The New York Times on the First Amendment

A Case From Canada Presents Some Sticky Wickets

By blackhedd Posted in | | | | Comments (9) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

If you haven’t read anything by Canadian journalist and author Mark Steyn, your life is the poorer for it. He’s marvelously witty and fun to read. He’s also one of the loudest proponents of the view that Western cultures, particularly in Europe, are allowing themselves to be slowly extinguished through a refusal to confront Islamization.

Steyn is a disciplined and careful reporter. Everything he writes is backed up by research and reasoned argument. He doesn’t commit libel.

But that’s not good enough in Canada anymore. Two years ago, he published an article in Maclean’s which recapitulated themes from his book America Alone. But it’s against the law in British Columbia to say things that Muslims don’t want to hear, regardless of how objectively truthful, well-supported and reasonable they are.

So Steyn is now personally facing criminal jeopardy.

But of course, this is of no interest to America’s arbiters of taste in the mainstream press. However, they’re extremely interested in another aspect of the story.

Keep reading…

See, it’s not just Steyn himself who is on trial for violating the criminal law of British Columbia. His co-defendant is Maclean’s, the prominent weekly magazine that published him.

That’s a big deal to the journalistic poobahs who believe their job is to tell you what to think and how to think it. Why? Because it gets to one of their favorite subjects, the First Amendment.

Here’s what the New York Times has to say about the case. Read it and see if you can figure out what they’re trying to say. It’s pretty interesting, and not the reflexive pro-Muslim and anti-free-speech point of view you might expect them to take.

Instead, the article is a disquisition on how America’s approach to free-speech rights differs from that of the rest of the world. It turns out that, to borrow a phrase from Mark Steyn, America really is alone when it comes to free expression. No other nation tolerates it as much as we do.

And this is really why the Times saw fit to engage the Steyn/Macleans story. Their question isn’t "Why is British Columbia prosecuting Mark Steyn for saying things that are objectively true?" Rather, they ask whether America’s position on free speech is too broad and should be tightened to match the rest of the world.

I’ve been reading the New York Times all my life. And I think that mainstream journalists (the Times foremost among them) have always been hypocritical on the subject of the First Amendment.

All professional journalism by definition is objective and balanced. The way the Times gets around this requirement is to present the view that they’re biased in favor of in the first two thirds of each news story they write, with the disfavored view presented at the end.

Try it with a selection of New York Times stories chosen at random, and see for yourself. The "correct" view is presented first, in cool, neutral-sounding terms, and supported by quotes from well-respected authorities. The "wrong" view is then introduced with phrases like "To be sure…" and "Of course, some observers believe that…" And they always find the least sympathetic people to quote from in the last third of each article (Catholic priests, middle-aged white men, serial killers, Republicans, etc.)

Given that, I read the Times piece about Mark Steyn to be saying that the American approach to free-expression jurisprudence really is better and shouldn't be changed, because we allow journalists to write whatever they please, regardless of how hateful it might be.

Of course, they do have to square this up with another of their core principles, moral relativism. In the final third of the story, the Times reporter allows that countries like Germany and South Africa have perfectly understandable speech-suppression laws because of their history. So of course the fact that Times reporters are able to write whatever they want without fear is merely a happy coincidence of our history and not anything more fundamental.

(I’ll forgive you in case you’re outraged that the Times cavalierly puts Mark Steyn in the same category as the Nazis and the Apartheid-ists. To them, it’s all just hate speech, and the only question is whether it should be allowed.)

All of this tells you what you need to know about the First Amendment According to Left-Wing Orthodoxy: it’s there to make it possible for journalists to ply their trade as they please.

-Francis Cianfrocca (“blackhedd”)

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The New York Times on the First Amendment 9 Comments (0 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden) Post a comment »

That Times article is a disgrace.

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And the Lord upon the Golden Horn is laughing in the sun.

is mindless self-destructive behavior.
That the NYT is hesitating even a millisecond from a vigorous and proper defense of Steyn shows how far they have fallen.
And compare their waffling on speech, and whether we are too provincial in our messy freedom, with their take on the synthesizing of court rights for non-citizens not even in America.
The contrast is a powerful indictment of the NYT's ethical standards.

(Just asking rhetorically, since you've telegraphed the answer already...)

World's oldest, I presume, although it is more commonly called a "profession" rather than a "trade".

And Rightly So!

The NYT, like many liberal groups, believes in "freedoms for me, but not for thee." They have bought whole-cloth into the notion that American values are a pox upon the world, and should be immediately abrogated, lest we offend our cultural and political betters across the pond. Tangentially (to borrow BHO's turn of phrase), they abuse and push these freedoms to the outer limits of reason and decency (see "P*** Christ" for one example). Canada has long been a cultural and governmental outpost of neo-Socialist Euro-thought, so Steyn's case, while ridiculous, is not surprising. And, when we start to see widespread support for that kind of pap here, we'll do what is right and proper... Blame Canada!

If the rest of the world believes X then that's plenty enough ground for me to believe in Y. They want us to stop being Americans.

What would this country be without free speech? For one thing, I could throw away three years of college because I'm studying in the field of journalism.

Sure, it would be wrong to report personal opinions or biases about a religion--or anything else, for that matter--in the news, but to not be able to even objectively report? What is this world coming to?

Kudos to Mark Steyn for standing up for what's right.

As for the NYT--I'm speechless--although not necessarily surprised. I couldn't imagine giving up my freedom to say what I think or feel. And if I couldn't report the news--well, I don't know what I'd do.

Sure, hate speech is wrong--I'm not debating that--but if we give up some of our most valued rights to make any group of people more comfortable or because we want to be like all of the other countries (bandwagonning), that's just wrong!

Sure, hate speech is wrong--I'm not debating that--

Well, if you won't debate it, I will. What you call "hate speech" is still speech, and it still needs to be protected. Defending the first amendment is MOST important when the speech your defending is something you personally find reprehensible.

The Europeans started with the premise that they could define and censor hate speech, and eventually found themselves defining hate speech as any statement that upsets someone who can define him/herself as part of a victim class. It was an exercise that was destined to fail for the simple reason that there's no such thing as "a little censorship". As slippery slopes go, censorship is about as slippery as they get; give anyone the power to supress criticizm and they'll seize it with a vengance.
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"You can't save the Earth unless you're willing to make other people sacrifice" - Scott Adams (speaking through Dogbert)

If you’re interested in the state of First Amendment issues in the U.S., particularly on college and university campuses, you should check out The Foundation for Individual Rights In Education’s site at www.theFIRE.org. A lot of the cases there deal with the ‘freedom for me, but not for thee’ notion mentioned by Flyover Country. Also, their blog The Torch is a good resource for more insight on what’s going on with First Amendment issues.

Well, maybe the commies in Toronto can be blamed.
As I live in Alberta, where similiar trials are underway (a catholic priest was ordered by the Human Rights Council, AKA Kangaroo Court, to apologize and pay damages to a secular man for a sermon where he (the priest) read aloud from the Bible passages relating to homosexuality, yah, for real, and our government actually sent a lawyer out to represent the secular complainer, who wasnt even at the sermon to begin with) I can tell you that 95% of the people here, the newspapers (National Post in particular), radio, ect. all think these 'human right trials' are a complete joke and travesty.

The CIC (Canadian Islamic Council, AKA terrorist apologists) actually has had, in the Steyn case, been shown to have lied about their original complaint (they claimed they asked Maclean’s to print a counter, pro muslim article, and where rebuked. In actuallity, no claim was made PRIOR to the trail, only afterwords, as an afterthought) and yet in our messed up quackocracy the trial is allowed to continue. Whats more, plaintiffs to the Human Rights Council or Soviet Courts dont have to pay a dime in legal costs, win or lose, while the defendant must pick up every last red penny.

The most maddening part of this whole episode, notwithstanding the fact that these courts are a tyranny on speach, is the fact that what Steyn wrote (Ive read America Alone, you should too) is 100% true.

If any general in the American army can read this: ALBERTA HAS OIL, PLEASE FREE US FROM BRITISH PARLAMENT SLAVERY

 
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