An Irish author has just won the Booker prize:
Irish author Paul Lynch won the Booker Prize on Sunday. His novel, Prophet Song, imagines an Ireland that has fallen under Right-wing totalitarian control, and begins with members of the new secret police rapping on the door of a union leader to interrogate him for “sowing discord and unrest” against the government.
The reality, of course, is precisely the opposite:
The irony is that this is the exact opposite of what is happening in Ireland right now. The government in Dublin is indeed introducing extraordinary new legislation to restrict freedom of speech. But it’s not horrid Right-wingers conspiring to suppress nice, decent liberals. It’s nice, decent liberals scrambling to stamp out the opinions of what they call the “far-Right”. And far from being alarmed by this assault on basic freedoms, the broad swathe of progressive opinion in Ireland is fully behind it, including most voices in the broadcast and print media, and every major party.
So the entire elite class, then. Urgency to pass the anti-free speech bill increased after a Muslim immigrant stabbed three children in Dublin, and fed-up working-class Irishmen rioted.
The new law would surely have escaped international attention had those riots not happened, but Dublin’s eagerness to regulate hate speech has, as internet parlance puts it, “gone viral”. Now the whole world knows that Ireland is poised to pass one of the most draconian pieces of legislation in modern times, which will see Irish people facing potential jail sentences of up to two years for the possession of literature “likely to incite violence or hatred” against others on the grounds of certain protected characteristics, including race, gender and sexual orientation.
So the new statute is twice removed from the proper province of criminal law: you don’t have to commit violence against anyone, nor do you need to try to incite violence against anyone. You just need to be in possession of written materials that have the potential to incite, not just violence, but “hatred.”
So I suppose you could go to jail for possessing a copy of the New York Times, which constantly incites hatred against conservatives. Just kidding, although you could argue that the Times incites hatred against white people, which would qualify under the law. Although what “hatred” is remains opaque:
To make matters worse, the Irish government has not actually defined in the bill what “hatred” is, saying that to do so could “risk prosecutions collapsing”.
Is that Orwellian, or what? They can’t say what the law means, lest prosecutions collapse. Nevertheless, I think we all get the drift.
Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, continues to insist citizens will be able to speak freely, but a senator for the Green Party, one of three parties in the governing coalition, let the cat out of the bag: “We are restricting freedom,” Pauline O’Reilly said, “but we are doing it for the common good.”
But when have people ever been oppressed, except for the common good?
Ireland was once a virtual theocracy, in which the sanction of law was used to reinforce Catholic principles. Now pretty much the same thing is happening again:
Ireland, sadly, has a long tradition of censorship. There was once a body with a wonderfully evocative name, the Committee on Evil Literature, which recommended banning publications deemed harmful to the newly independent nation’s Catholic values.
… [A]ll that’s actually happened is that the term “evil literature” has been redefined to suit contemporary values. They haven’t stopped enforcing orthodoxy. They’ve simply found a new woke dogma to enforce. No one is writing novels about that. After all, owning such a book could land you behind bars soon.
In the old days, when Americans spoke of repression in other lands, the conventional observation was “It can’t happen here.” But no one is saying that now.