Mea Culpa: Voltaire didn’t say what I attributed to him- a neo-Nazi did; still, though he was wrong about the Jews, he wasn’t wrong in principle

Friday July 27th, 2018

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A mea culpa is in order to the readers of The Post Millennial for an article I published on July 8th entitled Bill C-16, or The Transgender Identity Bill, is an act of “Velvet Totalitarianism”. I also want to apologize to the viewers for a videotape of a Toronto panel on “Bill C-16 one year later”, that I took part in on July 18th.

In both cases I began with a quotation that I attributed to the French philosopher Voltaire, which read: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” In both cases I applied that dictum to what I called the “Church of Gender Identity,” riffing on the assumption that Voltaire was referring to the Catholic Church.

I was quickly informed after my panel talk that this quotation provenance was not Voltaire’s, but instead was uttered by a neo-Nazi by the name of Kevin Strom. By the words “who rules over you,” Strom was referring to the Jews. Being Jewish myself, I cannot think of a greater or more embarrassing irony. It brings me some comfort to know that I am not the first person in public life to make that error.

I was contacted by a reporter from Canadaland regarding my gaffe. He asked me, “[D]o you still believe the sentiment has merit as a justification for criticism of trans people, given that it was originally penned to justify criticism of Jews?” Here is what I responded to him:

Here is my modus operandi with quotations from famous people. If I see it free-floating on the Internet, I endeavour to track it down, and that is not usually difficult. But if I see it referenced in an article by a writer I deem credible in a mainstream publication, and if the quote seems appropriate to the attributed speaker (and this one certainly struck me as Voltairean), then I assume it is ok. I have a file of interesting quotations and when I see something I like and may want to use, i add it to my file. So can I tell you where I first saw it? No. It was some time ago. But can I tell you if it came from what I considered a trustworthy source? Yes.

 I hope you do not think me so ignorant and duplicitous as to say to myself, ‘Gee, I know this is a fake quote, but it’s so cool I will use it and assume I get away with it.’

 With regard to the application of the quote to the Church of Gender Identity, I do not regret it at all, and here is why. The quotation makes a great deal of sense. The fact that an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist actually believed that the Jews “rule over you” says a great deal about his twisted mind, but it does not reflect reality. I am neither a conspiracy theorist or a transphobic. My quarrel is not with trans gender people, who – I have said this repeatedly – simply want to live their lives in peace, but with the ideologues who are bent on imposing their belief system, founded in theory, but not in evidence, on everyone in the form of compelled speech and compelled expression of belief. 

 The fact is that the Church of Gender Identity does rule over us, and proof of it is the very unpleasant week I have had being swarmed on Twitter, having strenuous attempts made to have the CBC stop inviting me, and in general being trolled in a pretty ugly way. Indeed, even Twitter defers to the Church of Gender Identity – one can say pretty nasty things about Israel on Twitter, but not about trans ideologues without getting a timeout on the “naughty stool.”

 The words of the quotation in fact make very good sense. That the mind who thought it up was corrupted by hatred to the point that he was delusionary about who “you cannot criticize” is not my fault.

I regret every error I make in my writing. I can honestly say that I make no errors wittingly. I apologize wholeheartedly for this one.