Boo extremism, hooray free speech

Lately we’ve been hearing a lot about the disgraceful and questionable acts of a very small (and extreme) minority that unfortunately end up tarnishing the good standing of a community at large.

To attribute the actions of a handful of radicals to the behaviour of an entire group of people is, by definition, prejudice, stereotyping, and unbecoming of the liberal society in which we find ourselves.

Perhaps most distressing to ‘moderate’ and ‘main-stream’ members of any community facing such misplaced blanket condemnation is that others will attribute these radical behaviours and actions to the entire community, while the vast majority of members are decent, law-abiding, and loyal citizens to this country.

Yes, a community should address extremism where it exists and correct it internally when they can. However, they are by no measure obligated, simply by their loose affiliation with those that would distort the good name of their community, to complete the task themselves without outside assistance and without the exersize of the broader society in which we all live.

To rout out extremism, it is the responsibility of the larger liberal society – by virtue of its very own code – to set the thresholds of anti-social behaviour. While radicals in our polite society practice (and are protected by) free speech, it is the responsibility of us all to marginalize and discredit such views if they run counter to our own liberties (free speech, freedom of religion etc.) To condemn an entire community for the actions of a few troublemakers has become an unfortunate by-product of recent events.

This is why I’m doubly troubled by a couple of developments.

On the Shotgun blog at the Western Standard, “RightGirl” wrote something which was contrary to this liberal society (ie. the banning of a religion practiced by 1.3 billion people for the unfortunate actions of a relative few members of that community). I found the comments to be troubling, an erosion of personal liberty, and innappropriate for rational and reasonable debate.

Of course, I was glad to see some members of my own community come out against “RightGirl”s discussion of banning Islam. It was a outlandish suggestion and it appears that she has retracted this main point.

However, the blanket condemnation of “the right-wing blogosphere” and specifically the “Blogging Tories” and/or the “Shotgunners” for the fringe opinion of one sole member (or even a few members) is akin to the ideological-based bigotry that critics themselves wanted to address.

RightGirl is entitled to her opinions in the free and liberal society and we are free to express ours. Our free society sorts out anti-social speech and puts it in its place.

I’m here to do that on both ends of this troubling, yet minor, debate. For RightGirl to condemn all Muslims for the actions of a few crazies is unfortunate and absurd. Similarly, for critics of RightGirl to apply their comments to the Blogging Tories community at large are guilty of that which they claim they wish to prevent.

It seems that bigotry has begotten bigotry.

The overall reaction to her original posting on the Shotgun (and her subsequent postings) are a reflection of our liberal society sorting out the wheat from the chaff. With that said RightGirl usually posts rational (if challenging) questions and given the reaction by some of her rational and well-argued critics, she has readjusted her position towards her usual level of sanity. As Joey Devilla responded on the topic,

“if we close the door on dialogue — remember, we’re only pointing blogs at each other, not bullets or rockets — what hope is there for the people actually aiming lethal weapons at each other?”

In this liberal society, we must also abhor censorship. RightGirl has been a member of Blogging Tories for quite some time and I encourage all members of the community (and the broader society) to applaud individuals when they make well-reasoned arguments and to criticize them when they don’t. We must marginalize extreme opinion where we can, but we must also engage it as fellow conservatives (and Canadians) that disagree.