Monday, February 04, 2008

An important letter to PEN Canada

GayandRight: A letter to PEN Canada notes how the famous organization of writers devoted to free speech has yet failed to take a stand on the most central question of freedom of expression in Canada today.

This is the same organization that has only given modest support to our friend, the writer Howard Rothberg, silenced by an incident during a reading of his book at a Chapters bookstore in Waterloo.

When it comes to disputes involving Muslims, many of our "liberal" organizations sit on the fence. They're only really capable of wailing against the "oppression" of a now mythical white male patriarchy. When a quarter of Brits think Winston Churchill was "made up" we can see that the freedom of the academy to teach that all reality and identity is a mere construction of some nexus of power and knowledge has achieved results. We need again to discover a freedom in contact with reality and not the wishful thinking and academically-respectable conspiracy theories of far too many "cool" postmodern writers.

The "myth" of Churchill reminds me of something Mark Steyn wrote:
The problem with the left is its inability to get over ancient battles. The only defendant ever acquitted under Section 13 at the CHRC is the "Canadian Nazi Party", on the quaint grounds that, despite the plaintiff Richard Warman's best efforts to whump it up into a huge threat, it did not, in fact, exist. That tells you everything about what Warren Kinsella calls Warman's "bravery". It's easy to be brave when you're fighting phantoms. As I wrote in The Western Standard of March 27th 2006:
The free world is shuffling into a psychological bondage whose chains are mostly of our own making. The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, you’ll recall, published an advertisement directing readers to Romans 1:26, Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, and I Corinthians 6:9, and was fined $4,500, as was the advertiser, for “exposing homosexuals to hatred or ridicule”.* The British “historian” David Irving sits in an Austrian jail, having been convicted of Holocaust denial. It’s not unreasonable for Muslims to conclude that, if gays and Jews are to be protected groups who can’t be offended, why shouldn't they be also?

They have a point. How many roads of inquiry are we prepared to block off in order to be “sensitive”? And, once we’ve done so, will there be anything left to talk about other than showbiz gossip? Holocaust denial should be ridiculous and contemptible but not illegal. If the objection is that it’s a uniquely terrible stain on humanity, that’s all the more reason to talk about it openly. How did we end up in a world where David Irving sits in a cell for querying the numbers of the last Holocaust while men march through London streets promising a new Holocaust and are given a bodyguard of police officers to help them do so?
The above column is not available on line, but it will be included in my forthcoming book, The Mark Steyn Flagrantly Islamophobic Reader.

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