Earlier today, I excoriated the NPR program “On The Media” for one of its pieces this last week. I intended to rip them for two stories, but I spent way, way too much time on that first one that I figured I’d save the second for its own commentary.
And it certainly deserves it.
They decided to devote some time to the plight of some Muslims in Canada (no, I do NOT mean “Canadian Muslims”), whose feelings were hurt by Maclean’s Magazine publishing the essays of Mark Steyn. concerning Muslims.
And I got one hell of an education about Canada, our neighbor to the north — and it made me so very glad I live south of THAT border.
According to the whiny git, Canada has freedom of expression — as long as you don’t really say anything of substance or with the slightest whiff of controversy.
NASEEM MITHOOWANI: There’s two unique features about our charter which contains our freedom of expression that I don’t believe you would have in your Constitution, the first being that our rights and freedoms are explicitly subject to reasonable limits, reasonable within a free and democratic society. Secondly, our rights and freedoms are to be interpreted in light of a multicultural society and to further that feature of our society.
So we have basically recognized that there are other rights and values that can sometimes, in reasonable circumstances, trump freedom of expression.
BOB GARFIELD: Now, I can tell you categorically that if anyone came in who had a complaint with something that we at On the Media had done and the person began to dictate exactly what it is we will do to redress the wrong, we would smile and show them the door, because even more important than the specifics of what we do in any given story, we are impelled to protect the sanctity of our editorial independence. You understand that principle, no?
NASEEM MITHOOWANI: I think it’s been misrepresented in that we had a demand and if it wasn’t met we were going to start legal action. We had a proposal that we were hoping we could both compromise on it.
Essentially, I don’t think that publishing a rebuttal article is an excessive demand. We have not named Mark Steyn as a party to the complaint. We’ve not asked for a retraction. We’ve not asked for an apology from Maclean’s. What we asked for was that the community that’s being under attack have the chance to respond.
And I’d also like to add that in Canada, we have what are called Press Councils. It’s a regulatory body in the same way that lawyers and doctors are subject to regulatory bodies. Maclean’s does not subscribe to a Press Council – subscription is voluntary in Canada – nor does it provide an ombudsperson to hear complaints. So essentially there is no recourse for even factual inaccuracies in their material.
The article presents the image of a bunch of Muslims who felt deeply wounded by Maclean’s publishing of those alleged anti-Muslim articles, and have exhausted all other recourses before turning to the government to seek redress. (Something that, occasionally, I have wished we had here in the United States.) But it’s outside the interview that you learn the rest of the story.
For example, in the comments on the piece, Mark Steyn himself points out that not only are the most offensive words in his piece not his own expression of concern, but the boasts of a European Imam, but that the folks NPR interviewed aren’t even the real complainants against Maclean’s.
The real kicker, however, On The Media did put on the air. They concluded their segment with the following:
Maclean’s declined an interview, but Editor-in-Chief Kenneth Whyte made this statement last December, quote: “The student lawyers in question came to us five months after the story ran. They asked for an opportunity to respond. We said that we had already run many responses to the article in our letters section but that we would consider a reasonable request.
They wanted a five-page article written by an author of their choice to run without any editing by us except for spelling and grammar. They also wanted to place their response on the cover and to art-direct it themselves. We told them we didn’t consider that a reasonable request for response.
When they insisted, I told them I would rather go bankrupt than let someone from outside of our operations dictate the content of the magazine. I still feel that way.”
As the editor of Wizbang, I naturally sympathize with Mr. Whyte. Wizbang is OUR site, and we publish what we wish to and don’t let outsiders dictate what we publish — or give them free rein over our site to rebut us. (OK, we do have this, but it was intended as “let’s let some of the nuts have their own sandbox, and maybe they’ll leave us alone.”) We’ve also invited those who routinely disagree with us to join us on the main page — I find I still miss Pennywit’s contributions, and it should come as no great surprise that I’ve essentially given mantis a standing invite to join us at his leisure.
But I will be DAMNED if I’ll ever give some critics the opportunity to answer any of my — or any other authors’ — articles on the front page of Wizbang, unedited save for spelling and/or grammar — simply because they demand it.
If something we say requires a response, we have one of the most open comments policies of the bigger blogs. No registration, no holding for moderation, and a remarkable laissez-faire attitude towards what is said there. Further, there is absolutely nothing holding anyone back from using their own blog (or starting one) to rebut us at whim.
Alan Dershowitz famously said “the best answer to bad speech is more speech,” and I wholeheartedly agree with him. Only bullies and thugs and those without truth on their side need to get the power of a government behind them to silence those with whom they disagree.
And Canadians, apparently.