A Commentary by Mark Taliano
Totalitarianism, aligned as it is with “rule by corporations”, is something that happens in incremental steps over time. Nobody actually chooses it, it just happens, and it’s happening to Canada right now.
What are the conditions that foster these top-down, undemocratic trends? Public conformity in matters of importance plays a large part.
Corporate “governance”, with its anti-social, anti-public orientation, is adept at manufacturing and perpetuating public conformity by employing subtle but effective tools that secretly subvert the populace. These tools are employed to create what Sheldon Wolin would describe as “inverted totalitarianism”. The tactics persuade a population that what the government/corporation wants is also good for people, even when the opposite is the case.
For example, legislation that endorses catastrophic global warming, for the perceived benefit of a handful of transnational corporations, is not to the benefit of the people. Many Canadians, however, remain deluded, even as they witness Canada’s descent into the scientific and diplomatic Dark Ages.
We are, after all, the only country to have abandoned its membership in the Kyoto Protocol, and more recently, we are the only country to withdraw from the United Nations Convention on Desertification. We have also abandoned the Canadian International Development Agency, as well as other international organizations.
Additionally, we are also refusing entry to Canada of the UN Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Each of these snubs to the international community besmirchs our international reputation, and our ability to positively impact world affairs.
Subtle tactics of control are used to delude the public into thinking that these are the right choices. Not only have scientific research centers been shuttered, and scientists muzzled, but now, even federal librarians and archivists have been muzzled
Muzzling federal librarians and archivists is more subtle than book burning, and also more effective. This tactic is widening the net of suppression and further inhibiting the public’s access to reliable information (as if being ranked 51st on the Freedom Of Information Index, below Angola, Colombia, and Nigeria, isn’t bad enough). Librarians must now be vetted by the government before speaking to the public. If, for example, a federal librarian, or archivist (including their volunteers and students), is asked to speak at a high school, he/she must first contact the appropriate government agency and secure approval. The government rationale is that public employees have a “duty of loyalty” to the “duly elected government”.
Add to this the muzzling of the Parliamentary Budget Office, and the appointment of an unqualified person to replace Kevin Page, (as well as the failure to commission a Public Inquiry into electoral fraud), and we have the suppression of a great deal of “source” information that is crucial to a functioning democracy.
Once the source information is suppressed, it is easier for the government to create its own narrative through fiction-based messaging, which reinforces public forgetfulness (enabled by the 24 hour news cycle), confusion, and falsehoods.
When subtle subversion proves ineffective, more overtly fascistic tools are being used, and with ever increasing frequency. It happened at Toronto’s G-20 demonstrations in June, 2010, and it is happening with more regularity in Quebec.
Municipal By-law P-6, like its (now repealed) predecessor, Bill 78, though condemned by the Quebec Bar Association, has been used extensively in Montreal to thwart peaceful protests.
An important component of the by-law is the seemingly innocuous requirement that protestors secure a permit and file notice of a demonstration before it takes place. The danger of the by-law is that demonstrations can be stifled, and police can be used, to suit the political requirements of politicians. Police are not meant to be an arm of any particular government, unless, of course, it is a “police-state” government.
The most recent impact of the by-law is that riot police charged peaceful protestors in the streets of Montreal, illegally kettled them, and fined them $637.00 each. (Evidently, poor people are precluded from exercising their democratic rights.)
The Service De Police De La Ville De Montréal, later held a press conference, and Sergeant Jean-Bruno Latour declared that “the Charter (Of Rights And Freedoms) protects the right to freedom of expression, but (that) there is no right to protest.”
Peaceful protesting may not be allowed in North Korea, but in Canada, peaceful protesting is still legal. The police should not be used to intimidate peaceful protestors, and the permit issue should not be used to arbitrarily quash demonstrations. The right to peaceful protesting should trump any requirement for a permit. Similarly, kettling and mass arrests of peaceful protestors are overtly fascist police strategies that should be condemned. Such tactics are used to dissuade the public from exercising its democratic rights to protest.
Demonizing those who overtly oppose government policies is nothing new for this government. People and groups with dissenting views have been labeled “radicals” or “extremists”, or even “traitors”. These polarizing tactics are now being ramped up, and the government is now conflating protest with terrorism. The ever-expanding (and expensive) security apparatus is increasingly being used to surveil peaceful activists.
Earlier, I wrote a piece called Canada’s Totalitarian Shift, in which I enumerated government policies and tactics (as described by author Naomi Wolf), that are consistent with totalitarian rule. The steps include these:
- invoke an external and internal threat
- cast criticism as espionage and dissent as treason
- surveil ordinary citizens
- arbitrarily detain and release citizens
- infiltrate civilian groups
- subvert the rule of law
- restrict the press
Each of these steps is becoming more entrenched in Canada.
There is no clear boundary which delineates a country’s transition from weak democracy to full blown totalitarianism, but Harper’s Canada has all of the symptoms of totalitarianism, in varying degrees. Equally disconcerting though, is that much of the mass media is still apologizing for this rogue government, and the increasingly entrenched symptoms are being subverted, or ignored.
Mark Taliano is a Niagara, Ontario resident and regular contributor of news and analysis to Niagara At Large.
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