One of the many good arguments libertarians and other advocates of complete free speech offer in support of their position is the slippery-slope argument. Basically, once you restrict certain types of speech, the bar is lowered and the censorship gets more and more oppressive with the passage of time. The result is a slow but steady decline into a society without any real freedom of speech.
Just how bad can this slippery slope be, sceptics may wonder? Surely those at the helm of affairs are sensible people and will know where to draw the line?
Well it can be really, really bad. For an example, look at this decision out of Canada, more specifically the Alberta Human Rights Commission. The heroic Ezra Levant, who faced the same commission a few months later in this video, calls it the most revolting order he has ever seen in Canada. Eugene Volokh calls it a “breathtakingly broad prohibition, which extends far beyond the terms of the (already troubling) statute.” So what does the ruling say?
Well, ladies and gentleman, it orders Stephen Boisson, the defendant, and an organization called “The Concerned Christian Coalition” to
cease publishing in newspapers, by email, on the radio, in public speeches, or on the internet, in future, disparaging remarks about gays and homosexuals.
That’s right. Because a certain letter that Boisson sent to the editor of a newspaper contained his opinion that homosexuality is immoral he can never again express any opinion of that nature in speech, writing or even email. This isn’t China or Iran or some ancient autocracy but 21st century Canada. A country that, unlike rigid US of A, was `progressive’ enough to write a hate-speech exception into its free-speech laws. The result was a hate-speech law which — unlike defamation — does not differentiate between factual claims and opinion nor allow truth as a defence. It was meant to be used in only the most extreme of circumstances. Canada’s Supreme Court dismissed fears of abuse in its upholding of the law, saying,
as long as human rights tribunals continue to be well aware of the purpose of [this law] and pay heed to the ardent and extreme nature of feeling described in that phrase, there is little danger that subjective opinion as to offensiveness will supplant the proper meaning of the section.
Welcome to reality, Sirs.