Oct 052002

Canadian Customs seems to believe that pamphlets entitled “A Moral Defense of Israel” may constitute “obscenity or hate-propaganda.” These were to be distributed for a lecture by the noted obscene hate-speakers at the Ayn Rand Institute.

Of course it is impossibly stupid to confiscate this particular pamphlet, even according to the Customs guidelines, which say, according to the National Post story, “that ‘full recognition should be given to freedom of expression’ and goods that may constitute hate propaganda will not be classified, for example, if they express a religious opinion in good faith or are discussing a matter of public interest.” Surely Israel’s right to exist constitutes a matter of public interest. The Customs officials finally released the pamphlets, after three days. But the real evil is the guidelines — the idea that someone can decide what constitutes “hate speech” in the first place — not the particular stupidity.

Silver Lining Dept.: I wouldn’t be surprised if this incident prompts a public reconsideration of “hate speech” statutes, simply because of its monumental idiocy. Hard cases often make bad law, and easy cases sometimes make good law, for similar reasons.

(Thanks to Arthur Silber for pointing out this horror.)

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