Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Vigile.net Deserves to be Heard
But even if I were opposed to every single article, I would defend its right to publish.
Open and free debate is essential to any democratic society and listening to opinions, even those that make your skin crawl, is an essential element. Have we forgotten our civics lessons?
Free speech is a principle easy to espouse, but one that takes maturity to embrace in practice.
I remember the sad case of David Ahenakew a Native leader who made a most thoroughly racist rant to a reporter, including his opinion that Hitler was just trying to "clean up Europe" when he "fried six million of those guys."
Clearly a kook and off his rocker, he was vilified in the press, stripped of his honours and then finally dragged through the courts by the Crown for years until he finally dropped dead. It was clearly a case of overkill of a sad pathetic man.
While Mr. Ahenekew got what was coming to him in the press, I deplore the over-reaction by the government. It was clearly a case of politically correct overkill.
If I can defend a character like Mr. Ahenekew, I certainly will defend Vigile.net.
Did Vigile.net publish antisemitic opinions?
The Canada-Israel committee believed it did and it exercised its democratic right to complain. The reaction to that complaint in the Press and media was also an expression of free opinion, with some supporting Vigile.net, most not so much.
Mr. Frappier, the webmaster, reacted by removing some content. Others would have hoped he'd act more forcefully, but it is his right to do as his conscious and principles dictate.
At any rate, what remains is content no worse than found on other websites across Canada and I don't hear a great big hullabaloo over other so-called 'offensive' posts found elsewhere.
Today comes news that the Canadian Shia Muslim Organization has re-posted on its front page, a thoroughly distasteful video by notorious American White Supremacist and antisemite David Duke. If perchance the video disappears you can find the original here on YouTube.
And so one wonders if politicians will rise in Parliament to denounce this clearly hateful piece with the same vim and vigour that we observed in the Vigile.net affair.
Now we get word that Vigile.net is subject to a $500,000 defamation lawsuit and I cannot help but fear that it may be an effort to restrain free expression.
In our system of justice, when one is without the substantial financial resources needed to defend oneself, the process of getting sued is in most respects more painful than the outcome. Most cases are dropped after the complainant has made his point and exacted his pound of flesh in the guise of debilitating legal expenses.
While I'm not commenting on this case in particular, (I don't even know who the principle is) suing for defamation is an act of aggression meant to punish, more than it is an effort to re-establish one's good name (if that is even possible.)
When convicted cheaters and crooks can sue for defamation (with zero chance of winning), it is open season on anyone that challenges the rich and powerful. It's just a matter of using deep financial resources to inflict pain.
Vigile.net has a right to be heard. If others disagree with the content or believe that certain opinions go beyond acceptable bounds, they should speak out.
Our system is pretty good at exposing the truth, whatever it may be. People can and will make their own minds up about the site, after all views are heard.
Mr. Frappier walks a fine line and publishes some articles that others may find offensive. He should expect a vigorous response and shouldn't moan about being attacked by those who disagree. That reaction is part of the game.
That being said, heavy-handed and shamefully politically motivated attacks in the National Assembly should be denounced.
Lawsuits meant to inflict financial pain (I have no idea if the above-mentioned suit is such) in an effort to stifle opinion, should be rejected by all.
Writing to defend a political opponent is always difficult, but I cannot in good conscious stand by and watch a political lynching.
I know that if each of us who is in a position to do so doesn't stand up for free speech, it will disappear.
Today Vigile.net.....Tomorrow me.
and next week......you!
Posted by Editor on 4/12/2011 12:01:00 AM