Party:

"They're pro-war, which goes against everything I think the left should actually stand for. It's a betrayal of leftist values that caused me to abandon that party."

And that is the bracing truth that far too many people of the Canadian "left" have failed to muster the stamina to face: "Troops out" means war. It means the triumph of barbaric misogyny. It means a surrender to slavery.

"It's absolutely guaranteed," says Lauryn. "You'd see civil war, you'd probably see it for years, you'd see mass deaths, much worse than what what we see now. I couldn't live with that if my country was responsible for letting that happen."

Yesterday, an old friend, Ian's fellow columnist Bill Tieleman, wrote a Valentine's Day column about the eccentric and daring Afghan politician Malalai Joya that reiterates the same delusion that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon recently called a "historic misjudgment" that is "almost more dismaying" than the rank opportunism of the Taliban itself.

Bill is a decent guy who is simply wholly unfamiliar with the issues at stake in Afghanistan. His mistakes begin with his first sentence: "Canada has already lost 78 soldiers and a diplomat in combat in that tragic country, which we simply do not understand."

The first mistake is an honest but outrageous mistake that also skates perilously close to making partisan politics out of dead soldiers: We have not lost 78 soldiers to combat in Afghanistan. Most of those 78 deaths, which have occurred over a six-year period, had nothing at all to do with combat. It is now 2008. Not one Canadian soldier has died from engaging in "combat" since 2006.

The second half that sentence is not so much a mistake as an admission - or at least the suggestion of one - that he simply doesn't understand what his column purports to be about.

Bill might profit by talking to some of the tens of thousands of Afghan Canadians whose views have been strangely ignored in this country. But first, he would have to set aside the habit, peculiar to and widespread among New Democrats, of letting Malalai Joya do his thinking for him. At the very least, he might be a bit more straightforward about what it is that Joya actually thinks.

Ian King, who took the time to understand a bit about Afghanistan before setting out to write about it, knows only too well what Joya thinks: "When asked by 24 hours' Irwin Loy what the result of a Western pullout would be, she replied 'Civil war'."

In prison cell and dungeon vile, our thoughts to them are winging. When friends by shame are undefiled, how can I keep from singing?

One struggle, many fronts.

In Saudi Arabia, a woman named Fawza Fahli spent Valentine's Day in a dungeon, waiting to be executed by beheading, on a conviction for witchcraft based on a written confession that she does not know how to read, and which she signed, by fingerprint, only after 35 days of beatings, during which she had to be hospitalized.

In Montreal, our beloved Simon continues to wage his campaign to force Canadians to confront the ongoing pogrom that gay people are suffering in Jamaica, and Simon sees a glimmering of hope in that struggle in a Canadian refugee-status application filed by Jamaican Gareth Henry, who has seen 13 of his gay friends slaughtered over the past four years.

Meanwhile, my friend the Iranian-Canadian blog-wizard Arash Kamangir and Israeli-Canadian journalist Lisa Goldman explain, in Notes from the Underground, how tens of thousands of Iranians and Israelis have found ways to send one another their warmest regards, and to argue, and discuss, and make friends, and there's nothing anyone can do to stop them.

And friends rejoice, from far and near.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Freedom-To-Be-Antisemitic Week In Vancouver: The City Librarian Explains Why

It started with my essay in yesterday's Vancouver Sun about the Vancouver Public Library's decision to showcase the notorious, Jew-obsessed conspiracy-mongerer Greg Felton, author of The Host and the Parasite: How Israel's Fifth Column Consumed America, as the library's featured author for its upcoming Freedom To Read Week.

City Librarian Paul Whitney has now weighed in with a response to my essay, also in the pages of The Vancouver Sun. His response raises some unsettling and wholly unexpected questions.

Whitney's version of events has now put him in the dodgy position of having to approve or deny a written request from Vancouver doctor Joel Shapiro to go the extra mile during Freedom To Read Week for two more library events - one about the "Mohammed cartoons" controversy (which refuses to go away) and another about the bloodcurdling tally of racism and genocide in Islamic states.

And Howard Rotberg, author of Second Generation Radical: The Struggle Against The Second Holocaust, has also written to Whitney with a convincing case that the library would be wise to showcase some other authors and "banned" books, concurrently with Felton, to get out of the mess it's made with some semblance of dignity.

Which means this is all going to start getting very interesting, very soon. But back to some troubling aspects of Whitney's account.

To begin with, it just doesn't quite fit with the straightforward explanation I was provided by the library officials more directly involved in the decision to showcase Felton. Senior library staff told me that when they were approached by Felton, they were unaware of the black propaganda for which he is best known, and that none of them had read anything but an excerpt of his book. Indeed, the library hadn't yet acquired a single copy for The Host and the Parasite for its own shelves.

So how to explain Whitney's version, which is that in reviewing Felton's request for a venue at the library, his book was found to be, well, legal, but also "provocative but not hateful"? Whitney had read it, but the other library staff had not? Did Whitney have some role in the decision?

And what's all this about a library's responsibility to provide its patrons with all manner of books, "including those that may be considered unconventional, unpopular or unacceptable"? Isn't this the same Paul Whitney whose free-speech timidity earned a rebuke from the British Columbia Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Committee, when he was the boss librarian in the City of Burnaby, Vancouver's neighbour? Ah, yes, so it is. The very same Paul Whitney.

Back then, Whitney refused to allow library patrons to read Diana Russell's Against Pornography: The Evidence of Harm. A "provocative" book, I gather, but not hateful. And legal, as well. Topical. Maybe even controversial.

So why was it wrong to merely allow people to read a book like Russell's, but it's right, and indeed righteous, to provide a free, public platform to an apologist for the book-banning regime in Tehran whose Islamic propaganda agency is behind a newspaper Felton writes a column for? Before Whitney's letter, Felton's invitation was more or less an honest mistake. Now, Whitney would have us believe that something rather more exalted is going on. Something about "intellectual freedom."

And what does Whitney mean when he says that my essay was "a spirited condemnation of Greg Felton's views and his book"? In what way?

I didn't write about the contents of Felton's book, and I never claimed to. It's the product of a crank publishing house that's situated somewhere in the bleak Arizona desert and is almost wholly concerned with spacemen and thought control. I've read excerpts of Felton's book. I'm fully conversant with its thesis. I've read Felton's slanders against the Jews on white-supremacist websites, and I' quite familiar with the Medieval legends that Felton persists in reporting as fact. This is "intellectual"? These are his "views"?

I've spent far too much time reading through Felton's voluminous ouvre to insult anyone's intelligence by stooping to mount a condemnation, spirited or otherwise, of anything he writes. Facts alone condemn Felton. They need no help from me.

My essay was about words, and specifically the way words can be made to hide meaning rather than reveal it. I observed that this is a way that lies are made. I asked a simple question about the polemics Felton and his kind engage in: If it isn't antisemitism, then what is it? And I deferred to the British novelist Martin Amis, whose answer is, yes, it is a kind of antisemitism.

That's about the only "spirited" opinion I offered. In my essay, I actually didn't express much of a clear opinion on the virtue of the Vancouver Public Library's decision to provide Felton with this exalted platform. You want a spirited opinion? Okay. Here it is.

The Vancouver Public Library is welcoming Greg Felton as though he were an honoured son who has come home to his father's house. In so doing, the Vancouver Public Library, or at the very least City Librarian Paul Whitney, has resorted to citing "intellectual freedom" and the library's role as "a forum for an open and public exchange of contradictory views."

In so doing, the library, under the guise of free speech, no less, has afforded legitimacy, and even a sanction of decency, to what is actually a grotesque infringement of free speech. It is a demand that we either dignify people like Felton by debating with them, or shut up.

It works like this.

Nowadays, perhaps especially among the urban intellectual caste, you cannot raise your voice against even the most foul antisemite, if that same antisemite uses words such as "Israel" or "Zionist" in the same breath as his other veiled utterances of Jew-hatred. You will be told that you are equating legitimate criticism of Israel with antisemitism.

You will be told, 'This is part of a legitimate debate.' But if you say, no it isn't, you will be told, 'This is just how the Jews suppress free speech to silence criticism of Israel.' If you say, 'That sounds like one of those old antisemitic canards; show me some evidence that it is true,' you will be called a Zionist, which is one of the worst things you can call someone these days. If you talk back, you will hear someone calling you a Zionazi. You will soon hear people telling you to shut up.

In order for the kind of polemics and legends Felton disseminates to find a privileged place in Whitney's "open and public exchange of contradictory views", one must acquiesce to the demand that a veiled and nuanced Judeophobia has a proper place in "legitimate debate," and we must submit to that very specific and particular sort of demand to shut up. This is not the way lies are made. It is the way they flourish, and spread, and debase the very purpose, function and possibility of "free speech" in an open and democratic society.

And that is precisely and exactly what is going on here.

One last point.

Whitney also wrote: "We were aware of the freedom-of-expression debate surrounding Felton's departure from the Vancouver Courier, where he was a columnist, and therefore felt this reading was relevant for Freedom to Read Week."

Most of that "freedom of expression debate" unfolded on Neo-Nazi internet bulletin boards almost a decade ago, but nevermind that. What occurred back then is actually directly relevant to Whitney's predicament now.

What happened back then was an inexperienced reporter by the name of Greg Felton had gotten himself a column, and before long he was writing offensive rubbish about Israel, and about Jews. There was huge protest by the newspaper's readers.

The Courier just happened to be circulated and distributed mainly around a part of Vancouver, centred on Kerrisdale. It wasn't once called the Kerrisdale Courier for nothing, and Kerrisdale and its environs just happens to be home to a lot of Vancouver's Jews.

The newspaper owner eventually responded to his readers' protests by making a sensible business decision. He legally terminated Fenton's employment. This explains a lot, it seems to me, about Felton's lingering obsessions.

Call it a "freedom fo expression" issue if you want. I would have thought it was rather an instructive example of citizens and newspaper readers making a media company accountable to their sensibilities, and the limits of their tolerance for bullshit. Things like that should probably happen more often.

It might just be that the imbroglio at the Vancouver Public Library will be resolved by a similar democratic engagement, and a cherished and vital taxpayer-funded public institution will be held similarly accountable.

We'll see.

UPDATE: My previous post on this subject concluded with a little video, to encourage a sense of humour about all this. It was intended to illustrate the point that in the face of bigoted provocation and slander, my crowd is inclined to responses other than the "let's debate!" approach and the "let's file a human rights complaint" method. The Dohertys and the Coyles prefer one alternative response, but to illustrate another, which involves a kind of feint, as though you are simply walking away, let me now introduce you to the Thornhill, Ontario flying column of the Chaim Herzog Battalion of the Ancient Order of Hibernians:

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Kazhars and Zionist Parasites: Not Antisemitism? So What Am I Allowed To Call It?

I have a few words of my own for it, but they're not words fit for a family newspaper, so I'm just asking, is all, in today's Vancouver Sun:

What is the right word for a book like Greg Felton's "The Host and the Parasite: How Israel's Fifth Column Consumed America"?

What is the right word for Felton's thesis, which is that a Zionist "junta" was at work on Sept. 11, 2001, and that al-Qaida is a mere concoction in a secret plan to subvert the American Constitution, demonize Muslims and commit mass murder?

What do you call it when the Vancouver Public Library decides to present Felton, an apologist for the book-banning, journalist-jailing Iranian theocracy, as the featured author on the evening of Feb. 25, and as the library's contribution to national Freedom to Read Week?

What are we allowed to call Felton, who traces his Zionist plot back to the 1940s, when these same Zionists made "common cause" with the Nazis to rid Europe of its Jews, and participated in the herding of Jews into Hitler's gas chambers?

Greg Felton's pathological delusion requires him to trace Zionist swindles and trickery back through time and across Europe to a Medieval legend about a massive deception with its roots in the Caucasus Mountains about 1,000 years ago - a legend he then reports as fact.

His work appears frequently in certain of the darker corners of the Arab press, in countries neighbouring Israel - countries where there is no free press - where Felton's propaganda is presented as the work of an award-winning journalist and Middle-East specialist.

Do not tell me he should not be held accountable for this. Do not tell me, either, that there is a suitable, simple, legalistic way to hold him accountable, or that the "marketplace of ideas" is sufficient. It's not.

And that is the knot at the middle of the national tangle currently unraveling in the matter of L'Affaire Steyn, and the Ezra Levant extravaganza, and the events that have now caused the National Post to lose Warren Kinsella, one of that newspaper's best columnists.

In this strangely Canadian manifestation of the worldwide struggles for free speech - which should also be understood as a worldwide struggle against the unchecked dissemination of lies and black propaganda - I tend to side with Alan Borovoy. I also know that Ezra Levant's circumstances are of no more immediate significance than a visit from the health inspector.

But I've also been belatedly convinced of the merit of some his arguments, and the arguments I hear from people well to my right. It's not just that the Canadian front actually does matter. It's that the current trespasses of human rights tribunals upon free speech could very well lead to free-speech suppression of a magnitude none of us would tolerate.

But being a democracy, we can revoke laws that we do not tolerate. Democracy is a complex and elaborate dynamic of negotiated arrangements, however, and it can be very, very fragile. And this is where Warren Kinsella and the Canadian Jewish Congress and the rest are perhaps more right, in the matter of free speech, than even they know.

The thing is, the mediated, arbitrated, and judicially-adjudicated resolution of conflict arising from the exercise of our right to free speech is not, and never was, merely a nanny-state intrusion brought about as an alternative to the marketplace of ideas.

It's just not true, any more than it's true to say labour relations panels, workers' compensation boards and employment standards codes were brought in to distort the market in goods and services and coddle workers and unduly restrain the magic power of free enterprise.

These laws were enacted so that workers could get out from under yellow-dog contracts. They were brought in so that bosses' houses would not be going up in flames in the middle of the night, and so that cruel plant managers and corrupt union porkchoppers would not be found dangling from the lamp-posts of our cities in the morning.

And in all the rumpus-making about the hopeless speech-patrol function of human-rights tribunals, that's the part of the "free speech" story that you rarely hear about.

If you really want to stoop to debating with characters like Greg Felton, be my guest. See what good it will do. The "marketplace of ideas" is not the only alternative to all these draconian and repressive intrusions upon free speech that the state, it is now fashionable to say, has quietly foisted upon us while we were not looking.

Take it to its conclusion. The truly chic posture on the blame for the predicament we are in - all these government intrusions as would interfere with, say, the persistent and public reiteration of holocaust denial - is to lay it at the feet of the Jews.

And fair enough, I suppose. For years, Canadian Jewish leaders were at the forefront of building up the precedents by pursuing civil and non-violent remedies to Neo-Nazi propaganda and incitement in this country.

But do remember that other alternative, is all I ask. Imagine the result if the likes of Greg Felton were to come after the people of my tribe, say, with the same kind of lurid slander and provocation he utters in his deranged obsession with the Jews. Now take that to its conclusion.

You've got keep a sense of humour about things, am I right?


Be assured that none of my crowd, being "noyce feckin payple," will send letters from their solicitors inviting you to appear before a human rights tribunal if you're found referring to us pikeys as "blackguards" or "slags" or any such thing. A simpler and more summary resolution would obtain. You would simply be introduced to the Dohertys and the Coyles.

UPDATE: Our fair sister Yvonne Ridley, a rank Mosleyite - has taken great exception to the too-charitable and delicate way I described her in today's newspaper. Editor Fazil Mihlar - not a scary Jewish name, that - has written her back to suggest she take a long walk down a short road.

UPDATE 2: Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? David Berner knows: "Felton is obsessed with his hatred for Jews. I know this because I worked with him for 8 months as we entered the 21st century. He is incapable of maintaining a human conversation for longer than 4 minutes without beginning his rant against Jews."

Monday, February 11, 2008

Did You Hear The One About The Jewish Boy Who Went To Tea With Terrorists?

When asked about the source for the promise of the seventy-two virgins, Ala Senakhreh, West Bank chief of Fatah's Martyrs Brigade, insisted such a promise was made in the Koran. When pressed about where exactly that promise could be located, neither Senakhreh nor any of his dozen henchmen clerics present could find such a passage. After much anxious searching, the Sheik became increasing hostile and Klein quickly left.

Badda-bing, tish!

Okay so I'm channelling Henny Youngman. Nevermind me. Lori Lowenthal Marcus raises some disturbing questions about young Aaron Klein's book, Schmoozing With Terrorists. Such as:

If these murder merchants happily speak at length about their desire to murder and torture those who don't fit their religious profiles, why are the rest of the hundreds of journalists who call Israel their beat unable to obtain the same information?

I blame the Zionist-controlled media.

Badda-bing, tish!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hope Lies In The Proles: The Good Guys Win In Serbia

"Long live free and democratic Serbia. Long live free, democratic and independent Kosovo."

Marko Attila Hoare: "The appeasers have constantly told us that Western support for Kosovo´s independence was pushing the Serbian public toward the fascists; with Tadic´s election victory, we have decisive proof that this is not the case. . . It is clear to most ordinary people that Serbia´s future lies with the democratic states of the EU, not with Vladimir Putin´s authoritarian Russia. Nikolic offered Serbia the prospect of becoming a North Korea surrounded by hostile neighbours, with Serbia´s young people denied the prospect of work, education and travel in the West. The Serbian electorate has rejected this option."

On a related theme, a proletarian-left review Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctine" concludes:

"This book is well researched; particularly well worth a read are the chapters on Russia and South Africa. However, because the main focus of the book is on the development and implementation of “disaster capitalism” throughout the world, without any critical analysis of left political movements, the reader comes away with the depressing impression that workers and the left are always destined to be victims, and not architects of our own destiny."

Saturday, February 09, 2008

"Then Allah brought Hitler to rule over them." - Sayid Qutb

We thought and we think that the ideological and military confrontation with radical Islam should not be waged only from the right-of-center side of the political spectrum. The battle against anti-Semitism, terror, and the aftereffects of National Socialism and of the continuing crisis of modernization in the Arab and Islamic world should also be an important component of Western liberalism.

- Jeffery Herf, in What Does Coming to Terms with the Past Mean in the Berlin Republic in 2007?

Read it all in the latest Telos. And I mean read every last word of it.

Brought to my attention by my Geordie comrade, against whom I will not tolerate a single unkind word.

Herf is a co-author of American Liberalism and the Euston Manifesto. The Euston Manifesto - if new visitors here ever wonder what the little poster on this page to the right is all about - is, well, click it. Go on. I know you want to. Euston Canada is here.

Friday, February 08, 2008

"Gentle shepherds in a countryside overrun with wolves"

Marcus Gee sets out in search of the Liberal conscience: "At the very least, they would have to garrison the village and fight back when it came under attack. But again, that would be prohibited combat. The Canadians would have to abandon the village and its inhabitants: the old people who used the clinic, the young girls who went to the school, the village leaders they promised to support."

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Inside The Cult That Runs The "Mobilization Against War and Occupation": Part II

Further to this post, there is now another beans-spilling defector from the cult behind the most active and high-profile "anti-war" group on Canada's west coast.

Ian Beeching describes some of the "revolutionary discipline" demanded of its activists: Sleep deprivation, pressure to fork over personal savings, emotional bullying, mandatory hikes, mandatory "education classes", getting browbeaten for not producing an Iraqi flag with the words "Alahu Akbar" on it, sleeping in meat freezers, the lot.

In the picture here is Alison Bodine, MAWO's most famous activist, with New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton. I'm not posting it here to make Jack look bad.

I'm not the one who presented Bodine as the featured opening-night guest speaker at last November's British Columbia New Democratic Party convention. The NDP did.

I'm not the one who happily accepted Bodine's transparently bogus claim that she was the victim of a government plot to "target" anti-war activists. I'm not the one who chose not to notice, two weeks before she got a standing ovation at the NDP convention, that her story had been exposed as rubbish.

It's not as though MAWO's blackshirt conduct and deranged ideology was unknown to NDP activists, either. And yes, I mean deranged: "Wherever Islam is fighting against imperialism, ‘The Left’ must join with Muslims in this fight. . . the Muslims of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine who are fighting on the front lines against imperialism."

This has been no secret, especially on the left. Years before NDP convention organizers thought it would be cool to get in on Bodine's radical-chic celebrity, MAWO's lunacy was well-known to New Democrats, especially NDPers involved in "anti-war" activism.

The truth of it is, I feel a bit sorry for Layton.

His big challenge is the work of triangulating a progressive and coherent left-wing position on Afghanistan that still somehow appeals to the NDP's activist base, which has been largely addled by MAWO-type polemics at one end, and the kind of "revolutionary defeatism" that animates the broader-based, Islamist-friendly Canadian Peace Alliance at the other.

And it's certainly not helping that on "the left" in Canada, you're supposed to pretend that this isn't even happening.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Second Coming

The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold:

OTTAWA - The stage is set for showdown, and possibly an election, over Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan.

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world:

Canada has already threatened to pull out its troops from Kandahar province in a year's time if other Nato countries don't contribute more. We must assume that if Britain were to begin to talk about a draw-down, then Canada would carry out this threat. British forces would then be exposed in Helmand and, presumably, would also withdraw. Let us suppose that an angry and abandoned US follows the “lead” offered by its allies, and itself pulls out, leaving itself only an air-to-ground interdiction capability.

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned:

Here are the likely consequences of such a pattern. The Afghan Government would collapse, to be replaced by an overt civil war fought between the Taleban and local governors in the various provinces. A million or more Afghan refugees would again flee their country, many of them ending up in the West.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity:

Layton wants a full withdrawal of Canada's 2,500 troops from Afghanistan. Harper has embraced the John Manley panel recommendations for an extension of the combat role on condition NATO sends 1,000 more troops and Ottawa sends more equipment. Dion wants an end to combat activities in a year's time and reassign troops to training and to security activities for civilian protection, development and reconstruction.

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Jihadists everywhere, from Indonesia to Palestine, would see this as a huge victory, democrats and moderates as a catastrophic defeat. There would hardly be a country, from Morocco to Malaysia, that wouldn't feel the impact of the reverse. That's before we calculate the cost to women and girls of no longer being educated or allowed medical treatment. And would there be less terror as a result?

We have been here before.

And before, and before:

But the offensive took place against the background of appeasement, culminating in the Munich pact struck by Britain and France with Hitler and Mussolini in September 1938. The republic disbanded the International Brigades and fought on alone.

- William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Plea to Canadians from Afghanistan's Sima Samar: "Finish The Job You Started."

Imagine about a third of Afghanistan locked into slavery, obscurantism, jihadism and the most savage kind of misogyny the world has ever known. Then ask yourself whether this is the "Canadian way" of doing things.

Yes, it would mean our soldiers could come home and we would no longer be bothered by such persistent and unpleasant questions as whether we're just stooges of American imperialism "imposing our values" on faraway people.

But we would be haunted by questions of the kind that now torment Sima Samar, who remembers only too well the last time the world shook hands with the devil and abandoned Afghanistan. "Finish the job you started," was Samar's advice.

That's from my essay in today"s Vancouver Sun, which arises from a conversation I had last week with Dr. Sima Samar, the "voice for the voiceless" in Afghanistan.

UPDATE: Ziad the Partisan finally gets some attention from Canada's mainstream news media - and it wasn't even a journalist who conducted the interview. Still, it's pretty good: “Regardless of what the media do,” he says, “if we genuinely make progress, it really doesn’t matter. We have faced many challenges: the terrorists, obviously, and many others who have vested interests — they didn’t want us to succeed. It’s not easy to overcome the legacy of a genocidal, fascist regime, but so far we have made it. Economically, the average person is much better off than they used to be, and freedom has strength. It’s not perfect. But step by step, we are moving forward, with the help of our friends, the United States.”

For all those who would dismiss this as right-wing propaganda, be careful. Howar Ziad is a democratic socialist, and if you dismiss his struggle and sacrifice, you're nowhere near as "progressive" as he is. As he told me not long ago: "I was always on the left, and even now I consider myself left and progressive."

Update on Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh

As columns of people marched through the streets of Kabul holding portraits of journalist Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh, it was strange for me to see his image appear so many times, held by so many hands. Parwez is my brother.

That's from a terrific report from Yacub Ibrahimi about the mounting protests in Afghanistan calling for Sayed's release. It's great news. You can help.

This is also heartening. And this.

UPDATED: A report from Kabul from our pal Jared Ferrie.

Inside the cult that runs the "Mobilization Against War and Occupation"

A key organizer within the most active "anti-war" group in Vancouver has spilled the beans in an open letter that confesses to several years' worth of blackshirt behaviour and "mafia-type" depravity centred around the cult's tyrannical, messianic Ali Yerevani.

Ivan Drury's account of his time with the groupuscule behind MAWO (whose poster girl and deputy commissar is the scam artist Alison Bodine) is a litany of assault, thuggery, e-mail hacking and all-round craziness. It's a lurid tale of psychological torture, bullying, and idiocy. But I must admit I did enjoy the part where Drury confesses to masquerading as a Muslim convert around local mosques.

Told you so. So did Ian King.

Can I say that just once more? Thanks.

Told you so.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Disconfirmed expectancy or cognitive dissonance? You decide.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Like Him Or Not, Best Political Ad Ever

Noticed by The Ghost:

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Afghanistan Solidarity Party: "Unite against the threats and fascism of the warlords"

At least 200 members of the Afghanistan Solidarity Party staged a lively demonstration in Kabul yesterday to demand the release of death-row journalist Sayed Parwaz Kaambakhsh. The demonstrators marched to the United Nations office carrying banners that read "Unite against the threats and fascism of the warlords" and chanting "Parwez, we are with you."

Meanwhile, just a day after the Afghan Senate adopted a motion backing Sayed's religious-court death sentence, it's now retreating. A Senate spokesman now says the motion had been a "technical mistake," and that while religious courts can pass judgment in cases of distributing "un-Islamic" materials, Sayed's legal rights should be protected, and he should have had a defence lawyer when he faced the judge-clerics.

It's heartening to see the Afghanistan Solidarity Party making a comeback after key party leader and co-founder Lal Mohammad was beheaded by the Taliban three years ago.

The Solidarity Party stands for "women's rights, democracy, and secular society, a disarming of the country, and freedom of the press." These are precisely the kind of Afghans the Canada Afghanistan Solidarity Committee wants Canadians to know more about, and to support, politically, morally and materially.

What Canadians can do right now: Write Prime Minister Stephen Harper ( urging him to take a very hard line on Sayed's case - he should tell President Karzai that the charges against Sayed should be dropped, or at the very least that he must be assured of a fair trial, and the death sentence be overturned immediately. Write Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier, too (, along with a dignified protest letter to His Excellency Omar Samad, Afghanistan's ambassador to Canada (

A horrible development: The deputy governor of Helmand and five others have been killed by a suicide bomber , during afternoon prayers. In a mosque.

I am not expecting news that the murderer was from a "Christian-Crusader heritage." I also see that more than 500 Afghan women staged a demonstration in Kandahar last week to protest the kidnapping of American aid worker Cyd Mizell, who just happens to be a Baptist.

Friday, February 01, 2008

An Afghan appeal: "I would like to thank you. . . do not abandon us. Don't forget us."

As of this morning, the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee is now officially up and running. Says co-founder Lauryn Oates, who is also vice-president of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WA): “We as Canadians need to ensure that our values are well applied to any course of action we take in Afghanistan, and, like John Manley and his fellow panelists, we recognize that a withdrawal of Canadian troops from Kandahar would almost certainly lead to a total collapse in security. This paramount point has been in large part missing from our debates here in Canada. A Canadian withdrawal would contribute to conditions that would lead to a civil war, the return of the Taliban to power, and the further denial of the human rights of Afghans.”

Yesterday I spoke with Dr. Sima Samar, the head of Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission. Formerly a deputy president in Hamid Karzai's transitional government, Dr. Samar was also, briefly, Afghanistan's minister for women's affairs. Dr. Samar offered these words of welcome to the members of the Solidarity Committee: "I would like to thank you all for your support for the Afghan people. Please do not abandon us. Don't forget us. Keep helping us to reach the point where we can stand on our own feet."

There will be a diversity of views among the members of the committee, who numbered a few dozen yesterday (membership applications are coming in thick and fast this morning), but the committee's basis of unity is this simple position on Canada's engagement in Afghanistan: "Stay. Human rights are universal. The UN wants us there. A military component is vital and necessary." Membership is open to any Canadians who can support the principles enumerated here.

The website has the usual "about us" page and a list of the founding members, but I thought I'd just say a special thanks here to Rob Wilson, Ian King and Jonathon Narvey, who have done such great work in pulling together the website, among other things. I also want to pay the tiniest bit of a tribute to Lauryn Oates, who was quoted in today's press release.

Lauryn manages to somehow balance her work with CW4WA, the Solidarity Committee, her PhD studies at the University of British Columbia, and a variety of other duties that tend to bring her to Afghanistan for several months every year. For half her life, she has been deeply committed to the cause of solidarity with the people of Afghanistan.

She started when she was 14, when she managed to gather 450 signatures on a petition that she faxed off to the Taliban, protesting their savage oppression of women. Two years later, she was still raising hell, and she came to the attention of CW4WA, which asked her to set up a Vancouver chapter, not knowing Lauryn was only 16.

All this was before September 11, 2001.

She's never wavered. She's in for the long haul. Pay very close attention to what she says.