George Galloway Hanging Around Their Necks
Can the mayor of a Canadian city that officially endorses Stopwar realistically take a "council does not agree or disagree" stance on the provocative views of George Galloway, now that Stopwar is actively promoting and organizing the former British MP's high-profile cross-Canada tour? We don't think so.
Mark Steyn recently spoke on the effective strategy of a university student groups and allied organizations to target the supporters of the George Galloway Canadian tour organized by Stopwar: making it clear that if you want to associate with Stopwar or Galloway, be advised that your reputation may suffer for it. Here's a short excerpt from The Propagandist report, Mark Steyn. Decline of The West And Israel On The Front Line on the eve before Galloway's visit to Vancouver:
What they did with George Galloway was to hang him around the neck of celebrity supporters and so-called peace organizations and telling them there’s a price to be paid if you want to associate with a guy like George Galloway. They didn’t do it by going to the Human Rights Commission or saying he should be banned. They said 'Let him speak'. Let the people who put their names to support the organization that brings a man like George Galloway to Vancouver... Let them pay the price and have George Galloway hung around their necks."
As noted earlier, some organizations have taken a clear stance to distance themselves from both the Galloway tour and Stopwar. They don't want to be associated with a man who works for the media arm of a regime that crushes political dissent and tortures prisoners, has nice things to say about the president of a totalitarian regime and hands over cash and vehicles to representatives of a terrorist organization.
For instance, the David Suzuki Foundation forwarded to us the following note they wrote to Stopwar:
I quite honestly have never heard of this organization and have no idea whether or how my name became associated with it. I have taken your information and demanded the immediate removal of my name. David Suzuki
NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert confirmed to The Propagandist the following in an email:
From this side, it is solely a matter of a group listing my name without permission. We have been assured that my name will removed.
[UPDATE: NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert has written The Propagandist to clarify that his request to remove his name from StopWar's list of endorsers was not related to the StopWar-sponsored tour of George Galloway. He writes: "I asked for my name to be removed from their website as it was listed incorrectly, and the organizers did so with apologies. Yet you decide to frame my request to mean something it didn't."
The Propagandist apologizes for unintentionally misinterpreting the MLA's comment to mean that he was attempting to take a clear stance to distance himself/his organization from both the Galloway tour and Stopwar. His answer was given in response to an emailed question: "Any comment? Do you actually support the organization or Galloway's message in any way?" NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert's full response can be viewed here]
The Green Party's Nyssa McLeod wrote:
The Green Party of Canada has never endorsed stopwar.ca. Upon receipt of several emails like yours that brought this matter to our attention, we have since requested that they remove us from their list of endorsing organizations.
Our objective in sending out these queries was not to round up support for silencing Galloway. Our editorial line is consistent with Steyn's conclusion above. We want only to clarify which organizations or individuals endorse this tour organized by Stopwar. After all, it's not clear that one can surgically separate support for the organization from endorsement of its most famous headline speaker on a cross-country Canadian tour. Stopwar certainly isn't trying to distance itself from Galloway. They're promoting him.
And by way of comparison, if any Canadian MP started saying wonderful things about the Syrian and Iranian regimes, singling out Israel as a "lunatic state" and handing over cash to a terrorist organization, it's hard to see their political party not taking a brutal hit. So is separating the organization and their champion realistic? That doesn't seem to hold water.
So we were somewhat surprised by the response of Burnaby City Mayor Derek Corrigan to our request. He actually did attempt to separate Council's endorsement of Stopwar from an endorsement of Galloway's views (bold highlight inserted by us):
Thank-you for your e-mail in regard to our endorsement of Stopwar.ca. As we face more and more conflict in the world, we continue to believe that it is necessary for municipal governments to speak out on the issue of peace. I am also an active member of the Mayors for Peace organization, sponsored by Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Thousands of other mayors have also joined. I do not expect that I can control the speakers who may from time to time be engaged by Mayors for Peace, nor do I believe that I will agree with everything they say. I do believe in their ultimate cause- the end to nuclear weapons in our time.
Insofar as Stopwar.ca espouses peace and an end to violence, we continue to endorse their cause. We also believe in the right to free speech and we would not attempt to impose our views on speakers selected by the organization. Certainly Mr. Galloway is controversial, but it is ridiculous to accuse us of endorsing Mr. Galloway simply because Stopwar has invited him to speak. We are a member of the Burnaby Board of Trade and they have hosted many speakers who have views I find abhorrent. Should we discontinue our membership for fear of being perceived as supporting those views? Of course not!
In a free and democratic society, we are obliged to suffer the viewpoints of people with whom we fundamentally disagree. If their ideas have no merit, the court of public opinion will limit their ability to influence decisions. Attempting to restrict their ability to speak only draws more attention to their opinions and emphasizes that some are afraid of what they might say. As long as Mr. Galloway's comments stay within the bounds of Canadian law, you should welcome the debate and the opportunity to express your disagreement with his opinions.
In summary, council does not agree or disagree with Mr. Galloway. We respect his right to express his opinions and we respect your right to disagree with him vehemently. If Stopwar adopts policies or takes positions which we find unacceptable we may very well withdraw our endorsement. We won't withdraw our endorsement simply to silence an invited speaker.
Thank-you for taking the time to write.
Mayor Derek Corrigan
So, endorsement of Stopwar, but no endorsement of Galloway's views. Indeed, he seems to imply that Galloway's views are abhorrent (otherwise, why include the example of the Burnaby Board of Trade?). Yet the implication appears to be a red herring. When asked for clarification, the Mayor wrote back (bold and hyperlink inserted by us):
Given your diatribe on Mr. Galloway, your pretense of a "news query" is somewhat disconcerting. It is clear that you are living up to the name of your magazine. Nevertheless, I'm going to answer as if you sincerely found my e-mail unclear.
Council does not endorse Mr. Galloway's views. In fact, I sincerely doubt that the majority of Council members are even familiar with his views, aside from the e-mails from you and a few other individuals. Of course, those e-mails are not exactly balanced, so one would be hard pressed to claim familiarity with his views from that source alone. To reiterate I said very clearly "council does not agree or disagree with Mr. Galloway".
I also said that I found the views of some speakers at the Board of Trade "abhorrent". I can't understand how anyone could imply that referred to Mr. Galloway. (Unless he spoke at the Board of Trade, which we know he didn't)
To be absolutely candid, when I used the word abhorrent, I was thinking of Liberal cabinet ministers. In hindsight, the word was over the top, but politics is somewhat of a bloodsport in B.C. (I'm happy I didn't name any specific minister, so I won't have to apologize when they read the Propagandist.)
I hope that clarifies things for you. To put it simply, Burnaby City Council supports peace initiatives, free speech and democratic debate.
Mayor Derek Corrigan
Can the City Council of Burnaby practically separate their solid endorsement of Stopwar from endorsement of the public views of Stopwar's most vocal speaker today? They seem to be trying to have it both ways. In our view, they now have George Galloway hanging around their neck. Are their citizens willing to pay the price?
Jonathon Narvey is the Editor of The Propagandist