Straight Talk
EZRA LEVANT - Collective judgement is a moral mistake



I host the most controversial news show in Canada, The Source.

If there's some politically correct sacred cow out there, it's my job to barbecue it. From exposing David Suzuki's outrageous speaking fees to taking a run at corrupt Indian chiefs, I do it with gusto every day. I try to be entertaining as well as informative, using drama and sarcasm, and the occasional dance moves. And I always make sure to poke the most fun at myself - including reading gems from my hate mail every day.

Last summer, I talked about a grave problem in Ontario - a 400-person crime ring, all recent immigrants from Romania, busted by Durham Regional Police. I let it rip against crime and immigration fraud, and for the most part it was just a pretty good rant, the kind I love to do, poking fun at the gypsies who had been arrested, and even poking fun at myself as a Jew.

There were some criticisms after that show, but I dismissed them as coming from the usual soft-on-crime liberals and grievance groups. But when I look at some of the words I used in that show - like "the gypsies have gypped us" - I must admit that I did more than just attack a crime or immigration fraud problem. I attacked a particular group, and painted them all with the same brush. And to those I hurt, I'm sorry.

As a Canadian citizen and a journalist, I enjoy freedom of speech. Without that right, we would not be a democracy.

But as someone who seeks to influence the public debate, I have to think about the words I choose. It's just wrong to slur a group of people. I made the moral mistake of judging people collectively.

I owe a duty to my employer, who has allowed me to be the freest journalist in Canada, and has defended me against every attempt to silence me. I owe a duty to my viewers to give them the most thoughtful arguments I can. And I owe it to my own philosophy of liberty to judge people as individuals.

As the philosopher Ayn Rand explained, the problem with stereotyping is that it's "the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man's genetic lineage... that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors."

There's nothing wrong with going after a criminal gang.

But it's wrong to brand an entire community with a broad brush - I wouldn't like it as a Jew, and the whole point of my crusade against the Indian Act is to free ordinary Indians from the corrupt chiefs who rule them. I am an anti-racism activist.

I remain concerned about immigration fraud and crime gangs, but I can be better in the way I express those concerns.

The Source is a show about ideas. I want my words to spur debate. When my show is finished on any given day, I want viewers to discuss these matters at the dinner table and write their MP's.

I don't apologize simply for the sake of being consistent in my views. I regret having made these statements and I'm hopeful that those remarks will serve as an example of what not to do when commenting on social issues. I have the privilege of commenting regularly in this forum and I'm committed to doing so responsibly.

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