Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What Price Freedom? Who Cares, Sez Bernie, As Long As We're "Civil"

The former head of the now-defunct Canadian Jewish Congress (defunct at least in part because its former head turned it into a wimpy, tikkun olamish "social justice" outfit) is still on the ramparts championing our godawful, Stalinesque "human rights" racket. (It couldn't be that, in the wake of his failed political bid, he's trolling for gainful employment as a "human rights" commissioner, could it?) He writes in the Ottawa Citizen (h/t BCF):
Those who wish to abolish human rights commissions focus on small aspects of human rights law, arguing that the language pertaining to hatred and vilification puts the entire human rights machinery into disrepute. Instead of suggesting changes to perceived restrictive human rights legislation or working to modify burdensome administrative issues, they instead demand we throw the baby out with the bathwater.
A civil society is best judged by the way it treats its most vulnerable. Ethnic and faith minorities, sexuality or gender-based minorities, people of colour and those with physical and mental challenges have historically been fodder for those who are less kind within society. Human rights commissions and codes were developed to help level the playing field for the less fortunate, those targeted as victims of discrimination. And with bumps and bruises, it works. Of course, we have a responsibility to ensure the infrastructure and regulations do not become such that the scales tip the other way. We must always be vigilant to ensure a fair balance, and fix the system when necessary.
Oh, no! Not the dreaded "baby/bathwater" shtick again. As I've mentioned practically every time he trots that one out: the baby's diseased; the bathwater's toxic; throw 'em both out.

Bernie's problem, as always, is that he's more concerned about "civility" than he is about freedom. And that kind of orientation gives rise to societies--Soviet Russia, Mao's China, Saudi Arabia, Iran--that have plenty of civility, oodles of civility, and plenty of forces policing that civility, but not a scrap of freedom. So when it comes to a contest between civility and freedom, sorry, Bernie, I'll take freedom every time. Even if it means people will be able so say mean and hateful things about me, things I find upsetting and offensive.

I can understand why Bernie thinks the way he does. He's the child of a Holocaust survivor and he's a squishy lefty, a double whammy that all but ensures he'll be fore'er on the lookout for resurgent Nazis and want to stifle their words lest they give rise to a Shoah II. To him and those like him who would ratchet back our freedom, I would only point out this: the kind of limits to freedom you demand existed in Weimar Germany, and Adolf Hitler still came to power. However, an argument could (and, moreover, must) be made that had free speech been allowed to flourish in Hitler's Germany--which, of course, it most definitely was not--there might never have been a Holocaust.

The baby and the bathwater have both got to go


Denyse O'Leary said...

One thought: Compare the rise of the Nazis to the flop of the FLQ. So far as I know, the Canadian government did not place huge obstacles in the way of the FLQ's growth. One outcome was that they peaked early and the War Measures Act was declared when they committed their first murder and kidnapping - and the movement fizzled.

There are many reasons the Nazis gained power, but my sense is that you are right in thinking that government censorship strengthened their hand. That is, by the time they were free to attack Jews in the streets, they had a great many supporters due to their tales of suffering and oppression.

What if everybody heard what they had to say from the beginning, and they burned the Reichstag in 1923, murdering some prominent Jews as well? Yes, a terrible thing, who doubts it?

Would the public have cheered them on? Or would they have reacted as Quebecois generally did to the FLQ: Yuck! That's NOT what we meant?

We'll never know, but what's clear is that censorship had the opposite effect from what was intended.

scaramouche said...

"What's clear is that censorship had the opposite effect from what was intended"--exactly. Just as setting up bureacracies full of "experts" to ameliorate society's imperfections is, as F. Hayek put it, the road to serfdom. But then I don't suppose Bernie has ever read Hayek (or Sowell).