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Opinion

FILDEBRANDT: Deplatforming is mob censorship

Any government that tries to censor them, is a tyranny. And individual that tries to de-platform them, is a tyrant in the making.

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The following text is the opening statement by Western Standard Publisher Derek Fildebrandt in a debate on “deplatforming” as a means of fighting hate. Video of the debate is available HERE.

The question before us today is a relevant and important one: “Is deplatforming a useful tool to eradicate hate?”

Unsurprisingly to those of you who know me, my answer, is a “hard no.” 

To start, let’s try to define “deplatforming.”

“Deplatforming”, is the private-sector counterpart to public-sector censorship. While “censorship” is the state inserting itself as the arbiter of what is permissible to say, and who is permissible to say it, “deplatforming” is by-and-large, private actors taking up the role of arbiter. 

While Canada’s press is by-and-large free, it is still subject to censorship around certain sensitive subjects. One of the more notorious examples was the attempt by the Alberta and Canadian Human Rights Commissions to censor the Western Standard from publishing the Danish cartoons of the Islamic prophet Mohammad in 2006. 

One of the Danish “Muhammad cartoons” that triggered riots in 2006.

While these same self-professed “human rights commissions” never batted an eye at art, or writing critical of Christianity in displays like the famous “Piss Christ”, they were only too eager to make a series of cartoons illegal for print. 

No doubt, the cartoons were offensive to some. But that was the point. These cartoons had triggered grown men around the planet to start rioting and killing people. Free men and free women had a right to know what all the fuss was about; and while most of the Canadian media cowered, the staff at the Western Standard did their duty as a part of a free press. 

As the bad press around the issue was building a groundswell of support at the time to abolish the Human Rights Commissions themselves, the government capitulated its own case in court (rather than face a Charter challenge). Since that time, governments have been more careful about applying its ham-fisted censorship legislation on major press outlets.

But since 2006, the lead role of arbiter has passed from the public-sector, to the private-sector; which brings us to “deplatforming”. 

However more prominent deplatforming is now, it is not new, and while it is primarily employed by the political left today, it has historically been used just as frequently by the old political right. 

In 2003, the Dixie Chicks spoke out against the US invasion of Iraq. At that time, public support favoured war, and being a semi-country band, their fans were disproportionately in rural and southern areas of the US that tended to favour war. 

Many pro-war Republicans set about deplatforming them. They were labelled unpatriotic, and therefore unworthy of listening to. 

But rather than individuals decide not to buy their CDs or turn them off when they came on the air, many pro-war activists tried to get them off the air. It wasn’t good enough that they didn’t want to listen to what the Dixie Chicks had to say. They wanted to make sure that others didn’t listen to what this group had to say. 

I raise the case of the Dixie Chicks, because today’s modern campus censorship crusaders must understand that whatever they may feel about a particular politician, speaker, or singer, this is a knife that can cut both ways. 

Surely, there are many individuals that hold views repugnant to us as individuals. And to that, there is only one legitimate action that free peoples can undertake in a free society: change the channel. 

Today’s campuses are riddled with students and professors that feel some – or many – messages and speakers are just too dangerous to be heard. That if people hear these people out, they will be transformed into goose-stepping storm troopers bent on wanton racial and homophobic murder. 

Supporters of deplatforming say that shutting speech down only applies when someone “crosses the line.” 

But where do they draw the line? Are any of them qualified – intellectually or morally – to draw that line? 

The de-platformers draw little distinction between a genuinely hateful character like David Duke, and someone who merely happens to hold controversial opinions, like Jordan Peterson. 

For my own part, deplatformmers attempted to pull a fire-alarm while I gave a speech on a campus about three years ago. The controversial, hate-filled message I was giving? That those on the right should not be afraid of the de-platformers, and should never stoop to using petty deplatforming against those we disagree with. 

Our concept of deplatforming now extends to the online world. Controversial personalities are now routinely “deplatformed” or “demonetized” to stop them from perusing a meaningful career. In some cases, this can be justified, but not only any grounds that they are “hateful” or “offensive”. Privately owned, online platforms are private property, and just as you have the right to tell a trespasser to get off your lawn, owners of private online platforms have the right to tell people to “get off my server”. 

This is complicated for major social media and monetary platforms however. When the CEOs of these tech giants are hauled before Congress, it is clear that legislators require them to bend to their political will, or else face direct regulation. In conflates the private with the public, and makes deplatforming by Facebook and Twitter an act of indirect censorship by government. 

For example, YouTube has bent to the will of governments around the world and blocked nearly all Covid-19 related material that contradicts the statements of the World Health Organization. This is a case of deplatforming silencing not just voices deemed “hateful” or “offensive”, but just dissenting and contradictory. 

This should serve as a present and dangerous example of what happens when states, major corporate entities, or individuals, decide to make themselves the ultimate arbiter of what constitutes legitimate speech. 

Some things are offensive. Some things hurt our feelings. The grown-up reaction to this is to change the channel, or challenge those we disagree with. 

This is doubly-so for those with genuinely hateful views. If a speaker is invited from the Westboro Baptist Church or the Iranian regime, shutting them down not only violates the right of people to hear them, but gives them and their hateful message credence. Potential listeners might rightfully ask themselves: “If this speaker is so wrong, why would anyone attempt to stop them from speaking?” 

Most open forums – like the one we are having here today – have an opportunity for questions and answers. Those who disagree with the speaker, can challenge them, and shine a spotlight on the inconsistencies that make up most hateful views. 

When then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia University in 2007, he was asked about his regime’s record of murdering gays and lesbians. His response that Iran “had no homosexuals”, elicited roars of laughter from the crowd. 

Ahmadinejad – allowed to speak freely – made a fool of himself and the worldview which he represented. This was a textbook case of allowing the marketplace of ideas to determine which ideas should sink, and which ideas should swim. 

All ideas: the thoughtful, the vapid – the liberal, the hateful – the innocuous, the provocative – all deserve to be heard if they can meet only two criterion: someone wants to speak, and someone wants to listen. 

Any government that tries to censor them, is a tyranny. And individual that tries to de-platform them, is a tyrant in the making. 

Free speech is not meant to protect the expression of the uncontroversial, bland, prevailing orthodox opinions of the majority, but to protect the expression of the controversial and offensive opinions of the minority, or more importantly, the individual. 

Only weak ideas and weak men require censorship to defend them from challengers. 

In a free society, you have only two recourses to speech you disagree with: don’t listen, or challenge it. 

Let me conclude by quoting then Western Standard Publisher Ezra Levant in his interrogation with the Human Rights Commission in 2008:

“I reserve maximum freedom, to be maximally offensive, and hurt feelings as I want.”

Opinion

LETTER: Stop repatriating ISIS fighters to Canada

A reader says that Canada must shut the door on returning ISIS fighters.

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RE: Calgary man charged with terror crimes after allegedly training with ISIS in Syria

The arrest of a Calgary man by the RCMP on terror-related charges linked to his time with the Islamic State should be a stern reminder to Canadians that the old foe of Islamic extremism hides beneath current tensions. The RCMP say there are 190 Canadians linked to Islamic terror groups. Sixty have returned to Canada. The most notorious organization, Islamic State, butchered its way across nations and conquered sizable territory and resources.

We should never forget that these groups intend us harm. ISIS, more than any other, seduced many individuals into committing crimes for them – many of these persons were never officially linked to Islamic State. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is right to counsel Ottawa to never allow the repatriation of ISIS fighters back into this country. Last month, Human Rights Watch accused Canada of abandoning some of these people inside prison camps variously controlled by the Kurds and the Turks.

The problem of terrorist repatriation is a global one. The Kurds and the Turks, by turns, have demanded their return and an end to their unwanted global responsibility. Britain’s appellate court has been lambasted by critics for allowing its former citizen, dubbed the Jihadi Bride, an ISIS member, to return home. Shamima Begum left Britain for Syria and stayed with the terror group for three years. Now sitting inside a refugee camp, she apparently begged to be repatriated. Britain’s Conservative MPs argue her return sets a dangerous precedent. They are correct in saying so.

Global, indeed Middle Eastern, security has always depended on a powerful alliance between the U.S, Israel, and a few Arab nations. States like Egypt and Jordan share military and economic partnerships with Israel. The American withdrawal from parts of the Middle East like Syria was a mistake. They enabled the Taliban to rebound and Hezbollah to resume attacking Israel. The China-Iran alliance could enable the tracking of Western forces. 

Christopher Mansour
Barrie, ON

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Opinion

LETTER: There won’t be any accountability for WE in this Canada

A reader says that Canadians shouldn’t hold their breath that any accountability will come in the wake of the growing WE Scandal.

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The Kielburger brothers are like the prime minister; they think most people would believe the WE charity along with the founders wouldn’t benefit from administering a near $1 billion dollar program. The Conservative’s have called for a RCMP investigation of WE and Trudeau’s involvement. I can’t see that happening.

Brenda Lucki, the RCMP Commissioner in the SNC-L affair, could have applied to the courts for release of cabinet documents, but she chose to hide behind the PM’s cabinets privilege. The Ethics Commissioner has no teeth to impose any real penalty on these ministers who again, abuse Canadian finances. This is a failed federation, lead by a corrupt PM and finance minister along with the PMO that has its head in the sand.

On another point.

WEXIT is sounding better, every day, for Albertans, but I don’t think Premier Kenney had any intention of taking the next step to give Albertans a say. Premier Kenney changed his tune after he was elected to the Premiership. I am not impressed with him as he was all fire and brimstone prior to the election, but now I feel he is just another politician who pulled a bait and switch on his real intensions. To bad I didn’t hear him tell Albertans that he was a committed Federalist prior to saying he was fighting for Alberta. I would have changed my vote for sure. 

Steven Ruthven
Calgary, AB 

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Opinion

BARNES: Time to replace the RCMP with an Alberta force

Drew Barnes writes that Alberta should immediately begin the process of creating its own police force.

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Guest opinion column from Drew Barnes, MLA

In the Fair Deal Panel report, it was recommended that Alberta create its own police force. It is what we heard loud and clear from Albertans across the province. It is imperative, now more than ever with the overreaching policies of Ottawa, that we have control over policing in our own land. Premier Kenney – in the government’s response – has committed to conducting a further analysis of the panel recommendation to move to an Alberta Provincial Police. This analysis will support why we should have our own police force that is overseen by a directly elected Alberta Chief of Police. An Alberta Provincial Police force is a constitutional right that we have, and it should be exercised. 

Historically, Alberta had its own police force from 1917 to 1932. During that period, Alberta saw an increase in arrest rate and conviction, and a decrease in movement into Alberta by those with criminal intent. The reason for this increase has been attributed to the institutional difference in focus and priorities of a national vs an Alberta entity. 

This history serves to underscore why we need a police force that is familiar with the Alberta experience. One of the issues the RCMP have that makes it difficult for them to effectively police the province is the constant in-and-out of its members in communities, which nullifies the benefits that come with being familiar with an area and its particular challenges. An officer raised in Jasper, Ontario will be less familiar with the issues and concerns of Jasper, Alberta, than an Albertan. While some RCMP recruits may be from Alberta and may land a position in Alberta, that is too often not how it works. The lack of familiarity with community, and short-term posting protocol of the RCMP is an ongoing, acknowledged hinderance, for both the officers and the community.

The costs to operate the RCMP increase at a higher rate than provincially run police forces. A study comparing these costs found that over the span of eight years, the cost of operating RCMP detachments rose an average of $44.50 per capita. The costs for the Ontario Provincial Police force rose only $37.10 per capita on average during the same period.

We can cancel the contract with the federal government and the RCMP with two years notice. Providing notice that we will cancel the contract can take place as early as March 31, 2021. This would allow us to terminate the contract as of March 31, 2023 at no cost. Within that two-year gap, we can work out the details, such as settling accounts over buildings and equipment, which the current contract provides a road map for.

As a province, we even have a basic template in place that make this easier. The Alberta Sheriffs already perform many police duties in our province with 950 sworn members and 16 stations. We would simply need to look at expanding them into the areas that presently utilize RCMP service. 

The RCMP is a proud and iconic symbol of Canada, made up of proud, hardworking members from across Canada, however, it is time for Alberta to consider taking back it’s policing, to create local ownership, accountability, and to hire Albertans to police Alberta. Albertans should determine their own policing priorities based on their particular needs. It is time to bring back the Alberta Provincial Police.

Drew Barnes is the UCP MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat

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