Category Archives: Steyn

Steyn: Celebrate Conformity!

[Ed. note: After reading Mark's essay, click on the title below
and buy a few things from his website. Your purchase will aid Mark in his defense against the lawfare of Michael Mann and the Climate Cabal. This is a most important legal fight, and the forces of darkness (literally) are well funded. Help give free expression a leg up.]

Celebrate Conformity!
by Mark Steyn  •  Apr 4, 2014 at 10:58 am

Mozilla’s chairman unveils the company’s exciting new plug-in

On Wednesday, I wrote about the Mozilla CEO in trouble for a five-year-old donation to Proposition Eight, the successful California ballot measure that banned gay marriage – if only until America’s robed rulers declared the will of the people to be “unconstitutional”. Brandon Eich is a tech genius: Aside from co-founding Mozilla and creating Firefox, he also invented JavaScript. Apparently, the disgusting homophobic hatey-hatey-hateful belief that marriage is a sacrament between a man and a woman is not incompatible with knowing your way around a computer.

Nevertheless, unlike Hollywood director Brett Ratner, Mr Eich declined to eat gay crow. And so yesterday he was fired. Mozilla’s chairwoman Mitchell Baker issued the usual tortured justification:

“Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech,” Baker said. “And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.”

I heard a lot of this stuff during my free-speech battles in Canada. The country’s chief censor, the late Jennifer Lynch, QC, was willing to concede that free speech was certainly a right, but it was merely one in a whole range of competing rights – such as “equality” and “diversity” – that needed to be “balanced”. What the “balancing” boils down to is that you get fired if you are an apostate from the new progressive groupthink. Underneath the agonized prose, Mitchell Baker is a bare-knuckled thug.

~It’s the thuggishness and bullying that ought to disgust people, even those who support gay marriage. My final appearances at National Review Online were a spat with my editor, Jason Lee Steorts, over “two jokes one can no longer tell on American television” that I quoted in a column on Phil Robertson’s suspension for “homophobia”. First, Bob Hope, touring the world in the year or so after the passage of the 1975 Consenting Adult Sex Bill:

“I’ve just flown in from California, where they’ve made homosexuality legal. I thought I’d get out before they make it compulsory.”

Second, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin on stage in Vegas throughout the Sixties and Seventies:

Frank: “How do you make a fruit cordial?”

Dino: “Be nice to him.”

Mr Steorts thought my resurrection of these ancient “slurs” was “derogatory” and “puerile”:

People who used them in different times need not be regarded as monstrous, nor must the canon be censored; we could instead feel good about having awoken to a greater civility and make generous allowances for human fallibility.

Yeah, just like Brandon Eich “awoke to a greater civility” yesterday morning. What Mr Steorts especially disliked about my column was “the slur in its borrowed concluding joke”. Which was:

How do you make a fruit cordial?

Be nice to him.

Or else.

But isn’t that what’s just happened to the Mozilla guy? Nobody’s asking him to have a genuine conversion. The gay enforcers don’t care if, somewhere deep down in his heart he still believes marriage is the union of a man and a woman; all that matters is that he’s not allowed to say so in public. Billions of people around the world believe as Mr Eich does, and they shouldn’t be allowed to say so in public, either – not if they want to keep their jobs. I’m currently trying to fund my own free-speech battles at the DC Superior Court through sales of my book Lights Out, personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available through the Steyn store – if you like the squaresville hardback edition, that is; but, if you’re part of the Mozilla set, you can also get it on Kindle, Nook and Kobo, at least until those outlets ban on it on the grounds of “respect” and “inclusion” and “balancing” free speech with “equality”. On page 181 of Lights Out, I write:

Most Christian opponents of gay marriage oppose gay marriage; they don’t oppose the right of gays to advocate it. But increasingly gays oppose the right of Christians even to argue their corner. Gay activists have figured that, instead of trying to persuade people to change their opinions, it’s easier just to get them banned.

Those words are not as old as Frank and Dean’s gag, but sad to say they’re likewise prescient. And that’s why, pace Mitchell Baker, what happened to Brandon Eich is not an “equality” issue but a free-speech issue.

~Ed Driscoll wonders, if you dump Mozilla’s Firefox browser, where do you go? Over at Free Canuckistan, the Binksmeister has a few suggestions.

~By the way, let’s not forget how all this targeting of “homophobic” contributions started. The IRS leaked “traditional marriage” donor lists to the gay enforcers at the “Human Rights Campaign”. America has a corrupt government – so corrupt that many Americans now think it entirely normal for the state tax collector to target the regime’s political enemies. I don’t, and for the last year I’ve called for the abolition of the institutionally corrupt IRS and its replacement by an agency with far more limited powers appropriate to a free society. Surprisingly few Republican candidates seem interested in joining that campaign. But the IRS’ wholesale corruption is a free-speech issue, too: it’s about using state power – the threat of audits and, ultimately, asset confiscation – to get you to shut up. And the alliance between the IRS and the gay enforcers is a foretaste of where things are headed. If your confidential financial information can be leaked to those who want to take you down, why should your medical information or your vote by “secret ballot” be any more secure?

~Meanwhile, serial litigant Michael E Mann takes time out of preparing for the forthcoming Mann vs Steyn trial of the century to ReTweet the following:

Remove David #Koch from the Board of Trustees at @wgbhhttp://dld.bz/dhE9c

Michael Mann isn’t really a scientist. Oh, yes, I’m sure he still dabbles in it now and then just to keep his hand in. But the bulk of his energies are devoted to getting people who disagree with him fired, banned or silenced. Real Nobel Prize winners (as opposed to fraudulent self-garlanded ones) don’t do that. But every day Dr Mann is demanding that someone be shut up.

~I don’t want to live in the world of “greater civility” that Michael Mann and Mitchell Baker are building for us. Oh, to be sure, it’s technologically exciting: There will be a thousand different apps on which to download Jessica Alba warning you about Antarctic sea ice. But there’ll be only one Thought App. And it will come pre-installed.

And eventually there won’t be any Jessica Alba apps, either. Because a society that imprisons opinion as tightly as Mann and Baker demand is a society that will cease to innovate, and decline.

© 2014 Mark Steyn Enterprises (US) Inc

Gallery

The Parable of the Big “O”, and some Mark Steyn, too.

“Coming up about 6 years ago, there was to be an election in the US. An election to elect a President, to pass judgment on George W. Bush. The Democratic National Congress floated a new candidate to be their banner, … Continue reading

Gallery

Steyn: American Banana Republic

American Banana Republic The decay of a free society doesn’t happen overnight, but we’re getting there. By Mark Steyn, September 20, 2013 NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE ‘This is the United States of America,” declared President Obama to the burghers of Liberty, … Continue reading

Gallery

Steyn: The ‘Vigilance’ Vigilantes

The ‘Vigilance’ Vigilantes By Mark Steyn, National Review Online, April 5, 2013 He who controls the language shapes the debate: In the same week the Associated Press announced that it would no longer describe illegal immigrants as “illegal immigrants,” the … Continue reading

Gallery

Steyn: Tribal America

Tribal America By Mark Steyn November 16, 2012, National Review To an immigrant such as myself (not the undocumented kind, but documented up to the hilt, alas), one of the most striking features of election-night analysis was the lightly worn racial … Continue reading

Gallery

Time for Steyn: The Edge of the Abyss.

The Edge of the Abyss The default setting of American society is ever more liberal and statist. By Mark Steyn   November 9, 2012. Amid the ruin and rubble of the grey morning after, it may seem in poor taste to do … Continue reading

Gallery

Steyn: Dog-whistling past the graveyard.

Ed. note:  It’s hard to keep up with the liberal penchant for coining pseudo-intellectual jargon to frame  political dialogue (“astro-turfing” and “swift-boating” come to mind, as well the left’s recent infatuation with “Post-Normal [insert just about any noun here]“,  But … Continue reading

Steyn: Lethally leisured

[Ed. note: from last fall, but still relevant, if not more so.]

Lethally leisured

by Mark Steyn, October 17, 2011

Steyn: American Autumn

American Autumn

by Mark Steyn,   October 8, 2011 4:00 A.M.

The zombie youth “occupying” Wall Street are contemptuous of the world that sustains their comforts.
Michael Oher, offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, was online on Wednesday night when his Twitter feed started filling up with tributes to Steve Jobs. A bewildered Oher tweeted: “Can somebody help me out? Who was Steve Jobs!”

He was on his iPhone at the time.

Who was Steve Jobs? Well, he was a guy who founded a corporation and spent his life as a corporate executive manufacturing corporate products. So he wouldn’t have endeared himself to the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd, even though, underneath the patchouli and lentils, most of them are abundantly accessorized with iPhones and iPads and iPods loaded with iTunes, if only for when the drum circle goes for a bathroom break.

The above is a somewhat obvious point, although the fact that it’s not obvious even to protesters with an industrial-strength lack of self-awareness is a big part of the problem. But it goes beyond that: If you don’t like to think of Jobs as a corporate exec (and a famously demanding one at that), think of him as a guy who went to work, and worked hard. There’s no appetite for that among those “occupying” Zuccotti Park. In the old days, the tribunes of the masses demanded an honest wage for honest work. Today, the tribunes of America’s leisured varsity class demand a world that puts “people before profits.” If the specifics of their “program” are somewhat contradictory, the general vibe is consistent: They wish to enjoy an advanced Western lifestyle without earning an advanced Western living. The pampered, elderly children of a fin de civilisation overdeveloped world, they appear to regard life as an unending vacation whose bill never comes due.

So they are in favor of open borders, presumably so that exotic Third World peasants can perform the labor to which they are noticeably averse. Of the 13 items on that “proposed list of demands,” Demand Four calls for “free college education,” and Demand Eleven returns to the theme, demanding debt forgiveness for all existing student loans. I yield to no one in my general antipathy to the racket that is American college education, but it’s difficult to see why this is the fault of the mustache-twirling robber barons who head up Global MegaCorp, Inc. One sympathizes, of course. It can’t be easy finding yourself saddled with a six-figure debt and nothing to show for it but some watery bromides from the “Transgender and Colonialism” class. Americans collectively have north of a trillion dollars in personal college debt. Say what you like about Enron and, er, Solyndra and all those other evil corporations, but they didn’t relieve you of a quarter-mil in exchange for a master’s in Maya Angelou. So why not try occupying the dean’s office at Shakedown U?

Ah, but the great advantage of mass moronization is that it leaves you too dumb to figure out who to be mad at. At Liberty Square, one of the signs reads: “F**k your unpaid internship!” Fair enough. But, to a casual observer of the massed ranks of Big Sloth, it’s not entirely clear what precisely anyone would ever pay them to do.

Do you remember Van Jones? He was Obama’s “green jobs” czar back before “green jobs” had been exposed as a gazillion-dollar sinkhole for sluicing taxpayer monies to the president’s corporate cronies. Oh, don’t worry. These cronies aren’t “corporate” in the sense of Steve Jobs. The corporations they run put “people before profits”: That’s to say, they’ve figured out it’s easier to take government money from you people than create a business that makes a profit. In an amusing inversion of the Russian model, Van Jones became a czar after he’d been a Communist. He became a Commie in the mid-Nineties — i.e., after even the Soviet Union had given up on it. Needless to say, a man who never saw a cobwebbed collectivist nostrum he didn’t like no matter how long past its sell-by date is hot for “Occupy Wall Street.” Indeed, Van Jones thinks that the protests are the start of an “American Autumn.”

In case you don’t get it, that’s the American version of the “Arab Spring.” Steve Jobs might have advised Van Jones he has a branding problem. Spring is the season of new life, young buds and so forth. Autumn is leaves turning brown and fluttering to the ground in a big dead heap. Even in my great state of New Hampshire, where autumn is pretty darn impressive, we understand what that blaze of red and orange leaves means: They burn brightest before they fall and die, and the world turns chill and bare and hard.

So Van Jones may be on to something! American Autumn. The days dwindle down to a precious few, like in whatever that old book was called, The Summer and Fall of the Roman Empire.

If you’ll forgive a plug for my latest sell-out to my corporate masters, in my new book I quote H. G. Wells’s Victorian Time Traveler after encountering far in the future the soft, effete Eloi: “These people were clothed in pleasant fabrics that must at times need renewal, and their sandals, though undecorated, were fairly complex specimens of metalwork. Somehow such things must be made.” And yet he saw “no workshops” or sign of any industry at all. “They spent all their time in playing gently, in bathing in the river, in making love in a half-playful fashion, in eating fruit and sleeping. I could not see how things were kept going.” The Time Traveler might have felt much the same upon landing in Liberty Square in the early 21st century, except for the bit about bathing: It’s increasingly hard in America to “see how things are kept going,” but it’s pretty clear that the members of “Occupy Wall Street” have no plans to contribute to keeping things going. Like Michael Oher using his iPhone to announce his ignorance of Steve Jobs, in the autumn of the republic the beneficiaries of American innovation seem not only utterly disconnected from but actively contemptuous of the world that sustains their comforts.

Why did Steve Jobs do so much of his innovating in computers? Well, obviously, because that’s what got his juices going. But it’s also the case that, because it was a virtually non-existent industry until he came along, it’s about the one area of American life that hasn’t been regulated into sclerosis by the statist behemoth. So Apple and other companies were free to be as corporate as they wanted, and we’re the better off for it. The stunted, inarticulate spawn of America’s educrat monopoly want a world of fewer corporations and lots more government. If their “demands” for a $20 minimum wage and a trillion dollars of spending in “ecological restoration” and all the rest are ever met, there will be a massive expansion of state monopoly power. Would you like to get your iPhone from the DMV? That’s your “American Autumn”: an America that constrains the next Steve Jobs but bigs up Van Jones. Underneath the familiar props of radical chic that hasn’t been either radical or chic in half a century, the zombie youth of the Big Sloth movement are a paradox too ludicrous even for the malign alumni of a desultory half-decade of Complacency Studies: They’re anarchists for Big Government. Do it for the children, the Democrats like to say. They’re the children we did it for, and, if this is the best they can do, they’re done for.

— Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2011 Mark Steyn

 
The following graphic from SDA illustrates Mark’s opening point rather dramatically:
[H/T SDA]

Good reads also here and here (great cartoons!).

Steyn: Gagging us softly

[Ed. note: I haven't done any Mark Steyn for a while (you should, however). The events at York U. this week make this bit of Steyn very relevant.]

By Mark Steyn, September 6, 2011

In this anniversary week, it’s sobering to reflect that one of the more perverse consequences of 9/11 has been a remorseless assault on free speech throughout the west. I regret to say that, in my new book, I predect this trend will only accelerate in the years ahead. The essay below was written as last week’s National Review cover story:

To be honest, I didn’t really think much about “freedom of speech” until I found myself the subject of three “hate speech” complaints in Canada in 2007. I mean I was philosophically in favor of it, and I’d been consistently opposed to the Dominion’s ghastly “human rights” commissions and their equivalents elsewhere my entire adult life, and from time to time when an especially choice example of politically correct enforcement came up I’d whack it around for a column or two.

But I don’t think I really understood how advanced the Left’s assault on this core Western liberty actually was. In 2008, shortly before my writing was put on trial for “flagrant Islamophobia” in British Columbia, several National Review readers e-mailed from the U.S. to query what the big deal was. C’mon, lighten up, what could some “human rights” pseudo-court do? And I replied that the statutory penalty under the British Columbia “Human Rights” Code was that Maclean’s, Canada’s biggest-selling news weekly, and by extension any other publication, would be forbidden henceforth to publish anything by me about Islam, Europe, terrorism, demography, welfare, multiculturalism, and various related subjects. And that this prohibition would last forever, and was deemed to have the force of a supreme-court decision. I would in effect be rendered unpublishable in the land of my birth. In theory, if a job opened up for dance critic or gardening correspondent, I could apply for it, although if the Royal Winnipeg Ballet decided to offer Jihad: The Ballet for its Christmas season I’d probably have to recuse myself.

And what I found odd about this was that very few other people found it odd at all. Indeed, the Canadian establishment seems to think it entirely natural that the Canadian state should be in the business of lifetime publication bans, just as the Dutch establishment thinks it entirely natural that the Dutch state should put elected leaders of parliamentary opposition parties on trial for their political platforms, and the French establishment thinks it appropriate for the French state to put novelists on trial for sentiments expressed by fictional characters. Across almost all the Western world apart from America, the state grows ever more comfortable with micro-regulating public discourse—and, in fact, not-so-public discourse: Lars Hedegaard, head of the Danish Free Press Society, has been tried, been acquitted, had his acquittal overruled, and been convicted of “racism” for some remarks about Islam’s treatment of women made (so he thought) in private but taped and released to the world. The Rev. Stephen Boissoin was convicted of the heinous crime of writing a homophobic letter to his local newspaper and was sentenced by Lori Andreachuk, the aggressive social engineer who serves as Alberta’s “human rights” commissar, to a lifetime prohibition on uttering anything “disparaging” about homosexuality ever again in sermons, in newspapers, on radio—or in private e-mails. Note that legal concept: not “illegal” or “hateful,” but merely “disparaging.” Dale McAlpine, a practicing (wait for it) Christian, was handing out leaflets in the English town of Workington and chit-chatting with shoppers when he was arrested on a “public order” charge by Constable Adams, a gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community-outreach officer. Mr. McAlpine had been overheard by the officer to observe that homosexuality is a sin. “I’m gay,” said Constable Adams. Well, it’s still a sin, said Mr. McAlpine. So Constable Adams arrested him for causing distress to Con­stable Adams.

In fairness, I should add that Mr. McAlpine was also arrested for causing distress to members of the public more generally, and not just to the aggrieved gay copper. No member of the public actually complained, but, as Constable Adams pointed out, Mr. McAlpine was talking “in a loud voice” that might theoretically have been “overheard by others.” And we can’t have that, can we? So he was fingerprinted, DNA-sampled, and tossed in the cells for seven hours. When I was a lad, the old joke about the public toilets at Piccadilly Circus was that one should never make eye contact with anyone in there because the place was crawling with laughably unconvincing undercover policemen in white polonecks itching to arrest you for soliciting gay sex. Now they’re itching to arrest you for not soliciting it.

In such a climate, time-honored national characteristics are easily extinguished. A generation ago, even Britain’s polytechnic Trots and Marxists were sufficiently residually English to feel the industrial-scale snitching by family and friends that went on in Communist Eastern Europe was not quite cricket, old boy. Now England is Little Stasi-on-Avon, a land where, even if you’re well out of earshot of the gay-outreach officer, an infelicitous remark in the presence of a co-worker or even co-playmate is more than sufficient. Fourteen-year-old Codie Stott asked her teacher at Harrop Fold High School whether she could sit with another group to do her science project as in hers the other five pupils spoke Urdu and she didn’t understand what they were saying. The teacher called the police, who took her to the station, photographed her, fingerprinted her, took DNA samples, removed her jewelry and shoelaces, put her in a cell for three and a half hours, and questioned her on suspicion of committing a Section Five “racial public-order offence.” “An allegation of a serious nature was made concerning a racially motivated remark,” declared the headmaster, Antony Edkins. The school would “not stand for racism in any form.” In a statement, Greater Manchester Police said they took “hate crime” very seriously, and their treatment of Miss Stott was in line with “normal procedure.”

Indeed it was. And that’s the problem. When I ran into my troubles up north, a very few principled members of Canada’s bien-pensants stood up to argue that the thought police were out of control and the law needed to be reined in. Among them was Keith Martin, a Liberal MP and himself a member of a visible minority—or, as he put it, a “brown guy.” For his pains, he and a few other principled liberals were mocked by Warren Kinsella, a third-rate spin-doctor for the Liberal party and a chap who fancies himself Canada’s James Carville. As Kin­sella taunted these lonely defenders of freedom of speech, how did it feel to be on the same side as Steyn . . . and anti-Semites . . . and white supremacists? Eh, eh, how’d ya feel about that, eh?

Mr. Kinsella was subsequently forced to make a groveling apology to “the Chinese community” after making a joke about ordering the cat at his favorite Chinese restaurant in Ottawa: Even the most censorious of politically correct enforcers occasionally forget themselves and accidentally behave like normal human beings. But, before the Chinese cat got his tongue, the Liberal hack was, like so many of his ilk, missing the point: “Free speech” doesn’t mean “the brown guy” is on the same side as the “white supremacists.” It means he recognizes that the other fellow is entitled to have a side. By contrast, Canada’s “human rights” commissions and Britain’s gay-outreach officer and Europe’s various public prosecutors seem to think there should be only one side of the debate, and they’re ever more comfortable in arguing for that quite openly.

Thus, after Anders Breivik gunned down dozens of his fellow Norwegians, just about the only angle on the story that got the Western Left’s juices going was the opportunity it afforded to narrow the parameters of public discourse even more. They gleefully fell on his 1,500-page “manifesto,” wherein he cites me, John Derbyshire, Bernard Lewis, Theodore Dalrymple, and various other names familiar round these parts. He also cites Winston Churchill, Thomas Jefferson, Mahatma Gandhi, Mark Twain, Hans Christian Andersen, and my leftie com­patriot Naomi Klein, the “No Logo” gal and a columnist for The Nation in the U.S. and the Guardian in Britain. Just for the record, my name appears four times, Miss Klein’s appears four times.

Yet the British, Canadian, Australian, European, and American Left—and more than a few likeminded Americans—rose as one to demand restraints on a very narrow sliver of Anders Breivik’s remarkably—what’s the word?—diverse reading material.

“I cannot understand that you think that it is fine for people to go out and say we should kill all Muslims,” sighed Tanya Plibersek, the Australian minister for human services, on a panel discussion, “and that that has no real effect in the world.” Because, after all, calling for the killing of all Muslims is what I and Bernard Lewis and Theodore Dalrymple and Naomi Klein and Hans Christian Andersen do all day long.

She was addressing Brendan O’Neill, a beleaguered defender of free speech on a show where the host, the guests, the studio audience, and the post-broadcast tweeters were all lustily in favor of state regulation, and not of human acts but of opinions. And not just for inciters of Norwegian nutters, but for Rupert Murdoch, too. To one degree or another, they were also in favor of the government’s taking action to whip the media into line. Into line with what? Well, with the government, presumably. Whether or not they’ll get their way Down Under, in London the British state is being actively urged to regulate the content of the press for the first time in four centuries.

How did we get to this state of affairs? When my travails in Canada began, somebody reminded me of an ob­servation by the American writer Heywood Broun: “Everybody favors free speech in the slack moments when no axes are being ground.” I think that gets it exactly backwards. It was precisely at the moment when no axes were being ground that the West decided it could afford to forgo free speech. There was a moment 40 or so years ago when it appeared as if all the great questions had been settled: There would be no more Third Reichs, no more fascist regimes, no more anti-Semitism; advanced social democracies were heading inevitably down a one-way sunlit avenue into the peaceable kingdom of multiculturalism; and so it seemed to a certain mindset entirely reasonable to introduce speech codes and thought crimes essentially as a kind of mopping-up operation. Canada’s “human rights” tribunals were originally created to deal with employment and housing discrimination, but Cana­dians aren’t terribly hateful and there wasn’t a lot of that, so they advanced to prosecuting “hate speech.” It was an illiberal notion harnessed supposedly in the cause of liberalism: A handful of neo-Nazi losers in rented rooms in basements are leaving Xeroxed white-supremacist flyers in payphones? Hey, relax, we’ll hunt down the extremist fringe losers and ensure they’ll trouble you no further. Just a few recalcitrant knuckledraggers who decline to get with the beat. Don’t give ’em a thought. Nothing to see here, folks.

When you accept that the state has the right to criminalize Holocaust denial, you are conceding an awful lot. I don’t just mean on the specific point: The Weimar Republic was a veritable proto-Trudeaupia of “hate speech” laws. In the 15 years before the Nazis came to power, there were over 200 prosecutions for “anti-Semitic speech” in Germany—and a fat lot of good it did. But more important than the practical uselessness of such laws is the assumption you’re making: You’re accepting that the state, in ruling one opinion out of bounds, will be content to stop there.

As is now clear, it isn’t. Restrictions on freedom of speech undermine the foundations of justice, including the bedrock principle: equality before the law. When it comes to free expression, Britain, Canada, Australia, and Europe are ever less lands of laws and instead lands of men—and women, straights and gays, Muslims and infidels—whose rights before the law vary according to which combination of these various identity groups they belong to.

Appearing at a Van­couver comedy club, Guy Earle found himself obliged to put down a couple of drunken hecklers. Had he said what he said to me or to Jonah Goldberg, we would have had no legal redress. Alas for him, he said it to two drunken hecklers of the lesbian persuasion, so they accused him of putting them down homophobically and he was fined $15,000. Had John O’Sullivan and Kathryn Lopez chanced to be strolling by the Driftwood Beach Bar on the Isle of Wight when, in the course of oldies night, Simon Ledger performed “Kung Fu Fighting,” they would have had no grounds for complaint, even if he’d done the extended dance remix. However, the passersby in question were Chinese, and so Mr. Ledger was arrested for racism.

In such a world, words have no agreed meaning. “There were funky Chinamen from funky Chinatown” is legal or illegal according to whosoever happens to hear it. Indeed, in my very favorite example of this kind of thinking, the very same words can be proof of two entirely different hate crimes. Iqbal Sacranie is a Muslim of such exemplary “moderation” he’s been knighted by the Queen. The head of the Muslim Council of Britain, Sir Iqbal was interviewed on the BBC and expressed the view that homosexuality was “immoral,” was “not acceptable,” “spreads disease,” and “damaged the very foundations of society.” A gay group complained and Sir Iqbal was investigated by Scotland Yard’s “community safety unit” for “hate crimes” and “homophobia.”

Independently but simultaneously, the magazine of GALHA (the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association) called Islam a “barmy doctrine” growing “like a canker” and deeply “homophobic.” In return, the London Race Hate Crime Forum asked Scotland Yard to investigate GALHA for “Islamophobia.”

Got that? If a Muslim says that Islam is opposed to homosexuality, Scotland Yard will investigate him for homophobia; but if a gay says that Islam is opposed to homosexuality, Scotland Yard will investigate him for Islamophobia.

Two men say exactly the same thing and they’re investigated for different hate crimes. On the other hand, they could have sung “Kung Fu Fighting” back and forth to each other all day long and it wouldn’t have been a crime unless a couple of Chinese passersby walked in the room.

If you’re not gay or Muslim or Chinese, you’re maybe wondering to yourself: How can I get a piece of the action? After all, if the state creates a human right to be offended and extends it only to members of certain interest groups, it is quite naturally incentivizing membership in those interest groups. Andrew Bolt, Australia’s leading columnist, was struck by the very noticeable non-blackness of so many prominent Aussie “blacks” and wrote a couple of columns on the theme of identity-group opportunism. He’s now been dragged into court and denounced as a “racist”—“racism” having degenerated into a term for anyone who so much as broaches the subject. But, if the law confers particular privileges on members of approved identity groups, how we define the criteria for membership of those groups is surely a legitimate subject for public debate.

One of the great strengths of common law has been its general antipathy toward group rights—because the ultimate minority is the individual. The minute you have collective rights, you require dramatically enhanced state power to me­diate the hierarchy of different victim groups. In a world of Islamophobic gays, homophobic Muslims, and white blacks, it is tempting to assume the whole racket will collapse under the weight of its own absurdity.

Instead, the law increasingly bends to those who mean it the most. In some of the oldest free societies in the world, the state is not mediating speech in order to assure social tranquility, but rather torturing logic and law and liberty in ever more inane ways in order to accommodate those who might be tempted to express their grievances in non-speechy ways. Consider the case of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, a Viennese housewife who has lived in several Muslim countries. She was hauled into an Austrian court for calling Mohammed a pedophile on the grounds that he consummated his marriage when his bride, Aisha, was nine years old. Mrs. Sabbaditsch-Wolff was found guilty and fined 480 euros. The judge’s reasoning was fascinating: “Pedophilia is factually incorrect, since paedophilia is a sexual preference which solely or mainly is directed towards children. Nevertheless, it does not apply to Mohammad. He was still married to Aisha when she was 18.”

Ah, gotcha. So, under Austrian law, you’re not a pedophile if you deflower the kid in fourth grade but keep her around till high school. There’s a useful tip if you’re planning a hiking holiday in the Alps this fall. Or is this another of those dispensations that is not of universal application?

Western governments have gone far too far down this path already. “The lofty idea of ‘the war on racism’ is gradually turning into a hideously false ideology,” the French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut said in 2005. “And this anti-racism will be for the 21st century what Communism was for the 20th century: a source of violence.” Just so. Let us accept for the sake of argument that racism is bad, that homophobia is bad, that Islamophobia is bad, that offensive utterances are bad, that mean-spirited thoughts are bad. So what?

As bad as they are, the government’s criminalizing all of them and setting up an enforcement regime in the interests of micro-regulating us into compliance is a thousand times worse. If that’s the alternative, give me “Kung Fu Fighting” sung by Mohammed’s nine-year-old bride while putting down two lesbian hecklers sending back the Cat of the Day in a Chinese restaurant.

As John Milton wrote in his Areopagitica of 1644, “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”

Or as an ordinary Canadian citizen said to me, after I testified in defense of free speech to the Ontario parliament at Queen’s Park, “Give me the right to free speech, and I will use it to claim all my other rights.”

Conversely, if you let them take your right to free speech, how are you going to stop them from taking all the others?

from National Review