Wrong Message

Editorial, Chronicle Herald (Halifax, Nova Scotia), Jan. 18, 2007

JARED Taylor’s views are clearly repugnant, but the way he was prevented from speaking at a Halifax hotel Tuesday night sent the wrong message.

What did those protesters, many with their identities concealed under scarves, believe they were accomplishing as they cursed and physically forced Mr. Taylor, a controversial American writer and speaker who believes racial diversity is bad for society, from the meeting room? Were they promoting tolerance, by practising intolerance? Were they condoning assault if the cause is good—according to them? If they were proud of their actions, why did they feel the need to hide their identities? Are there other debates they’re prepared to squelch and, if so, what are the banned topics?

Canada has laws on hate speech. If Mr. Taylor’s remarks broke those laws, it’s up to the police and justice system to take action, not a group of self-appointed enforcers of what can and cannot be said in public in this country. If Mr. Taylor’s speech offended them but broke no laws, if it espoused views with which the protesters strongly disagreed, they are free to reject, debate and condemn those views. But they do not have the right to silence that person by pulling him from the stage.

If free speech is worth anything, then it must be extended even to those with whom you strongly disagree. Mobs have no legitimacy as arbiters of permissible speech, no matter how convinced they are of the righteousness of their motives. By their vigilante-like actions, the protesters actually gave Mr. Taylor’s views more attention than they might otherwise have received. Mr. Taylor was certainly quick to post an account of the ugly incident on his own website, labelled: “Banned in Halifax: No diversity of opinions about diversity.”

The Halifax police department says it asked Mr. Taylor if he wished to lodge an assault complaint, but that he refused police involvement.

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