Know Your Rights

From the various “Occupy” sit-ins to the U.S. presidential race, to the European financial crisis, there are a lot of important, high-profile news stories out there with libertarian implications. It can be hard to keep up with the smaller stories; sometimes they fly right under the radar.

Take, for example, this recent CBC story of a human rights case brought before the Supreme Court of Canada. There are many angles to this case that could have a major impact on personal liberty in general, and each angle could serve as fodder for its own blog post…

What struck me was not so much the case itself as the arguments against free speech posed by members of the general public, making comments under the news story at the above link.

Cases like this are a strong dose of reality: there are no saints here. The defendant is a man whose own words perform a terrible moral condemnation against him; he himself is no friend of personal liberty. And yet, if the government has the power to silence speech then indeed we no longer have any liberties at all.

Absolutely every aspect of our lives aside from our silent, private thoughts is legislated, taxed, regulated, and controlled by an arm of the state, including the noises that come from our throats. If the public at large is willing to give up its freedom of speech – something beloved by leftists, rightists, and libertarians alike – then a heavy responsibility weighs on those of us who remember that human rights are not granted and can therefore never really be taken away.

The state can throw a person in jail, but even one’s dying breath is an act of communication. Freedom of Speech is not granted by the state, it simply is.

So it is a bit disheartening to see so many impassioned Canadian voices communicating their opinion via that news story’s comments section that freedom of speech has limits. The irony was lost on them.


2 Responses to “Know Your Rights”

  1. Ryan says:

    I haven't done a comprehensive read-through of his ridiculously bigoted literature, but from what I've seen I can see no instances in which he singles out a particular individual and defames them. You can't defame a nebulous, non-specific set of people. The statement "People named Ryan are murderers" is both true and false: some people named Ryan are, and some aren't.

    So even the question of defamation is up-in-the-air here.

    I think it's natural to recoil from his hateful comments and want to seek some form of retribution, but to use any aspect of the state coercion apparatus to correct prejudicial behavior is an overreach, in my opinion. By speaking hate, Whatcott indicts himself. Society recoils from such hate Is further action necessary?

  2. lemoutongris says:

    indeed, it's a difficult case. rather than censoring him, he should be sued (on civil courts) for defamation, which his speech clearly is.

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