Thursday, June 18, 2009

Lynching the context

What to make of Jennifer Lynch's recent chastising of her censorship commission's critics? It reminds me of a conversation at my buddy's place earlier this week, where we gather every Monday to watch wrestling on TV. My hunting partner and I were kicking back on his front porch, drinking beer and munching on Moose burgers, when he piped up: "I hate those blacks!"

"Careful, I might report you to the Human Rights Commission," I said.

"You know what I meant," he said, slapping me on the back of the head.

Yes, I did. My buddy doesn't have a racist bone in his body. As a full-blooded Anishinabek he's been on the receiving end of racism (some subtle and indirect, like Toronto activists who would grab his guns, and European activists who would strip him of historical hunting rights), so he knows what it's like to be discriminated against. More important was the context of the conversation leading up to this exchange: We were talking about the crows eying our food. In short, the blacks referred to scavengers, not people.

Thus context makes a big difference. It's one of the first lessons one learns as a canon lawyer - that is, one who works within the Catholic Church's internal legal system. "Laws are to be understood according to the proper meaning of the words considered in their text and context," states Canon 17, which is one of the fundamental principles for interpreting canon law.

In reading reading Jennifer Lynch's complaints against critics of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), what strikes me is how she appears to have little understanding of context. This is frightening given that Lynch is the CHRC's Chief Commissioner. The most egregious example, which you can read here, is her following accusation against Mark Steyn:
One human rights expert who wrote a letter to a major daily paper faced an accusation in a response letter by a journalist the next day asking, “is (name of person) a drunken pedophile?”
This sounds nasty at first. But like the snippet of the conversation with my hunting buddy, it misses the context. So as Mark Steyn would say (and did say), here's the expanded version:
Let me take just one sentence: “Are Levant and Steyn hatemongerers? Maybe not. But no one has decided that.”

Overlooking her curious belief that “hatemongerers” is a word, whatever happened to the presumption of innocence? Eliadis stands on its head the bedrock principle of English justice and airily declares that my status as a “hatemongerer” is unknown until “decided” by the apparatchiks of the HRC.

Can anyone play this game? “Is Pearl Eliadis a drunken pedophile? Maybe not. But no one has decided that.” In her justification of the HRC process, Eliadis only confirms what’s wrong with it.
Two points:

1 - Steyn was using a rhetorical technique called reductio ad absurdum to demonstrate the absurdity of Eliadis's argument. He wasn't calling Eliadis a drunken pedophile; he was pushing Eliadis's own argument to its logical extreme.

2 - Eliadis and Lynch appear to have missed the point.

Does this surprise me? No. After all, the is not the first time that context and references to popular culture have completely escaped Eliadis and Canada's human rights racket. As Kathy Shaidle and I wrote in Tyranny of Nice:
Pearl Eliadis is well-known human rights lawyer and a former director of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The National Post reports that during a panel discussion at a national human rights conference, Eliadis denounced popular blogger Blazing Catfur as "poisonous" for having compared the panel to a "Texas cage match." Ms Eliadis probably wasn't clear on exactly what a "Texas cage match" was, but she certainly didn't like the sound of it.

Yes, Canada’s human rights industry is really that clueless about popular culture. What many ordinary Canadians consider a staple of Monday night wrestling, or merely a commonplace idiomatic expression, the commissions and tribunals trumpet as potential hate crimes. One can imagine the hysterics were someone to accidentally expose them to Weird Al Yankovic’s song “White and Nerdy”.
Which is what scares me. Lynch and Eliadis have directed Canada's two largest government "human rights" commissions. Yet in their public statements neither individual shows understanding of context or popular culture.

This is ironic given how Lynch ends her speech:
Today, many Canadians’ perception of our human rights system has been, in large part, informed by the misinformation and spin of our critics. Many no longer see the connection between the societal values that they cherish and the organizations that are there to promote and protect those values.
Jennifer, Canadians have a poor perception of the country's human rights racket because white overlords (like you) are disconnected from the context of the discussion, as well as from average Canadians and what they value. People like my hunting buddy. He might not hail from a privileged white background - his skin is red and he lacks a LLB from a prestigious law faculty - but he understands context and culture.


Blake said...


nice job - the more these commissions are exposed to the light of day the more they scurry to hide from that same light...


mbrandon8026 said...

How did something so fundamental and for which our parents and grandparents gave their lives get to be an oxymoron, Human Rights?
Jennifer Lynch has rights. Pearl Eliadis has rights. Gays got rights. Stephen Boissoin, Ezra Levant, Kathy Shaidle, Alphonse de Valk and anyone else who speaks out in a way that can be construed as not politically correct isn't really human anyway and therefor gets no rights.
Preach it brother. The truth is very freeing.

Just being honest said...

I find Lynch's interpretation of Steyn's comments even scarier than you do. I think she knew exactly and understood what the context was, she just chose to ignore it to support her point. You seem to think she's not that sharp, I think she's just dishonest.