Once upon a last summer, I worked at an “equine industry consulting firm” in a quaint, sparsely-peopled quarter of northern Ontario, phone interviewing bereft-of-human-contact horse habitués who would not infrequently (or unwarrantedly) harangue me for emblemizing the abandon with which government has distilled horse-life of its honey via industry over-regulation.
It was there that after a bank teller belligerently cast spiteful invectives at me, hastening to accuse me of being the culprit behind BMO’s missing newspapers (under the pretext that I was primly reading the newspaper across the street), I bellowed back: “If I were an old, white man, you wouldn’t feel entitled speak to me this way without giving me the chance to defend myself.”
This mirthful exchange I contemplated after being edified by “Adventures among the anti-racists” (November 19, 2007). The article, by right-leaning National Post columnist Jonathan Kay, summarizes his role at a left-leaning convention christened “Combating Hatred” as “the angry right-wing freak who, for reasons known only to himself, was ruining this otherwise respectable festival of white guilt.” He concludes that “I am an opinion journalist who can write about these issues candidly,” lamenting on behalf of orthodox anti-racists, “the jurists, NGO types, tenured academics, and public servants staring back at me from the audience [who] enjoyed no such freedom” (because of their rabid political correctness).
Perusing other articles in which he decries various corporations’ decisions to exercise their freedom to express their solidarity with the BDS movement, proceeding onto his mother, Barbara Kay’s columns (“Support Pride or You’re a Homophobe”), I marvelled at the volatility in the co-optation of the “freedom of expression” card.
Certainly, more draconian international materializations of expressionistic restraint reign supreme. Pakistani governor Salman Taseer was recently assassinated for promulgating his rebuke of the nation’s blasphemy law, which has summoned a Christian woman to death row for defaming Muhammad. Tunisian activists, bloggers and journalists reproaching their plutocrats’ embezzlement of public funds for investment in pet tigers are routinely detained and arrested. For their deeply-limited access to internet and communication with one another, Tunisians can express gratitude to American-manufactured network-intercepting software (Oh, Hillary would be proud after trumpeting, in a speech venerating internet freedom, that “On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress, but the United States does”).
Of course, in the corporate realm, freedom of expression remains unfettered in the United States. “Corporate personhood” under the 14th Amendment grants a carte blanche for CEOs claiming that erecting parameters around enterprise development (which itself curbs the freedom of expression of the indigenous peoples whose lands they adulterate and whose freedoms to protest they curtail) limits their freedom of expression.
While peaceful protest against corporate activity continue to result in the deaths of innumerable activists, Canadian Journalists for Freedom of Expression estimate that 87 government-scrutinizing journalists died last year worldwide, most of whose perpetrators were met with impunity.
Without the wherewithal to channel and defend peaceful, free expression, possessing the moral vocabulary to discern and dissent from the miasmas emanating from every corridor is but being a seed that languishes in fallow soils. Just as over-regulating the equine industry drains the soul of hickety-ho horse life, as deplored by my interviewees, over-regulating peaceful expression asphyxiates the virtues of human life. Protecting the streams for our voices should be of pre-eminent value, regardless of what comprises the outpour.
As Chomsky states, “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for those we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” So while I actually concur with many of Johnny’s reproaches against anti-racists, let them spew their orthodoxy, and leave Barbara Kay with a pulpit for her apocrypha that sex education (“The Cult of Multisexualism,” April 28, 2010) is “a rudimentary form of collective voyeurism.”