L’AFFAIRE FABI” The Need To Hold To A Higher Standard

By Beryl Wajsman on November 28, 2012

Let us be clear. Freedom is indivisible. And perhaps the most indivisible freedom is expression because it is perhaps the most fragile and always the first to be assaulted by tyrants.

Often, as Canada has witnessed over the past several decades, freedom of expression has been victimized using the most altruistic of weapons. Human Rights legislation and commissions that so distorted the parameters of hate speech that those who fought the haters were themselves victimized by them using these instruments. Those who reported on hate - those who exposed the haters - were themselves accused of propagating hate merely by writing about it. Thankfully the Harper administration took  the necessary actions and eliminated those aspects of our rules and regulations that were regularly hijacked by the very elements in our society sworn to oppose the survival and success of our liberties.

So where is the line? This has been the subject of endless debates and discussions. But on one aspect, all agree. Overt incitement to violent hatred – and the encouragement of that incitement – clearly and candidly expressed, cannot be tolerated. And more. Those who are in positions to influence public opinion, whether in elected office or in the fourth estate, have a responsibility to maintain a higher standard of vigilance and intelligence. We will not comment on the appropriate sanction, but for 98.5 talk show host  Jacques Fabi - with thirty-five years of radio experience - to allow a caller last week to label the Holocaust “The happiest event in history” and then not only fail to cut her off and denounce her but to encourage her outrage by responding that he had been “disturbed by” and had “problems with” actions of the Jewish community, is suffocating in its overt viciousness. Fabi did not stop there. He then went on to comment that certain things cannot be said about Jews in our society because there would be “consequences.” Fabi became an instigator of racial incitement. A cheerleader for someone applauding the greatest mass murder in human history.

Certain things cannot be said – and must not be said – because they are false and when combined with verbal celebrations of brutality,  cause the lowest among us to bring violence out in the open. Whether against Jews, visible minorities or those of other creeds. These are the “consequences.” What Fabi allowed to happen, and encouraged, was nothing less than overt incitement to violence. But there is yet another troubling aspect to the Fabi affair.

Fabi himself has apologized. So has his employer Cogeco that owns 98.5. Fabi wrote that he brought “discredit” onto himself and his broadcast and apologized to the Jewish community. He has been suspended without pay for a month. But here is the other problem in this sorry story. We as a society have become too quick to accept apology and not only forgive but forget. This is not sufficient. This kind of attitude cannot sustain the level of vigilance necessary to stop hate. We can never forget simply because someone sheds crocodile tears.

And this an important lesson because it is not only those in the public spotlight who must hold to a higher standard. That standard must also rest on the shoulders of those in the corporate suites who employ the people in front of the mikes and the cameras. They cannot take a cavalier attitude that “oh, he didn’t really mean it” while secretly relishing the spikes in ratings that sensationalism sometimes brings. That standard must also rest on Fabi’s colleagues who must never fall victim to the attitude of “oh, it was just a knee-jerk reaction from his upbringing. Different generation you know.” That is not acceptable in a world which so recently in its history almost became post-apocalyptic. Indeed, in a moral sense, many would argue justifiably that we are in that sad condition already.

George Bernard Shaw wrote in 1928 that “Liberty demands responsibility. That’s why so many dread it.” If the responsibility of maintaining rigour and resolve against overt incitements to hate and celebrations of murder becomes too heavy a burden, we are in a very dangerous time indeed.


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Editorial Staff

Beryl P. Wajsman

Redacteur en chef et Editeur

Alan Hustak

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