Ezra Levant and Giaccomo Vigna ‘cross swords’ inside a courtroom

Ezra Levant is a colourful character – to say the least.

He is the Canadian lawyer who became a household name as the guy who is willing to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to defending the most important and fundamental of all the human rights – the right to freedom of speech.

Because of his responsible self-conduct as both a human being and a journalist (he was the editor of Western Standard),  he had become the target of the Human Rights Commissions – both the Canadian federal version as well as its various provincial tentacles.

It is difficult for most of us, reasoning human beings, to understand just how badly twisted things have become in our society, just how endangered our rights as human beings have truly become, until this Kafkaesque nightmare Mr. Levant found himself in brought it to our awareness.  Once there, there was no going back.

Even kids could figure it out!

What is the best way to fight injustice?

Expose it – so everyone can see it for what it is and judge for themselves.  Most people are actually much smarter than the ‘Nanny State’ gives them credit for!

What is the best way to take power away from a bully?

Humour.

Mr. Levant has, over the years, combined these two weapons very, very effectively.  Which is what got him in trouble with Mr. Vigna….

Mr. Vigna is a fascinating person.

He is (or was – I don’t know his current employment status) a lawyer for the Canadian Human Rights Commission.  His one and only claim to fame (to the best of my knowledge) so far has been to be the lawyer who, during the Mark Lemier case, asked for the court to adjourn because he was ‘ not feeling serene’ and thus unable to argue the case…

Today (thanks to email by BCF alerting me to this), I went to watch what happened during the court case where Mr. Vigna is suing Mr. Levant for defamation or libel (I can’t keep those two things straight…), based on what Mr. Levant wrote about Mr. Vigna on his blog.  It was the second last scheduled day of the trial:  Mr. Levant finished his testimony and Mr. Vigna began his cross-examination of him.

Tomorrow were supposed to be the closing arguments only, but Mr. Vigna was unable to finish his cross examination today.  The judge suggested another day be added to the proceedings:  this seemed (in my never-humble-opinion) to throw Mr. Vigna into a panic!  He promised to be more focused and brief – he already has his closing argument written up (he said).  To a non-lawyer type person like me, the level of Mr. Vigna’s agitation at the suggestion that another day be added to the proceedings seemed rather out of proportion.  What do I know!

Anyhow, after Mr. Vigna swore up and down that he’d be brief (sic!), the judge just said we’d start earlier in the morning so we could hope to get through it…

So, what went on today?

I am a notoriously slow thinker.  It will take me a while to mull this through – so, these are really really really preliminary observations.  I’ll do a better write-up, with the proper links and all, later.

What I WOULD like to focus on, though, are the ‘big things’.  The major topics, true, but even more than what was said, I’d like to focus on how it was said and the body language that went on.

Why?

Because I think that our brains are very curious organs.  They process information on many levels – and they don’t always tell us all of what they are doing.  But, they DO tell our bodies…which is why body language can tell us more about what is going on (at times) than words can.  And, Mr. Vigna seemed so delightfully unaware of what his body language was projecting, it made quite an impression on me…

Even before things got underway, the two main characters in the trial presented very different demeanor.

Mr. Vigna was first nervously arranging numerous boxes of ‘stuff’ he had wheeled in (in those ‘Staples’ boxes that hold many bundles of printer paper).  Then he sat at his desk/table, leaned forward over papers, head resting on the tips of the fingers of his right hand (which also held a cheap pen) as if thinking hard through a headache (we’ve all been there!).

Mr. Levant was  full of excited energy – sort of like what you see in an athlete before a race.  He was busy telling his lawyer about Atatürk and analyzing his policies – including his take on the whole freedom of speech and libel ‘stuff’:  it seemed to me Mr. Levant had gone to quite a lot of depth as well as breadth to prepare for this issue!

When the case resumed, Mr. Levant was giving testimony.  Then, after he finished, Mr. Vigna began to cross examine him.

While he testified, Mr. Levant’s body language was pretty natural.

Mr. Vigna, at times, objected:  during the objections, his body language varied between frustrated and aggressive:  lots of little ‘fussy’ movements with his hands, head tilts and so on.  Otherwise, his body language suggested to my layman’s eyes that he was still ‘working through a headache’.  I ought to mention:  he did wear a lovely tie with beautiful, serenely blue stripes on it.

The judge’s (the Honourable Mr. Justice Smith)body language was ‘carefully neutral’.

Mr. Levant’s lawyer (remind me not to play cards against him) had non-existent ‘natural’ body language, but maintained the ‘professional blankness’ that seems the preferred body language of the most highly paid lawyers (from my limited observation

OK – this is getting long.  I wish I had the ability (like this consise write up by thenice dude who sat next to me) to percolate the pertinent facts into a brief article…. while I’m getting ‘up there’ in the word count…

During the cross examination, Mr. Vigna rested his hands on the edge of his desk and really, really leaned forward with his upper body, giving him a very ‘bull-like’ aggressive body language – until Mr. Levant answered (in response to one of Mr. Vigna’s questions)  asserted that he thought Mr. Vigna WAS a ‘political bully’.  It was at exactly THAT point that Mr. Vigna’s body language ‘softened up’….

Mr. Vigna seemed to think that the ‘best’ way to cross examine Mr. Levant was too, at times, fire several questions with mutually contradictory answers at once – and hoping Mr. Levant answers one of them in a way Mr. Vigna could ‘paraphrase’ (as, in, twist).  Another approach he also seemed to take was to fire ‘statements’ at Mr. Levant – without a question – and waiting…..if Mr. Levant responded, he’d say ‘THAT’ was ‘NOT the question he asked’ – until even the judge began to point out to Mr. Vigna that he had failed to ask an actual question….

Mr. Levant’s body language went from ‘anticipation-excited’ to ‘passionate’ (freedom of speech bits) to frustrated (having to repeat himself 7-8 times).

The judge’s body language?

Hard to read.

In my never-humble-opinion, the judge’s body language went from ‘guardedly impartial’ to ‘suppressing the giggles’ to ‘bored’ to ‘mildly frustrated’ to ‘seriously disturbed’ by Mr. Vigna’s behaviour (which, at one point, included Mr. Vigna actually physically pulling up his pants as he shot a self-satisfied ‘we got him now’ look to his only supporte in the audience over something that was NOT a ‘goth-cha’ moment, but rather another demonstration of how Mr. Vigna just ‘did not get’ what was happening around him….)

OK, I am not a lawyer or any kind of legal mind….  These are just my personal observations.  But, today was the first time I saw Mr. Vigna in any circumstances whatsoever.  Yet, I was forced (by his dmeanour as wll as his behaviour) to conclude that he is not really aware of what he is doing, how he comes across or just how irrelevant his arguments to the court are…

Sorry to quit before I told the whole story – I plead fatigue and hope (not certainty) that I’ll make it back to the  courthouse tomorrow….

Either way – more to come later!