Jonah Goldberg

Mark Steyn, my friend, colleague and arguably the most talented political writer working today, is on trial for thought crimes.

Steyn -- a one-man media empire based in New Hampshire -- was published a few years ago in Maclean's. Now the magazine and its editors are in the dock before the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal on the charge that they violated a provincial hate-speech law by running the work of a hate-monger, namely Mark Steyn. A similar prosecution is pending before the national version of this kangaroo court, the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Not that the facts are relevant to the charges, but here's what happened. Maclean's ran an excerpt from Steyn's bestseller, "America Alone."

The Canadian Islamic Congress took offense. It charged in its complaint that the magazine was "flagrantly Islamophobic" and "subjects Canadian Muslims to hatred and contempt." It was particularly scandalized by Steyn's argument that rising birthrates among Muslims in Europe will force non-Muslims there to come to "an accommodation with their radicalized Islamic compatriots."

Note: Steyn's article was published in 2006, before Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, supported that point earlier this year when he said that it is "unavoidable" that Britain will ultimately have to incorporate some elements of sharia into its law in the spirit of "constructive accommodation."

You might think that if Steyn had been able to quote Williams or someone else who'd expressed that view, he and Maclean's wouldn't be in trouble. You'd be wrong. One of the council's chief gripes with the article is that Steyn quoted an imam living in Norway who said that "the number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes." An accurate quotation is no defense when giving offense.

Indeed, it seems there is no escaping the charge of promoting "hate" in Canada at all. In 31 years, the national Human Rights Commission has never dismissed a case as unfounded.

The council first demanded that Maclean's give it equal and unedited space in the magazine to respond to Steyn's "Islamophobic" tract. The editors refused. So the council took the magazine to "court," but not a real court. These tribunals have all the rigor of a student government star chamber. There are no rules of evidence and, again, truth is not a defense.

Why bother with evidence at all? Hate speech is essentially defined as anything certain "victimized" people find offensive. So, if a group is sufficiently offended to complain to a human rights commission, the burden of proof has already been met.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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