Not Without a Fight

Published April 10, 2008

New Criterion: Free Speech in an Age of Jihad

It’s been less than a year since the phenomenon of “libel tourism” first broke into public consciousness in the United States. On August 10, 2007, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that Britain’s Cambridge University Press had agreed to pulp all unsold copies of the 2006 book Alms for Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World.

In several passages, embedded in a much broader study, Alms for Jihad suggests that businesses and charities associated with one of the world’s richest men, the Saudi banker Khalid bin Mahfouz, helped to finance terrorism during the 1990s. Bin Mahfouz’s threat of a libel suit in Britain was sufficient to extract from Cambridge University Press not only an agreement to pulp the book, but also a public apology, payment of substantial damages, legal fees, and a pledge to contact libraries worldwide with a request that they remove Alms for Jihad from their shelves.

Ill-advised libel laws that trade our liberties for the convenience of criticism-averse politicians and minorities are a luxury the West simply cannot afford. We are no longer peering anxiously over the slippery slope — ­we are careening headlong straight down it.

In the face of this legal challenge, Alms for Jihad’s American authors, the academic historian Robert O. Collins and J. Millard Burr, a retired employee of the U.S. State Department, stood by their work, offered evidence in support of their book’s assertions to Cambridge, and refused to join in the press’s apology. Indeed the manuscript of Alms for Jihad had been vetted and approved by Cambridge’s in-house lawyers prior to publication. Yet the mere threat of a suit in a British court was enough to push this publisher to abandon Alms for Jihad without a fight.

The specter of an American-authored book on terrorist financing being physically destroyed, its copies pulled off of library shelves, its authors’ defenses ignored, and obsequious apologies offered­ all because of the mere threat of a suit in British courts ­had American bloggers (myself included) in full cry. Alarm grew as readers flooded onto the,, Alibris and other internet book sites trying to secure copies of Alms for Jihad. In real-time full-virtual-view of the blogosphere, the book was withdrawn from sale on all these sites and more. As outrage grew, the price of this instantaneously rare book rose astronomically.

The battlefield now shifted to the libraries. This was only the second time in nearly a quarter-century that Cambridge University Press had called on libraries to remove a book from their shelves. Would America’s institutions of higher learning bow to Cambridge and withdraw Alms for Jihad? Rather than wait to find out, readers rushed to save the book from destruction by borrowing and holding it ­perhaps even surreptitiously reproducing and circulating it. Numerous libraries reported missing copies, while others placed the book either behind the reserve desk or in rare-book collections.

Finally, on August 14, 2007, four days after the public controversy broke, the Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association issued a statement recommending that libraries refuse Cambridge’s request and keep the book available. The ALA statement noted the stark difference between libel law in Britain, where the burden of proof is on the accused, and America, where the burden falls on the plaintiff. Given claims by many that bin Mahfouz was attempting to use Britain’s plaintiff-friendly libel laws to silence critics, and given the fact that American libraries were under no legal obligation to destroy Alms for Jihad without an order from an American court, the ALA argued that “intense interest in the book, and the desire of readers to learn about the controversy first hand” ought to hold sway.

Although existing library copies had been saved, the Alms affair felt to many like a true-life scene from Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451. The hero of this 1951 classic was a professional book-burner in a future where literature had been banned. Fahrenheit 451 is the kindling temperature of paper–­the temperature at which a book will autoignite­–essential information for professional book-burners everywhere, and perhaps nowadays for select Gulf-based financiers and British judges as well.

If the Alms for Jihad mini-scandal were an isolated case, its resonance with Bradbury’s novel might be dismissed as a mere curiosity. In fact, however, this seemingly bizarre case of pulped non-fiction turned out to be the spark igniting public awareness of a far more pervasive problem. Not one book, but possibly as many as thirty-six books containing passing mentions of bin Mahfouz’s financial activities, have been suppressed by the threat or reality of British libel suits. More important, the chilling effect of these suits has rendered publishers worldwide reluctant to accept material that touches upon terror-network financing. To see how a “touring” Saudi banker, suing American authors and publishers in a British court, has sent a chill over book publishers and news organizations worldwide, we’ll need to consider the case of libel tourism’s most famous victim: Rachel Ehrenfeld.

A sometime advisor to the U.S. Department of Defense, Ehrenfeld serves as the director of the New York-based American Center for Democracy. Since before 9/11, she’s been a pioneering investigator of the shadowy financial networks that are terrorism’s hidden lifeblood. Ehrenfeld’s 2003 book, Funding Evil, reported that the Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz was tied to charities that deposited tens of millions of dollars into terrorist bank accounts. This is the same bin Mahfouz whose threatened libel suit led to the pulping of Alms for Jihad. As in that and many similar cases, bin Mahfouz took Ehrenfeld to court in Britain, where libel laws are highly favorable to plaintiffs.

How could a resident of Saudi Arabia bring a British libel suit to bear on a book published in America? A few dozen copies of Funding Evil sold in Britain over the internet were deemed sufficient by a British court to claim jurisdiction. With these few sales, a book published in the United States, and therefore protected by the First Amendment and American law, fell under a shadow from abroad. By American legal standards, Ehrenfeld’s allegations regarding bin Mahfouz were fully and properly sourced from reputable journals, magazines, lawsuits, government documents, and Ehrenfeld’s personal contacts with government officials. The former CIA director R. James Woolsey wrote the introduction to Alms for Jihad. The Saudi financier was in any case discussed on only a handful of pages in Ehrenfeld’s book. Now, however, without financial resources of her own, Ehrenfeld faced an extended legal battle with one of the richest men in the world­under a law that effectively presumed her guilt.

In response, Ehrenfeld refused to contest bin Mahfouz’s suit and instead boldly denied British jurisdiction over a strictly American-published book. To drive home the point, the second edition of Ehrenfeld’s contested volume included a discussion of the bin Mahfouz lawsuit and jacket copy advertising Funding Evil as: “The book the Saudis don’t want you to read.” None-too-pleased with Ehrenfeld’s defiance, British Justice David Eady­the presiding judge in the majority of notorious libel-tourism cases­ ordered Ehrenfeld to apologize to bin Mahfouz, retract, pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages, and destroy all copies of her book.

lthough Ehrenfeld refused to comply, this British judgment has cost her dearly. A frequent traveler to London for research purposes, Ehrenfeld must now avoid Great Britain for fear of arrest. Although the sourcing of Funding Evil is entirely unobjectionable by American standards, Ehrenfeld now stands stigmatized–­convicted of libel. Even in America, knowing that a few internet purchases could bring a new book under attack overseas, publishers now shun her work. One of Ehrenfeld’s key sources of income­ — not to mention one of America’s key sources of life-saving information on terrorist infrastructure­ — is now cut off.

Worse still, any American author or news outlet interested in exposing terror-finance networks must now fear a British suit. So-called “libel chill” has descended upon a field of investigation essential to the war on terror, and likely suppresses publications on related topics as well.

By cleverly refraining from seeking to enforce his decision against Ehrenfeld in American courts, where he would almost surely fail, bin Mahfouz has effectively paralyzed an entire sub-field of American authors. Even without a direct legal attack in American courts, the stigma of a British libel judgment and the threat of more such judgments against any American publisher with a presence on the internet or overseas suffices to silence opponents. In effect, the internet-driven internationalization of publishing is nullifying America’s First Amendment protections, and subjecting the world’s authors to the standards of the weakest link in the international legal chain.

Fortunately, Ehrenfeld is fighting back. Although the case has saddled her with hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and severely inhibited her own work, Ehrenfeld has gone to war with bin Mahfouz in American courts, seeking a ruling that English libel judgments violate the First Amendment and are therefore void in the United States. Although several courts have declined to rule on the underlying issues for lack of jurisdiction, New York’s Court of Appeals referred the issue to the state legislature for resolution. And in fact, a mere ten days before the convening of this conference, the New York state legislature passed the Libel Terrorism Protection Act, otherwise known as “Rachel’s Law,” with the purpose of protecting American authors, news organizations, and publishers from being terrorized by the threat of foreign defamation law suits.

A notable feature of Rachel’s Law was bipartisan sponsorship of the bill, unanimous votes for passage, and support from a wide array of organizations representing American writers, news outlets, and publishers. With luck, Rachel’s Law will serve as the model for a similar — ­perhaps even tougher — ­federal law.

Unfortunately, the libel tourism battle is not yet won, and in fact will not be fully won, even if a badly needed national version of Rachel’s Law finally passes. Indeed, libel tourism itself is only one aspect of a growing assault on freedom of speech occasioned by the war on terror and the growth of Muslim immigrant populations throughout the West, a significant portion of which have not yet adopted Western mores of liberty.

This point was driven home four months after the Alms for Jihad affair, in December of 2007, when an article in Maclean‘s, Canada’s most widely read news magazine, by Mark Steyn, a Canadian writer living in America, became the object of complaints filed by the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) before several of Canada’s Human Rights Commissions. Dubbed “columnist to the world,” because his opinion pieces are published and widely followed in nearly every corner of the English-speaking world, Steyn had run an excerpt from his bestselling book, America Alone, in Maclean‘s. Steyn’s concerns about the cultural impact of large and relatively unassimilated Muslim immigrant populations on the West (Steyn’s article was as much a critique of the West’s loss of cultural confidence as of failed immigrant assimilation) did not sit well with the CIC.

Canada’s Human Rights Commissions (HRCs) had been founded in the 1970s to deal with cases of job and housing discrimination. Yet a provision similar to Europe’s hate-speech laws soon permitted these commissions to hear cases involving speech “likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt.” Free speech advocates have long opposed HRC attacks on speech, which extended even to imposing penalties on traditional Christians for upholding their own views on homosexuality. Yet the activities of these commissions were largely ignored until the dramatic advent of the Steyn case­wherein Canada’s leading magazine came under legal assault for excerpting a book by a bestselling Canadian author.

I don’t think it’s too strong to say that the CIC’s Human Rights Commission complaint against Mark Steyn is a totalitarian document. If the complaint carries — ­or is even partially vindicated­ — public discourse in Canada on the war on terror, Muslim immigration, and related topics will be transformed out of all recognition. It is as if, instead of simply rebutting or railing against conservatives and Republicans, liberal Democrats in the United States went to the Supreme Court and had the right side of the blogosphere and nearly all conservative opinion magazines placed into receivership. It is evident that the complainants are aware of this ambition. They announce their determination to reshape fundamentally a kind of journalism “that has become increasingly pervasive in Canada in the last few years.” Read closely, the CIC’s complaint is not really levied against any particular factual claim or rhetorical move. It is instead a request that vast sections of heretofore legitimate reporting and opinion journalism be banned.

Even a failed complaint would have a chilling effect on public discourse. Complaints accepted by Canada’s HRCs are investigated and prosecuted free of charge to plaintiffs, while the accused must foot huge legal bills. The mere threat of the spectacle and its cost suffices to shut down debate on controversial issues, especially for outlets and commentators less prominent that Steyn and Maclean‘s.

Is this simply a Canadian affair­ — an artifact of Euro-style hate-speech laws with little relevance for Americans protected by the First Amendment? No, it is not. The assault on Steyn and Maclean’s bears on American concerns in several ways. Steyn’s work for foreign newspapers is immensely popular in America, transmitted across borders instantaneously by the internet. An attack on Steyn in Canada is thus effectively an attack on Steyn in America as well.

And while it’s true that neither Canadian Human Rights Commissions nor British libel laws have direct counterparts in the United States, there are already glimmerings of parallels. Jeffrey Breinholt, a former Deputy Chief of the Counterterrorism Section at the U.S. Department of Justice, has compiled a long list of libel lawsuits by American Muslims and Muslim organizations against newspapers, magazines, public figures, internet chatrooms, etc. for their allegedly negative portrayals of Muslims or Islam. Although nearly every case pursued to its legal conclusion is eventually dismissed in favor of the defendants, the prohibitively expensive legal fees mean that settlement is sometimes the best option. Breinholt emphasizes that known cases may be merely the tip of the iceberg, with many more instances of quiet settlement or self-censorship likely. So even without a direct counterpart to Canada’s Human Rights Commissions, and even with defendant-friendly law, libel litigation in American courts is being used to chill public debate.

Meanwhile, so-called “bias reporting systems,” often inviting anonymous accusations, are being set up at many American colleges and
universities. Like Canada’s HRCs, these bias reporting systems were initially established to police speech on questions of race or sexual orientation, yet are easily capable of being turned to suppress speech bearing on the war on terror or Muslim immigration. In effect, a rough equivalent of Canada’s HRCs is already present on many American university campuses, and may in time spread to America at large.

The initial response to the Canadian HRC suit against Steyn and Maclean’s was not particularly encouraging. True, there were a number of powerful opinion pieces from Canadian conservatives voicing outrage over the complaint and profound concern about the very existence of a parallel institution divorced from the protections of Canadian law and dedicated to the policing of public speech. It’s also true that the same set of largely conservative and libertarian American bloggers that sounded the alarm on the Alms for Jihad scandal was again in full cry over the assault on Steyn, and this did not go unnoticed in Canada. Nonetheless, in the absence of concerns expressed by liberal and left-leaning Canadians committed to a classically liberal view of free speech, Canada looked set to accede to its HRCs and effectively shut down public debate on the war on terror and the cultural challenges posed by Muslim immigration.

The tide began to turn about a month after Steyn and Maclean‘s were accused. Ezra Levant, a blogger and former publisher of Canada’s Western Standard, was hauled before a Human Rights Commission in January of 2008 for the supposed hate-crime of reprinting the Danish cartoon caricatures of Mohammed. Levant managed to videotape his interrogation, and the spectacle of a journalist being interrogated by a bureaucrat for his supposed thought-crimes became an instant hit on the internet. Once again, dystopian science fiction seemed to spring to life, as the slippery slope from hate-speech legislation to the suppression of fundamental political debate played out for all to see on the worldwide web.

Three months later, the case against Steyn and Maclean‘s remains unresolved, yet political momentum in Canada has clearly shifted against the HRCs. Levant’s tireless exposure of HRC abuses on his weblog has brought the sordid truth about these speech suppression mechanisms to light. It turns out that, to date, no speech defendant has ever been acquitted of a case brought before a Canadian HRC. These commissions effectively act simultaneously as investigator, lawyer, and judge, and the 100 percent conviction rate means that, as in British libel cases, we are looking at de facto presumption of guilt.

Some Canadian officials now receive more mail protesting HRC abuse than on any other issue. Alan Borovoy, a prominent Canadian civil liberties advocate who helped establish the HRCs, has turned against them, declaring the hate speech laws now supervised by HRCs as fundamentally at odds with their original charter and intention. When a Liberal Canadian MP named Keith Martin finally joined the fray and offered a motion to abolish Canada’s notorious hate-speech statute, a dam seemed to break. All of a sudden, civil libertarian liberals in Canada began to line up against the HRCs. Popular television comedians lampooned them­a death knell if ever there was one.

Already on the run, Canada’s speech policing Human Rights Commissions faced their most disastrous embarrassment less than two weeks ago, when, after considerable resistance, their own investigators were put on the stand and forced to reveal their methods. It turns out that investigators were acting as internet agents provocateurs, logging onto websites under assumed names and leaving hateful comments designed to provoke incriminating agreement from their targets. To operate this deception, investigators assumed the identities of innocent citizens, totally unaware that their internet connections and identities had been commandeered for this purpose. The ugly, totalitarian feel of these revelations has deeply damaged the reputation of Canada’s Human Rights Commissions, and fundamental reform or abolition now seems a very real possibility.

So the eight months from August 10, 2007 through April 10, 2008 have seen a growing wave of concern in North America about novel threats to freedom of the press and freedom of speech­ — often internet-based and international in scope. How should we understand these emerging threats to freedom of speech and opinion? What elements unite them? And how can they best be overcome?

To begin to answer these questions, consider the very thoughtful but finally, I would argue, wrong-headed approach to the Ehrenfeld case, by the novelist and First Amendment lawyer Julie Hilden. Hilden sees the Ehrenfeld affair as a “clash of cultures.” America, says Hilden, values speech and openness, while Britain so values reputation and privacy that it “errs in favor of what is, in effect, government censorship” by the courts. Although Hilden favors U.S. libel law on its merits, she is loathe to create “yet another instance of America imposing its way upon the world.” So instead of pushing for libel reform in Britain, Hilden suggests that the United States and Britain sign a “defamation treaty,” which would define the circumstance in which each country would surrender jurisdiction to the greater interest of the other in any particular case.

This bit of legal multiculturalism, I would suggest, is precisely the wrong way to look at the problem we face. There may well be cases where long-standing, profound, and deeply rooted cultural differences make it difficult to adopt uniform policies across international borders, but the foundational freedom of speech, press, and opinion in the West is not one of them. The West shares a long and deep tradition of rights-based political freedom, as well as a common legal culture that treats defendants as innocent until proven guilty. We discard these principles and protections at our peril, and peril is exactly what we face today. Whether our traditions of freedom have been traduced by nineteenth-century British libel laws or 1970s-vintage hate-speech laws, it’s long past time for Europe and North America to return to first principles.

Ill-advised libel laws that trade our liberties for the convenience of criticism-averse politicians and minorities are a luxury the West simply cannot afford. We are no longer peering anxiously over the slippery slope — ­we are careening headlong straight down it. The fundamental reason that our liberties have survived their negation in libel laws that effectively treat defendants as guilty, or Human Rights Commissions empowered to police and suppress the expression of political opinion, is that we in the West do in fact share a profound faith in liberty.

If we occasionally traduce our own freedoms with ill-advised laws, yet survive, this is only because our underlying culture of freedom ultimately moderates and controls the operation of these laws. And so it is that the arrival in the West of large populations from Middle Eastern societies, where a culture of liberty cannot be taken for granted, seizes upon our most ill-conceived laws — ­shamelessly exploiting every hole in our liberty that we have been so foolishly complacent as to allow.

Citizens well-schooled in liberty, whether immigrant or native-born, would blush to bring suit against the mere expression of political opinion, however offensive. In the hands of those without such schooling, our imperfect laws have been turned into tools for the suppression of speech. The cultural challenge posed by immigration from outside the West is rapidly forcing every slippery slope. Our margin for error is lost, and the time for complacency is over.

Julie Hilden is right about one thing, however. Not only the cultural challenge of immigration, but the globalizing power of the internet is forcing these issues. Hilden points out that
reputation is rapidly becoming a global affair. If it is unfair to allow British libel law to negate the First Amendment for Americans, the passage of a national Rachel’s Law combined with the power of the internet would inevitably subject personal reputation outside of the United States to American free speech standards.

To my mind, this does not suggest the need for defamation treaties, the operation of which will in any case be disputed, and inevitably end up trampling on one country or another’s laws and mores. What the internationalization of reputation suggests instead is that laws of speech and libel worldwide are now up for grabs. On the matter of speech, the internet will inevitably push the world either toward a chaos of competing laws and norms, or force a gradual uniformity, which will be closer to the pole of liberty or the pole of restriction, depending on how we act now. What’s needed, therefore, is a common front on behalf of liberty throughout the West­a coalition that will fight to abolish abominations to freedom such as Canada’s Human Rights Commissions, Britain’s libel laws, and America’s campus bias reporting systems.

It is simply not the case that we are dealing with stable national traditions, or a strictly American belief in classic liberal principle. On the contrary, speech and libel laws throughout the West are very much in motion, and powerful voices in every Western country speak both for and against freedom, as classically understood. Many Americans, sadly, defend and promote the de facto speech laws embodied in campus bias reporting systems, but increasing numbers of Canadians speak out against so-called Human Rights Commissions, and growing numbers of Britons call for a reform of outdated libel laws. This is not America against the world, but the West in search of itself.

Let’s bust some myths. It’s certainly true that Canada’s Human Rights Commissions (like Europe’s hate-speech laws) are wielded chiefly by minorities, immigrants, and those on the left against Christians and those who lean right — ­a fact that points to their status as illegitimate and illiberal weapons of political-cultural warfare. Yet left-liberals are far from untouched by the new assault on speech. Craig Unger’s House of Bush, House of Saud, an American bestseller, and a book beloved of Bush opponents during the 2004 presidential election, was banned in Britain under the same libel laws that suppress Rachel Ehrenfeld. Ruling against another British libel decision, the European Court of Human Rights declared that free speech rights of anti-corporate protesters had been violated when they were forbidden to hand out leaflets against what they believed to be economic, ecological, and humanitarian malpractices by McDonald’s Restaurants. With McDonald’s deep pockets and an effective presumption of guilt, it was impossible for these protesters’ allegations to pass muster in British court. Here, in an attack on the left of the political spectrum, lies a slippery slope from British libel law to the end of political freedom. To call this banning of anti-McDonald’s leafleting a product of British culture is an offense to the liberties of us all, born as they were in Britain, our mother country.

The only long-standing cultural tradition at stake in this battle is our tradition of freedom. For the most part, the laws in question are of comparatively recent vintage. Even America’s expanded libel protections in the wake of the New York Times v. Sullivan case are mere decades old, and still evolving. Canada’s Human Rights Commissions are likewise but decades old­young enough for one of their founders to have spoken out against what they have become. Britain’s libel law is also very much in motion. The so-called “Reynolds defense,” which expands speech protection in libel cases for responsible journalism in the public interest, is less than fifteen years old. Even now, the same Mr. Justice Eady who has rendered notorious decisions in the Ehrenfeld and Alms for Jihad cases is working to pare the Reynolds protections back. And only last week we saw calls in Australia to shift the burden of proof in hate-speech cases onto the defendant. We are not talking about well-established and divergent national traditions but a war within the West both for and against liberty, as classically understood.

Libel and speech laws in the West are even now in a highly contested state of rapid change. Immigration, globalization, and the internet have thrown every assumption and settled pattern into doubt. Our business today is not to compromise with incursions on our liberty but to battle alongside allies in every nation and continent to protect our freedoms before they are fatally eroded.

In truth, a national “Rachel’s Law” is the barest beginning of what is needed. Canada must abolish or reform its Human Rights Commissions, and a major reform of British libel law and European Holocaust denial and hate speech laws must follow. An impossible goal? I don’t believe so. Only a few months ago, the notion that Canada might abolish or radically reform its Human Rights Commissions would have seemed laughable. Today it is a likelihood.

If globalization and the internet have raised novel challenges to our freedoms, these forces hold salvation as well. Ezra Levant’s internet videos rocked Canada and have made the impossible possible. Support for Levant, Steyn, and Maclean‘s from American bloggers helped kick-start a campaign that Canadians themselves have now expanded many times over. Every time another house of the New York state legislature passes a version of Rachel’s Law, British papers wake up and take notice.

British news outlets on the Left as well as the Right have felt stung by Mr. Justice Eady’s decisions. Stephen Glover in the Independent has publicly attacked Mr. Justice Eady as “a threat to a free press,” and Geoffrey Wheatcroft in the far-from-conservative Guardian recently called for a fundamental overhaul of Britain’s libel laws. Rachel’s Law itself was cosponsored by legislators of both parties and passed both houses of the New York state legislature unanimously. The basis for a great cross-party coalition to restore and protect the West’s political liberties exists today across the Anglosphere, and in Europe as well. It’s up to us to activate it now.

Simply erecting a free-speech wall around America will not do. Even the essential first step of a national Rachel’s Law won’t restore Cambridge University Press as a resource for American authors who have long depended on this key outlet for their work. Nor will a national Rachel’s Law allow Ehrenfeld to disembark at Heathrow without fearing arrest. And the silencing of American terrorism experts undermines the already gravely imperiled special relationship between America and Britain, which cannot sustain itself without an exchange of information, especially on this most crucial and controversial topic of the terror war.

Our immediate goals are a national Rachel’s Law in the United States and fundamental reform­or better, abolition­of Canada’s so-called Human Rights Commissions. Although far from guaranteed, both achievements are in sight. So it’s time to set our sights on target number three­reform of Britain’s libel laws. If American bloggers and legislators have added momentum to reform movements in Canada and Britain, the effect of even partial victory over Canada’s Human Rights Commissions would be far greater. With the Canadian battle already attracting notice in Britain, victory in Canada could potentially wake up all of Europe to the dangers of its ill-starred hate-speech regimes.

Why not hold a conference in London, perhaps a year from now, to review the progress of Rachel’s Law in America, the HRC battle in Canada, and to press for libel and hate-speech reform in Britain a
nd beyond? Such a conference could draw substantial attention. The Canadian battle is our model. Although the mainstream American press has inexcusably ignored the Ehrenfeld battle, Canada’s mainstream media has finally caught on to the problem of the Human Rights Commissions. All it took was for a prominent man of good will on the Left to speak out on behalf of classic liberal values. Then the dam burst.

It will not be difficult to find such figures in Britain. The press on both the Right and Left is already restless with Britain’s libel regime. The real interest defending these laws are the very politicians who would need to authorize reform­since Britain’s officialdom views the current libel regime as a kind of personal protection from public criticism. An international conference in London, perhaps following victory in Canada, would shift momentum in favor of reform in Britain. Imagine Rachel Ehrenfeld addressing the conference by video, as she would need to do in order to avoid arrest. That would be a first-class news event, generating significant media coverage in Britain and beyond.

So there is a battle plan. Rachel’s Law today, Canada’s Human Rights Commissions tomorrow, Britain’s libel laws the day after, and Europe’s Holocaust denial and hate-speech laws after that. We can turn the tide on each of these issues, by following the Canadian model­building our case until friends of liberty on both sides of the aisle return to their own, and our own, first principles. With the pressures of globalization and immigration undercutting both legal tranquility and the taken-for-granted cultural assumptions that have heretofore sustained our freedoms, the time has come for a return to the classic liberalism that is the lifeblood and source of the West. To remain what we are, the West as a whole must rediscover and reestablish, on the firmest possible footing, our own traditions of freedom. We all hang together or we all hang separately.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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