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Orwell’s Canada

Tuesday February 21, 2012

I hate the hyperbole that has come to mark Canadian public discourse. I’m a blogger and we’re not exactly known for elevating the tone of dialogue, but the casual shouts of ‘fascist’ and ‘communist’ and various other slurs by our politicians have seriously debased this country.

I do not wish to add to that chorus an contribute to this further decline.

Yet the powers that this government would claim for itself very much resemble the powers a police state would take.  I do not believe that is the intention of the Conservatives (impertinent tweets not withstanding) but such powers could be used in the future by unscrupulous politicos of any party or persuasion.

In the 21st century a person with a mobile phone and a twitter account is a bigger threat to a government then 10 militia men running around in the woods with a rifle.

The Internet has become that vital backstop.  We’ve seen it in the Arab Spring.

Despite the autocratic actions of this government I do not believe they themselves are seeking to establish a totalitarian fascist nightmare state in Canada.  The Conservatives are many things but malicious masterminds of a new dictatorship they are not. No, there are other things going on here.

The first is that they simply don’t get it on a deep level. They don’t see a person’s electronic privacy as falling into the same category as a person’s private snail mail. They obviously don’t have a clue about how to deal social media given their response to #tellviceverything or their inability to understand the level of outrage.  Politicians in general don’t seem to have a good grasp of social media (with notable exceptions such as Naheed Nenshi and Justin Trudeau) and still value old fashioned retail politics above all.  When it comes to the Internet the Conservatives will ultimately dismiss it as whinging from ‘those people.’

Second thing that stands out is the ‘democracy is what I say it is’ attitude. Not exactly a new one for Conservatives or even partisans of any party but it has always seemed more extreme in some of the young partisan activists of the old Reform and Canadian Alliance parties in Alberta.  Those young activists with their impressive energy and drive could expound on democratic reform for hours but completely dismiss any suggestion that their reforms would not lead to the desired conservative outcome with little regard for the voting public. In one instance I was told that ‘the people would fall in line.’

I’m not suggesting that these activists actually wanted or would support a conservative dictatorship, however, this attitude has become incredibly pervasive in the Conservatives. And that’s where the problem comes in.

The Conservative doublethink, combined with their ‘democracy is what I say it is’ attitude are planting the seeds that could one day lead to a real authoritarian movement. And bill C-30 would give that future unscrupulous government the tool to take down the real threat:

Internet users.   The people who brought down a half a dozen regimes last year.

Authoritarian capitalism is the biggest geopolitical threat in the world right now.  The crony capitalist dictatorships of Russia and ‘Communist’ China have been busily exporting their style of government into their near abroad.

Is it really such a stretch, in times of economic uncertainty, that something similar might not try to take root here as well?  The Great Depression was a breeding ground for radical political movements across the political spectrum, movements that caused untold human suffering.

We’re not there yet.  We’re a long, long way off from these outcomes but avoiding them and maintaining democracy is the never ending work of all citizens.

 And a good start would be to avoid the newspeak and hyperbole.

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