Eddie Greenspan rakes in the big bucks as a criminal defense lawyer in Toronto. Recently he gave a speech at the Hebrew University’s Halpert Center for Canadian Studies (what the hell is there to study?), where he spoke out against hate speech laws in democracies. He believes they have the opposite effect, giving unnecessary attention and publicity to hatemongers such as antisemites Ernst Zundel and Jim Keegstra who would otherwise have remained unknown.

In Canada, [Greenspan] said, “the distinction between talk and action has almost disappeared…They wanted to try to make Canada a nicer place in which to live…Somehow, they suggested the idea that liberal means nice, that the liberal, intellectual system fosters sensitivity, toleration, self-esteem, rejection of prejudice and bias.”

He believes this approach is misguided because it suggests that people with opinions that hurt others are criminals.

“This most dangerous principle has now been established as a social right,” he said. “Thou shalt not hurt others with words.” Greenspan said this attitude has been a menace in Canada for the past 10 years, not only to civil liberties but also to everyone’s right to liberal inquiry.

There is a great deal of truth to what he says.

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  • I was just discussing with a friend Noam Chomsky’s defense of a holocaust denier’s right to express his views. In some ways I see how prohibiting such a thing focuses undue attention on deniers. On the other hand, do I really trust people to intelligently reject these ideas if they are exposed to them? How can I? I’ve seen how susceptible people are to this type of hate speech/denial, and part of me would rather that they never even get to hear it in the first place. No faith in humanity I guess. But can you blame me? Peep history. I’m for French-style laws prohibiting denial altogether. Truth is truth. Why sanction lies? It places them on equal footing legally with the truth and that defies logic. I’m just sayin.

  • I think what Greenspan is saying is not that we are sanctioning their speech, but rather not taking it to the level where it is equal, in the perception of the harm it causes, to physical harm. He is also saying that these laws can have a detrimental effect in the opposite direction.

  • well, I have a special hate in my heart for Greenspan since he helped get a girl off on drunken driving charges… a girl who killed my 26 year old (Jewlicious!) best friend, Shane. He used his wiley tactics and she was set free. Now I tune out whenever I hear him speak about anything. Coz all I learned from him was that money CAN buy your way out of anything, including killing someone.