Saturday, June 21, 2008

Blazed by Cat Fur

National Post: Human rights issues open to vigorous debate
... Ms. Eliadis had harsh words for the growing contingent of bloggers who lambaste the commissions, and have been invigorated by the prominence of the Maclean's complaints.

Ms. Eliadis singled out one in particular, blazingcatfur., as "poisonous" for referring to her panel at the conference as a "Texas cage match."

She said it was evidence of the "appalling tone" that is "illustrative of how badly this debate has gone."
In my misspent youth, I went to enough conferences where the victimary religion ruled to know that few self-respecting victimologists can pass up a chance to move from the mundane work of creating and defending victims to actually claiming for themselves the sacred centrality of the victim.

So I am not entirely of the view that Pearl Eliadis is not without some satisfaction in being compared to a professional cage wrestler, wearing some kind of funny costume no doubt. Like the faked wrestling match, it is much better to be able to accuse your enemy of some unspeakably appalling crime than to actually debate her. Reason, logic, free speech: stain of Western phallogocentrism, dontchaknow. No, it's much better in certain conference circles to point the finger and make the accusation that usually gets a pass in our postmodern times: she's a right-wing victimizer!

But then one is not entirely surprised to hear that a "human rights" functionary thinks the debate in the blogosphere is "appalling", a debate that I, in my resentful naivete, have taken as one of the few recent signs of serious engagement with democracy in this country, of people unwilling to defer to government bureaucracies for all their needs, and most of all the need to openly witness and contest each other's ideas.

But then Pearl Eliadis conveniently forgot to note that it is not just we crazy bloggers, we few, we very few, but also the editorial boards of many Canadian newspapers who have roundly criticized, almost if not entirely unanimously, the current operation of our "human rights" law in relation to freedom of expression. Times are a-changing, and those once so sure of their righteous role in protecting resentful Canadians from each other have been figured as a yet greater threat. How can that be? One is left staring at the head lights, with this for an argument:
Pearl Eliadis, a prominent human rights lawyer, responded that what Mr. Borovoy thought 40 years ago should not determine the current state of human rights law, and that the arguments against human rights commissions dealing with complaints against media are premised on the notion that "new rights are bad rights."
Dohh! new is obviously good! how could I have forgotten the progressive creed so quickly! and dare I question who it is declaring these new "rights"?
She said the commissions are "strategically and uncomfortably poised" in "dynamic tension" among NGOs, government, voters, industry and other influences, and it is "almost proof of their relative success that nobody is happy."
almost, eh? So close to an argument, and yet so far...
"There's a narrow band of intolerant bigots out there who are jumping on to this bandwagon and are using this debate to propagate particularly hateful views," Ms. Eliadis said in an interview. "What the free speech absolutists are saying is that, once you take that core element of speech and transport it into mass media, suddenly it becomes immune. I don't understand why speech should be immune from discrimination law. The media should not enjoy more rights or immunity than anyone else."
Hell we all all know that the kind of doing that is talking or writing is no different from other kinds of doing, like punching someone in the face! or refusing a job! It would be simply inconceivable that someone resentfully blowing off steam in words might be be doing something ugly but nonetheless useful, either to them or to us, wouldn't it? Even worse would be the possibility that it might be useful or it might not, it might be good or it might be dangerous, but there's no way anyone, not even the sharpest lawyer, can be in a high holy position, at this point in time, to know.

My response, in short, Dear Ms. Eliadis, is that we are not a narrow band of intolerant bigots. That's just your wishful projection, the primitive figuration of a victim/scapegoat that is one of the oldest religious tricks in the book (and if there is anything we need protection from, it is this, this death cult that is the postmodern "human rights" world view).

No, Dear Pearl, the resentment that runs through our society is in all of us; it is a fundamental aspect of the human condition that cannot be legislated away, but only more or less mediated through more or less freedom of expression. And to appoint privileged arbiters and punishers who get to decide which hates to prosecute and which to leave immune, is only to raise the stakes in the wars of resentment. Much better, as a general rule in a rather peaceful country like Canada today, to make speech so free that almost everything we say is lost in a sea of words and is instantly forgettable. For if we can give up our primitive needs for bad guys/victims to put at the centre of attention, the more deeply resentful will find that in time they are not centres of attraction but just forgotten losers.

Way to go Catfur: you're hissing off the right people.

But if anyone wants a free and open debate on that or any claim made here, I will be pleased to accomodate you.

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