One last post about the stunning Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling that called Richard Warman's conduct "disappointing and disturbing", for his hundreds of anti-Semitic, anti-black and anti-gay comments posted through his membership in two neo-Nazi websites.
(Whenever I write that sentence, I just have to stop and shake my head -- it's unfathomable to me that such filthy conduct could have been approved and in fact financed by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Not just when Warman was an employee there but also after he left, in the form of paying his expenses for his complaints, as Jennifer Lynch, the CHRC's chief commissar, has inexplicably chosen to do.)
Richard Warman has a strange relationship with the press. He refuses to be interviewed by media that he deems to be not sufficiently supportive of his mission -- so, for example, he refuses to be interviewed by the National Post's Joseph Brean, and he refused to be interviewed by the Western Standard magazine when we first wrote about him in 2004. But he takes great care to groom reporters he deems to be sympathetic -- such as Randy Richmond at the London Free Press.
And while Richmond seems to fit Churchill's definition of a Warman fanatic -- someone who can't change his mind and won't change the subject -- other reporters on Warman's beat have become decidedly less stenographic in their coverage of him.
Kirk Makin's coverage of Warman's disgrace in the Globe and Mail was fairly balanced -- quite a departure from Makin's cheerleading in the past. It gave Warman the last word, and printed his excuses, but the breakthrough was that his story contained excerpts of Warman's bigoted remarks, and the headline itself was negative.
I've already linked to Joseph Brean's story in the Post, which also contained lengthy excerpts of Warman's bigoted posts. Again, this is a dramatic breakthrough: Warman loves the narrative of him being a Nazi-hunter. Reports that he is in fact a Nazi propagandist himself destroy his carefully crafted veneer. I don't think that even Bernie "Burny" Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress could get away with giving him a "human rights" award now.
But the most dramatic about-face from a reporter who has been covering Warman for years has to be Don Butler of the Ottawa Citizen, Warman's home-town newspaper of record.
Here's an enormous love letter to Warman written by Butler in 2007, entitled "One man's war on Internet hate". That's a headline that could really never be written again.
Here's another story by Butler, written in the middle of 2008, entitled "Man wins rights case against B.C. neo-Nazi". It's decidedly more neutral, but Warman is still depicted as the hero -- and the word "Nazi" is reserved for Warman's target.
But now look at Butler. On Monday, his article in the Citizen, on page A3, was headlined "Lawyer crossed the line by posting on neo-Nazi website, tribunal rules". That's pretty damning. And the "deck", or sub-headline was: "Ottawa man says he posed as racist to gather information". That's meant as the other side of the story -- Warman's excuse. It's laughably lame.
Here are some excerpts from the devastating article that followed:
The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has rebuked a prominent Ottawa anti-hate campaigner, saying tactics he used while gathering evidence for two human rights complaints could actually have encouraged more online hate messages.
...in his decision, Lustig criticized Warman for posting to forums run by neo-Nazi websites under such pseudonyms as "Axetogrind" and "Pogue Mahone." Warman's messages, he said, "could have precipitated further hate messages in response."
...In one posting, Warman reposted a complaint from Ouwendyk that Canada's justice minister, Irwin Cotler, was Jewish, appending the message: "Did you know we had an election and the new cabinet hasn't been named yet? We still have scum in government but we have to wait and see which scum goes where."
In another, he responded to a message from U.S. neo-Nazi leader Jeff Schoep, writing: "Keep up the good work Commander Schoep!"
...Lustig said there was no "acceptable reason" for Warman to post the messages "since there appears to be ample easily obtained messages on these sites available without his involvement."
He noted that Warman has won accolades for his efforts in combatting online hate. But he called his behaviour in this case "disappointing and disturbing. It diminishes his credibility."
As a result, Lustig declined Warman's request to impose fines and compensation totalling $13,500 on the London, Ont.-based Northern Alliance, which appears to have been inactive in recent years.
Versions of Butler's article ran in the Edmonton Journal, Windsor Star, Victoria Times-Colonist and Nanaimo Daily News, and I thought I saw it in the Calgary Herald. The headlines in each of those cities were just as tough, such as "Crusader rebuked" in the Journal.
In two years, Richard Warman's most reliable hagiographers in the media have changed and become chroniclers of his misbehaviour. That is a very difficult thing to achieve, but Warman's conduct was so odious, so contrary to the myth he was peddling, that even those who must have genuinely admired him before, can no longer avert their eyes from his destructive, hypocritical tactics.
There were always two sides to Richard Warman. The public side was the hero -- the brave crusader taking on the vilest anti-Semites. He was a self-promoter, to be sure, but his relentlessness and sheer number of "wins" would impress anyone who feared "hate speech".
But there was a secret side to Warman -- the thin-skinned censor, the secret member of Nazi organizations, the man who would log onto the Internet in a Nazi persona and write literally hundreds of filthy messages, perhaps thousands, over the course of years. He said it was all for the cause -- but the Tribunal rejected that absurd argument. Warman surely spewed as much venom as any of those he was trying to hunt.
Public Warman tried hard to keep his allies in the media away from Secret Warman. If anyone criticized him too pointedly, he would sue them, or at least threaten to do so. That bullying approach extended even to libraries from Ontario to British Columbia. I don't think that reporters like Butler or Makin would have been quite as loving towards Warman over the years had they known the true extent of his bullying, censoring ways.
I don't disrespect Makin or Butler, though I think they could have done more due diligence on their hero before the CHRT forced it in front of their noses. I think they truly thought they were trumpeting the successes of a noble human rights activist, a younger Alan Borovoy perhaps. It's to their credit that when more and more facts kept intruding on that lovely theory, that they didn't throw out the facts -- they threw out the theory, Butler especially.
That's denormalization. It's not defamation, though Warman thinks it is. It's the facts being brought to light about Warman's true reputation -- the one he has, not just the one he wants.
Warman will surely be a footnote in history -- though for a few dozen Canadians, he has been an illiberal, conniving terror. A man with Warman's obvious energy and dedication could have been a successful man. With a working knowledge of French and a law degree, he could have amounted to something in Ottawa. But he became that which he despised: a sneaky fountain of hate speech, leading a double life.
I don't know what will become of him. I'm sure he'll still try to file hate speech complaints with the CHRC, but I would be truly stunned if they accepted them -- remember, the CHRC abandoned the Warman v. Ouwendyk case earlier this year, refusing to have anything more to do with Warman's complaint. They're still fighting alongside him in Warman v. Lemire, but that's probably because of Lemire's constitutional challenge to the law itself.
Perhaps Warman will finish his days as he is now: an in-house human rights interrogator within the bosom of the Department of National Defence. Or perhaps his unbecoming conduct, as confirmed by the CHRT, will make him unfit to continue in that sensitive role, in the eyes of DND. Who knows?
But he's not going gracefully. Instead of accepting the CHRT's rebuke with contrition, he is defiant. He told Butler that the CHRT's findings that Warman's Nazi postings risked spreading hatred were "pure supposition. There was no evidence of that having transpired whatsoever." Of course, there was plenty of evidence and the CHRT saw it: other neo-Nazis chimed in and echoed Warman's racist posts. He was whipping them up. That's exactly what section 13, the censorship provision of the Canadian Human Rights Act, was designed to stop.
The most ridiculous comment by Warman was in response to the CHRT's repeated, bitter condemnation of him and his conduct. Warman told Makin: "Constructive criticism about how to improve human-rights work is always welcome, and I read Mr. Lustig's suggestions with interest."
But Lustig (the CHRT chair who issued the ruling) wasn't making "suggestions". He's not in the suggestions business. He's in the finding of fact business, and the issuing of orders business. And he determined that it was a fact that Warman had conducted himself in a disgraceful way, and he expressly refused to issue any financial penalties against Warman's targets as a result of that.
For years, Warman has cherished every word from the CHRT as the gospel, and why not? They lauded him as a hero, and granted him tens of thousands of dollars -- tax free -- in bounties from his targets. Imagine Warman's reaction had one of his targets said in response to a condemnation by the CHRT, "thanks for the interesting suggestions. I'll file that where it belongs." Warman would have run to the federal court demanding a contempt order. But now that Warman himself has been rebuked by his favourite tribunal, he's content to call its findings mere "suggestions". What a sad way to end.