Walt just finished reading -- and recommends highly -- Egg On Mao, by Canadian author Denise Chong. (Random House Canada, 2009) It's a highly readable account of the life (so far) of Lu Decheng, a young man who threw a clutch of ink-filled eggs at the iconic portrait of Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square. This was in May 1989, just before the massacre of student protesters which even today may not be spoken of in China except in the most oblique terms.
We'll come to the risks of speaking truth to power in a moment. But first I want to recommend Egg On Mao as not just a polemic, but a great love story. Sometimes it reads like a novel -- very personal, very emotive -- but every word is true, as the author's notes confirm. Does the tale of brutality and repression have a happy ending? Well, first you must define "happy". Then you can read the book and find out.
Lu Decheng was not directly involved in creating the famous Free Speech Wall in Beijing just prior to the massacre, but, as Egg On Mao recounts, he and his companions plastered their own anti-dictatorship posters near the Gate of Heavenly Peace. Lu Decheng clearly approves of giving protesters space to express themselves.
So does Ian CoKehyeng, founder of Carleton Students for Liberty, a student activist group at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. (Denise Chong also lives in the world's second-coldest capital city, by the way.) Mr. CoKehyeng and his supporters thought it would be a good idea to set up a Free Speech Wall on the Carleton campus, to prove that free speech was alive and well, in spite of CU's tendency to ban speech it considers to be politically incorrect.
"What we wanted to promote was competition of ideas, rather than 'if I disagree with you I've got to censor you,'" the creators of the wall explained. So they installed a rather small and flimsy wall -- really just a wooden plank wrapped in paper -- in one of school's high-traffic areas, complete with a couple of magic markers with which people could write whatever they felt like.
That was on Monday. Not 24 hours later, the wall was gone, destroyed in an act of "forceful resistance," by one Arun Smith, a "human rights student" now in his seventh (7th!) year of studying and promoting "human rights" [like free speech? Ed.] at good ole CU.
Why did Smith do it? Because, he told reporters, the wall was an "act of violence against... [wait for it. Ed.]... the gay community." Mr. Smith is, you see, an "anti-homophobia" campaigner, or so he describes himself on Facebook.
Free speech is fine for him and all the others pushing the LGBT agenda -- see WWW earlier this week -- but not for people with contrary opinions. His twisted logic goes like this: "In organizing the 'free speech wall,' the Students for Liberty have forgotten that liberty requires liberation, and this liberation is prevented by providing space…for the expression of hate."
Yesterday CBC Radio -- always in the front lines of the war against "haters" -- asked Smith if he could explain himself a little more clearly. The answer was that the area around the Free Speech Wall was a "war zone", because the wall itself was nothing "but another in a series of acts of violence" against gays and gay rights.
He went on to call free speech an "illusory concept" and declared that "not every opinion is valid, nor deserving of expression." It's only his queer ideas that are "valid and deserving of expression", see?
Mr. CoKehyeng begs to differ. "Free speech is a friend of minorities, it shouldn't be people who feel marginalized in society who are trampling on free speech," he said. "Free speech is something you can't monopolize for yourself, you have to give it to everyone else." Indeed.
Commenting in the National Post on the ironies of this story, Jonathan Kay remembers seeing a Free Speech Wall last September at Bard College, in a private liberal arts school in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. (That's near Red Hook. You're welcome.)
Like its made-of-straw Carleton University equivalent [Mr. Kay writes], the Bard free-speech installation was 99% chalk-full of left-wing cant. But there were some heterodox opinions as well. And the best part was that it was a veritable brick-house of indestructibility: It's made of slate and steel. Should any "activist" want to destroy the thing because he didn't like what someone said about gay marriage or whatever, he would have to borrow his parents' car and then plow into it at ramming speed.
Why did the students of Bard build such a solid wall? Very simple. In the USA, unlike Canada, the freedom to express one's opinions is guaranteed by the Constitution, in the First Amendment. And Americans tend to take it seriously...at least at Bard College.
Lesson for Canuck free-speechers? Learn from the three little pigs. Use brick next time!
Comment on the CBC: Having been answerable to a Liberal government for decades, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation seems unable to adjust to having (nominal) Conservatives in power in Ottawa. They continue to give more-than-equal time to left-wingnuts like Arun Smith, and their propagandists ["reporters", surely! Ed.] listen respectfully to the veriest bullshit without batting an eyelash or cracking a smile. I don't know how they do it!
Footnote to book review: Denise Chong also wrote a moving account of what became of "the girl in the Vietnam photo". You remember the iconic [Stop overusing that word! Ed.] picture of the girl running down the road naked and on fire, having been doused with napalm made in Canada and dropped by Americans. Anyway, the book is called (appropriately enough) The Girl in the Picture.