Dublin Letter

The Land That Invented Cancel Culture

Ireland’s Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill of 2022 is a masterpiece of evasive intrusion. Free speech is not defined in it, but merely proclaimed in a headline to be a worthy objective, even though free speech has virtually vanished in Ireland. The Irish did not invent the term “cancel culture”, just the practice, as in “boycott”, which has been a regular fate for people with unpopular opinions.

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“Unpopular” means “unacceptable”, as defined by the ethos of the ruling caste, which once upon a time was the Catholic Church, and is now the post-Christian, hard-line, doctrinaire liberal-left. The bishops of yore were occasionally obliged to consult the Ten Commandments. But Ireland’s liberal-left merely take guidance from those deathless moral compasses, their feelings. There is no freedom of speech for those of whom they disapprove.

So, Ireland, having outsourced censorship to the mob, hardly needs new laws prohibiting “hate”. However, it is pleasing to note that the Department of Justice has publicly declared that opposition to homosexuality will not be criminal. Of course not! Anything that offends Islam, Ireland’s fastest growing religion, would of course be Islamophobic, which, like misogyny, is a secular mortal sin beyond all redemption.

What calls itself LGBT Ireland (no QI+ yet) is calling for robust laws to deal with “homophobia”, and is claiming that incidents of homophobic harassment are rising sharply. And it would certainly seem so. Between 2019 and 2021, allegations about such expressions of hostility rose by 400 per cent. But statistics tell a different story. In the entire year of 2019, LGBT Ireland recorded five complaints, in 2020, fifteen complaints, and in 2021, just twenty-one complaints, in a nation with a population of over five million people. The increase, by the way, was attributed by LGBT activists to the Brexit vote and to Trump, the evil binary that explains just about everything, from the shift of El Niño into the ionosphere to the Dalai Lama abandoning lentils for plump choir boys stuffed with hummingbird tongues. 

Despite all this, LGBT Ireland (sigh, still no QI+, as yet, but one lives in hope) has a hotline for victims of homophobic speech. The Irish Times has rather usefully provided some examples, though with asterisks for the faint-hearted: “f*****t”, “b**ch” and “wh**e”.

So, if someone calls you a “f*****t”, you are being called a ferret, or possibly a fillet. Then there is “b**ch”. Being addressed as a “bench” is out and out seatism. It is no defence that the term refers to that filmic masterpiece, Seatism Kane. Or maybe “b**ch” compares you to a strip of sand, making you subject to lunar tides, and therefore implying menstrual inconstancy: misogynistic and silicophobic. Then there is the worst example of all: being called “wh**e”, namely that you are “white”, the most offensive word in the English language.

If you are struggling here, the asterisked words are faggot, bitch and whore. Now send for the sm*ll*ng s*lts.

But, with just twenty-one examples of public hate speech in 2021, imagine the boredom of the LGBT Ireland staff sitting by the hotline and waiting desperately for it to ring. What does a fervent LGBT Ireland activist do in the meantime? Go off for a quiet w**k, namely take seven days’ leave or a museful stroll?

One giveaway about the agenda dominating the Irish media is the frequency of certain words. For example, in the past three years the Irish Times has used the term “far-left” 236 times but “far-right” 1628 times, or seven times as often. To the liberal-left, not merely is the far-right much more numerous, but infinitely more dangerous. The raging mobs that three years ago torched some twenty US cities and killed about fifty people were seldom termed far-left by the Irish media but were usually called “largely peaceful protesters”.

Imprecision being a vital tool of the Irish liberal-left, it is no surprise that Luna Lara Liboni, of the Coalition Against Hate Crime, is also a senior member of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, being its Equality Officer (naturally). The first liberty, after life itself, is the right of free speech. And any council protecting “liberty” must protect freedom of speech as its foremost duty. If that freedom goes, all else follows, and included in that freedom is the right to offend people in ways they might (rightly or wrongly) find hateful.

Yet at the very centre of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties is the chairwoman of the Coalition Against Hate Crime. Something of a contradiction, there, possibly?

Not in the least. Only a reactionary patriarchal bigot would say such a thing. Happily, for us, Miss Liboni has shared some of her wisdom in her Twitter account, which brims with sagacious nuggets like the vegetative gravel in minestrone soup:

We will ultimately bring down the patriarchy and change our societies, and together with the thought of the coffee I am about to prepare these are the only things that keep me going on a Monday morning.

I am raging as I started the day feeling happy, and now I find myself ranting about the spike of lesbophobia—in line with LGBTIphobia and other forms of intolerance to fellow discriminated communities such as racialised people, Roma, Travellers, disabled people—in Ireland.

Few times in my life I have experienced the degree of lesbophobia I faced in the last few days in Dublin. Glorious, in all its forms, at the intersection of homophobia and misogyny.

After a good cry at my desk, I will go back to my Monday (as it wasn’t enough). But please, do not leave lesbophobia and biphobia behind when talking about growing discrimination. Do not invisibilise our experiences.

Of course, none of us would dream of invisibilising the experiences of a senior member of the Irish Council of Civil Liberties, the primary duty of which is to protect freedom of speech. This includes the right to court accusations of racism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny and biphobia—a new one on me, but probably a hatred of purchasing things. Oh, I know.

Either way, Ireland has no need for new laws opposing “hate speech”, because the sabre-toothed norms of everyday journalistic life will turn any non-conformist into a bloodied pulp. The outcome of fresh laws on censorship is clear. People who cannot express their feelings in the mainstream media about uncontrolled immigration, or the largely invented condition of transgenderism, or the exclusion of white heterosexual men from the media, publishing and the stage, will turn to the unpoliceable outlets of the internet. However, I am not on social media, so I offer no further thoughts on them. (I only found Miss Liboni’s Twitter-jewels because she made them available online, probably because she was bored waiting beside the LGBT hotline and didn’t feel like having another w**k.)

Ireland’s Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence and Hate, et cetera et cetera) Bill is well named, for it really is criminal, and it can only empower the existing cancel culture. In all modesty, I can claim to have been the first Irish journalist to have been cancelled, in a froth-flecked frenzy six years ago by my fellow journalists. Once it was clear that my mainstream columnar career was over, the members of the lynch mob exulted at their achievement before professing a deep hostility to this new cancellation culture. Or, if you prefer, psychotic humbug, Ireland’s greatest contribution to the lexicon of mental disorders.

Cancel culture is now everywhere, but few societies have gone down the road so freely and so vigorously as Ireland, which traditionally is what the Irish have always been so very good at. It is why so many Irish writers of the twentieth century—George Bernard Shaw, W.B. Yeats, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Kate O’Brien, Edna O’Brien, William Trevor—chose to live abroad. So, modern Irish journalism really is rather like that of yesteryear: nasty, self-congratulatory and deeply insular, endlessly comparing Ireland and its norms favourably with a caricature Britain of its own devising.

What the Irish media now need is to be freed from the self-imposed prison of dreary smugness and infantile Anglophobia, not more government regulation. Unnecessary laws are always bad laws, and bad laws if enforced always beget injustice. So, when this “anti-hate” bill becomes law, just count the bodies of the free dangling from the gibbets of an increasingly unfree yet nonetheless chortling Ireland. For bullies, you see, tyranny is such fun.

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