Wednesday, August 08, 2007

in defence of Stephen Taylor

Stephen Taylor and Blogging Tories have taken a lot of flak for a request that the comments prompting a human rights complaint against Free Dominion not be re-posted on Blogging Tories and a warning that any damages incurred because of another blogger will be recovered through legal action.

I believe that not only is it not non-conservative or non-libertarian for the site to make this statement, I think it's simply an excerise of the rights that libertarians (and, to a lesser extent, conservatives) fight for for all Canadians.

Full disclosure: I am friends with Stephen Taylor, and am therefore more prone to defending him than most.

Anyway, some people have criticized Taylor for not being willing to re-post these comments in defiance of the CHRC. Well, if you think it's the right thing to do, go do it on your own blog and tell everyone who will listen that it's the right thing to do, but stop there. But keep in mind it's easy to make that kind of criticism when you're not the one being sued and/or charged. If Taylor knew that he could afford to fight the battle it's possible that he could have reacted to the situation very differently.

However, to insist that Blogging Tories takes on the blame and damages for comments made by anyone other than its owners (or even to be upset that they won't shoulder the blame and/or the damages on (your) principle) is not conservative, nor libertarian, nor anything resembling responsible.

It's not at all unreasonable to warn bloggers that if a site is sued for their comments, damages will be sought from them. Stephen Taylor and Blogging Tories (and, for that matter, FreeDominion) are much more suceptible to legal troubles because of their success. (Conrad Black or Martha Stewart, anyone?) If they cross whatever line has been arbitrarily drawn up by the CHRC or any other regulatory agency the government has dreamed up, they're going to pay the price long before most bloggers would even show up on the radar.

The second, and more aggravating, assertation I've seen in a few places that Stephen Taylor must be opposed to freedom of speech if he's not allowing these comments to be posted on Blogging Tories. Any blogger who doesn't want offensive nonsense in their comments has probably run into this accusation at some point.

Not allowing certain things that could get you sued (or that will hurt your relationships with your sources, or you just find offensive) on your aggregator (or on your blog, or your lawn for that matter) is not an infringement on free speech.

If Stephen Taylor was lobbying the government to not allow people to re-post anything that provoked the wrath of the CHRC, then we could talk about Taylor vs. Free Speech, but as it stands he's simply stating what he's allowing on his website.

Everyone is still free to go off and post to their own blog, message board, web site or aggregator and write whatever the hell they want, and be responsible for any legal battles they enter as a consequence themselves. (Whether or not the launching of legal action because of what you've said is warranted is a topic for another day.)

In response to that, you might argue that since Blogging Tories allows people to reach a much wider audience, writing on a blog or message board not affiliated with Blogging Tories will not have as large an impact. Well, tough. Agree with Taylor or not, you certainly don't have a right to the benefits his site offers - property rights, folks.

Would I run the site differently? Sure, I would. But it probably wouldn't be as successful, and unless i buy it, it's none of my business anyway. At the end of the day, Steve pays the bills, he calls the shots. There's nothing more libertarian, or conservative, than that.

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