And then they came for the comedians…

by Brian McKim & Traci Skene on June 26th, 2008

We can’t say we’re surprised. When we read about Mark Steyn’s recent harassment at the hands of the British Columbia Human Rights Commission, we said privately that it was only a matter of time before a comedian faced similar persecution. Now, we read this.

A Canadian stand-up comedian will face a human rights tribunal hearing after a woman complained she and her friends faced a “tirade of homophobic and sexist comments” while attending one of his shows.

In a decision released this week, the B. C. Human Rights Tribunal ruled there is enough evidence to hear the case of Vancouver woman Lorna Pardy against Toronto comedian Guy Earle. Zesty’s Restaurant in Vancouver, where the May 22, 2007, show took place, has also been named in the complaint.

We almost posted about Steyn. His trial has been going on for some time now and we’ve read with fascination some of the live-blogging from the court.

Well, it’s not really a trial… and it’s a kangaroo court– the BCHRC has never once found anyone innocent of the charges. Once they decide you are guilty of “offending” some victim or group of victims, you are guilty. And you pay the costs of your defense. And the folks with the thin skin? They pay nothing– their costs are borne by the citizens of Canada. It’s about as horrific a system as one can imagine and we’re glad that no one’s brought it to America. Although they’re always trying.

Canadians: You are fucked.

Canadian standup comics: You are fucked as well. This could be the end of standup comedy in Canada as we know it.

And if you think it’s just British Columbia, think again. Ezra Levant, the erstwhile editor of the Western Standard magazine was hauled before a similar band of chimps in Alberta.

In Steyn’s case, he is being taken down because the magazine Maclean’s published excerpts from his book “America Alone” (which the Male Half is currently reading) and some Muslims took offense. When their request to have the magazine publish a rebuttal of similar length was refused, they took their case to the BCHRC, which was all too happy to oblige.

Levant was hounded because his magazine published the famous cartoons of Muhammed. Check out the video below– Levant is brilliantly grouchy, wonderfully and righteously indignant as he fires the opening shots in his defense. Are you sure this guy isn’t American?

Earle, the comic, says he’s going to fight.

He added it’s been more than 40 years since controversial U.S. comic Lenny Bruce was jailed for obscenity over his comic material– “and we’re still fighting the same battle. I know it’s a fight I can never win. But I’ve got to keep fighting.”

Pointless. Utterly pointless. Earle is also expressing regret for what he said. What’s it going to be? Fight it? Or collapse under the oppression and beg for forgiveness?

He says he’s going to have a benefit concert to raise money for his legal costs.

A benefit? That’s tellin’ em!

Here’s a better idea: Leave Canada and come to America. We haven’t had to fight this battle for some time now. Head for New York or Los Angeles and beg the mayor or the city solicitor for political asylum.

Steyn is, when all is said and done, a humorist. He writes eloquently about matters of great importance. And he does so with great authority and he provides solid information to back up his claims. But he also does so wryly, eliciting lots of laughs along the way. (Think P.J. O’Rourke, but with a British accent.) His writings (in books and columns) have been so successful that he’s often called upon to leave his adopted home of New Hampshire and hit the lecture circuit. His live presentations are as hysterical (and as thought-provoking and informative) as any standup comic out there. So, when we found out that he was to be dragged before the sham court in Vancouver, we immediately sensed danger for comedians (even though the comments in question were in print).

Now we have this.

This magazine has always warned that the enemies of free speech in this country (in this world) are not always who you think they’re going to be. We hear much talk about oppression from the far right (the religious, the conservatives, Bushy McChimpHitler, etc.) but we never hear any warning about the far left. These Human Rights Commissions don’t exist here in the USA… not formally, at least. They started them in 1977, to “investigate and try to settle complaints of discrimination in employment and in the provision of services within federal jurisdiction.” After all the heavy lifting in that department was done, the bureaucrats and hacks that staff these commissions had little to do (and lots of money, no doubt, to do it with), so… There is nothing more dangerous than a bureaucrat with a budget, an imagined mandate and lots of time. Before long, they were hearing complaints from any aggrieved Tom, Dick or Kareem that felt in the least bit slighted.

One of the architects of the Human Rights Commissions said this:

…during the years when my colleagues and I were labouring to create such commissions, we never imagined that they might ultimately be used against freedom of speech.

Censoring debates was hardly the role we had envisioned for human rights commissions.

Although it’s true that they have nailed some genuine hatemongers with it, it has nevertheless been used or threatened to be used against a wide variety of constituencies who don’t bear the slightest resemblance to the kind of hatemongers that were originally envisioned: anti-American protesters, French-Canadian nationalists, a film sympathetic to South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, a pro-Zionist book, a Jewish community leader, Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, and even a couple years ago, a pro-Israeli speaker was briefed about the anti-hate law by a police detective before he went in to make a speech.

The same thing could happen in America.

And, if you have any doubt about the dangers of commissions like the ones up north (and if you need any evidence that there can be no comparison between the case of Lenny Bruce and the case of Mr. Earle), consider this, part of an exchange between two of the figures in Steyn’s recent show trial:

MS KULASZKA: Mr. Steacy, you were talking before about context and how important it is when you do your investigation. What value do you give freedom of speech when you investigate one of these complaints?

MR. STEACY: Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value.

(Thanks to sharp-eyed reader Rex Morgan!)