Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Most of the time, I try to avoid saying anything about Ezra Levant that can be avoided. But his latest column for Canadian Lawyer is one which otherwise seems far too likely to slip through the cracks - so I'll make an exception to point out just how eager Levant is to try to label somebody - anybody! - as less than human in order to attack the fundamental underpinnings of human rights:
In 1830, British ship HMS Falcon, with 30 crew, seized a pirate ship with 250 men. One report said: “the little crew was in no small difficulty, after the capture of their disproportioned antagonist, what to do with their prisoners, who, as soon as they had an opportunity, showed symptoms of an attempt to overpower them.”

When they reached Ascension Island, the pirates were hanged in batches of 20, with only the pirate captain and first mate spared, to be taken to Bermuda to be tried — all completely lawful, given the exigencies of the case.

Pirates are a special legal class: hostis humani generis, or enemies of all mankind. They are legally similar to terrorists under the Geneva Convention — literally outlaws. We tend to think of the word “outlaw” to mean someone who himself ignores the law. It actually means the opposite: someone who is beyond the pale so far that the law will provide him no protection, and vigilantes, mercenaries, and anyone else who hunts him will be unstopped by the law.
Canada shouldn’t be playing the pirates’ game. We should be taking a page from the old HMS Falcon.
Now, I'd like to think that most readers would recognize that the developed world has learned a thing or two about the dangers of putting the power of summary execution into anybody's hands over the past couple of centuries. And one would expect that to go doubly for somebody who apparently spends the vast majority of his waking hours shrieking "tyranny! jackbooted thugs! Nazis!" at an administrative tribunal for daring to do its democratically-assigned job of trying to protect human rights.

But naturally, Levant's concern about the dangers of unfettered government power seems to end at exactly the point where he ceases to perceive any potential for it to be directed against him personally. When it comes to somebody who he figures he can safely label as "other", Levant goes several steps further than the Cons' apparent desire to start moving back toward capital punishment. Indeed, he's ready to start lumping together a group of sub-people who in his view shouldn't be protected by any principle of law (including any due process to determine whether they actually fall into the categories to which Levant is so eager to assign them).

So summary execution? Unbridled mercenary vigilantism? All fine for Levant - as long as the victim can be labeled as a "pirate". Or, by Levant's own connection, a "terrorist".

Of course, those terms are already in the process of being extended to apply to a wide swath of the population - with the act of downloading artistic content routinely classified as piracy by corporate copyright holders, and concern about the fate of innocent civilians in several parts of the world regularly labeled as support for terrorism by the same movement which provides Levant with his financial backing. And indeed, in some cases there are even concerted efforts afoot to drive people into exactly the type of activities which Levant thinks should strip them of their humanity.

Which presumably suits Levant and his ilk just fine, as anybody who follows his advice figures to offer another example for his next column as to who else should be tossed on the pile for summary disposal. But anybody who thinks that humanity (with its associated human rights) is inherent rather than being defined based on the whims of a society's most reactionary elements should pay attention to the fact that Levant is actively trying to convince people otherwise - and devalue his assertions elsewhere accordingly.

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