Andrew Coyne writes on Macleans troubles with the Canadian Human Rights Commission:
...the commissions have been allowed to stray, far from their original purpose of preventing discrimination in employment and housing, into the nebulous world of expression. They succeeded, largely because their early targets were so odious, marginal figures who scribbled letters to the editor or left hateful messages on their answering machines: who wants to defend racists and homophobes? Emboldened, they are now going after mainstream media organizations—Maclean’s, for heaven’s sakes.
And so, rather than give the back of their hand to the CIC’s complaint, we are treated to the spectacle of not one but two human rights commissions—Ontario’s may yet join them—agreeing to launch inquiries. Had the CIC sought remedy under Canada’s hate speech law, as over-broad as it is, they would at least have had to persuade a prosecutor to take their case, and to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. But as it is they can tie up the magazine and its lawyers before one commission or another for months. The chill this should send through the nation’s newsrooms is obvious.
I don’t propose to get into the merits of their complaint: suffice to say I think it is baseless. The point is, I shouldn’t have to. Maclean’s shouldn’t have to. There is only one proper outcome for this affair: not merely that the CIC’s complaint should be thrown out, but that the commissions’ power to hear such cases should be removed. They have no business meddling with speech.
There is certainly something disturbing about the ease with which these fellows can have their sensibilities rattled:
"To say that we share the same basic goals as terrorists … if you look at the theme of the article in the context, it is putting that label on all of us and I felt personally victimized," he said.
Big strong law students oppressed by harsh language, as it were.
But I find it more than a little rich that Coyne is willing to hide behind Macleans status as a mainstream publication. That status, Andrew, is earned, and it can be lost, and it is clear that, under the leadership of Kenneth Whyte, a decision has been made to take the magazine aggressively down-market, to give it the heart, if not the physical form, of a right-wing tabloid. Hiring a writer like Mark Steyn is in perfect accord with this strategy, perhaps even epitomizes it.
Mr. Coyne and Macleans in general would probably receive a lot more sympathy if they simply admitted this. Steyn is the modern day equivalent of Zubor Link. His writings are the journalistic equivalent of WWF wrestling. They're the rantings of a crazed blogger, "scribbled letters to the editor", as Coyne puts it, yet they have become the center-piece of what has been, and is apparently still intended to be, Canada's national magazine.
Specifically, this admission would involve saying that, yeah, the origonal Steyn piece is indeed racist tripe, but that, hey, that's the direction in which Macleans is going shopping for its readers these days. Note that I say "racist" rather than "anti-Islam" or "anti-Muslim", because to use these more finally grained expressions suggests that Steyn's writings have a nuance that I do not believe they possess. Mark Steyn is shovelling boob-bait to the bubbas, and his core audience wouldn't know Muslim from Mexican or a hijab from a babushka. Promoting the notion that we must all return to the old ways because otherwise we will get out-bred by swarthy immigrants is a political strategy that far pre-dates any of the current debates re Muslim extremism or reasonable accomodation.
And I should say, Andrew, that The Sun chain, of all places, seems to have internalized the lesson that in these stressful times, Conservatism really should attempt to grow up a bit and lose the craziest of its crazies. Marsden has had her ass fired out the door, and it seems as though mad Ezra is being quietly shunned.
Odd that a real tabloid should be teaching Macleans a lesson.