George Galloway: an odd champion of free speech

George Galloway cancelled our interview because he didn’t like my question.

This was during the 2005 British general election. Galloway was campaigning for the Respect Party, which he launched after being kicked out of the Labour Party for, among other things, describing it as “Tony Blair’s lie machine.” I had spent the day in the hardscrabble East London riding Galloway hoped to win away from Labour’s lightweight incumbent Oona King and chatted informally with Galloway a couple of times. He promised me an interview later, after a community meeting where he and King were scheduled to speak.

Galloway wiped the floor with King that night. He is a rhetorical master and was in his element. “If you make war against Muslims abroad, he bellowed to cheers, “you’re going to end up making war against Muslims at home!”

When the speeches were finished, Galloway was mobbed by supporters and a few journalists, including an American woman who had a difficult time asking him anything without cooing. Sick of the softballs she was lobbing at him, I asked Galloway how he felt about the jailing of “your friend Tariq Aziz.” Aziz was Iraq’s deputy prime minister under Saddam Hussein and has since been convicted of crimes against humanity. Galloway had indeed described Aziz as his friend, but apparently he didn’t like my tone and growled “I don’t’ want to talk to that guy,” when one of his handlers brought me around for the interview. When another reporter, Johann Hari of The Independent, tried to pose a question, Galloway loudly denounced him as a drug addict.

This is the man who is now bizarrely being hailed as a martyr to free speech, ever since Canada denied him entry to this country because he delivered aid and money to Hamas, which Canada considers a terrorist organization.

To be clear, I think the case against allowing Galloway to come to Canada is paper-thin. Even if the decision follows the letter of the law, it is ridiculous to suggest that he poses any sort of security threat. He should be permitted to come to Canada and speak wherever he wants. Unfortunately, in a country where we’ve grown used cabinet ministers’ incoherent mumblings or refusal to deviate from prepared talking points, Galloway, with his flash and eloquent brogue, would make a positive impression.

But it’s worth remembering the man behind the charm. He reacts to unpleasant questions from journalists with belligerence and insults. He praised Saddam Hussein. And he once described the disappearance of the Soviet Union – one of the most murderous regimes in history – as “the biggest disaster of my life.” I’m confident that Canadians would tire of Galloway once they got to know him. 




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George Galloway: an odd champion of free speech

  1. “An unworthy icon”

    Isn’t that just the best part of rights – that you don’t *have* to be “worthy?” All the so-called conservatives clutching their pearls because they disagree with what he says seem to have forgotten that.

    OTOH, we have a conservative government who thinks rights – specifically pay equity – should be an item at the bargaining table to be preserved or lost as best suits those around the table. So the Galloway thing doesn’t surprise me.

  2. Which is why it’s so incredibly stupid that our government decided to engage in this petty abuse of process. It also undermines confidence that they aren’t also acting arbitrarily on other security concerns that we aren’t allowed to hear about.

  3. How exceedingly unfair that Galloway should have refused to interview you, merely for asking a fair and balanced question. My heart goes out to you, Mr Petrou, for this shocking mistreatment.

  4. “I could come back and conform to the stereotyping of dictators. I could have said he had a brutish handshake, but he didn’t. I could have said that he was bombastic and loved the sound of his own voice, but that was not true. I believe in telling the truth as I find it. Which is not to say that he’s not a brutal dictator. He is a brutal dictator.”
    - George Galloway (re: his interview with Saddam Hussein)
    Guardian

  5. Well said, Michael. Galloway is an odious clown and a preening narcissist. His record speaks for itself. The only thing he has going for him is his ability to use his rhetorical mastery to appeal to the credulous.

  6. And how well did you get to know him Michael? Perhaps you’re completely right about this man, and you do argue for letting him speak, which is not only commendable but the right thing to do, if we’re serious about free speech. But a couple of quick questions from you is hardly proof of anything. The reaction of our govt is embarrassing – let someone who can step up and demolish the man’s arguements – a tough job i agree. It’s really a pity and a waste of a very talented individual – but then again perhaps, despite his flaws, he has something to say?

    • kc, if you’re curious to hear what he has to say, you should check out the audio recording from his recent speech in the US. It was posted on Macleans somewhere a few days ago. You can hear Galloway’s Scots charm and his gift of the gab.

  7. We don’t need free speech laws to protect popular, politically-correct, legitimate-sounding speech. That’s because when one says something mundane and uncontroversial, nobody complains. Or notices. Either free speech laws prevent the government from stifling speech they deem to be unworthy and bizarre (or would inconvenient and annoying be better descriptions), or they’re a waste of time.

    They are an excellent way to distract people though. Let them loudly argue about the right to make controversial speeches in public, while you pick their pockets.

  8. 4. Ur-Fascism attempts to squelch dissent
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVVa1IvHdKc

    In modern culture the scientific community and the democratic process praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge. For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason.

    Fourteen Warning Signs of a Fascist State
    -by Umberto Eco

  9. When he went to Gaza and gave the money he went on camera and said “im about to

    break the sanctions against the Hamas goverment”. If he believes he is breaking

    sanctions, then why don’t his supporters??. Canada believes he broke sanctions and

    so does he, so why is there argument banning him for breaking sanctions?. It’s his

    own words, unless he doesn’t believe what he said, he tends to be a crackpot.

  10. I’m with brian… free speech is a red herring. Galloway is free to speak somewhere else, and his canadian supporters are free to repeat exactly what he says any time, any where. He is being kept out because he made a financial contribution to a terrorist organization.

    That being said, I think they should have let him in anyway, as he is getting way more publicity now.

  11. If Ezra Levant can print cartoons that some find offensive (not me) and Mark Steyn can write an article in MacLean’s that is definitely offensive to some (again, not me) then Galloway is surely allowed to express his views that some may find offensive (NOT ME!!!!) This is just outrageous!!

    I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. – Evelyn Beatrice Hall ( No not Voltaire)

    The JDL is rejoicing at the fact that they were able to bring about this outcome?!? The Jewish Defense League?!? Is that a new Canadian political party that I haven’t heard of yet?

    We need a grassroots movement to make sure that this never happens again.

    Simply outrageous.

  12. Ok, so what part of Canada was he born in? Ah thats right, he is not from Canada.

    Lets worry about the people who want to come here to make a better life for themselves and enrich Canada with there diversity than some politician who has no interest in moving here, he is here to make money and take it out of our nation (greed not freedom of speech) lets be realistic. he is not here to travel and spend money and see the beauty of our country creating jobs.

    This is a joke that our media are giving to much attention,

  13. I love when people say, oh if so and so is allowed to do something wrong then i should be allowed to. I’d love to hear someone claim that OJ got off for killing his wife, why cant i got off for killing mine. Another claims facism when George himself agrees that the Dutch MP shouldn’t be allowed into England and state “Free speech is not absolute” when he whines about it. Id love to see one single Canadian that would agree to murderous KKK thugs that have the doctrine of “all canadian blacks must be killed” and some guy claiming he gave money to them but it was only to help their children but can i come into your country. I want to hear one of you Galloway supporters to tell me if he gave money to Native Canadians and ecouraging Natives to kill Canadians ( who suffered far worse from our hands then Jews killing Palestinians and occupying lands.) you are ok with it. Once again he went right on camera and said ” im about to break the sanctions of the hamas govt ) and Canada has sanctions against them..do people want a slide rule to figure it out?.. he admitted it. He gave it to murderous goons and thugs that kill their own people and abuse their own children. I want all people agreeing to Galloway to follow his lead and give money to abused children in Canada but follow his logic and give the money to the child abusers, that way you will be absolutely certain that the abuser will spend it all on the child of his choice..trust me he wont keep any for himself. After George codemns us for not supporting “free speach” in Canada and telling us how awful we are for waging the war in Iraq and Afghanistan he should go to Gaza on camera in front of every Palestinian and say ” I dont like how the Hamas Govt encourages people to strap bombs to each other and kill people and launching bombs into Isreal, I also dont like Hamas Tv showing 5 yr olds dresssed up in fatigues and guns , calling Jews pigs and ecouraging future suicide bombers.(its on camera check yourself).if he gets that far without being beat to a pulp or killed, he must Apologize to all the children and people of Palestine for ecouraging it, then pull a Braveheart and stick his head between his legs and kiss his own arse, do it not…then dont come into my country.

    • In the last Gaza-Israel confict, 13 Israeli’s died, 10 soildiers and 3 civilians. In Gaza, the death toll was over 1,300, a good percentage of them children.

      Never let the facts get in the way of jack-boot journalism.

  14. Four heavily armed RCMP officers feel threatened by an immigrant holding a stapler. He is tasered 5 times even as he lies face down in handcuffs. The officers lie repeatedly in their written reports.

    Our own intelligence services pass along false information to US authorities that result in a Canadian being sent to Syria and tortured. A 20 year investigation into into Canada’s involvement in the Air India bombing is totally botched.

    Now these same intelligence agencies have determined that a citizen relief effort that delivered a firetruck, 28 ambulances and 100 trucks filled with food, medical supplies and clothing worth $2 million to the people of Gaza was an act that supports terrorism.

    The Jewish Defense League boasts of it’s role in establishing this line of reasoning. And our own political leaders defer to the decision of some unnamed bureaucrat without even asking why, but pay lip service to the idea of “Freedom of Speech”. The US, meanwhile, has no problems with Mr. Galloway entering their country.

    I ask you this. Who is protecting us from the people who are protecting us? And speaking of icons, the Canadian flag on my backpack is becoming a bit of an embarrassment.

  15. What is embarrassing is someone going on about their own Government faults and (wrongs), which you should always do if you find wrongs and all of those are but wants to invite somebody doing something wrong… Are you equally embarrassed about supporting a man who walked up to Sadamn Hussein and thanked him for his strength and his courage? the man who killed thousands of his own people?…and called his son Uday “your excellency”, Uday who bragged about raping and torturing people?..As far as this so called charity, please handing over some of these cars to a government whether you agree they are terrorists are not is plain sickening, edible cars? they arent all ambulances, cant they walk ? If children are sufferring and starving why would someone give cars to people in suits. (that could feed a family for a week). Why didnt they get a nuetral 3rd part and knocked on every door they could and hand it out that way?. Then George says to (Hamas) ‘”revolution to victory” why is he encouraging more killing of innocent people, why isnt he ecouraging peace? and why are they chearing when he says revolution?..more of their people will die, why cheer?. He’s a remarkable speaker, why isnt he getting Isreal’s and Palestians together at a table everyday and negotiate peace?. If he is against his goverment so much..why is he paying taxes, the end up killing Iraqis?

    • How about a man who went up to Saddam Hussein and sold him weapons? It’s funny how people are outraged at an essentially powerless British MP saying what he says, while they kept their mouths shut about the last 30 years of US foreign policy.

      As to your questions, Brian — Israel wasn’t allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza. Are you saying you are incapable of understanding the point of Galloway giving aid to Palestinians through Hamas? I know it’s a lot easier and more pleasurable to swallow the spin, but are you seriously unable to follow the logic?

  16. If im against the war in Iraq and Afghanistan..how the heck can i be for American foreign policy??. I aleady stated “a wrong is a wrong”..do you want me name all of them, i dont think we have the time. To even mention the word “Bush” makes me sick. The main topic was should Galloway be banned…if the main topic was should Israel stop doing Illegal and unjust things i would say yes..How do you know im not against the occupation of lands there?? and what they have done. Nobody has mentioned Darfour either and im against, you havent mentioned it im sure you are against it. Im just against people encourging people to kill each other. At this “charity” conference George says “Revolution until victory”, than all of them are clapping and chearing, why applaud when more innocent jews and muslims will die??..Its digusting to applaud because more people will die. There wasnt one mention of peace. Why cant they have thousands of jews going over , who want peace and hand charity door to door to suffering Palestinians..Why are we enabling people to think of more and more ways to kill each other? Did you say he is essentially a powerless Mp?? he says on video “revolution to victory” and ‘”drive them out”..why do you think means, peace?..

  17. No one is “worthy” of rights. If people were to be worthy of rights, most of us wouldn’t have any.

    Dangerous double standard going on here. All the supposed “free speech” advocates are being duly exposed as hypocrites.

  18. Wow I cant believe all the hate and fear being posted here. What are you people afraid of? Some truth or other opinions being thought or told? The Canadian government only speaks for a minority of Canadians anyway.
    These acts of censorship only feed fuel to the injustices being covered up by our bought and paid for politicians. Remember truth needs no laws to protect it. Let the man speak, listen if you want, ignore him if you wish. I believe his cause is just and if our government and other like minded western nations lived up to the high standards they make us believe in, then there would be real truth and justice. Freedom is not free.

  19. If Galloway, like Mclean’s, was a supporter of one of the most murderous, terrorist nations in the world, Israel, or the USA, and likened Muslims to mosquitoes then the neocons of this rag would be all supportive of him and berating Canada’s decision to not allow him entry into the country. Of course, if he did support the “right” people, nations, groups, etc which is any group the “West” arbitrarily declares to be “good,” regardless of how murderous they may be, remember Hussein was a wonderful person when he was a friend of the West and killing and raping people who were not friends of the West, in fact he was supplied with the chemical weapons he used to kill Kurds, Iranians, etc by the USA, then Galloway would not be denied entry into Canada. The fact is, this country and the mainstream media is shutting out opposing views whether it’s denying entry into Canada of people that do not agree with the government’s official stance or not publishing opposing perspective or rebuttals, such as Mclean’s refusal to allow a rebuttal of it’s anti-Muslim bigotry or pro-war demagoguery, etc.

  20. What a pompous bit of fluff from a 3rd rate magazine. Galloway is an amusing idiot as opposed to many of your writers who actually take themselves and their fascism seriously.

  21. Galloway’s lawyers argument (i have the letter)

    The refusal to let Mr. Galloway enter Canada to speak infringes the freedoms
    under s.2 of the charter of those within Canada who want to attend and listen to him.. (so they are arguing your free speech was curtailed not his)..but if hes deemed inadmissable its a moot point..there no argument for free speech. In fact that was the only reference in the document in the appeal…

    so people get on to the issue of why they banned him…what was the reasoning..it wasnt “free speech”

    His own lawyers never made an argument for his., you could be delayed at the border for some reason and people would miss the speach … (its only ok to come back when they say you can come in…gee the guy could have released gas and not let him in, who cares..but we all know it wasn’t because he released gas, it was they think he funded a banned group..why cause he did it right on camera.. gee that might do it…especially after hes been accused and almost charged with the oil for food program scandal…they dont have 100% proof he did, just a reasonable expectation that he did. Just like when OJ killed his wife, he wasn’t convicted but had to pay cash in a wrongful death suit (the burden of proof was lower)….so until they are convinced otherwise, dont let him in. Then with any luck the British government would arrest him and stop letting him hide under the shield of a honourable Mp…when they already know he isn’t

  22. Jackman & Associates
    Barristers & Solictors
    596 St. Clair Avenue West, Unit 3
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M6C 1A6
    (phone number) — in phonebook
    Barbara Jackman/Hadyt Nazmi

    Contact his lawyers and ask if they claimed (free speech)

    I have the document and they didn’t claim it

    Don’t believe his own lawyers, ask them

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