Category Archives: Freedom of Association
In C. S. Lewis’ novel THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH, published in 1945, he foresaw the age of propaganda. An unobtrusive organization, the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments (N.I.C.E.), was engaged in implementing its program of eliminating undesirables. Although not well-known to the public, the N.I.C.E. controlled parliament. It didn’t really matter whom you, as a voter. elected. Once elected, the MP would be beholden to the N.I.C.E. for their success. Similarly, the media organizations were also under the thumb of the N.I.C.E.
At one point the protagonist, the malleable Mark Studdock, in his quest to always be part of the progressive element at his college, is roped into writing propaganda pieces for the N.I.C.E. for its many initiatives destined to remove people’s freedoms and liberties. Studdock’s template propaganda pieces appear in customized form in all of the nation’s papers. Lewis presents a brilliant picture of how a well-educated, articulate, academic can write convincingly and compellingly on almost any subject. As a reader, who knew the true events behind the story, I could nevertheless only marvel how a clever writer could twist the context to make the facts fit the wholly deceptive perspective desired by the N.I.C.E. The malevolent Progressive Element in the N.I.C.E. goes on to stage fake protests, use the media to mislead the public to rage against the innocent, all for the purpose of eliminating those people who oppose their pragmatic agenda of efficiency and control. Lewis has a real knack for making the propaganda so persuasive that the reader would be taken in if he didn’t see the actions behind the rhetoric. To me this prophecy is happening before my eyes seventy-five years after this book was written.
How does one, then, become a truth-seeker in an age of propaganda?
Before beginning a discussion of a difficult subject about truth and propaganda, it is important to define the terms.
Truth is a very important word in the New Testament. In the Greek the noun, transliterated, is ALETHEIA.
As I work to be a truth-seeker, two important points stand out to me:
- Truth (Aletheia) is connected to reality. It is quite dangerous to ignore truth because reality, by its nature, will win out.
- Truth is not always easy to identify, since appearances may be misleading. Often appearances can be created by what people say.
With regards to propaganda, it is not the opposite of truth, but often is a caricature of it. As the definition indicates, propaganda uses publicity and selected information with an end in mind. They may want you to buy a product, vote for a particular party, censure some group, or believe a particular message. The publicity and selected information is chosen in order: to get the audience to accept the teaching or take the steps desired.
So how do I become a truth-seeker in an age of propaganda? I think there are four steps that are important for me to take:
- If I am given information driving me to a particular belief or action, argue against it. If the information is part of a propaganda initiative, the propagandists are likely telling me half-truths and omitting all counter arguments. If the information is true, I won’t find any compelling counter arguments and the information will become even more convincing.
- Look for data and make the discussion about data. Often the most convincing propaganda is based on emotion, perhaps appeals to sympathy. That is to say, the propagandist avoids asking whether the statement under question is true or false. Instead they focus on how someone has been hurt or denigrated by the assertion.
- Look at the presuppositions. In propaganda, often the assumptions behind the information is never discussed, much less critically evaluated. Yet the whole argument rests on the validity of these assumptions.
- Become a two-column person. By that I mean, assume there is data for and against any position. If none is presented, as is often the case with propaganda, seek it out. Don’t be satisfied to leave one column empty.
2021 Canadian Federal Election – Part 2: What Do the Parties and Candidates Say About Preserving Our Rights, Liberties, and Freedoms?
Why is this subject important to me?
I don’t want to live in a society where I’m compelled to:
- Regurgitate acceptable answers to the most fundamental of questions:
- What is the ultimate nature of reality?
- What is my purpose in life?
- How should I act in light of these realities
- What is my duty?
- Not speak the truth because I will be punished if I do
- Meet only with those people that are approved by the power structure
- Read only the information approved by the power structure
In other words, I don’t want to live in a totalitarian society where my personal freedoms have been set aside and I am reduced to nothing more than a cog in a big machine and my function is to serve the machine, whether I want to or not; but I will be punished if I don’t comply.
Are things really that bad?
If by this question we mean “Are things as bad as they can get?” they are not yet that bad. However, our governing authorities have, in a climate of great fear, set aside our freedoms of religion, of association, of free speech, and to some extent, freedom of the press (especially for smaller news outlets). This has been done, as far as I can see, without having these new rules vetted by the courts, without a referee or ombudsman to whom one can appeal to constrain overzealous and ineffective regulations. Instead our freedoms have been set aside by rules drafted and executed by appointed health bureaucrats in response to a health crisis. To me it shows how fragile and ephemeral our freedoms are when they can be set aside without discussion as soon as a health crisis is declared. Once set aside, we still have no firm timetable for the restoration of our freedoms.
What do the party platforms say about safe-guarding our freedoms?
I will go through the platforms alphabetically. The links to the platforms are found in Part 1. of this series.
Conservative Party of Canada (CPC)
As far as I have been able to determine, the CPC have not expressed any specific intentions to restore freedom of religion and freedom of assembly, nor to put any appeal mechanisms into place to restrain overzealous suppression of these freedoms. Their statements on freedom of speech are shown below.
Liberal Party of Canada
I have looked through the Liberal Party of Canada Plan. None of the topics in the plan seem even remotely related to preserving our fundamental freedoms.
The New Democratic Party(NDP)
I don’t see that the NDP in their platform have made any provisions for defending basic liberties for all Canadians. On page 94 and beyond they talk about ending discriminations against select groups of people. Banning certain kinds of speech may be the NDP’s intent. However, it seems to me, if one bans any disagreeable speech, then free speech has vanished.
The Peoples Party of Canada(PPC)
The PPC party has a whole section on freedom of speech. They also reminded me how the Liberals excluded churches from access to hiring summer students unless these faith organizations renounced their deeply held conscience-based beliefs against abortion. The text from the PPC document is cited below and the link will take the reader to the correct page.
The rights of Canadians to freely hold and express beliefs are being eroded at an alarming speed under the Trudeau government. Some of its recent decisions even require that Canadians renounce their most deeply held moral convictions and express opinions they disagree with.
In 2018, the Liberal government denied summer job funding to organizations, including charities, that would not sign an attestation supporting abortion. It also passed bill C-16 as part of a trend to force Canadians to express support for the existence of various gender identities beyond the biological categories of male and female, and to use pronouns demanded by those who identify with these other genders.
In addition to these assaults on conscience, the government launched a series of regulatory attacks on free speech on the internet and is pressuring social media companies, which are already censoring speech that isn’t politically correct, to crack down even more. It is also considering bringing back Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. This hate speech provision was repealed by the Conservative government in 2013 because it was being used arbitrarily to censor statements that offended some people on the internet.
In what appears to be a first step towards restricting our right to criticize some religions, it adopted M-103, a motion that condemns religious discrimination but only specifically mentions one religion, Islam, and without defining the term “islamophobia.”
Finally, on university campuses, a growing number of faculty and administrators—those who should be fighting for open debate of controversial ideas—have become aggressive advocates for censorship.
History and social scientific research show that freedom of conscience and freedom of expression, when maximally protected, advance the intellectual life of a nation, foster greater ideological diversity and societal understanding, and nurture other freedoms necessary for a successful democracy.
This is why Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees citizens freedom of conscience and religion, as well as freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.
What some people find politically incorrect, offensive or even hateful cannot serve as the legal basis for discrimination and censorship. Canadians should be able to enjoy maximum freedom of conscience and expression as guaranteed in Section 2 of the Charter.
A People’s Party government will:
- Restrict the definition of hate speech in the Criminal Code to expression which explicitly advocates the use of force against identifiable groups or persons based on protected criteria such as religion, race, ethnicity, sex, or sexual orientation.
- Repeal any existing legislation or regulation curtailing free speech on the internet and prevent the reinstatement of section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
- Repeal C-16, M-103, C-10, and C-36.
- Ensure that Canadians can exercise their freedom of conscience to its fullest extent as it is intended under the Charter and are not discriminated against because of their moral convictions.
- Withhold federal funding from any post-secondary institution shown to be violating the freedom of expression of its students or faculty.
What this Analysis Means to Me as a Voter
I was disappointed that I could not find a single notion or point (aside from glittering generalities) that overtly supported our basic freedoms. It looks to me, under the Liberals, I will be facing increasing, creeping totalitarianism with so many of my thoughts and beliefs under pressure to conform to the ever changing Liberal script.
The NDP platform, if anything is even worse. I have serious doubts about the efficacy, justice, and value of their (in my view) extreme activism.
The CPC Platform was somewhat encouraging, in that it at least recognizes the fact, that if freedom of speech is to have any useful meaning at all, it must tolerate offensive speech. Bland, insipid speech that no one finds offensive does not need any protection. Nor does it allow the kind of active debate, so necessary for a healthy democracy. On the other hand, clearly defined criminal speech, that is to say, speech that threatens violence or incites violence must continue to be prohibited as the platform explicitly states.
I was disappointed that I could not find any provisions or concerns about the curtailing of religious freedom and freedom of association that has occurred during the pandemic. This ought to have been addressed. By my latest count 25 churches from many different denominations, from right across our country have either been burned down or subject to an arson attack. A further forty churches have been vandalized [ https://tnc.news/2021/08/23/a-map-of-every-church-burnt-or-vandalized-since-the-residential-school-announcements/ ]. The most I have heard from our politicians for these criminal acts are the mildest of rebukes and no platform policy statements urging protection for these churches.
Of all the platforms, the PPC platform most strongly supported my concern for the preservation of our most basic freedoms. I especially appreciated that it reminded me of the attack against conscience rights, directed against churches, as they sought to access the summer student funding for projects of general benefit to their communities. PPC also reminded me of the Liberal’s intent to re-establish Federal Human Rights Tribunals. The thought of bringing these back makes me shudder as I remember the injustice of their previous operation when they used government money to bankrupt the unfortunate individuals targeted by HRTs, when incited to do so by activists. The process was the punishment, regardless of how unjust the accusation or how solid the defense.
My book club is reading Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life; An Antidote to Chaos. As part of this reading program I have been listening to various interviews of Peterson and a recent one, taken from a talk and interview at Lafayette College , caught my particular interest.
After a lengthy and colorful introduction by the moderator, Peterson posed a question to the audience. I am going to tell you what I heard in my own words, but I highly recommend you listen to his comments for yourself.
In my paraphrase and summary, his preamble and question went like this:
So called “right wing thinking” is concerned about establishing hierarchies (which are necessary for survival and for society to function), while “left wing thinking” focuses on equality and fights for the bottom tier of the hierarchies that have been established (which is also necessary).
He went on to say that we know where “right wing thinking” crosses the line into extremism: when they claim one group (usually their own) is intrinsically superior to other groups. Peterson then asked the question: Where is the line for extremism on the left?
He went on to answer his own question. The line is crossed on the left when their zeal for equality for the lowest tier in a hierarchy causes them:
- To focus on equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity
- To compel a certain kind of speech and thinking because it’s the only way to get people to comply with their demand for equality of outcome.
What Has This to Do With the Old and the New Testament?
Note: I’m not especially interested into entering into political discourse, important as that may be, but I am interested in how Peterson’s comments affect my thinking about the history of Judaism and Christianity described in the Old and New Testaments. I will confine my remarks to that subject.
I thought about the points Peterson made, and it struck me how this analysis parallels what I see in the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, when primarily describing God’s dealing with His chosen people Israel, he clearly sets up hierarchies: indeed he set up a political one and a religious one each of which acted as a balances to the another. This structure enabled the Israelites to survive despite encountering many enemies and suffering under the afflictions they caused whether it be slavery in Egypt or captivity by Babylon. Even under the heel of the Roman Empire, their identity and cohesion as a people was preserved. When I look at it, the hierarchies in their culture and in their relationship to outsiders contributed positively to their survival and cultural cohesion. However, there was potentially the possibility of crossing the hierarchical line that Peterson articulated.
When Jesus came, he seemed to turn everything on its head. He came in at the lowest tier—as many thought—the illegitimate son of a Galilean carpenter. Yet Christ, while not destroying the Jewish hierarchy, taught that to be a leader in His Kingdom, the leader has to be servant of all. This seems very much like fighting for the lowest tier.
Given Peterson’s analysis, it’s striking to me how Christ came to restore a sense of balance to the hierarchies and keep the Jewish people (and hopefully Christians as well) from crossing the line into extremism where “chosen people” comes to mean “as a people we are superior.” This has been helpful to me because it shows a natural progression in the Old and New Testaments and shows how hierarchies and fighting for the lowest tier are both essential for balance.
Disclaimer: I know Professor Peterson has delivered some lectures on biblical topics. I have not listened to any of them.
©Peter Kazmaier 2018
I recently read G. K. Chesterton’s What’s Wrong with the World. He wrote this book in 1900. Although some of the later segments are not directed toward questions that are not under consideration today (for example: Why would women want the vote?), the very first part, the part that gave rise to the title, I found very helpful in guiding my thinking and proved very relevant to the questions that seem to confront me at every turn.
His discussion focuses on mistakes made by those who advocate for some the elimination of a perceived ill through social change.
Chesterton begins by pointing out that those who advocate for some social change explicitly or implicitly use the metaphor of a physician treating a disease. This is a false assumption because in disease we all know what health looks like and so the only dispute is about the nature of the disease and the proper treatment to return the individual to health.
However, in discussing social ills and their cure, we give little or no consideration to what health looks like and if we did we would likely have broad disagreement on the goal. Chesterton says:
But social science is by no means always content with the normal human soul; it has all sorts of fancy souls for sale. Man as a social idealist will say “I am tired of being a Puritan; I want to be a Pagan,” or “Beyond this dark probation of Individualism I see the shining paradise of Collectivism.” Now in bodily ills there is none of this difference about the ultimate ideal. The patient may or may not want quinine; but he certainly wants health.
Chesterton, G. K. (Gilbert Keith). What’s Wrong with the World (p. 3). Kindle Edition.
Chesterton going on about this point:
The social case is exactly the opposite of the medical case. We do not disagree, like doctors, about the precise nature of the illness, while agreeing about the nature of health. On the contrary, we all agree that England is unhealthy, but half of us would not look at her in what the other half would call blooming health.
Chesterton, G. K. (Gilbert Keith). What’s Wrong with the World (p. 3). Kindle Edition.
I think Chesterton would say the first step in this discussion would be to talk about our private ideal of social health and defend why everyone should want to get there. We might agree that the current situation is bad, but that doesn’t mean the proposed change won’t make things worse.
The only way to discuss the social evil is to get at once to the social ideal. We can all see the national madness; but what is national sanity? I have called this book “What Is Wrong with the World?” and the upshot of the title can be easily and clearly stated. What is wrong is that we do not ask what is right.
Chesterton, G. K. (Gilbert Keith). What’s Wrong with the World (pp. 3-4). Kindle Edition.
What Chesterton Taught Me
So how do I apply this? When I read about the identification of a sociological problem along with a proposed solution, I’ve come up for a series of questions that I think Chesterton might have asked:
If I applied this proposed solution what would our society look like? Would our freedoms be enhanced? Would I still be able to speak freely and follow my convictions? Would my freedom to choose what I think is best for myself, my family, and community be unimpaired? Would there truly be equality of opportunity? Would competence be recognized and rewarded?
Is the proposed solution tyrannical or draconian? Would I be setting up a new kind of oppression? Am I restricting people’s employment or their ability to go into business for themselves? Does the solution implementation consist of convincing people by argument and example that the new proposal is a better way to a worthy end or am I legislating and punishing to get there?
These two clusters of questions have been most helpful in thinking about these social remedies that I see on Twitter, Facebook, in the news, or spoken about over coffee. They also help me as a science fiction writer.
How Chesterton Impacts My SF Writing
As I write my novels I am often confronted with painting, using words, a future world. One way to get the painting right would be to use the Chesterton questions to extrapolate into the future. If I do that, I can often see how these questions illuminate the difficulties in the proposals and lead to dysfunction and unintended consequences.
If you have any thoughts on this, I would appreciate hearing from you.