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Letter to the Toronto Clarion

Progressives shouldn't be begging the police to take more power

By Ulli Diemer


I find it appalling that people who see themselves as “progressive”, like letter-writers Chaplan and Woloski in your October issue, can believe that defending the right to freedom of speech implies “promoting the social acceptability” of hate literature.

The point is that what constitutes “hate literature” is inevitably a matter of interpretation. The Toronto Sun and its ex-editor Peter Worthington recently demanded that Broadview-Greenwood residents organizing to defeat Worthington in the election be prosecuted for disseminating hate literature. Businessmen have called for unions and marxists to be charged with promoting class hatred. The people who decide what constitutes hate literature are the police, crown attorneys, and judges — in other words, people who would be glad to have more legal weapons to direct against leftists and liberals. What Chaplan and Woloski are doing is “promoting the social acceptability” of the police deciding what ideas may or may not be expressed. This idea is far more dangerous than the hate literature in circulation.

It is also well known to anyone who has bothered to investigate this kind of legislation that it just doesn't work. The banned literature merely goes underground and circulates just as effectively, and with the added glamour of being something that the authorities (who of course are 'in the pay of the Jews' or 'the Communists' or 'the Pope', depending on the fanatic in question) don't want you to know about.

Another danger of imagining that laws can deal with hate literature is that it misdirects people's energy into pleading with governments for new laws, and encourages a passive reliance on the police to enforce the laws. The way to deal with racism is direct action, education, and (intelligently focussed) hard work. People like Chaplan and Woloski discourage this kind of activity while encouraging us to devote our energies to pleading with the government and the police to please take even more power to determine which ideas are 'legal' and which 'illegal'.

No thanks.

Ulli Diemer
October 9, 1984



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