The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Thursday, April 28, 2022

What Word Would You Use?

What word would you use to describe a government that loudly proclaims its belief in and commitment to “democracy” but governs with contempt for the institution of Parliament and the idea that it, that is the government in the sense of the Cabinet of executive ministers, is accountable to Parliament for all of its actions and displays this same contempt regardless of whether it commands a majority or a small plurality in the House of Commons?   


What if that same government, while constantly evoking the “common good” when demanding total submission and obedience to every rule, regulation, and restriction it imposes even if these blatantly violate, and not in any way that could objectively be called reasonable or minimal, the most basic of the rights and freedoms that are supposed to be protected by constitutional law, conspicuously governs in a way that rewards those who tend to vote for it and punishes those who tend to vote against it?  


Let us say, for example, that a Liberal government on the one hand got itself embroiled in a huge corruption scandal for putting pressure on its Justice Minister to interfere in an ongoing prosecution on behalf of a large corporate donor to the Liberal Party located in the home province of the Prime Minister, and on the other hand did everything in its power to sabotage the energy industry of the province(s) least likely to elect Liberals to Parliament.      Let us add that this same Liberal government in the name of combatting the gun violence that is primarily a problem in urban areas that vote Liberal or NDP, introduced a new gun ban that was completely useless for that purpose in that urban gun violence is almost entirely committed with already illegal handguns, but, like most previous Liberal gun legislation, primarily affected rural gun owners who tend not to vote Liberal or NDP.    Let us also add that this Liberal government keeps targeting parts of the population – like pickup truck owners and prairie grain farmers – who traditionally vote against the Liberals with its tax policies.


In other words it displays utter disregard for that grand traditional principle of Parliament that it is the duty of those who hold executive office in government to serve all Canadians – this is what the common good is supposed to mean and what it was traditionally understood to mean – rather than favouring their own supporters, and especially not punishing those who voted against them.   Note that hindering the government from giving in to the temptation to do the latter is a major part of the role of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition and of the reason why Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is an official standing in Parliament and not just a label for the runner-up in the last Dominion election.


Suppose that the same government was led by a Prime Minister who refuses to take action when protests conducted in the name of causes that he and his followers support such as the various causes associated with the Green movement or those of the so-called anti-racist – in reality anti-white would be a more accurate description – movement disrupt commerce, movement, and the everyday lives of numerous Canadians or even break out into violence and other destructive criminal behaviour.    Suppose that this same Prime Minister likes to lecture the governments of other countries on the need to allow peaceful protest and to listen to people who disagree with them.   Then suppose that this same Prime Minister, when faced with a protest against his government’s policies and actions and how they have infringed upon Canadians’ basic rights and freedoms and adversely affected the lives and livelihoods of the protesters and countless others, even though the protest is far more deserving of the adjective “peaceful” than any of those that the Prime Minister supports, instead of listening to them hides himself away and like a tantrum-throwing three year old hurls every nasty name he can think of against them, before bringing out the biggest tool available to the government, one designed for use against terrorism and never before used in its current form, essentially putting the country under martial law, in order to crack down hard on the protesters.    While all of this is still expanding upon our initial and primary question it is worth adding a second question here of whether, when this Prime Minister sets up an inquiry into his own just mentioned actions, we can expect this to be impartial and its results credible.


Now suppose that immediately after the events described in the previous paragraph the same Prime Minister goes on a foreign tour in which he lectures other leaders about the dangers of a rise in “authoritarianism”.   In his usage, “authoritarian” appears to describe leaders and movements he doesn’t like, whereas “democratic” appears to mean little more than leaders and movements he does like, and the purpose of the lectures would seem to be to encourage the governments of the world to join him in an attempt to recklessly escalate a volatile situation in a volatile part of the world that the Americans had foolishly been fomenting for years into something much worse.   Meanwhile, while condemning “authoritarianism” – again, meaning little more than those whose politics he disagrees with – his own governance displays many of the characteristics of totalitarianism.


The distinction between “authoritarianism” and “totalitarianism” was made by Jeane Kirkpatrick, who would soon thereafter serve as American ambassador to the UN during the Reagan administration, in an article entitled “Dictatorships and Double Standards” that appeared in the flagship journal of American neo-conservatism, Commentary, in November of 1979 and was later expanded into a book that came out in 1982.   While the Kirkpatrick Doctrine is vulnerable to many of the same objections that could be made against American neo-conservatism in general, the distinction is not without merit.    The basic distinction is that an “authoritarian” government claims a monopoly on political power in the country it governs, but a “totalitarian” government claims a monopoly on every aspect of the country – political, economic, social, cultural – and the lives of those it governs.    Consequently, an authoritarian government, while bossier and far less tolerant of dissent than Western liberal democracies are – or like to think they are at any rate – does not attempt to dictate the every thought of those they govern, like a totalitarian regime.   People living under an authoritarian government were thought to be far less free than people living in a liberal democracy but far more free than people living in a totalitarian police state.   Programming the public to think a certain way about everything, spying on everyone’s every move, basically everything out of George Orwell’s 1984, these are the hallmarks of totalitarianism.   The term first caught on as a convenient way of describing the characteristics shared by both the Bolshevik regime in the Soviet Union and the Fascist and National Socialist regimes in Italy and Germany.


Totalitarian governments like to rely upon fear to keep their populations under control.   Related to this, one of their favourite tactics to use against dissenters is scapegoating.   Scapegoating is when they point to an identifiable group of dissenters – it works best if the group is small and unpopular – and blames this group for whatever ills are afflicting the population, with these ills often being in reality the fault of the government, and tell the public that “they” are to blame, that these “spoilers” are the reason the regime’s grand and glorious programs aren’t working out as planned.   By doing this the totalitarian regime is able to identify its own enemies in the public mind as “enemies of the people” and turn the public’s fear against them.


Let us now return to the Liberal Prime Minister we had been discussing.   Let us imagine that this individual won the first term of his premiership in a Dominion election in which he accused his Conservative predecessor of employing the “politics of fear and division”.  The implication was that it was fear of ethnic and racial diversity and immigration that he was accusing the previous government of in which case the accusation was entirely groundless as that government was similar to his own on such matters.  The public did have good reason to think of the previous Conservative Prime Minister as engaging in the politics of fear in that he had exploited the fear of terrorism to pass a bill making it easier for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to spy on Canadians.   The Liberal leader, however, had been the only other party leader in Parliament to support this bill.   Perhaps his talk about the “politics of fear and division” was just an empty smokescreen.  


When it came to his own premiership, however, “the politics of fear and division” could be said to be its feature characteristic.   As one of the new “woke” breed of progressives, he has stoked the fear of such things as racism – racism on the part of whites, he doesn’t care about explicit and even violent racial hatred directed against whites by other people – sexism, homophobia, and more recently transphobia – in order to turn Canadians who have the “correct” opinions on such matters, i.e., those approved by the media and academic left, against Canadians who do not.   When the media generated an unnecessary panic over the spread of a new coronavirus he exploited the situation to get out from under the constraints of Parliamentary accountability which ordinarily would be enhanced by his having been reduced to minority status in the last Dominion election only a few months prior.   He made use of this new situation to spend like a drunken sailor, paying Canadians to stay home for months, so the provincial governments and their public health officers could follow the advice of the Dominion public health officer, which was to implement the experimental procedure of trying to control the spread of the virus by keeping everybody apart.   When this didn’t work, he scapegoated those who objected to the unprecedented curtailing of all our basic rights and freedoms.    Then, when the new mRNA injections were available, he, flip-flopping completely on his original stated position that they would be available to those who wanted them but nobody would be compelled to take them, jumped on board the idea of returning to most Canadians most of their rights and freedoms, converted by the whole process into permissions and privileges, while locking those who had refused the injection – or the required number of injections – out of the new re-opened society in a way that resembles nothing so much as the whole “show me your papers” trope from depictions of Cold War era totalitarian regimes.   His scapegoating of those who refused the injection – those, remember, who are distinguished from other Canadians only by the fact that they were not willing to give the government their unthinking, blind, trust and allow themselves to be injected with a never-before-used-on-humans substance that had not completed its clinical trials merely because the government said it was safe and was heavily pressuring them into taking it – was in language that we would normally associate with how the Bolsheviks talked about the kulaks, or the Nazis about the Jews.   Accusing them of all sorts of “isms” that had nothing to do with the issue, he suggested that we should be asking ourselves as a society whether we should be tolerating them in our midst.   Bizarre as may be to compare something said about the ultra-individualist Ayn Rand to this collectivist creep, his comment nevertheless brings to mind something Whittaker Chambers said in his famous review of Atlas Shrugged in the December, 1957 issue of National Review: “From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: ‘To a gas chamber-go!’”


Now suppose this Prime Minister also conspicuously displays another totalitarian characteristic – the urge to control what everyone else thinks.   Indeed, let us further stipulate that this trait was evident in his leadership of his own party before he even became Prime Minister.    Declaring by fiat that the debate about abortion was settled and over – a rather strange way of describing a status quo that exists merely because Parliament narrowly failed in the Mulroney premiership to follow the Supreme Court’s recommendation that it pass new abortion laws to replace those it was striking down and no subsequent government has had the gumption to do anything about despite the fact that there is overwhelming public support for neither the status quo nor the status quo ante – he forbade pro-life members of his own party from voting their conscience on the issue, and refused to sign the nomination papers of any future candidates that did not agree with him on the matter.   It is less surprising, therefore, that a leader who places strict limits on what members of his own party are allowed to think on a controversial issue like this, as Prime Minister would treat the country in the same way.


When it comes to Canadians, this not-so-hypothetical Prime Minister is single-mindedly obsessed with controlling both the information that they are allowed to access and the ideas they are allowed to share with others.    When his then-Finance Minister, who shortly thereafter would be forced to resign in disgrace to save the Prime Minister’s skin in a scandal in which both of their families were involved, announced a government bailout of privately owned newspapers, television stations, and other pre-internet media of communication, he declared that this was “to protect the vital role that independent news media play in our democracy and in our communities”.   Predictably, however, it had almost the opposite effect of this.   The newspapers, television stations, etc. that took this money – the vast majority of them – began echoing the same point of view expressed on the CBC overnight and thus could hardly be said to be “independent news media” at all anymore.   The Crown broadcaster itself, which had long been shamefully slanted towards the progressive left and the Liberal party, abandoned even the pretense of the impartiality that Canadians ought to be able to expect from a public, tax-funded, news company and began presenting a narrower range of perspectives on a broader number of issues, one that was coterminous with the spectrum of views the Prime Minister considered “acceptable”.    Yes, this Prime Minister has actually distinguished certain Canadians from others on the grounds that their views were “unacceptable”.    Unsatisfied, however, with over 90% of the Canadian media, public and nominally private, echoing his own point of view, the Prime Minister has taken a hostile, combative attitude towards the few media outlets that present an alternative perspective, thus displaying his true attitude towards “independent news media”.


The independent news media that resist conforming to the Prime Minister’s party line are primarily those that operate on the internet.    Before the last Parliament was dissolved the government had introduced a bill that would give the CRTC the same kind of regulatory control over the internet that it already has over radio and television.   Although they pitched this as a means of making streaming services and social media abide by the same Canadian content rules as traditional broadcasting media, it was clearly worded in such a way as to give the CRTC the power to censor online opinions which the government has deemed to be “unacceptable”.   The main target of this, and the government’s more overt attempts at licensing independent media, seems obviously to be the handful of online news companies that have a perspective independent of and often hostile to the Prime Minister’s own.   The government also failed to assuage the concerns of those who feared that the government was trying to tell individual Canadians what they could and could not say when using social media.   Although they insisted that they were not trying to regulate user generated content, they kept removing safeguards against this very thing.   They had also tabled a bill that would re-introduce something similar to Section 13.   Section 13 was the provision of the Canadian Human Rights Act that allowed those who belonged to groups protected against discrimination – although the Act is worded in such a way as to suggest that it protects everybody against discrimination on the basis of their race, sex, etc., it has been generally interpreted by the courts as protecting certain groups that are “vulnerable” rather than others, i.e., blacks but not whites, women but not men, etc. – to charge others with discrimination on the basis of words they had communicated over the telephone or over the internet.   It was so loosely worded that virtually anything negative said about someone from a protected group would fall under the umbrella and so a conviction was pretty much guaranteed.   Parliament repealed it after the public became aware of how bad it was.   The proposed replacement would be even worse in that it would allow for a court order to be taken out against someone before he had even said anything.    Both of these bills were re-introduced after the government won re-election.   The new versions are worse than the ones that failed to become law in the last session of Parliament.


As if all that were not thought control enough, among many other non-budget related items included in this year’s federal budget – the turning of budget bills into omnibus bills ought to have been banned decades ago, it is far too easy a way for government to smuggle things into law that would not withstand Parliamentary scrutiny and debate if introduced separately on their own merits – was a provision that would criminalize publicly expressing an opinion that disagrees with that of the Prime Minister about historical events of eighty years ago.   To be more precise it will criminalize the denial, condoning, and diminishing of the Holocaust.  Germany, France, and a number of other European countries had introduced similar laws decades ago but this was a very bad example to follow.  (1)  It is not government’s place to tell people what they can and cannot think or say about historical events.   When they attempt to do so they merely set up their understanding and interpretation of the historical event as a dogma in a new state religion.   The very expression “Holocaust denial” illustrates the point.  (2)  When someone denies that a historical event took place this may, depending upon the evidence for the event, call into question his intelligence, but “Charge of the Light Brigade Denial” is an expression that would not carry the moral undertones that “Holocaust denial” does.   This tells us that to those who are obsessed with condemning the latter it involves the denial of an essential tenet of faith.     Yet it is an essential tenet of neither any orthodox form of Christianity nor Islam.   Nor is it an essential tenet of Judaism in any traditional understanding of that religion.   This was a point that the late academic rabbi Dr. Jacob Neusner frequently made when bemoaning the fact that for many American Jews remembering the Holocaust had replaced remembering Moses, the Exodus and the Sinaitic Covenant at the core of their identity.  (3)  If it is not an essential tenet of any of these religions, it is not an essential tenet of any traditional religion.    Surely members of all traditional religions, the tenets of faith of none of which are similarly protected against denial by law, ought to object to such protection being extended to a new state faith and by the party, none the less, which in Canada has been most historically identified with the American doctrine of “separation of church and state”.   (4) I hope that you note the irony – those who think that the appropriate way of responding to “Holocaust denial” is to pass laws of this sort which essentially boils down to telling people with a view they find loathsome “shut up, shut up, or I’ll make you shut up” by doing so make themselves far more closely resemble the Nazi dictator, at least as he is depicted in Hollywood films, than do those they are attempting to silence. (5)


This Prime Minister has a habit of condemning opinions that differ from his as “denial”, thus making his own opinion out to be an essential tenet of faith.   With regards to both the climate and the pandemic, for example, he speaks of those he disagrees with as “science deniers”.   Ironically, of course, since it is the very nature of science not to speak dogmatically – to be scientific at all, a theory must be open to being questioned and tested – “science denier” is an epithet that is only meaningful as it rebounds upon the one who uses it.   More to the point, however, when the same Prime Minister justifies his attempts to squash the few remaining independent Canadian media sources that do not dance to his tune and bring the online platforms where Canadians express their thoughts and speak their minds under government regulatory control on the grounds that the spread of “misinformation” and “disinformation” – information, that is, with which he disagrees and of which he disapproves – online causes “harm”, can there be any doubt that having outright banned one form of “denial”, he is moving in the direction of similarly suppressing all of these “denials” he hates.   He does all of this in the name of liberal democracy, although it looks more and more like totalitarianism every day.


As an old-fashioned Tory, of course, who believes in time-proven institutions like the monarchy and Parliament and distrusts abstract ideals like liberalism and democracy, this does not seem as contradictory to me as it would to a neo-conservative, since I see the seeds of totalitarianism in both liberalism and democracy.    In the Prime Minister in question and his sycophantic Cabinet these seeds are rapidly coming to a full bloom.


So again, I ask, what word best describes such a Prime Minister and such a Cabinet in which such an appalling combination of self-righteousness, arrogance, hypocrisy, disrespect for the constraints of Parliamentary tradition and constitutional law, and totalitarian impulse can be found?


A new one might be needed to really do the matter justice.


(1)   It might surprise some to learn that such a law was not already on the books in Canada.   The trials of Ernst Zündel and James Keegstra in the 1980s are among the most famous legal cases involving “Holocaust denial” in history and both took place here in Canada.   In both cases, however, the complaints were based on laws that did not speak about “Holocaust denial” specifically.   In Zündel’s case, for example, the law was Section 181 of the Criminal Code which prohibited the deliberate spread of false news.   He was charged twice under this law, and convicted twice.   The first conviction was thrown out on a technicality, but after the second conviction the Supreme Court struck the law down on appeal as a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  

(2)   Both words in the expression contribute to this.   Holocaust is ultimately derived from ὁλόκαυστος, the Greek word for “burnt offering”.

(3)   Dr. Neusner argued that the Holocaust was filling a vacuum created by the abandonment of Jewish traditions, beliefs, and practices on the part of many American Jews.    Indeed, he was talking about this decades before the fact became obvious in polls like the 2013 Pew Research Poll in which “remembering the Holocaust” was identified as the main essential to being Jewish by most of the Jewish American respondents.   He spoke of the theology developing around the historical event as the “Holocaust myth”, which, had he not passed away six years ago, could have rendered him susceptible to prosecution as a Holocaust denier on visits to Canada under the proposed law, although he was using “myth” in an academic sense that has nothing to do with the truth or falseness of the story in question.

(4)   I do not believe in the doctrine of “separation of church and state” in either its Anabaptist or its American form.   On one of the last occasions I spoke with my late friend the Reverend Canon Kenneth Gunn-Walberg, he spoke critically of “conservative” support for “religious liberty”, noting that support for clerical reserves for the orthodox, established, Church was the more authentic Tory position.   I agreed, of course, although I might have pointed out that one of the earliest tracts advocating broad religious liberty, not in the form of Church-State separation but that of tolerance of a wide spectrum of opinion (within the limits of the Apostles’ Creed) within the Church and peaceful co-existence with heterodox sects, was penned by none other than the great Carolinian Divine, the Right Reverend Dr. Jeremy Taylor, who based his arguments upon the demands of the highest of the Christian theological virtues.   That having been said, the American doctrine that has historically been associated mostly with the Liberal Party in Canada (the NDP’s predecessor was a “Social Gospel” party, founded and led by a former Methodist minister J. S. Woodsworth, and while the NDP has moved about as far away from Christianity as possible, its first and most famous leader was a Baptist minister, Tommy Douglas, with other prominent NDP MPs including United Church ministers such as Stanley Knowles and Bill Blaikie), which Liberals in the past have frequently mistaken as part of Canada’s tradition, while theoretically unsound, is much to be preferred to the establishment of left-wing dogma as a new state creed to which no public dissent is tolerated.    This is but one of several examples of older liberal – classical liberal – ideas which, while objectionable from the standpoint of a sounder perspective, are nevertheless preferable to what the newer kind of “liberal” is offering.

(5)  The government is pointing to claims that anti-Semitism is on the rise as its justification for doing this.    Almost 70 Christian church buildings were burned or otherwise vandalized last summer, but I see no action being taken to curb the Christophobia behind this largest single spree of hate crimes in Canada’s history, nor would I expect it from a government that seemed to be doing everything it could to throw fuel on the fire of that hatred.   Nevertheless, suppose we cede for the sake of argument the claim that anti-Semitism is the largest growing hate problem in Canada. Even if we also ceded that outlawing the expression of opinions was capable of justification, a concession I am by no means willing to make, this would be an extremely poor justification for this kind of law.  Similar laws have not prevented a resurgence of anti-Semitism in the European countries that passed them.   I suspect that you will find that the countries which passed such absurd laws are also the countries which have experienced the largest growth in anti-Semitism in the years since the laws were passed.   This is because the sort of progressive mindset that thinks banning “Holocaust denial” is a good thing to do rather than an insane, draconian, attack on freedom of speech that involves persecuting a tiny minority for holding an unpopular opinion, is also the same mindset that thinks bringing in immigrants from all over the world without any sort of screening for cultural compatibility – that would be “racist” to these dolts – is sound policy, and consequently, with floods of immigrants coming in from countries with either a deep-seated cultural animus against the Jews or perhaps just a more recent animosity based upon Middle Eastern conflicts of recent decades, finds its cases of anti-Semitic incidents exploding.   Rather than placing the blame squarely where it belongs, on the latter idiotic policy, they pass the former draconian law in order to scapegoat a tiny minority for the consequences of their own stupidity.    The government expects to get away with this because most people will think something to the effect of “This law will only affect neo-Nazis and who cares, they have it coming.”    That is stupidity at its worst.   Laws that the public accepts on the grounds that they only affect such-and-such a despised group never end up only affecting the group in question.   In this instance, I have already demonstrated (vide supra, footnote 3) how the most respected academic rabbi of the Twentieth Century could have run afoul of this law.   He was hardly a neo-Nazi.   Nor is Dr. Norman Finkelstein, the American academic and pro-Palestinian activist who has been accused of “Holocaust denial” although his book The Holocaust Industry makes no revisionist claims about the historical event but rather talks about people whom he sees as exploiting the event (both of his parents had been interred in the Nazi camps, incidentally, his mother in Majdanek, his father in Auschwitz).   It is unlikely that Noam Chomsky’s famous protégé would be prosecuted under the new law should he visit Canada but not out of the realm of possibility.    Almost a decade ago, at a Canadian conservative blog I witnessed a well-known progressive activist and blogger pedantically lecture the others present on the difference between “concentration camps” and “death camps” and how the latter were only on Polish soil.   That is a distinction that is made in every serious and mainstream history class and textbook that deals with the subject but he was accused of “Holocaust denial” for this.   The people making the accusation were not generally ill-informed people and perhaps made the accusation tongue-in-cheek because this man was a noted supporter of banning “hate speech”, but the point is that if something that is part of the mainstream narrative can be confused with “Holocaust denial”, a law against the latter, even if were justifiable to make such a law against those it is intended to be used against which it is not,  makes possible the prosecution of a lot of people who have not committed “Holocaust denial” in the conventional meaning of the phrase.   Ironically, had the United States passed such a law in the 1950s or even 1960s, and had it not been struck down immediately for violating their First Amendment, even if only actual “Holocaust deniers” in the conventional sense of the word were rounded up, if all of them were arrested there would have been more Jews than white supremacists arrested.   At that time, “Holocaust denial”, and World War II revisionism in general of which it is a subset, was most widespread among libertarians for the simple reason that these arch anti-statists recognized that the military expansion the United States underwent in World War II, and which continued after the war because of the Cold War, was a massive expansion of the American central state and therefore a threat to the liberty of American citizens.   Therefore the claims of the American government during that conflict were suspect to them.   There were far more libertarians than Nazi sympathizers, then as now, and a large percentage of libertarians were and are Jewish. 


  1. What Word Would You Use?

    Me: Sinister

    This will continue until hard starboard for the Canadian ship of state.

    1. Sinister - Sinistra - Sinistrum:

      First and second declension adjective meaning: left, left-handed.

      The English connotations of this word apply quite well to the movement that takes its name from the English meaning of the Latin original.