Democracy off Balance: Freedom of Expression and Hate Propaganda Law in Canada
Published: April 2004© 2004
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 430 Pages
Dimensions: 6.05 x 9.02
430 Pages, 6.05 x 9.02 x 1.15 in
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Freedom of expression on disturbing matters of society, history, and governance is becoming ever more contested in Canada. The idea that official meanings and histories can legally substitute for publicly constructed ones - for fear of what an uncensored public might themselves construct - is gaining widespread acceptance. Public invocation of hate propaganda law, its language, and its moral authority in otherwise ordinary discursive contexts, has been crucial to, and symbolic of, this trend.
Democracy Off Balance offers an unsettling analysis of hate censorship and hate censors as a complex paradox of modern democratic discourse. Stefan Braun argues against the supposed public interest served by the hate speech laws and dissects the paradoxical forces - the politically self-contradictory thinking and the socially self-defeating assumptions - that drive hate censorship in Canada today.
Braun draws on censors' own terms of social and political reference to show how they undermine their own causes with hate censorship and uncovers how hate speech law subtly impacts far beyond its strict legal confines to condition and corrode public discourse. He brings together the debate and the debaters in a multidimensional approach that challenges traditional ways of seeing the legal boundaries of freedom of expression. Democracy Off Balance is a timely and absorbing exploration of a highly controversial topic.
'Democracy Off Balance is a masterfully crafted and meticulously presented thesis against legal, especially criminal, censorship of 'hate speech.' Stefan Braun draws on the Canadian experience and on progressive censors' own terms of reference to expose the case for public silencing as fundamentally flawed, and speaks directly to all who detest intolerance but value real social harmony and a strong political democracy. Rich in examples, detail, and nuance, this book may well become a landmark in its field.'Nadine Strossen, President, American Civil Liberties Union, and Professor of Law, New York Law School
'In Democracy Off Balance, Stefan Braun carries out a rigorous and provocative examination of the assumptions used to support restrictions on political discourse aimed at promoting diversity and social harmony. For Canadians concerned about the condition of free speech in our constitutional democracy, Braun's book is mandatory reading.'Peter H. Russell, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Toronto
- Harold Adams Innis Prize