Freedom of speech of the reactionary ruling classes
By SAM HEATON
Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper joined the chorus of reactionary leaders in various countries proclaiming that the armed men who attacked the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris were part of a war against freedom of expression, a war against “anybody who does not think and act exactly as they wish they would think and act.”
Besides the shallowness of these comments, Canadians are astounded to hear such a thing from the very Prime Minister whose main hallmark is to brook no opposition from any quarter.
What can we conclude about the kind of freedom of expression Mr. Harper espouses?
Mr. Harper and his government are well known for suppressing and being intolerant of all sorts of expression. In the case of scientists, his government is notorious for suppressing research that could be used to justify limiting the activities of the energy monopolies when they are destructive to the social and natural environment. Federally-funded scientists have had their ability to speak publicly about the results of their research severely restricted. They have been “gagged.”
It is also well known that the political activity of the First Nations and various civil society organizations such as environmental and citizens’ organizations are treated as security concerns to be closely monitored. Others have been outright defunded for taking stands that contradict the Harper government’s Zionist, racist and colonial outlook. In the case of the working class, expression in the form of demands and defence of working conditions and opposition to the neo-liberal destruction of the old system of labour relations are as a rule treated as criminal matters through the repeated use of back-to-work legislation. Harper uses his majority in Parliament to enact laws which deprive workers of their right to organize and which criminalize their fight for working conditions and security in retirement and he calls this democratic.
In March 2014, a cartoon was published by the Pictou Advocate, a local newspaper in Nova Scotia showing a Nazi flag above the House of Commons with the text “Harper’s Economic Action Plan.” The cartoonist explained: “The fact is, Harper has violated virtually every element of his platform which is taking away the freedoms and rights of all Canadians, especially the disabled and elderly.” This satire was condemned by Minister of Justice Peter MacKay, who issued a statement demanding an apology.
In June 2013, the Vancouver Province newspaper pulled an animated cartoon spoofing an Enbridge Inc. promotional TV ad from its web site. Dan Murphy, the paper’s political cartoonist, told CBC News the Province yanked his cartoon after the Calgary-based pipeline company threatened to withdraw its lucrative advertising. There was no government condemnation of this suppression of expression.
Employment Minister Jason Kenney has added his voice. “Freedom of expression means anything,” he said. “It means the right to publish controversial or even sometimes offensive speech. It doesn’t mean we have to like it, and it doesn’t mean we have to endorse it, but we have to tolerate it. […] That’s the price of freedom.”
Media concentration, state-organized disinformation and press freedom
In what way can we speak of press freedom and the right to publish when Canada is second to none for having its media concentrated in the hands of a few powerful monopolies and out of the hands of the people? With the takeover of Quebecor’s Sun Media by Postmedia, ownership of prominent Canadian newspapers will be overwhelmingly the purview of one monopoly. Among the few exceptions will be the Toronto Star, which owns the franchise of free Metro newspapers, and the Globe and Mail, owned by the Thomson family of Canadian oligarchs.
The majority owners of Postmedia are just two U.S. hedge funds. The Postmedia purchase of Sun Media is itself being funded by a New York-based hedge fund consortium called GoldenTree Asset Management. Televised media is no different, controlled by three monopolies: Shaw (owned by J.R. Shaw), Rogers, (owned by the Rogers family) and Bell (the largest shareholders of which are RBC, BMO, TD bank and CIBC). Between the three are held a staggering number of television networks, radio stations and magazines.
The government of Stephen Harper has resorted to increasingly sophisticated schemes to ensure the monopoly media does not deviate from the state-imposed narratives of putting lipstick on a pig. For years various restrictions were imposed on the parliamentary press gallery which would periodically revolt and refuse to attend. Opportunities to ask questions were curtailed outside of very finite conditions imposed by the government.
News Canada: Fake news and “media control”
By 2011 it was reported in the Hill Times that more than 1,500 “communications staff” were working in government offices including 87 in the Prime Minister’s Office alone. Media commentators noted that the only purpose of these individuals is “media control” to “manipulate a message.”
These efforts have now reached new depths of depravity. As revealed by Blacklock’s Reporter on December 19, Public Works Canada is paying $1.25 million to an organization called News Canada Ltd. to distribute government-sponsored “news” to publishers and other media simply bearing the name News Canada.
One sample cited by Blacklock’s shows the specific purpose of this fake news to cover up in the most cynical way the ongoing crimes of the Canadian government:
“The script reads: ‘How do you right a past wrong? Well, the Government of Canada has been working towards finding solutions to do just that.’ The report continues, ‘Canada has made a commitment to reconciling relationships with First Nations people’; ‘The future looks bright. More win-win solutions are in the works to bring closure and justice for all.'”
The fact is that Stephen Harper and Co. also do not tolerate “anybody who does not think and act exactly as they wish they would think and act.” As the chief salesman of the monopolies he has turned over the state to be run directly by private interests. It is those resisting the anti-social offensive and defending their rights who especially draw the Harperites’ ire.
But more to the point, what is Stephen Harper’s definition of freedom of expression? Consider the Harperites’ nation-wrecking, restructuring of the state and defence of monopoly right at home and its willingness to participate in illegal U.S.-led military aggression and war crimes abroad. This shows that the Harperites’ definition of “freedom of expression” is to permit all manner of crimes against the people to serve the private interests they represent.
Stephen Harper’s freedom of expression is the “freedom” that everyone must submit to moribund finance capital and its murderous attempts to foil its defeat. All casualties are considered to be unfortunate but necessary “collateral damage” in defence of a righteous cause called freedom and democracy. Under the rule of the monopolies Might Makes Right. Its expression is that any people who do not submit are a potentially terrorist mob. Only those voices which promote irrationalism and U.S. imperialist interests are to be tolerated.
It is only in this context that we can understand Prime Minister Harper’s statement in the aftermath of the events in Paris. “We also encourage people to go about their lives and to exercise our rights and freedoms and our openness as a society as loudly and as clearly as we can,” the Prime Minister said.
Source: TML Weekly Information Project