Monday, November 30, 2009

The Impossibility of Censorship in a Free Nation

Stupidity reveals itself. Dumb ideas gain no traction.

And even when dumb people latch on to a dumb idea, the quality of those people's thinking is clearly on display - dispelling smart people from the stupid idea like water from oil.

This is why implementing Hate Crimes legislation is criminally stupid: You cannot legislate people's intelligence, nor their beliefs. If you try, you will inevitably end up arresting your own mother because she called you a rotten child once while spanking you.

People say idiotic things routinely. Even the most oppressive of dictators understood that to criminalize common human behaviours, like stupidity or vulgarity, while desirable, would result in unmanageable bureaucracy.

This is because we are all stupid, at times.

We get angry; we say things we don't mean. Some people are flat-out stupid, always angry, and say foolish things that turn our stomachs. This is fine. Stupidity being what it is, its' display will only attract more stupids, which will in turn drive the intelligents away. This is the way it has worked since the dawn of free speech, and it has worked: Do you see any white supremacist groups with any sort of political or social influence whatsoever in this country? The answer is no. Ten or twelve drunken rednecks does not an existential threat make.

This is the illusion that the media can propagate forever: That we are under siege by Hate, by Terror, by Drugs. All they have to do is photograph some dumb kid's scratching of a swastika on a school desk, slap the headline "Hate Crimes On Rise" overtop of it, and have it on page 3 of any / all of their newspapers.

By feeding into the illusion of growing hatred, threat, and ever-present prejudice, and by using language tactfully, it is easy to erode the freedoms that have allowed Canadians to become as prosperous as we are. We are so susceptible to emotional triggers in language - who wouldn't support legislation that magically Stops Hate? - that we buy it hook, line and sinker. Just tell us it’s to stop hate, or to save a child, or to feed the hungry, and we'll sign up.

But we won't read the legislation, or look into it's flaws - that would just be cynical.

Stripped of all the spin and bullshit, here's what it comes down to:

Once you make it criminal to speak an opinion - even true stupidity, like racist philosophy - you criminalize any and all deviation of opinion from the 'norm' - which is a manufactured concept anyway.

If we cross the line and begin censoring our own citizens for voicing opinions, what comes next?

Do we criminalize active opposition and derision of politicians? Speaking in an inflammatory way could lead to violence, after all.

Do we criminalize the right to protest in anger? To raise your voice and speak a truth you have discovered? Because when you do so, you are certainly Hating - you are actively advocating the destruction of certain concepts or institutions. Sounds like a threat to me.

Do we criminalize anger itself? It's irrational, it's dangerous.

If spouting racist garbage is a threat to the functioning of our society, does it not follow that criticizing the government is a threat to the functioning of our society? Of course it does.

And if spouting racist garbage is NOT a threat to our society, then why are we trying to prosecute it - why are we literally arresting people for being stupid?

Are we arresting them because their views are distasteful?

If that is the case - let me get this straight - we are trying to legislate TASTE?

In that case, we'd better burn all alternative literature, all punk / hip hop / jazz / alternative / reggae / folk / country / rock and roll music, all works of art that could be considered subversive or, I mean, "promoting hate".

In this context, a writer like me - or Noam Chomsky, or Jeff Rense, or Naomi Klein, or Michael Moore, or Amy Goodman - people like us promote hate every day.

I hate injustice, oppression, flawed economic policy… I hate hypocrisy on display, I hate the actions of the politicians, I hate military and police aggression, I hate the suppression of human integrity through systematic isolation and conceptual imprisonment… sorry, where was I?

In a few short years, we have twisted the lens of fear to include not only the turban-wearing brown man, but also the ideological supporters…the truth-seekers…the journalists…the bloggers… the dissidents, the speakers, the writers…the activist punk-rocker, the veteran of the military, the community farmer.

In 9 years we have run the course of our new philosophy of War on Terror… our War on Hate Crimes… our War on Words, and by extension, concepts…

We have met the Enemy, and he is Us.