Paul L. Williams — Freedom of Expression in a Global Secularized Culture
|October 16, 2009||Posted by William Dembski under Culture, Free Speech|
Paul L. Williams is a name I first heard two years ago when I saw him interviewed on television about terrorist ambitions to create havoc in the United States. I hoped that he was exaggerating the threats, but after following some of his leads and reading two of his books I concluded that he was at least 90 percent correct and needed to be taken seriously. Nuclear-Biological-Chemical terrorism has been an interest of mine over the years. The first book I read that addressed this topic was TERRORISM: HOW THE WEST CAN WIN (1986), edited by then Israeli representative to the U.N. Benjamin Netanyahu (it seems I’ve heard his name since then). The essay by Alan Cranston in it, “The Nuclear Terrorist State,” still sounds surprisingly relevant to our present situation: “Does anyone doubt that if the Shah of Iran had succeeded in developing a full-fledged nuclear program in Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini would have used a nuclear weapon against Iraq? Does anyone now doubt that if Iraq had been permitted to make swift progress toward a nuclear-weapons capability, Saddam Hussein would have used a nuclear bomb against Iran? Or that either of them might have resorted subsequently to a nuclear strike in a jihad, a ‘holy war,’ against Israel?” (pp. 177-78)
Williams’ interview and books were in this vein, sounding a warning siren, along with many others, that the terrorist threats likely to materialize in the future promise to dwarf anything we’ve seen in the past. It’s one reason that, last I checked, survivalist James Wesley Rawles’ HOW TO SURVIVE THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT: TACTICS, TECHNIQUES AND TECHNOLOGIES FOR UNCERTAIN TIMES was doing better on Amazon.com than Richard Dawkins’ THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH: THE EVIDENCE FOR EVOLUTION (other reasons no doubt include that Dawkins’ book is sheer dreck from the standpoint of current evolutionary theory — see here). In any case, after a brief email exchange with Williams two years ago, I didn’t expect to hear much about him again except as a modern-day Cassandra, whose predictions would be ignored until too late. It was therefore with some dismay that I saw him appear in the press on a matter at once related and yet quite different.
Williams works as a journalist and it’s in this capacity that he is being forced, as an American citizen, to submit to a lawsuit in Canada. Specifically, for charging McMaster University with abetting terrorists and allowing radioactive materials to be stolen, McMaster is suing him for millions of dollars. How could he be tried in a Canadian court given that he broke no U.S. law and did everything that McMaster University is upset about on U.S. soil? As he explained to me, “Bill, I am being tried in Canada because of free trade agreements, including NAFTA. Such agreements give foreign entities the right to take action against American citizens. I am not the only journalist to suffer this fate. New York Times reporter Joe Sharkey is undergoing a similar plight for offending the ‘dignity’ of Brazil by criticizing an air-traffic control official. Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, author of FUNDING EVIL, is being sued in England for criticizing Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi billionaire. Many more will suffer a similar fate in the coming years.” For links to Williams’ defense fund go here (this suit has wiped him out financially). For two news accounts, go here and here.
So why am I relating this story here at UD? In fact, it is relevant to intelligent design (ID). In the past, American Constitutional safeguards on free speech seemed to me sufficient to allow ID to win the day provided it could prove its case. Of that I’m no longer so sure (not that it can’t prove its case, but of the Constitutional safeguards). Over two years ago, I reported here at UD about the European Council’s denunciation of ID as an assault on human rights. It’s not hard to imagine that ID, because it may be construed as implying that humans were intended to operate within certain constraints, might be seen as challenging certain lifestyles and thus as constituting a “hate crime.” Note that I’m not saying that this is in fact an implication of ID (indeed, my own interest is primarily in developing ID as a scientific research program). My point rather is that critics intent on shutting ID down may do so by challenging its right to fall under free speech. And if Constitutional safeguards stand in the way of this challenge, it may be possible to leapfrog the U.S. Constitution and have courts outside the U.S. attempt to shut the discussion down. It’s for this reason that I bring to your attention the case of Paul Williams and see his plight as one we may face down the road. My own mother, now 77, grew up in Nazi Germany, was just outside Berlin at the end of WWII, and lived through the Berlin Airlift. She wishes that the Germans had understood Martin Niemöller’s famous dictum before it was too late:
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
We are on a slippery slope. If people like Paul Williams fall prey to our global secularized culture (especially when it is able to bypass the U.S. 1st Amendment), then we are not far downstream. I’ve asked Williams what we can do to help. He replied: “Bill, thanks for your kind note. One way to move forward is to get the word out… I wrote an Op-Ed piece for your blog that accompanies this note. Another way is to help me [inform people about] the nefarious consequences of free trade agreements, such as NAFTA, to our Constitutional rights as a people. I’m willing to speak anywhere for free albeit I’m broke.” I encourage UD readers to visit
and seriously ponder how they might help Williams turn this situation around so that instead of constituting an assault on freedom of expression it becomes an affirmation of it. Below is the op-ed he asked me to post.
AMERICANS SHOULD NOT BE STRIPPED OF THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES
By Paul L. Williams
I am a United States citizen on trial in Canada for exposing a situation at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario that threatened the lives and welfare of Canadians and Americans alike. My book The Dunces of Doomsday, published in the U.S. by Cumberland House, revealed potential terrorist threats from al-Qaeda affiliates at McMaster. The university is suing me for libel, demanding $4 million in punitive and aggregated damages.
Unlike American libel laws where the plaintiff must prove that what said about him is not true and it was said in malice, Canadian libel laws, like the British, put the burden of proof on the defendant, not on the plaintiff.
What I wrote and said about McMaster from my home in Pennsylvania falls well within the standards of responsible journalism. Nevertheless, I have been dragged into court in Toronto, Canada, to be tried under Canadian law that lacks the U.S. Constitutional protection of free speech.
This ordeal has damaged my professional career, depleted my life savings, and placed me in financial jeopardy.
I am not alone.
Other writers have suffered a similar fate, including Joe Sharkey, a New Jersey-based freelance business journalist is being sued for reporting about a plane crash he survived over the Amazon. A woman who claims Sharkey offended the “dignity” of Brazil by criticizing its air-traffic control is suing him for libel in Brazil. This despite the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board’s conclusion that the Brazilian air traffic control was responsible to the crash. She demands $500,000 and apologies in national and international media outlets.
Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, whose criticism of a Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi billionaire who funded al-Qaeda, has resulted in a judgment by default in British court against her for allegedly defaming the Saudi. She was ordered to pay $250,000, apologize in international media outlets and destroy her book: Funding Evil; How Terrorism Is Financed — and How to Stop It.
The same ordeal can befall all investigative reporters in the U.S. unless federal legislators pass The Free Speech Protection Act 2009, which is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Last week my pretrial took place in Toronto. It was not a pleasant experience. My Canadian lawyers and the appointed mediator spent seven hours attempting to coerce me into signing an apology to McMaster University for stating the truth. They maintained that none of my statements were factual according to Canadian libel laws.
I pointed to the fact that McMaster was home to several al-Qaeda members who plotted to blow up Canada’s Parliament and behead its prime minister. In fact, a week before my pretrial took place, the guilty plea of a McMaster student, Saad Gaya, to charges of terrorism captured the headlines of Canadian newspapers. Gaya was one of eighteen al-Qaeda affiliates also charged with planning to blow up trucks loaded with bombs at the Toronto Stock Exchange, the Toronto office of the Canadian Security intelligence Service and a military base on Ontario. He was the eleventh to be convicted. The remaining seven members of the group, known as the “Toronto 18,” remain in prison awaiting trial. Such statements of fact have done little to persuade McMaster to drop the lawsuit, and my trial is set for April 2010.
In Canada, as in England and Brazil, truth is not an absolute defense.
No American citizen should be stripped of his/her Constitutional rights by foreign countries or foreign entities.
Congress should act immediately to pass the Free Speech Protection Act 2009.
Paul L. Williams, Ph.D.
Clarks Green, PA