Frank Ellis, American Renaissance, March 19, 2019
Editor’s introduction: Frank Ellis served in the British special forces and is a former lecturer in Russian and Slavonic studies at the University of Leeds in England. He was a speaker at the 2000 American Renaissance conference, and he is the author of a remarkable study of the Eastern Front during the Second World War called The Damned and the Dead. In light of recent events in Christchurch, New Zealand, he writes the following:
In 2004 I gave a lecture in Christchurch at the invitation of the Maxim Institute. The title was “From Communism’s ‘Enemy of the People’ to PC’s ‘Hate Criminal’.” This is an excerpt from my lecture, which was later published. I clearly anticipated what happened in Christchurch 15 years later.
Before turning to some of the legal developments that are starting to have an impact, we ought to examine the language of hate which, I would argue, should be subsumed under the general rubric of rejection, hate being the most extreme form. One question that the advocates of criminalising various words, jokes and attitudes never seem to consider is why such words and attitudes arise in the first place. Human language is capable of expressing a wide spectrum of rejection from silence, sarcasm, mild derision, contempt to even, on occasions, hatred. One possible reason lies in the flexibility permitted by various responses.
Consider two states. State A possesses modern armed forces, from a well trained professional army with expertise in everything from peace-making to conventional military operations and counter-insurgency to a professional navy and air force. To these conventional forces can be added a nuclear, biological and chemical defence capability and tactical and strategic nuclear weapons. State B has no army, no air force or navy, but it does have a strategic nuclear arsenal. Now, state A by virtue of its having a full range of modern weapons and services, is in a position to react in a flexible manner to many different threats to national security – from minor border incidents to nuclear attack. As the sequence of a conflict starts to escalate, as measured by the military assets deployed, so the conflict moves up the diplomatic agenda.
The Cuban Missile crisis is a good example. State B whose leaders only dispose of a strategic nuclear arsenal enjoys no such flexibility. It has unilaterally withdrawn from the sphere of conventional weapons and forces and thus is powerless, paradoxically, to react even to border violations or to defend itself against conventional attack. It has only two responses to all contingencies: to unleash nuclear war or to do nothing.
Now let us return to the question of hate crime legislation which seeks to criminalise the entire spectrum of rejection words and ideas. One function of moderate rejection words is to warn others of our disapproval at an early stage. That is not to argue that because I have earlier signalled my disapproval in fairly moderate language that the dispute will never escalate to even harsher words and an exchange of blows. However, that outcome can at least, in theory, be avoided. If I am denied the option of using even moderately critical words, because they are now deemed to be racist or hate speech, then I have been verbally disarmed. I cannot signal my disapproval, my rejection of certain types of behaviour or attitudes (spitting in public places, arranged marriages, female circumcision, for example). I either disengage from my interlocutor, which may not be possible, or denied a non-violent communicative response, and frustrated, I escalate to a violent response: I assault him, my nuclear option, which is an emphatic rejection.
The criminalising of words, ideas, attitudes and jokes as racist or hate speech removes the option of graded responses, thereby increasing resentments and making things worse. Even Bhikhu Parekh, a leading guru of multiculturalism, recognises the dangers, which in the light of his attempts to limit free speech – it has, he tells us, no privileged status – is either grossly inconsistent or Machiavellian. He warns us: ‘ First, a contentious issue can be resolved relatively easily or at least prevented from getting out of control if it is identified, isolated and dealt with at an early stage.’ How true. And it is not happening. Hate crime legislation promotes self-censorship, the worst kind of censorship. Again, there are some obvious parallels with the later stages of communism.
From the state’s point of view this is a desirable outcome since one does not need to be heavy handed. Every citizen becomes his own censor. At an individual level the loss of being able to express oneself is bad enough, but what happens when a whole society cannot express itself for fear of incurring accusations of racism and hate crime? Does this really promote better race relations, understanding and good will? On the contrary, it promotes mutual suspicion and resentment which under certain circumstances can erupt into something very nasty indeed, as the disintegration of Yugoslavia showed. Fifty years of compelling people to act and to believe as if Yugoslavia was a model of multiethnic harmony was blown to pieces in the 1990s when resentments and festering hatreds suppressed by the communists erupted in an orgy of genocide. Legislators in the West who think that the West will always be immune from such violence overestimate the extent to which human behaviour can be manipulated by ill-conceived laws. People do not become favourably disposed to one another because of hate crime legislation. Public displays of tolerance are not enough to hold a multicultural society together.
Without that essential feeling that the “other” belongs in my tribe, the “other” will always be an outsider. The more governments coerce public opinion, the bigger will be the divide between the private and public spheres. The more I am told that I must accept the “other”, the more I will come to resent and, eventually, to reject him. Denied the option of expressing my rejection of multiculturalism in public, I can give free rein only within the four walls of my own home. And what happens when eventually the barriers come down, as they must, between what I really think and feel, and between what I am expected to say in public? The obedient arrows of my hatred, lovingly made and crafted, will do my bidding.