Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Muslims stand up for Standard...

...in a way.

11 Canadian Muslim intellectuals, to be precise. And they didn't exactly stand up for the Western Standard specifically, but they did say that the extreme reactions from some segments of the Muslim population should in no way reflect on the views of Muslims in general.

You can read the whole opinion piece here.

The juicy conclusion runs:
Today, the religious right and autocracies in the so-called Islamic world are united in their call for passing legislation to make any discussion on religion a criminal offence.

This, at a time when many writers in Jordan, Iran, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan are rotting in jails, facing charges of apostasy and blasphemy.

We call on Canadian politicians and intellectuals to stand up for freedom of expression.

Our democratic values, including free speech, should not be compromised under the garb of fighting hate.

To fight Islamophobia and racism, we do not need to sacrifice free speech and debate.
That's right: stand up for freedom of expression, and the freedom to criticize even our holiest of holies, whatever they may be.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Another Standard victory


The Crown prosecutor's office did the right thing and suggested no criminal charges be laid against the Western Standard. In an obnoxious move, the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada has filed a hate crimes charge against the Standard and one other publication with the Alberta Human Rights Commission. That Commission has yet to decide whether they will hear the case or not, and the ISCC is also debating continuing to be obnoxious by filing a civil suit.

In his statement, Gordon Wong, Calgary's chief Crown prosecutor, said that the magazine had to have the intent of inciting hatred against a specific group, and said that his office saw no such intent. Instead, "The intent was to debate the issue within the articles. That's different than inciting hatred," Wong said.

This is not just a setback for the ISCC, it's also a setback for the United Church of Canada. They made the following remarkable (especially since it's potentially libelous) claim: "We believe that the intention of publishing the cartoons has little to do with freedom of expression and much to do with incitement to racial and religious hatred."

Still, the ISCC is planning to lobby legislatures to make Canada the kind of country that would have locked up Voltaire and other satiricists of religion. They are doing their darndest to get legislation passed to make it a crime to poke fun at all religious figures. No more South Park cartoons about L. Ron Hubbard, or depicting him in any way but with a glowing halo around his head. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

UPDATE: Christopher Hitchens chimes in (Feb. 4) with why satirizing religion is not a bad idea. Here's an excerpt:
The question of "offensiveness" is easy to decide. First: Suppose that we all agreed to comport ourselves in order to avoid offending the believers? How could we ever be sure that we had taken enough precautions? On Saturday, I appeared on CNN, which was so terrified of reprisal that it "pixilated" the very cartoons that its viewers needed to see. And this ignoble fear in Atlanta, Ga., arose because of an illustration in a small Scandinavian newspaper of which nobody had ever heard before! Is it not clear, then, that those who are determined to be "offended" will discover a provocation somewhere? We cannot possibly adjust enough to please the fanatics, and it is degrading to make the attempt.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Standard was right, Canada's media and pundits were wrong

I have argued with anyone who has tried to say that the Western Standard's publishing of the Muhammad cartoons was the wrong thing to do. I did so on Simon Pole's blog, and on several blogs on Progressivebloggers.ca. I was most eager to comment on Simon's posts, since he began to show a torrent of negative press and public reaction to the Standard's publication. He said the Standard was beginning to get more and more isolated. I countered that it was only a matter of time before the absurdities of the opposition would be shown for what they were--absurdities.

It seems today and yesterday have been the beginning of a counter-response. First, even though the United Church condemned the publication of the cartoons on the (potentially libelous) grounds that it was pure hate, the United Church online forum sparkled with opposition to their own Church's statement. Ezra ripped every reporter he debated apart. I don't think a single reasonably dispassionate observer can say that Ezra did anything other than teach Ottawa Citizen ed-in-chief Scott Anderson a lesson in debating [RAM], and the CBC's Harry Forrestel [RAM] what it means to have a clear, coherent, and reasoned argument. Today, Mary Laney of the Chicago Sun-Times rips into those who didn't publish the cartoons (including the Sun-Times itself). A blogger defends Ezra as the Levantithan. Closer to home, Ottawa folk want to see the cartoons, and are asking for the Standard. Meanwhile, the National Post defended the Standard on the grounds of freedom of speech and expression and, in a big setback to Standard naysayers, fully 70 per cent of Canadian journalists felt that the media ought to have published the cartoons [PDF].

Yes, you heard that right: 70 per cent! Let me try this again, just in case you weren't paying attention, fully 70 per cent (almost three-quarters) of Canadian journalists polled said that either most (18 per cent), all (17 per cent) or at least some (25 per cent) Canadian media organizations SHOULD HAVE PUBLISHED THE CARTOONS.

Let that sink in... Go read the poll, there are plenty of interesting tidbits in there.

I think it is time the more honourable naysayers admit when they have shitty arguments, and that they were wrong all along. It is the right thing to do, to admit you were wrong when the weight of your wrongness becomes a burden too great to carry.

Go on. Admit it. You were wrong. The Standard was right. You'll have an opportunity to rip on the Standard in the near future. Trust me, you will. They have shown tremendous courage and depth of integrity. And since that means they will cover the news regardless of what their advertisers do, and will give editorial independence to a team of ass-kickers, you will be pissed off with them soon enough. Get a subscription and follow the Standard closely. They're teaching the rest of Canada's media what it means to have editorial independence and excellent news judgment, so you might as well see it for yourself.

Just don't sap all of your integrity on this issue, my friends, because the next time you get on a moral crusade against Ezra and the Standard, we might not listen.

[Oh, and the Canadian Golden Girls won again. I watched in Bowling Green, and let loose a slightly embarrassing howl of happiness when the third period was over. I had to explain I was Canadian. They understood. And I was happy.]

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

CTV news shows cartoons

UPDATED (twice)

It should be really interesting to see how people like Simon Pole respond to this one.

In a story talking about how Western Standard columnist Ric Dolphin quoted some fishing buddy of Ralph Klein's to the effect that... well, actually, it may give offense to readers for me to quote the story... anyhow, in that story about something offensive, the CTV news people decide to open up the Western Standard to the precise page where the cartoons are shown, allowing viewers to SEE THE CARTOONS! (video link, top right corner)

Is this news people? Isn't this just a brazen attempt to cause more offense? Why show the cartoons, CTV? Why?

(Oh, wait, because it's the news? Good answer, good answer. You did your job. Good for you.)

Meanwhile, CBC reports on the same story and, believe it or not, repeats the offensive remark for all to see! Why? What reason is there to say anything other than: "and made a hurtful and offensive comment that had something to do with Ralph Klein's wife being a member of the Metis. Since the quote is available on the internet, you can go find it yourself. And, of course, there is no need to offend a group just for the sake of the offense. We can just describe the words used without actually writing down the hurtful and offensive lines."

(Wait, because that would mean that people wouldn't get the full story? That they would be clueless? I see, I see. So you did your job on this story, why didn't you do your job on the other one?)

UPDATE: Want the full story? Read Ezra Levant's Shotgun blog post.

UPDATE2: Ezra cites Metis Voices as showing support for the WS' publishing a column that includes a quote from some Klein "friend" making a racist comment. Here's an excerpt (please notice how the excerpt cries foul on the CBC for the exact same reason I allude to in my criticism):

If it wasn’t for the article, they wouldn’t have known about the racist comment. The magazine isn’t racist, its the dickwad that Ric Dolphin was talking to. In the context of this article, how can you say that even Ric Dolphin is racist if he is quoting someone else? I’m not defending the statement, but get real. It is a replay of the Muslim cartoon story all over again.

Except in this scenario, everyone is repeating the “[go look it up yourself, I'd hate to offend, or be called a racist for quoting a story that is quoting a story that quoted somebody else making a racist slur. CBC journalism 101]” statement. If the Western Standard is to be blamed, then we can equally blame The Edmonton Sun, CTV, and the CBC and Air Canada shouldn’t carry anything by them either.

These news services are hypocritical. They won’t publish Muslim cartoons because they don’t want to offend, but they’ll jump up and replay “[look it up. It's available on the internet. No need for me to offend anyone.]”.


Banner time

Here's another idea: Let's get some pro-WS banners linking to their subscribe page.

Here's a first banner, which I think looks pretty sweet:

And the code:

And here's another work of art:

And a third, smaller one:

Can someone help me with making this thing into an actual banner that people can use? That is, can someone maybe put together the right html for this? It has to link to the Standard's subscription page, and has to be the "right" size (which means: standard sidebar size).

UPDATE: I figured it out. Now, if only I could figure out how to post the html without it turning into the actual banner, we'd be set...

UPDATE: Thanks for the text code thing, BBS. (Again).

Some good news!

And now comes news that Ottawa retailers are being asked about the Western Standard. They'll stock it, of course. As will other, smaller magazine sellers.
Customers want to understand what the controversial cartoons are all about, says Michael Canivet, who manages the store.
Exactly. Just proves my point from below that news sources are not doing their job.

Meanwhile, the blogging community continues to show a wave of support for the Standard. Go on, take a look around the blogosphere. We're mostly all on the Standard's side with respect to this.

So what can you do? Do what this blogger is doing. Go to Chapters or Indigo, ask for the latest Western Standard (or to reserve it, since it won't hit the shelves for a few more days). When they tell you they won't be stocking it, tell them you'll find it elsewhere. Tell them "come to think of it, maybe I'll do all of my book shopping elsewhere."

Right after doing that, subscribe to the Western Standard. Or do that first. You can go to their website, or call them: (403) 216-2270.

(As a sidenote, you can call them to get this issue of the Western Standard, if none of your local retailers are stocking it).

CBC and their nonsense reasons for not showing cartoons

The ed-in-chief of the CBC has a ridiculous explanation of why they didn't print the cartoons up on their website. His explanation for why the CBC didn't show the cartoons is that it served no purpose to cause pain and offense to a group of people by showing the cartoons. People, after all, could just find the cartoons on the internet themselves, so no one really needs to show them.

There are at least three things to say about this. For one, and I've made this point in a rather hotly-worded comment to Scythian Princess on Simon Pole's blog (although the Princess and I seem to have made up after I took some serious offense to a suggestion of hers... go read the comments if you want the details), there is some confusion about just what the Western Standard is doing, and what justification it has for showing the cartoons. The justification runs like this: The cartoons are news. This is obvious to everyone. It is the job of a news organization to give the full story. The full story requires the showing of the cartoons. Thus it follows from my premises that a news source is not doing its job if it fails to show the cartoons. End of that argument.

So that's the justification for why a news source must show the cartoons. It is a separate question of what, if anything, allows or permits them to do this. Freedom of speech and expression addresses this second, separate concern. It is not freedom of speech that is the justification or the reason for showing the cartoons, that is addressed by appeal to what a news source's job is. Freedom of speech and expression means that they had the option, or choice, to print these cartoons. This is what permits them to do this. Charging them with a hate crime is the denial of this particular choice or option, thereby undermining freedom of speech with respect to this.

To sum up, a justification has the following form: A should do x in virtue of y. Where 'A' is the news source, 'x' is the printing of the cartoons, and 'y' is the appeal to an interpretation of what a news source's job is. Meanwhile, the second bit has this form: A is permitted to do x in virtue of y. Where 'A' is the news source, 'x' is the printing of the cartoons, and 'y' is an appeal to freedom of speech.

The Western Standard, unlike (with the exception of Le Devoir and the Jewish Free Press and the PEI campus newspaper) every other news source in Canada, did its job and upheld journalistic integrity. Everyone else failed, and is quite possibly an embarrassment to the profession. In the (maybe very) long run, this will be clear to most sensible observers.

So let's return to the CBC's eds comments. It's clear that they have failed to do their job. What reasons do they give for this failure? I want to pull out two in particular, mentioned above. 1. The cartoons are available on the internet, so people can get them if they want to. 2. Why cause hurt to a group of people if it is not absolutely necessary?

The first reason does the precise opposite of what they intend. This is not an argument for not showing the cartoons, but an argument precisely for showing them. If they are readily available somewhere, and the images are not hidden from anyone who cares to look, then there is no reason not to show them. They are, in a sense, public. So this argument fails (and miserably).

The second reason is a daft exercise in bullshittery and the vilest form of hypocrisy. Here is a task I put to someone other than myself. Go through the CBC archive and find every instance of them showing an image (we'll deal strictly with images) of things that are clearly offensive to some identifiable group. What's that? They do this *all the time*? You mean they showed the image of pisschrist (or whatever that thing was called)? They showed holocaust-era cartoons that satirized the Jews? They showed some modern art that is offensive to some? Yes, yes, and yes. Meaning, in short, that they "unnecessarily" (according to their lights, not mine) showed images that caused offense to some identifiable group.

As for the concern that this might incite violence, the identical claim can be made with respect to showing the images of Abu Ghraib prisoners being tortured by American and British soldiers. The parallels between that, and this cartoon issue, are obvious and unmistakable. So what justifies that, and not this?

In my opinion, all of the images mentioned above, from Piss Christ to Abu Ghraib to the cartoons, should have been published. All of them. That's the job of the media. And they should do their job.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Western Standard news roundup

The CBC talked to Ezra Levant. You can watch the media clip here, or check out the news piece here. I got the link by looking at Nealenews.com, where it was cited as "CBC grills publisher Ezra Levant." They got things exactly backwards. Watch the clip, and you decide if Ezra got grilled, or if Ezra did the grilling. He rips into the CBC for failing to show the cartoons, and implied that they lack journalistic ethics.

CTV, meanwhile, has plenty of coverage of the cartoon reprinting. You can watch a particularly interesting debate between Ezra Levant and Tarek Fatah on their website.

Global National is not left out of the controversy. They even include a poll on the main page where you can vote on whether you think Freedom of Speech should trump, Religious respect should, or both should compromise somewhat. It's a terrible poll, but go vote anyways. They called the Western Standard the first "mainstream news outlet" to publish the cartoons. Yeah, "mainstream." Ha.

The Globe and Mail has coverage. Even AlJazeera has coverage!

Of course, you can always visit the Google news page, and get a complete rundown of today's news on the Western Standard reprinting cartoons controversy.

Monday, February 13, 2006

WS down?

There are plenty of reasons why the Western Standard website might be down. It's just odd that I can't seem to access the main page, or the subscriber page today, the same day the WS is printing the cartoons. This has nothing to do with the publication of the cartoons, right? Right?

Here's a screenshot:

Someone want to offer a few reasons why this might have happened?

UPDATE: Kevin Libin, editor in chief of the WS, tells me that they're working to get the web page back up. I asked him if it was too much traffic, or something else. He says it's "something else." Hmmm....

Another UPDATE: The Shotgun is still up and running (thanks Rob). Several Danish sites have been hit with internet attacks. You can read about that here.

Western Standard prints 'toons

That's right, today's Western Standard is publishing the cartoons that are causing riots all over the place. The move is already being threatened with a hate crimes violation law suit by the Canadian Islamic Congress, and the WS is stepping up security a little bit.

Ezra, meanwhile, continues to pound the Canadian media for the trepidatious nature. He has been a strong critic of Canadian media on the grounds that they do not publish some obviously news-worthy articles (my article on Jacques Chaoulli and his Supreme Court case was rare before the Court returned their decision, for instance), for their one-sidedness and occasional bias, and for their unwillingness to publish these cartoons which are, obviously, newsworthy.

Good for the Standard.

This is a freedom of speech issue. Let's see just how committed our country truly is to this particular freedom.

(As if you needed another reason to get a subscription to this fine magazine. Well, here you are then. If this doesn't move you to plunk down the dollars for a quality magazine, then I doubt anything will. You can't truly understand what it means to be a Canadian without reading the Western Standard. I really believe that.)