Saturday, March 13, 2010

Exceptional Speech

The following represents the continuation of the series on American Exceptionalism were doing here at Beers with Demo and is a repeat of a post we ran originally in July 2008.

All free speech isn’t created equally or interpreted equally everywhere as the show trials of Canadian human rights commissions of Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant have proven. But is our free speech better than Canadian and European free speech? Some here think we need to revisit the concept that was deemed important enough to be drafted No. 1 overall when it came time for our nation’s founders to make their selections of really, really important rights.

But why does it seem that on the whole a more restrictive interpretation of free speech, and thus a more liberal interpretation of hate speech, occurs in countries that appear to have the most difficulties with restive immigrant minority groups. Is there a causal relationship? We think there may be.

The fact that the Canadian Human Rights Commission has a near 100% conviction rate is proof-positive of giving an air of legitimacy to quite anything that an aggrieved party may bring before it as “hate speech”. If you, as the aggrieved, are almost always guaranteed satisfaction from this particular court system every time you cry foul, then the hate speech bar is lowered to the point where being offended or feeling your group has been incited against with respect to nearly anything written or said is indeed, culturally and legally, justifiable.

The whole system both legally and culturally in Canada and much of Europe thus invites grievances, promotes isolation and discourages assimilation.

Let’s contrast that with the United States where Muslims don’t riot or burn American flags, where there are no fatwas declared against writers and filmmakers are not murdered while walking down the street and the hate speech bar is set much, much higher.

Precisely because the bar is set higher, the legitimization of hate speech is much more infrequent. Rather than officially recognize alleged hate speech in courts of law, the rantings of say, a Jeremiah Wright or the suggestions by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson that the acceptance of homosexuality in this country was, in part, responsible for 9-11, it is instead held up for public scorn, ridicule and mocking…. as it should. The question of legitimacy is taken off the table and in fact, it is viewed not as court-defined “hate speech” but rather, “illegitimate speech.” In other words, speech that is outside the legitimate circle of polite and civil discourse.

We will not take you to court, we will, however, make fun of you and then simply ignore you.

A perfect case-in-point for this is the Iranian mad-bomber, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, who came to New York last year to make a number of speeches and appearances. We understood the calls for banning and/or boycotting his speeches but we generally came down on the side of letting the man speak knowing that the true Mahmoud would reveal himself and sho’nuff, the raving lunatic, homophobe and anti-semite we knew him to be did not disappoint.

Despite the serious nature of what he said, we mocked and ridiculed the guy, essentially turning Ahmedinejad into a late-night punch line effectively neutering and delegitimizing his message.

A Canadian, himself, recognizes this exceptionalism. Jason Gratl a lawyer for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association:

“Canadians do not have a cast-iron stomach for offensive speech,” Mr. Gratl said in a telephone interview. “We don’t subscribe to a marketplace of ideas. Americans as a whole are more tough-minded and more prepared for verbal combat.”

And Mr. Steyn: “Western governments are becoming increasingly comfortable with the regulation of opinion. The First Amendment really does distinguish the U.S., not just from Canada but from the rest of the Western world.”

This exceptionalism is worth preserving. We’ve seen how free speech interpretation works elsewhere and the results are less than America

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