Alexander Tsesis: a sound debunking…so why does the Department of Justice Canada cite this guy again?

Update: Professor Desai responds to our request for assistance.

Ezra writes that, “Rob Nicholson, the Conservative government’s Justice Minister, has weighed in on section 13, the thought crimes provision of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

He’s in favour of section 13.

Here’s a 50-page legal brief (3 MB file) his department filed, against Marc Lemire’s constitutional challenge to that section.”


Alexander Tsesis, whose work is central to the justifications presented in the Justice brief receives a sound debunking in this review by Anuj C. Desai*:

From a review of Destructive Messages: How Hate Speech Paves the Way for Harmful Social Movements, Alexander Tsesis, by Anuj C. Desai.

(* Oh oh looks like Desai is one of those uppity coloured folk – no doubt he has internalized the racism of white hegemonists and as result suffers “False Consciousness” thus his views must be discounted as mandated by our elite at the CHRC and Justice Dept – the poor man is likely unaware that he is oppressed. Desai is an Assistant Professor of Law, University of Wisconsin Law School, odd given the crazy lefty history of the U of Wisconsin.)

In short, the practical problems of drafting a statute that avoids serious vagueness and overbreadth problems cannot be underestimated.

It may be that Eleanor Holmes Norton was overstating it when she said, “It is technically impossible to write an anti-speech code that cannot be twisted against speech nobody means to bar.”161 But Tsesis’s proposal does little to convince me that she was wrong.


In sum, although Tsesis’s “goal of preventing atrocities against racial and ethnic minorities is laudable, he has not sufficiently supported his view that a criminal law banning what he refers to as “hate speech” would further that goal. Indeed, because he has not adequately considered the potential for government abuse that his proposal invites, his proposed law could very well do more harm than good.

In effect, what Tsesis’s book depends on is hope, the hope that if a society declares “hate speech” to be illegal, it can eliminate “hate speech” and it can thereby eliminate hatred itself. One is led to presume this will end inequality based on differences of race, ethnicity, culture, and the like, and that genocide, institutionalized subjugation, and oppression will all
vanish into thin air. One can only imagine what the world would be like if it were so simple.

Favourite quote by Desai – What he is pretty clearly saying, however, is that society should criminalize words because of the possibility that they could have an impact, even if that impact occurs as much as 400 years later.

The rest.

More on Tsesis here.