by Ezra Levant
Does freedom of speech include the freedom of Canadian rappers to make music videos glorifying Taliban terrorist attacks on Canadian troops?
As odious as that is, the answer must be yes.
Manu Militari, a Montreal rapper, has done just that. It’s almost as sick as the snuff movies allegedly made by Luka Magnotta. Of course, Militari didn’t actually kill anybody. He just indulged his fantasy of it happening.
Which is about as sick.
But that’s the thing about freedom of speech. We have to give it to people we despise if we want it for ourselves.
It’s unlikely that any of us will ever be quite as offensive or macabre in our speech. But each of us will surely, at one point in our lives, say something that offends someone – maybe even something that offends everyone.
And there’s a big but here – a $110,000 but. That’s the amount of money that you and I were compelled to give Militari since 2008 to subsidize his “art,” by way of taxpayer-funded government grants. That’s almost as sick as the snuff video Militari himself made.
According to blogger Stephen Taylor, Militari has managed to wring that six-figure sum out of an organization called Music Action, that’s funded by the Canadian government’s department of Heritage.
See, that’s the thing about “art.” Everyone has a different taste. Most Canadians would agree that Militari’s vision is sick. The fact that he has to rely on government handouts, rather than actually selling his music videos in the free market, testifies to that fact. But who should make the decisions about what taste is acceptable to the government?
In some ways, it puts bureaucrats and politicians in an untenable situation. If they exercise judgment, they can be accused of meddling. If they don’t – as in this case – they are accused of supporting obscenity.
The answer is obvious: Get the government out of the art business, and let 34 million Canadians be their own art curators and their own censors. We’re all grown ups. We can make our own choices.
It’s not censorship to refuse to fund smut like Militari’s. Censorship is banning something – having the government tell you that you can’t say it or show it. It’s not censorship to ask people to pay for their own hobbies. In this case, Militari has been allowed to turn his hobby into a very lucrative job – instead of his alternative, likely working in the booming fast-food industry.
Once upon a time, there might have been a business incubator-type rationale for grants to artists. Equipment was expensive, marketing was expensive, life was hard – as it is for any other entrepreneur.
But those excuses for government intervention don’t exist anymore. Anyone with a smartphone now has a high-definition camera. Anyone with a laptop now has studio-quality editing software. Anyone on the Internet can upload videos or sell their own songs on iTunes. Anyone who is promising can raise their own money through PayPal.
Technology has set us free – made it impossible to censor us. It has also made it unnecessary to subsidize us.
Militari doesn’t need our $110,000. He probably could raise that much if he put up a PayPal button – it would be a big hit amongst Taliban and al-Qaida web surfers the world over.
Categories: Contributor Columns