Who's against political attack ads? Turns out its the lefty politicians with hurt feelings.
Politics is a nasty business and attack ads have become a staple of the modern political campaign. One of the earliest and most famous of the modern era was the 1964 “Daisy” commercial, which featured a little girl pulling peddles off a flower, before being incinerated by a nuclear bomb, and urging the viewer to vote for Lyndon B. Johnson.
Canadians are no stranger to this type of advertising either. Campaigning against free trade in 1988, the Liberals ran an ad that showed the Canadian border being erased. The Progressive Conservatives fired back in 1993 with a below-the-belt punch in which viewers were asked whether Jean Chrétien’s face looked prime ministerial enough.
There’s no question our political discourse would be greatly improved if politicians talked more about the issues, instead of attacking each others character. Gearing up for the Oct. 6, provincial election, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called for an end to political attack ads.
Phyllis Morris, the former mayor of Aurora, Ont., who wanted $6-million from bloggers who hurt her feelings.
British politician Aneurin Bevan once said that “politics is a blood sport,” so it stands to reason that only people with thick skin should get in the game. Someone should have told this to Phyllis Morris, the former mayor of Aurora, Ont. who, after getting roundly defeated in an election, decided to sue the pants off everyone who said mean things about her on the Internet.
Only problem is that most of the bloggers and commenters who offended her delicate sensibilities did so anonymously. Thus, Ms. Morris decided to try and get a court to force Internet services providers to divulge their identities, and to go after the people who ran the blogs that some of the comments were posted on.
In an Ontario Superior Court ruling handed down last week, Justice Carole Brown made the correct decision by ruling that “the public interest favouring disclosure clearly does not outweigh the legitimate interests in freedom of expression and the right to privacy of the persons sought to be identified.” And that the bloggers “had a reasonable expectation of anonymity in the particular circumstances, given that they were free to identify themselves, to write under a pseudonym or remain anonymous.”
And these writers should have a right to say almost anything they want in an anonymous fashion, especially when they’re talking about a politician. Free speech is an essential component in a democracy because democratic government is based on the idea that the state is ultimately controlled by the people. So long as they’re not inciting violence, their right to anonymity should not be questioned.
Allowing people to freely debate issues and ideas in public is how we arrive at the truth
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC), an independent body that administers guidelines set out by Canada’s private broadcasters, recently made public a decision that finds the Christian television show Word TV in violation of its code of ethics.
The council condemned the show’s host, evangelical minister Charles McVety, for, among other things, making “disparaging and unacceptable” remarks about homosexuals during Toronto’s Gay Pride parade.
McVety was initially suspended by his network, and his show taken off the air, but was reinstated within a week. All’s well that ends well, right? Not exactly. McVety claims his program will now be “pre-screened and censored” before it goes on air.
McVety has been trying to spin this story ever since the decision was released. “How can the private broadcasters justify blacklisting McVety because he opposed spending tax dollars in support of the gay pride parade?” reads a statement on the Word TV website.
On Friday, a judge dismissed all charges in the case against John Stagliano, who was being prosecuted under federal obscenity laws in Washington, DC for producing and distributing pornography videos (I discussed this case earlier in the week).
While this is a big win for free speech, the obscenity laws he was charged with are still on the books and the Obscenity Prosecution Task Force is still operating within the Department of Justice. As we all know, government bureaucracies are constantly trying to find ways to prove their usefulness and American politicians have shown little interest in this issue, so I suspect we will see similar prosecutions in the future.
News of the decision came through via intrepid reporter Richard Abowitz's Twitter feed late Friday afternoon. The hard working Reason.tv crew quickly rushed out of the office to capture Stagliano's reaction to the verdict:
At a federal courthouse in Washington, DC, 14 jurors adjust their earphones and set their gaze upon television screens that are carefully placed so as to be out of sight from most of the journalists and concerned citizens sitting in the courtroom. They watch as a milkman delivers his product to a house that's inhabited by scantily-clad women. Smiles appear on their faces and soft giggles can be heard as the milkman proceeds to engage in hardcore sex acts with the young ladies.
This was the scene at the trial of John Stagliano, a porn mogul who is currently being tried on federal obscenity charges over the films Milk Nymphos, Storm Squirters 2: Target Practice, and a trailer for a third video that was available on his company's website. If you haven't heard of this case before, Reason.tv just released a great video that will bring you up to speed:
The Danish cartoons, as published in the Western Standard
In February 2006, riots spread throughout the Muslim world over a series of editorial cartoons, depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammad, which were published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten almost a year earlier. While the violence garnered international headlines, many editors made the decision not to publish the cartoons, even though they were central to the story. In what turned out to be an ironic twist of fate, the Western Standard magazine republished some of the cartoons alongside an article about press freedoms.
“So, in the interest of resisting those who would put limits on what subjects news organizations are free to cover, the Western Standard is publishing the cartoons that so many others are afraid to. They may offend some readers, but this is no excuse not to report the news,” read the article.
There are a number of ways in which the freedom of individual journalists and media organizations can be constrained. These include, laws, the market, cultural norms, and the architectural makeup of the physical world. The editors of the Western Standard were concerned that press freedom was being restricted by fundamentalist Muslims who were trying to impose their cultural norms on Western media outlets.
Below is my response to the following interview between Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly and Toronto Now columnist Susan G. Cole regarding Ann Coulter's scheduled appearance at the University of Ottawa, which was canceled due to the disgraceful behavior of a group of Marxist protesters. Please notice the difference between those who support free speech and those who do not. I call for Ms. Kelly to represent the other side of the debate, while Ms. Cole believes that Ann Coulter should not be speaking on Canadian campuses (that's right, those institutions that are supposed to foster the free exchange of ideas and encourage debate).