The great barrister, Jonathan Rosenthal
Today I was invited on CTV's Newsnet to debate a startling story about a Winnipeg mom who had her child seized by the government, because she went to school with a swastika drawn on her arm.
I was asked to speak to the freedom of speech/parents' rights point of view; Jonathan Rosenthal was asked to promote the state's right to seize the child.
I thought we started off okay; I gave a minute-long argument, in which I said I disagree with white supremacists, but having odious political views is neither a crime in itself, nor a legal reason to break up families.
Rosenthal came back with a denunciation of white supremacism. Sure -- no disagreement from me, there. But then Rosenthal went a little screwy -- bringing my own family into it. Weird.
He said he thought my wife ought to recommend that I take "counselling". For disagreeing with him!
I admit I was surprised. I had Googled Rosenthal, and read his vanity entry on Wikipedia -- I thought I'd be up against a thoughtful debater. But besides showing his moral righteousness by denouncing swastikas ("an emblem of hate") he had nothing but ad hominem attacks. Telling me I was unfit to be a parent, and needed counselling, because I disgreed with him?
And then I remembered his Wikipedia entry: he lectures at Osgoode Hall Law School, home of Khurrum Awan and the other anti-free-speech sock puppets who have fronted Mohamed Elmasry's censorship suit against Maclean's magazine. Rosenthal's paucity of arguments all makes sense to me now.
I shot back a bit myself, saying that in Canada, everyone has the right to have children, we don't need a license -- even pompous, arrogant, liberal Toronto lawyers have the right to be dads! It wasn't my prettiest debate. But my point stands: if we have a political test for the state to break up parents, no-one is safe.
Rosenthal ranted a bit about the meaning of a swastika. I agree, it is a powerful symbol of an evil ideology. But so is the hammer and sickle, under whose flag many times more people have been murdered, in Russia, China and elsewhere. And the crescent moon, flown by radical Islamists in governments and terrorist groups -- has been used as a symbol of oppression, too. Is it only Rosenthal's enemies who will be punished? He doesn't much like white supremacists -- no arguments here. But how about Black power parents? Or radical Islamists? (I admit I used the example of pompous liberal Toronto lawyers one or two times too often. So often, in fact, Rosenthal repeated the words himself.)
Oh well. It was just awful. I admit I was caught off guard a bit -- without provocation, the little twerp laid into my family. I responded by calling him disgusting. I should have just let him collapse under his own weight.
It felt worse than it looked, though; watching the show, I actually made more points than I recalled immediately after doing the show, when all I could think about was what an intellectually shallow man I had met, and how he got under my skin a bit more than I ought to have let him do.
Still, I thought I cleaned his clock. But I should watch out -- any lawyer who believes in censorship and punishing his political opponents with state-sanctioned kidnapping is a perfect candidate for a human rights commission. I'm sure we haven't heard the last from this little tyrant.
If Rosenthal lost, I didn't exactly win. The prize -- for keeping her professionalism and composure between two blowhards -- goes to Jacqueline Milczarek.
What do you think -- of the issue, and of the debate itself?
P.S. That's a cowboy shirt, by the way, for Stampede.