By Frank Moher
The various human rights commissions that rejected the complaint against Maclean’s magazine — most recently the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal — were right to do so, of course. Members of the Canadian Islamic Congress had charged Maclean’s with inciting hatred and contempt towards Muslims when it published an excerpt from Mark Steyn’s America Alone, in which he advanced various xenophobic warnings about jihadists taking over the world. Much hand-wringing followed, as the media proclaimed that the media should be left to do as it pleases.
In its decision, the B.C. tribunal — and if they wanted to raise the spectre of totalitarianism, they couldn’t have done better than by calling themselves a “tribunal” — declared that “The article may attempt to rally public opinion by exaggeration and causing the reader to fear Muslims, but fear is not synonymous with hatred and contempt.” I’m inclined to agree with Andrew Coyne that this bit of casuistry was just the members’ way to avoid enforcing B.C.’s human rights law. Whether Steyn’s article incites fear or hatred depends on the incitee, it seems to me; maybe it’ll cause wimps like me to flee from the nearest brown-skinned person, but your average good ol’ boy might react differently.
Still, except for one genuinely hateful paragraph, in which he links some teenagers’ violence to their North African background, Steyn’s article is soft soap. As usually happens when he cares about a subject, he ceases to be funny. And without the disarming laughs, Steyn is — here, at least — revealed as a common coin hysteric, even claiming at one point that Japan’s declining birth rate means it’s “likely to be the first jurisdiction to embrace robots and cloning and embark on the slippery slope to transhumanism.”
The CIC’s critics were right — dragging this stuff into court was unnecessarily heavyhanded.
Then again, I would say that. I’m white. And so are almost all the people running Maclean’s. And so are most of the journalists wringing their hands. But do you think if we were, say, Arab or South Asian or Trinidadian we might feel differently? D’ya think?
Maclean’s waxing about freedom of the press and creeping fascism and whatnot would be a lot more convincing if they could point to a few more non-Anglo Saxons on the masthead. Then we’d know that they know the marketplace of ideas isn’t just for the majority, and we’d know they have a genuine marketplace of ideas happening in their newsroom. Frankly, I don’t really care what Ken Whyte or Andrew Coyne has to say about the CIC suit; it’s all too predictable. What I would like to know is what their Features editor, Sarmishta Subramanian, has to say. (Has Subramanian commented on it? If so, I couldn’t find it.)
Similarly, Ian Mulgrew’s grumblings in The Vancouver Sun aren’t nearly as pertinent as Haroon Siddiqui’s analysis in The Toronto Star — not only because Siddiqui is liable to have the more nuanced view, but because The Star‘s hiring actually reflects Canadian multicultural reality. They’ve earned the right to an opinion.
This skirmish is a heads up for Maclean’s and all its journalistic brethren who are behind the curve. Time to change up their staffs to look more like the country they cover. Then maybe next time Steyn writes one of his nativist screeds they’ll decide to pass on it — not because they’re self-censoring, but because they can’t stop laughing long enough to get it into print.