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Free Speech: Words are weapons

Freedom of Speech; use it or lose it

inJusticebusters addresses wrongfully accused, charged and convicted (and often ignored or forgotten) cases and free speech issues. These categories often overlap, particularly when we find that charter rights are being denied a group of people because they are smeared as "pedophiles" (Peter Klassen) or pornographers (Ivan Cohen) or "terrorists" (Rocco Galati's clients) or "drug traffickers" (Saskatchewan drug stories) or members of "organized crime" (Bikers).

OFFSITE content:
If you thought Reporters without Borders defended journalists, think again. Nicolás Rivera of Radio Perola remains in jail while the organization has done nothing. Report of the events from Reporters without Borders

A new site called Lumen is an independent 3rd party research project studying cease and desist letters concerning online content.

Electronic Frontier Foundation The leading nonprofit defending digital privacy, free speech, and innovation.

As a show of solidarity with young writers everywhere, inJusticebusters publishes Words are weapons. Does it make you sick? Want to run to the censorboard? Think again. Did you see Scary Movie? Natural Born Killers? Kalifornia? If not, maybe you should. And if you don't like it, use words, not the weapon of the state to express your dislike. That's why we developed our cerebral cortices! --Sheila Steele

The Richard Klassen story
Breaking through to the public

What we have done with the Publication Ban: DEFIED IT!

Michael RossIt was our intention in June 1998 when we first launched to defy the ban on publishing the names of the child witnesses in the Foster Parent Scandal. We did this and for two and a half years, those names have been public on this website.

We know that if Saskatchewan Justice had felt they could win a case against us, they would have charged us long ago. It is possible that they could have won but they would have had to risk exposing all the evidence of their lies to public scrutiny. Cover-up was the name of the game.

Perhaps they were waiting for some magical legal bullet to be devised which they could use to shoot us off the Internet.

Michelle RossThe simple fact is that the Internet is subject to the same laws as any other medium. What is published is published. We published this information online and we postered it on poles right in front of the Saskatoon Police station. We phoned the police and left voice-mail. When we published new information online we sent them the url. They have always been aware of our addresses. They hoped that we would tire of the exercise or die.

After the names had been published for over a year, one of the child witnesses contacted us and a few months later, a second one did the same. Although they were embarrassed by the material which exposed sex beyond what we commonly think of as childhood experimentation, their embarrassment was overriden by their gratitude at finally getting some truthful information about how they had been used by Sask Justice.

The publication of the names in this story has also served to attract reporters from the major media.

Our defiance of the publication ban served its purpose. Two of the former child-witnesses found us and are beginning to get some of the help they need to reconstruct their shattered lives. They both agreed to take part in the Fifth Estate show which aired November 29, 2000. In the weeks leading up to the airing of the show, Michael became nervous that once people saw his acknowledgment that he had raped his sisters, he might be the object of reprisals by strangers who didn't understand. He had already experienced some harassment in the Saskatchewan Correctional by lowlives who had access to some of the information on our website. He was afraid to go into the yard. inJusticebusters deferred to his concerns and psuedenomized their names. After all, the children had been told by the authorities ten years ago that their names would be kept secret and that they would not ever have to face the people they gave false testimony about.

Brian Dueck was unable to keep his word, which was not ever worth much, as we have demonstrated thoroughly on the pages of this website. Therapist Carol Bunko, who also encouraged the children to lie, was unable to protect their names either, just as she is not able to protect her own misbegotten reputation as a therapist. Richard Quinney, Director of Public prosecutions who ordered his crowns to proceed against the Klassens and Kvellos long after he knew the children's testimony was fabricated by wiley adults willing to exploit damaged children cannot hide, either.

Now the Fifth Estate show has aired and Michael and Michelle have become celebrities for truth. They no longer wish to hide. The pseudemoms are coming down and their names are going back up.

We did the right thing by publishing their names in the first place and we will do the right thing now, once we are satisfied that the boy, in particular, is getting meaningful help. Part of that help is coming from us. We are proud to associate with him and wonder if we would have the strength of character to do what he has done.

We hope that this exercise will serve as an example to others who are hampered by bans in the telling of their stories. When a court order is wrong, we must have the courage to defy it!

They must not shut us down and they cannot shut us up! The whole publication ban thing is rapidly becoming a dead issue. The real question is what should be done with Dueck? And when will Saskatchewan do the right thing?

Eminem: You go, boy!

EminemI am a fan and my name's not Stan. As a former professor of English, before I got busted for growing marijuana and became a full-time inJusticebusters, I am appalled by the ignorance of critics and reporters who consistently refer to Marshall Mather's work as "mysogynist" and "homophobic".

Personally, I would characterize his work as dark, caustic satire with strong misanthropic overtones. I'd put him in a class with Harold Pinter, Margaret Atwood, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Randy Newman, Lou Reed, Stephen King, Quentin Tarentino . . .

Remember The Dumb Waiter, about two thick hitmen who meet in a room to await instructions for their next hit? One says he is repulsed by killing women because of how they "spread." Pinter's work is liberally peppered with characters who hate women. I personally think he has some problems but that doesn't stop me from admiring his work.

Lou Reed's "Street Hassle" from twenty years ago is as rugged as anything Marshall Mathers III has come up with. It was shocking at the time and it is still shocking. It pushed the boundaries of legitimate subject matter (whatever that is). And now it is a classic.

It is Eminem's ability to cut through the crusts of hypcrisy that disturbs us all. He is a first class story teller and I like his stories much better than those of Madonna who was also threatened with censorship but whose work cannot seem to get past infantile rebellion against Catholicism. Similarly boring are Martin Scorses and Robert DeNiro when they try to get bold. Some would say the Roman Catholic Church is misogynist and homophobic. I would be one of them.

I am not among those who call Eminem misogyinist. They should check out the lyric reprinted below, and also be aware that the word "clitoris" has been bleeped on radio and TV.

Eminem's "homophobic" slurs are no more or less slurry than his rants against teachers or parents or any other group of people once he is allowed the license every writer has to put words in the mouth of a character.

Those who object to the songs "Kim" and its precursor, "Just the two of us" because the persona in the song kills his wife and the mother of his child should note that the Slim Shady character also claims to have Dr. Dre's corpse in his basement. Kim Mathers and Dr. Dre are still very much alive. To blame Kim's attempted suide on Marshall Mathers III is like blaming Ted Hughes for Sylvia Plath's successful one. Of course, some people do.

The charges against Mathers for pistol-whipping the guy from Insane Clown Posse with an unloaded handgun are still before the courts. All his behavior since the incident suggests he regrets it. The Macombe County DA has said no to any plea bargain which does not include jail time.

If they send Marshall Mathers III to jail it will not be for what he did but for who he is. Any judge who condescends to "teach the boy a lesson" will simply be pandering to a public which doesn't quite get it. And he will be furthering the education of a young man who didn't get his grade nine but knows more about life than many who sit on the bench.

One of my small satisfactions is living in a world where Eminem is free.
--Sheila Steele

EMINEM'S "The Marshall Mathers LP" has been deemed unsuitable for minors by New Zealand authorities. Retailers who sell the album to youths face a fine and a jail sentence of up to three months. - Rolling Stone, Dec. 20, 2000

From "The Real Slim Shady":

. . . Feminist women love Eminem "Slim Shady, I'm sick of him Look at him, walkin around grabbin his you-know-what Flippin the you-know-who," "Yeah, but he's so cute though!" Yeah, I probably got a couple of screws up in my head loose But no worse, than what's goin on in your parents' bedrooms Sometimes, I wanna get on TV and just let loose, but can't but it's cool for Tom Green to hump a dead moose "My bum is on your lips, my bum is on your lips" And if I'm lucky, you might just give it a little kiss And that's the message that we deliver to little kids And expect them not to know what a woman's clitoris is Of course they gonna know what intercourse is By the time they hit fourth grade They got the Discovery Channel don't they? . . .

Sorry, your ideas will have to satisfy the commission

It's like waking up one morning to discover that impolitic opinions have become illegal

In the past year, the Regina Leader-Post, Alberta Report, the North Shore News, the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix and The Toronto Star have all had to appear before tribunals to answer charges of publishing "discriminatory" material, in violation of the human-rights codes in their provinces. A quick refresher: Human-rights law was created to prevent discrimination in lodging and employment. So why is it now being used to prevent the dissemination of certain ideas? Isn't this the sort of thing the free-expression section of the constitutional Charter of Rights and Freedoms is supposed to prevent?

The strangest case of the bunch is the one against Alberta Report. Last year, reporter Patrick Donnelly wrote a feature article for the magazine entitled, "Scapegoating the Indian residential schools: The noble legacy of hundreds of Christian missionairies is sacrificed to political correctness." The thrust of Mr. Donnelly's argument was that residential schools, government-funded institutions operated by religious orders, were on the whole positive for natives.

His argument was supported with quotes from former students and teachers, many of whom said that they had nothing but positive memories of the residential system. He alleged that this point of view has been buried by Indian advocates hungry to capitalize on white guilt by portraying the institutions as a form of cultural genocide.

Whether his analysis is insightful or misguided is, legally speaking, entirely beside the point. Or rather that's the way the law used to work. Not any more.

University of Calgary law professor Kathleen Mahoney responded to the publication by filing a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission, alleging that Alberta Report had "expose[d] First Nations people to hatred or contempt on the basis of their race or ancestry." She asked for remedies including "an apology, damages, and an order that the respondents attend education sessions about human rights in Alberta."

The creepy call for "education sessions" was not laughed out of the Alberta commission. Instead, the commission has asked Alberta Report to respond to the complaint. It will then consider whether to prosecute the magazine.

The antecedent to all this is the Doug Collins case. Mr. Collins, a columnist for Vancouver's North Shore News, has a habit of getting worked up over all things Jewish. He thinks the Jews control Hollywood, and claims there is an excessive media focus on the Holocaust. He calls it "hate literature in the form of films." In a 1994 article he took potshots at Schindler's List, calling it "Swindler's List" and predicting that it would surely win an barrow-full of Academy Awards because it is part of "the most effective propaganda exercise ever".

For these statements, he and his publisher ended up in front of the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, charged with "exposing Jewish persons to hatred or contempt on the basis of their race, religion or ancestry." Mr. Collins won, though the case has become a sort of revolving-door inquisition, with his columns being hauled before subsequent hearings.

Mr. Collins is crotchety, cranky and irrationally antagonistic to things Jewish -- and I don't doubt that the majority of public opinion agrees with me. But the law shouldn't be enforcing those conclusions. It shouldn't even be asking such questions.

It shouldn't be, but it is. Last year the Regina Leader-Post ran an advertisement from someone opposing Gay Pride Week. The ad quoted a Biblical passage to the effect that homosexuality is a mortal sin; Saskatchewan's Human Rights Commission looked into it and ruled that it wasn't enough to constitute discrimination. But the commission is continuing with a complaint against the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, which carried a similar ad from the same advertiser, rendered stronger by an accompanying drawing of two men holding hands with a red circle and a slash over it.

The trouble with trying to shut down "wrong" ideas is that people necessarily disagree about which ideas those are. That is precisely why liberal societies protect free speech: not because we are all in agreement, but because most of us disagree about many things most of the time. This is the insight of liberalism: that we can all get along by agreeing to peacefully disagree.

When human-rights law tries to step in where free-speech doctrine has long held that the law should not tread, dangerous precedents are the only sure outcome. For example, after The Toronto Star declined to publish three letters critical of a 1995 story about a Jewish Holocaust survivor, the former president of the Canadian Polish Congress, Toronto District, accused the newspaper of -- what else -- racism.

Hanna Sokolski argued that the Star's refusal to publish the letters was a denial of equal access to a public service, a kind of discrimination against Canadians of Polish ancestry. Taking a cue from Alberta and B.C., Ontario's Human Rights Commission has not rejected the complaint out of hand. Instead, two years later, it is still investigating.

Which is precisely what human-rights commissions should not be doing. Any sensible application of free speech -- the principle that ideas should be debated, not imposed -- would allow the Star-Phoenix to run or decline whatever ad it liked. It might find itself in trouble with its readership for its choices, but, short of libel, it shouldn't face legal sanction.

The same goes for The Toronto Star. If it prefers to steer clear of certain letters or articles, the law should not second-guess that decision -- an exercise of discretion that is itself covered by freedom of expression. That discretion can be removed only by undermining founding principles of our civilization. If people no longer have the freedom to say what they believe and to believe what they want, even when most of us think they're wrong, we don't live in a liberal society any more.