Thanks to the great privilege afforded to me by living north of the 49th parallel, I find the American right really funny. The Bill O’Reillys, the “These Colours Don’t Run” American-flag T-shirts, and everything Fox News has to offer are far more entertaining and, frankly, far less disingenuous than the earnest approach to conservative ideas put forward by the “liberals” of the Democratic Party or our own Conservative Party of Canada.
Of course, every time I visit our neighbours to the south, I am faced with the painful reality of how unfunny the American right really is: as it turns out, close to half of the voting population thinks they’re being serious.
At the same time, I’ve never had the same tongue-in-cheek admiration for Canada’s brand of self-proclaimed “straight talk” reactionaries. Mostly, they just aren’t funny. When Bill O’Reilly wants to be homophobic, he hosts a show about “Hollywood’s radical homosexual agenda.” The O’Reillys of the world firmly understand their mission as appealing to an already-established, hate-based populism.
However, Canada’s reactionaries like to play the victim, mostly because they have failed as pundits of hateful garbage (see the complete financial collapse of the Western Standard and the pending financial collapse of the National Post). In playing the victim, they create a new market and make massive profits, as human rights lawyer – and certainly no radical – Pearl Eliadis pointed out in a recent article in Maisonneuve. She cites the examples of Mark Steyn, Barbara Amiel, and Ezra Levant, who were taken to human rights commissions over their hateful and hate-inciting writings, and became martyrs for the cause of speaking without consequence. I don’t say free speech, because they are welcome to believe that, as Steyn wrote, if we continue our current, allegedly too-liberal immigration policy, “the cities of the Western world will be filling up with sheep-shaggers” and tell their friends and family about it. No one is trying to police others’ thoughts. But, when Barbara Amiel chooses to sign her name to the statement that “Normally a people don’t willingly acquiesce in the demise of their own culture … but you can see how it happens. Massive Muslim immigration takes place,” there are definite consequences. Just as there were for Ernst Zundel and James Keegstra for attaching their names to statements on the evil Jewish conspiracy to defame the otherwise impeccable memory of Hitler. Yet somehow Steyn, Amiel, and the unimpressive Ezra Levant have become heroes for the cause of “free speech” in a country that has had anti-hate crime legislation on the books since the 1940s.
Now the “free speech” reactionaries are up in arms again over Ann Coulter’s recent speaking tour in Canada. Coulter represents Fox News for me more than any of the other sirens of stupidity: when she speaks, I first tend to laugh. Then I realize that not only might she take herself seriously (which is doubtful), but she is actually taken seriously by a large segment of the American population. And apparently some Canadians, too. I then become profoundly depressed.
Recently, Ann “Kill their [Muslim] leaders and convert them [Muslims] to Christianity” Coulter came on a multi-city speaking tour of Canada. At the University of Western Ontario, an early stop, Coulter was asked by a young Muslim student how she should get around should the government follow Coulter’s insane advice and place every Muslim on the infamous “No-fly List.” Coulter told the hijabi-clad student to “take a camel.”
So the University of Ottawa’s provost – doubtlessly under pressure to cancel Coulter’s upcoming lecture but refusing to do so in the interest of free speech – warned Coulter that hate speech can lead to prosecution in Canada. Students came to protest loudly, and the otherwise supporter-less reactionaries who organized the event chose to shut it down, citing the “attack on free speech” committed by those holding signs and yelling outside the venue.
And of course, Ezra Levant – whose every venture except playing the victim has failed miserably (lawyer, publisher, etc.) – was rewarded with a long op-ed piece in the Ottawa Citizen on the “venom” of human rights advocates. And Coulter can return once again to the hateful populism of Tea Party America and be greeted as the hero of a “free speech” controversy that was engineered from the very beginning.