Saturday, October 11, 2008

How dedicated are the people at the Canadian Human Rights Commission?

UPDATE: The claim made in this post about a visit from the CHRC may be incorrect; it may have been a visit from some other branch of the civil service: see the discussion at the Post-Darwinist blog. I don't keep a regular eye on who is visiting this blog. Daily Bayonet, who pointed out the possible error, notes in an email: "I hope you didn't interpret my message as defending the HRC's, I don't. The visit that BCF got was definitely an HRC goon, but Covenant Zone could have been from anywhere. I only wanted to make that clarification. I've been getting visits from HRC's for months, especially the BCHRT after I followed the Steyn/Maclean's trial closely. So far I've not been disap....."

Still, one might ask: how many non-CHRC civil servants are likely to want to read this blog at 6.24 on a Saturday morning?

Well, one of their number was at our blog, at 6.24AM Ottawa Time, using the (surely tax-payer funded) CHRC blackberry service, apparently checking for our take on the BC Human Rights Tribunal ruling (pdf) on "Elmasry v Steyn/Maclean's". Blazing Cat Fur points out in emails that the CHRC are regular visitors at her blog. Denyse has the latest evidence, with also our site meter record of the recent visit:
Post-Darwinist: Intellectual freedom in Canada: So Mark Steyn was acquitted - what about the rest of us?

I don't mind being transparent to our democratic state, when it is in turn transparent in its procedures and arguments. But today, our state is neither transparent enough, nor decidedly democratic. It belongs too much to a bureaucratic elite who are not entirely in service to the wishes of the people or their proper representatives, though the latter are in good part to blame for downloading their responsibilities for conflict management to, e.g., shadowy courts of "human rights". Accordingly, our bureaucrats follow an often imperial, post-national, NGO/UN code of "human rights" and political correctness.

It is no accident that the present national election campaign in Canada has been witness to endless "gotcha" journalism and scandal mongering. This is the kind of political culture, devoid of much serious debate on on how to renew the national political culture, that one should expect when politicians shirk responsibilities and talk up the courts and the "human rights" commissions as the proper arbiters of properly political conflicts.

One thing that is obvious about the BCHRT ruling (pdf) - based on my yet cursory glance - is that, notwithstanding its normative engagement in legal analysis of precedents, it relies on some pretty arbitrary assumptions about how to draw the line around what is and is not acceptable speech. It also relies on banishing certain questions from its argument. And these are assumptions and forbidden questions that reveal the very interested nature of the BCHRT, or of a post-national bureaucratic class, in the ruling. This is not what the law should be.

But then no law can be properly disinterested if it sets itself the task of deciding what is and is not "hate" speech. We all "hate", to some degree, because we are all inevitably resentful beings, to some degree. Yes we can have, in abstract metaphysical terms, a legal definition of "hate" that surpasses mere resentment. But when you pass a law that outlaws something we are all inclined to do, the task of proving that someone has (or not) crossed the line where the unacceptable extreme of hate is distinguished from the more ordinary resentment of humanity, will inevitably require more than abstract metaphyics: one must dabble in the arts of some kind of political correctness and scapegoating, in the more or less arbitrary designation of (bad and good) victims.

I hope to read through the ruling and have something to add to the conversation in the next few days.

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