Friday, January 15, 2010

Stop The Hate!

Racism, hate propaganda, and bike haters have long been part of the Canadian experience. Native peoples were deprived of their lands and marginalized in poverty by Canadian society. Today,' aboriginal land claims and the quest for self-government occupy a significant part of the current political agenda of most Canadian provinces. There is also evidence of rampant anti-Semitism in the early days of Canada. Today the glorification of harming cyclist has become part of the mainstream consciousness. While there is almost universal agreement on the need for, and support of, effective laws to deal with hate propaganda in Canada, no such sentiment exists for propaganda promoting violence against cyclists. The Canadian anti-hate laws in the Criminal Code are the result of years of debate concerning the balance between individual and group rights. Perhaps this Face Group is the beginning of the struggle to recognize that bigotry, intolerance and the promotion of anti-bike sentiment has no place in civil society. The are human rights codes, and other legislative provisions that support the anti-discrimination and anti-hate laws of Canada, but enforcing anti-hate in the internet age is more problematic. The Criminal Code isn't supposed to prohibit foolish hotheads spouting off. It's supposed to prohibit extreme forms of hate propaganda that raise a serious threat of harm (e.g., promoting violence against cyclists). That anti-bike gourp are publicly inciting and promoting hatred against cyclist. Online communications that advocate wilfully promote or incite hatred are likely to fall within the provisions of the law because the Internet is a public network, but unlikely to be a crime because it is not based on race, religion etc. When people see hate on the Net, they just say: "Well, what can I do about it?" And they move on. But the only way people can start to get rid of the hate against bikes is by taking some interest in the ways in which we, as human beings, can prevent hate from spreading. Granted, it’s not always easy to tell whether hateful online content is actually illegal, rather than just offensive and annoying. Sometimes material can only properly be defined as illegal by the courts. Still, the courts can’t prosecute what they don’t know about—so public response is crucial. If people want to do something about hate material they see on the Internet, there are several options including contacting the ISP. I would add that the active promotion of tolerance, understanding and dialogue is also an important response to bigots, and ignorant loud mouths.

Keep the rubber down and share the roads!

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