Three snapshots of free speech around the world:
First, the United Kingdom:
Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller have achieved a small, preliminary win in what will prove a long battle to overturn the outrageous decision by Theresa May, Britain's Home Secretary, to ban them from the country:
In an important victory for the freedom of speech, Lord Justice Moses of the British Court of Appeal has granted permission for an appeal on the papers to be heard in the case of the banning of Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer from the United Kingdom. Counsel for Geller and Spencer, Arfan Khan, argued in writing that the unacceptable behaviours policy applied by the Secretary of State to exclude Geller and Spencer was unlawful. Lord Justice Moses held that:
"There are important issues to be determined as to the lawfulness of a policy, which arguably permits the SOS to refuse entry to those whose presence may incite violence but who themselves, arguably, may not intend to do so."
That's the very definition of a heckler's veto. It means that any belligerent Muslim merely has to say "If this event proceeds, we'll go bananas" to get it closed down. Many persons of a moderate and temperate disposition seem to regard Pamela Geller as beyond the pale - my old National Post colleague Jonathan Kay can get awfully sniffy about her - and that's fine as long as it remains metaphorical. When you place her literally beyond the pale, as the wretched Theresa May has done, you are engaging in an act of vandalism against one of the pillars of a free society.
Furthermore, if Mrs May gets away with this, what's more likely to happen? That it remains a one-off? Or that the pale shrinks even further? Britain is now a land where you're arrested for quoting Winston Churchill in public. On this 70th anniversary of D-Day, ask yourself whether Sir Winston would have thought it worth fighting on the beaches for so reductive a vision of liberty as that envisioned by his "Conservative" successors. And, even as Mrs May tightens the leash of permissible discourse, there's not even any pretense that she's operating to any coherent principles. Miss Geller and Mr Spencer were banned on the grounds that their presence would not be "conducive to the public good". As I wrote at the time:
By contrast, the presence of, say, Anjem Choudary, philosophical mentor of the Woolwich head hackers and a man who calls for the murder of the Prime Minister, is so "conducive to the public good" that British taxpayers subsidize him generously and provide a half-million-dollar home for him to live on. Mrs May's Home Office has just admitted to the UK Muhhamed al-Arefe who advocates wife-beating. Perhaps Mr May will try out Imam al-Arefe's expert advice on the beneficial effects of "light beating" on Theresa this weekend – or is spousal abuse only "conducive to the public good" of Muslim women?
In other words, "conducive to the public good" boils down to the usual watery and inconsistent cocktail of appeasement, opportunism and misdirection. Theresa May is not competent to decide for her subjects the boundaries of free-ish speech. That is why it is necessary for her to lose this case, big time. So I congratulate Mr Khan and his clients on a small but important victory.
Alas, one step forward, and all that. From the United States:
Barely pausing to catch a breath after their big win on gay marriage, the progressives have moved straight on to the next cause du jour: transgender rights. So, where only a year or two back middle-class, domesticated, suburban gay couples gazed out from the magazine covers, there are now fetching young ladies who were born with penises. Responding to one of these cover stories (in Time), my former National Review colleague Kevin Williamson wrote a column called "Laverne Cox Is Not A Woman". The Chicago Sun-Times, my principal US outlet for many years, chose to reprint it.
And then Big Gay swung into action, and the enforcers at GLAAD performed manhood reassignment surgery on Sun-Times editorial page editor Tom McNamee:
We try to present a range of views on an issue, not only those views we may agree with, but also those we don't agree with. A recent op-ed piece we ran online that was produced by another publication initially struck as provocative. Upon further consideration, we concluded the essay did not include some key facts and its overall tone was not consistent with what we seek to publish. The column failed to acknowledge that the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association have deemed transgender-related care medically necessary for transgender people. It failed as well to acknowledge the real and undeniable pain and discrimination felt by transgender people, who suffer from notably higher rates of depression and suicide. We have taken the post down and we apologize for the oversight.
Williamson says he touched on all that stuff, including Miss Cox's own suicide attempt. But, even if he didn't, so what? Why not run a couple of letters from aggrieved trans-rights activists? Why not get some GLAAD honcho to pen his own column?
Because that's not enough for GLAAD. As much as the firebreathing imams, they don't want a debate; they want it understood that certain things are beyond debate. And the only way to do that is to lean on the editors to disappear the piece completely. So Tom McNamee was lowered onto the gender-fluidity spectrum and the setting cranked straight to eunuch.
And before the usual tossers start droning on about how "this is nothing to do with the First Amendment", you're right; that's why I didn't mention it. But a decent respect for broad bounds of public discourse is part of the definition of a healthy society. And in that respect America is already in a diminished state. So now the transgender debate is going exactly the same way the gay-marriage debate went. As I wrote here:
Most Christian opponents of gay marriage oppose gay marriage; they don't oppose the right of gays to advocate it. Yet thug groups like GLAAD increasingly oppose the right of Christians even to argue their corner. It's quicker and more effective to silence them.
So another heckler's veto.
Which brings us to ...well, not a step forward or a step backwards but a paralyzed indecisiveness unworthy of my friends Down Under. Christopher Carr writes in Quadrant:
If the Canadian Parliament can repeal Section 13, which was used to prosecute Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn, why can't we do the same with Section 18c and take a stand for personal freedom alongside Canada and the United States? Will the allegedly conservative Coalition's pre-election commitment to free speech become non-operative?
In addition to the usual suspects in the multicultural industry, we now see Liberal state governments committed to the betrayal of personal freedom. A joint submission from the New South Wales and Victorian State Governments contains the following remarkable statement:
…the proposed changes threaten the social cohesion and well-being of not just our states' culturally and religiously diverse communities, but also the wider Australian community.
Hello? Think about this statement very carefully. Is it a celebration of a successful multicultural policy or is it telling us backhandedly that our society is so dangerously fragmented and tribalised it can no longer afford the robust free speech of yesteryear?
That's the implication, isn't it? That the price of "multiculturalism" is the loss of free speech.
Of course, those squishy "social cohesion" nellies would tell you that it isn't about free speech at all but about "hate speech". I've no use for that term, because it's increasingly being applied to any challenge to the pieties of the age: Andrew Bolt isn't on board with special rights for multiculti identity groups; Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller decline to sign on to the "Islam is a religion of peace" hooey; Kevin Williamson thinks it unwise and delusional to celebrate the self-definition of "gender". I am a free-speech absolutist, but even the narrowest definition of free speech - of free-ish speech - surely includes the right to challenge the conventional wisdom of the time. Trans-rights, Islamophilia and multiculturalism are part of the modern social-democratic west's state ideology. And, if you can't question the state ideology, you're not free.
~Mark's book on free speech, Lights Out, is available in personally autographed hardcover exclusively from the SteynOnline bookstore. It's also out in eBook in Kindle, Kobo and Nook formats - from Barnes & Noble in the US, Indigo-Chapters in Canada, and from Amazon worldwide. Click below for your nearest branch office. Proceeds go to support Mark's free-speech pushback against the climate mullahs.
Amazon US: Lights Out
Amazon Canada: Lights Out
Amazon UK: Lights Out
Amazon Australia: Lights Out
Amazon India: Lights Out
Amazon France: Lights Out
Amazon Germany: Lights Out
Amazon Italy: Lights Out
Amazon Spain: Lights Out
Amazon Japan: Lights Out
Amazon Brazil: Lights Out
Amazon Mexico: Lights Out
Comment on this item (members only)
Viewing and submission of reader comments is restricted to Mark Steyn Club members only. If you are not yet a member, please click here to join. If you are already a member, please log in here: