Thursday, April 18, 2019

Social media may be toxic and stupid, but that doesn't justify censoring it

There are ideas that are dangerous and which cause social unrest, therefore it is for the good of the people that they must be censored and those who would spread them in the public sphere must be punished.

Every dictator in history has made an argument to the basic effect of the above sentence. 

Writers and thinkers from Galileo and Thomas Paine, and great thinkers of the Enlightenment, all the way to D.H. Lawrence, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, J.D. Salinger and a list that could take up pages were all the targets of authorities seeking to consolidate power and authority by prohibiting the expression of ideas they though might undermine the status quo. Certainly there's a big difference between some idiot ranting about the alleged racial superiority of white people on Facebook and James Joyce's Ulysses, but the central issue remains - who gets to decide what ideas you're allowed to read and hear and which you aren't.

In the case of social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter, the matter is less clear cut. They're corporations which effectively operate as private media, and like any similar entity, they have the right to determine what content they wish to publish and which not. But the threat to basic freedoms comes in when governments and authorities tell them what they can and cannot allow on their platforms.

In the days of Voltaire, or Charles Dickens or H.L. Mencken, there were fewer people with the means and the will to have their ideas disseminated to the public. The history of print is not always a positive one. Just as there were Ben Franklins to advance public discourse, there were Father Coughlins to drag it into the gutter. That is the price of a free society.

That price may be getting higher now that every idiot with a smart phone and a data plan can now broadcast their deranged conspiracy theories or invective and on occasion lull other idiots into believing them. But the technologies that have emerged in the last two decades have also added great wealth in the marketplace of ideas. The ability of citizen journalists, alternative media, and regular people who have specialized knowledge means that some of the distortions disseminated by the establishment media can be seen for what it is. 

Yes, there is Fake News created by people trying to manipulate the public. But as we see frequently, much of that Fake News comes from established, legacy media which is often just as guilty of lying as a clickbait website based in some fat guy's garage. 

Check the veracity of a report by looking at lots of credible sources. Don't believe anything because just one person says it is so if you don't know that person to be an absolutely honest, credible source. And then, still verify if you can. If your emotionally fragile facebook friend puts up a post telling you about some new horror or danger, the odds are it's about as accurate as the reports of an invasion from Mars that people who tuned into the middle of Orson Welles' radio broadcast of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds though had beset them. 

Indeed there are some horrible, hateful, bigoted things being said online. There are also some truths being told and some important insights being shared. You're smart enough to be able to distinguish one from the other. And if you aren't, then neither is the government. Because the government doesn't manufacture some special breed of genius who can provide unassailable wisdom, it's made up of people just as stupid, and sometimes a lot stupider and often a lot more malevolent, than you or me. And those are not the people you want dictating your information flow.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

An Unsafe Space - a controversial new play about Free Speech and Identity Politics to premiere in Toronto in January

The play I wrote, AN UNSAFE SPACE, now has a live website and tickets are available for purchase.
The cast is the most impressive you're ever likely to see in an independent Toronto theatre production.
It features nationally and internationally known stars Craig Lauzon, of CBC TV's flagship comedy series, Air Farce, Precious Chong, who is incredibly talented and comes from the amazing entertainment lineage of being Tommy Chong's (of Cheech and Chong) daughter, Canadian stage legends, John Jarvis, Jane Spidell, and Peter Millard, all of whom are considered among the best stage actors ever produced in this country, and two amazing young talents, Jenny Weisz, who was the lead in the Young People's Theatre Dora -nominated production of Annie, and the incredible, RADA-trained actor now back from England, Bijal Bhatt.
Who is so wise that you would be willing to entrust with the authority to make decisions of what you should and should not see? Should education and public discourse be controlled by a few people with one kind of perspective who suppress things with which they disagree or just don't like?

Anyone who is interested in these types of issues should definitely see An Unsafe Space, no matter which side of that argument they take. Because all sides will be given concepts to think about and discuss.
Free speech, censorship, and the ideologically-based suppression of ideas, as well as the stereotyping of people and their opinions based on their racial and ethnic identities, are among the hottest topics currently in the public sphere.
The comedic play AN UNSAFE SPACE, which will have its world premiere in Toronto on January 10, 2019, addresses these concepts in a biting, irreverent way that entertains while acting as a stimulus for people to think about and confront their preconceptions.
Inspired by an actual events at a major North American university, AN UNSAFE SPACE begins with a meeting of progressive academics who have gathered to find ways to foil a large donation to their department by a conservative benefactor.
The play takes place in the home of Joanna Whitney, a Political Science professor, and includes some of her colleagues, who also happen to be her friends. Joanna also had arranged to meet her new romantic interest, an aboriginal lawyer named Oliver Waterman, at the same time that the impromptu meeting is occurring. Rather than cancel her date with Oliver, curious to learn what his political stances are and how he interacts with her friends, Joanna experiments with letting her personal and professional relationships interact.
To the surprise and consternation of Joanna's colleagues, Oliver expresses strong opinions which contradict the expectations of what the academics believe a First Nations person would and should hold.
Romantic and professional rivalries and disputes, and the outrage that Oliver instigates at the meeting leads to clash after clash. The events leave the characters confronted with the unexpected necessity of having to examine their own outlooks and prejudices.
There is no other play that addresses the important issues discussed in AN UNSAFE SPACE in the same way.
At a reading of the play done at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, one of the participants described it as "a smart play written for smart people." Darrell Dennis, the renowned aboriginal actor and playwright, who participated in the reading, said, "Thank you for writing this so audiences can finally see a play with an aboriginal lead who isn't a victim."
Upon reading the play, the nationally-syndicated columnist and radio host Andrew Lawton said of AN UNSAFE SPACE, "It's hilarious and delightfully irreverent. AN UNSAFE SPACE slays every sacred cow, taking no prisoners in the process. The play offers a tragically funny look at how the perpetually offended interact behind closed doors. It certainly won’t be appropriate for any campus safe spaces, but will be a must-see wherever it’s allowed."

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

An Unsafe Space - the play. It's coming soon!

A new play I've written called AN UNSAFE SPACE will be premiering in Toronto on January 10, 2019.

It's about Identity Politics, Free Speech, Racism, Jealousy and Romance, and Censorship in academia.

It should be great fun and it's got some of the best theatre talent Canada has to offer in it.

More details will follow very soon, in the next week or so.

Stay tuned!

Monday, August 13, 2018

92% of left-wing activists live with their parents and one in three is unemployed, study of Berlin protesters finds

Color me unsurprised:

The vast majority of left-wing protesters arrested on suspicion of politically-fuelled offences in Berlin are young men who live with their parents, a new report found.

The figures, which were published in daily newspaper Bild revealed that 873 suspects were investigated by authorities between 2003 and 2013.

Of these 84 per cent were men, and 72 per cent were aged between 18 and 29.
More than half of the arrests were made in the Berlin districts of Friedrichshain, Kreuzberg and Mitte, mostly during demonstrations.

A third of them were unemployed, and 92 per cent still live with their parents...

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Hungarian govt abolishes gender studies as it is useless in the country’s job market

At the beginning of the week Hungarian universities received 24 hours from the Ministry of Human Capacities (EMMI) and the Ministry of Justice (IM) to comment on a proposed amendment, which declares that no gender studies courses can be launched in the future, reported on Friday.

According to, the part of the amendment which concerns gender studies provides no explanation whatsoever. Two universities are concerned: Hungary’s biggest state-funded university ELTE, and the Central European University, founded by George Soros.

If the amendment becomes official, it will mean that nobody can attend gender studies courses in Hungary and get a degree in the subject. notes that CEU offers both Hungarian and American degrees, the amendment will not affect the latter.

The Ministry of Human Capacities told later today that there is absolutely no interest for gender studies graduates in the Hungarian job market. EMMI added that the course is economically irrational, so they assume that it’s not launched to give the students useful knowledge...