Ever since this magazine attracted the attention of Canada’s “human rights” regime, defenders of the system have clung to a familiar argument. In a letter to Maclean’s, Jennifer Lynch, Q.C., Canada’s chief censor, put it this way:
“Steyn would have us believe that words, however hateful, should be given free rein. History has shown us that hateful words sometimes lead to hurtful actions that undermine freedom and have led to unspeakable crimes. That is why Canada and most other democracies have enacted legislation to place reasonable limits on the expression of hatred.”
“Hateful words” can lead to “unspeakable crimes.” The problem with this line is that it’s ahistorical twaddle, as I’ve pointed out. Yet still it comes up. It did last month, during my testimony to the House of Commons justice committee, when an opposition MP mused on whether it wouldn’t have been better to prohibit the publication of Mein Kampf.
“That analysis sounds as if it ought to be right,” I replied. “But the problem with it is that the Weimar Republic—Germany for the 12 years before the Nazi party came to power—had its own version of Section 13 and equivalent laws. It was very much a kind of proto-Canada in its hate speech laws. The Nazi party had 200 prosecutions brought against it for anti-Semitic speech. At one point the state of Bavaria issued an order banning Hitler from giving public speeches.”
And a fat lot of good it all did.
But still the old refrain echoes through the corridors of power: vigorous honest free speech will lead to mass murder unless we subject it to “reasonable limits.”
Actually, the opposite is true: a constrained and regulated culture policed by politically correct enforcers leads to slaughter. I’m not being speculative here, as Commissar Lynch is about my murderous prose style. It’s already happened, just a couple of weeks back. Thirteen men and women plus an unborn baby were gunned down at Fort Hood by a major in the U.S. Army. Nidal Hasan was the perpetrator, but political correctness was his enabler, every step of the way. In the days that followed, the near parodically absurd revelations piled up like an overripe satire, but a two-panel cartoon at the Toronto blogger Scaramouche’s website provided the pithiest distillation:
“This is your brain. This is your brain on political correctness”—a small and shrivelled thing.
Major Hasan couldn’t have been more straightforward about who and what he was. An army psychiatrist, he put “SoA”—i.e., “Soldier of Allah”—on his business card. At the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, he was reprimanded for trying to persuade patients to convert to Islam and fellow pupils objected to his constant “anti-American propaganda,” but, as the Associated Press reported, “a fear of appearing discriminatory against a Muslim student kept officers from filing a formal written complaint.”
This is your brain on political correctness.
As the writer Barry Rubin pointed out, Major Hasan was the first mass murderer in U.S. history to give a PowerPoint presentation outlining the rationale for the crime he was about to commit. And he gave the presentation to a roomful of fellow army psychiatrists and doctors. Some of whom glanced queasily at their colleagues, but none of whom actually spoke up. And, when the question of whether then-Captain Hasan was, in fact, “psychotic,” the policy committee at Walter Reed Army Medical Center worried “how would it look if we kick out one of the few Muslim residents.”
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