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Saturday, March 22

An American tale with striking similarity to the attempt to muzzle Maclean's magazine in Canada

Once upon a time in 2001, David Horowitz -- the anti-left activist who is today the editor of Front Page Magazine -- set a trap for the inheritors of the Berkeley University Free Speech Movement. The tragicomedy that ensued will be very familiar to opponents of Section 13. It also serves as a reminder to Canada's FreeSpeechers that the United States has its share of speech squelching anti-hate goons.

Before turning to the story, a couple of asides to American readers who are new to the Section 13 'war,' which was touched off when many Canadians undertook an epic struggle to restore freedom of speech in their country.

What is Section 13? It's a law that's part of Canada's Human Rights Act. In one sentence here's how Section 13 works out in practice: if I'm a member of a 'protected' group, and you say anything in public that I believe exposes me to the "likelihood" that I can become the target of hatred and contempt, I can ruin you.

If you think I must be exaggerating, you have much to learn about Section 13.

For a detailed introduction to the Section 13 war, you can't do better than to read Kathy Shaidle's Free Speech vs Muslim Sensibilities, published by Front Page Magazine in February. Events have moved very fast since the article was written, but Shaidle pulls together many parts of a very complicated situation to present a coherent picture.

I have just two criticisms of the piece: the title, which was probably supplied by Front Page Magazine, is an insult to Canadian Muslims who have gone on record to defend free speech and oppose Section 13 complaints against Maclean's, which is Canada's only national weekly news magazine.

And I believe the last two paragraphs in the piece distract from the momentous issues Shaidle so eloquently summarizes. The Section 13 war cuts across all political and religious lines in Canada, and has united many conservatives and liberals in the struggle to restore freedom of speech in that country.

Also, for those who recoil at the names David Horowitz and James Lubinskas, kindly focus on the issue at hand, which is not the views of either man but their right to express them. If you think nothing like Section 13 can happen in the United States, read on.

In order to highlight the free speech issue and its similiarity to the tactics and arguments used against Maclean's, I have abridged James Lubinskas's review of David Horowitz's 2002 book Uncivil Wars: Controversy Over Reparations for Slavery. Read the entire review for background on Horowitz's decision to take on the issue of reparations and an overview of his arguments against reparations.
The Reparations Battle:
A combat report from the front line
By James Lubinskas
American Renaissance, May 2002

[...] In Uncivil Wars, Mr. Horowitz describes what happened when he tried to place an advertisement in college newspapers listing ten reasons why blacks do not deserve reparations for slavery.

Mr. Horowitz decided to buy the ads in response to the growing momentum of the movement to have the US government pay damages to the descendents of black slaves — 137 years after abolition. This book actually deals with two subjects — the reparations issue itself and left-wing censorship of racial dissent on campus.

In February and March of 2001, Mr. Horowitz sent the ad to 71 college papers of which 43 rejected it outright. Those that did print it often came under intense pressure from blacks and left-wingers. Uncivil Wars focuses on three schools — the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Wisconsin, and Brown — to illustrate the controversy.

Reaction on Campus
Berkeley is the author’s alma mater and the home of the so-called “Free Speech” movement of the 1960s. In choosing what is perhaps the most liberal campus in America, Mr. Horowitz tried to highlight leftist intolerance of dissenting views.

The students swallowed the bait. The day the ad appeared in The Daily Californian, a mob of over forty black students led by a professor of African-American studies stormed the office of student editor Daniel Hernandez. They bullied Mr. Hernandez, tore up copies of the newspaper, and demanded a printed apology in the next issue.

A terrified Mr. Hernandez did as he was told, and even wrote he was sorry his paper had become “an inadvertent vehicle for bigotry.”

The University of Wisconsin’s newspaper, The Badger Herald also ran the ad and faced similar harassment. Tshaka Barrows, son of the university’s vice chancellor for student affairs and leader of the Multicultural Student Coalition, led over 100 screaming protesters in a rally outside the paper’s offices.

They demanded that the chancellor’s office bar the paper from campus newsstands and that it publish a statement by the Multicultural Student Coalition, denouncing the paper as a “perpetrator of racist propaganda.”

When asked if his position wasn’t against the principles of free speech Mr. Barrows explained: “Free speech has been used against African-Americans for a long time. Free speech has meant freedom for white folks to say pretty much whatever they want about African Americans … Free speech does not exist for everybody.”

Another protester, junior Becky Wasserman, agreed: “Freedom of speech does not mean you can infringe on other people’s freedom, right? We’re dealing with hate speech, and that doesn’t fall under freedom.”

Unlike her counterpart at Berkeley, Badger Herald editor Julie Bosman refused to grovel. The editors even wrote a stiff response to the protesters saying: “…we only regret that the editors of the Daily Californian allowed themselves to give in to pressure in a manner that unfortunately violated their professional integrity and journalistic duty to protect speech with which they disagree.”

The Brown campus newspaper, the Brown Daily Herald, also ran the ad, and its editors came under heavy fire. The leaders of the Brown mob were a Nigerian immigrant named Asmara Ghebremichael, and a black professor named Lewis Gordon, head of Brown’s Afro-American studies department.

Miss Ghebremichael promptly organized a “Coalition of Concerned Brown Students,” which included the Black Student Union, Third World Action, the Young Communist League, and the International Socialist Organization.

The coalition demanded that the Daily Herald give the money from the ad to the school’s Third World Center, and that the paper give the coalition a free page “for the purpose of educating the greater Brown community on related issues and other issues important in the minority community in order to protect ourselves in the future from irrational publications like this one authored by David Horowitz.”

The editors refused Miss Ghebremichael’s demands but did print an op-ed piece by her called Free Speech Is Only for Those Who Can Afford to Pay.

Despite the fact that Brown is considered to be a selective university, the article contained sentences like this: “Dare us to even ask ourselves to distinguish between right and wrong. Naw, you all like to hide behind the code words like ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ and the most nefarious of all, ‘paid advertisement.’ “

She concluded by demanding, “we want one free page of advertisement space to print whatever the hell we want to print.”

The Daily Herald refused this demand, so students stole the entire run — 4,000 copies — of the next issue. Coalition members admitted to the theft but Brown administrators did nothing to punish them.

Prof. Gordon defended the thieves saying, “If something is free, you can take as many copies as you like. This is not a free speech issue. It is a hate speech issue.”

It was apparently also a medical concern. Another member of the Afro-American studies department declared, “I have talked to students who told me that they can’t perform basic functions like walking or sleeping because of this ad.”

Because of threats of violence, the Brown College Republicans were forced to cancel a speech by Mr. Horowitz. [...]

Lost in all the commotion over the ads was the fact that almost none of the protesters attempted to refute [Horowitz's] arguments. The radicals did nothing but accuse Mr. Horowitz — and anyone who defended his right to express his views — of “racism.” [...]
I spent more than two months on this blog fighting alongside Canada's FreeSpeechers. So for those who want to learn more about Section 13, you can start with my January 8 post (see archive on the sidebar) and work forward. To keep up with news from the war front, visit Steyn Online (note the three boxes at the top of the page) and Free Mark Steyn!
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1:30 PM Update
Today's front page story in Canada's National Post, Scrutinizing the human rights machine presents the latest big development in the Section 13 war and a very helpful overview of the range of complex issues involved.

I have quibbles with a few of the article's observations, including labeling Marc Lemire a white supremacist. I've not found the time yet to study his writings but from my published email exchanges with him about Section 13, in which I asked him point-blank whether he was a neo-Nazi (another label that's been applied to him), he replied no.

From other comments he's made, I think he sees himself as fighting for equal rights for whites. Not incidentally, all the defendants or "respondents" as they are termed in Section 13 cases have been white. It's possible Lemire is a white supremacist, but given the amount of name-calling that goes on with regard to Section 13 cases, I'm keeping an open mind until I can judge for myself.

In any event, the Post article is well worth the read.
March 24 update
It is also worth noting Marc Lemire's comment that "After a 6 year investigation the CHRC [Canadian Human Rights Commission] could not find a single word I have written which violates Section 13," and that he strongly objects to the label of white supremacist. See this post for details. I apologize to Marc for not mentioning in the first update that he has repeatedly brought out the point about the CHRC's failure to find his writings in violation of Section 13.
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