Tolerating the Obnoxious: A debate among the comrades

Christopher Hitchens says it was wrong to ban George Galloway from Canada.

What is at stake in all these cases is not just the right of the people concerned to travel and to take their opinions with them. It is also the right of potential audiences to make their own determination about whom they wish to hear. As a journalist, I can go and visit Hezbollah spokesmen and report back on what it’s like and what they say, but why should a reader have to take my word for it? The British House of Commons has room for a man as appalling as George Galloway; why should Canadians not have the chance to make up their own mind about him? If Geert Wilders is persuasive enough to get himself elected to parliament in The Hague, is there any reason to believe that the British people are so lacking in robustness that they need to be protected from what he has to say?

More here

Terry Glavin points out that

Galloway hasn’t even tried to enter Canada, remember. Instead, he has taken the opportunity to combine with his Canadian admirers to exploit the gullibility and general slovenliness of the press in order to tell a pack of lies, monger a lurid conspiracy theory about a secret plot hatched in Ottawa to silence critics of Canada’s engagements in Afghanistan, fabricate a free-speech controversy, and blame it all on the Jews.

That’s the story Hitchens missed, but he needn’t feel lonely, because he wasn’t the only one. It is a rare thing, though, when Christopher Hitchens falls for a story that never even happened. In all the foreign and domestic sniggerings, objections, protests and complaints about the way Canada and its officials have handled the Galloway file, you will have to look very hard before you find one – just one – that does not wholly depend upon an embarassing error of fact, a delusion, a conspiracy theory, or an outright lie.

Try it. You will be looking for a long, long time (see also Comrade Weiss, who has opened up a southern front for us on this point in The New Criterion).

To be clear: Despite what all Galloway’s friends will tell you, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney did not ban George Galloway from speaking in Canada, or from not speaking in Canada, and neither did any Canadian official do anything of the kind, either. It did not happen. It did not occur. And it won’t do to say, well, yes, but however you put it, the whole thing has only only served to draw more attention to Galloway and his “odious opinions.” Something has given Galloway the attention he craves, to be sure. But he hasn’t been given anything like the attention he properly deserves, and as for why this is so, well, that is a very good question. It is one of the more important questions raised by this whole affair, so I’ll take a shot at answering it.

The bigger story in which l’affaire Galloway is a kind of defining moment involves a phenomenon that is playing out on the same tectonic scale as the emergence of a distinctly Canadian democratic socialism in the 1930s, the Quiet Revolution in Quebec in the 1960s, and the rise of libertarian prairie populism in the 1990s. As is often the case in such upheavals, journalists are the last to notice.

Something wholly new is emerging in Canada, in all the spaces where the Left used to be, in its activist constituencies, its traditional institutions, and its lexicon. Whatever name you want to give the thing, its noticeable features include a betrayal of progressive internationalism, a pathetic weakness for conspiracy theories, and a routine apologetics for antisemitism and terror. Its outlook is generally parochial, but its global engagements tend to align with fascism’s contemporary Islamist variants, even to the point of objective support for the Taliban.

To read most Canadian newspapers, you probably wouldn’t have a clue that any of this was going on

It’s the same with British newspapers, Terry.

Read it all here
Listen to Terry on Canadian radio here

3 thoughts on “Tolerating the Obnoxious: A debate among the comrades

  1. Nick, I can’t help but feel that Glavin is being a little disingenuous here in saying that Galloway hasn’t tried to enter Canada and that all this is simply an opportunistic muckraking scam. Clearly, Galloway had been invited to speak in Canada, this month I believe, and had planned to fulfill these engagements. From what I understand of the case, his problem arose from the fact that he was concerned that he could be arrested and detained in Canada for breach of the section 34(1) of the Immigration Act ie engaging or supporting terrorism as a result of his Viva Palestina trip. Galloway has not been banned. He is subject to the same laws as anyone else entering Canada and is simply frightened that in the application of their own laws, the Canadians might arrest him. There is satisfaction to be had here: Galloway can no longer rest easy that his funding of Hamas will not have consequences for himself.

    While I agree with Glavin as to what the bigger issue here is, and to the way in which the real story was missed by the media, it is a little much to say that it arose out of nothing. On the contrary, it should be heartening to those who oppose Galloway that he has created this rod for his own back.

  2. Nick: Thanks for noticing. We should have a conversation sometime that begins: ‘Let us compare our lousy newspapers.’

    An update:Appended to his Slate column today, Christopher writes: “In my last column, it seems I may have done an injustice to the government and people of Canada in the matter of George Galloway’s canceled visit to that country. For elucidation, please consult the following blog post (and provides a link to my essay) . For my part, I should say, and I’ve told Hitch, that it was not so much that he didn’t do a lick of homework but that it was his references – Canada’s national newspapers – that led him astray.

    Hugh: I don’t know what is disingenuous about my essay, and I expect you didn’t finish reading it, because I certainly do not say “it arose out of nothing,” and I set out in some elaborate detail the things from which it arose, and offer an explanation in the way of a detailed hypothesis to explain why it happened. And I agree with you that “it should be heartening to those who oppose Galloway that he has created this rod for his own back,” and I’m heartened in precisely that way me own self.

  3. I wish to congratulate Mr Glavin for a very incisive deconstruction of the Galloway political persona and how it mirrors the collapse of the progressive left – both in Canada and the west generally. The recording of the interview Mr Glavin gives should be saved and reviewed regularly by those of us who think the condition of the democratic left is seriously damaged but not yet terminal.

    The crux of Glavin’s view of Galloway, the ‘ban’, and Galloway’s career, must be listened to in its entirety.

    Incidentally, I do not think Mr Glavin would have had the time to develop his complex and well argued case anywhere on the British media. He would have been attacked after thirty seconds and the substance of the interview would have been Glavin’s personality and politics, not those of Galloway or his supporters.

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