Tuesday, May 13

Have a banana, Justice Minister Nicholson

For readers who saw yesterday's Warning to Americans about Section 13 early on, at 9:00 PM I added this update to the post:

"The blogger Blazing Catfur has just sent the following link with the comment that Anuj C. Desai does a good job of refuting [Alexander] Tsesis's thesis.

It turns out Tsesis published a book in 2002 that is obviously the inspiration for the thinking behind Sen. Kennedy's hate legislation and the argument posed by Canada's Justice Ministry against striking Section 13.

The book is titled, Destructive Messages: How Hate Speech Paves the Way for Harmful Social Movements, which from Google seems to be only available now in Japan but which has made the rounds at many American university law departments.

In his overview of the book Desai writes:
Alexander Tsesis sets forth a thesis about the relationship between what he refers to as “hate speech” and action that follows from it. His broad claim about the relationship is simple and straightforward: When systematically developed over long periods of time, “hate speech” lays the foundation for harmful social movements that ultimately result in the oppression and persecution of “outgroups.”

From this premise he argues that United States courts should abandon the rule that advocacy or incitement must be likely to result in imminent harm before it can be constitutionally proscribed,7 and that legislatures should criminalize “hate speech.” He then concludes the book with a proposed statute to do just that. [...]
Here is the PDF of Desai's discussion, which is titled, Attacking Brandenburg with History: Does the Long-Term Harm of Biased Speech Justify a Criminal Statute Suppressing It?"

As I highlighted in yesterday's post Ezra Levant took a stab at exposing the flaws in Tsesis's arguments and also termed Tsesis a nut.

I think that last is somewhat unkind because Mr Tsesis is not insane. This is obviously his first incarnation outside an isolated tribe. So it all makes perfect sense from Mr Tsesis's point of view: if we don't utter Taboo words we'll never anger the Goddess of Floods and Famine.

The real issue, which I have spent years on this blog explaining, is that the way is forward, not back. This means that if you've spent, say, 500,000 years clawing your way out of the trees and into modern life, the idea is not to return to the trees.

Again and again, I've had to explain this point to British readers who still don't understand that if they don't walk into those no-go zones, if they don't engage and debate with immigrants practicing ancient tribal beliefs, the British themselves will end up much farther back than the immigrants; they'll end up where their own ancestors started, which was painting themselves blue and wearing feathers.

This is such a simple, obvious point that a failure to grasp it explains my occasional flashes of temper.

Humans are not born stupid but they can be made stupid if no one ever challenges them, if not no one ever troubles to point out flaws in reasoning and never insists that they think things through for themselves. If the British don't do these things, it's not just a matter of losing their civilization; it's a matter of returning to a diet of bananas.

Yet to ensure we don't return to the trees, freedom of speech is a prerequisite.

Anuj Desai is striving to help Mr Tsesis orient his brain to a more forgiving universe, but here we come to a snag. The biggest problem is not Mr Tsesis and his primitive understanding of the role of language, nor is it even Canada's Justice Ministry or Senator Edward Kennedy. The problem is clearly evident in this passage from Desai's paper:
To American lawyers steeped in the modern First Amendment, Tsesis’s thesis is bold, indeed radical. It is, however, little more than an importation of the theoretical underpinnings of an approach to regulating racist ideologies that much of the rest of the world -- Europe, in particular -- has relied upon and one that Americans will increasingly have to grapple with as changes in communication technologies impose pressure to harmonize laws regulating information and expression.
With that, finally we arrive at bedrock. What we find there is not the Muslim Brotherhood or Canadian Jewish Congress but an accounting team working for a globalized corporation.

In the days of European Colonial rule the standard operating principle was, "Don't rile the natives." The new principle is, "Don't rile the consumer."

Because the consumer resides in vastly different cultures around the globe, transnational corporations don't want to run into the kind of nightmare that Coca-cola faced several weeks ago:

Chinese university students in Germany became enraged when a picture was posted on the internet of a German store that had a Coca-cola poster in the window. The poster showed happy Tibetan monks on a roller coaster -- which the students darkly interpreted to mean "freedom." The students used the internet to call for a boycott of Coca-cola.

The terror was that the call for boycott might spread to China's consumers. So you may trust the poster was quickly removed and that Coca-cola brass apologized all over themselves for anyone assuming they were making a political statement.

So this is not simply a matter of restricting hateful speech; this is a demand from the engines of global commerce to restrict any kind of speech that any consumer in any culture might possibly find offensive.

Where will this lead? To great difficulty conducting business through the exchange of bananas and uttering, "Uga uga."

True, no one's speech will possibly offend when things reach that stage, which means we'll return to how we settled things before the George Bernard Shaw's of the world arose: by bashing out each other's brains to elucidate the point.
Blazing Catfur has also weighed in on Desai's analysis of Tsesis's thesis.

No comments: