Cineplex stands up for free speech, will show Jordan Peterson film
Canadian cinemagoers can be clear about the stance that Cineplex has taken with regard to free speech and free expression.
Cineplex had allowed for the very controversial anti-abortion film Unplanned to be screened in theatres around the country. They now have permitted The Rise of Jordan Peterson documentary to play in their theatres across the country. In fact, they are the only documented theatre company in the country to screen The Rise of Jordan Peterson.
A Quebec judge rejected part of comedian Mike Ward’s appeal regarding a joke about a disabled boy.
Ward was ordered to pay $35,000 to Jeremy Gabriel, who suffers from a genetic disorder that causes facial deformity and affects his hearing, due to a joke the comedian told at shows between 2010 and 2013.
Two of three judges ruled Mike Ward’s comments regarding Gabriel were not justifiable in a society where freedom of expression is valued.
Ward was originally ordered to pay an additional $7,000 to Gabriel’s mother—a fine which the courts overturned due to the indirect relationship between the joke and the boy’s mother.
The joke in question was regarding Gabriel’s disability. In 2005, Gabriel sang to Pope Benedict and Celine Dion to flesh out his dream of becoming an international singer.
Ward’s jokes called Gabriel a bad singer, stating that he was “terminally ill” and that Gabriel not passing away meant that his “Make a Wish” was invalid. Gabriel was not actually terminally ill, as Gabriel’s genetic disease—Treacher Collins syndrome—does not generally have an effect on lifespan. He was also not a Make-a-Wish kid, as Ward was embellishing the story for the sake of the joke.
Ward added that he tried to drown Gabriel, but he wouldn’t die.
The Quebec Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the joke discriminated against Gabriel and his parents, ordering Ward to pay damages for “making discriminatory comments regarding Jéremy Gabriel, infringing his right to equality.”
Ward later tweeted that he would not be paying any fines, and planned to take his case to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“In a ‘free’ country, it shouldn’t be up to a judge to decide what constitutes a joke on stage,” he wrote. “The people in attendance laughing already answered that question.”
Ward’s lawyer, Julius Grey, believes the decision seriously impacts the world of stand-up comedy.
“In this particular case, if the judgement is maintained, no one will be able to dare to be a stand-up comic, because normally you make fun of things that are controversial—otherwise it’s not funny,” Grey said. “If anything that is controversial can authorize someone to say ‘I was hurt, I’m going to court,’ we’re finished.”
Ward will appeal the case to the Supreme Court, Grey said on Thursday.
While the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of expression, the Appeals Court ruled that Ward had gone too far, passing what’s permissible by law.
“What is funny for some can be considered bad taste by others … Humour, especially the kind of humour that Mr. Ward practices, can appeal to sarcasm, mockery and even insult. The border between a limitation to freedom of expression in the name of dignity and censorship is thin. … Comedians must realize, however, that artistic freedom is not absolute and that they, like all citizens, are responsible for the consequences of their words when they cross certain limits.”
Prisoners often find themselves mixed up in ideological warfare that has nothing to do with their rehabilitation, and everything to do with opposing cultural forces. Such is the case with born-again Christian pop star Kanye West’s recent visit to the Harris County Jail in Texas. West brought his musical worship service to prisoners, leading with light and God’s love, to the people who need it most. For that, the local Sheriff Ed Gonzales, West, and the prisoners were admonished by anti-faith group The Freedom from Religion Foundation.
Sheriff Gonzalez and the prisoners at Harris County Jail had a different take.
While The Freedom from Religion Foundation primarily files lawsuits and does not go into prisons to help prisoners in their journey toward atonement, forgiveness, and reentering society, they took issue with West’s work to actually help people. This is some of the most elitist, entitled, patronizing displays of legal bludgeoning since The Freedom from Religion Foundation took issue with the federal funding of a mentorship program for the children of prisoners.
West made the appearance at the Harris County Jail for a worship service prior to attending televangelist Joel Osteen’s ministry, and repeatedly told the crowd of men in orange jumpsuits that “This is a mission, not a show.” It was that mission that got him in trouble with the atheists, who must think there is some better way to salvation and healing than seeking forgiveness and absolution from a higher power. Perhaps they have a plan to go into prisons and give a concert about how a secular life of consumerist materialism will lead to healing. But probably they don’t.
Despite the downturn in religious practice in the United States, faith in God is still often a way for people to discover a healthy path toward healing and becoming their best selves. While the argument against the intrusion of church into state affairs is judicially established, the emergence of atheism as a religious force should now be subject to those same considerations. Organized atheism is very similar to organized religion, except adherents rally around the absence of God instead of his existence.
Atheism is not neutral, it is, in fact, its own growing belief system. It is just as intrusive to bar religious practice in favour of anti-religious practice, because both are belief systems. If prisoners would rather not be party to either kind of faith practice, or worship service, or nothing service, they don’t have to be. What The Freedom from Religion Foundation doesn’t want to admit to is that putting trust in a higher power in order to become a better person more aligned with the values of kindness, love, and forgiveness, works.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation has that much beef with God and faith that they deny a person’s betterment by demanding that only non faith-based intellectual and emotional tools be sanctioned. Their argument is that classic separation of church and state squabble that keeps prayers out of schools, the mention of God off of memorials to fallen soldiers, and money flowing away from programs that actually help people instead of keeping their feet nailed to the same detrimental path that brought them to prison in the first place.
The argument made against West’s mission was that the prisoners are “literally a captive audience—who have a deep and immediate interest in being seen favourably by the jail staff.” The Freedom from Religion Foundation thinks so little of prisoners’ ability to think for themselves that they would rather deny those who want to participate in religious service than believe that those who don’t want to attend will feel coerced to do so.
Perhaps up next will be the legal removal of every kind of religious services from prisons, chaplains from the armed forces, and crosses atop churches from being visible. If these atheists really cared about the welfare of those men and women suffering in our overcrowded prison systems, they would use their legal funds to bring programs to those incarcerated souls who need uplifting, who need to hear a message that life has meaning and that caring and love are truly possible. Using the court system to belittle and demean those who have already been subjected to the inequities of that system is certainly unreasonably cruel.
Yesterday, journalist and The Post Millennial editor-at-large Andy Ngo was suspended from Twitter for the following tweet directed at Chelsea Clinton: “The US is one of the safest countries for trans people. The murder rate of trans victims is actually lower than that for cis population. Also, who is behind the murders? Mostly black men.” Ngo has been banned from Twitter for saying a true thing. As a journalist, his job is to expose the truth. Twitter has deemed the speaking of facts to be “hateful conduct.”
Ngo’s tweet was in response to Clinton’s Trans Remembrance Day post honouring murdered trans women. He showed that Clinton’s tweet was misleading. There has been much talk about how many trans women have been killed for being trans in the United States. Many trans activists claim that it is an epidemic. It should go without saying that harming someone for any reason, other than self-defence, is not acceptable, but in the facts vs. feelings war regarding the murders of trans people in the States, facts have been getting the short end of the stick. America is actually the safest place for trans people to live.
A widely purported stat is that trans women of colour have a life expectancy of just 35. This has been stated as fact. But what Katie Herzog uncovered for The Stranger is that this number was taken from the life expectancy of trans women in Central America, where violence of all kinds is incredibly high. That makes this not a valid stat for the United States, but activists tout it anyway. In the U.S., there were 118 trans women murdered between 2015-2019. In 2016 alone, there were 3,895 women murdered in the US, mostly by men in domestic circumstances, and that number is rising. No one calls that an epidemic.
In many of the trans murder cases, the trans women who were murdered led high-risk lifestyles. That doesn’t excuse their murder, but it does mean, that for the most part, they were in dangerous situations, and their deaths were not a result of identity-based hate. “What we do know from all available resources is that the violence these individuals experience occurs to a very broad range of people with diverse backgrounds and identities,” writes Chad Felix Greene for The Federalist, “It is clearly more an issue of high-risk environments than identity-based discrimination.”
Today, Twitter has rejected Ngo’s appeal for suspension, claiming that “Our support team has determined that a violation did take place, and therefore we will not overturn our decision. You will not be able to access Twitter through your account due to violations of the Twitter Rules, specifically our rules around: Violating our rules against hateful conduct. In order to restore account functionality, you can resolve the violations by logging into your account and completing the on-screen instructions.”
So there you have it: Ngo and Twitter are in a stalemate. Apparently, telling a statistically verifiable fact on Twitter is grounds for indefinite suspension. Meghan Murphy said women aren’t men, and it was curtains for her. Posie Parker was recently banned from Facebook, and interviews with her were removed from YouTube. Gender critical feminists have been taking heat for posting facts and the only thing Twitter has to say about it is that it’s hateful. Conservatives, too. James Woods tweeted, “If you try to kill the King, you best not miss #HangThemAll” in reference to the Mueller Report. He, too, was banished. Meanwhile, a quick Twitter search of the acronym “terf” reveals thousands upon thousands of abusive and threatening tweets, all in the name of social justice.
Discussion around trans issues is infused with feelings. When facts make an appearance, and those feelings are exposed as perspective and not reality, journalists and investigators are called out as transphobic. It’s as though the demand that we buy into the delusion that there is no such thing as biological sex transcends across the spectrum of feelings.
What happens next is unclear. Ngo may be the next Twitter exile, following in the footsteps of Meghan Murphy and James Woods, who paid the ultimate Twitter price for speaking their truth. Ngo tells us that “Twitter has determined that a verifiable empirical claim can be deemed ‘hateful conduct’ if enough people find it offensive. We know this only works in one direction.”
Indeed. As time marches on, so does Twitter, swiftly on its way to an Orwellian hellscape where only the approved may speak. The judgement process is opaque, the terms change definition depending on who is using the words, and the only appeals process is to apologize and submit to censure. It is into these hands that we have placed our free speech rights. It is beneath this gaze that we are exposed. That’s why it’s not enough to chalk Twitter’s practices up to corporate decision-making whimsy. We need to hold their feet to the fire. We cannot let the arbiters of truth be those who label facts as hate.
In today’s world, we are increasingly pressured to censor and restrict what we say in order to avoid causing offence by voicing opinions that might be construed as “hate speech” or “intolerant.” However, hearing opinions that differ from the mainstream, whether they’re offensive or not, is necessary in order to spark debate and open discussion, especially on issues considered contentious.
Contentious issues are meant to be debated in order for one to arrive at as truthful a conclusion as possible. Dr. Jordan Peterson summed this up when he said, “in order to be able to think, you have to risk being offensive.”
In other words, being able to risk offence allows one of two outcomes; either one speaks an offensive, incorrect opinion and thus is given the opportunity to be corrected, or one speaks an offensive remark that delivers an uncomfortable truth.
The reason Dr. Peterson links the ability to think with the ability to speak is because speech is merely thought vocalized. Thought brought out into the open is thought that is able to face scrutiny. However, this can only happen if people don’t shut down debate and discussion by claiming something is offensive or abusive. Those who easily take offence overlook the fact that an opinion or belief that is vigorously debated is a thought that can go onto to serve the public good by either being publicly and validly discarded or publicly and validly incorporated into the collective knowledge.
Also overlooked by those who want to live under the rule that says one cannot cause offence is the impossibility of implementing such an authoritarian ambition on a large scale. While avoiding offence might be achievable when face-to-face with just one person, this is nearly impossible for those who give lectures or speeches on a contentious issue to hundreds of people at a time.
How can you possibly cover the topic without offending at least one person? The answer is, you can’t. The only way to avoid causing offence to thin-skinned audience members would be to not hold the lecture at all. That, however, would be a capitulation to erratic emotional frailties, which, in turn, would directly contribute to the end of our ability to speak freely. It is indisputable that debate and open discussion are critical because they allow both sides to hear another point of view and thus come to a balanced and well-informed conclusion; if conflict of opinion still remains after opposing views have been aired, then there is much wisdom, and civility, in both sides, simply taking the age-old stance to agree to disagree.
For my generation, perhaps the best argument for the protection of freedom of speech and expression is that it is freedom of speech that prevents socially conservative people from banding together to have the state forbid us from attending, say, a Rihanna concert or from watching Game of Thrones on the basis they feel offended by the promotion of sexual immorality or religious sacrilege. Success in this would be a direct attack on freedom of expression, in this case, artistic expression. The fact is, once an identity group takes offence over what they see as a contentious issue and then demand the state to prohibit what they deem offensive, it opens a door for all manner of moral issues to be decided upon by an entity that is as unaccountable as it is capricious. History too often has shown that those who seize control of language and the right to use it freely—especially under the guise of wielding moral justice or goodness—are those who soon use this control as leverage to take away other rights. As Philosopher Sir Roger Scruton wrote, when “the state is seen as the guardian of public morality” we give up enormous freedom because we give the state the power to, “forbid the misuse of our freedom.”
Anybody who has doubts about the danger we face over the loss of our freedom of speech only has to consider the recent attempt to silence Lindsay Shepherd, a former teacher assistant in Communication Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. In her class, she played a video clip that featured Dr. Jordan Peterson debating with another University of Toronto professor the inherent dangers Bill C-16 presented for freedom of speech because of its legislated use of ideologically charged language, in this case, gender-neutral pronouns. Although Lindsay Shepherd had taken a neutral stance in the matter and she had presented both sides of the argument, she was dragged before a committee and accused of creating a “toxic climate” at the University for showing the clip, this despite the fact the video clip had been aired on public television and so was already in the public domain.
According to her interrogators, she had “violat[ed] the school’s Gendered and Sexual Violence policy“ and created “an unsafe learning environment for students.” Worse, she was falsely told that she had “broken the law” over a subject that, to use the predictable words of ideologues, “there is no debate.” In fact, all Shepherd had done was cause offence to a small number of people because, as part of her lesson on, ironically, “how language affects our lives,” she had dared to air a short clip of a debate that featured a contentious issue. That she was told she’d broken the law, was then subjected to little more than a kangaroo court and that this all happened on a university campus gives a clear indication that our freedom of speech is very much under threat. In the end, in this case at least, the ideologues lost, and Shepherd received an apology from Wilfrid Laurier University for the way she was treated. However, given that this incident was able to happen in the first place, it would be foolish to think that such attacks won’t continue their quest to limit our freedom both to speak and to hear differing opinions.
Dr. Peterson says that, “no one believes a world constructed through deception is preferable” and of course he’s right. But not causing offence requires a certain amount of deception because by suppressing our own beliefs and opinions, we risk parroting, under duress, the state-sanctioned beliefs and opinions of others that we believe to be lies. Those who disagree should keep in mind that there is only one way to entirely erase thoughts considered disagreeable or offensive from the minds of those who think them: “erase” the individual who holds such thoughts. This is extremely dangerous.
We should heed the wise words of Justice Julian Knowles, a British High Court judge who is currently presiding over a “hate speech” challenge in London’s High Court of Justice. In a statement addressed to the court, he said, “none of us have a right to be offended by something that they hear … freedom-of-expression laws are not there to protect statements such as “kittens are cute”… [they are there] to expose people to things that they do not want to hear.” The message, then, is to toughen up. (No offence.)