Monday, January 14, 2008

Of douchebags and drama queens

Who knew that publishing some half-assed cartoons could put someone on the path to martyrdom? The newly- (and largely self-) appointed Patron Saint of Conservative Persecution, Ezra Levant, had his day in what he and his sycophants refer to as "Kangaroo Kourt"(*snicker*) at the Alberta Human Rights Commission on Friday. The AHRC was getting Levant's side of the story as it investigates the viability of a complaint made against Levant's odious "Western Standard" for publishing the Danish "Muhammad cartoons" that enraged European Muslims a couple of years ago. ("Defiantly" rerun by St. Ezra a few days ago. Whew -- I can hear AC/DC now: "Who's got big balls!?" Whoever would have expected testicles of such cantaloupian proportions on that nerdy little Ezra guy. I'm, you know, impressed. Or something.)

No doubt Levant originally published the cartoons for the express purpose of injecting some opportunistic buzz into the failing health of the Standard, and it couldn't have played out better. In lieu of the bombs and burning cars he was probably hoping for, a human rights complaint would do. The fact that Levant went out of his way to make an unnecessary personal appearance at the AHRC (with cameras rolling to capture his carefully-scripted pontifications) should have clued someone into the fact that they were being played, but... well, remember Saddam? The people falling for Levant's histrionics are the same people who allow themselves to be led by the nose into illegal wars. They're malleable, to say the least. Add their existing persecution complexes, and the stage was set. Enter the Drama Queen.

Levant's visit with the AHRC wasn't a "hearing" as much as a first step in determining whether the complaint against him even holds any water (hint: it doesn't). Levant is a lawyer -- he knows good and well how much liability he actually has in this case. That's probably why he chose to make a personal appearance (accompanied by cameras) at such an early stage -- he knows this will be his only opportunity to make hay, so he's Drama-Queening it up. It would hardly be worth comment except that it's brought up the issue of free speech.

I think the complaint against Levant is frivolous -- however, taken in context with the Standard's pattern of behaviour it's easy to see how it came about. From the combox of the Standard's Shotgun Blog, October 2006:

"Nuke 'em"? (Who else but RG?) And that's just an abbreviated sample. There's no doubt some of the comments in that thread constitute hate speech, some of it so noxious that even another wanked-out conservative complained:
Of course this Moderate Voice of Reason was immediately called out as a "leftist" ("leftist" -- who the fuck says "leftist" anymore? Hey buddy, the McCarthy Era called, they want their word back). Well, so much for free speech! Complaints notwithstanding, these comments are fairly typical of the kind of discourse the Standard not only allows but encourages. It's not hard to see how someone might eventually reach critical mass with these mouthy morons and fire off a human rights complaint. Publishing cartoons -- meh. Advocating genocide -- not so meh.

As I've said here before, one of the reasons I'm not crazy about hate speech legislation is that it can open the door to so much abuse (which includes giving pompous assholes like Levant the opportunity to set themselves up as martyrs). But at the same time, I believe our minorities have the right to live peacefully without being subjected to bigotry. Because a scurvy, scummy little cadre of nitwits insists on being such bigoted douchebags, the unfortunate reality is that those who feel threatened need some avenue to address their concerns.

While the right to free speech comes with an implied responsibility not to be a jerk about it, there'll always be someone happy to invoke their right to be an asshole. The question is whether the right to be an asshole supercedes a minority's right to live free from abuse.

Update: Via the comments at Dr. Dawg's: See? It's only free speech when it's their free speech. Tsk tsk.