Canadians politicians just held their second hearing exploring online hate and once again conservative politicians and pundits have fumbled the ball something fierce.
The woes surrounding the House of Commons Justice Committee’s hearings on the spread of online hate began last week with a Conservative MP reading the manifesto of the far-right terrorist who killed 50 Muslims in New Zealand.
Last week, Tory MP Michael Cooper responded to Faisal Khan Suri, president of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, who said Quebec mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette “repeatedly sought content about anti-immigrant, alt-right and conservative commentators...” by reading a portion of the manifesto of the Christchurch shooter.
Cooper, who also told the witness he should be “should be ashamed of himself”, read a trolling portion of the manifesto in which the shooter states he’s aligned with the communist government of China in an attempt to prove that far-right violence isn’t connected to mainstream conservatism.
This, of course, received immense blowback, and Conservative Party Leader Andrew Sheer removed Cooper from the committee on Saturday. On Tuesday the committee voted to expunge Cooper’s statements from the record and Scheer is currently facing calls to remove Cooper from caucus. Cooper issued an apology on Facebook on June 1 saying he “absolutely should have not quoted these words nor named the perpetrator” and “unequivocally condemn[s] all forms of racism.”
On Tuesday, the committee held their second hearing, but this time it included more right-leaning witnesses. And while a Conservative MP didn’t read the manifesto of a mass murderer, it still went poorly for the Tories. The party invited three right-wing witnesses, free speech martyr turned right-wing provocateur/Jordan Peterson disciple Lindsay Shepherd; right-wing pundit, Mark Steyn; and former Rebel Media contributor and National Post columnist, John Robson.
Things didn't go well for these folks.
For an hour the three gave statements and took questions from the MPs. Conservatives, perhaps a bit muted following Cooper’s actions and criticism of their guest selection, were reserved and allowed the Liberals to intensely questions the witnesses. The bad times began at the very start with Shepherd using her opening statement to talk about getting a seven-day Twitter suspension for intentionally misgendering a trans person.
Robson, in an attempt to show how we should confront free speech, not ban it, said he wanted to bring Mein Kampf to the hearing “as a prop” and put things on the record that “are so wrong you might want to ban them.”
“Hitler should have finished the job, blacks are inferior, that kind of stuff,” said Robson. “There is no possibility that we’re going to wake up and realize one day that this is true.
“Weimar Germany had laws against anti-Semitism and they didn’t stop Hitler,” he said, adding people should have listened closer to Hitler’s statements so they could defeat his ideas. “I meant to bring a copy of Mein Kampf as a prop this morning but forgot it.”
Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith and NDP MP Randall Garrison were two of the harshest critics going after the trio of right-wing pundits. Erskine-Smith challenged the three of them to name “one time the Criminal Code has been improperly applied to hate speech over the last 50 years” and none could. Shepherd, who has recently made a habit of parroting far-right talking points and appearing on shows with white nationalist slants and connections, received the harshest comment of the day.
“The last thing I will say is that it’s not just the end of Ramadan today, but the 75th anniversary of D-Day,” said Erskine-Smith. “Ms. Shepherd, when you go on YouTube and you embrace the views of population replacement with a white nationalist, remember who the Nazis are.”
When asked if she wanted to respond, Shepherd simply said “no.”
Garrison spent a good portion of his time speaking about how he found the “panel extremely challenging” because he “happens to live in the real world and happens to live in this century.” Garrison, an openly gay politician, said that he believed the panel was minimizing the impacts of hate speech.
“I reject almost everything you’ve said today because it’s academic, it’s historical, it has no relation at all to what happens in the real world,” said Garrison.
The event ended with Mark Steyn refusing to apologize for his past statements on Islam and bloviating about freedom of speech. Shepherd responded on Twitter saying that her experience was “eye-opening” and called the MPs at the hearings “intellectually empty snakes.”
She vowed to make a YouTube video regarding the hearings.
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