Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ezra Levant Uses His Freedom Unethically

Even in vigorous debate over public policy issues there are rules for verbal combat; there is an ethics of debate.

Rule number one: it is nearly always wrong to personally attack those who hold opinions different from yours. When done deliberately, attacking your opponents instead of their views is dishonest because it purports to be about one thing – the public policy in question – but is actually about something else, the destruction of your opponents’ credibility or integrity. It can also be self-defeating. When seen for what it is – basically, character assassination – it can undermine whatever validity there is in your policy position.

Regardless, the strategy is often employed, most notoriously at present, by Ezra Levant, lawyer, writer and blogger on human rights commission issues, in his campaign against Jennifer Lynch, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Here is a small sampling of the things Levant has written recently about her: “Jennifer Lynch is a damned liar,” “an execrable woman” and a “pathological liar.” “What an odious woman. When she accosted me . . ., I didn’t recognize her . . . She is much more haggard and old than her ancient publicity picture.”

This kind of personal attack, while not illegal unless false and thus defamatory (which some of this stuff might be), violates the ethics of debate because it targets a person, not the policy under scrutiny – whether the Canadian Human Rights Commission should have the power to regulate speech. And while Levant’s comments may be, taken cumulatively, intimidating, they have literally nothing to do with the law reform issue at hand.

This from Janet Keeping, the President of the Sheldon Chumir foundation, of whom Ezra once wrote

The Chumir Foundation is run by true liberals, like Janet Keeping – a deeply thoughtful woman who truly cares about real human rights.

The Chumir Foundation is on record as supporting the repeal of section 3 of the Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act. It seems though they have realized that having Ezra on your side of an issue is a net negative.

15 comments:

Ti-Guy said...

Alberta really is the land of opportunity. Where else can a column supporting ethics in debate seem bold and novel?

Loraine Lamontagne said...

A perfect example is Levant's column in the Western Standard a few years back insinuating that the minister of foreign affairs of the day was having an affair with his chauffeur. The chauffeur was the father of two school-aged children who in the aftermath were bullied at school. He claimed he never had an affair with the minister and that he was not gay. Other media picked up on the story and the chauffeur sued - and seemingly settled out of court.

Had Levant phoned beforehand to check the facts of what he was to publish? Apparrently not. Facts are irrelevant to Levant when dealing with ideological opponents.


I can't imagine Levant writing of his outrage about a ménage-à-trois between Laureen, Stephen and his taxpayer-funded psychic/image consultant. But if it were Michael, his wife ....

Ti-Guy said...

The big problem is that the news media has been too much on side with Ezra's ratfucking. I've never seen any Canadian public figure so under-condemned in my entire life, considering what Ezra's gotten up to over the years.

The reasons still elude me. But my guess is that the news media (particularly the editors and publishers) succumbed to the consensus that occurred in the US; they thought neoconservatism was the "wave of the future" and decided to go with the flow. And if they didn't, they'd lose their jobs...so, y'know what choice do you have? Journalists can't *do* anything else.

roblaw said...

Ti-Guy.. somehow, I'm sure a lot of things elude you. (LOL.. couldn't resist) But, I agree with the tenor of the post. One can easily discuss and oppose other's views and positions without the invective, and, while I'm sure I'm somewhat guilty of the same at times, in general, you don't advance your argument with personal insult..

But - the reason that he isn't attacked more, I would suspect, is that there are a lot of members of the media that are rightly concerned over where the line may be drawn between fair comment and "hate" literature on any given day. So - they secretly support Ezra's cause, even if they abhor his technique.

Oh. Plus invective and hyperbole make good copy.

roblaw said...

Oh. TG.. did you just imply that the media is "conservative" in nature?

I disagree.

Ti-Guy said...

in general, you don't advance your argument with personal insult.

I'm not writing for a wider public, Rob. I'm not even writing a blog.

You know that. You introduced that as a personal attack...the exact thing this post and that article by Janet Keeping is about. It's even worse because you and I don't even have standing in a common dispute.

Does The Chumir Foundation offer professional development training? Maybe you should sign up.

Ti-Guy said...

But - the reason that he isn't attacked more, I would suspect, is that there are a lot of members of the media that are rightly concerned over where the line may be drawn between fair comment and "hate" literature on any given day.

I don't think that's it. I'm pretty sure Ezra and his wingnuts cause anyone who bring him up no small amount of grief.

Ti-Guy said...

Oh. TG.. did you just imply that the media is "conservative" in nature?

No. I never call the media liberal or conservative. I just call it god awful with no understanding of public interest or standards of good practise.

MgS said...

Ti-Guy:

In spite of the loudmouthed crap that comes spewing forth from Alberta's more public idiots, some of us are actually reasonable, intelligent human beings.

I'm getting a little tired of your snide slams of Alberta and Albertans. In the spirit of Ms. Keeping's words, do the rest of us a favour and stow them until its appropriate.

Ti-Guy said...

Oh, c'mon. You know I only do it out of pure, disinterested hatred.

Ti-Guy said...

Albertans sure are bossy, by the way.

roblaw said...

TG.. you have issues. No doubt. Get over yourself already.. my first sentence was intended to be humourous and ironic (see the "LOL"?).. and ultimately, I agree entirely that Ezra's use of insult is not at all helpful to his cause.

Yet.. only you can become indignant over someone agreeing with you.

Shit buddy, take a pill already - you are not duty bound to disagree with every single thing I print..

Ti-Guy said...

you are not duty bound to disagree with every single thing I print..

Oh, yes I am. It's in my contract.

rabbit said...

Ti-Guy:

Let me get this straight:

You consider it unethical to personally attack those who hold opinions different from your own?

Wow. I mean ... wow.

Ti-Guy said...

Uh, Rabbit? Rob kindly made the exact same point earlier in the discussion and I responded. No need to pile on, now. That's unethical.