The Discerning Texan
-- Edmund Burke
Monday, January 21, 2008
The Assaults on Speech (by Thought Police) are alive and well in Canada
A few days ago, I was interrogated for 90 minutes by Shirlene McGovern, an officer of the government of Alberta. I have been accused of hurting people's feelings because, two years ago, I published the Danish cartoons of Mohammed in the Western Standard magazine.
Ms. McGovern's business card said she was a "Human Rights Officer." What a perfectly Orwellian title.
Early in her interrogation, she said "I always ask people … what was your intent and purpose of your article?"
It wasn't even a question about what we had published in the magazine. It was a question about my private thoughts. I asked her why my private feelings were of interest to the government. She said, very calmly, that they would be a factor taken into account by the government in determining whether or not I was guilty.
Officer McGovern said it as calmly as if I had asked her what time it was.
When she's doing government interrogations, she always asks people about their thoughts.
It was so banal, so routine. When she walked in, she seemed happy. With a smile, she reached out her hand to shake mine. I refused — to me, nothing could have been more incongruous. Would I warmly greet a police officer who arrested me as a suspect in a crime? Then why should I do so for a thought crime? This was not normal; I would not normalize it with the pleasantries of polite society.
This was not a high-school debating tournament where Human Rights Officer McGovern and I were equals, enjoying a shared interest in politics and publishing. I was there because I was compelled to be there by the government, and if I answered Officer McGovern's political questions unsatisfactorily, the government could fine me thousands of dollars and order me to publicly apologize for holding the wrong views.
I told her that the complaint process itself was a punishment. Even if I was eventually acquitted, I would still lose — hundreds of hours, and tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills. That's not an accident, that's one of the tools of these commissions. Every journalist in the country has been taught a lesson: Censor yourself now, or be put through a costly wringer. I said all this and then Officer McGovern replied, "You're entitled to your opinions, that's for sure."
But that's not for sure, is it? We're only entitled to our opinions now if they don't offend some very easily offended people.
One of the complainants against me is someone I would describe as a radical Muslim imam, Syed Soharwardy. He grew up in the madrassas of Pakistan and he lectures on the Saudi circuit. He advocates sharia law for all countries, including Canada. His website is rife with Islamic supremacism — offensive to many Canadian Jews, gentiles, women and gays. But his sensitivities — his Saudi-Pakistani values — have been offended by me.
And so now the secular government of Alberta is enforcing his fatwa against the cartoons.
It's the same for Mohamed Elmasry, the complainant against Maclean's magazine for publishing an excerpt from Mark Steyn's book, America Alone. Egyptian-born Elmasry has publicly said that any adult Jew in Israel is a legitimate target for a terrorist attack, a grossly offensive statement.
Both the Canadian and B.C. Human Rights Commissions are now hearing his complaints against Maclean's.
Read the rest of this stunning story here.
For me 1984 is a nightmarish allegory of a society which has already adopted Stalinst Socialism. But for an even more gripping illustration of how a society gets to that point in the first place, I find Animal Farm to be far superior. I would dare any American: just try reading Animal Farm today and not relating it to Democrats, their class warfare, and their "identity politics". I am grateful to my English teachers in high school AND college; I think faculties are less likely to be exposing their little Stalins in waiting to that one these days--it goes against the PC grain. But I highly recommend both for any parent's summer reading list for their kids... it had a profound effect on me, along with The Fountainhead... You can buy both Animal Farm and 1984 together in one hardbound volume here (which includes a nice introduction by Christopher Hitchens...).