There’s something about the free speech debate that makes everyone act as if they have one of those long white body worms in their brains, writhing to get out through the thinnest pore possible.
It makes people state things as fact that would normally only be appropriate in a George Orwell novel.
Take, for example, the statement made by Jason Kenney on Israeli Apartheid Week.
Kenney, a member of cabinet and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, issued a statement warning the public about university activists who were trying to censor supporters of Israel on campus during IAW events.
Did you catch the supreme, face-melting irony there?
Jason Kenney; nearly as high-ranking as the Prime Minister himself, the posterboy for playing nice with “ethnic groups” while imposing racist policies on Canada’s immigration and refugee systems; claims that a bunch of undergrads at a bunch of Canadian campuses are engaging in censorship.
Jason Kenney, the man who has been able to rip apart families, detain men and women in jails who are simply seeking to immigrate to Canada (or seek refugee status) is claiming that IAW somehow is the censoring agent.
Jason Kenney, the man who has dreamed up a situation where you can force kids into jail as if jail is an appropriate place for them to wait out their parents’ deportation order, is claiming that critics of Israel for their racist and apartheid policies against Palestinians are censoring people.
Kenney isn’t an idiot. He knows what he’s doing.
Kenney is using claims of anti-Semitism laced with freedom of speech drivel to dole out a double dose of right-wing-loving-double speak. He’s doing this to turn the lens on student activists who are rightfully condemning Israel’s actions toward Palestinians. This dribble is the same kind that Ezra Levant purchases from his conservative overlords and spews out on Sun TV.
And it’s the same brand of Freedom of Speech that the (very) few friends of Tom Flanagan are relying upon to protect his bizarre and perverted defense of people who like to look at child porn.
Tom Flanagan and Jason Kenney, as part of Canada’s elite, cannot have their freedom of speech censored by nearly anyone. None of us plebes have the money, resources, power, access to mainstream press, access to the courts or control of the police required to censor them.
Me calling them idiots, me calling Kenney’s attempt to interfere into campus politics absurd, me calling Tom Flanagan a pathetic old coot: none of this is censorship. None of this inhibits their freedom of speech. I just simply don’t have the power that they have.
So I find it rich (to use a euphemism for what I would rather use: a thousand swear words in a hundred languages) that Jason Kenney issues a communiqué from his official Citizenship and Immigration website (paid for by my taxes and yours) to announce to the world that he supports freedom of speech and, in a single sentence, immediately qualifies it: except when people criticize Israel. In that case, he condemns freedom of speech.
But he has the power to do more than condemn it, and this is where the question of power becomes pretty muddy. What does it mean for a federal minister to “condemn” the totally legitimate political activity of students? What does it mean when a federal minister paints an entire campaign as being anti-Semitic, despite his racist ad-campaign that has placed billboards across the Czech Republic telling persecuted Roma to not bother applying for refugee status in Canada because he’ll make sure its denied?
Those of us who aren’t members of cabinet can’t censor anyone. Those of us who don’t have platforms on national news stations can’t censor anyone. Those of us who gather to talk about how fucked up it is that Israel is introducing a segregated bus system, to ensure that Israelis don’t have to take public transportation with Palestinians, can’t censor anyone.
We can’t censor anyone because it is only the powerful who can. And in a boxing match between me and Jason Kenney, where our strength is measured by our power, he’d come to my house to kick my ass before I even got dressed for the fight, we’re so unbalanced.
Kenney’s decree is an attempt at censorship regardless of what some of the words say on the page and luckily, IAW events will happen regardless of what that man decrees from his office in Ottawa.
Of course, Kenney’s communiqué is particularly ironic considering the legacy that his own party has in doing exactly what Israel is criticized for doing, though over a longer period of time: Residential Schools, forced sterilization, race-based legislation, reserves, government-defined status, murdered and missing Indigenous women, the Sixties Scoop, Child and Family Services and, today, Idle No More. Our own story is one of genocide, apartheid and resistance.
And Kenney is on the wrong side.
So too is Tom Flanagan, who was masterfully taken down by a young Indigenous activist this past week.
Both men are implicated in the continued internal colonization and apartheid of Canada. Maybe this creates a weird anxiety that forces them both to act out in ways that the average person can’t explain.