In a strange and distant land called Toronto, a Jewish comedian named Danny Polishchuk decided to hold a comedy show supporting free speech, proceeds from which would be donated to a Candian equivalent of the ACLU. But his plan went awry when people began accusing him of being a fascist and someone smashed the locks at the venue. From the Toronto Star:
On the day the event was supposed to happen, [venue co-owner Gary] Rideout Jr. was made aware of a Facebook post which referred to this standup comedy show as “crypto-fascist,” and said his box-office line had received several callers voicing concerns that people involved in the show may have ties to extreme political groups.
When he arrived at the club around 4 p.m., Rideout Jr. found the venue’s locks had been jammed. He said he did not report the broken locks to the police because his top priority was reopening in time for his early evening shows. He also said he didn’t think there was any way to prove who was responsible for the damage, which cost him more than $400 to fix.
After assessing the physical damage done to the venue and the calls received, Rideout Jr. cancelled Polishchuk’s show.
How did all this happen? Ryerson University, which is also in Toronto, recently canceled an event titled, “The stifling of free speech on university campuses.” The university cited safety concerns even as it came under pressure from left-wing protesters who promised to hold an anti-fascist rally. Even after the cancellation, the group did hold a rally called “No Fascist T.O. Diversity Rally.”
Polishchuk, the comedian, sees his livelihood as dependent on free speech and sought to hold the night of comedy which he dubbed the “No Fascist T.O. Comedy Show” in an obvious reference to the rally. In a post about the event, Polishchuk made clear he was defending free speech, not sympathizing with white supremacists (who he suggested should kill themselves):
Freedom of speech is under attack and comedians are rightfully worried. When Harvard professors aren’t allowed to share ideas and Jews are being called Nazis something is seriously amiss. It’s okay to disagree with other people but silencing them is not the answer.
Let’s come together for a night of comedy supporting free speech. Tickets are $20 and all proceeds will go to The Canadian Civil Liberties Association to learn more. We don’t have a venue yet and will pick one depending on interest. Comedians will be some of Toronto’s best!
Some notes: If you’re an ACTUAL **** or WHITE SUPREMACIST or anything of this sort you ARE NOT WELCOME. Instead we recommend purchasing a gun and KILLING YOURSELF. If you’re a member of an ‘anti-fascist’ group then we recommend not being an actual ******* fascist and letting us have our comedy show.
Clearly, that wasn’t enough. The club owner, like the university, cited safety concerns as the reason for the cancellation. Gary Rideout Jr. told Vice, “If someone nutcase who smashed my locks in found out I got around that and was now mad that that didn’t work, what were they going to do next? Put a brick through my window?” He added, “I have staff, I have patrons that are going to the other five shows that night. So I just didn’t need to be the battleground for two extreme groups to show up and duke it out.”
As for Polishchuk, he’s rescheduling the event for November and says he plans to keep the same name. He told Vice, “They need to understand that free speech isn’t being a Nazi. Just because they’re sensitive about a title doesn’t mean I’m going to change my life. I’m not going to be like ‘I’m sorry the words free speech triggered you so badly.’ Grow up.”