On the Use of "Hate" and "Extremism" to Control the Political Space

Canadians and Quebeckers Must Rely on Their Own Strength to Defeat Spurious Definitions of "Hate" and "Online Harms"

Protest on Parliament Hill, March 14, 2015, against attacks on freedom of speech and conscience in the Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act 2015, which became law on June 18, 2015.

The federal authorities are facing problems in getting proposed legislation to counter "online harms" passed. This is the case too as concerns proposed "anti-hate" laws. The basic problem lies in how "violent extremism" and "hate" are defined and by whom and the fact that definitions tend to be self-serving, suited to some immediate need of narrow private interests to silence a section of the population.

The rulers are themselves ideologically motivated to maintain and defend the existing system and its institutions of governance. This and repeated experience makes them not credible when they say they are not presenting ideologically motivated criteria, or that their criteria does not condemn people because of their ideological views and opinions or that it does not deprive them of their civil liberties.

A current example is that the deliberate massacres the Israel Defense Forces are carrying out in Gaza are not considered by the Canadian state to constitute violent extremism or hate crimes. Canada refuses to make sure the perpetrators of these acts are brought to justice as war criminals but it does persecute Canadians who oppose Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel and the crimes it is committing. The U.S., Britain, Canada and others give Israel a green light, as well as arms and money, and provide disinforming propaganda despite the fact that what it is doing is already declared to come under the category of war crimes and crimes against humanity as defined since World War II. The attempt to silence those who oppose these war crimes is also clearly understood to violate civil liberties recognized by the constitutions of European nation-states.

Hence the difficulty facing the ruling class to justify the suppression of views with which they do not agree and have the suppression be seen as necessary to defend the public good, national security and the like.

While the U.S. is in the throes of one legal battle after the other at both the federal and state levels to determine what is and what is not democratic in that country, Britain has also come up with what it calls a new definition of extremism. There is nothing new about the "new definition," which updates the definition Britain set out in its 2011 Prevent Strategy. It more specifically makes it a crime to "undermine, overturn or replace the UK's system of liberal parliamentary democracy" and then says the crime can simply involve "threatening, inciting, justifying, glorifying or excusing violence towards a group." This is something governments regularly claim is occurring with actions in support of Palestine, anti-war actions, during strikes and more. Laws concerning "extremism" and "hate" in Britain, Canada and the U.S. bring to the fore “extremism” and "hate" as the problem, in another attempt to justify what cannot be justified. Britain also says "new" definitions are required to "reflect the evolution of extremist ideologies and the social harms they create." This is more or less -- word for word -- what Canada also says, as transmitted to it by the political police which comprise what are called the "Five Eyes," the intelligence services of five so-called English-speaking countries -- the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Defenders of civil liberties point out that current Canadian laws, including provisions of the Criminal Code, already permit the prosecution of those who commit crimes and no further laws are required. They also point to Canada's history of forgiving certain people it considers its friends, such as the Nazis and collaborators it permitted into the country after World War II to whom it gave citizenship on the grounds that being members of the Waffen-SS is not proof that they committed the Nazi atrocities associated with the Waffen-SS. But those accused of "violent extremism" and of being purveyors of "hate" can be defamed and targeted in the most heinous ways using all kinds of arbitrary means, such as getting them fired from their jobs, or deported, criminalized in various ways and even locked up for life. In other words, it is enough for a minister to declare a view or an action a matter of national security, based on secret information, for people to be silenced, criminalized and penalized.

Since 9/11, the crimes the U.S. and Britain have committed in the name of eliminating extremists, including torture, inhuman treatment of prisoners, brutal targeted assassinations and revenge killings, are well known. Every effort is made to link "hate," and "hate crimes" with extremism, something to be feared and punished. This current exercise has the Canadian ruling class once again being deceitful, duplicitous, and destructive, all in the name of keeping up with evolving realities, "balancing security and rights," the public good and national security. While everything it is doing reveals it is not worthy of trust or public office, the consciousness that its aim is to mislead and cover up an appearance of double-dealing is increasingly widespread.

Picket in Ottawa, June 25, 2018, against security certificates and secret trials in Canada.

Canada was founded as a dominion of the British Empire and promotes the liberal institutions that came into being in Victorian times which claimed to champion peace, order and good government. The juridical outlook which replaced the medieval theological outlook would have us believe that if things are done according to a law, then they are okay. But of course, this is not okay. Today parliamentary majorities are used to pass all kinds of laws which are not okay. Canada has no dearth of lawyers, defenders of civil liberties and champions of rights who speak out against violations of civil liberties to make sure that what is lawful is reasonable, not self-serving or arbitrary or against what they deem to be in the public interest. And this is important. It is necessary. It helps to make sure the ruling class cannot get away with some of the most egregious things they do. But it is not enough. The decisive force is that of the people speaking out in their own name. The working class harbours no illusions about the aims of the ruling class but it speaks out because it must. It cannot permit the ruling class to do all kind of terrible things in the name of the people, as it is doing regarding Israel today, amongst other things.

The bottom line is that today the ruling class is quick to accuse other countries of being authoritarian and autocratic and forgive everything the United States, Britain, Canada and those who share their arbitrary "rules-based order" do. According to this "rules-based order," they make up the rules as they go along and anyone who refuses to succumb is out of order. All they achieve is to show that they are the ones who are autocratic and authoritarian, undemocratic to the core. Unfolding events reveal that it is the striving of the peoples led by the working class which is crucial to open a path to progress.

While in the case of the U.S., Britain and Canada as well as France and other countries, champions of civil liberties are very insightful in making cogent arguments which put the self-serving and boorish arguments of the government spokespersons to shame, believing that the liberal democratic institutions are the final form of governance is limiting at best. How to eliminate the usurpation of power by narrow supranational private interests by creating mass democratic transitional forms of discussion, deliberation and decision-making is the problem the working class and people need to take up for solution by doing it.

This article was published in
Volume 54 Number 23 - March 28, 2024

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