Blog crosses the line

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

February 5, 2008 Ed Cartoon

The government is currently investigating a student at the University of Toronto-Mississauga for hateful comments posted on his blog, specifically advocating the killing of Western soldiers in the Middle East, in addition to a number of anti-Semitic comments.

The student’s comments suggested that someone ought to kill Western soldiers in order to get Western nations out of the Middle Eastern theatre. There were further comments regarding the influence of Western Jewish people and the author’s desire to kill Jews.

While we value freedom of speech and expression, such a blog post obviously raises unsettling questions about limits for Internet content.

There is a fine line between what is and is not appropriate to publish online. While blogs ought to have a lesser standard of censorship than more institutionalized media outlets such as newspapers, that doesn’t give everybody a free pass to say anything they want online.

Bloggers often get away with racier and more controversial statements than mainstream media, but there’s a difference between controversy and hate literature.

This student’s comments are undoubtedly inappropriate and constitute hate " especially with regards to the anti-Semitic comments. As such, it is reasonable to say he should be monitored, if not punished.

Freedom of speech is a right that needs to be protected; it’s admirable for people to create an open dialogue on contentious issues.

However, it’s fair to say no real dialogue is necessary on issues like anti-Semitism, especially content that can be interpreted as a call to arms.

The government is right, then, to investigate this individual. It’s important to keep a close eye on this type of subject matter when it is so readily available to anybody with a modem.

This blog could plant the wrong ideas in its readers’ minds; while we’re in no position to determine whether this student’s blog is a legitimate call to arms, it should be noted that it appears that way.

It’s worth mentioning the difficulty of censoring or possibly marginalizing an already bitter group, and we need to remember that this individual is right in his own mind.

However, this issue has already received significant media attention and these thoughts are not serving constructive debate.

We have hate speech laws in effect for a reason " largely to prevent the distribution of, or access to, material like this.

Anti-Semitism is destructive, and there needs to be initiative on the part of our government to prevent it from being spread.

As such, the government is right to monitor this individual closely. It should investigate the avenues available to censor, if not punish him.

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