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J. Denys Bourque, R. P. F.
19, rue Michaud
St-Jacques, NB

From Mike Lushington

        Freedom of Speech, But Only When I Agree?

        I do not know Jared Taylor. I know nothing about him or his ideas, and under normal circumstances, I suspect that I would bemissing anything because of this ignorance. However, I have become aware of his existence because of a most unfortunate incident that occurred in Halifax last week.

        Mr. Taylor, it appears, is an American scholar with some rather controversial racial opinions. He had been invited to come to Halifax to debate his views with a professor from Dalhousie University. The Dalhousie professor, it seems, changed his mind about the debate; nevertheless Mr. Taylor decided to come to Halifax to make a presentation. I do not know who invited him in the first place, nor what the topic of the debate, or the presentation, was to be, although I gather that it was controversial and that it had some basis in his apparently racist views of modern society. It does seem that Mr. Taylor espouses some opinions that are not politically correct, according to the standards of modern society.

        For those of you who are still not aware of what I am writing, this must seem terribly ambiguous. That, I am afraid, is a state which I share because I have no idea of what Mr. Taylor might have had to say because he was shouted down and then physically ejected from the room where he was supposed to be making his presentation by a group of some twenty protestors. Many of these protestors wore masks; those whose faces were visible were young; they seemed to be students, presumably from Dalhousie University, and they were obviously disturbed by the very idea that Mr. Taylor would dare presume to articulate ideas that were contrary to those that they held to be sacred.

        In the story that appeared on the ATV news the following evening, the Dalhousie professor who was supposed to debate Mr. Taylor and who declined at the last moment to do so lauded the actions of these young students (his students?), stating that they were "heroes" who were defending the rights of downtrodden minorities in the face of racism. This professor, whose name I did not note (although it was mentioned) was black. How ironic, I thought, that a black professor would justify the tactics of suppression that would have had black people in the United States quaking in fear some fifty or sixty years ago, because these young people, faces hidden behind masks and shouting slogans of righteous indignation, reminded me of Ku Klux Klan protestations against emancipation, or of puriticanical Aryan racists denouncing Zionist plots back in the hideous, but all too recent days of the mid-Twentieth century.

        Lost in all of the ruckus over the Taylor incident (or that surrounding the recent "flag signing" of the Saint John Sea Dogs Hockey Team) is the fundamental realization that Freedom of Speech - a right that we cherish in theory, if not in fact, means that we have the right to express ourselves publicly, even if, in so doing, we offend others, or demonstrate that we are blathering idiots, or have no idea of what we are saying. Denying that right to those with whom we disagree is hypocritical. Whenever we are so tempted we would do well to remember Voltaire's admonition: "I may disagree completely with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it." As a teacher myself, I would like to remind that poor Dalhousie professor that he is doing his students no favours by turning them into demagogues - even in response to the demagoguery of others.

Mike


 

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