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LETTER: Always the fundamental flaw

Don Cherry (Michael Peake, Toronto Sun)
Don Cherry. — Postmedia News file photo

Martha Muzychka presented an interesting analysis of the Don Cherry speech incident in her Nov. 13 column, “Free speech doesn’t mean you can say anything you want without consequences.”

Her account, however, presents a fundamental flaw.

Muzychka states: “His comments hurt a lot of people.”

But whatever happened to the old adage, “sticks and stones will…”? Why encourage people to be hurt by mere words? Why not instead encourage them to stand up and manifest backbone?

From the Age of Reason we seem to have headed into the Age of Self-Censorship. Why not permit Cherry, instead of censoring and shaming him into oblivion, to explain himself and thus create a forum for vigorous debate, cornerstone of a thriving democracy? Self-censorship and politically correct groupthink are not cornerstones.

Democracy depends on a citizenry with backbone. It falls when the citizenry, instead, whines about being hurt by words and counter opinions, including the one Cherry presented.

Muzychka argues, “But we need to recognize and accept that when we do wrong, when we behave inappropriately, when we hurt people, there are consequences.”

But terms like “inappropriately” are highly subjective. Indeed, who determines what is inappropriate?

Is my criticism regarding her criticism inappropriate? Perhaps that is precisely what she’d conclude, though hopefully not.

Will the editors of The Telegram deem my comments inappropriate, thus deserving to be flushed into the pipes of oblivion?

In fact, the very problem with the concept of “hate speech” is its subjective nature, which is precisely why the United States has continued to deny the concept a legal backing.

Hate for you might not be hate for me, and vice versa.

And do we really want faceless bureaucrats to determine what is and what is not hate speech? It seems that is precisely what is occurring in the provincial human rights courts in Canada. Muzychka mentions free speech is protected by Section 2 of the Charter Rights and Freedoms, but does not mention the provincial human rights courts and flexibility in the Charter that can make hate speech prosecutable, thus illegal.

Hate for you might not be hate for me, and vice versa.

In most European countries, hate speech is illegal and that designation has been used, for example, to eliminate criticism of government immigration policy.  

Cite the example of Tommy Robinson, arrested and incarcerated for such criticism.

Minorities don’t need government protection and protected class status. They need not to engage in name-calling. They need to present cogent counter-arguments based on factual evidence.

Sadly, Western democracies are heading in the wrong direction today with that regard.

Finally, Muzychka concludes, “When you abuse the privileges you have been given, you should not be surprised when you lose them. The only surprise is how long it’s taken for systems to start recognizing the long-term implications of tolerating behaviour — be it racist, sexist, homophobic, or ableist.”

Again, the terms she employs are subjective. Bellowing “racist” is not a cogent counter-argument. When I was teaching at an all-black college in North Carolina, I, a white professor, sketched critical cartoons of black professors and black administrators and published them in the student newspaper. What was the response? “Racist!”

Yet I have sketched many more cartoons of white professors and white administrators. Did those who bellowed, “racist” examine the crux of the message in each cartoon and issue a counter-argument based on factual evidence? No.

Sadly, intellectual laziness has become the best, most effective, response today.

G. Tod Slone

Barnstable, Mass.

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