September 2, 2009

Good News From Canada

The human rights hate speech law that has been used of late to investigate and punish people who say things that the commissars do not like has been found to violate that nation's Constitution. You'll recall a particular magazine publisher, Ezra Levant, was made to answer and potentially faced incarceration for reprinting the Mohammed cartoons. He earned this blog's Big Brass Ones Award for this exchange with his interrogator, in which he demonstrated, in the most forceful possible manner permissible by a society governed by laws, what freedom really is.

2 comments:

DaveBuck said...

I shared the link of the interogation with Massimo Pigliucci because we've been debating whether it is justified to ban all guns entirely. He didn't care about the outcome of any statistics that might show a net safety gain related to conceal and carry permits and said his justification was based on the 'message' it sends that non-professional (meaning non-cop) citizens carry guns.

I explained that dislike of a message is not justification for banning a behavior and he cited some messages (racist ads or ads that promote violence or cigarettes) are justifiably banned.

Plenty republicans feel the same way about gay marriage and abortion.

Do you think there is justification for banning any behaviors even if they don't violate any rights but only because they are considered objectionable by a majority?

I realize it can be done but is there ever justification that it should be done?

Transplanted Lawyer said...

I'm not sure the two topics are directly related. Carrying a weapon is a kind of behavior. As a general rule, the government ought to have the power to regulate behavior. What Ezra Levant when through, though, was an effort by the government to regulate thought.

If you ask someone who carries a gun to a political rally why they did it, they generally say "I'm carrying this gun because I can." That's not really making a political statement, it's not communicating any kind of an idea. At that point, it's just behavior, which would be subject to reasonable governmental regulation.

Now, if one were to say "I am carrying this gun as a symbol of my freedom and my insistence on remaining free," that would be a political statement, and so long as they didn't use to gun to commit an act of violence, I think that would be something that the government had to tolerate.

I don't believe racist ads, ads that promote violence, or ads that promote cigarettes, CAN be banned consistent with the First Amendment. Is the logo of Aunt Jemima -- a smiling black woman wearing a bandanna -- racist? Some people think so, others do not. The market should decide; if you think it it is a racist logo, then call for a boycott of the product and see if the market responds to your argument. But it is not the place of the government to be a commercial art critic or to decide what sort of image is or is not socially acceptable.

In the case of cigarette ads, the rights of the manufacturers were voluntarily relinquished in a lawsuit, and I'm OK with someone voluntarily giving up their rights (even under the pressure of litigation).

So as a general rule, I'm more skeptical of Massimo's position than yours. IF we're going to ban carrying guns in public (which I don't think we should), it should be ONLY because of the danger of violence, not because of 'the message' that the guns convey. 'The message' is something we can't censor. Nor should we try.