In the end, the hope is that good ideas will triumph over bad ones and that truth will unseat lies and deception.
The belief that truth will prevail explains in large measure why those societies we look back on as being the most repressive, cruel and unjust were the most censorious. It has been and is fear that their support would crumble when confronted by ideas and facts challenging theirs that inspired guardians of the likes of Communism, Nazism and The Inquisition to the prohibition of dissenting speech and publications.
The right of Free Speech was the founding principle in that culmination of The Enlightenment, the American Revolution, and is something most of us in Canada take for granted. But we shouldn't.
As the recent Supreme Court of Canada's Whatcott decision highlighted, there is an ongoing battle about just which ideas are permissible in a country that is supposedly based on principles of freedom and fairness.
That any idea other than those that specifically incite violence or commit libel should be banned is something many Canadians find not only offensive, but a dangerous indication that more rights may be usurped in the slide to the crushing of individual liberty.
An unlikely group of Canadians are at the forefront of the fight for the principle that ideas should be allowed to be freely expressed while exposing the hypocrisy of the would-be censors. They are a collection of activists and writers who have been disparagingly described by Bernie Farber, the former Canadian Jewish Congress head and rumored successor to Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Barbara Hall, as "Bully Bloggers."
These so-called Bully Bloggers are characterized, in certain cases incorrectly, as "right-wing." What they do share is a belief that there are hypocritical, dishonest public figures in politics, unions and the media who are trying to shape opinion and influence culture and legislation, while attempting to suppress the free expression of ideas that dissent from theirs.
Lacking the resources of big media, government grants, wealth and powerful institutions possessed by those they criticize, the Bully Bloggers' tools are the Internet, cameras, computers and knowledge, operating in the idealistic hope that exposing hypocrisy and dishonesty can shift the flow of public opinion.
Sometimes that hope is in vain, but sometimes it is not. The mainstream media, despite publicly eschewing the Bully Bloggers, monitors their blogs closely and frequently steal stories from them when a tipping point is reached.
That happened when Bully Blogger Blazing Cat Fur brought to light information such as the practice of a Toronto public school using its facilities as a mosque during school hours, how the Toronto District School Board was promoting a group that advocated using vegetables as sex toys, and a Canadian Islamic School which had anti-Jewish slander as part of its curriculum.
It's not that all of the mainstream media or all public officials don't oppose such things, but they have conflicting interests and the safety of politically correct appeasement is often the expedient choice they make.
Fortunately, Bully Bloggers, who use their own time and resources to expose matters of public interest, have no such constraints. And their shedding the initial light on such matters can be the excuse that sympathetic members of corporate media use to give them wider exposure.
There are costs to putting oneself on the line for one's principles. The Bully Bloggers are exposing people who have powerful and wealthy connections in politics and the media. Frequently subject to hatred and threats, but sustained by the belief that getting the truth out is worth sacrifice, these dedicated citizen journalists soldier on.
Among the particular characteristics Bernie Farber attributed to Bully Bloggers were :
Targeting minorities, namecalling & attempts at intimidating r bully-bloggers stock & trade.While one could easily dispute some of Farber's assertions about his Bully Bloggers (whom he never identifies by name), he fails to recognize the value of such things as name-calling in public discourse.
Jack Layton and the NDP decried the nickname "Taliban Jack" as a smear, but in our YouTube and Internet era of short attention spans, people tend to think in shorthand. In two words, Taliban Jack conveyed the idea of a leader and a political party that was soft on Islamic extremism and Canada's commitment to fighting terror. It stuck - and not only because it was catchy, but because it was truthful. And in the end, that reflects the Bully Bloggers' hope that the truth will get a hearing.
In some cases, name-calling is a very important tool. The people Bully Bloggers insult are those that would like to have authority or influence over the rest of us. As a general principle, the ones who seek out such power are the ones who deserve it least. Exposing and insulting them when they behave stupidly, viciously or hypocritically helps diminish the undeserving in the eyes of the public and keeps them away from the power they covet and all-too-often abuse.
So when Loony Libby Davies makes statements that effectively deny Israel's right to exist, or when she promotes 9-11 conspiracy theories in the House of Commons, it is in the public's interest to have a reminder that she may not deserve their respect.
When Crazy Muslim Mohammed Elmassry says that all Jews in Israel over the age of 18 are legitimate targets for murder, then it's useful for the public to have a mental trigger that he and the terrorist-supporting Canadian Islamic Congress he founded are contemptible.
When Sideshow Sarah Thomson makes implausible, self-serving accusations against Rob Ford, or Captain eHealth George Smitherman tries to regain public attention, it's relevant that both of those two people want to attain significant political power. That relevance is all the greater when considering that their records show how little they deserve such authority.
Critics of the Bully Bloggers accuse them of being racists and Islamophobes. These are two distinct and significant accusations that are often conflated and intentionally deceptive. To examine and refute those accusations, they need to be addressed one-by-one.
Racists are stupid people who believe individuals can be summed up and dismissed based on their race or ethnic origin. Racism is a belief system rooted in ignorance and hate and those that hold it are self-discrediting and can be easily dismissed. But race is different than culture. Culture is a system of ideas and practices and Bully Bloggers are not adherents to the fatuous leftist devotion to cultural relevance that considers all such beliefs and behaviors to have equal merit.
Confusing race with culture is a traditional facet of self-described progressives, who as a group are not very deep thinkers, so most of them have great difficulty differentiating between criticism of cultural practices and racism.
As far as being Islamophobes, some of the Bully Bloggers would plead guilty to that charge. But before the Farbers of this world put on a smug smile and twinkle with what they might see as a damning confession by adversarial iconoclasts, they might consider that criticism of Islamic practices is a far cry from discrimination or prejudice against Muslims.
In fact, some of the people closest to the Bully Bloggers are Muslim critics of Islamism, like Salim Mansur, Tarek Fatah, and Irshad Manji.
While the politically correct are afraid to call out Islamic terrorism as anything but extremism and an aberration, Bully Bloggers note how the promotion of violence is often a routine facet in the practice of Islam and the facts bear them out.
Much of Islamic practice is devoted to teaching fairness and integrity, particularly as the religion is manifested in North America. Naturally, the vast majority of Muslims abhor violence, are kind to their wives and daughters and are disgusted with terrorism. But there is a minority of Muslims who do not, and that minority is not insignificant in number. And how can those hateful, murderous ideologies be dealt with when they are denied by their perpetrators and swept under the rug by multiculturalist apologists?
Like Islamism's Muslim critics, Bully Bloggers are keenly aware that it is Muslims who are the most frequent victims of Islamist terrorism, totalitarianism and intolerance.
Islam, as it is preached and conducted in places like Saudi Arabia, The Palestinian Territories, Iran, Pakistan, and many other countries includes practices which are homophobic, brutally violent, racist, misogynistic, and anti-Semitic. As Canada's Muslim population increases through immigration from those countries, in too many cases, those hateful ideas have immigrated with them.
In Canada, we have seen Islamic conferences which featured Imams who preached such hatred. And it took the Bully Bloggers to first draw that to public attention before anyone noticed.
Bully Bloggers led the charge that ended with Parliament voting to scrap the thought-crime laws of Section 13 of Canada's Human Rights Act. The removal of that blunt, totalitarian tool is something that sticks hard in the craw the professional Human Rights Industry. More so that the battle proved those people who claim to concern themselves with human rights are hypocrites with little regard for the most basic human right of free expression.
Maybe the next time Bernie Farber is schmoozing at a cocktail party, writing a mushy-minded op-ed for the Globe and Mail, or being a twittavist, he might consider that the Bully Bloggers are on the front lines, at demonstrations, chronicling and exposing and sometimes being assaulted by the real hatemongers in Canada.
Bully Bloggers get called names and worse, but they can take it. Anyone seeking to shape public policy should be able to handle a few insults, and if they can't, they have no place in the public sphere. But in the end, assuming thoughts and beliefs and most importantly, genuine facts can be expressed freely, then we should have faith that the best ideas and people will prevail.
When they do, you might take time to consider the Bully Bloggers out there doing hard, often thankless groundwork for those victories. And unlike being a Human Rights Commissioner, the work Bully Bloggers do actually requires backbone.
Bigot bully bloggers target the vulnerable-comments that follow are racist garbage.Fact-they just talk amongst themselves shower & move on
— Bernie M. Farber (@BernieFarber) March 9, 2013
Another excellent piece Richard. I would like to point out, which should be said more often, that without a medical degree, how can anyone label another with a phobia?
Islamonauseum more likely.
Thanks - sometimes "Islamophobe" is just more name-calling by the sort of person who claims to be against name-calling.
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