Opinion

This could get me arrested in Canada

Ed Morrow Contributor

While America has been battered by the ObamaCare Putsch, other events of interest have gone a bit under-reported. One such was an e-mail written by François Houle, Provost of the University of Ottawa, to Ann Coulter in anticipation of her giving a speech on his campus. Its content was publicized by FiveFeetofFury.com and others, including columnist Mark Steyn. The e-mail threatened criminal prosecution under Canada’s hate speech laws or suits for defamation if she promoted “hatred.” More than a few observers believe Houle’s e-mail directly encouraged students at his university to violently prevent Coulter from delivering her speech, thereby violating the hate laws with which he threatened her. Coulter has filed a complaint with Canada’s Human Rights Commission and seems to be enjoying her ironic counterattack immensely. I’d like to send an open letter to Provost Houle in reply to his e-mail.

Dreary Provost Houle:

You have written Ann Coulter to warn her that “promoting hatred against any identifiable group” can lead “to criminal charges” or defamation suits in Canada. You said she should “weigh [her] words with respect and civility in mind.” You claim “restrictions to freedom of expression … lead not only to a more civilized discussion, but to a more meaningful, reasoned and intelligent one as well.” There is, however, nothing civilized about threatening legal penalties if a speaker offends official sensibilities. There is nothing meaningful, reasoned or intelligent in government-censored discussion. Reason and intellect rightly rebel at restrictions on the expression of thought and, quite pragmatically, we require free debate to discover truth. How can we know what is true without questioning and open discussion of alternative ideas? Restricted freedom of expression creates a cave of winds where official thought is ritualistically repeated, brainwashing the uncritical. Isn’t there a Volvo somewhere on your campus with a “Question Authority” bumper sticker on it?

You pompously proclaim that Canadian law prohibits promoting hatred for an “identifiable group.” While I find it hard to believe that Canadians, with a history of loving freedom and sacrificing in its defense, have sunk so low as to criminalize free speech, it is apparent that this is indeed the sad case. Since I don’t reside north of the 48th, I can, for now, disregard this restriction. And so, I hereby promote hatred for an “identifiable group.” That group is the politically correct, mealy-mouthed, oppressive, petty, puffed-up, would-be-Hitlers that wish to destroy freedom of speech. They blight your otherwise dandy country and are, unfortunately, rising to power in every corner of the once Free World. I hate this “identifiable group,” which includes you, Provost Houle. I urge any and all to hate you and your kind, to loathe you, to taste bile at the thought of you, to shudder at your approach and rejoice at your departing, to see your shadow and draw back as from a viper. May your children hate you, your neighbors hate you, your mom, dad and Aunt Ida hate you. May your dog and his fleas hate you. I urge all people to band together into societies, clubs and fraternal associations to hate you. I beg them to relentlessly revile you, to rename fungal diseases and offal-eating insects after you, to, when they step in something loathsome, look at their shoe bottom and think of you. I urge the world’s artists to illustrate their hatred of you in paintings, sculpture, and, dare I say it, cartoons. May they be joined by the world’s writers whom I implore to write epics of hatred of you, the world’s musicians to compose songs of hatred of you, and the world’s dancers to choreograph interpretive dances of hatred of you. May Wal-Mart sell inexpensive T-shirts and coffee mugs embellished with “I H8 [insert your picture here].” I entreat the Founding Fathers to rise up from their graves and with Canada’s departed patriots meet in convention to solemnly resolve to hate you in a document I suggest be titled: “Hey Dummy, What Part of Free Speech Being Fundamental To Liberty Don’t You Get!” At Christmastime, may the citizens of communities all around the world gather together in their public spaces, join hands in great circles, smile upon each other, and, while swaying rhythmically, harmoniously chant “We Hate Hou-le! We Hate Hou-le!” I beseech all the creatures that walk the land, all the fish that swim in the sea, and all the birds that flit through the sky to hate you. May the dirt beneath your feet hate you. May burning hot hatred of you grow till it provides an economical substitute for fossil energy. May amoeba evolve enough wit to hate you.

If there be life on other planets, may it construct complex vessels and span the vasty depths of cold space to land in your back yard and sneer at you through your windows. If there is an afterlife, may all the departed, be they gazing down from Heaven, glaring up from Hell, or peering sideways from Purgatory, hate you. May every generation till the end of time hate you. And, if mankind becomes extinct, may the last learned men, before they, too, fade away, devise a self-perpetuating automaton to carry on hating you through the long, long eons till the very heat death of the universe. Then, I suppose, we can, wherever our spirits find final rest, stop hating you and just resent you.

I feel comfortable promoting hatred of those who want to criminalize speech. They deserve hatred and hatred isn’t always a bad thing. Hatred of evil can motivate us to defend that which is good. Besides, hatred is an interior phenomenon that has no arms or legs to injure anyone. Hatred vocalized may anger, it may spoil someone’s day, it may put a frown on your face, but it has no physical impact. Threats of violence, such as a shouting mob armed with rocks and sticks demanding entry into a hall reserved for an opponent’s speech, and actual physical violence, such as that mob toppling tables and setting off blaring fire alarms to make the speech impossible, are hurtful and should be criminalized. No respected voice on Coulter’s side of public debate advocates the kind of violence her opponents employed. Coulter and those who assembled to listen to her were only trying to exercise a little free expression, something once thought a blessing of liberty. In the topsy-turvey world of Houle, however, the speaker and her audience are the criminals and the mob the victim.

You and yours, Provost Houle, have imposed your tyrannical policies under the cover of niceness, smarmily invoking respect and polite concern for the feelings of others. As the baying protestors at your university proved, this is a lie. That you have been raised high in academe, an institution once dedicated to education, inquisitive thinking, and free speech, is ghastly. It has taken centuries of struggle to establish the right of free speech. That you and yours, citizens of a free nation who should damn well know better, have decided to destroy it is abominable.
Yours with the most sincere hatred,
Ed Morrow

PS: Now, I doubt if my little jibes have punctured your hide, Provost Houle. And that is the point. In keeping with the old adage that your mother probably taught you shortly after you hatched, sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you. If you find someone’s words hateful, respond with your own words, not threats of criminal prosecution or thuggish mobs shouting for the silencing of those they oppose.

Ed Morrow is an author and illustrator who lives in Vermont. Morrow’s books include “The Halloween Handbook,” “599 Things You Should Never Do,” and “The Grim Reaper’s Book of Days.”