In a recent chapter of our cancel culture, two Canadian post office workers refused to deliver copies of the Epoch Times Newspaper. Mr. Ramiro Sepulveda, one of the two, “protected” the Canadian public in this way from what he regarded as intellectual filth. In his view, “I saw this thing, I read it and thought it was trash…” He further averred that the Epoch Times Newspaper was “damaging” and “I saw the headlines and I thought, wow, that’s ridiculous…”
But the intellectual virus goes far deeper than this one censor. These workers were not at all condemned by their union representatives. According to William Johnson, president of the Regina Canadian Union of Postal Workers local, Canada Post should be more careful about what material it transfers from sender to recipient.
“I think as a Crown corporation they do have a moral responsibility to actually look at this stuff and determine if it is peddling in hate and racism and those sorts of things,” in his view. (A Canadian Crown corporation would be somewhat similar to a public utility in the U.S.: highly regulated, by the government, but only quasi-independent of it.)
Union leaders have promised to stand by contract-violating members such as Sepulveda. In Johnson’s view, “The publication affects a bunch of our letter carriers. This is not a publication that we as a Crown corporation should be giving out to Canadians.”
Nor does the blacklist stop there, either. One would think that at least the Canadian Post Office would summarily fire employees who determine on their own account which parcels they will deliver and which not. If a waitress announced that she would not serve “those folks,” the restaurant owner would soon enough fire her. If a doctor refused to attend to a patient in need, his hospital employer would sever its connection to him immediately.
In the event, however, the only punishment for the recalcitrant postal workers was a three-day suspension, without pay. What kind of a message does that send to other employees contemplating substituting their judgement for what is worthwhile delivering and what is not?
According to a spokesman for Canada Post it is “obligated to deliver any mail that is properly prepared and paid for, unless it is considered non-mailable matter.” But its slight slap on the wrist for the violator of this principle undermines this noble statement.
At least when Apple and Twitter and Facebook and their ilk cancel conservative and libertarian voices, they have a vestige of a defense. They are privately owned, and therefore should have the right to determine what appears on their platforms and what does not (it is a weak claim, since they have attained governmental-like powers, protecting them from libel suits, but that is a different issue).
The Canadian post office can rely upon no such excuse. They are very close to being an actual arm of the government. Thus, they have an obligation to ensure their service are open to all.
Another difficulty is that the Epoch Times is not considered a newspaper in the land of the frozen north. Rather, it is deemed as a “flyer,” similar, one supposes, to an advertisement for a car, or a mattress, or a burger. Come again? Say what? Those people up there must be semi blind, perhaps from gazing too intently upon the snow in their neighborhoods.
According to Alex Couros, professor of Information and Communication Technologies at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina, “the presence of the paper in grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores alongside publications like the Regina Leader-Post (the local newspaper) or the Globe and Mail (Canada’s equivalent to the New York Times) gives it more legitimacy.”
It would appear that the Canadians have never heard of John Stuart Mill and his magnificent “On Liberty” where he states:
“The greatest orator, save one, of antiquity, has left it on record that he always studied his adversary’s case with as great, if not with still greater, intensity than even his own. What Cicero practised as the means of forensic success, requires to be imitated by all who study any subject in order to arrive at the truth. He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion. The rational position for him would be suspension of judgment, and unless he contents himself with that, he is either led by authority, or adopts, like the generality of the world, the side to which he feels most inclination. Nor is it enough that he should hear the arguments of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. That is not the way to do justice to the arguments, or bring them into real contact with his own mind. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them; who defend them in earnest, and do their very utmost for them. He must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form; he must feel the whole force of the difficulty which the true view of the subject has to encounter and dispose of; else he will never really possess himself of the portion of truth which meets and removes that difficulty. Ninety-nine in a hundred of what are called educated men are in this condition; even of those who can argue fluently for their opinions. Their conclusion may be true, but it might be false for anything they know: they have never thrown themselves into the mental position of those who think differently from them, and considered what such persons may have to say; and consequently they do not, in any proper sense of the word, know the doctrine which they themselves profess.”
Banning eloquent voices of the Epoch Times will just drive its thoughts underground. It will dis-accommodate not only those who want to hear both sides of an argument, but, even, those who disagree with the message of this prestigious periodical. The nearest analogue I can think of to this sorry event is the major media banning the New York Post story about Hunter Biden. Both are a disgrace.
Walter E. Block is Harold E. Wirth Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics, College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans, and senior fellow at the Mises Institute.