Is Deterred Speech Free?

August 7th, 2008

Ezra Levant is all over the pages of the National Post today, as the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission rejected the Danish cartoon complaint against the Western Standard magazine. To Levant this was a freedom of speech issue, and rejected claim or no, he believes freedom of speech lost:

This censor approved what I wrote. His decision is not that I have freedom of speech. His decision is that I have his approval. I’m not interested in his approval. The only test of free speech is if I can write what he disapproves of with impunity. That’s what freedom of speech is, to piss off some second-rate bureaucrat like Pardeep Gundara and know that you have the right to do so, because you’re in Canada, not Saudi Arabia.

I’m frankly usually unimpressed with many people who think their free speech has been trampled on : The Internet is full of grieved morons who believe someone asking them to watch their language in a public chat room is speech oppression; or Australians who know their firsts amendment rights and how they apply to the internet. No, just because Ezra says his speech was limited does not mean it was.

However, the complainants representative, a director with the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities, Yasmeen Nizam, appears to support Levant’s argument:

Obviously we didn’t want this to continue, so [another goal was] perhaps to discourage people from further maligning our prophet and our religion…. We wanted this to have a deterrent effect.

Discourage people from maligning their prophet and religion and have a deterrent effect. And how might they do that:

I never wanted someone’s freedom of speech curtailed. I always wanted to sit down, with some third party, for mediation, and have a discussion

The question is, if a you can get a government agency to sit down and “mediate” a “discussion” about somebody maligning your prophet and religion to create a deterrent effect, how are you not curtailing that person’s freedom of speech? The answer is, as Levant argues here, that’s exactly what you are doing. And he is right.

free speech, freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy, Go Ezra Go

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