Online debate can be a natural, zesty enterprise, but rarely is it a fair fight.
Case in point: the brutal and ongoing takedown of the Ontario Human Rights Commission by just about anyone with an IP address.
But it's only a one-sided scuffle online. The other side fights back in the realm of government. It began when Maclean's published The Future Belongs To Islam, an excerpt from the book America Alone, by monoculturalist Mark Steyn. Charges of Islamophobia followed.
The initial complaint - launched by the Canadian Islamic Congress and brought before the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), headed by former mayor Barbara Hall - was ravaged as anti-free-speech and Stalinist.
Hall abstained from making a formal ruling and instead issued a public statement lambasting Steyn and the article as Islamophobic and pointing to 21 other similarly offending Maclean's pieces. This, too, was thrown under a bus by bloggers.
Another target of bloggers' vitriol is Ottawa-based lawyer and former Canadian Human Rights Tribunal investigator Richard Warman. While not involved in the Steyn affair, he too is criticized for pursuing human rights cases.
Though Warman has threatened litigation against several Web writers (including a McGill undergrad), he has no discernible presence online. A website bearing Warman's name is even dedicated to discrediting him.
But while Hall, the OHRC and Warman are grossly underrepresented on the Web, Steyn and his online confederates haven't got a foothold in official forums. Steyn said as much on CTV's Mike Duffy Live - a viral video this week - complaining that he can't get federal Minister of Justice Rob Nicholson to return his calls on the human rights matters.
Instead of each faction causing a ruckus in its own domain - Steyn and the bloggers online, Hall and Warman in the commissions - the two should probably just meet. Courtroom or chat room - the same room.
Joshua Errett is Online Editor for nowtoronto.com.