Editorials: “Debate Defined” and “Debate Denied”
Daily News (Halifax), March 7, 2007
CJCH Halifax stepped in where Saint Mary’s University feared to tread.
Yesterday, radio talk-show host and Daily News columnist Rick Howe hosted a debate on diversity between “race realist” Jared Taylor and SMU philosophy professor Peter March. Originally, the debate was to have taken place on Saint Mary’s campus last night. But on Monday, SMU officials cancelled, citing security concerns.
Those concerns were fuelled by Taylor’s belief that separation is better than integration — and the violence that greeted his attempt to speak at the Lord Nelson Hotel in January.
Protesters physically ejected him from the meeting room.
And March is no stranger to angry crowds, having attracted several when he posted caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad on his office door last year.
Regardless of the merits — or lack of same — of Taylor’s views on racial issues, the silencing of Taylor in January and SMU’s cold feet on Monday were setbacks for freedom of speech. CJCH’s decision to broadcast the Taylor-March debate on a talk show, which allowed listeners to participate, regained some lost ground.
Only two protesters showed up outside the radio station yesterday. The debate lasted 90 minutes. Taylor finally got his opportunity to convey his message that racial diversity is, in his words, a “failure” and a “fantasy.”
He cites crime statistics and inter-racial violence to support his views, and adheres to the view that “birds of a feather flock together.” But he seems to forget that sometimes, “opposites attract.”
Taylor also forgets that it was the violence, oppression and injustice of separatist systems such as segregation and apartheid that led to their overthrow, and to the advent of pluralism and diversity. Those systems were fantasies that ultimately failed.
The success of diversity depends on the will to make it work. And if diversity is to work the way it should, room has to be made for the voicing of divergent views — even those of the Jared Taylors of the world.
If Jared Taylor had been allowed to speak when he came to Halifax in January, he would be yesterday’s news. Now that he has again been prevented from airing his views on race, he is about to become a free-speech martyr. And that’s the last thing his opponents should want.
Taylor, who edits American Renaissance magazine and advocates racial separation, was scheduled in January to debate David Divine, chairman of Dalhousie University’s black studies department, on whether diversity is good for Canada. Divine cancelled the debate, saying the subject matter might be “misinterpreted.”
When Taylor came to Halifax to air his views in the absence of a debating opponent, anti-racism activists — many of whom were masked — shouted him down and physically ejected him from the meeting room he had booked at the Lord Nelson Hotel.
The protest was an assault against a viewpoint many hold abhorrent. Unfortunately, it was also an assault against freedom of speech. Reasoned discourse, not forced silence, should be the weapon of choice in a democratic society.
Taylor’s saga didn’t end there.
In the wake of the hotel fracas, Saint Mary’s University philosophy professor Peter March arranged to engage Taylor in a public debate on racial diversity. March is no stranger to the spotlight, having caused a storm of controversy last year, when he posted contentious caricatures of the prophet Mohammed on his office door.
Both men push the limits of free speech. Their debate, scheduled for tonight at SMU, promised to be either an intriguing exchange of unorthodox views — or a train wreck.
But it won’t happen.
Security was supposed to be tight, with the presence of at least six police officers. But a threat of violence seen on a blog prompted SMU to cancel. March is searching for another venue before Taylor leaves town tomorrow.
Regardless of whether he ever speaks here, Taylor is now much better-known in HRM than he needs to be.
And that’s a shame, because it didn’t have to be that way.
(Posted on March 7, 2007)