I spoke tonight to a convention at the Canadian War Museum.
I had prepared my remarks in advance, but every delegate I spoke with before dinner asked me about the freedom of speech implications of my tangle with Canada’s human rights commissions. It struck me then that museums are in the same peril that Canadian media are in, when it comes to government censorship of politically correct topics.
In fact, over dinner, Jack Granatstein told me of a museum exhibit in the 1990s called “Out of Africa”, where the curator was hounded out of her job — and in fact the country — by politically correct protests against the exhibit. It sounded like the censorious frenzy that met the Toronto production of Showboat.
So, in the end, I decided to spend half my time describing the threat to freedom of expression and free intellectual inquiry posed by Canada’s human rights commissions — and giving specific examples of how museums were at risk. It was troublingly easy to come up with plausible examples of museums running into trouble, ranging from an “insensitive” display at the War Museum about the Taliban, to an art museum that might display a cartoon of Mohammed. The room seemed genuinely concerned…