Friday, March 20, 2009

No Love

The saddest thing about this story is that so few people are going to be surprised or concerned by it. A citizen of a modern Western democracy is facing his fourth arrest simply for speaking his mind, and the fact that he is a probable white supremacist with a fondness for ugly shirts doesn't make it any less alarming. Canadians are apparently only permitted to express their opinions at the sufferance of the government: say something unkind or unpopular enough and you will be punished for it by the State. Well, this is no more than we deserve. Censorship is an inevitable outgrowth of self- righteousness, and self- righteousness is the defining Canadian sin. Most of us are quite happy to point our fingers at other people and characterize them as intolerant, which is how we justify our refusal to tolerate them. The idea that anyone could say the same thing about us has never even crossed our minds. But the prosecution of so- called hate speech is now increasingly moving beyond fringe targets like Brad Love, and setting its sights on more mainstream figures. Once you normalize punishing people for "hate", you only have to expand the definition of "hate" in order to silence all inconvenient dissent.

Incidentally, it would have been nice for Canada's paper of record to have told us just what it was in Brad Love's speech that warranted his being dragged away in handcuffs by eight (!) officers. The article said vaguely that Love spoke of "black crime", but what exactly does this mean? If he were only making the observation that young black men commit a disproportionate share of urban crimes, he'd only be referring to an unfortunate statistical fact -- a fact which is incidentally often repeated by leaders in the black community who want to see that situation improve. Or did Love perhaps baselessly speculate that black people are genetically disposed to commit crime? It'd be at least some small consolation to know that Love was arrested for a falsehood rather than for a fact, but the Globe and Mail didn't seem to think that distinction worth mentioning at all. (And note that they disabled comments for the story as well! O delicious irony...)


Anonymous said...

Love wasn't arrested for anything he said in his speech last night but because he was wanted on outstanding warrants.

Neil said...

Anonymous: thanks for the clarification. You are technically correct, but you must remember that those warrants were only outstanding in the first place because of the things Love had said in the past. (The probation he was said to have breached was a direct result of his conviction on "hate" charges; he had ill- advisedly pleaded guilty as part of a plea bargain).

This being so, it doesn't make much of a difference to the principle of what I wrote, which is that Love has been and still is being harassed by the State for the sake of his unpopular opinions, when by all appearances he is a typical garden- variety crank, and almost certainly harmless. The use of eight officers sent to arrest him in a highly public venue is a message to all of us to watch what we say, or else.

Michael Ejercito said...

Why is this wrong? It is no different that Turkish authorities arresting people who promote recognition of the Armenian genocide.

Neil said...

Michael Ejercito: I'm no fan of the Turkish authorities either, and I can't see why any one example of repression of freedom of speech should excuse another.