Sol Littman   Letter 23   23-Nov-1999   Juvenile tactics, totalitarian goals
"Truth is no defense.  The fact that what you may have published is in the public interest is no defense.  The fact of good faith opinion is no defense.  The fact that it's a publication for a genuine academic purpose is no defense." Roger McConchie
  November 23, 1999

Sol Littman
Director, Simon Wiesenthal Center
8 King Street East, Suite 710
Toronto, ON

Tel: (416) 864-9735
Fax: (416) 864-1083

Sol Littman:

In the 07Jun97 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) television show On the Line moderated by Patrick Conlon, you appeared as Canadian Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center on the YES side of the question "Should there be limits on free speech?" with North Shore News columnist Doug Collins appearing on the NO side, and British Columbia (BC) Press Council representative, lawyer Roger McConchie, voting YES along with you, but nevertheless arguing against you by holding that the BC Human Rights Act under which Doug Collins was being prosecuted for the second time was unreasonable and was not an appropriate instrument for limiting free speech.  Moderator Patrick Conlon elaborated the question as follows:

It's billed as a key test of freedom of speech in Canada a British Columbia newspaper columnist now stands before a Provincial Human Rights Tribunal to face charges his column has exposed Jews to hate.  Experts say the outcome may draw a line between what can and cannot be published, a possibility that alarms free speech defenders and gives hope to those who feel bigotry should have a leash.

Should freedom of speech have limits?

It is not my purpose in the present letter to itemize the large number of things that you said that were ill-considered or duplicitous.  Let the phone-in vote be a reflection of how poorly you did in this debate 27% YES (your position), and 73% NO (the Collins position).  Rather, I will use the opportunity of the present letter to no more than make two points that your debating tactics are juvenile, and that your goals are totalitarian.

Your Debating Tactics are Juvenile

Consulting an article that he had written earlier, Doug Collins read the following on camera to demonstrate his use of the expression "bone-in-the-nose savages":

It has now dawned on all but the most dim-witted that we are destroying traditional Canada by means of immigration, and that Ottawa could get away with it because its supporters constantly harp on about racism, the trigger word used to frighten people.  Being a so-called racist today is like being called a so-called Communist forty years ago.  Racism is the taboo through which it is being done.  No bone-in-the-nose savages were ever more eager to bow down before their idols than our Liberals are to grovel before the taboo of racism.

Doug Collins' writing is colorful and rich in imagery, as one would expect of a journalist who wants to be read.  It is humorous.  It is satirical.  He employs the "bone-in-the-nose savages" image to convey a blind commitment to an idol, which commitment Canadian Liberals exceed when they bow down before their own taboo of "racism."  Mr. Collins does not call anybody a "bone-in-the-nose savage."  He does not call the immigrants whose flow into Canada he would like to see reduced "bone-in-the-nose savages," and he does not call the Liberals who promote the flow of immigrants into Canada "bone-in-the-nose savages."

What you apparently did in an earlier comment, however, is to accuse Mr. Collins of calling immigrants to Canada "bone-in-the-nose savages."  And when Mr. Collins pointed your error out to you and asked for a retraction and an apology, you refused to admit any error or to apologize, saying that calling Liberals "bone-in-the-nose savages" was even worse.  In other words, instead of acknowledging your first misrepresentation of what Doug Collins had said, you preferred to offer viewers a substitute misrepresentation of what he had said.  To your way of thinking, perhaps, Doug Collins' sin in using the expression "bone-in-the-nose savages" was so great, that it gave you license to portray Doug Collins applying the expression to any and every target of your choosing first to immigrants, and then to Liberals.

If you were aiming only to win over easily-confused children, then your tactic was likely to have some success but think, Mr. Littman, how many children would have been watching a debate on freedom of speech?  Possibly not too many.  In attempting to win over the children who were by and large not watching the broadcast, then, you used a tactic that lost the sympathy of the many adults who were watching it.

Your Goals are Totalitarian

If Doug Collins must be prosecuted, he would prefer to be prosecuted under the federal criminal Hate Propaganda law, and Roger McConchie prefers this alternative as well.  However, Doug Collins has never been prosecuted under the Hate Propaganda law, and never will be.  At the time of the debate, he had been prosecuted once under the British Columbia Provincial Human Rights Act, and was about to be prosecuted under the same BC Act a second time.  You think this is fitting, whereas Collins and McConchie disagree.  The following excerpt serves to explain the Collins-McConchie objection to the BC legislation, and captures your rebuttal as well:

McCONCHIE: And let me tell you what isn't in this [BC] statute.  There are a bunch of missing words.  A lack of intention to violate this provision is no defense.  Truth is no defense.  The fact that what you may have published is in the public interest is no defense.  The fact of good faith opinion is no defense.  The fact that it's a publication for a genuine academic purpose is no defense.  [...]  I just want to make sure that your listeners, before they call, don't misunderstand what this [BC] law says.  This law says it's a violation of the law to publish the truth.  This law says it's a violation of the law to publish something that's for the public benefit.  This laws says it's a violation of the law to publish something that has a genuine scientific, artistic, or academic purpose.  And this law removed the prior explicit protection for freedom of expression.  So that's the problem with this law.  It's completely unreasonable in a free and democratic society.

LITTMAN:  Mr. McConchie, if I were the lawyer for the BC Press Council, I would probably argue the same way you do, but as a good lawyer, I see you taking the worst scenario possible.  I don't think the law means any of the things that you mention, and I think if we had time, we could argue it out and I could show you you are presenting a worst-case scenario to frighten people, and I don't think the law really is that.

COLLINS:  If anybody frightens people, it's Mr. Littman.

McCONCHIE:  I tell you what the law says.  I'm telling you what the law says, Mr. Littman.  I'm not inventing it.  You can go and look at the law for yourself, and you won't find these defenses.  And you know where you will find them?  You'll find them in the Criminal Code of Canada, and you'll find them in the Australian Racial Vilification Act.

McCONCHIE:  If this gentleman [a caller] realized that British Columbia's new Human Rights Censorship Provision is virtually a mirror of the censorship provision in Apartheid South Africa's Publications Control Act, would he worry that this legislation in British Columbia, which I assume he has not seen the details of, might constitute an unreasonable and unjustifiable infringement on free speech?

What the above program segments demonstrate, then, is your defense of a law which promises to allow you personally to trigger government prosecution of an individual for making statements that you want suppressed, even if those statements are true, even if they are in the public interest, and even if they have academic or scientific or artistic merit.  Your goal, then, is to push Canada in the direction of becoming more totalitarian.  You portray yourself as being motivated by a desire to hold back a flood of Nazism a flood to which you often allude but cannot document and yet your method of doing so is to propose giving the government Nazi-like powers to suppress free speech.  In your earlier advocating trust in Soviet-supplied evidence, you demonstrated your sympathy for totalitarian methods of generating evidence when that evidence promotes your goals, and here in the above CBC debate, you demonstrate your sympathy for totalitarian methods of suppressing evidence when that evidence interferes with your goals.

You may be the Most Dangerous Man in Canada

Because of your totalitarian goals, and because of the ruthlessness with which you pursue those goals, and because you have some small chance of success in imposing those goals on the Canadian people, I view you as a serious contender for the title of the most dangerous man in Canada.  You show contempt for traditions of freedom upon which the Canadian way of life is based, and in doing so you bring disgrace upon your people, whom the public mistakenly assumes that you represent.

Lubomyr Prytulak