HuffPo Canada denigrates free speech

It’s interesting to read other countries’ versions of the HuffPo, and I’ve found that the Canadian HuffPo is just as Authoritarian Leftist—if not more so—than the American version. Here’s an article from HuffPo Canada (I found it reprinted on HuffPo India) that denigrates the idea of free speech, with the premise that marginalized people don’t have such speech in either the U.S. or Canada (click on screenshot to read the piece):

I haven’t reported this yet, but Wilfred Laurier University (WLU) just exonerated grad student Lindsay Shepherd, who was investigated for playing a clip (taken from the Steve Paiken’s “The Agenda” t.v. program) showing Jordan Peterson objecting to forcible use of students’ personal pronouns. (She also played a counter-clip by someone opposing Jordan.) After Shepherd recorded her interrogation by two professors and a university diversity official, and released the recording to the press, WLU was forced to apologize to Shepherd and, after an investigation, just exonerated her completely.

A similar thing happened a while back to Masuma Khan, a Muslim student at Dalhousie University who was reported to her school after she published a Facebook post supporting the Dalhousie student union’s decision to not support the “Canada 150” anniversary of the Canadian Confederation. The union supported an “unlearn 150” initiative calling for education to be “decolonized”, i.e., made less about European colonizers and more about indigenous people.

Here’s Khan’s Facebook post:

According to the National Post, Khan, a hijabi, also said this:

Khan, a fourth-year international development studies student, called the celebrations an ongoing “act of colonialism” and used a hashtag that referred to “white fragility.”

“At this point, f–k you all. I stand by the motion I put forward. I stand by Indigenous students. … Be proud of this country? For what, over 400 years of genocide? #unlearn150 #whitefragilitycankissmyass #yourwhitetearsarentsacredthislandis” – Masuma Khan“

That statement, which of course is far more controversial than what Shepherd did (but is still acceptable as free speech) got Khan reported to Dalhousie’s Senate Discipline Committee for “behaviour [that other students] feel negatively impacts their learning environment and experience.” Well, perhaps the existence of such a committee is okay, but reporting Khan for injuring the learning environment is ridiculous. Her dissent was enhancing the learning environment. And, in the end, disciplinary action against Khan was dropped.

So we have two reports of Canadian students violating “offense” laws, and in both cases the students were exonerated, as well they should have been.  In one case (Shepherd’s) the student’s opinion was not expressed, although she later said she disagreed with Peterson. Khan’s own opinion was expressed, and could have been considered a bit racist, but even so, such attitudes should be (and in America are) considered free speech.

So with free speech supported for both students, why does HuffPo claim that the principle “isn’t worth fighting for”? Their answer, which isn’t satisfying, is that there was less support of Khan’s free speech than of Shepherd’s. And besides, people of color don’t have freedom of speech anyway. To wit:

Despite their celebrations, this supposed victory of free speech [for Shepherd} is not a win for all.

There is no such thing as a neutral free speech, an objective ideal we can reach, from which everyone benefits. Instead, the abstract idea of free speech is filtered when it passes from the pages of its inception into the world, being shaped by class, race and other factors. In the end, only the most privileged benefit from free speech. [JAC: this is simply stupid and ignorant. Think of the civil rights movement of the Sixties.]

The Shepherd incident, and the way it has been handled compared to a somewhat similar case, is a good example of how this works in practice.

. . . Some leftist commentators have been quick to point out that Khan received far less support from free-speech advocates than Shepherd, with many of Shepherd’s eventual supporters actually attacking Khan. They argue this unequal outrage at the perceived limiting of expression is an example of hypocrisy among “free speech advocates.”

But is that surprising? There is less support from “free-speech” advocates when speech expresses white supremacy than when it expresses something that most liberals agree agree on, like equal rights for gays and women. When free speech expresses sentiments like Khan’s, one should expect people to be less enthusiastic about endorsing it than in cases like Shepherd’s, in which she was presenting both points of view and endorsing neither. But even Shepherd was excoriated by many, so it’s not as if support for her speech was unalloyed. Transgender and gay students, for example, objected vociferously to what Shepherd did, calling it “hate speech” and accusing her, as with Khan, of creating an unsafe atmosphere on campus. And if you check the link in the preceding paragraph, you’ll see it is an opinion alone: there was no attempt to measure the relative opprobrium faced by Shepherd versus Khan

There should be no unequal treatment based on ethnicity, of course, but the important thing is that justice was done in both cases.

But that’s not enough for PuffHo Canada; they not only must kvetch about free speech, but must also try to label Lindsey Shepherd as a right winger. She’s already declared her willingness to talk to any press venue, so a paragraph like this is simply a big fat lie (check the “right wing pundit” link):

It’s not a coincidence that you’d need a microscope to find out Khan and Shepherd’s circles of supporters are actually chunks of a Venn diagram, as very few people supported both, and those who have are effectively irrelevant in the broader conversation. This is because Shepherd, who is in the midst of an Olympic-speed turn from supposed leftist to right-wing pundit, was advancing an already dominant, but dehumanizing, idea, which naturally attracted the ravenous flock she now leads. Khan, meanwhile, was challenging the foundation of the system that has propped up those in power, a position that has naturally been less popular.

Later on HuffPo calls Shepherd a racist because of this tweet, which is only tangentially about Khan and isn’t racist in the least (their words: “ShepherdPetersonKay, a Toronto Sun columnist and others, have all been melting down since, labelling Mochama, a black woman, as a racist.”)

Well, this says nothing of the sort, and it’s not out of the question, based on what she said, that Khan is a racist. I don’t know enough about her views to level such an accusation, but one thing’s for sure, Shepherd didn’t call Khan a racist. Chalk up another lie to HuffPo Canada.

In the end, both women got their free speech and were vindicated after being investigated by their universities. So why is HuffPo calling for us to stop being so gung-ho about free speech? You can guess: because people of color apparently don’t have it, so it’s not applied equally:

. . . “Free speech” is too costly for the disenfranchised, and this will never change when the system in power profits from this imbalance.

And this, pardon my French, is merde de castor:

“Free speech advocates” love to cite the oft attributed to Voltaire quote, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” The reality is, they aren’t putting themselves on the line for anyone they disagree with, nor should they be expected to, as free speech advocacy is never neutral.

Many of us, including the ACLU, have a principled stand that they’ll defend even those whose speech is considered odious and hateful. I defend Ms. Khan; I defend Ms. Shepherd; I will defend the right of white supremacists to spew odious racism and anti-Semites their Jew hatred.

And as for Khan, she certainly had her day in the public eye: her words were spread all over the Canadian press. The view that people of color are silenced and have no free speech is ridiculous. I have no idea where such a claim comes from, but the loudest voices among college students are the voices of those who consider themselves oppressed.

By the way, the HuffPo piece is unsigned, so I presume it came from the editors.

20 Comments

  1. steve oberski
    Posted December 22, 2017 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say. – Edward Snowden

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted December 22, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for this quote.

  2. Posted December 22, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    “At this point, f–k you all. I stand by the motion I put forward. I stand by Indigenous students. … Be proud of this country? For what, over 400 years of genocide? #unlearn150 #whitefragilitycankissmyass #yourwhitetearsarentsacredthislandis” – Masuma Khan“

    She’s got a point. By the time white Europeans had finished colonising North America there wasn’t a single Native American mosque still standing.

    The only place you’ll find a sealskin hijab these days is in a museum.

  3. Posted December 22, 2017 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    “…with many of Shepherd’s eventual supporters actually attacking Khan”

    Were any actual examples of such people provided? Or is the suggestion just invented for ideological reasons?

  4. Diana MacPherson
    Posted December 22, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    This story seems appropriate here because it speaks to “privledge” though we didn’t call it that back then.

    We have close family friends in NZ (a couple) as they have been life-long friends of my mom. One member of this couple is Maori. He used to drive a limo from the airport and they had a B&B (which I think they called “home stays”. One day, some white French Canadians got in his limo and proceeded to tell him how they were oppressed in Canada and that they had it horribly bad. He lost it. And this is normally a very gentle man. He told them to shut-up and explained he was Maori. Most likely, these people didn’t know who the Maori were. They were silent.

    This whole oppression crap reminds me of that story. Yes, in Canada we recognized that not everyone is equal. We try to compensate for that. We try to correct that. It’s even written into the Charter of Rights. But as soon as someone starts screaming unevidenced crap, especially economically privledged kids in university who don’t appreciate how fortunate they are to live in Canada and go to a governament subsidized institution that gives them a highly recognized education, at a pretty affordable rate….well I’ve stopped listening.

    For crying out loud, we had to put up with Ernst Zündel because of free speech and don’t say that was because he was white because Canadians wanted him out of Canada. People burned his house down. At the 150 celebrations, Trudeau (who BLM calls a “white supremecist”) not only allowed First Nations protests on the lawn of parliament during the celebrations, but actually talked to them. He could easily have had them removed and arrested. Canada isn’t perfect, but to say there is no free speech for some people is just inaccurate.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 22, 2017 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      Great comment. Still processing…

    • Craw
      Posted December 22, 2017 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

      Alas we did not put up with Zundel. He was convicted of publishing false news. Probably the best thing that ever happened to him for fund raising too.

  5. Posted December 22, 2017 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    The view that people of color are silenced and have no free speech is ridiculous. I have no idea where such a claim comes from, …

    The claim comes from the ideology that such people are “victims” who are “oppressed”. And given that oppression, the SJW authoritarianism can be justified as necessary for liberation.

    And if they’re oppressed then part of that, obviously, is that they are silenced.

    The actual facts of the matter, whether or not they are *actually* silenced, are unimportant.

    Anyone who even asks about that is obviously not an “ally” and is thus in favour of oppression and White Supremacy (and of course a racist).

    • simonchicago
      Posted December 22, 2017 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      BTW this is the same argument put forth both by Stalinists and Nazis: free speech is meaningless because the only speech worth having is speech that advances the noble cause–of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and of racial purity, respectively.

      The underlying problem is that this argument for denial of speech is essentially a denial of reason. If I cannot articulate/defend an argument because I am not part of some identity, then all dialogue is useless.

  6. Michael Fisher
    Posted December 22, 2017 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    That article is unremarkable compared with the past output of the writer of this piece! He is the Catholic to New Atheist to Marxist to Muslim bandwagon jumping, hipster Davide Mastracci

    He despises the New Atheism & Israel above all else I think. A plonker with the complete set of irrational knee jerk responses we know of from his cookie-cutter tribe of dimwits. Read this by him to get the full on experience. It is wonderful shit: Killing the New Atheist In My Head

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted December 22, 2017 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      Wow. What an ignorant self-obsessed arsehole. He says: “I don’t think my intellectual maturing process is over”. It hasn’t even begun.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted December 22, 2017 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

        Yes. An especially weird narcissist – the only maturing he’s done is in removing his past ‘stances’, after he has jumped to a new stance – his resume is very, very sparse & a lot of his old social media [such as facebook] has gone too.

        It’s very difficult to surf the peak of the ever changing zeitgeist wave without leaving incriminating floating breadcrumbs behind. When this HuffPo article went up it had his name on the byline, but I guess he cares more about approval than laying out a position, in his name, come what may. A soft boy.

        • BJ
          Posted December 22, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

          Sounds like one of those people who, every time they’re told by those they see as their better that a new position is now the right one, he changes what he believes. People like him have no minds of their own and know only how to follow others. They are completely bankrupt, both in intellect and backbone (and probably financially).

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted December 22, 2017 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, I don’t see paid gigs in his future

  7. David
    Posted December 22, 2017 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Fortunately, someone at HuffPo is making the counterpoint.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/daniel-tencer/progressives-are-making-a-big-mistake-abandoning-freedom-of-speech_a_23313052/?utm_hp_ref=ca-homepage

  8. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 22, 2017 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Well, fortunately, at least one person on HuffPost has the opposite opinion

    http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/daniel-tencer/progressives-are-making-a-big-mistake-abandoning-freedom-of-speech_a_23313052/?utm_campaign=canada_dau

  9. Davide Spinello
    Posted December 22, 2017 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Authoritarians do not understand that free speech is important to protect obnoxious racist professional victims like M. Khan. Counting the number of supporters is irrelevant, since her right to express her racist opinion stands even if she is the only one holding it.

  10. BJ
    Posted December 22, 2017 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    What they really want is for only the groups they like to have free speech, and to take it away from all others. The idea behind articles like this — and the claim that somehow, only white people have freedom of speech — is that, if white people have a voice, then everyone else does not. If white people are free to say what they want, then everyone else isn’t truly free in their eyes.

    • Davide Spinello
      Posted December 22, 2017 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      Yes and their ignorance in history prevents them from realizing how luckily it is that once they purge whites they may very well be purged by the new generation of pures.


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