The New York Times is in the midst of publishing a series of articles called "American Exception." Its purpose is to "examine commonplace aspects of the American justice system that are virtually unique in the world."
The latest in the series is by Adam Liptak. It carries a June 12 date, and is called "Out of Step With Allies, U.S. Defends Freedom to Offend."
If you think this is yet another "we should be like 'the rest of the world'" piece (in reality, referring to countries overrun by political correctness that have lost their way), you've about got it right.
Here is how Liptak opens (bold is mine):
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — A couple of years ago, a Canadian magazine published an article arguing that the rise of Islam threatens Western values. The article’s tone was mocking and biting, but it said nothing that conservative magazines and blogs in the United States do not say every day without fear of legal reprisal.
Things are different here. The magazine is on trial.
Excuse me for thinking that Mr. Liptak might believe that what is happening in Canada is a good thing, and that he is in the vanguard of those who wish to hollow out our country's First Amendment.
Liptak is, of course, referring to the situation Mark Steyn and MacLean's Magazine face in British Columbia. Mr. Liptak "cleverly" makes Steyn, and by inference MacLean's, appear guilty of racism:
In the United States, that debate has been settled. Under the First Amendment, newspapers and magazines can say what they like about minority groups and religions — even false, provocative or hateful things — without legal consequence.
The Maclean’s article, “The Future Belongs to Islam,” was an excerpt from a book by Mark Steyn called “America Alone.” The title was fitting: The United States, in its treatment of hate speech as in so many areas of the law, takes a distinctive legal path.
“In much of the developed world, one uses racial epithets at one’s legal peril, one displays Nazi regalia and the other trappings of ethnic hatred at significant legal risk, and one urges discrimination against religious minorities under threat of fine or imprisonment,” Frederick Schauer, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, wrote in a recent essay called “The Exceptional First Amendment.”
Note that Liptak surrounds the paragraph about Steyn with descriptions of extreme utterances -- "provocative or hateful things" in the preceding paragraph, "racial epithets" and "Nazi regalia" in the one that follows. Yet he never gets around to describing exactly what Steyn wrote that brought him to this point.
At Pages 17-20 PDF of the complaint filed in British Columbia (saved and posted at my host for future reference purposes) is a list of 42 "Details of the alleged Discrimination."
The complainant, Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, claims that Steyn's book excerpt in MacLean's:
..... discriminates against Muslims on the basis of their religion. It exposes Muslims to hatred and contempt due to their religion. Under the British Columbia Human Rights Code, publication of material of the nature described above is prohibited and clearly exceeds the scope of free speech.
Nowhere does Liptak tell us that the BC-based action against Steyn is "only" about speech-based "discrimination," not hateful or racist speech.
Liptak also conveniently "forgot" to include a story hot off the presses -- excuse me, I mean an important story about a development in Canada that should have been carried in the press, but wasn't.
Rev. Stephen Boisson has been fighting for his right to speak, and is losing. Ezra Levant, who has also had run-ins with the Canadian provincial speech police, explains (bold is mine; link is in original):
(quoting from B.C. Human Rights Tribunal order)
Mr. Boissoin and [his organization] The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. shall cease publishing in newspapers, by email, on the radio, in public speeches, or on the Internet, in future, disparaging remarks about gays and homosexuals.
..... look at the staggering order there. Boissoin can never -- ever -- communicate anything "disparaging" about gays. It's a lifetime ban -- and it applies to every conceivable medium, including his private e-mails.
But nothing "disparaging"? That means nothing critical. She didn't order him not to communicate anything "illegal" or even anything "hateful". She ordered him to say nothing disparaging. Ever. For the rest of his life.
"Somehow," Mr. Liptak didn't notice (or if he did, he didn't care to tell us) that the Boisson case may very well exemplify where "the rest of the world" is heading. Disagreeable free speech, particularly religion-based expressions and conservative thought, is being transformed into punishable "discrimination."
This country doesn't do that. I think that Adam Liptak might prefer to see the situation here change.
I believe it is no accident that Liptak selectively identified "conservative magazines and blogs in the United States" in his opening paragraph, while ignoring the virulent hatred that is a daily staple in parts of the US mainstream left.
Perhaps the New York Times writer is nudging politicians towards silencing dissent in 2009 if the 2008 presidential election goes Old Media's way.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.