Saturday, May 11, 2002

Fired prof was 'his own worst enemy,' lawyer argues

Winnipeg libel action

Les Perreaux
National Post

WINNIPEG - A cabal of feminists, including a local newspaper columnist, destroyed the teaching career of Henry Makow, an anti-feminist professor who was dismissed from the University of Winnipeg, his lawyer argued yesterday.

Based on an interview with one student, The Winnipeg Sun painted Mr. Makow as an immoral, bigoted and dishonest person, Sidney Green said in closing arguments for Mr. Makow's libel action against the paper.

Columnist Lyn Cockburn wrote that Mr. Makow beat women. She also wrote that the 52-year-old man cornered young women in class and in private and questioned them about their sex lives, allegations Mr. Green said were not proved at trial.

"These suggestions imply that Mr. Makow has some kind of sexual problem, that here is a 50-year-old man doing these thing with an 18-year-old girl. He's a dirty old man, that's what they're saying. His accusers had an axe to grind, and that axe was one of feminism," Mr. Green said.

Mr. Makow, the inventor of the board game Scruples, was hired on a one-year contract to teach at the University of Winnipeg. He was not rehired the following year after several students complained about his behaviour and views.

In class, Mr. Makow argued a decidedly anti-feminist view of gender roles in society. He said society has declined as women have taken on traditional male roles, abandoning the family to pursue careers. He also argued that homosexual men are the product of single mothers.

Five students testified that Mr. Makow argued loudly in class, intimidating students, that he spoke too frequently about sex and that he once made disparaging comments about the dress of religious Jews and Muslims. He also bragged, some said, that he beat his former girlfriend.

Seven other students testified, however, that the complainants exaggerated or distorted Mr. Makow's behaviour and that he was an excellent teacher.

Robert Tapper, the lawyer for the Sun, dismissed their evidence. He compared Mr. Makow to Jim Keegstra, the Alberta teacher who taught his students that the Holocaust was fiction. Some of Mr. Keegstra's students believed him, despite all proof to the contrary.

Mr. Tapper suggested Mr. Makow's seven supporters, all in their early 20s, had fallen under their professor's sway in a similar fashion. "That is the danger of teaching nonsense to youngsters," he said. He argued Mr. Makow's views make him unfit to teach, citing several articles and books Mr. Makow has written since he left the university. In one book, Mr. Makow quipped that women should be kept like cats. In another, he wrote that "penis equals power and in a heterosexual relationship, there is only room for one." Mr. Makow has also written articles decrying a homosexual conspiracy he believes is destroying families, though he never aired these views in class, court heard.

At one point during the trial, Mr. Makow hissed at a witness that she was lying. Mr. Justice Marc Monnin ordered him to restrain himself.

Mr. Tapper seized on the outburst to suggest Mr. Makow taught with similar tactics of intimidation.

"This case is about the ramblings of a fellow who was his own worst enemy. His problems have nothing to do with The Winnipeg Sun or, in the most ridiculous and preposterous proposition of all, feminism," Mr. Tapper said. "I call him the product of sick thinking."

Judge Monnin is not expected to arrive at a decision for several weeks.

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