In my new life as an independent journalist and commentator, no story I’ve tackled has had the reach and interest of my coverage of the Tommy Robinson trial-that-never-was in England last month.
It’s understandable given how many of today’s most pressing cultural concerns are encapsulated in the case. Judicial activism, free speech, excessive immigration, media bias, and class divide: all of them are central to what’s happened to Robinson, and how it’s been covered (or not covered, such as the case may be.)
Bob Metz and Robert Vaughan of Just Right Media have been covering many of these issues for years, and graciously invited me back to their program to discuss what I learned and uncovered in England, and how this case fits into the work I’m doing on immigration and constitutional liberties with the True North Initiative.
If you’ve followed the Robinson case extensively you’ll be a bit bored with the opening few minutes of the case, where I recap the backstory before getting into the meat. But do stick through it, as it’s an hour of great discussion about key issues facing western society.
Listen to the interview in full here.
Mark Steyn and I have completed our Freaky Friday role reversal. Just a few weeks after he and I sat down for a full-length interview for True North Initiative, it was my turn in the hot seat, joining singer-songwriter Tal Bachman and author Kathy Shaidle on a free speech edition of the Mark Steyn Show, filmed in front of a live audience aboard the maiden Mark Steyn Cruise.
From Tal’s background as a successful musician, Kathy’s as a published poet, and my own navigation of the world of media and politics in Canada, there was a general understanding that the threats to free speech are coming about from within the cultural sphere and not just from statist forces.
It was a great pleasure to be on the panel, so I hope you’ll enjoy watching.
As time passes, the fringe becomes mainstream. This is happening with efforts of the rabid anti-free speech Antifa types, who now seem to have an ally in a federal political party in Canada. The NDP has adopted the position that former White House advisor Steve Bannon should not be allowed to participate in a debate scheduled tonight in Toronto.
It shows how unserious the NDP really is, but that doesn’t mean it’s brazen opposition to free speech isn’t a serious problem.
I tackle this in my latest Loonie Politics column, which subscribers can read here. If you aren’t a subscriber already, use promo code ‘Lawton’ for a discount.
Here’s an excerpt:
Allowing these ideological clashes to happen is paramount for any free society to be able to challenge its paradigm.
Far too many people don’t want this or any other contentious debate to go on. Since Munk Debates announced the Bannon-Frum square-off, self-styled anti-fascist groups have tried to get it shut down. These calls became far less fringe when NDP member of parliament Charlie Angus said this week that Bannon’s invitation should be cancelled “out of respect” for the victims of last weekend’s horrific synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.
So far as I know, Bannon had nothing to do with the attack and wasn’t even in Pennsylvania at the time, but somehow his presence in Toronto would be disrespectful to the families of slain Jewish worshippers, Angus says.
An NDP spokesperson told CBC that Angus’ comments reflect the party’s position.
I suspect the NDP’s stance was the same last week, but the Pittsburgh tragedy gave Angus the political cover to promote an agenda of silencing others.
Freedom of speech means controversial people can express controversial opinions. It also means anyone can decide whether or not to entertain those views. Yes, it even gives people the right to criticize a platform being afforded to someone.
This process becomes censorship when the force of the state is weighing in. The NDP may not be in power right now, but it’s a party seeking to govern Canada. As such, Canadians should be concerned if it has an official stance that anyone’s speeches should be shut down. If it’s Bannon today, it’s someone else tomorrow.
If you dare to criticize the Islamic prophet Muhammad in Europe, prepare to pay for it. Literally.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled this week that an Austrian woman broke the law in 2009 when she gave two seminars in which she accused Muhammad of being a pedophile, based on his marriage to Aisha.
Scholars say Aisha was likely six or seven years old at the time, though the marriage wasn’t consummated until she was nine or 10.
Despite the historic record, the ECHR decision, which upheld an earlier Austrian criminal court ruling, said the woman’s remarks go “beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate” and “could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace.”
As of press time, the ECHR had regretfully not been razed to the ground.
That’s the only solution I can propose for a body that so effortlessly brings back blasphemy law and codifies political correctness.
Understandably, Muslims aren’t keen on their prophet being mocked. I don’t blame them. As a Christian, I don’t like it when an artist tours the world with a crucifix soaked in urine. Freedom requires people of faith sucking it up when others don’t share their reverence.
Incidentally, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, so Muhammad hardly needs the public relations help from European judicial bureaucrats.
The perpetrator was fined €480 for the offence, and also had to pay for the proceedings against her. I can’t imagine that was all that cheap considering the case spanned for nine years.
Almost a decade to determine that free speech isn’t important. The woman tried to argue it was, but the ECHR said its decision “carefully balanced her right to freedom of expression with the right of others to have their religious feelings protected, and served the legitimate aim of preserving religious peace in Austria.”
You read that right. Religious feelings. The “feelings” of Muslims are more important than everyone’s fundamental right to criticize religion, or anything really.
The timing of this is interesting for me, having just returned from the United Kingdom where I was covering the case of Tommy Robinson, a vocal critic of Islamism. In an interview with Robinson, which will be published in the coming days, I challenged him on what I see as an uncomfortably broad brush he uses to define and characterize Islam.
The “Muhammad is a pedophile” argument is not a particularly new one from anti-Muslim activists. Muslims don’t dispute the timeline of Muhammad’s marriage to Aisha, but do defend the union based on historical context and traditions that suggest it wasn’t atypical, disgusting as it is by today’s standards.
Today, it’s difficult to imagine anyone taking issue with you for calling a 50-something married to a seven-year old a pedophile. Hence the absurdity of the state—or in the case of the European Court of Human Rights, a judicial body above any one country—carving out special protection for Muhammad, or any religious figure.
What’s next, a fine for calling Buddha fat?
Part of free speech means not having to be civil, and not having to justify why you say something. And that doesn’t mean speech is always free of consequences, but in this case the court wasn’t even interested in whether there were any.
The ECHR said the woman’s comments “could” spark some sort of prejudice.
Criticizing Muhammad means you’re taking your life into your own hands, as numerous incidents have shown over the last 15 years. From threats against those involved in producing the infamous Danish cartoons to the attacks on Charlie Hebdo’s office, blood has been shed for the right to be uncivil and offensive.
Now, if the terrorists don’t get you, the government will.