The Boisclair affair signals the arrival of the Thought Police in Quebec (National Post March 21,2007)

The Boisclair affair signals the arrival of the Thought Police in Quebec

A comedian from British Columbia is producing a “mockumentary” about Canadians of Japanese provenance — I’ve seen a promisingly hilarious trailer — sending up multiculturalism’s obsession with racial identity. It’s called Yellow Fellas. That sounds far more racist than “slanted eyes”, eh? But relax — the filmmaker’s name isn’t André Boisclair; it’s Tetsuro Shigematsu. So it’s funny, not offensive.

According to the reigning PC offense code, only the identifiee may insult his race or gender, at which point it morphs from unsayable to adorable. Thus we have Liberal MP Scott Brison “seriously torn” about actually banning the word “fag,” yet presumably OK with gay-anointed “Queer” Studies. Blacks employ the N-word with abandon, but it’s used by whites at their peril. Muslims on Little Mosque on the Prairie can make fun of a traditional imam’s patriarchism, but no non-Muslim dares to utter.

There are of course exceptions to this general rule. Anyone can refer to low-rent white people as “rednecks” or “trailer park trash,” and mock or degrade Christian religious symbols without rebuke. For their sins as the eternal “dominant” group, it is always open season on Eurogenic “whitey.” I sympathize with PQ leader André Boisclair’s unwillingness to apologize in the “slanted eyes” affair. The allegedly racist remark reveals synechdocal naiveté, perhaps, but not malice. Reinforcing his innocence: There is no colonial legacy between Quebec and Asians; Boisclair is known for extending warm outreach to cultural communities; and the remark’s context connoted respectful tribute to Asians’ diligence and ambition (for which “stereotyping” he was further criticized, even though the generality is demonstrably true).

Particularly troubling were the indecent haste and sloppy logic of pundits and letter writers in conflating Boisclair’s slightly off-key “slanted eyes” with purposefully derisory terminology such as “faggot” or “frog” or “Tonto.” That is to say, Boisclair’s particular circumstance — his benign intent and honorific context — meant nothing to the guardians of purity in racial discourse; the proscribed allusion to “difference” was everything. (Nevertheless, I admit to a certain Schadenfreude at Boisclair’s rough treatment by the virtually all-anglophone Thought Police in this story. The experience may afford him a glimpse into, say, an anglophone merchant’s dhimmi-like fear of punishment by the Quebec Language Police for a shop sign’s forbidden apostrophe. Both abuses stem from the same impulse to chill freedom of expression.)

Power tends to corrupt, as the old saying goes. Corruption may set in with authority over permitted languages for public self-expression, but it blooms with the power to control permissible ideological expression (we’re there now). Late-stage corruption demands the destruction or suppression of art whose politically incorrect content contradicts the messages authorized by the Thought Police.

Am I an alarmist? You be the judge. In the U.S. there are “bias and sensitivity” committees that monitor the content read by children in public schools. One Iowa review group rejected an historical selection on southern agriculture because it used the term “African slave” (the PC trope is “enslaved African”). A true story about a courageous young blind man who hiked to the top of Mt. McKinley was rejected because it contained “regional bias” (mountain-climbing stories privilege the imagination of students living in mountainous areas), and because it seemed to suggest that blind people were “worse off” climbing mountains than sighted people (insensitively assuming blindness was a disability). Aesop’s fable The Fox and the Crow was rejected as gender-biased because female “Mistress Crow” is portrayed as “vain and foolish,” while male Master Fox is depicted as “intelligent and clever.”

In Canada the thought police have inspired retroactive aesthetic cleansing. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird, two great novels particularly useful in teaching young people anti-racist values, have been banned by certain schoolboards in Nova Scotia, ironically enough for their supposedly racist content; that is, the books employ liberal — but organically necessary — use of the N-word. I leave this slippery slope’s potential for snowballing disaster to the reader’s imagination. It is far better, in a democracy, to offend and be offended from time to time than to become collaborators in freedom of expressions’s slow suffocation. In times like these, then, satire is more than a diversion; it’s therapy for an ailing society. When does Yellow Fellas get to Montreal?