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Thursday, July 8, 2010

McCarthyism from Canada's Radical Left

Canada's favourite homegrown conspiracy theorist, Naomi Klein, made a surprise guest appearance and lectured last week at a fundraising event held by the anti-Israel group, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.

Maybe not such a surprise after all.

With her third "surprise" visit to a protest event within a month, Klein is running the risk of becoming the political equivalent of a camp follower.

Klein's speech at the QAIA's "Pride in our politics cabaret" was her typical tirade against the Harper government in general and in particular, towards those opposed to her darling 'Boycott Israel' agenda.

Her choice of words echoed those of her friends Libby Davies and Judy Rebick to the extent that their talking points seem coordinated.

Among Klein's claims were, "There has been a very powerful attack on freedom of expression in this country. A McCarthyite campaign against people who fall outside of the Harper government's version of what we should be saying or doing."

There was a lot of nonsense in Klein's speech but the most glaring and the most frequently parroted lie she and her comrades offer is that the criticism of groups like "Queers Against Israeli Apartheid" or politicians like Libby Davies falls into the category of "McCarthyism."

I'll give Klein the benefit of the doubt and assume she invented that ridiculous accusation to inflame feeling against her ideological opponents, since the alternative is that she has no understanding of the nature of democratic public discourse since the time of Solon 2600 years ago.

In politics and the political framework of shaping public opinion in democratic societies, part of the discourse, aside from putting forward your own position, is to criticize the ideas and the individuals opposed to them. Sometimes that criticism is harsh, but that it part of the political test of fire. If those who seek to sway the course of human events cannot withstand harsh criticism, their course may not be a fit one.

Ms. Klein, like Ms. Rebick and Davies have certainly not been shy in dispensing acrid and unsubstantiated criticism of Stephen Harper. Yet unlike them, he appears to be aware of the nature of democratic discourse and has not resorted to fatuous allegations of "McCarthyism" against his critics.

So looking at this, let's be clear about what McCarthyism is. It is defined as:
n. 1.The practice of publicizing accusations of political disloyalty or subversion with insufficient regard to evidence.

2.The use of unfair investigatory or accusatory methods in order to suppress opposition.

(from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Regarding the first definition, whether "disloyalty" to Israel by a Canadian politician or political action group is relevant or had been brought up remains doubtful. Obviously there is no expectation of loyalty by Davies or QAIA to Israel nor should there be. While Israel is an ally of Canada, "loyalty" to a foreign country is by no means requisite to any Canadian. The issue regarding Israel and accusations of its being "apartheid" are essentially foreign policy questions which are always contentious and open to debate in Canada. Davies and groups attacking Israel are being criticised in the course of public policy and foreign policy debates.

So within the context of criticism in a public policy debate, what about the question of "insufficient regard to evidence" and "the use of unfair investigatory or accusatory methods in order to suppress opposition?" In this, the accusation of "McCarthyism" is preposterous.

What is the "evidence" being used against Davies and QAIA? Their own words.

Both Davies and QAIA have publicly stated that they support a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel. This contravenes Canadian national foreign policy and in Davies' case, the policy of the political party of which she is deputy leader. Davies' videoed statement where she said, after being given a choice of dates, that the "occupation" of Palestine began in 1948, the year of Israel's creation as a modern state, clearly suggests she questions its legitimacy. If, as Davies later claimed, her use of that date was a "completely inadvertent error", she has made absolutely no subsequent retraction of her support for sanctions and a boycott of Israel. And QAIA, like Klein, very actively support that campaign against Israel.

Calling for sanctions against a country and offering one-sided criticisms without applying context, which in Israel's case is that of a country defending itself in an armed conflict, suggests that Davies, Klein, Judy Rebick, and QAIA in fact do not recognize Israel's legitimacy. They have a right to do so. What is striking is that they appear to believe that right, which they exercise in an effort to sway public opinion, exempts them from any criticism.

It is on the basis of their publicly stated positions that opponents, like Stephen Harper and for that matter, the leadership of the Canadian Liberal Party, have resolutely criticised Davies and her cohorts.

That is the nature of public policy debate in a democracy. People put forward their positions and opposing sides and individuals criticize each other. Sometimes in robust and acrimonious ways, but that is the nature of political debate.

It is a method that Klein, Rebick and Davies engage in routinely and yet hypocritically decry when the same methods are employed towards them.

If anyone is guily of "McCarthyism" in this debate, it is Klein, Davies, Rebick and QAIA, with their blatantly false accusations of, ""There has been a very powerful attack on freedom of expression in this country. A McCarthyite campaign against people who fall outside of the Harper government's version of what we should be saying or doing."

Other clear examples of leftist McCarthyism are Judy Rebick's absurd claims that Stephen Harper is an "autocrat" who has gotten "rid of almost all our democratic rights" and "The attack on Libby [by Harper] is a sexist attack as well as an anti-democratic attack, an attack on reducing freedom of speech in this country."  (Note the similarity of language used by Klein and Rebick.)
Another example Klein uses to support her allegations of "McCarthyism" and deprivation of "free speech" by Harper in his government's cutting off funds to certain agencies that have been deemed to promote goals which are not consistent with the government's foreign policy objectives.
Again, Klein betrays either a dishonesty or a lack of understanding about both "McCarthyism" and "free expression."

Cutting off government funding isn't an attack on free expression, it's the revokation of public financing for narrowly focused special interest groups whose agenda conflicts with government policy. We live in a democracy and we give those powers to our political representatives. If we don't like the way they use those powers, we as citizens in a democracy have the right to revoke them in elections and install a new government that enacts different policies.
Ms Klein's problem is not that Canada is without free expression. Her problem is that she has been and remains on the losing side of a public debate.
Klein is right about one thing.  There is, as she says, an "attack on freedom of expression in this country. A McCarthyite campaign against people.."
What she doesn't admit is that she is not the victim, but is actually the perpetrator of that "McCarthyite" campaign.


Harry Abrams said...

There actually was a time when Jewish antisemitism, and its adherent's perverse need to eradicate Israel and all who live there actually shocked me.

But no longer. It's considered chic and very au courant in many politically left wing circles to encourage this kind of sick vilification despite all reason.

That's why as far as I'm concerned this Klein woman, like her soul mates Elle Flanders, Norm Finkelstein, Greta Berlin, Noam Chomsky and more are as far as I'm concerned, simply another fifth column brainwashed army of Hamas and Hezbollah and should be recognized and shunned as such are every time they spew their nonsense in public.

Why is this a phenomenon? Oh I suppose a bit of it comes from underdog-itus. Identifying with the folks who want you dead in order to feel more accepted or some such twisty-skull thing.

I really don't care. They're just miscreants is all.

Since time immemorial there have always been traitors to every society. Just that these days, clowns like this in the presence of instant global media have their presence amplified instantly because from a media manager's point of view they are 'entertaining" because they go against the normal reasonable flow of things.

I'd be very happy to see Naomi Klein in Gaza where she belongs. Maybe she could realize a special dream and become the property of some Sheik.

Anonymous said...

McCarthy was correct.. Just look around..

And check out the book "Blacklisted by history"

Hollywood wasted no time demonizing the Great American Patriot McCarthy...

Van Grungy