March 4, 2005
Progressivism and Free Speech for All
By Kim Petersen
�Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according
to conscience, above all liberties.�
�I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your
right to say it.�
-The Friends of Voltaire
There is a concerted right-wing effort to clamp down on
liberal academics in the US. The attacks on M. Shahid Alam and Ward
Churchill serve distinct notice that free-speech rights may be
constitutionally protected on paper, but those rights are fragile.
The assault on free speech is not confined to the US.
Canadian security bills enacted following 9-11 have severely curtailed
freedoms enjoyed by Canadians. Several Muslim Canadians have been rounded up
along with one infamous historical revisionist.
graphic artist Ernst Zündel, clad in an orange jumpsuit, sits on a pile of
documents (because he is not allowed a chair) and sends off his last
missives written with pencil stubs from his prison cell. He has just passed
his second year of incarceration without charge. This prisoner is deemed to
be a national security risk to Canada although he has no criminal record and
is avowedly a Christian pacifist.
Zündel and his supporters have characterized his situation
as a �political kidnapping disguised as a deportation, based entirely on
drummed up charges.� The situation was allegedly stacked against Zündel.
Once two cabinet ministers signed the draconian national
security certificate, Zündel was denied the right to cross-examine his
accusers or to know all the evidence against him. The Crown needed only to
convince Federal Court Justice Pierre Blais (a former Canadian Security
Intelligence Service head) that it was not unreasonable for two cabinet
ministers to think Zündel might be a terrorist. Now, Zündel has abandoned
his fight to stay in Canada and is slated for early deportation to Germany,
where he will be immediately arrested and tried for his controversial views
on the World War II Holocaust.
Zündel�s lawyer Peter Lindsay said authorities had informed
him there would be no wait for a Supreme Court of Canada review of his
allegation of judicial bias or rule on the constitutionality of Canadaßs
anti-terrorism laws. Lindsay condemned the legal process as �unfair.� Said
Lindsay, �We should care. But ... most of us don�t give a damn.�
Blais ordered the expulsion of Zündel, having determined him
to be a hate-monger and threat. �Zündel�s activities are not only a threat
to Canadaßs national security but also a threat to the international
community of nations,� opined Blais.
Zündel�s notoriety stems from his challenging the
conventional history of the World War II Holocaust. He does not deny
European Jews were persecuted: �The Jewish community has been victimized, no
doubt in my mind � by National Socialist Germany; they were robbed of their
human rights. � I say Germans should pay restitution, material restitution �
moral restitution to Jewish institutions.�
Ernst Zundel as commercial artist in 1973
The German-born Zündel was at one point enjoying a
comfortable, well-to-do life in Canada based on his success as a graphic
artist. But he gave that up when he took it upon himself to correct what he
saw as inaccuracies in World War II history. Said Zündel, �I owe it to
myself, as a person, to humanity, to tell this truth as I found it, and as I
know it�to submit it to people. I don�t ask people to love me. I don�t ask
people to even agree with me. I don�t ask people anything but to let me
state my case and then for them to reflect on it.�
Zündel objects to the holocaust being portrayed as an
exclusively Jewish holocaust. �That Second World War was a Holocaust for
everyone in it. � If we are to draw lessons from the Second World War, we
must find out what led to this monstrous event � We must find out as people,
as a planet, as human beings what really happened. Because otherwise we
might well overlook when real holocausts are planned in the future.�
�Holocausts come under the guise of laws, robbing people of
their civil rights, their human rights, imprisoning them for ideas; that�s
how holocausts start,� says Zündel.
Zundel's library after 1995 arson on his home
Since promulgating his views on the World War II Holocaust,
Zündel has been threatened, a recipient of a mail bomb, physically attacked,
and suffered an arson attack that destroyed his home. To compound his
misfortune, he has been financially bogged down defending himself and his
controversial views in Canadaßs so-called justice system.
Canada does limit free speech rights when hatred is promoted
against an identifiable group. Contrary to what is commonly thought, Zündel
was never prosecuted under the �group hatred� act. He was charged under an
old section of the Criminal Code pertaining to disinformation. This is
incredulous, as Zündel obviously believes in the verisimilitude of what he
Ernst Zundel buried behind trial transcripts, all over
the book he is holding asking "Did Six Million Really Die?"
At his 1988 trial, Zündel was tried and cleared in the
Supreme Court for disseminating �false news� in the form of a reprinted
28-page revisionist booklet Did Six Million Really Die? by Richard Verrall
(but penned under the name Richard Harwood). The False News Law was struck
Zündel stated that all his alleged crimes are
Internet-related, dealing with the �Auschwitz Holocaust problem� and his
defense of the German people. Vituperation is directed at the
Zundelsite, which is adorned with
Nazi-style flags featuring a �Z� fashioned after the swastika. The site
carries the transcripts of his previous court appearances. Zündel considers
this his legacy to revisionists.
The truth of Zündel�s claims, however, was considered
irrelevant. The Canadian Human Rights Commission, which is responsible for
investigating �hate crimes,� astonishingly
�The truth in some absolute sense really plays no role.
Rather, it is the social context in which the message is delivered and
heard which will determine the effect that the communication will have on
the listener. It is not the truth or falsity per se that will evoke the
emotion but rather how it is understood by the recipient.�
On 18 February,
a crack did emerge in the rigidity of Canadaßs national security laws.
Adil Charkaoui, a Moroccan-born alleged terrorist agent, was finally
released from a ministerial security certificate detention after 21 months
Federal Court Judge Simon Noel ruled Charkaoui to be
released on $50,000 bail�raised by several prominent Canadians�subject to a
number of strict conditions such as obeying a curfew and wearing an
electronic monitoring bracelet.
Charkaoui is, however, only one of several Muslim men being
held under national security laws.
It was not enough to affect Zündel.
Free Speech Trumps Ideology
A Marxist-Leninist friend was surprised that I would write
about the ordeal of Zündel. He advised, �Forget about him. He�s a fascist
and a Nazi.� But he relented to the degree that, harkening to the wisdom of
Martin Niem�ller, if Canadians remain silent about the human rights of
Zündel then who will be there to speak out for their rights if and when
their turn comes.
Zündel is not a sympathetic figure. He is an unabashed
admirer of the Austrian-born and raised Hitler, who he lauds as �Germany�s
greatest son.� It is unsure how this squares with his pacifist declaration.
In the vein of Hitler, Zündel is also vehemently anti-Marxist. Marxism,
according to Zündel, is a �psychopathic ideology.� In addition, he adheres
to a doctrine of white racial purity.
Nonetheless, his incarceration and upcoming deportation are
morally wrong. It is relatively easy for progressives to stand up in defense
of progressives when their free-speech rights are imperiled. The real test
for progressives, however, is to defend free-speech rights of those whose
views are anathema to progressivism.
Kim Petersen is a writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada.
He can be reached at email@example.com.
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