15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 18 August 2014
This is Mark Steyn's account of how he took on the multiculti thought police in Canada and won. For those who don't know, Mark Steyn is one of the wittiest and most perceptive contemporary writers in the English language, a native of Canada who has also lived in Australia, the UK and, for some years, the US. He can be equally withering about the deficiencies of all, not least Canada.
Canada was plagued with catch-all "human rights" legislation, the kind that enabled the complainant to declare his/her rights had been infringed, or even that the rights of some other, entirely hypothetical, individual had been compromised. There are Human Rights Commissions (HRCs) in every Canadian province, each staffed with activist zealots, in a country where there have been no serious human rights issues for ages (even when the leader of the Parti Quebecois uttered the blatantly racist remark, to the effect that the Mohawk people didn't speak French, so shouldn't be allowed a vote in the ninety-ninth Quebec independence referendum, the Mohawks could and did vote and the secessionists lost, yet again). The result is bloated bureaucracies hunting around for supposed "human rights" violations, like Giant Anteaters who don't know when to give up.
Steyn's case involved a book called "America Alone", in which he decried the collapse of Western culture and the demographic collapse of Western societies. The book had been widely available (and sold and probably read) in North America, Australia, the UK, Ireland and continental Europe. An excerpt was published in Maclean's magazine, a leading current affairs weekly in Canada. About six months later, the magazine and Steyn were reported to the federal HRC and to the HRCs of British Columbia and Ontario. The real instigator of these actions was an islamist with a penchant for very violent pronouncements about Israelis, so the actions were ostensibly moved by five recently qualified law students, whom Steyn refers to generally as "the sock puppets", or "the Socks".
No accused ever came before a Canadian HRC (federal or provincial) and won. Every case was decided in advance. That was the nature of the underlying legislation: offence was in the eye of the complainant, or the advocate, even the eye of the self-appointed advocate. The Socks compiled a list of grievances against Steyn and Maclean's which went way beyond the original, supposedly offending, article, demanding a right of reply in the magazine, which might not be edited in any way and which would carry graphics and even a front page dictated by the Socks.
That was pretty outrageous in itself, but the true implication was far worse: any time a publisher thought about producing a piece about hard-line islam, the thought that it could lead to a six-figure legal bill (Steyn points out that the HRCs, of course, have taxpayers' money to burn) would almost certainly terminate that thought pretty quickly - and not just in Canada.
This book is partly a re-cycling of Steyn's articles. He does like doing that, but a writer as good as Steyn is entitled to, not least because his observations from five years ago remain entirely valid today. They are very readable and he pairs the "offending" articles with the complaints made against them, then adds his own rebuttal, expressed in prose at least as pugilistic as that of the original piece. Provocatively, he also supplies articles which the Socks might have added to the charge sheet, but somehow didn't, and he goes into the nonsensical world of the HRCs themselves, where, for instance, the Ontario HRC could refuse to hear the case, but still effectively declare Maclean's and Steyn "guilty", a bit like a primary school child in the playground who runs away and then turns around, saying, "Nur-nur, I won...", or the British Columbia tribunal could listen to "evidence" entirely from outside the legal jurisdiction of British Columbia.
Overall, the book amounts to a lot more than a compilation. All the material written for the book is as powerful and as tenaciously argued as classic Steyn always is and it is meticulously marshalled.
Steyn and Maclean's won the case. That was the first time ever that a Canadian HRC had ever conceded a case. Since then, Mark Steyn has campaigned, successfully, to remove some of the oppressive, so-called "human rights" furniture from Canada's federal law code.
This is a very good book and, given Mark Steyn's current legal battle, a relevant one. That battle and this are all about free speech.
(Keep an eye on the dates of the articles, because they are arranged thematically, not chronologically.)
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 8 March 2014
Mark Steyn shows in great detail, through his contemporaneous record of allegations against him, the idiocy of bad legislation and a malformed legal system. He details the incompetence of the accusers, but more tellingly, he reveals the impact of an activist pseudo-judiciary making arguments from authority rather than law. This deserves to be read, and readers will be well rewarded with wit and intelligent argument.