The execrable reason we have hate speech laws today
I've written before about how in the 1960s the Canadian Jewish Congress spent its donors' money building up the "Canadian Nazi Party" as a straw man for them to later bravely knock down, with cameras rolling. It all made no sense if the CJC's goal was to make the country safer for Jews; it made a lot of sense if the CJC's goal was to usher in powerful new censorship laws for its own use, and to write dramatic fundraising letters -- in other words, to perpetuate the symbiosis between themselves as "victims" and fake Nazis as "victimizers".
I recently came across this 1965 video clip in the CBC's archives, from the old show This Hour has Seven Days. It doesn't involve the CJC fabricating a Nazi threat. It involves the CBC fabricating a Nazi threat. It was one of the strangest things I've ever seen.
The clip opens up with Larry Zolf interviewing a 20-year-old kid, dressed in a neat suit, standing on Yonge Street in Toronto handing out anti-Semitic pamphlets. The clip was fascinating -- not only how polite the kid was, but how polite bystanders were when they denounced him as "mentally defective". The purpose of the clip, and the entire segment, was to terrify Canadians about the neo-Nazi threat.
I've never seen such politeness; the crowd around him was so earnest in their defence of Jews and their debunking of his cockamamie theories. At one point, Zolf asked the kid if he supported Hitler and Mussolini, and the kid refused to answer, out of, I don't know, shyness maybe, or maybe a sense that he knew he was doing something wrong. His silence on that question, a mere 20 years after the end of the Second World War, was met with boos and groans all around. This kid wasn't convincing anybody. But you can't bring in hate speech laws without trumping up a threat, and the CBC was happy to play its part.
Next up was Carl Stern, a "Montreal psychiatrist" who testified about a disease he called "group hatred". Yes, this was a medical condition. Viewers were treated to the most bizarre theories dressed up as medical science; my favourite was Stern's declaration that people in the U.S. South who lynched Blacks had been found to be "full of very abnormal sexual conflict" themselves -- that's why they did it. Uh, thanks for the kooky theory, doc. I'm sticking with "they're racist". The 20-year-old kid came across as plain stupid. He looked like a well-dressed deer in headlights. But the 60-something "psychiatrist" was the truly scary one -- frankly his pseudo-medical analysis of politics struck me as the more Nazi-like presentation.
Justice Minister Guy Favreau was interviewed, describing his creation of the Cohen Committee, that later recommended Canada's censorious hate speech laws. What's so depressing is that both the hosts and Favreau himself acknowledged that there was no scientific basis to think that the "hate" they were hyping was spreading at all. So what -- governments crave power like drunks crave liquor.
The next clip is what truly caught my eye. It was an interview with John Ross Taylor. I knew little about Taylor other than what I read in his Wikipedia entry, and the hate speech case at the Supreme Court that bears his name. Taylor was the first Canadian convicted under the section 13 hate speech laws of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and he served nine months in jail for refusing to submit to it. His case went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1990, when Ross was 80 years old.
This interview of him was when he was 55. It was filmed in his country home. Like everyone else in the segment, he was dressed formally.
I listened to his interview and found myself, again, laughing. His incoherent philosophy was such a mish-mash of ideas -- mainly fascism, but with splashes of everything including direct democracy thrown in -- that I couldn't imagine anyone taking him seriously, other than perhaps the 20-year-old kid on Yonge Street.
Taylor talked about sending the Jews to... Madagascar. He said we should model our political leadership after moose leadership. Yes, moose: that two bull moose meet, and the stronger one beats the weaker one, and that's how we should select Canada's leader. This laughable man -- who presented himself with the graveness of Winston Churchill -- was the threat in the face of which our freedom of speech was destroyed by the government. This man -- who, fifteen years later, was reduced to handing out pamphlets asking people to call his phone answering machine, to hear a "hate" message about Jews -- was sentenced to nine months in jail for his ideas.
His ideas are nuts. No-one was persuaded by them. But he was the bullet in the gun fired by the CBC, the CJC and the Canadian government.
The segment ended with another quote from the nutty psychiatrist. "Dr." Stern said that, in his medical opinion, hate was a germ. That's right, a germ. And that people like Ross were able to "create epidemics". Unfortunately, said the CBC's expert, love wasn't a "germ", so we couldn't create a love epidemic.
I've never seen such a barrel full of baloney in my entire life. The whole show was one big set-up. From a lonely high school drop-out on Yonge Street and a lonely fascist in the woods of Ontario, the CBC claimed Canada was in a hate epidemic -- spread by germs. And the next decade, Favreau's committee had punched a hole in our freedom of speech. We're still digging out of their mess 40 years later.
The Jews weren't sent to madagascar. Anti-semitic protesters don't wear suits anymore. CBC reporters don't smoke pipes on TV sets while pouting. Though our politics have plenty of bull, there's not a lot of moose in them. And there aren't many fascists in power. That is, if you don't count the HRC censors themselves.