Tuesday, February 14, 2006

"Terrorism:" It's the new "Hitler."


Normally, it takes a lot to get me in Ezra Levant's corner but I'm going to be backing him on this one, if for no other reason than I'm getting tired of hysterical hyperbole from people like this (emphasis added):

"We will use every means within the Canadian legal system to stop this intellectual terrorism," Syed Soharwardy, president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, said yesterday.

Dear Mr. Soharwardy: This is "terrorism." Try to appreciate the difference.

FOLKS, YOU'RE MISSING THE POINT. I suspect I'm going to take some abuse over this, but I'm going to nip a couple arguments in the bud right now.

First, this has nothing to do with Ezra's intentions, honourable or no. It doesn't matter what his motivation is. I suspect it's partly just to be a jerk, and partly as a business decision to sell more magazines. Either way, you have no right to object.

As an analogy, I'm a big believer in freedom of religion. Now, whether someone is expressing that religion in an "honourable" way, perhaps as a force for social good, or being a real jerk about it, is not relevant. It's their right, and you don't have the option to decide whose right you're going to support based on whether or not you agree with it.

And what did Ezra "contribute" by publishing those cartoons? Who cares? He doesn't have any kind of obligation to contribute anything to the public discourse. He publishes a magazine and part of his job is, I assume, to make that profitable. If this is how he chooses to do it, that's his right.

I'm hoping my readers understand a really fundamental concept. You don't have to agree with Ezra's philosophy to defend his right to express it. It would be the height of hypocrisy for me, on my blog, to take numerous potshots at religion, only to turn around and slag someone else for doing the same.

And when religious fundamentalists, of all people, start throwing around accusations of "intellectual terrorism," well, it's time for you to pick sides.

14 comments:

howie said...

Of course if Levant's purpose were in any way honourable, I might be tempted to join you.

He is only publishing to be an inflammatory a**hole (and we all know how painful those are).

As someone said on another site, let him publish cartoons attacking Christianity if he's so brave.

Grog said...

But what did Levant actually contribute by publishing those cartoons?

I had the less than delightful pleasure of listening to him on CBC's "As It Happens" last night, and as far as I can tell, he did it for two reasons:

1) Publicity/Sell more magazines

2) To piss off the Muslim community

He was snidely dismissive of criticism (to the point of outright rudeness on several occasions), and he then tried to justify his actions based on the outrageousness of the actions of others.

Hypocritically, as soon as something similar comes along that is offensive to Israel, he's the first one on his soapbox decrying it.

I'm sorry, but I have no time for the shitstorm that Levant will face in the coming weeks.

mk said...

Angry threatening mob of...Canadians?

I'm reminded of a comparable incident some years ago in Vancouver. Courtesy CBC, remember this?

http://archives.cbc.ca/IDC-1-68-300-1604/arts_entertainment/art_censorship/clip7

"A 25-kilogram concrete block, suspended above a canvas, awaits Sniffy the Rat. The furry, brown and white rat faces a morbid death as part of Vancouver artist Rick Gibson's performance art piece. The public execution is planned to take place in front of the Vancouver library today, where Sniffy will be flattened between the canvas and another one attached to the bottom of the concrete block."

"Gibson says Sniffy, a pet store rat, is better off going this way rather than his likely fate of slow and painful reptile consumption. But Vancouverites are outraged and try to stop the performance. They swarm the artist and one man whacks Gibson on the head with the heel of his hand, yelling, "They should drop a brick on your head!"

Anyone want to guess whether the reactions and outcomes will be much different?

mk

"Everyone's got their breaking point...with me it's spiders" - Gord Downie

M@ said...

Grog and Howie, although I am repelled by Levant too, it's also true that dishonour, cowardice, being and inflammatory asshole, rudeness, hypocrisy, and offensiveness are not valid reasons to quash someone's free expression.

A lot of religious folks find atheism dishonorable, cowardly, and so on, and I certainly own to being an inflammatory asshole about religion from time to time. That may not be the best way to approach the question of religion, but I'm perfectly within my rights to express myself that way.

The fact is that the best way to counter an unsavoury expression of opinion is on the same level -- through an equal expression of opinion. But with everyone concentrating on attacking the publishers for the fact of publishing the cartoons, there's been little time for honest intellectual discourse, as far as I can see.

If you want to take Levant down a peg, do it by explaining how he's being a dumbass, beyond the mere fact that people are offended by him. I'd love to see someone put this issue away without appealing to the hurt feelings of some religious folks. Remember when Salman Rushdie hurt some religious folks' feelings? Think about who got the better of that little (years-long) spat and why.

steve said...

He's being a dumbass because he wants to be the news.

Garnet said...

You don't have to agree with Ezra's philosophy to defend his right to express it.

...

Either way, you have no right to object.

I see. So, Ezra has a fundamental right to say whatever he wants, but nobody else has a right to express their views on his actions. Gotcha.

Grog said...

M@:

How is Levant being a dumbass?

I believe a stated precisely my reasoning earlier - he's being a complete hypocrite in the first place.

Second he's demonstrated rather publicly that he's doing little more than engaging in a button pushing exercise to inflame things. (Sadly, you would have to hear the tone of voice and precise wording used on As It Happens to appreciate how painfully clear he made this last night, and I don't happen to have a transcript at hand)

At best its irresponsible, at worst, he's abusing his right to freedom of speech at the expense of others.

Which segues into CC's comment about "missing the point" - unfortunately, Levant seems to think that _his_ right to freedom of speech/press is unbounded, while he is loudly and vocally critical of those who might - for example - criticize Israel (a country whose conduct lately has hardly been a stellar example of anything).

What Levant ignores is that while Section 2 of the Charter does guarantee freedom of speech/the press, those freedoms are bounded by the guarantees in other sections of the charter as well as sections of the Criminal Code of Canada (esp. 318).

Metaphorically, Levant's right to swing his fist ends precisely at my nose.

Further, with rights come responsibilities to exercise those rights in a prudent and reasonable fashion. I would assert that Levant is acting in a fashion that is less than prudent and reasonable.

CC said...

grog wrote:

Further, with rights come responsibilities to exercise those rights in a prudent and reasonable fashion.

I am not aware of any such constraint when it comes to defining one's freedom to speech or expression.

Robert McClelland said...

I think you're the one missing the point, CC. Pretty much everyone agrees Levant has the right to publish these cartoons. But that doesn't mean we can't beat him like a rented mule for being a dick.

CC said...

Robert:

Oh, I understand the point's that's being made. My point is that, while everyone seems obsessed with slapping around Ezra Levant, his Muslim critics seem to be getting a pass with their accusations of "intellectual terrorism," which I find way more offensive.

I may find Ezra annoying, hypocritical and self-serving, but I find his critics downright scary. And if one has to pick sides, I'm going to be on Ezra's side in this one.

M@ said...

If you want to limit free speech to that which is "responsible", then you'd better have a really good, completely universal definition of "responsible" in your pocket.

Maybe an analogy would be that it's irresponsible to walk up to a biker gang on the street and pronounce them homosexuals. Yes, you have the right to do it. And yes, those offended by the remark do not have the right to assault you over it.

You don't do it because you're likely to get hurt, and you're not likely to get the kind of protection for your speech that you need at that moment. However, if those rights were limited in any situation because someone might punch you, or write a nasty article in the Western Sandbox, or burn down your house, well, those rights don't actually exist, eh?

Oh, and as for how Levant is a dumbass... how about this?

http://myblahg.com/?p=605

Mark Francis said...

Re: 'Intellectual terrorism'

It is silly to say such things, but it doesn't concern me _much_ because it's being expressed by a minority in our country who have little power. The presence of such things doesn't cause me to lend a mini-Limbaugh like Levant any support.

Anyway, as I pointed out in my blog, Levant publishing the cartoons is really about Levant making himself the news in order to increase his exposure. It is releavnt. There's probably a hundred other more important things to write about, and there's nothing that I've seen Levant say so far that's added anything to this issue other than to possibly fan the flames.

Levant added little if anything to this world-wide debate by republishing them. Do you know why the Globe and Mail didn't publish them? Here's why From
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20060213.wxcancartoon13/BNStory/National/?page=rss&id=RTGAM.20060213.wxcancartoon13

'The Globe chose not to run the cartoons because senior editors deemed them “gratuitous and unnecessarily provocative,” editor-in-chief Edward Greenspon wrote.'

Exactly!

And what about this:

http://suddensage.com/blog/?p=554

Myself, I totally agree that Levant is free to publish the cartoons, and I think he's a complete gratuitous jerk for doing it.

Mark Francis said...

Sorry folks.

Here's that Globe and Mail link compressed to fit:

http://tinyurl.com/c2yog

P. M. Jaworski said...

Good for you, CC.

Whether or not Ezra is a dick really is totally beside the point. Say it all you want, even believe it, but it doesn't change the substance of this debate.