We recently wrote about press freedom in Canada.
It would be remiss to ignore the latest evidence of Canada’s growing intolerance towards free speech.
It involves Amy Goodman, co-founder of Democracy Now!, a US independent daily news broadcast, and author of Breaking the Sound Barrier, a collection of weekly columns.
She’d been invited to give a talk at the Vancouver Public Library.
Goodman drove north from Seattle and, after showing their passports, her party was detained at the Canadian border.
“What followed was a flagrant violation of freedom of the press and freedom of speech,” Goodman wrote on Rabble.ca, Canada’s nonprofit, independent journalism site, which broke the story.
The guard demanded Goodman’s notes for her speech.
She doesn’t use notes. The guard didn’t care.
“He would not back off,” she wrote.
Producing a copy of her book, she told him she starts each speech with a bit about Tommy Douglas. In Vancouver, she also planned to talk about Copenhagen’s climate summit and global warming and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The interrogator asked, “What else?” wrote Goodman.
He asked if they were talking about the Olympics.
Told that wasn’t the plan, the guard and his colleagues combed through their car, going as far as to boot and rifle through the files on two of their three laptop computers.
The border guards then issued documents ordering Goodman and her travel companions to leave Canada within two days. They were also told to check into the border agency when leaving.
You can bet their names were flagged in a database. We don’t know by whom.
Goodman was 90 minutes late for her talk. The crowd had been told about the detention. They waited for her.
It isn’t clear what Goodman talked about in the Vancouver Public Library that night, but we bet the Olympics and border security crept into the discussion.
Canadians can make excuses: the border guards were overzealous. The journo got uppity. It’s one case, what’s the big deal?
But there’s a pattern here.
And, while it involves national security, we seem less secure, not more.
International watchdogs have identified Canada as a place where freedom of the press is slipping.
And now, apparently, we’ve become a country where professional journalists, after producing their official travel documents, are detained at the border and grilled by agents of the state about what they are going to talk about at the library.
It needs to be noted that German- or Italian-style fascism is not likely to manifest itself in Canada.
Fascism doesn’t work like that. It’s more subtle.
It espouses a strong nationality.
It comes about through contempt for democracy and free speech.
It insists on obedience to a powerful leader, usually one who appeals to popular desires and prejudices, not rational arguments.
And it slips through by tapping the unique nationalism and icons of the country where it takes root.
That is, it comes on incrementally, wrapped in the flag.
Its symptoms are easy to dismiss and rationalize because fascism is both familiar and insidious. And unique to the nation.
And that’s what makes it so dangerous.