HASSAN: What Michael Cooper got right and why

Andrew Coyne captured the issues better (see below):

We tend to place individuals and ideologies in neat, homogeneous compartments, when shades of grey better convey the reality.

This seems to have happened in the controversy surrounding the tiff between Faisal Khan Suri, president of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, and Conservative MP Michael Cooper – an exchange which led to the latter’s eviction from a Commons committee.

Cooper stated that lumping conservatism with extremist white nationalist factions was objectionable and defamatory. Suri then accused Cooper of insensitivity when Cooper read out passages from Christchurch terrorist Brenton Tarrant’s manifesto, which has been banned in New Zealand. Cooper simply wanted to demonstrate that Tarrant claimed to have been influenced by China and that he didn’t identify with conservatism.

In effect, Cooper was asserting that white nationalism and conservatism are two separate ideologies. He is right and there is plenty of evidence for this here in Canada.

Andrew Scheer has denounced racist factions by stating that “people know the Conservative Party is open and welcoming … we denounce any elements of society that would promote hate speech.”

Also, just as mainstream conservatism cannot be pigeonholed with extremist white nationalism, neither can most Muslims be automatically associated with the ideologies of extreme jihadist factions. Conservatives understand this, which is shown by the fact that Maxine Bernier’s far-right People’s Party has garnered little support.

Admittedly, white nationalists have in the past leaned towards the political right, and this has created the false impression that white supremacists are an outgrowth of legitimate and peaceful conservatism. A stigma attaches to conservative parties because the alt-right and violent white nationalists have supported them, such as the notion that Ku Klux Klan supporters overwhelmingly leaned Republican in the 2016 U.S. election.

The desire to promote and value the best in what is Western is imperative and therefore commendable, and moderate conservatives see this has no connection with race. What is Western now is far more racially fluid and diverse than what white nationalist extremists perceive. For example, many of us from non-white communities have come to appreciate Canadian values because we have been fully accepted here.

The perception that everything associated with the West is necessarily exclusive to white culture – a notion at the heart of white nationalism – is often anathema to mainstream conservatives.

Millions of us have migrated to open and enlightened Western nations from foreign lands with different traditions. We have come to adopt and appreciate the tolerance our adopted nations have created and honed. Contrary to what some may feel, even a significant segment of Canadian Muslims endorse Western values.

The inclusive democracies that the Western world has built are based on principles of pluralism, human dignity and universal human rights. Enlightened campaigners have engineered this type of society, but liberal principles can be appreciated only by those liberal enough to value them. While some migrants from traditional and patriarchal communities have shown little respect for our open societies, the majority of immigrants are well integrated and law-abiding.

Our values are worth preserving but they need to be seen through a non-racial lens that includes many of us from non-white cultures.

The long-term success of moderate conservatism depends on how far our community can abandon the notion that values are narrow and relative, rooted within the culture of a particular racial group.

Michael Cooper was not insensitive to allude to the Christchurch shooter’s so-called manifesto. He is right to insist that it is a slur to draw any link between those hateful beliefs and established conservative ideas.

Source: HASSAN: What Michael Cooper got right and why

Coyne’s masterful writing what Cooper could and should have said:

The Commons justice committee’s hearings into the problem of online hate were thrown into chaos last week after a Conservative MP, Michael Cooper, rounded on a witness for suggesting terrorists like the one who murdered 51 Muslims at prayer in Christchurch, New Zealand, earlier this year had been influenced, not just by anti-immigrant and alt-right sites, but by “conservative commentators.”

After admonishing the witness, Faisal Khan Suri, president of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, that he should be “ashamed” of his “defamatory” comments, Cooper read into the record portions of the gunman’s manifesto in which he denounced conservatism and expressed admiration for the Communist dictatorship in China. Needless to say this did not help his cause.

Much of the subsequent reaction was overblown, not a little of it for partisan gain — Cooper is not a racist and does not deserve to be expelled from caucus, as Liberal MP Randy Boissonault demanded. Still, I wonder if Cooper might have been able to make his point in a better way…

“Mr. Suri, there is a well-known rule of argument known as the principle of charity, which obliges us to put the best construction on our opponents’ words and not the worst.

Accordingly, I’m going to assume that when you included ‘conservative commentators’ in your list of terrorist influencers you did not mean to attribute responsibility for terrorist atrocities to mainstream conservatives, or to conservatism, which is an honourable creed professed by millions of Canadians.

It’s particularly important to make this distinction in the current debate. As a conservative I wish to conserve the best traditions of our history, one of which is freedom of speech, but because I do not wish to ban hate speech should not be taken to mean that I have any sympathy with those who propagate it.

Sadly, too many of our opponents have been too quick to make such a slanderous connection, not only suggesting that terrorists were inspired by conservative writings — as if a madman could not find inspiration in anything — but that conservatives are themselves by nature anti-immigrant, racist, white supremacist, and worse. It is dishonest, it is despicable, and it should stop.

But if we are honest with ourselves, conservatives must take some responsibility for this state of affairs. Like any political movement conservatism has its extreme or fringe elements, and of late across much of the democratic world the latter have been on the rise, feeding on public unease over immigration, exploiting fears of Islamist terrorism, and appealing to resentment of “globalist” elites.

These fears and resentments have proven fertile soil for opportunistic politicians, so-called “populists” promising to defend “the people” from whatever it is that is not “the people” if only they are given power — only power that, due to the gravity of the alleged threat, must not be impaired by the usual restrictions of a democratic opposition, a free press, or an independent judiciary.

This dark, authoritarian impulse, most fully embodied in the person of Donald Trump, has nothing whatever to do with the sunny optimism of Ronald Reagan or the limited government of Margaret Thatcher. Conservativism is about freedom; populism is about fear. Indeed, populism is not just different from conservatism. It is its opposite. Where conservatives see people as individuals, it divides society into Us and Them.

Where conservatives believe in empowering the people, whether through the deliberative institutions of democratic government or the consumer sovereignty of the market, populism teaches the people to place their faith in strongmen. And where conservatism seeks to uphold the Western liberal inheritance, these new populists’ hatred of liberalism and of liberal elites has led them into a kind of nihilism, in which whatever gets a rise out of liberals — or decent-minded conservatives —is to be desired for its own sake.

At the worst edge of this movement are avowed racists and neo-Nazis, liberated from the margins of public discourse by social media and emboldened by the discovery therein of others of like mind. But scarcely better are those who, seizing on the actions or beliefs of a few extremists to harass and demonize ordinary Muslims, or who interpret freedom of speech, which is a restraint on government, as a licence to say whatever hurtful or idiotic thing comes into their head, without censure or even responsibility.

I was tempted to say that you should be ashamed of yourself for linking conservatives, even inadvertently, to racism and extremism. But as I reflect on it, it is we conservatives who ought to feel shame — shame that such vile opportunists should be able to parade about as ‘conservatives,’ but even more, shame that mainstream conservative parties have been so unwilling to denounce or distance themselves from them.

A cancer has taken root in conservative parties across the West — witness the Brexit madness in Britain, or the Republican surrender to Trumpism — and conservative leaders have too often been too slow to cut it out. Even in this country, conservative leaders have not only failed to confront the populist threat, but have in some cases actively pandered to it — stoking fears about Muslims, as in the infamous “barbaric practices” snitch line during the last election, or pretending a difficult but manageable problem — the influx of asylum seekers at irregular points across our southern border — was a five-alarm ‘crisis.’

And so I want to thank you, Mr. Suri, for this opportunity to set the record straight — to say that this sort of thing has nothing to do with conservatism, and to urge my party to return to its roots as the party of free markets, limited government and equal opportunity. And with that, Mr. Chairman, I yield the floor.”

Source: https://nationalpost.com/opinion/andrew-coyne-what-michael-cooper-should-have-said

White supremacy isn’t a problem just for conservatives — it’s a problem for everyone

Not sure that this commentary by Angela Wright really refutes the points made by Neil Macdonald given the essence of his article was the particular vulnerability of Conservatives to this risk, as demonstrated by some of the CPC missteps (as noted by Wright).

That being said, the overall issues related to white supremacy concern all political players and us all:

There has been no shortage of attention lately to conservative parties in Canada and their apparent ties to white supremacists and neo-Nazis. While it’s undeniable that some conservative politicians have found themselves in hot water over inappropriate statements, a disturbing trend is emerging: one that uses a broad brush to paint conservatives as racists— and racism as a form of conservatism — while ignoring the issue in other parties. This double standard is a political tactic with serious consequences.

A couple of weeks ago, Neil Macdonald wrote a column for this page in which he posited that conservative politics seems to be a “natural home” for white supremacists.

He asked: “Why is it that white supremacists, from the neo-Nazis who threw celebratory salutes the night of [Trump’s] election, to former KKK leader David Duke, to the Charlottesville torchbearers, to the New Zealand murderer, or Cesar Sayoc, the Florida bodybuilder who sent explosives to Trump’s critics in 2018, gravitate right, rather than left?”

The assumption that certain parties are “natural” places for racists and white supremacists, however, ignores the fact many people within these parties are actively fighting against these ideologies, making their spaces anything but a “natural home.” What’s more, it gives other parties a virtual pass, allowing racism festering there to go unchecked.

Loosely organized groups

When I was in high school, my brother’s childhood friend was recruited by the white supremacist organization active on our campus. This high school was (and still is) an affluent, top-ranked public school in the city of Ottawa, located in one of the most staunchly Liberal ridings in the country. Local lore was that the father of one of the school’s students was part of a neo-Nazi group and used his son to recruit other boys who might be sympathetic to their cause.

This is just one anecdote, and it certainly doesn’t prove that neo-Nazism in Ottawa is a Liberal problem. My point, rather, is that white nationalism and white supremacy isn’t one single thing. It is a network of organized or loosely organized groups who actively promote hate, while attempting to recruit vulnerable people to their cause.

Until about 60 years ago, white supremacy and white nationalism were mainstream in North American politics. Human rights legislation started to change that, along with the removal of racist immigration policies by leaders such as former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.

And so, over time, those who have advocated for a Canada dominated by white supremacy have been pushed to the margins. That means that white nationalists are constantly trying to gain relevance by playing with language and infiltrating political parties.

A recent investigation into the far-right in Canada published by The Globe and Mail shows how far white nationalists and white supremacists are willing to go in order to spread their message; they discussed targetting the Conservative party for recruitment by attending party events, as well as how they might push the limits of acceptable speech further to the right, so that their ideologies become more acceptable to the mainstream.

Because white nationalists specifically want to create a white ethnostate, successful recruiting is more likely to happen in political parties where some members are already apprehensive about immigration (some conservative parties) rather than other political parties (like the NDP) who want to rip up the Safe Third Country Agreement to allow more people to claim asylum here.

Inevitably, some white nationalists and white supremacists slip through the cracks, but that doesn’t mean party members or politicians become complicit. Conservatives, myself included, spoke out when the party crossed the line, including with a crass ad about border-crossers, and over Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s appearance at the United We Roll rally in Ottawa.

And within caucus, Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Michael Chong has been one of the most outspoken politicians against white supremacy and white nationalism. He publicly disavowed Rebel Media for promoting anti-Semitism and white supremacy, and after the mosque shootings in New Zealand, Chong specifically named the problem of “white supremacists attacking minorities.”

Scheer initially seemed reluctant to come out strongly against white supremacy and white nationalism, but he did finally denounce it as a threat to Canada after Conservative Senator Leo Housakos suggested it wasn’t a threat (which the senator later corrected). Although arguably belated, this shows the party is beginning to take these issues more seriously (though it should be more proactive in the future, instead of waiting until it finds itself facing harsh criticism for tepid or non-responses).

Conservatives, however, are not the only ones who’ve had to contend with racist incidents. During the SNC-Lavalin affair, Liberals were accused of racism by many Indigenous peoples: the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs issued a statement over the party’s treatment of former cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced harsh criticism for his dismissive attitude toward a Grassy Narrows protester.

So why is it, then, that conservatives are painted with a broad brush, but other parties are not?

If the goal is really to end white supremacy and white nationalism — rather than score cheap political points — we should be applauding conservatives who speak out against white nationalism and white supremacy, and encouraging others to do the same.

Conservative parties are essentially being targetted by a group of loosely organized individuals who want to use these parties to spread hateful ideas and recruit new members to their racist cause. It would benefit the entire country to extend these parties support, rather than simply dismissing them as white nationalist and white supremacist-sympathizers.

Source: White supremacy isn’t a problem just for conservatives — it’s a problem for everyone

Poway Synagogue Shooting: Why Conservatives Keep Getting Anti-Semitism Wrong

Good column:

What motivates someone to burst into a Southern California synagogue and shoot unarmed worshipers, there to recite the memorial prayer for the dead?

Depends who you ask: progressives say nationalist, racist ideology, while conservatives say hate. The difference may seem slight, but in fact, it’s why right and left talk past one another—and seem to be moving farther apart.

Progressives, and most scholars, regard the kind of anti-Semitism that motivated the Poway shooting as part of the xenophobic, ultra-nationalistic constellations of hatreds and “otherings” that also, in our day, include Islamophobia, racism, and anti-immigrant animus. Jews are the “enemy within,” facilitating the evils of immigration and multiculturalism to destroy the motherland.

This is borne out by what Poway, Pittsburgh, Christchurch, and other white terrorists all said in their manifestos and other online comments. Like thousands of others of ultra-nationalists in Europe and America, they see their white, European cultures being overrun by foreigners. And they believe that Jews are making it happen.

In the words of the Charlottesville white supremacists, “you will not replace us,” a taunt aimed at non-whites, is easily changed to “Jews will not replace us.” That is a political statement—filled with ignorance and hate, of course, but also ideology.

On the right, however, anti-Semitism is regarded as hate, not ideology.

Despite reams and reams of ideological-political writing, from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion forgery to Mein Kampf to the paranoid manifesto of the Poway shooter that allege in precise terms the ways in which Jews destroy the national homeland, conservatives insist that anti-Semitism is simply pure, irrational, timeless, and ahistorical hatred that has nothing to do with any politics whatsoever. It’s the same whether it comes from Pharaoh in Egypt, a Tsarist pogrom, or a Hamas terrorist.

“We forcefully condemn the evil of anti-Semitism and hate, which must be defeated,” President Donald Trump said in response to the Poway shooting.

This definition of anti-Semitism is extraordinarily wrong. It is at odds with what anti-Semites themselves have said since the term was popularized in 1879. It mashes together religious animus, true nationalist anti-Semitism, and resistance to right-wing Zionism. And it is particularly helpful to the very people who exacerbate it, today’s nationalists, for three reasons.

“If anti-Semitism is defined simply as anytime someone hates Jews for any reason, then it is a free-floating hatred that finds a home in Palestinian activism, fringe black nationalism, and among Muslim Americans.”

First, of course, it absolves them of any responsibility. To most rational observers, it seems obvious that when Trump spreads lies about the dangers of immigrant crime and Muslim terrorism, he stokes the fires of populist nationalism. In response to that incitement, some will merely wave a flag and don a red hat. But others will take matters into their own hands, striking back at Jews or Muslims or Mexicans.

Some, like Poway shooter John Earnest and Pittsburgh shooterRobert Bowers, may even believe that Trump himself has not gone far enough. They are extending Trump’s logic, not defying it.

Yet if anti-Semitism is merely a pathological hatred and has nothing to do with any ideology, all of this is coincidence. Why did anti-Semitic incidents rise 60 percent in the first year of Trump’s presidency? Well, anti-Semitism is an age-old hatred; no one can explain its pathology, the right says.

Once again, such a denial of causality and reality seems facially absurd, and yet, it is what the likes of Trump, Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon, and their ilk would have us believe. Moreover, since hardly any “mainstream” Republicans have spoken out about Trump’s incitement of hatred, either they believe this delusion as well, or, by refusing to speak, are implicated in the violence that Trump has incited.

Hatred of Jews goes back thousands of years, but the anti-Semitism of John Earnest is a specific, nationalist phenomenon with specific roots and specific myths.

The unmooring of anti-Semitism from ideology has a second benefit for nationalists, which is that it reinforces their own nationalism. In Israel, of course, this is most obvious: everyone hates the Jews, the thinking goes, therefore Jews must be strong and dominant. Force is all the Arabs understand, I remember being taught in Hebrew school, so we have to be stronger than they are.

But even for nationalist parties like those governing Brazil, the United States, and Hungary, anti-Semitism is a convenient reminder that violence and hatred are endemic to the human condition, and strong ethno-nationalism is the only way to fight it.

“We have no choice,” as Trump has said many times.

This is how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can find common cause with barely reconstructed anti-Semites like Hungary’s Viktor Orban. It suits Netanyahu fine for Orban to demonize George Soros and other Jews—after all, Netanyahu hates Soros, too. But more broadly, both men are also engaged in the same anti-democratic activities: attacking human rights organizations, enforcing patriotic speech, undermining the independent judiciary and, most importantly, demonizing “foreigners.”

To nationalists, the solution to anti-Semitism is not, as progressives would have it, stamping out bigotry, ultra-nationalism, and scapegoating of the “other,” but rather a strong ethno-nationalist state (Jewish or otherwise). The presence of anti-Semitism serves to reinforce this view. It simply means that we must all be even stronger and more nationalistic.

The third and final function of the uncoupling of anti-Semitism from ideology is perhaps its most important: it enables “anti-Semitism” to be a scourge of left and right alike, rather than a feature of right-wing nationalism. If anti-Semitism is defined simply as anytime someone hates Jews for any reason, then it is a free-floating hatred that finds a home in Palestinian activism, fringe black nationalism, and among Muslim Americans like Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Now, we are told, including by centrists who should know better, that an “ancient hatred” has reappeared on the right and left alike—as if it is campus BDS supporters who are shooting up synagogues and chanting “Jews will not replace us.”

Of course, there are indeed instances of anti-Semitism on the far left, including conspiracy theories involving Jews and slavery, Palestinian propaganda depicting Israelis as drinking blood, and anti-capitalist screeds that call out Jewish financiers in particular (which, of course, a Trump campaign ad also did).

But in the United States, the quality and quantity of these incidents pale in comparison by those found on the right.

Most importantly, there are no left-wing equivalents for the incitement coming from the nationalist right. There is no left-wing equivalent of Trump seeking to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. There is no left-wing equivalent of “Make America Great Again” with its harkening back to a whiter and less equal past. There is no left-wing equivalent of the lies about Mexicans bringing crime, drugs, and rape to America. A single remark that congressional support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins”—a claim applied every day to the NRA, Big Pharma, or the fossil fuel industry—is nothing compared to these violent, constant, and powerful incitements to ultra-nationalist frenzy.

To the right, the Poway shooter has more in common with Ilhan Omar than with the massacre at a Christchurch mosque.

But to the Poway shooter himself, Christchurch was his inspiration. Contrary to the false and exculpatory claims of the right, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are arms of the same murderous monster, together with ultra-nationalism, hatred of the other, and racism.

And when you agitate one part of that monster, the whole beast rises.

Source: Poway Synagogue Shooting: Why Conservatives Keep Getting Anti-Semitism Wrong

Tory leader Andrew Scheer promises more autonomy for Quebec on immigration, Coyne comments

As Coyne notes (Andrew Coyne: Shameless bidding war for Quebec votes is only going to get worse), the bidding war begins:

Quebec will be given more autonomy over immigration if the federal Conservatives win October’s election, party leader Andrew Scheer promised Monday. But he wouldn’t say whether he agrees that Quebec alone should determine how many immigrants it receives.

Premier Francois Legault campaigned on a promise to temporarily reduce annual immigration to Quebec, beginning this year. But almost one month into the new year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — an advocate of increased immigration to Canada — hasn’t said whether his Liberal government will help Quebec reach its goal.

Trudeau has said he is willing to continue discussions with Legault over his immigration demands, but he stresses his priority is to ensure Quebec has enough workers to fill widespread labour shortages across the province.

Speaking in Montreal at the end of a months-long consultation aimed at courting Quebec voters, Scheer promised “to ensure that Quebec has more autonomy” over immigration.

“Trudeau has had months to do something about (immigration), and what I’m saying is that come October, when I sit down with Mr. Legault, we will actually have actions and not just words, and not just meetings for the sake of meetings,” Scheer told reporters.

Legault says he’s concerned too many immigrants fail to learn French or leave the province soon after arriving. The premier, elected Oct. 1, wants to reduce immigration to address those issues.

Immigration has become a particularly sensitive topic in Quebec since 2017, when an influx of asylum seekers entering the province illegally from the United States began. Last year alone, 18,518 out of 19,419 — or 95 per cent — of RCMP interceptions of migrants crossing between official ports of entry occurred in Quebec.

Scheer said Canadians’ concerns over immigration “stem from the fact this government has completely lost control of the immigration file. We see a situation in Quebec where over 30,000 people have entered Canada illegally and the government — Justin Trudeau — has literally done nothing to stop that.”

Quebec controls roughly 70 per cent of immigrants who settle in the province every year, all in the economic migrant category. The remaining 30 per cent arrive through the family re-unification system or as refugees, two categories controlled by the federal government. Legault has stated he wants to reduce by 20 per cent the number of immigrants in all three categories.

Scheer on Monday declined to say whether he thinks Quebec should control all three categories of immigrants to the province. “I think if you have the right approach … you don’t need to have one party and one level dictating to the other. You work together in collaboration, understanding that Quebec has specific challenges, specific needs.”

Federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said last week he and other federal ministers will soon be meeting with their Quebec counterparts to discuss Legault’s plan to reduce immigration. But LeBlanc said that discussion will have to be “in the context of a broader discussion around labour shortages and … around asylum seekers and the appropriate compensation that the government of Quebec requires.”

The Conservatives sense an opening in the province due to turmoil inside the Bloc Quebecois. The sovereigntist party that once dominated federal politics in the province has been reduced to 10 MPs and last week elected a new leader, Yves-Francois Blanchet, by acclamation.

Last March, Scheer wrote an open letter to Quebecers in La Presse inviting people upset with the “incompetence” of Trudeau and tired of the “existential crises” of the Bloc to come over to his party. An aide said Monday Scheer is taking French lessons, and the Tory leader’s increased ease with the language was noticeable at the news conference.

Aside from promising more autonomy over immigration, Scheer said a Tory government would agree to Legault’s demand that Quebecers file a single tax return to be overseen by the Quebec government.

The Tory leader also promised to “offer incentives” to retirees who want to re-enter the work force, in order to help alleviate labour shortages. And he said a Conservative government would invest in infrastructure to prevent wastewater discharges into the St. Lawrence River and appoint a federal minister from Quebec to oversee economic development in the province.

Later on Monday Scheer was scheduled to attend an event at the campaign office for his candidate, Jasmine Louras, who is vying to replace former NDP leader Tom Mulcair in a Feb. 25 byelection in the Montreal riding of Outremont.

Ahead of a federal election, what road will Conservatives take on immigration?

The latest by Michael Adams. See my earlier take on Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel on her positioning (Conservative immigration critique of the levels plan):

On the surface, the contrast between Canada and the United States on immigration is sharp. U.S. President Donald Trump was recently warning of an “invasion” by a group of migrants crossing Mexico on foot, even going so far as to send troops to the border in a theatrical flourish just ahead of the mid-term elections.

Around the same time, Canada’s Prime Minister was apologizing for this country’s refusal to accept the 907 German Jewish refugees aboard the MS St. Louis who sought safety in Canada in 1939. Justin Trudeau drew parallels to our own time – noting refugees are still on the move around the globe and the resurgent anti-Semitism evidenced by the recent mass shooting in Pittsburgh.

But despite the Prime Minister’s humanitarian gestures – and the fact that the Immigration Minister is touring the country making the case for higher immigration levels and a compassionate asylum policy – there is certainly an appetite in Canada for a thicker border and a more hard-line approach to immigrants and refugees. Responding to that appetite is something politicians who wish to court those voters will need to do carefully.

There was a time when those who question the fundamentals of Canada’s approach to immigration, multiculturalism and refugees were spread across all political parties. Over the past 20 years, research indicates that this constituency has become concentrated in the Conservative Party. These voters are not the majority of the Conservative Party, but they’ve been gravitating in that direction for a number of years.

For most of his time in government, former prime minster Stephen Harper resisted the temptation to court xenophobic feeling on the political right; instead, he built a Conservative majority in part by courting the newcomers and settled immigrant communities in Canadian suburbs. He also cultivated an increasingly diverse caucus and cabinet. In 2015, a pivot to more xenophobic messaging, including the introduction of the “barbaric cultural practices” snitch line promoted by ministers Kellie Leitch and Chris Alexander, proved the wisdom of his earlier approach: The divisive gambit backfired and helped fuel a Liberal majority.

As the Conservatives prepare for the next federal election, they are in a tight spot. They can’t win government – and certainly not a majority – without appealing to new Canadians who are the key to winning ridings in the suburbs of large Canadian cities. At the same time, they need to appear in touch with voters who are having second thoughts about Canada’s current policies and practices on immigration, refugees and multiculturalism. Our data indicate that Canadians who are most likely to question the status quo on migration-related issues are concentrated in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where Conservatives rely on racking up plenty of seats. Attracting these two groups simultaneously will be a tricky task.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer will probably remember the lessons of 2015 – but he’ll also feel Maxime Bernier breathing down his neck. The platform of Mr. Bernier’s breakaway People’s Party proposes immigration levels substantially lower than those currently in place and opposes the use of immigration “as a tool to forcibly change the cultural character and social fabric of Canada.” Virtually every vote Mr. Bernier wins with these policy ideas will be a vote that’s siphoned away from Mr. Scheer’s Conservatives – a threat that is especially acute in the Quebec City area and in rural Quebec, where the CAQ did so well in the recent provincial election.

Many commentators have wondered whether the blatant racism and xenophobia advanced by far-right candidates in Europe and now the United States will take hold in Canada, where no major political party in recent decades has adopted strongly anti-immigrant policies or rhetoric. Could it happen here?

With the emergence of Mr. Bernier’s party and the success of the CAQ, some variation is here today. The question is whether Canada’s case of xenophobic populism will be a mild one that inoculates us against a more virulent strain, or whether it will take hold and change the norms of our political culture in a deeper way.

To some extent, this will be up to Mr. Scheer himself: Will he compete with Mr. Bernier for anti-immigration votes and expand the issue’s place in our political discourse? Or will he follow the model of the early Harper years, when the Conservatives used pocketbook issues and selected socially conservative messages to connect with new Canadians?

His answer will affect his party’s fortunes – and likely have a powerful effect on Canadian political culture for years to come.

Source: Ahead of a federal election, what road will Conservatives take on immigration?: Michael Adams

Charlie Kirk’s Campus Battlefield—A Review

This is an amusing but pointed and scathing review of one the the young conservative entrepreneurs (could be applied to some others):

Charlie Kirk, founder and CEO of Turning Point USA, campus court jester, and pro-Trump parvenu, has a written a new book, Campus Battlefield: How Conservatives Can WIN the Battle on Campus and Why It Matters. As evinced by the title, Kirk purports to expose how colleges have become “leftist echo chambers” and explain what conservatives can do about it. It is a bad book, both in style and substance, failing as much on its own terms as any others. It’s not a book I expect too many to read, either, being a less-than-average offering in the already oversaturated, worse-than-average genre of nonfiction punditry.

Nevertheless, I do consider it a relatively useful book, at least insofar as what it augurs for conservatism, at present and going forward. Like it or not (and, I’ll disclose upfront, I do not), Charlie Kirk is a rising star within the GOP and American conservatism writ large. And he’s got the numbers to prove it: though only 25 years old last month, Kirk is a staple of right-wing nightly news and morning shows (“I’ve appeared on cable news shows more than five hundred times,” he brags in the book); boasts over 814,000 Twitter followers as of this writing (“I’m the second most powerful tweeter in conservative politics”); and, more importantly, he enjoys impressive access to the White House (“I have met with President Donald Trump more than fifteen times”) and first family—particularly Don Jr., who wrote the foreword to Campus Battlefield. Turning Point USA, the on-campus activism network Kirk founded in 2012, claims to reach over 130,000 students on more than 1,100 high school and college campuses and has raked in more than $30 million since its inception. Those curious about the next cohorts of conservatives—right-leaning students currently being reared in the age of Trump—should begin with Kirk and his organization.

What they find should concern them. Fundamentally unserious, unburdened with self-awareness, and gleefully engaged in stoking the fire of tribalism, Kirk is, above all things, a performer, peddling his own personal brand in the guise of training young conservatives and resisting liberal indoctrination on campus. It’s an act that’s had unsettling success in conference halls, on cable news, and on social media. But like most performances, it doesn’t work quite so well on paper. Campus Battlefield’s flaws are as apparent as they are numerous, and the book lays bare just how few clothes adorn Turning Point and its emperor.

*     *     *

It should not come as a shock to those who follow him on Twitter when I say Kirk’s is a poorly written book. There are so many grammatical errors and incoherencies—never mind the logical or factual ones—that it would be kinder to assume the editing process was skipped entirely than that someone at Post Hill Press actually reviewed the manuscript. These errors begin immediately, with Kirk misusing “alliteration” in place of “rhyme” on the very first page of the introduction, and carry through to the end. Particularly notable, for instance, is the inconsistent formatting of “ex cathedra”: a Latin phrase meaning “from the chair,” which is italicized the second time it appears but not the first. One error among many, the scholastic Latin nevertheless stands out among Kirk’s otherwise prosaic diction.

Counting its brief introduction, the book runs only about 150 pages. No fewer than 19 of these prominently feature block-quotes pulled from Kirk’s Twitter account (all of which are helpfully sourced: “—@charliekirk11”), further reducing the already risible amount of effort evidently put into the work. That Kirk, proud as he is of his presumed online influence, included his tweets is largely unremarkable. More surprising, however, is that from the nearly 42,000 tweets he had to choose from, he selected for his book one widely mocked tweet wherein he quotes himself quoting a hoary proverb misattributed to George Orwell. Even so, it’s a revealing moment—combining intellectual laziness, unoriginality, and Kirk’s characteristic tendency to spout erroneous banalities as if they were philosophical profundities. It’s a tremendous, meta-textual “self-own,” something Kirk does with more frequency than perhaps any other public person, with the possible exception of Chris Cillizza.

Though short, Campus Battlefield is far from concise. Of persistent annoyance are the gratuitous interjections and rhetorical questions Kirk peppers throughout—sometimes both at once: “…a conservative faculty member (how rare is that?)…” Even some of his interruptions have interruptions: “Here I’ll break in to say that apparently, these college professors are so ignorant of history—not surprising these days—that they don’t know…” The incessant repetition is worse. Irony is an ever-present motif, for example, appearing nearly a dozen times in the slim volume. And like a poor comedian needing to explain his punchline, Kirk constantly reiterates lest the reader miss his insights: “How ironic that all those lectures about the desperate need for campus safe spaces and trigger warnings…come from the Left. It’s ironic because liberals are most often the aggressors.”

Habits like these would be easier to forgive, of course, if Kirk had anything to say. As he writes in his introduction, the nominal purpose of Campus Battlefield is twofold: to “examine how the Left has pulled…off” their institutional dominance of colleges and universities, and to explain “how we can resurrect the heart and soul of our universities as—yes—safe places for the teaching and expression of all ideas” (Kirk’s emphasis). Neither one of these goals is accomplished; in fact, the former is hardly even attempted. In place of causal analysis, Kirk offers perfunctory sentences like, “How this leftist escapism took root is lost in the fog of time.” Kirk prefers simply to list instances of “leftist intolerance” documented by others and to promote Turning Point and its websites. There is a whole chapter dedicated to extoling the virtues of TPUSA’s neo-Orwellian “Professor Watchlist,” for example, in addition to the book’s final chapter—dramatically titled “Join Us in Our Fight for America’s Soul”—which is the literary equivalent of exiting through the gift shop.

Indeed, contrary to aiding his argument, the continual asides, pleonasms, and nakedly self-referential marketing attempts all serve to illustrate Kirk’s lack of substance. To say this book even has arguments is itself being generous. What it has instead are statements—piled up, one on top of another, variously adorned with clichés, and presented as if the heap constituted something with persuasive force. Perhaps my favorite example of Kirkian tautology occurs early in Chapter 5, where a single thought is repeated in five successive sentences:

Notably absent from [colleges’] idea of inclusion, however, are conservatives. Inclusion for so many college does not mean tolerating or welcoming anything that does not pass the muster of the liberal inclusion patrols. Inclusion only admits to the sacred circle the products of liberal, progressive, or socialist thinking. Colleges claim the high ground of inclusion, but it’s only lip service. Only liberal views are worthy of being fostered and nurtured. It is high-level hypocrisy.

Assuming this point has been proven, he asks in the next sentence, “How has this happened?” In another book, written by another author, this would be a question worth raising; for Kirk, it’s throat clearing. His answer is not an explanation but a syllogism: “Because higher education administrators have allowed it to happen.” Well then, case closed.

This is Kirk in a nutshell: say a lot while saying nothing, turn the subject with a rhetorical question or non sequitur, and cap it off with a quip or platitude. Kirk fancies himself a debater; but while he’s cribbed Ben Shapiro’s style, he’s lifted none of the underlying intelligence. His Twitter account is filled with slick, branded clips of him “DESTROYING” an opponent—most often, a liberal college student or professor ignorant enough to think they could ask a question and get a straight response. Typically, what happens is that Kirk—perched on stage, armed with a microphone, headlining the event in question (not dissimilar to the “power relationship” between liberal professors and conservative students he decries in the book)—faces down some audience member and interrupts, pivots, or mocks until he’s able to deliver a line that plays well to his friendly crowd or on social media. A perfect example of this occurred last month in a “must watch!” videoposted to his Twitter account, wherein a Reconstructionist rabbi attempts to ask Kirk a question during a Turning Point event. I say attempts, because the rabbi never makes it to his query. Instead, Kirk tries first to feint with an obvious set-up question, and when the rabbi sidesteps the bait, Kirk proceeds to interrupt him with shouts, profanity, and mocking statements about his interlocutor’s religion—all to laughter and scattered applause. (“[A]t Turning Point USA,” Kirk writes in Campus Battlefield, “civility and respect are as much a part of our approach as is a command of facts.” Indeed.)

What the book makes clear, by virtue of its medium if nothing else, is just how few rhetorical tools Kirk has at his disposal—and how evidently they’re employed to distract from how little he knows. In a speech or question-and-answer exchange, the deflections, ripostes, and barrage of empty logic can be easy to miss if you’re not looking for them; written down, the patterns are obvious to the point of condescension. Even if you broadly agree with Kirk’s points (many of which I do, generally speaking), as a reader you can’t help but feel disrespected: Just how stupid does he think I am?

Quite, I’d wager. Or, at least, Kirk understands that his audience is not really paying attention. He’s probably right—or those who are don’t seem to care. Like the president whose wave he has ridden to national prominence, Kirk has a rather tenuous relationship with the truth. A quick scan through Kirk’s Twitter feed will manifest nearly as many factual errors as there are tweets, and Campus Battlefield is hardly an improvement on this front. Many of these are minor—Kirk anachronistically writes in Chapter 1 that the American founders “struggled to find a better way to govern than…the anarchy of [France’s] bloody Reign of Terror,” for instance. This error, like the apocryphal Orwell quote, could have been avoided with a simple Google search. Others—such as his unsourced claim in Chapter 3 that “professors have no problem with the standard practice of students grading their teachers on their colleges’ websites”—are perhaps less obviously wrong, but remain untrue nonetheless. What’s worse is how Kirk marshals these errors. For example, he ludicrously presents that last assertion as if it somehow invalidates academics’ criticism of TPUSA’s “Professor Watchlist” or justifies the list’s creation by an organization purporting to uphold “free speech” and the sanctity of the academic classroom, “the very heart of intellectual inquiry.”

Indeed, Kirk is repeatedly disingenuous to the point of mendacity. The most obvious example of this is his repeated obfuscation of TPUSA’s campus reach. He boasts in Chapter 2, for instance, that he hears often “from our more than one thousand Turning Point USA campus chapters”—only to clarify in Chapter 16 that, “We have launched more than 350 TPUSA chapters and provided 750 like-minded students groups with resources.” In reality, these “like-minded student groups” are not actually TPUSA groups at all, but rather independent campus organizations like the College Republicans and other student free-speech groups who simply accept TPUSA-provided products. Which is why Kirk is elsewhere careful to use dissembling phrases such as “having representation on over 1,100 high schools and college campuses” when describing TPUSA’s reach.

While he otherwise avoids telling outright lies, Kirk is as unreliable a narrator you’ll find. At one point, he chides the president of Marquette University for referring to a graduate student who taught classes as simply a “student,” calling it “disingenuous.” Fair enough. Yet, not four pages later, Kirk does the same thing in reverse—referring to a then-University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate student who taught classes as a “faculty member” and “professor.” In the introduction, Kirk valiantly writes that cancelling an event in the face of protests “and letting down the students who came to hear me with open or supportive minds was not an option.” Naturally, he doesn’t tell you of the time in May when he and Candace Owens, TPUSA’s communications director, bailed out of an event hosted by the TPUSA student chapter at Virginia Tech at the last minute so the pair could hang out with Kanye West instead.

Examples abound. “How often do conservatives harass liberals as they try to recruit students to their causes?” Kirk asks in another passage. “Not often, if ever.” Except that on April 16, 2016, Kirk himself joyously announced on Twitter, “Next semester Turning Point USA will be doing a nationwide ‘violate a safe space’ day. Bring it campus liberals!” Similarly, Kirk writes of the “nastiness, dishonesty, and silliness that infects the campus left-wing establishment.” He’s right that those things exist within the campus Left, of course (something I have written about extensively). Nevertheless, it takes an impressive level of hypocrisy for Kirk to accuse someone else of “silliness” when one of his TPUSA chapters hosted a rally last October, at which members wore diapers to protest safe spaces—to say nothing of the “nastiness” and “dishonesty” that flows near-daily from Kirk’s and, particularly, Owens’s Twitter accounts.

An illustrative episode of Kirk’s self-serving facade occurred recently with DePaul University. Kirk and Owens were set to speak to the DePaul TPUSA chapter on October 16 as part of their “Campus Clash Tour” (a title just dripping with civility), but were prohibited by the university from holding the event on campus. On October 9, the pair criticized DePaul for the move, accusing the university on Twitter of cancelling the event over concerns of “potentially violent” language. “The Left hates the idea there are other ideas,” Kirk wrote. “Hey DePaul, your fascism is showing.” Owens went further, tweeting that “DePaul is enslaving black minds.”

According to DePaul’s student-run newspaper, The DePaulia, however, what actually happened is far less suitable to their narrative. While the official decision letter sent to DePaul’s TPUSA chapter did mention concerns over the potential use of “hate speech,” the event was primarily cancelled due to ticketing and marketing concerns. “There was nothing unfair in the [DePaul administration’s] processing or the deadlines or the timelines. I just want to make that clear,” DePaul TPUSA’s vice president Ema Gavrilovic told The DePaulia. “The primary concern was Turning Point’s headquarters started issuing tickets and advertising for an event that was never originally even confirmed.” In fact, Gavrilovic explained, her campus chapter “really had no control or no say for what headquarters at the national level was doing,” stating, “We understand the DePaul administration’s reasoning for this exclusion because this was a primary concern that was voiced in the rejection letter.” Further, The DePaulia’s reporting makes clear, “DePaul TPUSA was made aware of the event’s cancellation in mid-September,” despite the fact that Kirk and Owens’s statements about it were not until October 9. Campus Battlefield was released October 10.

*     *     *

A favorite recent conceit among the more self-satisfied portions of the Left is that campus free speech, academic free inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and the like are simply McGuffins, and those trading in such issues nothing more than grifters. By and large, this notion is obtuse and scurrilous, often cynically employed by those wishing to avoid discussing the issues themselves. But those that do care about these issues—about free speech, the pursuit of truth, and the vitality of academe—would be wrong to ignore the evidence that gifters walk among us. For conservatives concerned about the decline of American education, doubly so.

Well-meaning or not—and I genuinely think he may be—Charlie Kirk is one such grifter. Leveraging his youth, talent for public speaking, and access to the White House, he’s fooled conservative donors into thinking he’s helping the cause of freedom on campus. Likewise, he’s fooled restless high school students and undergraduates into thinking performative victimhood and petty partisanship are epistemologically satisfying. Neither is true. Whether due to ignorance or indifference, Kirk and, by extension, his organization are hypocrites, and childish ones at that. And this petulant hypocrisy undermines not just legitimate indictments of higher education, but the intellectual development of young conservatives. The great irony of Campus Battlefield is how thoroughly Kirk paints this picture in his own words.

It’s evident that Kirk envisions himself as some grand general, leading his troops into the culture war. In reality, Kirk is a band director: his thoughts unoriginal and motions rehearsed, he trains his ensemble to play along to the tune of the day—currently, that of “owning the libs.” After all, the band’s job is to help cheer the team on to victory—a role Kirk performs with relish. And so he goes from campus to campus, conservatism’s fresh-faced Harold Hill, peddling his siren’s song to the kids in town until something better comes along.

In his brief, day-after review, the Weekly Standard’s Adam Rubenstein wrote sardonically, “the book may not be Kirk’s best work.” With respect to my friend Adam on this point, he could not be more wrong. On the contrary, I would contend that Campus Battlefield is Charlie Kirk’s best work, because it makes abundantly clear that this is the best he can do. More than that, however, it exemplifies just what it is that he is doing. Whether written by Kirk himself or an idiosyncratically talented ghostwriter, the monograph is a true expression of Kirk’s shtick—the shallow, facile affectation that lies at the heart of TPUSA’s most puerile ministrations. It’s an act to which conservatives—and their allies in the fight against academe’s decline—should no longer give any credence.

Source: Charlie Kirk’s Campus Battlefield—A Review

Andrew Coyne: Conservative war on media fizzles in Canada, but war on truth remains

Another good column by Coyne:

So is the war on the media off? Late last week, the national press were ablaze with stories about how the Conservatives were planning to target the media in the coming federal election.

“The Conservative party appears to be gearing up for a fight with news outlets as part of its 2019 electoral strategy,” reported the Toronto Star.

“The Conservatives are making it clear,” the Globe and Mail reported the same day, “that taking on the media is now a key part of their political message.”

The evidence for this grand strategy is a little thin. MP Pierre Poilievre called a Bloomberg reporter a Liberal. A Conservative senator accused Maclean’s columnist Paul Wells of being a “liberal.” Andrew Scheer gave a speech complaining “the media” were taking the Liberal side in the carbon tax fight and promised, in an open letter in the Toronto Sun, to stand up to “this government, the media and the privileged elite.”

Still, with what’s been happening lately south of the border, the president calling the media the “enemy of the people” and whatnot, nerves in our business are understandably a little jangly. Were there parallels here? Had the war already begun?

And then, just as suddenly, the whole thing appeared to have been called off. Monday, Scheer’s director of media relations, Jacqui Delaney, a brash populist last seen bragging of her taste for the media “jugular,” left after just five weeks on the job. The next day, Scheer himself was mildly avowing his belief that it was the media’s role in a democracy to “hold politicians of all parties to account” and to “hold us responsible for what we say.”

What’s going on? Scheer’s apparent backtrack may be evidence of a rethink at Conservative HQ, or simply a pause to regroup, a tactical retreat in the face of the previous week’s blowback.

Or there may never have been such a strategy. All parties like to “play the ref” sometimes, hoping to influence the press to call a few their way as proof of their fairness. Conservatives, in particular, have never been averse to complaining about media bias.

Nor is the complaint entirely unfounded: while most reporters are professionals who try to be fair, stories tend to be framed through a crisis-and-response lens that, while more a narrative bias than a partisan one, nevertheless is broadly favourable to parties of the left.

At any rate, let us hope that is all this amounts to. If indeed there are Conservatives who think aping Donald Trump’s approach is a winner, they should think again. They risk doing grave harm not only to public discourse but their own cause.

I don’t mean there aren’t upsides to picking a fight with the media. It’s especially fun if the media take the bait, as arguably I’m doing here. Who could resist being called a “threat to democracy” by a bunch of self-appointed Solons never elected to anything? What gladder sight could there be to a critic than the media rising as one to declaim on their own specialness? What firmer proof of media bias, than the media denying it?

But Canada is not the United States, and Scheer is not Trump. The Harper Tories made some yards with this approach, but eventually the voters they needed to reach, the ones just outside their base, tired of the act. The image Scheer is attempting to project is of that Nice Young Man Who Isn’t At All Like Harper. A darkly paranoid campaign focused on the party’s supposed media enemies would scarcely help in that regard.

Neither does Canada appear to offer rich soil for the kind of nihilistic, post-truth tribalism that has taken root in the United States. It exists here, of course. But a new survey by the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill and the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy finds large majorities of Canadians — upwards of 85 per cent — still profess trust in the country’s major media outlets. Moreover, divided as they are on partisan and ideological lines, they appear to believe in broadly the same set of facts about the issues.

That’s good news. But it doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods. We haven’t been scarred by the same traumas the States have that have given rise to such distrust of elites there, but we are exposed to some of the same forces, notably the rise of social media, breaking down our ability to reason collectively.

The issue isn’t whether people trust the press these days, but whether they trust anyone. Healthy skepticism about this or that story or source is too often curdling into a blind rejection of knowledge itself, and of those whose business it is to know stuff: experts, or as they are now dismissed, “elites.” What do economists know about free trade? What do climate scientists know about climate? After all, I read something on the internet …

This is the bitter fruit of today’s class politics, where class is defined, not by income, but by education and culture. There’s fault on both sides of this divide, but the Conservatives’ indulgence of populist egghead-bashing is especially dangerous. It puts the whole institutional apparatus through which knowledge is collected, tested and disseminated — what journalist Jonathan Rauch has called “the constitution of knowledge” — in play: mere experts, to be dismissed not in spite of their expertise but because of it.

When Scheer sneers, for example, that on carbon pricing the Liberals have not only the media on their side, but “the academics and think-tanks” — when he takes a broad consensus of experts as suggestive, not of the weight of the evidence and analysis, but of a near universal partisan bias among the educated classes — he veers close to conspiracy theory.

Expert consensus need not be taken as proof that a position is right, but it should never be offered as proof that it is wrong. That way lies madness.

How Conservatives Weaponized the First Amendment – The New York Times

Good long read and analysis:

On the final day of the Supreme Court term last week, Justice Elena Kagan sounded an alarm.

The court’s five conservative members, citing the First Amendment, had just dealt public unions a devastating blow. The day before, the same majority had used the First Amendment to reject a California lawrequiring religiously oriented “crisis pregnancy centers” to provide women with information about abortion.

Conservatives, said Justice Kagan, who is part of the court’s four-member liberal wing, were “weaponizing the First Amendment.”

The two decisions were the latest in a stunning run of victories for a conservative agenda that has increasingly been built on the foundation of free speech. Conservative groups, borrowing and building on arguments developed by liberals, have used the First Amendment to justify unlimited campaign spending, discrimination against gay couples and attacks on the regulation of tobacco, pharmaceuticals and guns.

“The right, which had for years been hostile to and very nervous about a strong First Amendment, has rediscovered it,” said Burt Neuborne, a law professor at New York University.

The Citizens United campaign finance case, for instance, was decided on free-speech grounds, with the five-justice conservative majority ruling that the First Amendment protects unlimited campaign spending by corporations. The government, the majority said, has no business regulating political speech.

The dissenters responded that the First Amendment did not require allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace and corrupt democracy.

“The libertarian position has become dominant on the right on First Amendment issues,” said Ilya Shapiro, a lawyer with the Cato Institute. “It simply means that we should be skeptical of government attempts to regulate speech. That used to be an uncontroversial and nonideological point. What’s now being called the libertarian position on speech was in the 1960s the liberal position on speech.”

And an increasingly conservative judiciary has been more than a little receptive to this argument. A new analysis prepared for The New York Times found that the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has been far more likely to embrace free-speech arguments concerning conservative speech than liberal speech. That is a sharp break from earlier eras.

As a result, liberals who once championed expansive First Amendment rights are now uneasy about them.

“The left was once not just on board but leading in supporting the broadest First Amendment protections,” said Floyd Abrams, a prominent First Amendment lawyer and a supporter of broad free-speech rights. “Now the progressive community is at least skeptical and sometimes distraught at the level of First Amendment protection which is being afforded in cases brought by litigants on the right.”

Many on the left have traded an absolutist commitment to free speech for one sensitive to the harms it can inflict.

Take pornography and street protests. Liberals were once largely united in fighting to protect sexually explicit materials from government censorship. Now many on the left see pornography as an assault on women’s rights.

In 1977, many liberals supported the right of the American Nazi Party to march among Holocaust survivors in Skokie, Ill. Far fewer supported the free-speech rights of the white nationalists who marched last year in Charlottesville, Va.

There was a certain naïveté in how liberals used to approach free speech, said Frederick Schauer, a law professor at the University of Virginia.

“Because so many free-speech claims of the 1950s and 1960s involved anti-obscenity claims, or civil rights and anti-Vietnam War protests, it was easy for the left to sympathize with the speakers or believe that speech in general was harmless,” he said. “But the claim that speech was harmless or causally inert was never true, even if it has taken recent events to convince the left of that. The question, then, is why the left ever believed otherwise.”

Some liberals now say that free speech disproportionately protects the powerful and the status quo.

“When I was younger, I had more of the standard liberal view of civil liberties,” said Louis Michael Seidman, a law professor at Georgetown. “And I’ve gradually changed my mind about it. What I have come to see is that it’s a mistake to think of free speech as an effective means to accomplish a more just society.”

To the contrary, free speech reinforces and amplifies injustice, Catharine A. MacKinnon, a law professor at the University of Michigan, wrote in “The Free Speech Century,” a collection of essays to be published this year.

“Once a defense of the powerless, the First Amendment over the last hundred years has mainly become a weapon of the powerful,” she wrote. “Legally, what was, toward the beginning of the 20th century, a shield for radicals, artists and activists, socialists and pacifists, the excluded and the dispossessed, has become a sword for authoritarians, racists and misogynists, Nazis and Klansmen, pornographers and corporations buying elections.”

Changing Interpretations

In the great First Amendment cases in the middle of the 20th century, few conservatives spoke up for the protection of political dissenters, including communists and civil rights leaders, comedians using vulgar language on the airwaves or artists exploring sexuality in novels and on film.

In 1971, Robert H. Bork, then a prominent conservative law professor and later a federal judge and Supreme Court nominee, wrote that the First Amendment should be interpreted narrowly in a law-review article that remains one of the most-cited of all time.

“Constitutional protection should be accorded only to speech that is explicitly political,” he wrote. “There is no basis for judicial intervention to protect any other form of expression, be it scientific, literary or that variety of expression we call obscene or pornographic.”

But a transformative ruling by the Supreme Court five years later began to change that thinking. The case, a challenge to a state law that banned advertising the prices of prescription drugs, was filed by Public Citizen, a consumer rights group founded by Ralph Nader. The group argued that the law hurt consumers, and helped persuade the court, in Virginia State Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, to protect advertising and other commercial speech.

The only dissent in the decision came from Justice William H. Rehnquist, the court’s most conservative member.

Kathleen M. Sullivan, a former dean of Stanford Law School, wrote that it did not take long for corporations to see the opportunities presented by the decision.

Conservatives in Charge, the Supreme Court Moved Right

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s last Supreme Court term contained hints of his retirement and foreshadowed a lasting rightward shift.

“While the case was litigated by consumer protection advocates,” she wrote in the Harvard Law Review, “corporate speakers soon became the principal beneficiaries of subsequent rulings that, for example, struck down restrictions on including alcohol content on beer can labels, limitations on outdoor tobacco advertising near schools and rules governing how compounded drugs may be advertised.”

That trend has continued, with businesses mounting First Amendment challenges to gun control laws, securities regulations, country-of-origin labels, graphic cigarette warnings and limits on off-label drug marketing.

“I was a bit queasy about it because I had the sense that we were unleashing something, but nowhere near what happened,” Mr. Nader said. “It was one of the biggest boomerangs in judicial cases ever.”

“I couldn’t be Merlin,” he added. “We never thought the judiciary would be as conservative or corporate. This was an expansion that was not preordained by doctrine. It was preordained by the political philosophies of judges.”

Not all of the liberal scholars and lawyers who helped create modern First Amendment law are disappointed. Martin Redish, a law professor at Northwestern University, who wrote a seminal 1971 article proposing First Amendment protection for commercial speech, said he was pleased with the Roberts court’s decisions.

“Its most important contributions are in the commercial speech and corporate speech areas,” he said. “It’s a workmanlike, common sense approach.”

Liberals also played a key role in creating modern campaign finance law in Buckley v. Valeo, the 1976 decision that struck down limits on political spending by individuals and was the basis for Citizens United, the 2010 decision that did away with similar limits for corporations and unions.

One plaintiff was Senator Eugene J. McCarthy, Democrat of Minnesota, who had challenged President Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1968 presidential primaries — from the left. Another was the American Civil Liberties Union’s New York affiliate.

Professor Neuborne, a former A.C.L.U. lawyer, said he now regrets the role he played in winning the case. “I signed the brief in Buckley,” he said. “I’m going to spend long amounts of time in purgatory.”

To Professor Seidman, cases like these were part of what he describes as a right-wing takeover of the First Amendment since the liberal victories in the years Chief Justice Earl Warren led the Supreme Court.

“With the receding of Warren court liberalism, free-speech law took a sharp right turn,” Professor Seidman wrote in a new article to be published in the Columbia Law Review. “Instead of providing a shield for the powerless, the First Amendment became a sword used by people at the apex of the American hierarchy of power. Among its victims: proponents of campaign finance reform, opponents of cigarette addiction, the L.B.G.T.Q. community, labor unions, animal rights advocates, environmentalists, targets of hate speech and abortion providers.”

The title of the article asked, “Can Free Speech Be Progressive?”

“The answer,” the article said, “is no.”

Shifting Right

The right turn has been even more pronounced under Chief Justice Roberts.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a larger share of First Amendment cases concerning conservative speech than earlier courts had, according to the study prepared for The Times. And it has ruled in favor of conservative speech at a higher rate than liberal speech as compared to earlier courts.

The court’s docket reflects something new and distinctive about the Roberts court, according to the study, which was conducted by Lee Epstein, a law professor and political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis; Andrew D. Martin, a political scientist at the University of Michigan and the dean of its College of Literature, Science and the Arts; and Kevin Quinn, a political scientist at the University of Michigan.

“The Roberts court — more than any modern court — has trained its sights on speech promoting conservative values,” the study found. “Only the current court has resolved a higher fraction of disputes challenging the suppression of conservative rather than liberal expression.”

The court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren from 1953 to 1969 was almost exclusively concerned with cases concerning liberal speech. Of its 60 free-expression cases, only five, or about 8 percent, challenged the suppression of conservative speech.

The proportion of challenges to restrictions on conservative speech has steadily increased. It rose to 22 percent in the court led by Chief Justice Warren E. Burger from 1969 to 1986; to 42 percent in the court led by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist from 1986 to 2005; and to 65 percent in the Roberts court.

The Roberts court does more than hear a larger proportion of cases concerning conservative expression. It is also far more likely than earlier courts to rule for conservative speech than for liberal speech. The result, the study found, has been “a fundamental transformation of the court’s free-expression agenda.”

In past decades, broad coalitions of justices have often been receptive to First Amendment arguments. The court has protected videos of animal cruelty, hateful protests at military funerals, violent video games and lies about military awards, often by lopsided margins.

But last week’s two First Amendment blockbusters were decided by 5-to-4 votes, with the conservatives in the majority ruling in favor of conservative plaintiffs.

On Tuesday, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority that requiring health clinics opposed to abortion to tell women how to obtain the procedure violated the clinics’ free-speech rights. In dissent, Justice Stephen G. Breyer said that was a misuse of First Amendment principles.

“Using the First Amendment to strike down economic and social laws that legislatures long would have thought themselves free to enact will, for the American public, obscure, not clarify, the true value of protecting freedom of speech,” Justice Breyer wrote.

On Wednesday, in announcing the decision on public unions, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the court was applying settled and neutral First Amendment principles to protect workers from being forced to say things at odds with their beliefs. He suggested that the decision on public unions should have been unanimous.

“Compelling individuals to mouth support for views they find objectionable violates that cardinal constitutional command, and in most contexts, any such effort would be universally condemned,” he wrote. “Suppose, for example, that the State of Illinois required all residents to sign a document expressing support for a particular set of positions on controversial public issues — say, the platform of one of the major political parties. No one, we trust, would seriously argue that the First Amendment permits this.”

In response, Justice Kagan said the court’s conservatives had found a dangerous tool, “turning the First Amendment into a sword.” The United States, she said, should brace itself.

“Speech is everywhere — a part of every human activity (employment, health care, securities trading, you name it),” she wrote. “For that reason, almost all economic and regulatory policy affects or touches speech. So the majority’s road runs long. And at every stop are black-robed rulers overriding citizens’ choices.”

via How Conservatives Weaponized the First Amendment – The New York Times

Conservatives drop India motion after uproar from Canadian Sikh community

Political reality strikes – both the Liberals and Conservatives have been flirting with identity politics:

The Conservative Party decided early Thursday not to proceed with a House of Commons motion that a Canadian Sikh organization says labels its community as “terrorists.”

The Canadian Sikh Association posted on its social media channels Thursday morning that they were thankful the Tories had backed down from a proposed motion from foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole. Sukhpaul Tut, chair and spokesman for the association, is calling on the party to apologize for having written it in the first place.

One of two the Conservatives were considering for Thursday would’ve asked the House to “value the contributions of Canadian Sikhs and Canadians of Indian origin in our national life” but also to condemn all forms of terrorism “including Khalistani extremism and the glorification of any individuals who have committed acts of violence to advance the cause of an independent Khalistani state in India.” The motion concludes with support for “a united India.”

The Tories have instead opted to pursue a motion about the Canada Summer Jobs program.

According to the Sikh association, that decision came after a night-long campaign. “Throughout the whole night, the Sikh Community has been working aggressively to refute the frivolous allegations of labelling our community as terrorists at the request of foreign and corrupt entities,” a Facebook post says.

“We are thankful that the Conservative Party of Canada has come to its senses and confirms at 7:30 am this morning that they will not proceed with the motion. Our children will continue to live in Canada without facing foreign intimidation.”

O’Toole, reached Thursday afternoon, said the party decided not to go ahead now because “the story’s still evolving.” The motion is still on the notice paper.

“We haven’t pulled it. We’re looking at the right time to do it,” O’Toole said. Still, he said his caucus is “certainly listening to people” and it’s possible there will be adjustments to the motion.

“The motion was being misrepresented by a lot of people and certainly became very political. We want to make sure that no one is offended in the process, and the language will be very careful to make sure of that.”

O’Toole said the party is not trying to perpetrate an attack on any group, and suggested his political opponents were behind Wednesday night’s email campaign. “I’ve got notes from people saying that the Liberal Party itself was behind several of the emails,” he said.

Tut said members of the community from coast to coast engaged in “old-fashioned advocacy,” picking up the phones from late afternoon Wednesday through to Thursday morning. “Everybody was on board and was extremely shocked by this motion and expected that something needed to be done,” Tut explained.

The wording of the motion was “extremely wrong and was disingenuous and needed to be pulled, because the community doesn’t deserve to be painted with such a negative and broad brush like that,” he said. Tut likened the move to “cheap politics” and said the community expects better from its political leaders.

Conservative spokesman Jake Enwright wouldn’t comment on the rationale behind dropping the motion. “The rationale for that motion is that we believe in a united India. We think it’s important that the House states that. But I’m not going to get into any of the conversations that we’re having behind closed doors, and amongst our caucus and amongst our leadership team,” he said.

Enwright didn’t refute the Sikh association’s interpretation of events, but said, “I’m not going to comment on how they took that motion. I respect their opinion and I won’t comment on it.” He added the party doesn’t ultimately move all of the motions it puts on the House of Commons notice paper and it’s a “usual process” to pick and choose.

Canada is estimated to have the world’s largest Sikh community outside of India. More than 450,000 people across the country self-identified as following the religion in the 2011 census. The community has long been important to Canadian electoral politics.

“The Conservative Party has no problem going to our gurdwaras and temples and going to our festival, right, and our celebrations and our parade. I mean, the right thing to do if they’re going to count on the support of the community is to come out and apologize,” Tut said.

“They’re all champions of the community when it’s election time, but now all of a sudden, ‘we can throw the community under the bus.’”

via Conservatives drop India motion after uproar from Canadian Sikh community | National Post

Malaise autour de la création d’une «Journée nationale contre l’islamophobie»

Valid debate between a commemoration versus a national day.

I prefer the existing day, International Day Against Racial Discrimination, March 21st, rather than the “boutique” approach for each community, as a means to foster understanding of the common experience many groups have faced or face (agree with Conservatives on this one even if their motives are somewhat suspect given their approach to M-103):

Le débat sur une possible « Journée nationale contre l’islamophobie » prend une tournure sémantique. Plusieurs partis politiques, tant à Québec qu’à Ottawa, jugent le mot « islamophobie » trop fort et « trop chargé » pour que le 29 janvier 2017, jour où un tireur fou a tué six musulmans, porte ce combat.

« Oui, le mot “islamophobie” est chargé. Et je trouve qu’on a assez débattu de divisions autour de la présence de la religion au Québec », a déclaré au Devoir Agnès Maltais, députée péquiste et porte-parole de l’opposition officielle en matière de laïcité. Elle souligne au passage qu’il existe un Collectif canadien anti-islamophobie dont le porte-parole est Adil Charkaoui, une personnalité controversée.

La semaine dernière, le Conseil national des musulmans canadiens (CNMC) a demandé au gouvernement Trudeau de faire du 29 janvier plus qu’une simple journée de commémoration de la tuerie à la mosquée de Québec et de lui donner le titre de « Journée nationale d’action contre l’islamophobie », un peu comme le 6 décembre, jour de la tuerie de Polytechnique, est devenu une « Journée nationale d’action contre la violence faite aux femmes ».

Le bureau de la ministre du Patrimoine, Mélanie Joly, a simplement indiqué mardi qu’il « prenait acte » de la proposition.

Québec solidaire est le seul parti qui appuie la création d’une telle journée. Mais le gouvernement libéral de Philippe Couillard ne ferme pas la porte. Quant à la Coalition avenir Québec, elle rejette l’idée d’une journée nationale d’action et estime suffisant que la tragédie soit commémorée.

« Il s’agit du geste intolérable d’une seule personne et non pas celui d’une société entière. Les Québécois sont ouverts et accueillants, ils ne sont pas islamophobes. »

Oui à une commémoration

En entrevue à Radio-Canada, Boufeldja Benabdallah, vice-président du Centre culturel islamique, s’est dit déçu des positions de la CAQ et du PQ.

« Jamais nous n’avons dit que les Québécois étaient islamophobes, jamais. C’est une mince partie et c’est sur cette mince partie qu’il faut travailler, qui fait beaucoup de bruit, beaucoup de mal, et qui a tué six personnes dans leur prière. »

Tous les partis sont toutefois d’accord pour que le 29 janvier soit réservé chaque année à la commémoration de l’attentat meurtrier de la mosquée de Québec.

« Soyons honnêtes, le meilleur outil qui va aller chercher l’appui de tous, c’est la commémoration », a affirmé Mme Maltais, du PQ. Elle souligne également que le gouvernement fédéral a attendu deux ans après la tuerie du 6 décembre 1989, soit en 1991, pour en faire une Journée nationale d’action contre la violence faite aux femmes.

L’historien de l’Université Laval Patrice Groulx soutient qu’il vaut mieux d’abord passer par l’étape de la commémoration, soit du deuil, en soulignant la mémoire d’un événement. « Il y a une forme de précipitation là-dedans qui pourrait être désagréable pour certains, a-t-il indiqué. Certains groupes veulent soulever la chose pour profiter d’un certain “momentum”, et c’est tout à fait légitime. Mais il y a la manière, les mots. Il faut être prudent. »

Une commémoration d’un événement meurtrier tragique ne se traduit pas toujours en « journée nationale d’action » — l’explosion du train à Lac-Mégantic par exemple —, mais M. Groulx reconnaît que la tuerie de la mosquée a le potentiel d’en devenir une, comme ce fut le cas pour Polytechnique sous la pression populaire.

« Avec le temps, on donne un contenu, une signification différente à un événement. C’est le dépassement social. »

Même malaise au fédéral

Demeurés silencieux jusqu’ici, les partis politiques au fédéral, sauf le Nouveau Parti démocratique, se sont finalement prononcés. Encore une fois, le mot « islamophobie » semble créer un malaise.

« Ce terme-là est loin de faire consensus », a indiqué Gérard Deltell, en refusant obstinément de prononcer ce mot tout au long de l’entrevue avec Le Devoir. Le Parti conservateur préfère parler d’une commémoration, « plus rassembleuse » et « plus inclusive », lui qui avait déposé une motion à la mi-décembre proposant de faire du 29 janvier la « Journée nationale de la solidarité avec les victimes d’actes d’intolérance et de violence antireligieuse ».

La même querelle sémantique avait divisé les partis fédéraux lorsque, dans la foulée des attentats de la mosquée de Québec, la libérale Iqra Khalid a voulu faire adopter l’an dernier une motion qui condamnait l’« islamophobie ». Les conservateurs refusaient là encore d’utiliser ce terme et voulaient plus largement que soient condamnées « toutes formes de racisme systémique », pas seulement celle à l’endroit des musulmans.

Le Bloc québécois rejette aussi l’idée d’une commémoration qui cible une religion précise. Après tout, l’État doit être laïque, a fait valoir la députée Marilène Gill.

Source: Malaise autour de la création d’une «Journée nationale contre l’islamophobie»