Opposition vs Censorship: M-103, Free Speech And Resisting The Rise Of Fascism
I think it is interesting how so many people on the right, particularly the “alt-right”, are using free speech narratives to further their campaigns of hate, and accusing anyone who vocally opposes their views of being “against free speech”.
Canada’s far-right journalists at The Rebel Media responded to the Quebec City Mosque Shooting by claiming that the shooter was probably a radical Islamic terrorist, even though the facts said otherwise:
They even made money from this, by playing off the fears of their supporters and claiming that there was a media conspiracy to control the narrative and portray Muslims as victims, even though it was already proven that the shooter was a White Nationalist:
Does it get any more scummy than this? Not only are they profiting from tragedy (which all media does, when you think about it), but they clearly have no empathy for Quebec City’s Muslim community, who are the targeted victims of this tragedy.
Furthermore, let’s say, hypothetically, that the shooter had been a Muslim extremist. I bet that in this case, Levant would not question the media or the narrative at all. In fact, he would use it to his advantage: to continue spreading vitriolic lies about immigrants, refugees, and Muslims in general.
Most recently, The Rebel Media as well as politicians running for Conservative Party leadership held a “Freedom Rally” to oppose the Liberal Government’s motion to condemn racism, also known as M-103, claiming that it is a new blasphemy law that makes it illegal to criticize Islam. This is very far from the truth. You can read the motion here and judge it for yourself: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Parliamentarians/en/members/Iqra-Khalid(88849)/Motions?sessionId=152&documentId=8661986
First of all, this is a MOTION, not a BILL. Motions do not change the law. Bills change the law if passed. The motion is actually about conducting a study: a “whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia” and to “collect data to contextualize hate crime reports and to conduct needs assessments for impacted communities.”
The supposedly scary parts are where it states the “need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear,” and “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.” At the so-called “freedom rally” as well as their online publications and social media accounts, The Rebel Media along with politicians Kellie Leitch, Chris Alexander, Pierre Lemieux, and Brad Trost all claim that M-103 is a real, concrete threat to freedom of speech in Canada.
My question is since when was condemnation and censorship the same thing? Since when was being opposed to bigotry and hatred the equivalent of censorship?
That is exactly my point about how the right is approaching free speech. They love using their energy to defend hate speech, because their own prejudices are no longer socially acceptable. So when people speak out against their racist, misogynistic or homophobic views, which is a natural consequence of spewing hatred and misinformation about various groups of people, they cry “censorship!” as if they themselves are victims.
Taking it even further, you never see them defending the free speech rights of people who are affected by the real-life consequences of their ideas and speak out about their experiences, unless it somehow fits in with their own agenda…as an example, right-wingers love pretending to care about the Queer community and women’s rights if it means they get to condemn Islam while they’re doing it, but if Canadians take some kind of action in our own country to make things safer for the Queer community or women, we are simply “special snowflakes” who just want “safe spaces” everywhere we go!
Don’t get me wrong — I have personally been very vocal about the problems with safe space culture, language policing and support for censorship by the left (see my previous articles for this). There are leftists out there who support outright censorship by the state, and this is in my opinion, the wrong approach to the issue because it doesn’t actually address the problematic ideas being put out to the world. It only turns these people into martyrs for their own fucked up causes, and makes it easy for them to portray themselves as ‘rebels’ or victims of the state. Why do you think ‘The Rebel Media’ took the name that it did? According to Paul Joseph Watson, alt-right is the new punk. Think about that.
When The Rebel Media was refused entry into COP22, believe it or not but I was actually on their side — because even if they are terrible press, they are still the press. They should be able to report and publish freely just like any other media outlet. I also don’t think Milo should be banned from Twitter, and I don’t think many people would support his Twitter ban if he were a far-leftist. But that is not the same as saying these people should speak without opposition, which I do not believe at all.
Just like when these people do speaking engagements. Sure, let them speak. But that doesn’t mean we have to let it go on without any protest or disruptions by the public who oppose what is being said, or the known values of the person speaking. They have their right to free speech, and we have ours too. They can use their voices but we can make our voices louder.
Even if our voices are not louder, we have a responsibility to use our voices anyway. Because ultimately this is about ideas and culture: ideas worth sharing, ideas worth vocally opposing, where those ideas are coming from, the implications of those ideas spreading, and about the culture we want to create both within our own communities and society as a whole.
You are free to share your white supremacist, misogynistic, homophobic, Islamophobic views, but don’t cry “censorship!” when people make it clear that those views will not be accepted in modern society (and should never have been accepted in the past), or when the venue you want to speak at refuses to host you, or when publishers and media outlets refuse to publish your work. That is not censorship because you can find someone who will host you or publish you. The Internet is full of people who embrace ideas from all sides of the political compass, including the far right and far left. You can easily set up your own blog and say whatever you want on it. But no one is obligated to listen and if they do listen, they are not obligated to stay silent about finding your ideas abhorrent.
Free speech is one of the most important values in existence. We need to be protected and able to defend ourselves from the state, from corporate powers and industries like the Copyright Industry, and from law enforcement entities who want to silence anyone who does not fall in line with the status-quo. This affects left-wing activists and Anti-Fascists just as much as it affects the right, who are currently the most outspoken about it. But free speech means that the state can’t lock you up for what you say. It does not shield you, nor should it, from the socio-cultural consequences of your words.
Now more than ever, we need to be clear about what censorship is and what censorship isn’t. We also need to be aware that ideas which have historically lead to Fascism are on the rise; ideas of racial supremacy, and discrimination in various forms are becoming not only socially acceptable but trendy, and we need to be able to fight this from the other side without making it easier for ourselves to be targeted by the real and dangerous forces who want to censor us.