Shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theatre
Wednesday, 24 March 2010
I've been traveling for most of the last day and so I'm late getting to the Coulter-cancelled-in-Canada story. Kathy Shaidle has three great round-ups <a href=http://www.fivefeetoffury.com/:entry:fivefeet-2010-03-24-0000/>here</a>, <a href=http://www.fivefeetoffury.com/:entry:fivefeet-2010-03-24-0002/>here</a> and <a href=http://www.fivefeetoffury.com/:entry:fivefeet-2010-03-24-0004/>here</a>. Perhaps my single favourite line came from <a href=http://www.smalldeadanimals.com/archives/013622.html>Kate McMillan</a>:
See? You can yell "fire" in a crowded theatre after all!Indeed. If this doesn't kill the <a href=http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=OWFjM2EwYjY0ZTM2YzczOTQyNGRjZWE1MWQ3MzRhNjg=>laziest trope</a> of the <a href=http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=YTJjOTcyZTk5OTY2MjZlYTk2OWU4YTE3MTc0YjJhODE=>brain-dead statist control freak</a>, nothing will. This was a literal re-enactment of the full Oliver Wendell: In Ottawa, the fire alarm was set off even though there was no fire but only a visiting conservative blonde. As Rebekah recounts:
Then the fire alarm went off. Do you know how loud industrial fire alarms are? Do you know what they sound like when they go on for about ten minutes?!Another lame argument of the censors is that "hateful words lead to hurtful actions". As Chief Commissar Jennifer Lynch, QC <a href=http://tinyurl.com/69wj4a>says</a>:
People in the auditorium seemed to be very confused about what was going on. It was impossible to tell what was happening outside. The rumors that I collected (true or not I'm not entirely sure) indicated that there were protesters outside yelling "No hate speech on campus", they had barricaded a door, they were pounding on the auditorium door...
My notes at the time read "We're trapped in here. No bathroom... This might get REALLY interesting."
Steyn would have us believe that words, however hateful, should be given free rein. History has shown us that hateful words sometimes lead to hurtful actions that undermine freedom and have led to unspeakable crimes. That is why Canada and most other democracies have enacted legislation to place reasonable limits on the expression of hatred.But it was not Ann Coulter but François Houle whose words led, very directly and within 48 hours, to actions that undermine freedom. As my old comrade Ezra Levant <a href=http://www.nationalpost.com/news/canada/story.html?id=2718693>put it</a>:
In a short speech, Levant said Tuesday was "an embarrassing day for the University of Ottawa and their student body, who could not debate Ann Coulter . . . who chose to silence her through threats and intimidation, just like their vice-president did."Well, there's a surprise. <a href=http://www.ghostofaflea.com/archives/013895.html>Ghost of a Flea</a> writes:
[Mr. Levant laid the blame squarely on Mr. Houle.]
"A fish rots from the head down," he said. "Francois Houle got his wish. He telegraphed to the community that the University of Ottawa is not a place for free debate."
Houle could not be reached for comment on Tuesday night.
Mob rule in Ottawa as leftist thugs used violence, intimidation and the threat of anarchy to prevent Ann Coulter from speaking at a local, bush league university.That's another good line. But I'm not sure that's enough. Our side has all the good lines. The others are either nakedly Orwellian, carrying placards <a href=http://westernstandard.blogs.com/shotgun/2010/03/ann-coulter-vs-the-mob.html>hailing "Free speech!" even as they threaten violence to silence their opponents</a>, or so pathologically lacking in self-awareness that in the interests of creating "<a href=http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ann-coulters-speech-in-ottawa-cancelled/article1509793/>a safe, positive space</a>" they join an ugly mob to crush any dissenters. The University of Ottawa, an institution mired in stultifying conformity and intellectual homogeneity, has just received a <a href=http://conservativeinthecloset.blogspot.com/2010/03/2010-irony-award-goes-to.html>$2.5 million grant to study diversity</a>.
That which does not kill you makes Ann Coulter's point.
But you could point out the ironies forever, and the other side wouldn't care. Because they don't want to win the debate, they want to win, period. And that's a big difference. As I wrote in The National Post eight years ago - August 5th 2002:
The aim of a large swathe of the left is not to win the debate but to get it cancelled before it starts. You can do that in any number of ways -- busting up campus appearances by conservatives, "hate crimes" laws, Canada's ghastly human-rights commissions, the more "enlightened" court judgments, the EU's recent decision to criminalize "xenophobia," or merely, as the Times does, by declaring your side of every issue to be the "moderate" and "nonideological" position...The quality of your argument is only important if you want to win by persuasion. But it’s irrelevant if you want to win by intimidation. I’m personally very happy to defend my columns in robust debate, but, if Canada believed in robust debate, we wouldn't have these "human rights" commissions or university administrators like the wretched M Houle in the first place. The morons who shut down Ann Coulter last night don't care that they made her point for her, anymore than those Muslim agitators in the streets of London fretted about the internal contradictions of threatening to kill anyone who says they're violent.
Freedom of speech is in grave peril in Canada. In the Coulter fracas, almost all the major societal institutions behaved poorly:
1) François Houle symbolizes a decadent academy that is the very antithesis of honest enquiry and intellectual debate that the university is supposed to represent.
2) The Ottawa Police have declared that there is no equality before the law. If you belong to certain groups, they'll stand by as the mob shuts you down.
3) The dinosaur media are vast lumbering eunuchs too cowed by political correctness to do even elementary research. Fatima Al Dhaher, the poor wee thing traumatized by Ann Coulter's camel joke, turns out to be <a href=http://blazingcatfur.blogspot.com/2010/03/poor-fatima-al-dhaher-girl-offended-by.html>a Jew-hater who wants to eliminate the State of Israel</a>. But that's too complicated for the media to fit into their Sesame Street narratives.
Between them, the media, the law and the education system are actively shriveling Canada's liberties. It doesn't lead anywhere good: Ghost of a Flea's title - "<a href=http://www.ghostofaflea.com/archives/013895.html>Fascist Canada</a>" - is no exaggeration. If you say, "Oh, c'mon, if you're not a troublemaker like Coulter or Levant or <a href=http://www.steynonline.com/content/view/2886/128/>Guy Earle</a> or <a href=http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/10/01/the-case-for-the-seeing-eye-horse/>Douglas McCue</a>, Canada's very pleasant", well, so were large parts of Mussolini's Italy and Franco's Spain. But they were not free, and few pre-Trudeau Canadians would have entertained trading ancient liberties for soft totalitarianism euphemized as "diversity".
The saddest aspect of this sad day is the number of people who've sent e-mails denouncing the Ottawa bullies but ending with the words "If you print this, please don't mention my name." Don't you realize that that's part of the problem? In a sane world, it would be François Houle and Fatima Al Dhaher and <a href=http://sharpe-stick.blogspot.com/2010/03/university-of-ottawa-disgraced.html>Susan Cole</a> who would be ashamed to have their names mentioned. But they're not. They're proud to nail their colours to the masts of state censorship, Israeli eliminationism, and mob violence - while your support for free speech and other traditional liberties can only be expressed sotto voce and anonymously. That right there tells you how much of Canada you've already lost.
NB - Square brackets mine