Noam Chomsky: Canada's section 13 "outrageous", "pure hypocrisy",
My friend Peter Jaworski at the Western Standard has a thoughtful interview with Noam Chomsky (who calls himself a "libertarian socialist"). Here's their exchange about section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, the censorship provision:
PJ: Speaking of censorship, what do make of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and section 13(1) in particular? Here's that section:
13. (1) It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically or to cause to be so communicated, repeatedly, in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.
I wonder if you have any thoughts on this particular section.
NC: I think it's outrageous, like the comparable European laws. It's also pure hypocrisy. If it were applied the media and journals would be shut down. They don't expose current enemies of the state to hatred or contempt?
PJ: About Canada's human rights act, you wrote: "I think it's outrageous, like the comparable European laws. It's also pure hypocrisy. If it were applied the media and journals would be shut down. They don't expose current enemies of the state to hatred or contempt?"
That last part may not be applicable in this case.
The law is specific about what groups cannot be exposed to hatred or contempt. Under the CHRA, you can't expose a person to hatred or contempt on the basis of their race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, pardoned criminal conviction (http://www.chrc-ccdp.ca/
Maybe you could offer a bit of clarification about what you mean by "They don't expose current enemies of the state to hatred or contempt?"
NC: The provision of law that you sent me referred to "persons," not just a person. Hence groups. I think that was the legal basis for barring Rushdie's Satanic Verses briefly, until it was overturned. There are also other mechanisms, like the devious argument used to ban Zundel on grounds of incitement of race hatred that made him a security threat.
The media and journals are constantly exposing Arabs to hatred and contempt. And that's been consistent practice for years with regard to enemies of the state.
Chomsky drives me crazy. He makes Ralph Nader look like a right winger. But that's why I love him on section 13 -- because he's incontrovertible proof that the censorship provisions used by the Canadian Human Rights Commission are offensive to anyone on the political spectrum -- not just those on the right. As I've said before, the idea of censorship is anathema to anyone who believes in the idea of a spectrum of ideas at all, anyone who believes in the right to disagree. I'm constantly encouraged by liberals and left-wingers who still understand that -- and who are not distracted by the fact that, for the moment, the CHRC tends to pick on conservatives and Christians. Chomsky knows that the precedent used against conservatives can -- and will -- be used against liberals, too.
Last month, when I was on the free speech panel in Halifax, Noa Mendelsohn Aviv preceded me. She made a forceful case for freedom of speech, but she littered her remarks with anti-George Bush barbs. Usually, that makes me cringe. But in this case, I loved it -- I wish she had been wearing an Obama t-shirt. Because that's the point here: being for freedom of speech is not about being for freedom of only a certain kind of speech. It's for all speech. And having a lefty have at it -- and then me, on the right, batting clean-up -- was an effective demonstration of that.
It's why I say -- to the best of my ability! -- that the battle against section 13 in Parliament is (and must be) a bi-partisan affair. Luckily, we have good men like Keith Martin of the Liberals to help hold up that end of the spectrum in this debate.