Words of wisdom
Richard Moon is a wise and independent man.
The professor of constitutional freedoms at the University of Windsor is a prominent critic of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which prohibits repeated communication, by phone or internet, of any messages that are likely to expose identifiable groups to hatred or contempt.
This has made him an unlikely hero to the right-wing blogosphere. Don’t take my word for it. That’s the opinion of Ezra Levant, a patron saint of the hordes of bloggers – many of them anonymous – who tend to flood the internet with their paranoia, left-bashing conspiracy theories and, all too frequently, with their intolerance.
Levant wrote a blog praising Prof. Moon for his courageous report last fall to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, which hired him to review Section 13. Moon recommended that the law be repealed and the commission get out of the business of trying to enforce hate speech – something that Levant argued strongly for in his recent book Shakedown.
Running afoul of the Levantian hordes is not a pleasant experience (as I can attest), and it would have been easy for Moon to accept his strange bedfellows and avoid the public eye.
Instead, he will give testimony tomorrow (Oct. 25) to a House of Commons committee looking into the hate speech provisions. He will not only make clear that he and Levant are poles apart philosophically, but that polemicists like him are anathema to reasoned democratic discourse.
Moon’s opposition to Section 13 is not rooted in his belief that human rights commissions are peopled by fuzzy-thinking social engineers who should all be fired for trying to limit free expression (that's Levant’s view), but because online censorship in the name of human rights requires “extraordinary intervention” by the state.
The right-wing critics who have waged a “propaganda campaign” against human rights commissions have distorted and poisoned the debate, Moon believes.
Their campaign “encourages the fragmentation of the civic audience into insular ideological communities that are unable to engage with each other,” Moon said last week in a speech at the University of Saskatchewan.
In my opinion, Moon has put his finger on the worrisome tendency of the right-wing blogosphere to demonize its critics and select or distort facts to support preconceived opinions. “Political spin,” Moon said, “inverts the relationship between fact and opinion, with the former often following the latter. To the political spinner, facts are just supports or props for a position.”
We should listen when he asks why it is so impossible to have a serious and honest debate about hate speech regulation, without having it hijacked by bigots waving the flag of free expression.