The author makes some good points about where censorship leads. The censor is never happy with just silencing one person, it always balloons and morphs into an out of control state bureaucracy. While censorship often starts with good intentions the end result is always the same! As the saying goes: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
GUEST COLUMN / The case of the vulgar comedian
Kevin Dale McKeown / Vancouver / Thursday, July 26, 2012
Geiger-Adams’s interpretation of the BC Human Rights Code turns a useful legal instrument into a dangerous piece of legislation that empowers a bureaucrat to extinguish a citizen’s freedom of expression and run roughshod over lives and livelihoods. Tribunal members play at being judge and jury, without the procedural constraints imposed on real-life judges and juries, and all at the expense of the taxpayer, operating, in short, a kangaroo court.
As Ezra Levant commented on the case, “Does Commissar Geiger-Adams, the chief kangaroo, have some special, official sense of humour? So if he laughs, it’s legal, but if he doesn’t, it’s not?”
Yes, rightwing windbag Ezra. In standing with others who value freedom of expression above all else, one finds oneself in some pretty dubious company. But that’s the whole point of freedom of expression. Rightwing windbags, leftwing activists, authors of pedophile literary fantasies and third-rate comedians all have protection under the Charter to say, write, draw and publish whatever they wish, or none of us does. Unless, of course, approved by Mr Geiger-Adams.
Geiger-Adams seems to stand with Canadian Human Rights Commission “hate speech investigator” Dean Steacy, who is on record as saying that “freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value.”
Remembering clearly a day that Vancouver police raided the offices of the Georgia Straight to cart off boxes of comic books as evidence in an obscenity trial, I have a keen sense of where this sort of thing can lead.
To my mind, one of the most chilling turns of phrase, which appears often in writings on these topics, is “legitimate free speech.” The implication is that there is an authority that can be turned to to arbitrate on the legitimacy of someone’s expression of opinion.
Apparently in BC that authority is Geiger-Adams.
There is a school of thought, in which I am enrolled, that isn’t at all convinced that we should be giving unelected citizens with no judiciary experience the authority to rule on “legitimate” free speech. In fact, some members of that school go so far as to hold that all forms of speech should be arbitrated only by public opinion, as expressed in ticket sales and critical acclaim or disdain.
Reasonable people can disagree, and Simon Fraser University associate professor Özlem Sensoy outlined the prevailing orthodoxy in an opinion piece entitled “Ann Coulter and Free Speech? Hardly,” first published in the Vancouver Sun on March 25. It is all about power, who has it, who doesn’t, and how those who have it silence and oppress those who don’t.
Sensoy closes her polemic by stating, “You can’t say whatever the hell you want.”
I beg to differ. I will think and write and say “whatever the hell” I want, whenever and wherever the hell I want. Only publication editors, broadcast producers and theatre directors can determine whether I can say it in their particular forum. And nobody, certainly not Murray Geiger-Adams, gets to rule on the “legitimacy” of my free speech.
Kevin Dale McKeown, Vancouver's first gay columnist, writes Xtra's Still QQ column, a monthly homage to the seedier details of gay life in Vancouver during the 1970s. Still QQ will return to its regular slot next month.
The full article is available on Xtra’s website at: http://www.xtra.ca/public/Vancouver/Speaking_freely-12350.aspx