Antisemitic Tweets Plunges the Liberal Government into Damage Control About Online Harms

Online harms critics got an unexpected helping hand from a member of a so-called anti-hate group.

The online harms debate got an unexpected update recently. The Liberal government hired an anti-hate group known as the Community Media Advocacy Centre (CMAC) to help build an anti-racism strategy to the tune of $133,000. Part of that anti-racism strategy involves the nearly universally rejected online harms proposal – a proposal that the government has since backed off of it.

While the governments judgment and handling of the online harms proposal has already been under fire, developments from another aspect of the governments anti-racism strategy has once again got people questioning the governments judgment in handling such issues. Mark Goldberg has apparently been documenting some of these concerning issues about how there have been harmful comments being published by someone who was supposed to be advising the government on a strategy addressing racism. From his site:

Over the past few days, questions have been raised about a hateful and hurtful language used by a consultant engaged by Canada’s Anti-Racism Action Program. I have been writing about my concerns with his association with this government-funding program since last April (See: “Purveying hate on the public dime” and “Government funded hate speech”)..

As a result of extensive amplification of my concerns by Jonathan Kay, this issue has finally attracted such sufficient public attention that the Minister who awarded the funding could no longer ignore calls for a review.

Let’s be clear: The government had been aware of this issue for months and made no acknowledgment of the problem, as if it hoped the matter would just go away.

If this individual was just a garden-variety antisemite, he might have been able to continue to spew vile comments about Jews and French Canadians in the obscurity that he so richly deserves. But he was a beneficiary of the largesse of Canadian taxpayers, and as a result, is subjected to certain behavioural expectations. Most Canadians wouldn’t expect antisemitic rants to regularly appear from government-funded anti-racism consultants working on an anti-racism program.

I suspect most Canadians would expect consequences to arise for a government-funded purveyor of hateful and hurtful online commentary.

(Hat tip @Mgeist)

Indeed, the issue has attracted considerable attention in the media finally. The CBC has noted that the government has now terminated the contract it has had with the organization affected by this:

The Liberal government has cut funding for an anti-racism group and suspended work on a project it was running after a member of the group made antisemitic remarks in a social media post.

“Antisemitism has no place in this country. The antisemitic comments made by Laith Marouf are reprehensible and vile,” Housing and Diversity and Inclusion Minister Ahmed Hussen said in a statement posted on Twitter Monday.

“We have provided notice to the Community Media Advocacy Centre (CMAC) that their funding has been cut and their project has been suspended.”

Marouf, a senior consultant on an anti-racism project that received $133,000 from the federal government, posted the controversial remarks on his Twitter account. The account is private but a screenshot of the post showed a number of tweets with his photo and name.

One tweet said: “You know all those loud mouthed bags of human feces, aka the Jewish White Supremacists; when we liberate Palestine and they have to go back to where they come from, they will return to being low voiced bitches of [their] Christian/Secular White Supremacist Masters.”

Apparently, in the process of determining how to handle the situation, there was considerable finger pointing internally over who was responsible for what file and how this problem was totally not their fault. Fortunately, there were others within the government who, at the very least, tried to take action instead of shifting blame:

And it’s good to see @AHousefather say that Canadian Heritage needs to be held accountable and conduct a review. Would have been nice to see @HonAhmedHussen say so or Canadian Heritage Minister @pablorodriguez say anything.

Indeed, this is the same MP that suggested that people who criticize Bill C-11 just hates French people. While Housefather did deserve the flack he got for those remarks, at least he didn’t engage in fingerpointing in this case unlike certain other less honourable Liberal MPs:

Michael knows there are three ministers in the Department of Canadian Heritage. He knows Pablo is not the Minister responsible for this file.

Why would he intentionally mislead his followers about that?

So bizarre for an academic to repeatedly do this.

While there will still be a lot of questions about how we got here (such as how long did Liberal MPs know about this problem, but chose not to speak out and sweep it under the rug). The ties being cut does, at least, represent a step in the right direction. So, there will still be questions about judgment being put to the government in the aftermath. What’s more is that this represents a continued pattern of poor judgment calls in trying to deal with hate.

Another problem here is the timing in all of this. Next month, the government returns to a sitting schedule that involves a series of bills that have been hugely controversial. This includes Bill C-11 (social media censorship), Bill C-18 (link taxes), and the forthcoming online harms legislation. Returning from break to having to deal with this controversy, at minimum, represents a stumble out of the gate. There’s no stopping people from asking, “How can the public trust the government with an online harms proposal when they hired an organization with a member saying allegedly racist remarks?” It’s not a good look art the very least.

It’s hard to say if this latest controversy will cause a delay in these bills. There is certainly hope that it would, but that is probably a tall order.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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