Saturday, June 07, 2008

Better dead than rude

Small Dead Animals had this excerpt of a debate between Ezra Levant and Ian Fine of the HRC. If you haven't been following this story, it's hard to get everything Ezra is saying - he's trying to educate noobs in just 5 minutes, so he talks fast and packs tons of information into a direct address to the audience. He's also excitable and energetic, so there's just a torrent of words and gestures coming off him.

What's interesting about this piece is the thread that follows it, especially the discussion over whether Ezra was too over-the-top to do any good. The discussion divides those like Lori who think that
Ezra (and I'm his biggest fan and a very substantial donor so far) comes off too strongly sometimes. Not for us, who are into the battle with four limbs and our hearts, but for the average calm non-engaged Canadian for whom this is not a big issue. But those are the people we need to influence. We don't need to sell this to other Blogging Tories....

We have to keep our end of the debate civil. The comments on that blog are often excessive, and Ezra's own words can be as well. At other times, the blog is incredibly eloquent.

This is a war for public opinion and public perception. Our demeanor counts. Just like we teach our children about making good impressions on people they have just met, we need to do the same on those who are tuning into the debate for the first time.


and those like richfisher:
If he would have stood up and turned the table over after he read Richard Warman's racist slur, while shouting "and these are the people that would censor us" two or three times, while pointing at Ian Fine, I believe his testimony would have been more compelling and forceful, as seen by the typical disinterested Canadian.

The same disagreement over tactics crops up in the TEC-wars south of the border. (Not much in the ACC, because I don't think there's anyone still left in that church who has the energy to do what Ezra does.) There is a sizable chunk of the "conservative" side of TEC that still thinks that being unmannerly is almost as alarming as being wrong. It goes beyond mere rules of discussion on blogs; the whole "Windsor bishops" idea seems based on an unshakeable conviction that good old boy collegiality and good naturedness can see them through the storms battering their church. It certainly calls forth immediate and often self-righteous rebuke (if David Virtue didn't exist, it would be necessary to invent him). Perhaps this provides some relief to people who find themselves helpless to shift any of the other goads that are tormenting them.

I think the best response on the thread to this tendency to value soft voices is this one by EBD:
With greatest respect, I disagree strongly with the views of Lori and Sheila G regarding Ezra's putative over-the-top aggression. Personally, I am sick of the Canadian and very catholic notion of tolerance and respect that took us to this revolting process in Vancouver, this politeness that insists that being respectful to anyone who wears the robes of officialdom is more important than protecting ourselves and our children and our neighbours.

Politeness is essential in the realm of common grace, but not in any absolute sense; not 100% of the time. When it comes to the point where a group of people are taking away something ineffably valuable -- in this case, freedom of speech and thought, although it could be your relatives, in a cattle car -- those people do not deserve respect, they deserve vilification, regardless of how mundane and bureaucratically composed they are.

Ezra wasn't emotionally incontinent, he wasn't firing off ad hominems, he was exasperated, laughing, and delighted to have a chance to show the rest of the world what sort of big-state crimes against conscience are occurring behind the polite evasions o polite-sounding bureaucrat.

(BTW, I'm as respectful a person as you'll ever meet, in my day to day dealings with people of any race, nationality, religion, etc etc.)

I'd even go so far as to suggest that if people are turned off by Ezra, they are not parsing the significance of events. If his excitement and his truth-telling makes people turns people off, then they should join the LPC.

To me, criticizing Ezra's communications at that press conference is a bit like saying to the guys in the Danzig Post Office in 1939 "You know, you're on the side of right and everything, but you're just turning people off when you discharge weapons."

He's right. When men wore swords and an offense to one's honour was worthy of death, it was a good thing to cultivate high manners and controlled speech. But today we ape these manners without any currency to back them up - there is no risk involved in expostulating with energy, as Ezra did. A fistfight wasn't about to break out on the podium, or Fine challenge him to a duel. It's sheer feebleness and cowardly inadequacy (and believe me, as a Canadian, I've seen plenty of both) that makes us shrink before a full-throated argument, and then cover our nakedness with the borrowed shreds of a stronger tradition.

People will pretend that they're trying to "win over" the bewildered, who flutter away in fear when they hear a raised voice, but those people will never be worth anything to whatever side they end up drifting to. People that cowardly will not turn into warriors for righteousness if only we pitch our murmurs at the right decibel level.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given that pop culture today is all about being "in your face" and even downright rude -- ie Simon Cowall, Gordon Ramsay, Rosie O'Donnell, Adam Sandler -- I find it hard to believe Ezra's tone of voice is going to put the average Canadian off.

Anyway, sometimes you have to raise your voice to be heard.

Ellie M.

10:48 am  
Blogger Perpetua said...

Are you honestly saying that the only thing holding you back from boorish behavior is the threat of violence?

I would like to be around people who behave with courtesy toward others out of genuine concern and regard for others, not the fear of retaliation.

10:49 am  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

I'm saying that courtesy meant something when everyone knew that the people being polite were not to be trifled with, and would punish DIScourtesy swiftly. Politeness that comes of fear and impotence is not anything that I admire - it's just animal cringing.

I like people who are genuinely attentive to others' feelings, as long as they do it in a manly way. I wish there were more of them around, instead of the cowards and weaklings who pissed away their heritage through fearfulness.

12:15 pm  
Blogger Minicapt said...

Once upon a time, we were warned against beating upon persons such as Mr Fine, on the grounds it would upset the SPCA. I suppose now PETA would wish to be involved.

Cheers

4:54 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do believe Ezra's tone in the debate is fully acceptable given the nature and gravity of the accusations. Perhaps a click or two higher on the sarcasm scale would be in order. Thank you, Orlin

7:29 pm  
Anonymous Brian J. said...

Mabuse, you are absolutely right.

When interacting with someone who uses intimidation to achieve their ends and who views civility as weakness we are left with no choice.
Perhaps we should view Ezra's tone as one of "loud defiance".

By using loud defiance we are sending a message that words alone cannot send - strong degree of intent and purpose.

Weakness encourages many aggressors but strong defiance causes them to stop and consider.

9:38 am  
Anonymous WannabeAnglican said...

"Politeness is essential in the realm of common grace, but not in any absolute sense; not 100% of the time. When it comes to the point where a group of people are taking away something ineffably valuable -- in this case, freedom of speech and thought, although it could be your relatives, in a cattle car -- those people do not deserve respect, they deserve vilification . . ."

AMEN!

9:47 pm  
Blogger Matthew said...

Is there any chance of these tribunals being abolished. The mainstream Canadian media seem awfully complaisant (with a very few notable exceptions). What about the politicians? Are they equally blithe?

9:19 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your HRC posts are so depressing (as well as funny)- why don't you move here? (US)
It'll *never* happen here!

12:10 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

Ohhh, anon, how I would LOVE to move to the U.S.! But what would we live on? And let's be realistic - a family with THREE handicapped children would NEVER be approved by the immigration agency of any country. We'd be considered a burden on society, and unacceptable. Only if we were very wealthy or famous (like professional sports figures) would we be welcome.

4:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As one poster noted, the popular culture is filled with in your face shock value, raised and irreverant voices.
The issue here is, the unspoken threat of arrest or even getting tossed out on ones ear by phoned in authorities, as one sits in front of a lying commissar, with a 100% conviction rate that claims these things are difficult and very complex to understand and judge upon - basically declaring that the defendant is too stupid to even know why they are wrong.
I personally am not part of the affluent nose in the air gossipy tree hugger back stabbing society, so fortunately none of this has ever been directly tried against just me personally, and that is the problem - they pick their fights carefully and in fear, and know full well they won't be putting themselves in any danger.
This is the new tyranny, the tyrannical demand that you politely allow the unbridled power of the state to rip away at you unfairly for years, with them never considering your side at all, they've already made you the target, and you're supposed to kindly fight them at the game and in the arena they control.
Indeed, your only weapon is your words, some of which they have already effectively outlawed, and declared you guilty of speaking.
So, good luck with your civilized, non violent fight, although we know your words are already legally terrible violence to them, and they will take the next steps and arrest you, soon enough, I do believe.
I have to commend you, because I would have been unable to comport myself, and exploded with a severe can of whoop, taking them down with all I've got.
I've done it before in my life, it appears I lack control, but what really surprised me was afterwards those close to the situation commended my actions, thanked me, and told me they were so grateful someone did because they deserved it.
They should continue to choose their targets wisely, or they are in for a very personally painful lesson.
I certainly hope Ezra and his supporters are sufficient to enact change without such a reaction as I have been given to, but cross your fingers, they might target the wrong type of person someday.

11:45 pm  

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