Sweatshirts: “A Clear and Present Danger” according to some

What is in the nature of a “threat?” If the context is whether or not the initiation of physical force by one man against another is imminent, which is a proper context, then the judgment must be objective.

So, two individuals among hundreds of “demonstrators” at a reception for Prime Minister Trudeau (only one of whom apparently was wearing a “controversial anti-Trudeau hoodie”) are unlikely to present “a clear and present danger” to anyone, let alone Canada’s Prime Minister.

Were these individuals armed with anything more than a sweatshirt printed with a graphic and slogan some might find tasteless? No. Yet the following headline and related article seem determined to stoke fear among the populace.

Controversial anti-Trudeau hoodies draw attention from demonstrators and RCMP https://a.msn.com/r/2/BBQ255e?m=en-ca&referrerID=InAppShare

The headline suggests that two parties, the hundreds of demonstrators and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) were drawn to focus on these “controversial hoodies.” As near as can be determined, the involvement of the other demonstrators extended to taking photos of the single sweatshirt and posting them to social media. This seems like a relatively harmless gesture, and I doubt whether the other demonstrators felt threatened by the single sweatshirt in their presence.

The RCMP are another matter. Global News reports an RCMP officer making the statement that the RCMP was “aware of the matter.” That’s also fairly benign and one would not expect the RCMP in any event to discuss matters of security or public safety in any specific detail.

However, an RCMP statement to Global News included the following:

The RCMP takes all threats seriously and has measures in place to address them. (Emphasis added.)

Now I trust that this quote is not taken out of context by Global News in rendering a story that otherwise is like a Seinfeld episode, i.e., about “nothing.” If true that the RCMP takes this non-story as a “threat” then we are closer to a police state than even I have thought.

How is that? Some more context is in order. There have been many assaults of late, official and otherwise, on the right of free expression, a corollary of the right to one’s own life. In order to live as a man you must be free to exercise your conscious mind to gain the knowledge needed for survival as a man. That exercise is neither infallible nor does it involve a conflict with the rights of others. The only moral imperative is that one does not initiate physical force against another nor threaten it in a way that meets the standard of “a clear and present danger.”

Currently there are laws against “hate speech.” These are laws without an objective definition. In Canada there are “human rights tribunals” in which political appointees may decide without objective evidence that a man’s thoughts are actionable in a punitive manner with fines, apologies required and/or financial ruin through legal and other costs. Although decisions are reviewable by the Federal Court of Canada it should be clear that any allegation by a complainant can easily result in significant costs in time and financial resources to the accused. Perhaps I need not remind you that such costs are levied against what one may think and say rather than what one may do. I leave it to you to consider whether this arrangement casts a pallor over willingness to express one’s views.

It is now the case that some “social engineers” regard the laws against “hate speech” as insufficient and they seek to redefine free expression in terms of “harmful speech.” This would be accompanied, according to at least one academic, by a Moderation Standards Council that would determine “independently” whether an allegation that someone’s speech or other form of non-violent expression is “harmful.”

If this all seems Orwellian, well that’s because it’s exactly that. Political freedom and the right of free expression is the freedom to express what you think. Necessarily this includes the freedom to “offend.” If third parties, including those who may be the targets of your critical comments are “offended” then that is their problem not yours. If the government prescribes what you may or may not say, the message is that you have no rights. Consider that.

Edward’s Post

2 thoughts on “Sweatshirts: “A Clear and Present Danger” according to some

  1. We’re still a far cry from an Orwellian state my friend, and these kind of overstatements serve only to encourage further mindless polarisation that feeds on fear mongering and blind hate. The Right needs to accept that not every act of censorship by a Liberal government is a plummet into a police state, and the Left needs to accept that not every expression of patriotic pride is racist hate speech equal to that of Nazism. We need more conversation and less declaration. Less, “We live in an Orwellian police state” or “We live in a fascist Nazi state,” and more objective, nuanced analysis in which decisions are made and evaluated based on their own merit and not merely judged by the party that champions it. We need both Liberals and Conservatives.

    1. Hi James,
      Thank you for your comments. I agree with you that we are not living in an Orwellian state, although we could have differing views on how long it may take to get there. Also, I don’t think I suggested we are now in an Orwellian state, only that the proposed actions of regulating or otherwise controlling free expression are Orwellian in nature. That is not in my view an “overstatement.”

      As to “encouraging mindless polarisation that feeds on fear mongering and blind hate,” I would ask for some further clarification as to what you meant, particularly how you define “polarisation.”

      Finally, I also agree that more open discussion is a value, something that is chilled by censorship. (By the way, I think censorship is something only government, with its monopoly on force can do. It is also one of the hallmarks of a dictatorship from which we are a “far cry,” using your terminology.)

      James, I try to be objective but I don’t think “nuanced” is a necessary component. To be objective one ought to focus on the essentials and be direct in analysis. That is an action that only individuals can take, regardless of their political affiliations, if any. I prefer to discuss politics in terms of individualism vs. collectivism in any case. That is more essentialized than the “Left vs. Right” or “Liberal vs. Conservative” spectrum.


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