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 Posted Monday, February 15, 1999

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The Alberta Report
February 15, 1999

Stranger Than Fiction

by Kevin Michael Grace

[T]WO YEARS ago this column printed the prediction of antipodean politician Pauline Hanson: "Australia's president in 2050 will be 'Poona Li Hung.' a 'lesbian of Indian and Chinese background...a part-machine... produced by a joint Korean-Indian-Chinese research team," and commented that it was either the raving of a lunatic or a rather good joke.

Not considered was the possibility that Mrs. Hanson could be a prophet. What would have been the reaction if anyone had predicted 10 or even five years ago that British Columbia's media would soon be under the thumb of one Mary-Woo Sims, a Chinese lesbian activist from Toronto? The joke's on us.

Judge, Jury and Executioner

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, a subsidiary of Ms. Sims' Human Rights Commission, last week found journalist Doug Collins and the North Shore News guilty of publishing statements "likely to expose Jewish persons to hatred and contempt." Mr. Collins and the News were ordered to pay $2,000 to the complainant, Harry Abrams, a Victoria businessman, and to cease publishing similar offensive material.

The basis of Mr. Abrams' complaint was four 1994 columns that treated alleged Jewish influence in the media. A reading of the decision reveals the tribunal was forced to employ pseudoscientific jiggery-pokery to convict Mr. Collins. "Expert witness" Barbara Harris, a professor of linguistics, "applied a process known as discourse analysis to the four articles. Discourse analysis is also known as 'sociolinguistic analysis,' and it essentially looks at language in its interactional phase, as between... a writer and reader(s).'"

Mr. Collins was never accused of inciting hatred or violence against Jews. Indeed, as the decision admitted, "Individually, and taken out of context, each of the four columns at issue might not convey messages that meet the high threshold that is necessary to be considered hatred or contempt." No matter. Frances Henry, a professor of anthropology, had some damning context handy. She testified that "Racist expression has become subtler over the years. The subtle and less overt racist messages reflected in the four columns are more damaging that overt ones."

To sum up: a government tribunal has forbidden Mr. Collins to express his sinister subtle insinuations after a complaint from a Jewish activist. The activist's legal fees are at least partially paid for by the tribunal, which also recognizes as an intervenor the activist's pressure group, B'nai Brith. Mr. Collins has claimed repeatedly that a powerful Jewish lobby works to suppress the speech of those whose opinions it finds offensive. QED. Do these people understand the dangerous game they are playing?

An Open Secret

It is Mr. Collins' belief that the Jews "control" Hollywood. Truth is no longer a defence in British Columbia, but it remains of some interest, if only to scholars. The tribunal ruled the above belief a manifestation of anti-Semitism, but Benjamin J. Stein disgrees. And the multitalented Mr. Stein, frequently quoted in this space, can hardly be accused of being a "self-hating Jew." In January's The American Spectator he expresses (not for the first time) his sorrow with Jews who efface their ethnicity by changing their names or modifying their appearance through plastic surgery.

In an article a couple of years ago for E! Online, Mr. Stein argued that "Hollywood was not really 'run' by anyone (it's far too chaotic for that) [but] if Jews were about 2.5% of the population and were about 60% of Hollywood, they might well be said to be extremely predominant in that sector ...It is extremely clear to anyone in Hollywood that Jews are, so to speak, 'in charge' in Hollywood." Mr. Stein, justifiably proud of his people's achievement in the entertainment industry, concluded, "And a very angry voice in my curly head makes me add, 'What the hell of it?'"

Deconstructing Tony

English national soccer team manager Glenn Hoddle was sacked last week after he had declared that the crippled are condemned to suffer for sins committed in their previous lives. Even Prime Minister Tony Blair added his two pence worth. "What he seems to have forgotten in all this is that Britain has some of the most talented disabled athletes in the world" (London Daily Telegraph, February 3).

At first glance this appears to be the most inscrutable, not to say bizarre, statement made by any politician at any time on the subject. But with the use of Prof. Harris' exciting new tool of discourse analysis it is child's play to place Mr. Blair's "linguistic details in a social context" and translate his comment thus: "Some of my best friends play wheelchair basketball."

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