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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

NAVARRO-GÉNIE: The Lockdown failed our most vulnerable

In the long-term, a variety of small-scale alternatives that uphold the dignity of residents as a high priority is the best way to atone for the current failures.

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The COVID-19 lockdown sought to protect the healthcare system and the most vulnerable. Health authorities quite early identified that the elderly and those with chronic conditions were most vulnerable. 

Many leaders reminded us that among those most at risk were members of the Greatest Generation, the Canadian men and women who defeated the Nazi scourge. They sacrificed much to keep us from tyranny, and this was our turn to protect them, we were told. 

The virus is far from extinguished and there could still be subsequent waves, so final assessments of the COVID-19 lockdown will have to wait. But now that the infection has partially slowed down and restrictions are beginning to loosen, let’s acknowledge with honesty that we failed the most vulnerable so we can begin to find effective solutions. 

Quebec officials won’t stop boasting they have a lower fatality rate than some Western countries, as if comparing with Belgium (which has the worst death record among Western countries) is better than comparing Quebec with Ontario or BC. Political spin seeking to distract from the disaster in care centers for the elderly will solve nothing. The disaster has been roughly spread out in Canada, but is most prevalent in Central-Eastern Canada. 

The numbers show how dreadful things are. About 4 out of 5 Canadian COVID-19 victims (double that of the United States) lived in a long-term facility. From the 5 million Canadians over age 65, about 400,000 live in long-term facilities. Current Canadian figures (May 28) show a national death rate of less than 0.02 per cent. But it increases 75 times to roughly 1.5 percent when looking at deaths among seniors. And for more precision, when we isolate the number of seniors living in care centres, the death rate jumps up 12 times to 17.5 per cent (almost the general death rate in Belgium). In some centres, every resident was infected and about 1 in 5 were fatally infected. 

A death rate for the vulnerable that is 875 times greater than the general population’s is appalling. The terrible conditions plaguing some centres are only indirectly connected to the failure to protect the vulnerable. But it is the industrial warehousing model itself that must be questioned. 

The atrocious infection/death rates demonstrate the high risk among concentrated populations, but the risk precedes and does not originate with the mismanagement and abuses now documented in the Canadian Forces reports for Ontario and Quebec. To find appropriate solutions, the question of abuses needs to be separated from the inherent risk in centralization and concentration. 

We need more than platitudes to solve this complex issue. The prime minister’s proposed solution is to throw money at it, and there is talk of imposing federal standards. Alberta and Saskatchewan must resist Ottawa’s desire to yet again to encroach on provincial jurisdiction. Undoubtedly, people in these facilities need better pay and better work conditions, but Albertans would deceive themselves in accepting federal money as a solution. 

However, the heart of it is that elderly people choose – and some have no other option but – to live in near-industrial human warehouses. The options to place care facilities under federal regulation, installing better protocols, better ventilation, with more and better paid staff will not fully mitigate the massive risk of warehousing people in large numbers. As long these care factories exist, disaster will follow when infectious pathogens enter them.

Nor will tighter constraints inside such centres to prevent high death rates during pandemics improve the quality of life for residents. On the contrary, they will erode it. 

And whatever the potential solutions, governments should not take over. That would create greater problems because bureaucracy is the poorest guardian of human dignity. Besides, the public is now wiser and many would rather succumb to a virus than be subjected to isolating oppression, robbed of all indignity during one’s last days.

That leaves us with a crucial opportunity to phase out the warehousing as the demand for long-term care spaces triples over the next couple of decades. Would-be users should demand better alternatives and push the market to offer better and more varied choices. Public policy can provide incentives (not subsidies) for small-scale alternatives, away from industrial models. Sweden and Denmark offer viable and adaptable examples, variants of which were piloted in Alberta in the mid-90s.

In the shortest term, there needs to be safer solutions in the event of a COVID-19 second wave. But long-term, a variety of small-scale alternatives that uphold the dignity of residents as a high priority is the best way to atone for the current failures. 

Marco Navarro-Génie is a Columnist for the Western Standard, President of the Haultain Research Institute, and a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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Opinion

LETTER: Western Standard is wrong to call vandals “bigots”

You are just like the lamestream news: Go for the Headline not the substance.

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RE: Bigots deface French signs in historic Calgary neighbourhood

Editors note: The following Letter to the Editor has been published as it was received and has not been edited for spelling or grammar

No, I do not condone this childish behavior.

Why the term “Bigots”? When in our own country the very same fench people that we are appeasing have LAWS in their OWN Province that forbade English even being on any of thier signs. Nobody calls them bigots, or anything else for that matter. Yet you fail to mention that for balance in your article against the Bigots terminology.No, I do not condoe this vandelism, it is stupid and just looking for attention, Makes me wonder if a Franco-phone or someone, anyone else, got bored  and decided to ignight a contoversy. I do not know and NEITHER DO YOU.  You went with Bigot not just in the article but as the first word of your Headline. So much for balance reporting eh!?Of cours we ALBERTANS are “committed to ensuring the French language and culture flourish in Alberta. That is reduntant for your article as we have right in our own beautiful city an excellent French Immersion school funded by Alberta Taxpayers. 

I thought as a Conservative news site I would see more Conservatism, Nope you are just like the lamestream news: Go for the Headline not the substance. 

Plus I read your quick Bio before sending this email and am disappointed that you are/were part of the “mainstram media” for decades.  You may think you are a free thinker, but your paychecks tell a different story. I quite reading the Calgary Sun when I realized that they were getting their orders of what to write in Calgary from Toronto. 

Ray Jeffrey

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Opinion

ROYER: Alberta & Saskatchewan have got enemies, but more friends than we might think

3-in-10 Quebecers views their province as getting a raw deal in confederation.

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Albertans are seeking solutions to the mounting difficulties. Policies of the federal government hurt our economy and we seem to have few friends. However, Alberta is viewed more positively in most of Canada than the media portrays. That positive view of the province may mean that it can lead the country to a much needed change of direction.

Alberta champions change like nowhere else. It comes together, throws out the old and builds something new.  Homegrown solutions from new parties such as the United Farmers of Alberta, the Social Credit, the Progressives, the CCF and Reform all had roots in the province. 

Political reform – unconstrained by old partisanship – is part of Alberta’s DNA and much of the country is poised to listen

Saskatchewan, BC, Ontario and the Atlantic Provinces all chose Alberta as the province most friendly to their own in a recent Angus Reid survey (Fractured Federation, Jan 2019). Manitoba ranked Alberta close behind Saskatchewan. 

Alberta was seen by respondents in each of these provinces plus Manitoba as the province – other than their own – that contributes the most and benefits the least in confederation. 

Rather than Alberta, it is Quebec that is seen in English Canada as the outlier.  None of those provinces thought Quebec to be close or friendly toward it. Ontario was the highest where only 1-in-10 respondents see Quebec as a friend. In Alberta, that response was an astonishing 1-in-100.  

In fact, significant majorities in all English provinces but BC, view Quebec as unfriendly toward their province. BC was just under a majority with 4-in-10 seeing Quebec as hostile. 

Only 3-in-100 in the nine English provinces saw Quebec getting a raw deal. Significant majorities in those provinces thought that Quebec receives the most advantage from confederation.  

Quebec on the other hand, sees things a bit differently. To Quebec, Alberta is deemed the antagonist. A majority of Quebecers see Alberta as being unfriendly to it. No other province is considered anywhere near as unfriendly. And they do not see that Alberta is over-contributing. 

3-in-10 Quebecers views their province as getting a raw deal in confederation. No other is close. 

The country is of two very distinct perspectives. Nine provinces view Quebec as unfriendly, isolated and receiving disproportionate benefits from confederation, while Alberta is friendly and gets a raw deal. Quebec however views Alberta as an adversary and itself as getting the worst deal. The media and the national government generally assume the perspective of Quebec. Why?

There are two simple reasons; votes from Quebec are thought to largely determine electoral success and the national political structure leans in its direction. Both of these can and should change.

The nine other provinces are not divided. They don’t see Alberta as the antagonist. They see the excess contribution that Alberta makes. They see an isolated, unfriendly Quebec receiving undue preference and benefit. 

The chance to champion broad and positive political change is in Alberta’s court. There is more sympathy waiting in the country than the media and the political elite would lead us to believe. 

Alberta can propose a renewed country where all people are treated fairly; all voices are heard equally. We can offer a strong, unified country with one economy, free and open internal borders and a Canada first policy. We can propose a cohesive nation with wealth and power enough to stand up to China, and an increasingly xenophobic United States. 

It is possible to build a prosperous, united and independent Canada. If that isn’t acceptable, then Alberta needs to go its own way with whatever friends share its vision.

Randy Royer is a Columnist for the Western Standard, a Calgary businessman, and the author of ‘Alberta Doesn’t Fit.’

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