TO be honest, I didn't really think much about "freedom of speech" until I found myself the subject of three "hate speech" complaints in Canada in 2007.
I mean I was philosophically in favour of it, and I'd been consistently opposed to the Dominion's ghastly "human rights" commissions and their equivalents elsewhere my entire adult life, and from time to time when an especially choice example of politically correct enforcement came up I'd whack it around for a column or two.
But I don't think I really understood how advanced the Left's assault on this core Western liberty actually was.
In 2008, shortly before my writing was put on trial for "flagrant Islamophobia" in British Columbia, several National Review readers e-mailed from the US to query what the big deal was. C'mon, lighten up, what could some "human rights" pseudo-court do? And I replied that the statutory penalty under the British Columbia "Human Rights" Code was that Maclean's, Canada's biggest-selling news weekly, and by extension any other publication, would be forbidden henceforth to publish anything by me about Islam, Europe, terrorism, demography, welfare, multiculturalism, and various related subjects.
And that this prohibition would last forever, and was deemed to have the force of a supreme-court decision. I would in effect be rendered unpublishable in the land of my birth. In theory, if a job opened up for dance critic or gardening correspondent, I could apply for it, although if the Royal Winnipeg Ballet decided to offer Jihad: The Ballet for its Christmas season I'd probably have to recuse myself.
And what I found odd about this was that very few other people found it odd at all.
Indeed, the Canadian establishment seems to think it entirely natural that the Canadian state should be in the business of lifetime publication bans, just as the Dutch establishment thinks it entirely natural that the Dutch state should put elected leaders of parliamentary opposition parties on trial for their political platforms, and the French establishment thinks it appropriate for the French state to put novelists on trial for sentiments expressed by fictional characters.
Across almost all the Western world apart from America, the state grows ever more comfortable with micro-regulating public discourse-and, in fact, not-so-public discourse: Lars Hedegaard, head of the Danish Free Press Society, has been tried, been acquitted, had his acquittal overruled, and been convicted of "racism" for some remarks about Islam's treatment of women made (so he thought) in private but taped and released to the world.
The Rev. Stephen Boissoin was convicted of the heinous crime of writing a homophobic letter to his local newspaper and was sentenced by Lori Andreachuk, Alberta's "human rights" commissar, to a lifetime prohibition on uttering anything "disparaging" about homosexuality ever again in sermons, in newspapers, on radio-or in private emails. Note that legal concept: not "illegal" or "hateful," but merely "disparaging."
Dale McAlpine, a practicing (wait for it) Christian, was handing out leaflets in the English town of Workington and chit-chatting with shoppers when he was arrested on a "public order" charge by Constable Adams, a gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community-outreach officer. Mr. McAlpine had been overheard by the officer to observe that homosexuality is a sin. "I'm gay," said Constable Adams. Well, it's still a sin, Mr McAlpine said. So Constable Adams arrested him for causing distress to Constable Adams.
In fairness, I should add that Mr McAlpine was also arrested for causing distress to members of the public more generally, and not just to the aggrieved gay copper. No member of the public actually complained, but, as Constable Adams pointed out, Mr McAlpine was talking "in a loud voice" that might theoretically have been "overheard by others." And we can't have that, can we? So he was fingerprinted, DNA-sampled, and tossed in the cells for seven hours.
In such a climate, time-honored national characteristics are easily extinguished.
A generation ago, even Britain's polytechnic Trots and Marxists were sufficiently residually English to feel the industrial-scale snitching by family and friends that went on in Communist Eastern Europe was not quite cricket, old boy.
Now England is Little Stasi-on-Avon, a land where, even if you're well out of earshot of the gay-outreach officer, an infelicitous remark in the presence of a co-worker or even co-playmate is more than sufficient....
Read it all in The Australian