"I don't debate liars"
NOTE: I've got to run to a meeting now, but I thought I'd put up a quick post about my speech today. I'll come back to edit and improve this later. But for now, here are my first thoughts:
I enjoyed my speech to the Canadian Jewish Civil Rights Association. So did many of the attendees, including other bloggers, commenters and donors to my legal defence. They obviously were supportive to begin with There were also a few undecideds; at the very least I gave them some new ideas to think about. And then there were a few hard-core censorship types there. Or at least one -- Leo Adler of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
I talked about the few Jewish experiments in censorship, and how each of them ended badly -- Caiaphas the High Priest censoring Jesus; Jewish participation in building Soviet Communism that then devoured them; and then Jewish use of Weimar Germany's censorship laws that were later deployed with gusto by Adolf Hitler.
Other than those examples, I really couldn't think of any Jewish censorship, because Jews, historically, have been victims of censorship, not perpetrators of it -- only natural, given that Jews have been a perpetual minority for two millennia.
I talked about section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and how it is impossible to defend against. I talked about its bizarre "pre-crime" nature; about its attempt to regulate emotions like "hatred and contempt". I talked about how the Canadian Human Rights Commission itself propagates hate on the Internet, going online in drag as neo-Nazis, spewing bigoted venom.
It was a good, old-fashioned rant. And then came the questions.
There were some good ones; Michael Teper asked what would happen if human rights complaints were filed against Jewish rabbis who taught a Torah that called for homosexuality to be punished with stoning. It was a good question -- because that's pretty much what got Alberta's Rev. Stephen Boissoin a lifetime speech ban on the subject, courtesy of Alberta's HRC. And then there were some other good points, too.
I had just finished answering a question by referring to a recent meeting of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and how that group's supporters are not in favour of censorship, when Leo Adler himself, the boss of Canada's SWC, came to the microphone.
Not surprisingly, Adler didn't really have a question. That's fine; but it just wasn't the right forum for a debate. I had just given a 45-minute rip-snortin' assault on human rights commissions, and telling Jews not to use Nazi-like tactics of book-burnings against our enemies, but to take the approach recommended by most of Canada's gay lobby, namely to oppose censorship, even of offensive anti-gay comments. You just can't rebut that in a 30-second comment.
Adler went on for a few minutes, and I interjected a bit here and there. I think that some in the crowd were sympathetic to him, merely because I had used his organization as an example of what not to do for much of my speech. But taking over the Q & A session just wasn't the right forum.
I told him I'd debate him in a proper debate anytime, anywhere -- and I meant it.
Adler disputed that the censorship campaign of the HRCs was a product of what I call "Official Jews". He didn't like it much when I listed all of the Jewish lawyers in the room at the Warman v. Lemire hearing, and pointed out that non-Jewish interveners like the Canadian Constitution Foundation were refused standing (as was the Civil Liberties Association), both of whom happen to be against censorship.
Adler pointed out that the tribunal chair, Athanasios Hadjis is not Jewish. True enough, I pointed out -- but I noted that Hadjis had entered into a "coalition" with the Canadian Jewish Congress in his political life before he became an HRC "judge". That little skirmish really went nowhere.
But then Adler made my point for me, writ large: he noted that when the SWC started fighting against Internet hate, there was just one anti-Semitic website, and that now there are 8,000 of them. I think Adler was trying to prove just how big of a problem that is (though, in a world with a billion web pages, I'm not particularly alarmed). But I pointed out it did the opposite: if, despite destroying our fundamental freedom of speech, and building a jurisprudence of censorship that anti-Semites like Mohamed Elmasry are now using against Jews, Adler and company haven't been able to stop the proliferation of anti-Semitism on the Internet, wasn't that proof of his own failure?
I called Adler and his fellow "Official Jews" the super-agents who turned nobodies like Jim Keegstra and David Ahenakew and Ernst Zundel into international superstars. I pointed out that Weimar Germany's anti-hate laws didn't work either -- other than to give Hitler a head start when he took over. I just thought that summed it up perfectly: a man who claims Internet hate has increased 8,000-fold on his watch, but keep swearing by his high-tech book burning.
Adler sat down after a while, and I told him I'd love to debate him. I didn't have a chance to speak to him directly. But Wendy told me that she overheard Adler talking with a colleague, saying he'd never agree to debate me. "I don't debate liars," was what she reported he said.
I'm not lying, actually. Everything I said in the debate was accurate -- from the Official Jewish involvement in the censorship business, to the CHRC's own role in disseminating hatred online, to the RCMP and Privacy Commissioner's investigations of their hacking, etc., etc. I've probably read 5,000 pages of human rights information in the past six month, from rulings to affidavits to news stories. I think I'm better-briefed than Adler himself, who presumably does other things for the SWC besides work their censorship file.
Like Ian Fine, the hapless senior counsel of the CHRC who debated me a few weeks ago in Edmonton, I think Adler genuinely doesn't know just how rotten the CHRC and the whole "anti-hate" industry has become. Fine was clearly caught off guard in his debate against me, challenging me to "prove" one allegation after another, which I proceeded to do using his own CHRC documents. I think Adler would be even more poorly briefed.
But let's say I was lying. Why wouldn't Adler want to debate me? He obviously is concerned enough about me and my campaign to end his censorship to attend my speech. It must have been painful for him -- paying $20 for the pleasure of listening to me demolish the CHRC. Every time I cracked a joke that got a laugh, every time I made a point that got a collective "ah" or "hmm" must have irked him. But he sat through that punishment for the chance to try to challenge me.
He failed. The forum was wrong. But why wouldn't he like the proper forum? This very day the Toronto Star came out with a lead editorial calling for the abolition of the section 13 hate speech section. Clearly many people across the political spectrum are persuaded by the ideas expressed by me and others. Surely if we're all acting on lies, Adler has a duty to show the world the truth.
But he won't debate a liar.
And that's his problem.
I'm not a liar. But Holocaust deniers are. Many anti-Semites are, especially with their blood libels and other smears against Jews. Being a Jew -- or at least being a Jewish leader like Adler -- means debating liars all the time. It means taking the effort to show people the truth.
But Adler is above that -- whether it's a neo-Nazi, or little old me.
That's his problem. And, unlike the neo-Nazis he's censored in the past, I'm not going to shut up for him.
Ken McVay, the Gentile founder and operator of the wonderful Nizkor website, debates all Holocaust deniers he finds. He seeks them out -- and rebuts them with documents, facts, arguments and just plain hard work. That's less glamourous than getting the government to order your opponents silenced, but it works.
I don't know if Adler thinks he's above debating liars, or if he's too lazy, or if he's just not that good a debater, and he knows it.