My latest submission to The Peak was printed last week in response to some free speech or nothing racket. Enjoy:
Free speech is not our only right
By Ian Bushfield
Last week’s Opinions section included two articles which attempted to defend freedom of speech against the onslaught of the obnoxious, politically correct left-wing ideologues [“Pro-lifers are oppressed on Canadian Campuses”, and “Dissent is the essence of democracy”, October 12]. Unfortunately, the arguments reek of libertarian dogma and simple-minded elitism.
It is almost stereotypical that bearded, white males would defend fetuses from the callous women who consider them cancerous parasites and wish to expunge the hassle from their body. But do not let me mischaracterize Graham Templeton; he really is pro-choice, although his article makes it seem like something to be ashamed of.
Templeton is sympathetic toward the persecuted pro-lifers and used his article to demand that they be allowed to post the goriest pictures and to harass troubled women in a time of crisis.
Templeton’s misinformed rant continues with him failing to understand why it is currently illegal to picket outside abortion clinics in BC. Since a woman has the right to freely choose, without coercion, to have an abortion, our courts have recognized and upheld laws that protect this right while infringing as little as possible upon the freedom to speech.
Without these laws, free speech turns to coercion and harassment, as is very often the case in the abortion clinic buffer zones. Similarly, we have laws against false advertising, libel, and defamation.
Getting back to the on-campus abortion debate, it is worth noting that these pro-life groups have mistaken the freedom of speech for a non-existent right to be heard. The campus associations at these schools, whose job is to ensure that all students feel welcome in their community, offered pro-lifers the compromise of setting up the Genocide Awareness Project behind screens so that those who chose to observe the event could do so. I guess the pro-lifers are not just anti-choice when it comes to abortion.
On the other side of the page, Templeton’s fellow editor David Proctor suggested that journalists ought to present both sides to every story, and if we do not like it we should go live in North Korea.
I am tempted to agree with Proctor’s thesis, however, he fails to provide any actual cases to support his argument. He blindly asserts that progressives are guiltier of attempting to stifle their ideological adversaries. Without any evidence, I remain skeptical.
In the evolving Goldcorp and K’naan controversies, both sides warrant presentation, since in a new story, not all the facts are available and it may take a while before the truth is wholly available. However, in many cases debates that are long past settled are still subjected to sub-par journalism which seeks to give equal time to unequal viewpoints.
This is much the case in scientific debates where the evidence is overwhelmingly agreed upon by all experts in a field. No legitimate scientists in their field debate the central tenets of evolution or climate science, and yet too often a controversy is stirred up where none exists.
Dogmatic libertarians like Templeton and Proctor assume that the only right that matters is freedom of speech, and yet without freedom from discrimination, free speech can become a weapon for intolerance or coercion. Verbal harassment and intimidation are more than just hurt feelings.
While I generally agree that freedom of the press, discourse, and disagreement are necessary and healthy in a democracy, I cannot subscribe to the libertarian idiom that freedom of speech trumps all other rights.