David McLaren on Two Minutes of Hate

 

Before the Revolution 2 — The Two Minutes Hate

By David McLaren
Special to True North Perspective
 
David McLaren is an award-winning writer living at Neyaashiinigamiing on Georgian Bay. He has worked in government, in the private sector, with ENGOs (Environmental Non-Government Organizations) and First Nations. Comments on this and other essays are welcome at http://jdavidmclaren.wordpress.com/.

Winston sat in his cubicle in the Department and stared at his computer screen for a long time. O’Brien, his boss, had sent him a memo saying the Minister wanted a rationale for doing away with section 13 of the Human Rights Act. The Prime Leader’s Office had deemed it too vague to be useful and a threat to free speech besides.

He always got these assignments. He got them because he was, except for O’Brien himself, the longest serving policy analyst in the Department. He had somehow survived the purge of the civil service, and now the Party deemed him loyal enough to impart some sort of historical validity to their policy changes without damaging the new reality they were constructing.

This assignment was a tough one though. Section 13 was the only section in the Human Rights Actthat dealt with hate speech. All the rest dealt mainly with denial of services, housing, jobs, on the base of gender, race—the usual “classes of persons.”

But Winston knew that hate crimes were going up—77% in 2008-9, according to police statistics. And if he knew this, the Opposition would know it and so would some in the media who still called themselves journalists. They would make mincemeat of the Party if it scrapped a measure to deal with a crime that was actually increasing while enacting punitive measures to deal with crimes that were decreasing.

He supposed the Prime Leader’s response would be that the hate measures of the Criminal Code were sufficient. But, as B’nai Brith pointed out in its 2008 report supporting Human Rights Commissions, the Criminal Code was a very big and expensive hammer, useful only after hate propaganda had already done its damage, and only if it “is likely to lead to the breach of the peace,” to quote section 319.

Section 13 of the Human Rights Act, properly implemented, was a scalpel. It allowed Human Rights Commissions to stop the hate before it could spread and do serious damage, rather like a surgeon making a pre-emptive excision of a cancerous tumour. In this way, hate speech could be dealt with at a lot less cost to governments, the individuals involved, and to free speech.

Winston remembered another report that said more or less the same thing—the Ipperwash Inquiry Report, in 2005. Judge Linden determined that the Harris Government contributed to the shooting death of Dudley George by adding to the hateful rhetoric that swirled around the Aboriginal occupation of a Provincial Park.

As B’nai Brith pointed out, “The Holocaust did not begin with censorship. It began with hate speech.”

Winston sighed. The B’nai Brith report itself was a problem. Under its Executive Director, Frank Dimant, B’nai Brith had become a staunch supporter of the Party and of the Prime Leader personally. Gutting Human Rights Commissions of their ability to deal with anti-Semitic speech was not going to go down well in certain influential circles.

There was something else that bothered him. Even as it was looking at abolishing Section 13, the Prime Leader’s Office was considering banning anything that glorified terrorism. Winston wondered if that play the Prime Leader disliked at Toronto Fringe in 2011 would fall under the ban. Or the hymn, “Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war …” Maybe if someone sang instead, “Onward Islam’s soldiers, marching to jihad.”

Who could tell? He had seen the Fringe play and it certainly did not glorify terrorism. But these niceties, along with facts in general, were currently out of favour. The “glorification of terrorism” was as vague as section 13’s “any matter likely to expose a person or persons to hate.”

The Prime Leader’s Office could either get hate-free speech (if they kept section 13) or free hate-speech (if they cut it). No matter how hard he thought, Winston could not see how they could get both at once.

His head was beginning to hurt. For a break he went online for what Julie, the office cynic, called their daily two minutes hate.* Internet use in their Section was being closely monitored these days but DoublePlusGood.com was allowed.* More than allowed, it was quietly and subtlety encouraged and most in his office tuned in for at least a couple of minutes a day.

He clicked on “The Source” with Ezra Levant. Levant had had his own run-in with Human Rights Commissions when he re-reprinted cartoons mocking Islam, or rather the version of Islam promoted by what he called “political Islam”.

The rant of the day was no surprise to Winston: Ezra was calling Human Rights Commissions kangaroo courts and its officers free speech commissars. After exactly two minutes Winston clicked on the close button and stared some more at O’Brien’s memo. His brief was due first thing tomorrow.

Clearly he was going to have to doublethink this thing. Yes, thought Winston, it’s going to be a long night.

*cribbed from George Orwell’s 1984.

David McLaren is an award-winning writer living at Neyaashiinigamiing on the Bruce Peninsula. Comments on this and other essays are welcome at http://jdavidmclaren.wordpress.com/

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