12 July 2008


Two Canadian children have been taken from their home by social services because of their mother's political beliefs. After the mother twice sent her 7 year old daughter to school with a swastika drawn on her arm, the school called social services. At the home, social workers found neo-Nazi flags and symbols. My favorite passage from the story is this:
Although she proudly wears a silver necklace that includes a swastika and has "white pride" flags in her home, the mother, who can't be named to avoid identifying her children, denies she's a neo-Nazi or white supremacist.

"A black person has a right to say black power or black pride and yet they're turning around on us and saying we're racists and bigots and neo-Nazis because we say white pride. It's hypocrisy at its finest."
I suspect that they're calling her a neo-Nazi because of all the swastikas, but I could be wrong.

A couple of thoughts:

First, is there anything stupider than white pride?

Second, as with anything that happens in Canada, the Canadians seem most interested in showing how this proves that they are better than Americans. This quote from commenter westwitch is nicely representative:
For those of you who believe that we have American style Free Speech, think again.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 1 is the Limitations clause, which allows for us to put some boundaries on all other rights, when they may cause harm to others. For instance, we can not yell FIRE in a crowded auditorium, when there is no such threat.

This is one of the sections which makes our Charter so great.
Of course, we can't yell FIRE in a crowded theater either, unless we're showing our support for individual rights in education.

Third, this is not an easy question for Canadians but, as westwitch suggests, it is easy for Americans: an American government would not be able to do this (though it might try).

Fourth, Canadian neo-Nazis? Really?


Anonymous said...

Whatever would we do without our beloved neo-Nazis to keep the blood hot and flowing?

Since the post-Judd Alliance went into effective early retirement, I've been amusing myself on the home front on several blogs immersed in the Human Rights Commission/Steyn kerfuffle, to which this story is tangenitally related. For the sake of simplicity, I'll divide them into speechies and lefties. Herewith my report:

A) Canadians aren't nearly as nice as you all think. We can be just as extreme, vulgar, insulting, shrill, dogmatic, intolerant and scurrilous as you folks. It makes a man proud;

B) The left and the right (pretty much all secular libertarians)have completely switched places since the sixties. The angry, alienated and defiant right is calling for disobediance and insists the whole human rights gig is the plaything of a privileged and corrupt Boomer establishment that must be swept away in its entirety--no compromises or half-measures would suffice. The left talks of "tweaking" and reform. Do you remember those wide-eyed radicals in the streets of Chicago in 1968? They're now urging us not to throw the baby out with the bathwater;

C) American libertarians may be cute and cuddly like AOG, but our homegrown breed can be just as offensive, loony and idelogically hidebound as dogmatic marxists. Never in the course of the historical struggle for freedom has such a good cause been so mangled by racism, excess and insults. I am always willing to listen to those who say extremism and obscenity are a price we must pay for freedom, but must they take such pains every time they open their mouths to show us they mean exactly what they say?

D)There appears to be no longer any room in modern political debate to argue for the traditional conservative notion of free speech tempered by decency and civility, or to raise issues of time, place, tone, language, etc. in the free promulgation of ideas. The choice is either everybody can say whatever they want, however they want, wherever they want, no matter how obscene, outrageous and inflammatory, or speech is divided between the everyday and designated politically correct postmodern victim categories. If you are in the latter (women, immigrants, aboriginals, gays, Muslims, Jews-some-of-the-time, etc, etc, etc, etc.), speech about you must be marked by the respect and delicacy the Victorians used to speak of the dead. But of you are not (men, Americans, Christians, Jews-at-other-times, etc.), it's open linguistic hunting season on you.

Back to the neo-Nazis. One of the desperate defence mechanisms of the left has been to deflect controversies over criticisms of Muslims to the putative threat of neo-Nazism. One high-profile blogger, a former Liberal aide to the PM, has apparently taken to trolling public washrooms in Toronto and posting swastika graffiti. Talk about things that go bump in the night! Anyway, the speechies have stupidly fallen for it and have proudly and loudly aligned themselves behind some very bizarre and unsavoury losers. Having convinced themselves they are all Nathan Hales, they are blind to the fact others see them as defending the Hell's Angels' right to participate equally in community consultations on traffic control. The leftist blogs, one of which I frequent and quite like for its openess and relative civility, can't get enough of it. The host, a very decent sort, is always posting as if he could hear the Horst Wessel song through his bedroom window. But he made the mistake of grabbing onto this story and a previous similar one with firm approval. I believe I scored a few points by suggesting that the only reason some see neo-Nazism as child abuse is because it is now so marginal and limited that we associate it with dysfunction and semi-sanity, and not with a serious political threat at all. Would he have suggested the majority of parents in 1930's Germany were child abusers?

BTW, David, I think you may be jumping the gun about the end result here. Surely American child protection authorities have the right to apprehend summarily? The issue is whether a court would back them. It's probably true that the average Canadian court would be more sympathetic to the authorities than an American court fussing about all that freedom 'n stuff, but I doubt it would be a slam dunk. As you once wisely said, although everything up here is completely different, it is also exactly the same.

erp said...

Peter, your essays have been missed. Why not revive your blog?

In this piece you hit the mark, especially the penultimate sentence. So far most of our courts will stand between us and the radical nutcases who want to make us into Canada South/ Euroland West.

That's why judicial appointments are of the utmost importance and will continue to be so until we're rid of the scourge of leftover boomers. Everyone must get out and vote for McCain no matter what he says or does. Staying home isn't an option this time.

I know we'll survive another Clinton/Carter, but why not avoid the pain of it if we can.

PS: What do you have against the Hell's Angels? We see a lot (hundreds of thousands) of bikers around here. The vast majority are courteous and obey traffic laws. Those old B&W movies are outdated .

Anonymous said...

I have been called many things, but "cute" and "cuddly" have not, until now, been any of them.

I don't think "white pride" is any stupider than "black pride". Certainly it's not as stupid as the Black Athena version of the latter.

P.S. I'm posting a bit again, I have just been terribly busy with the company thing.

Harry Eagar said...

I can't figure out where you're going, Peter.

Yes, you do have to accept the lewd crude and screwed if you accept that speech is free. What part of free aren't you getting?

I don't think you can legislate civility.

Some time back, I wrote about passing a woman at the mall, of grandmotherly age, wearing a T-shirt that said, '.... you, I'm taken.'

Who wants his granma to walk through the mall in a wifebeater that reads, '.... you, I'm taken'?

The goal of a society of completely bland speech puzzles me.

Anonymous said...

One may have to accept the crude and lewd, but one doesn't have to celebrate it, or even consider it equal to polite, reasoned discourse. Too many people think that such disdain is the equivalent of censorship.

David said...

Peter: Child protective services can act summarily in the US, but if they tried to take children because of the content of speech, as here, they'd get slapped down fast. There's no way it would go on for four months. See, for example, the Texas polygamy case.

More broadly, in America, at least, constitutionally guaranteed free speech really is the right to be offensive and, within limits, obscene. No other speech is under much threat from American lawmakers, except of course political speech, was is easier to regulate as the law now stands.

Harry Eagar said...

I have just finished reading Underdown's 'Revel, Riot and Rebellion.'

In the days when you could be haled into both secular and ecclesiastical courts for bad speech, the volume and tenor of bad speech seems to have been not that different from today's.

I think, since the outcome is the same either way, I'll come down on the side of liberty.

Anonymous said...

You mean as in: "Give me #*^%@ liberty or give me death!"?

I'm not going anywhere, Harry, just musing. But if David is right, as I think he pretty much is, that the original objective of freedom of speech--the right to dissent from and challenge political and religious orthodoxy--is taken for granted by all and isn't even on the table anymore, your argument is tautological. It seems to me you are in favour of the stand alone constitutional right to be offensive and obscene, full stop.

Heck of a cause. I'd love to join you in defending its martyrs, but the hockey finals are on tonight. And I think you are taking the wrong lesson from Underdown. Probably the greatest progress in classical freedom of speech occurred under the Victorians, who at the same time imposed rather strict, if not neurotic, standards of linguistic civility. Political debate was bitter and raucous and left us some delightfully artful epithets ("You, Sir, are a solipsistic popinjay!"), but they tried to abjure and sanction the crude and personally inflammatory. Don't you think there might have been a connection?

I'm thinking of starting a new political movement with the slogan: "Let's put the civilized back into civilization." Whaddya think?

erp said...

I'm in.

David said...

As always, the point is that the Constitution is in some ways like the Great and Powerful Oz. It can't really do anything (it is, after all, not only just a piece of paper but an old piece of paper). The only reason the US has freedom of speech is because the American people want freedom of speech; if we didn't, we wouldn't have it, Constitution be damned.

Anonymous said...

I'm not totally sure about that, but one issue that supports you there is public nudity. The U.S. and Canada must stand 1-2 in the world on respecting and glorifying individual freedom, but we do have this thing about looking to the state to make sure we all keep our clothes on, which many northern Europeans see as downright fascist. They don't seem to mind much if they are silenced by the state provided their right to frolic in the buff is respected.

BTW, on the subject of decency and civility, I don't see Canada as the North American leader. We're not bad, but a bit too reserved. I'd vote for the good citizens of the South (all races). And on that note I'll take my leave before Harry weighs in.

joe shropshire said...

I can remember going out to Old Orchard Beach as a kid, and all the canucks who would come down and they'd be wearing their Speedos, with the love handles lopping down over the little Speedo strap so from the side they looked naked anyway. That and back hair. Damn straight your government needs to keep the clothes on you people.

Anonymous said...

When the sun went down, did they change out of their Speedos into the new perfectly coordinated lime and pink summer outfits their wives bought them? Those would be our beloved rural Quebecers, Joe. Ottawa is trying to be user-friendly about its clothing laws and has opened a new ministry called "Taste Canada" to promote better fashion, but the separatists are crying foul and we now have yet another full-blown constitutional crisis on our hands.