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On Free Speech and Free Expression (Part Three)

June 1, 2019

Interviewer: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Numbering: Issue 20.A, Idea: Outliers & Outsiders (Part Sixteen)

Place of Publication: Langley, British Columbia, Canada

Title: In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Web Domain: http://www.in-sightjournal.com

Individual Publication Date: June 1, 2019

Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2019

Name of Publisher: In-Sight Publishing

Frequency: Three Times Per Year

Words: 3,504

ISSN 2369-6885

Abstract 

Tim Moen is the President of the Libertarian Party of Canada. Dr. Oren Amitay, Ph.D., C.Psych. is a Registered Psychologist and a Media Consultant. Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson is the Vice-President of Humanist Canada. David Rand is the President of Atheist Freethinkers of Canada. Dr. Rick Mehta is a Former Professor at Acadia University. They discuss: moments in national political history represent pivotal moments in the fight for one basic right: freedom of expression; moments in national social history representative of pivotal moments in the fight for one basic right: freedom of expression; moments in Academia representative of pivotal moments in the fight for one basic right: freedom of expression; and important aspects of the work to create more freedom of expression for more citizens.

Keywords: David Rand, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson, Oren Amitay, Rick Mehta, Tim Moen.

On Free Speech and Free Expression (Part Three)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

*Interviewees only answered questions in which they felt appropriate for them.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What moments in national political history represent pivotal moments in the fight for one basic right: freedom of expression?

Tim Moen: In Canada the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was passed in 1982 and instantiated freedom of expression as a fundamental freedom. Unfortunately, Section 1 of the Charter allows government to find exceptions where the rights enumerated may be violated by government.

Most provinces have Human Rights Commissions which are quasi-judicial bodies that pass judgement on perceived human rights violations. There have been a number of complaints about speech adjudicated by these Commissions including fining comedians for offensive speech. So freedom of expression is certainly not protected in Canada like it is in the US.

Dr. Oren Amitay: In Canada, it has been Bill C16 in July 2017 (it was introduced by Trudeau’s government in May 2016) and M103 in March 2017; this latter one is not a law but a non-binding resolution or “motion.” Still, it sets the stage to prevent anyone from holding honest, important and fact-based discussions about Canadian policy because anyone who does raise relevant questions will be branded an Islamophobe and potentially face dire personal, social, professional and/or legal consequences.

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson: In Canada, I think it would be the invocation of the War Measures Act in 1970. By way of background, a terrorist group, La Front de liberation du Quebec, kidnapped two people – a Quebec cabinet minister and a British diplomat. The then prime minister, father of our current prime minister, declared this to be an armed insurrection. The War Measures Act was invoked suspending civil liberties across the nation. This allowed police to arrest people without charge and without recourse to legal counsel, allowed for press censorship, and allowed the federal cabinet to run the country without having to go through parliament. Nearly 500 people were arrested incognito, often because they were believed to have voiced sympathy for some of the aims of the FLQ. Union literature that had nothing to do with the FLQ but which was deemed to be offensive was seized outside of Quebec.

The lesson I take from all this is how fragile our freedoms are. In the hysteria that was whipped up after these kidnappings the public overwhelmingly supported the suspension of their own civil liberties. This hysteria was shared by the Canadian parliament that voted overwhelmingly to make itself irrelevant and invest all power in the prime minister. Today we see an erosion of due process in Canada, following a similar dynamic. Due to a hysteria whipped up by generally unsubstantiated allegations, our present government has amended the criminal code to force defence counsel to share evidence that complainants in sexual abuse cases are lying with the prosecution and complainant’s lawyers before trial. This ultimately allows complainants to know what evidence the defence has so that they can modify their testimony accordingly. This aspect of Bill-C51 to amend Canada’s criminal code only applies to charges of sexual assault and not to other crimes like murder, arson or theft. It’s an erosion of due process.

Dr. Rick Mehta: Probably, in Canada, it would have to be Jordan Peterson’s stand on Bill C-16.

2. Jacobsen: Following from the previous question, what moments in national social history represents pivotal moments in the fight for one basic right: freedom of expression?

Moen: A recent example that comes to mind is the controversy that Jordan Peterson triggered when he refused to be compelled to use pronouns of choice at the University of Toronto.

Robertson: Delbert and Laroche were Metis brothers from northern Saskatchewan, Canada, in the 1960s. Laroche was a swarthy, dark-skinned man with a zest for life sports. Delbert suffered from asthma and had not done well in school as compared to his brother. He was light-skinned and could pass for “white.” They applied for jobs at the mine in Flin Flon on the Saskatchewan-Manitoba border. Delbert was hired, Laroche was not. This was part of a pattern where the good jobs generally went to Delbert. Their example was used as evidence for anti-racism funding and legislation.

About a decade later I participated in a social experiment. It had been rumoured that a lounge in Regina was using a dress code as a pretext for discriminating against aboriginal people. We recruited a group of dark-skinned aboriginals and had them dress in sports jackets and dress pants. We also recruited some lighter skinned people and had them dress in blue jeans. The aboriginal people were turned away while the non-aboriginal appearing people were not. We used this as a case with the Human Rights Commission and the establishment was forced to change its practices.

Today examples of overt discrimination are comparatively rare. A recent study by John Richards as Simon Fraser University has shown, for example, that aboriginal people with university degrees are just as likely, even slightly more likely, to be employed at a level commensurate with their degree as compared to non-aboriginal Canadians. The pivotal moment involved the activism of the 60s and 70s. Our society is so lacking in racism that people who for personal or political reasons want to find it have been reduced to looking for it in the innocuous names of sports teams and in the so-called “dog whistle” communication of their political opponents where nothing racist is actually said but the words are supposed to connote some secret signal. A short while ago a leader of one of Canada’s political parties was accused of being racist because while he condemned a mass murderer in New Zealand and expressed sympathy for the victims, he failed to mention that the victims were Muslim. I am sorry, but irrespective of the fact that Islam is a religion not a race, the failure to recite some political script is not evidence of racism. I am angry at the racialists who engage in this behaviour. They are basically saying that someone who cheers for the McGill Varsity Redmen (a name chosen because their earliest sports teams included Irish immigrants with red hair) are equally guilty of racism as the employer who hires people based on the depth of brown that makes up their skin colouring. Frankly, it trivializes racism and brings disrespect to the once honourable term “social justice advocate.”

David Rand: (Canada) Motion M-103 (adopted by federal parliament) and other motions (e.g. adopted by National Assembly in Quebec) which condemn the fictional “racism” known as “Islamophobia” are examples of major threats to freedom of expression here in Canada. The recent repeal of Canada’s anti-blasphemy law is very good news, but much mitigated by the previously mentioned motions. In summary: “Islamophobia” is the blasphemy of the 21st century.

Amitay: At the risk of appearing self-congratulatory, the largest Free Speech talk in Canada was held on November 11, 2017, in Toronto, Canada. It was organized entirely by one woman, my former student Sarina Singh, and featured myself and Drs. Jordan Peterson and Gad Saad.

3. Jacobsen: Also, what moments in Academia represent pivotal moments in the fight for one basic right: freedom of expression?

Moen: The seemingly endless examples of censorship of conservative and classically liberal speakers in North America seems to be bringing attention to the degradation of expression and speech in the Academy.

Amitay: I know there are earlier moments but I cannot invest the time in recalling them. So, more recently, I would say the Evergreen State College debacle beginning in May 2017, whereby Dr. Bret Weinstein and his wife, Dr. Heather Heying, fought against the insanity of their College colleagues and students. I would also say Dr. Jonathan Haidt’s efforts to bring sanity to College Campuses, including his formation of Heterodox Academy, and perhaps most importantly, the Chicago Principles established following the University of Chicago’s engagement with Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in 2014.

Robertson: I think we are in such a moment right now, and I don’t know how it will end. Let me back up for a moment. The Enlightenment that I referred to earlier began in academia over the nature of knowledge. Enlightenment scholars viewed knowledge as something humans could attain through application of reason and observation. Our human rights that are centered on the respect given individuals and their ability to ascertain for themselves truth is grounded in this Enlightenment ideal.

Post Modernism holds that truth cannot be ascertained through reason and empiricism. For example, one of my old post-modernist university professors stated, in a journal article, that science is “just a white, male way of knowing.” Well, if you remove the authority of reason and empiricism, how does one settle competing truth claims? The answer is, of course, through appeals to authority that ultimately rest on naked power, which was the system used by monastic universities to maintain doctrinaire purity prior to the Enlightenment.

Just how this anti-intellectual way of maintaining academic didactic purity operates may have been illustrated by Acadia University’s firing of a tenured professor. Rick Mehta publicly disagreed with the findings of Canada’s “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” into historical grievances faced by people who are indigenous to this country. He also refused to bend grammatical rules to use words like “they” when referring to transsexual people, nor did he use newly invented pronouns like “ze.” This all is evidence that he failed to follow the party line. The university was not forthcoming in releasing the reports they used to justify his firing, but the seriousness of firing a tenured professor demand transparency.

The improper disciplinary action against Lindsay Shepherd by Wilfred Laurier University leads to further questions of academic freedom. In this case, Shepherd was a teaching assistant who showed a debate between two University of Toronto professors on the use of special transgender pronouns to her students. As a professional educator, I can tell you that this is sound educational practise; however, Shepherd’s supervisors disagreed and said the showing of the debate was like showing a video of Adolph Hitler. Although the university subsequently apologized to Shepherd for this improper disciplinary hearing, she reports that she is now blacklisted from Canadian universities. Her supervisors, Nathan Rambukkana and Herbert Pimlott, still have tenure.

An irony in all this is that the leading post-modernist of the twentieth century was Martin Heidegger, a Nazi. He argued that human reason was deficient and that the German volk should put their trust those who were “Dasein,” specifically, himself and the Fuehrer, to determine ultimate truth. While Hitler described himself as a Roman Catholic and was totalitarian in his approach, Shepherd describes herself as an atheist who believes in diversity and the use of reason and science. But she evidently receive the memo from the modern “Dasein” that some people were to be censored even if in debate with a person holding an opposing view. Will this pivotal moment in our history end with a return to authoritarian universities, or will we retain the humanist vision of the Enlightenment? I believe our continuing civilization will ultimately be determined by how we answer that question.

Rand: Here in Canada, freedom of speech and expression are threatened mainly by social censorship, not political (government) censorship. Specifically, social censorship is imposed via overwhelming waves of gratuitous and defamatory accusations of “racism” or “xenophobia” or “Islamophobia” or “far-right” tendencies or various other slanderous insults. The result is to poison any debate and bully dissenters into silence. This is what the regressive pseudo-left is all about. It has ruined the left. The question remains: Is there any left left? The two most important moments in recent Canadian history where this occurred both involve Quebec: (1) 2013-2014, when the government (PQ) attempted to pass a secularism charter and (2) currently, 2019, as the government (CAQ) plans to pass a new law implementing State secularism in Quebec. In both situations, the media, especially the English-language media went (and continue to go) ballistic.

Mehta: That one, I am not sure if they is anyone pivotal big moment because there are so many. I think it is a lot of small moments that build on one another. I think it is partly because, in Canada, we do not have an equivalent in Canada, as they do in America like the Chronicles of Higher Education. It is hard to really know, because I do not really know all the ins-and-outs of what is happening in Academia. All I can tell is the limited information from Facebook groups like Academics for Academic Freedom.

It is hard to give an informed answer because I do not have the data or the information to give an articulate answer.

4. Jacobsen: On the international level, and as a final question, what have been important aspects of the work to create more freedom of expression for more citizens, as a branch of social justice – understood as human rights and equality? That is to say, more equality in the provision of the right to freedom of expression.

Moen: The biggest boon to social justice has been markets and entrepreneurship. The decline of absolute poverty and access to devices that allow more individuals around the world to broadcast their ideas and content has done more to empower expression than anything else. Governments around the world continue to be tempted to use their power to limit speech, and many people are pushing back, however I think the increasing access to technology and wealth and more speech innovations will make it nearly impossible to stifle expression. Government is just too cumbersome to keep up.

Amitay: I do not quite understand the question, but I would say that we have not seen much impact of such efforts with respect to compelling people to accept that such freedoms are perhaps the most important element of “social justice” or human rights and equality. If anything, we have seen a significant degradation of such principles internationally. Unfortunately, the result has been the boomerang ascent of a number of *truly* “far right” and/or “White Supremacist” organizations, political parties and ruling governments, particularly in Eastern Europe. This is highly predictable because, although “the powers that be” in numerous countries have inexplicably determined that a lot of non-hateful speech somehow constitutes “hate speech” or some other form of “criminal” expression, this is true only if the recipients of the supposedly “offensive” speech are not White, heterosexual, non-Transgender (Christian/Catholic/Protestant/Baptist) males and sometimes females. In other words, it is “open season” against White, heterosexual, non-Transgender (Christian/Catholic/Protestant/Baptist) males and sometimes females, hence they seek out and/or support those who appear to represent and to defend their own interests. If Free Speech or Free Expression were embraced by all, most people who are *not* hateful or bigoted would not feel they need to seek refuge among “extreme/radical” groups such as those mentioned above. Instead, they would feel that they could have honest and fact-based discussions about important issues in any context, rather than being called hateful, racist, sexist, bigoted, misogynistic, misanthropic, homophobic, Transphobic, Islamophobic or any other kind of ___ist/___phobic for daring to say anything that does not conform exactly to what is currently deemed as “proper.”

Robertson: Although the United Nations is much maligned, and sometimes deservedly so, it has served as a conduit for communication from different societies and this has facilitated a common ethic governing such communication. The default for such communication is secular because the organization cannot privilege one religion above another and continue to function. Thus the U.N. through its advocacy of human rights, and its communication generally, has advanced secularism. The greatest threat to freedom of expression is religionism. Without religion, dictators lack moral authority and rule through brute force. Religion provides the moral authority whereby good hearted people do evil things. It worries me that we do not support sufficiently secularists from priest and imam ridden countries. I commend the work of Humanists International, but we need to do more.

Rand: First of all, the very expression “social justice” has become suspect because it has been hijacked by the regressive pseudo-left in the form of “social justice warriors” who in practice enforce, dogmatically and aggressively (and sometimes with violence), the repressive politics of that movement, including social suppression of freedom of speech and expression. This is happening in several countries: Canada, USA, UK, France and other European countries. At the international level, one very important issue is efforts by the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) to impose an international anti-blasphemy law under the guise of proscribing “defamation of religion.” The work of the IHEU to document anti-atheist persecution around the world is a very important aspect of the fight against this kind of campaign for censorship.

Mehta: I think what is happening internationally, to make sure I understand the question, is that right now with the social justice movement. It is actually the antithesis of more freedom of expression. Your right to speak, your right to express yourself, is a function of your identity. So, how much you deviate from being a white, heterosexual, Christian male, who is in good shape? Probably, too, if we are going to include physical fitness, that is deemed the enemy.

The more you deviate from that in the so-called hierarchy of power. That then gives you the greater right to speak. The social justice movement is the exact opposite to giving one’s right to freedom of expression. This could be answer to an earlier question. The University of Chicago’s Principles on Freedom of Expression. That’s probably the one set of principles that is allowing for the greatest expression of freedom of expression in the academic setting, in the universities right now.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, everyone.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Tim Moen, President, Libertarian Party of Canada; Dr. Oren Amitay, Ph.D., C.Psych., Registered Psychologist and Media Consultant; Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson, Vice-President, Humanist Canada; David Rand, President, Atheist Freethinkers of Canada; Dr. Rick Mehta, Former Professor, Psychology, Acadia University.

[2] Individual Publication Date: June 1, 2019: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/speech-expression-two; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2019: https://in-sightjournal.com/insight-issues/.

Appendix II: Citation Style Listing

American Medical Association (AMA): Jacobsen S. On Free Speech and Free Expression (Part Three) [Online].June 2019; 20(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/speech-expression-three.

American Psychological Association (APA, 6th Edition, 2010): Jacobsen, S.D. (2019, June 1). On Free Speech and Free Expression (Part Three)Retrieved from http://www.in-sightjournal.com/speech-expression-three.

Brazilian National Standards (ABNT): JACOBSEN, S. On Free Speech and Free Expression (Part Three). In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 20.A, June. 2019. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/speech-expression-three>.

Chicago/Turabian, Author-Date (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott. 2019. “On Free Speech and Free Expression (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 20.A. http://www.in-sightjournal.com/speech-expression-three.

Chicago/Turabian, Humanities (16th Edition): Jacobsen, Scott “On Free Speech and Free Expression (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal. 20.A (June 2019). http://www.in-sightjournal.com/speech-expression-three.

Harvard: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘On Free Speech and Free Expression (Part Three)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 20.A. Available from: <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/speech-expression-three>.

Harvard, Australian: Jacobsen, S. 2019, ‘On Free Speech and Free Expression (Part Three)In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, vol. 20.A., http://www.in-sightjournal.com/speech-expression-three.

Modern Language Association (MLA, 7th Edition, 2009): Scott D. Jacobsen. “On Free Speech and Free Expression (Part Three).” In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 20.A (2019):June. 2019. Web. <http://www.in-sightjournal.com/speech-expression-three>.

Vancouver/ICMJE: Jacobsen S. On Free Speech and Free Expression (Part Three) [Internet]. (2019, June 20(A). Available from: http://www.in-sightjournal.com/speech-expression-three.

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© Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal 2012-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen, and In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  All interviewees co-copyright their interview material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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