When my travails in Canada began, somebody reminded me of an observation by the American writer Heywood Broun: “Everybody favors free speech in the slack moments when no axes are being ground.” I think that gets it exactly backwards. It was precisely at the moment when no axes were being ground that the West decided it could afford to forgo free speech. There was a moment 40 or so years ago when it appeared as if all the great questions had been settled: There would be no more Third Reichs, no more fascist regimes, no more anti-Semitism; advanced social democracies were heading inevitably down a one-way sunlit avenue into the peaceable kingdom of multiculturalism; and so it seemed to a certain mindset entirely reasonable to introduce speech codes and thought crimes essentially as a kind of mopping-up operation. Canada’s “human rights” tribunals were originally created to deal with employment and housing discrimination, but Canadians aren’t terribly hateful and there wasn’t a lot of that, so they advanced to prosecuting “hate speech.” It was an illiberal notion harnessed supposedly in the cause of liberalism: A handful of neo-Nazi losers in rented rooms in basements are leaving Xeroxed white-supremacist flyers in payphones? Hey, relax, we’ll hunt down the extremist fringe losers and ensure they’ll trouble you no further. Just a few recalcitrant knuckledraggers who decline to get with the beat. Don’t give ’em a thought. Nothing to see here, folks.
When you accept that the state has the right to criminalize Holocaust denial, you are conceding an awful lot. I don’t just mean on the specific point: The Weimar Republic was a veritable proto-Trudeaupia of “hate speech” laws. In the 15 years before the Nazis came to power, there were over 200 prosecutions for “anti-Semitic speech” in Germany—and a fat lot of good it did. But more important than the practical uselessness of such laws is the assumption you’re making: You’re accepting that the state, in ruling one opinion out of bounds, will be content to stop there.
And lest we forget, that's exactly how Candidate Bernie Farber, that most censorious of chaps, likes it. For control-minded lefties like him, as for the Islamist sock-puppets and Harpoon Siddiquis of the land, freedom's just another word for, "Shut your mouth, impudent one."
As is now clear, it isn’t. Restrictions on freedom of speech undermine the foundations of justice, including the bedrock principle: equality before the law. When it comes to free expression, Britain, Canada, Australia, and Europe are ever less lands of laws and instead lands of men—and women, straights and gays, Muslims and infidels—whose rights before the law vary according to which combination of these various identity groups they belong to...
One hopes and prays that the good voters of Thornhill will bear that in mind on election day.
Update: Just noticed that Mark Steyn gave me a hat tip the other day. Thanks, Mark.