A new law against hate speech is on the verge of being passed in the Irish parliament. A law that when passed will prove to be one of the most regressive of those in force in Western democracies. Regressive because the crime of hate speech would overturn what is the "presumption of innocence" with the "presumption of crime": that is, one could be investigated on mere suspicion of hate speech and sentenced to up to two years for merely possessing documents that qualify as potential hate speech, even if no actual crime has been committed. In short, the mere combination of suspicion and the material held would be enough to receive a conviction. The adage attributed to Richelieu, "give me six lines written by the most honest of men, and I will find therein some thing sufficient to hang him," combined with a practice capable of overshadowing the gestures of STASI.
To the facts in the Irish Debate, the law for the introduction of the Orwellian thoughtcrime as a legal fact. The law after several steps was passed in the lower house, Dáil Éireann, with a large majority and awaits only approval in the senate, Seanad Éireann, to be promulgated.
The new law, called the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Act, would like to update the previous law of 1989, Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989, by introducing new offenses and more... safeguards. Everything positive on paper, so says the Citizens Informations Board's institutional website, which describesthe legislative path of the new regulations as follows:
Create new laws to deal with hate crimes;
Expand the protected characteristics to include gender (including gender identity and expression) and disability;
Make it an offence to deny or trivialise genocide.
And it is specified, using the definition in use by the Garda, the Irish police:
A hate crime is any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim, or any other person, to have been motivated by prejudice based on a person’s age, disability race, colour, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. Ireland does not currently have specific laws that deal with hate crimes.
Orwell became an instruction manual
But de facto the rule as presented does not apply only as an aggravating factor to any crime, as written on the Citizens Informations Board website. Rather, as evident from a reading of the law, the case would apply to any instance of hate speech. So much so that not only the libertarian area, but also the radical left has raged against the law. For example, Paul Murphy, elected with the leftist People Before Profit - Solidarity coalition, have not hesitated to speak of thought crimes, i.e., the "crimethink" according to good old George Orwell (Orwell who, it is worth remembering, a few months ago was listed among the authors bellwether in investigations of possible white supremacist radicalization). In one of his speeches in the parliamentary debate, Murphy reiterated:
Something we are eager to avoid, and we will come to this in a more substantive discussion later on in respect of amendment No. 6, is the creation of thought crimes [sic]. We want to see that there are definite negative consequences as a result of the hate speech we are talking about here. That is the purpose of these amendments.
Congressman Murphy is not quoting Orwell out of turn because one of the articles mentions preventive seizure in the absence of crime. That is, suspicion is enough to trigger the prosecution. An even more extreme situation than that experienced in Norway with the cases of radical feminists sued over a tweet.
In fact, under Article 10 (reference is made to the text approved in the lower house) it says in paragraph (a) of Subsection 1:
[…] prepares or possesses material that is likely to incite violence or hatred against a person or a group of persons on account of their protected characteristics or any of those characteristics with a view to the material being communicated to the public or a section of the public, whether by himself or herself or another person,[…]
And under Subsection 3:
In any proceedings for an offence under this section, where it is proved that the accused person was in possession of material such as is referred to in subsection (1) and it is reasonable to assume that the material was not intended for the personal use of the person, the person shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, to have been in possession of the material in contravention of subsection (1).
Effectively establishing a presumption of guilt with sentences of up to two years where "personal use" is not proven.
Requiem for the Rule of Law
What happens to freedom of expression? Briefly summarized in the following Article 11 in which the absence of any guaranteeism is evident.
Protection of freedom of expression 11.
- For the purposes of this Part, any material or behaviour is not taken to incite violence or hatred against a person or a group of persons on account of their protected characteristics or any of those characteristics solely on the basis that that material or behaviour includes or involves discussion or criticism of matters relating to a protected characteristic.
In a hypothetical application of this law, according to the facts of these new forms of crime, it is enough to have among one's documents material that places biological sex as factual and preeminent in the face of self-perceived gender identity to be at risk, at the moment when supporting the biological sex side against gender slurs could be considered not "discussion or criticism" but tout court hatred.
It is worth noting that there are not only aspects related to the definition of biological sex at stake. The news reports from the United States are full of examples of what could become new criminal offenses, and playfully cases of hate speech. The University of Colorado has put it on the record that misgendering and misuse of pronouns (and let us remember that self-assigned "pronouns" by those who perceive themselves as "different" from their material reality number at least 20 or so in the Anglo-Saxon world and increasing) can be classified as an act of violence. At this rate one will not only risk one's job for misgendering, but in the face of regulations such as Ireland's would easily expire in criminal law. The University of Colorado writes in its revamped pronoun usage guidelines:
It is never safe to assume someone’s gender and living a life where people will naturally assume the correct pronouns for you is a privilege that not everyone experiences. Choosing to ignore or disrespect someone’s pronouns is not only an act of oppression but can also be considered an act of violence.
In short, addressing to a male who thinks he is female with "he" is "violence."
While on the issue of the debate over the boycott of brands Bud (beer) and Target (clothing), in controversy over their gender-themed marketing choices, Professor Justin Wolfers, chair of Public Policy and Economics at the University of Michigan said in a panel discussion on the MSNBC television channel that it is "literally terrorism."
Target caves into this, then it says that the moment you threaten the employees of even a very large corporation, you get to control its policies. This is economic terrorism, literally terrorism, creating fear among the workers and forcing the corporations to sell the things you want, not sell the things you don’t.
Under the hate speech umbrella could fall all of these instances. Biological sex, pronouns, criticism of pride month business practices and obsessive marketing even to children and teens.
A self-referential law
The element of crimethink, and the "six lines of the most honest of men" according to Richelieu, is also exacerbated by another detail, that of the circular or self-referential definitions to which the law resorts for new hate speech offenses. Beware, because this is a similar criticism to the Italian debate around the Zan bill with regard to "gender identity," "gender," and potential "acts of discrimination" against them.
Raising the issue about the new Irish law and its "definitions," is Gerard Casey, professor emeritus of philosophy at University College Dublin. A libertarian Catholic who in 2021 brought out a book that takes woke and genderist issues head-on by citing the "struggle against reality" of the male who would like give birth to childrem from the legendary gag from the Monthy Python movie Life of Brian, right from its title: Hidden Agender: Transgenderism's Struggle against Reality.
It is one thing, as Casey points out, to have a hate crime as an aggravating factor in a crime (a fact already in the law) and quite another to define "hate speech" in the absence of even incitement. Because as we have seen in the pending law, possession and inability to prove personal use is sufficient to be convicted.
In the Irish debate, it is insisted that what is probative of hate speech is the perception of the victim. But the perception of the victim in a context where a crime has already become apparent is one thing. In the absence of crime it is impossible to give an objective definition. Especially when everywhere in the world jurisprudence has already given brilliant examples of the monstrosities that can be arrived at in the presence of extreme subjectivity on matters of true or alleged "transphobia". Such as in the case of the reckless lawsuits filed by Canadian "activist" Jessica Yaniv, first idolized by trans activism and then dumped because he was considered counterproductive to the cause after he had racked up a series of lawsuits against various women-only beauty salons that refused to perform full hair removal of his private parts (Yaniv still has all male sex organs).
And to return to the Italian jurisprudential debate, just think of the whole issue around the question of the crime of plagiarism. In fact, the new regulations around hate speech are placed on an even more foggy and evanescent basis than plagiarism.
It is not only the crime of hate speech that cannot have a clear definition. But also the subjects that should be protected by the crime. The issue is obviously around the definition of "gender" and "transgender" (unlike the Zan bill in which "gender" and "gender identity" were identified, the Irish bill is limited to "gender," but around "gender" and "transgender" inevitable tautology). Casey writes in a November 2022 statement:
Section 3(2)(d) of the Bill reads: ‘“gender” means the gender of a person or the gender which a person expresses as the person’s preferred gender or with which the person identifies and includes transgender and a gender other than those of male and female’. If this section is meant to give a definition of gender, it manifestly fails, for no coherent attempt to define a term ‘X’ can include X in the proposed definition. But if it’s not meant to define gender, that leaves us with another problem since ‘gender’ appears to be defined nowhere else in the Bill. Similar considerations apply to the term ‘hatred’! We are told, ‘“hatred” means hatred against a person or a group of persons in the State or elsewhere on account of their protected characteristics or any one of those characteristics’. If this is meant as a definition, it fails utterly. But if not, where is a definition of hatred to be found in the Bill?
Let’s look at §3(2)(d) again. This appears to pick out three items: (1) a person’s gender; (2) a person’s expressed-preferred gender; (3) a person’s identified gender. In the case of all three, we appear to be told (the lack of punctuation doesn’t help here) that gender can include transgender or a gender other than male or female.
We are not told what gender is; what transgender is; what a gender other than male or female might be or how many of them there might be; and how any of the three listed gender items differ from or relate to one another. For example, could a person have all three gender types simultaneously?
Not least because the same definitions of gender and sex, as also often pointed out by critics around the Zan bill, can be based on the same "stereotypes" that lawmakers apparently would like to deconstruct, or become interchangeable with each other (but if they are interchangeable, why define them as different properties?). Casey writes again on Twitter on the 2nd of June:
Where gender is one’s subjective sense of one’s masculinity or femininity, it is a mystery why it should be of interest to anyone except the person involved and his/her family and friends, still less, why it should be a characteristic meriting legal recognition. There is a legal maxim to the effect that the law doesn’t concern itself with trifles, which perfectly applies to gender understood in this way.
At the moment, the core section of the Irish Gender Recognition Act (s. 18 (1)) states: “Where a gender recognition certificate is issued to a person the person’s gender shall from the date of that issue become for all purposes the preferred gender so that if the preferred gender is the male gender the person’s sex becomes that of a man, and if it is the female gender the person’s sex becomes that of a woman.” Note the none-too-subtle but still mysterious slide from gender to sex!
These are not "details" especially in a context such as Ireland where net of the "premise that there is no legislation against hate crimes" last year saw the case of Enoch Burke: a professor who was suspended from school for refusing to use the plural pronoun against a student who defined himself as "non-binary." Burke had appealed to his Christian faith and as an objector of conscience he had refused suspension and went to school regularly. Action that had cost him 108 days in jail.
So this is how Rule of Law dies... with thunderous applause
It seems evident how in these narratives where words have lost their meaning, the fact of a law like Ireland's where only suspicion authorizes seizures, and the mere presence of material classifiable as hate speech by the judge of the day can lead to convictions, risks becoming a legal monstrosity capable of silencing any form of dissent, on any issue.
This is the brave new world that Irish lawmakers are setting up by a large majority. The text was approved by 110 votes to 14 against absolutely across the board. Voting in favor were Sinn Fein, Labour, the Greens, Fine Gael (Christian Democrats), and Fianna Fail (Conservatives). Passage to the upper house, Seanad Éireann, despite the many misgivings noted is considered by political commentators to be a mere formality. Thus, there is a real possibility that we will soon see the effects in action, or more likely, the passage of the law will lead to a self-censorship cloak against positions critical of the ideological approach to issues such as gender and gender identity. STASI teaches.
All things considered, the Irish case teaches how crucial it is to be vigilant against these new forms of "supposed protections" that in reality are almost always tools for ideological and censorship gags.
Essayist and popularizer, among his publications Alessandro Blasetti. Il padre dimenticato del cinema italiano (Idrovolante, 2023). With Emanuele Mastrangelo Wikipedia. L’Enciclopedia libera e l’egemonia dell’informazione (Bietti, 2013) and Iconoclastia. La pazzia contagiosa della cancel culture che sta distruggendo la nostra storia (Eclettica, 2020).