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?
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.