"No Defendant Has Ever Won"
Hugh Hewitt interviews Mark Steyn.
HH: Thank you. I’ve got to start, I want to talk politics with you, but I’ve got to start first to alert the audience. I thought it was a joke, these Muslim radicals bringing complaints against you in Canada. But I’m close to boycotting Canada, because their Human Rights Commission hasn’t thrown this stuff out in the back with the trash.
MS: Well, the Human Rights Commission up there is, you know, almost the textbook definition of a kangaroo court, in the sense that of the complaints that have been brought under this section, since it was introduced almost thirty years ago now, no defendant has ever won.
MS: So I may buck the odds, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
HH: Well, tell people what the process is, what you’re accused of, and I assume this is a pain in the neck.
MS: Well, it is a pain in the neck. It also has, you know, serious implications, I think, because the Muslim lobby groups have had quite good luck using courts outside the U.S. to block particular books and other ideas that they’re not partial to. And eventually, that does ripple through to New York publishers and so on who don’t want to take a flyer on a book if you won’t be able to sell it in Canada, or get an overseas sale. So it does have implications. But what this is, basically, is a special commission that’s set up, it’s like, think of the most politically correct professors at Berkeley, put them on a commission. The plaintiff, the guys who make the complaints, their legal expenses are paid for by the Canadian taxpayer. The defense has to fund his or her own…essentially, there’s no rules of due process or evidence. And you know, they levy things that would be extraordinary. A woman posted some content on a Christian website in the United States, she’s opposed to homosexuality, she quotes some relevant Biblical passages. The Human Rights Commission banned her from ever publishing in any public forum again those Biblical passages for life, even though they were published on a U.S. website. And if she breaches that order, she’ll go to jail.
Bruce Kesler at the Democracy Project observes that suing people for implying terrorism has become a bigger business these days.
There has also been a nice bit of growth in terrorism-related libel actions in London. Nowadays terrorism libel cases make up 13 per cent of the total number of reported claims, compared with 4 per cent in the previous year and 6 per cent in the year before that.
Cracking down on the critics of Islamism will damage democracy in the long run. Freedom of speech preserves democracy is because it resolves social conflicts in the open, within the political process. Repressing debate is not only bad in the abstract, it is often disastrous in practice. The Left has always had statist and repressive tendencies. The history of every militant Communist party has been the history of repression. In practically every case, schism has resulted from the practice of "democratic centralism". Why should it be different in societies where the same types of policies are carried out in the guise of preventing "hate speech"? It won't be different.