Michael Schellenberger is a leading environmentalist and progressive activist who has become disillusioned with the movements he used to help lead.
His passion for the environment and progressive issues remains, but his approach is unique and valuable.
Michael Shellenberger is author of the best-selling “Apocalypse Never”
This newsletter was sent out to Michael Schellenberger’s subscribers on Substack
The road to hell was paved with victimology
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, I worked with a group of friends and colleagues to advocate drug decriminalization, harm reduction, and criminal justice reform. I helped progressive Congressperson Maxine Waters organize civil rights leaders to advocate for needle exchange so that heroin users wouldn’t get HIV-AIDS. I fought for the treatment of drug addiction as a public health problem not a criminal justice one. And we demanded that housing be given to the homeless without regard for their own struggles with drugs.
Our intentions were good. We thought it was irrational to criminalize the distribution of clean needles to drug users when doing so had proven to save lives. We were upset about mass incarceration, particularly of African Americans and Latinos, for nonviolent drug offenses. And we believed that the approach European nations like the Netherlands and Portugal had taken to decriminalize drugs, and expand drug treatment, was the right one.
But it’s obvious now that we were wrong. Over the last 20 years the U.S. liberalized drug laws. During that time, deaths from illicit drugs rose from 17,000 to 93,000. Three three times more people die from illicit drug use than from car accidents; five times more die from drugs than homicide. Many of those people are homeless and die alone in the hotel rooms and apartment units given away as part of the harm reduction-based “Housing First” approach to homelessness. Others are children found dead by their parents on the floors of their rooms.
Many progressives today say the problem is that we didn’t go far enough, and to some extent they are right. A big factor behind rising drug deaths has been the contamination of cocaine, heroin, and counterfeit prescription opioids with fentanyl. Others say that concerns over rising drug deaths are misplaced, and that alcohol and tobacco kill more people than illicit drugs.
But drug deaths were rising in the U.S. long before the arrival of fentanyl, and most of the people who die from tobacco and alcohol do so in old age, not instantly, like they do when they are poisoned or overdose. Of the nearly 90,000 people in the U.S. who die of alcohol-related causes annually, just 2,200 die immediately from acute alcohol poisoning.
What about mass incarceration? It’s true that nearly half of the people in federal prisons are there for nonviolent drug offenses. But there are eight times more people in state prisons than federal prisons, and just 14 percent of people in state prisons are there for nonviolent drug offenses and just 4 percent for nonviolent possession. Half of state prisoners are there for murder, rape, robbery and other violent offenses.
While it’s true that both Netherlands and Portugal reduced criminal penalties, both nations still ban drug dealing, arrest drug users, and sentence dealers and users to prison or rehabilitation. “If somebody in Portugal started injecting heroin in public,” I asked the head of drug policy in that country, “what would happen to them?” He said, without hesitation, “They would be arrested.”
And being arrested is sometimes what addicts need. “I am a big fan of mandated stuff,” said Victoria Westbrook. “I don’t recommend it as a way to get your life together, but getting indicted by the Feds worked for me. I wouldn’t have done this without them.” Today Victoria is working for the San Francisco city government to integrate ex-convicts back into society.
But people in progressive cities are today shouted down for even suggesting a role for law enforcement. “Anytime a person says, ‘Maybe the police and the health care system could work together?’ or, ‘Maybe we could try some probation or low-level arrests,’ there’s an enormous outcry,” said Stanford addiction specialist Keith Humphreys. “‘No! That’s the war on drugs! The police have no role in this! Let’s open up some more services and people will come in and use them voluntarily!’”
Why is that? Why, in the midst of the worst drug death crisis in world history, and the examples of Portugal and Netherlands, are progressives still opposed to shutting down the street fentanyl markets in places like San Francisco that are killing people?
We Care A Lot
There are many financial interests that make money from the drug crisis and so it’s reasonable to ask whether progressive inaction stems from political donations from addiction, homelessness, and service providers. California spends more on mental health than any other state but saw its homeless population rise 31 percent even as it declined 18 percent in the rest of the U.S. San Francisco spends significantly more on cash welfare and housing for the homeless than other cities but has one of the worst homeless and drug death crises, per capita.
But we progressives who fought to change drug laws and attitudes were not primarily motivated by money. Sure, we needed George Soros and other wealthy individuals to support our work. But we could have made more money doing other things, and Soros and others have nothing to gain financially from drug decriminalization. The same goes for homelessness. The most influential Housing First advocates work in non-profits and universities.
Is it because so many progressives who fought for decriminalization themselves used drugs? Everybody I knew in that period, myself included, smoked marijuana, drank alcohol, and experimented with psychedelics and occasionally with harder drugs. Several of the donors who supported our work were known to smoke marijuana.
But I saw no evidence that advocates for drug decriminalization and harm reduction used illicit drugs at a higher rate than the rest of the population. Some used them less and showed far greater awareness of the harms of drugs, including addiction, than many other people I have met, likely due to their higher socio-economic status as much as their specific knowledge of the issue.
And the core motivation of the people I worked with was ideological. Many people, including many progressives, were libertarian, and fundamentally believed the government did not have a right to tell able-bodied adults what drugs they could and could not use. But many more, myself included, were upset by mass incarceration, and the ways in which incarceration destroys families, disproportionately African American and Latino ones.
Our views were too simplistic and wrong. Many things undermine families and communities, of all colors, well before anyone is incarcerated, including drugs and the crime and violence associated with them. And, violent communities attract the drug trade more than the drug trade makes communities violent, both scholars and journalists find.
But mostly we were too emotional. Progressives hold two moral values particularly deeply: caring and fairness. “Across many scales, surveys, and political controversies,” notes the psychologist Jonathan Haidt, “liberals turn out to be more disturbed by signs of violence and suffering, compared to conservatives, and especially to libertarians.”
The problem is that, in the process of valuing care so much, progressives abandon other important values, argue Haidt and other researchers in a field called Moral Foundations Theory. While progressives (“liberal” and “very liberal” people) hold the values of Caring, Fairness, and Liberty, they tend to reject the values of Sanctity, Authority, and Loyalty as wrong. Because these values are so deeply held, often subconsciously, Moral Foundations Theory explains well why so many progressives and conservatives today view each other as not merely uninformed but immoral.
The Victim God
The values of Sanctity and Authority appear to explain why conservatives and moderate Democrats more than progressives favor prohibitions on things like sleeping on sidewalks, public use of hard drugs, and other behaviors. In a more traditional morality, drug use is seen as violating the Sanctity of the body, and the importance of self-control. Sleeping on sidewalks is seen as violating the value of Authority of laws and thus Loyalty to America. Writes Haidt, “liberals are often willing to trade away fairness when it conflicts with compassion or their desire to fight oppression.”
But there is a twist. Progressives don’t trade away Fairness for victims, only for those they see as privileged. Progressives still value Fairness, but more for victims, and their progressive allies, than for everyone equally, and particularly not for people progressives view as the oppressors and victimizers.
Conservatives and moderates tend to define Fairness around equal treatment, including enforcement of the law. They tend to believe we should enforce the law against the homeless man who is sleeping and urinating on BART, our subway system, even if he is a victim. Progressives disagree. They demand we take into account that the man is a victim in deciding whether to arrest and how to sentence whole classes of people including the homeless, mentally ill, and addicts.
Progressives also value Liberty, or freedom, differently from conservatives. Many progressives reject the value of Liberty for Big Tobacco and cigarette smokers but embrace the value of Liberty for fentanyl dealers and users. Why? Because progressives view fentanyl dealers and users, who are disproportionately poor, sick, and nonwhite, as victims of a bad system.
Progressives also value Authority and Loyalty for victims above everyone else. San Francisco homelessness advocate Jennifer Friedenbach told me that we should “center unhoused people, primarily black and brown folks, that are experiencing homelessness, folks with disabilities. They’re the voices that should be centered.” She is not rejecting Authority or Loyalty. Rather, she is suggesting that we should have Loyalty to the victims, and that they, not governments, should have Authority.
Indeed, progressives insist on taking orders, supposedly without questioning them, from the homeless themselves. “Drug use is often the only thing that feels good for them, to oversimplify it,” said Kristen Marshall, who oversees San Francisco’s response to drug overdoses. “When you understand that, you stop caring about the drug use and ask people what they need.”
The San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness has similarly argued that the city must let homeless people sit and lie on sidewalks, and camp in public spaces including parks and sidewalks, if that’s what they would prefer, rather than require them to stay in shelters. Once you decide, in advance, to let victims determine their fates, then much else can be justified.
Many progressives do something similar with Sanctity, which is to value some things as sacred or pure. Monique Tula, the head of the Harm Reduction Coalition, argues for “bodily autonomy” against mandatory drug treatment for people who break the law to support their addiction. In so doing, she is insisting upon the Sanctity of the body, not rejecting it. The difference between her definition of Sanctity and the traditional view of Sanctity was what violated it. Where traditional morality views recreational injection drug use as a violation of the Sanctity of the body, Tula, like many libertarians, believes that the state coercing sobriety is.
All religions and moralities have light and dark sides, suggests Haidt. “Morality binds and blinds,” he writes. On the one hand, they bind us together in groups and societies, helping us realize our individual and social needs, and are thus very positive. But religions and moralities can also create giant blind spots preventing us from seeing our dark sides, and thus can be very negative.
Victimology takes the truth that it is wrong for people to be victimized and distorts it by going a step further. Victimology asserts that victims are inherently good because they have been victimized. It robs victims of their moral agency and creates double standards that frustrate any attempt to criticize their behavior, even if they’re behaving in self-destructive, antisocial ways like smoking fentanyl and living in a tent on the sidewalk. Such reasoning is obviously faulty. It purifies victims of all badness. But by appealing to emotion, victimology overrides reason and logic.
Victimology appears to be rising as traditional religions are declining. Unlike traditional religions, many nontraditional religions are largely invisible to the people who hold them most strongly. A secular religion like victimology is powerful because it meets the contemporary psychological, social, and spiritual needs of its believers, but also because it appears obvious, not ideological, to them. Advocates of “centering” victims, giving them special rights, and allowing them to behave in ways that undermine city life, don’t believe, in my experience, that they are adherents to a new religion, but rather that they are more compassionate and more moral than those who hold more traditional views.
A Bad Case of San Fransickness
“Safe Sleeping Sites” is the name San Francisco gives to parking lots of tents of homeless addicts shooting and smoking fentanyl and meth. They are expensive, costing the city $60,000 per tent to maintain. Some people say they look like a natural disaster, but with city-funded social workers providing services to the people in tents, they look to me more like a medical experiment, albeit one that no board of ethics would ever permit.
At the Sites the city isn’t providing drug treatment; it’s providing easy access to drugs. That includes cash in the form of welfare payments with which to purchase drugs, and the equipment with which to inject them. As such, progressives cities like San Francisco are directly financing the drug death crisis.
Is this Munchausen syndrome by proxy, which is when a parent deliberately makes their child sick so they can feel important? In San Fransicko, I consider this possibility, and ultimately conclude that while the progressive approach to drug addiction and homelessness can be fairly described as pathological altruism, it would be unfair to call it sadistic. Many of the drug-addicted and mentally ill homeless are, in fact, sick, and most progressives have good intentions.
But it is not unfair to point out that the city’s approach of playing the Rescuer is resulting in worsening addiction and rising drug deaths. Nor is it unfair to point out that we limit people’s potential for freedom by labeling them Victims and “centering” their trauma, rather than viewing victimization as an opportunity for heroism. Nor is it unfair to point out, as I have attempted to do by describing the history, that San Francisco’s political, business, and cultural leaders should all know better by now.
People suffering from addiction and living on the street are ill. To mix them up in speech and policy with people who are merely poor is deceptive. Leading scholars have for thirty years denounced the conflation of the merely poor with disaffiliated addicts. Yet progressive advocates for the homeless continue to engage in the same sleight of hand by using the single term “homeless,” tricking journalists, policy makers, and the public into mixing together groups of people who require different kinds of help.
Progressives justify their discourse and agenda in the name of preventing dehumanization, but the effect has been the opposite. In defending the humanity of addicts, progressives ended up defending the inhumane conditions of street addiction.
The morality of victimology contains a version of all six values identified in Moral Foundations Theory. The problem is that those values are oriented around those defined as Victims in a particular context, to the exclusion of everyone else. But not even the most devoted homeless activists could do whatever drug-addicted homeless people demand of them. The demand that we give Victims special political authority is thus really a demand to give special political authority to those who claim to represent the supposed Victims, namely homelessness advocates.
The power of victimology lies in its moralizing discourse more than in any single set of laws. I was struck in my research that progressive intellectuals and activists have had a far greater impact on public policy, and the reality on the streets, than countless progressive politicians.
It is notable that while academics and activists are the most influential individuals in shaping homeless policy in San Francisco and Los Angeles, they are also the least accountable. As the problem has worsened, their cultural and political power has grown, while voters understandably blame their local elected leaders for the crisis.
Progressive advocates and policy makers alike blame the drug war, mass incarceration, and drug prohibition for the addiction and overdose crisis, even though the crisis resulted from liberalized attitudes and drug laws, first toward pharmaceutical opioids, and then toward all drugs. This view is, on the one hand, a defensive and ideological reaction. But it is also an abdication of responsibility.
And so while we should hold our elected officials responsible, we must also ask hard questions of the intellectual architects of their policies, and of the citizens, donors, and voters who empower them. What kind of a civilization leaves its most vulnerable people to use deadly substances and die on the streets? What kind of city regulates ice cream stores more strictly than drug dealers who kill 713 of its citizens in a single year? And what kind of people moralize about their superior treatment of the poor, people of color, and addicts while enabling and subsidizing the conditions of their death?
Online Harms Act threatens free expression in Canada
News release from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms
This repudiates centuries of legal tradition that rightly reserved punishment for what a person had done, not for what a person might do. Under this new provision, a complainant can assert to a provincial court that they “fear” that someone will promote genocide, hate or antisemitism.
On February 26, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Arif Virani introduced Bill C-63, the Online Harms Act, in the House of Commons. The Online Harms Act is presented by the government as a means to promote the online safety of persons in Canada and reduce harmful content online. The Online Harms Act would impose severe penalties for online and offline hate speech, including life imprisonment, which is the most severe criminal punishment in Canada. This new legislation would establish a new Digital Safety Commission with power to enforce new regulations created by the federal cabinet. The Canadian Human Rights Commission would acquire new powers to prosecute and punish non-criminal hate speech.
Good intentions should be applauded
Although the Online Harms Act seriously threatens free expression in Canada, there are good intentions behind some of its provisions. It is a laudable goal to force online platforms to remove revenge porn and other non-consensual sharing of intimate images, content that bullies children, content that sexually victimizes children, content that encourages children to harm themselves, and content that incites violence, terrorism or hatred.
Unnecessary duplication of the Criminal Code
However, good intentions do not justify passing additional laws that duplicate what is already prohibited by Canada’s Criminal Code. Additional laws that duplicate existing laws are a poor substitute for good law enforcement.
Section 162.1(1) of Canada’s Criminal Code already prohibits online and offline publication of an intimate image without consent. Section 163 already prohibits publication of obscene materials and child pornography. Thus, it is already illegal to post online content that sexually victimizes a child or revictimizes a survivor.
Section 264(1) already prohibits criminal harassment. Section 319(1) already prohibits the public incitement of hatred towards a group that is identifiable by race, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and other personal characteristics. Section 59(1) criminalizes sedition: advocating the use of force to achieve governmental change within Canada. Sections 83.21 and 83.22 criminalize instructing to carry out terrorist activity; any online content that incites terrorism is already illegal.
Further, Section 22 of Canada’s Criminal Code prohibits counselling, procuring, soliciting or inciting another person “to be a party to an offence.” Any person who counsels, procures, solicits or incites another person to be a party to an offence will be found guilty if the person receiving such counsel commits the offence in question. This applies to terrorism and other violent crimes, and even to minor criminal offenses like shoplifting. Further, section 464 of the Criminal Code criminalizes counselling another person to commit an offence even if that offence is not committed.
Those who support the Online Harms Act should explain why they believe that existing legislation is inadequate to address “harmful” online expression.
New government bodies to censor online speech
If passed into law, the Online Harms Act will create a new Digital Safety Commission to enforce compliance with new regulations created by the federal cabinet. This Digital Safety Commission will have the power to regulate nearly any person or entity operating as a “social media service” in Canada. Any person or social media service found to have permitted “harmful content” would face penalties. The severity of the penalties would be established by the federal cabinet. The creators and users of online content will self-censor to avoid the risk of running afoul of the new regulations and government-imposed censorship. The Online Harms Act provides that an Order of the Digital Safety Commission may be converted into an Order of the Federal Court and enforced like a Court Order. This could result in people operating social media services being fined and imprisoned for contempt of court if they refuse to censor Canadians’ speech.
Pre-emptive punishment for crimes not committed
The Online Harms Act, if passed into law, will add section 810.012 to the Criminal Code, which will permit pre-emptive violations of personal liberty when no crime has been committed. This repudiates centuries of legal tradition that rightly reserved punishment for what a person had done, not for what a person might do. Under this new provision, a complainant can assert to a provincial court that they “fear” that someone will promote genocide, hate or antisemitism. If the judge believes that there are “reasonable grounds” to justify the fear, the court can violate the liberty interests of the accused citizen by requiring her or him to do any or all of the following:
- wear an ankle bracelet (electronic monitoring device)
- obey a curfew and stay at home, as determined by the judge
- abstain from alcohol, drugs, or both
- provide bodily substances (e.g. blood, urine) to confirm abstinence from drugs or alcohol
- not communicate with certain designated persons
- not go to certain places, as determined by the judge
- surrender her or his legally owned and legally required firearms
In other words: a citizen who has not committed any crime can be subjected to one or more (or all) of the above conditions just because someone fears that that person might commit a speech crime in future. Further, if the person who has committed no crime fails to agree to these court-ordered violations of her or his personal liberty, she or he could be sentenced to up to two years in prison.
Our criminal justice system is not supposed to function this way. Violating the liberty of citizens through pre-emptive punishment, when no crime has been committed (and quite possibly when no crime will be committed), is a radical departure from centuries of common law tradition. The respect that our legal system has for individual rights and freedoms means that an accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty by way of a fair trial, held before an independent and impartial court. We do not punish the innocent, nor do we restrict their liberty based on what they might do. The mere fear that harmful expression may occur is not a legitimate basis for court-ordered imprisonment or other conditions that violate personal liberty.
Life imprisonment for words spoken
For the existing Criminal Code offence of advocating for genocide, the Online Harms Act would raise the maximum penalty from five years in jail to life imprisonment. Free societies recognize the distinction between speech and actions. The Online Harms Act blurs that distinction.
Considering the inherent difficulty in determining whether a person has actually “advocated for genocide,” the punishment of a five-year prison term is already an adequate deterrent for words alone.
Federal cabinet can censor speech without input from Parliament
The Online Harms Act, if passed into law, would give new powers to the federal cabinet to pass regulations (which have the same force of law as legislation passed by Parliament) that place prohibitions or obligations on social media services. This includes passing regulations that impose fines or other consequences (e.g., the removal of a licence or the shutting down of a website) for non-compliance. New regulations can be created by the federal cabinet in its sole discretion, and do not need to be debated, voted on or approved by Parliament. Parliamentary proceedings are public. Any political party, or even one single MP, can raise public awareness about a Bill that she or he disagrees with, and can mobilize public opposition to that Bill. Not so with regulations, which are deliberated in secret by the federal cabinet, and that come into force without any public consultation or debate.
Apart from a federal election held once every four years, there is no meaningful way to hold cabinet to account for the draconian censorship of social media services by way of regulations and the harsh penalties that may be imposed for hosting “harmful content.” The federal cabinet can also decide what number of “users” the “social media service” needs to have in order to trigger federal regulation of content, or the federal cabinet can simply designate a social media service as regulated, regardless of the number of its users.
New censorship powers for Canadian Human Rights Commission
The Online Harms Act, if passed into law, will give the Canadian Human Rights Commission new powers to prosecute and punish offensive but non-criminal speech by Canadians if, in the subjective opinion of unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats, they deem someone’s statement to be “hateful.” The Online Harms Act will empower Canadians offended by non-criminal expression to file complaints against their fellow citizens.
Those who are prosecuted by the Human Rights Commission cannot defend themselves by establishing that their supposedly “hateful” statement is true, or that they had reasonable grounds for believing that their statement was true.
Those found guilty by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal can be required to pay as much as $50,000 to the government, plus up to $20,000 to the person(s) designated as “victims” by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. These significant financial penalties will discourage or eliminate necessary discussion on controversial but important issues in our society.
Advocates for censorship often stress the fact that human rights prosecutions are not criminal. It is true that those found guilty of violating vague speech codes by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal do not suffer the consequences of a criminal record. However, those who are prosecuted for expressing their beliefs face the difficult choice of having to spend tens of thousands of dollars on legal bills or having to issue an abject apology. Regardless of whether they choose to defend themselves against the complaint or not, they may still be ordered to pay up to $20,000 to the offended party or up to $50,000 to the government, or up to $70,000 to both.
Many Canadians will continue to exercise their Charter-protected freedom of expression, but many will self-censor to avoid the risk of being prosecuted by the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Anonymous complaints: no right to face one’s accuser
The Online Harms Act, if passed into law, will allow complaints to be filed against Canadians in secret, such that the citizen who is prosecuted by the Canadian Human Rights Commission loses the ancient and well-founded right to face and question one’s accuser. This repudiates centuries of common law tradition requiring the legal process to be public and transparent.
The pretext for eliminating this necessary and long-standing legal protection is that some complainants might be subjected to “threats, intimidation or discrimination.” This ignores the fact that threats and intimidation are already Criminal Code offences, and any illegal discrimination can be addressed by way of a new and separate complaint. Those filing complaints about expression should be accountable for their decision to do so; this is an inherent and necessary component of both criminal and civil legal proceedings.
No need to establish that someone was harmed
If the Online Harms Act is passed into law, the Canadian Human Rights Commission will not even require a victim in order to prosecute a citizen for what she or he has said. For example, a man in Vancouver can file an anonymous complaint against a woman in Nova Scotia who made disparaging online remarks about a mosque in Toronto, regardless of whether that mosque’s members were harmed, or even offended, by the post. No actual victims are required for the Canadian Human Rights Commission to find guilt or to impose penalties. Nor does a victim need to prove that he or she suffered loss or damage; feeling offended by alleged “hate” is all that is needed to become eligible for financial compensation.
For reasons set out here above, the Online Harms Act will harm freedom of expression in Canada if it is passed into law. Many Canadians will self-censor to avoid being prosecuted by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Canadians who do not self-censor, by practicing courage and by continuing to exercise their Charter-protected freedom of expression, will still see their online expression removed from the internet by the operators of social media websites and platforms. These operators will seek to avoid running afoul of Mr. Trudeau’s new regulations. Everyone will live in fear of the Digital Safety Commission.
The Justice Centre urges all Members of Parliament to vote against this legislation.
Trudeau’s C-63: The Criminalization Of “Harm”
Our Boomer generation arrived just a little late for the onslaught of Daycare Reality. In the days when we walked to school uphill both ways, the oppressive regime of mothers being our primary caregivers was the norm. For better or worse, she provided the Rules of Behaviour. In a housecoat. With a flyswatter and a jar of cookies.
Then daycare became the place where society civilized its children while Mommy and Daddy underwent DEI programming at work. None of that messy variation from home-to-home on matters of civility, discipline or faith. With the state involved it was one-stop shopping.
“Billy. We don’t use violence to solve bullying.” “Jane, we must respect others’ workspace” and that classic, “Ms. Miller will conduct a struggle session to resolve this squabble.” Okay, “struggle sessions” didn’t have a name yet. But their insertion of an authority figure into every squabble was very real.
If not, pharmaceuticals were employed.
Fast forward a generation, and the products of early daycare were spilling out into society. Most were polite, reserved and, most important, deferential to authority. Sure, some dabbled in rebellion, but most accepted the essential tenant of the state being central to calming their fears of the boogey man. (That’s how safe spaces were invented.)
One of their fears, they were told, was Hate Speech. What began as an earnest attempt to silence Ernst Zundel’s #Nazi ravings has morphed into a Department of Daycare deciding whose speech is hurtful and whose is transcendent Happy Ways positivism.
Speaking of Happy Ways positivism, Svengali Justin the Munificent has introduced legislation C-63— the risibly named Harms Bill— creating an innocent little department of his government to regulate speech. The idea being that gender and race post grads will arbitrate whether your online speech is icky, especially to people in elected office (Calgary has already introduced a law banning the razzing of mayors who declare a climate emergency on their first day in office.) It will also guess what your future harms might be and award you an ankle bracelet.
Its reach has left foreigners gobsmacked. What was hunting porn and pedos is now hunting dissidents. This “expert” on turning society into a thought experiment was very chuffed about the possibilities of construing rude as criminal. (And bloating the bureaucracy even more) Now, smiling Princess Vapid is achieving ecstasy, because unelected bureaucrats will decide what is naughty speech and what is not.
You can’t blame Justin for pushing ever further into the suppression of speech. Using the slobbering servitude of the NDP as a crutch, he has already bribed most of the failing media companies in the country into toeing the line on policies— while they went light on stuff like the RCMP giving him a hall pass on the SNC Lavalin shenanigans. In lockstep with CBC, they get the money, his mistakes go in the round file.
Never mind that the population is fleeing media fossils like CBC or the Toronto Star for non-Canadian content that they (gasp) enjoy. In the interest of having dedicated government wind therapists, tax money will go to specials on imminent climate-change destruction, Islamaphobia or “Pierre Poilievere Is Donald Trump” exposés.
There is no corner of Canadian society too small for the Church Ladies to ignore. For instance, the new legalized sports gambling industry. To paraphrase the old beer ad, “Those who hate it, hate it a lot”. Here CBC has the vapours over the world’s second-oldest industry. Commercial insertions, a flurry of statistics and some dubious spokespeople are among the complaints. So is the retrograde effect of gambling addiction, which was always beneath the surface when sports betting was illegal or offshore.
Another thing irritating the betting haters has been the presence of famous athletes like Wayne Gretzky, Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid (among others) in advertisements pitching the joys of parlays, teasers and side bets. The thinking goes that this star worship is ruining the youth of the nation, even though betting is illegal till 18 years old. While tempting adults who might otherwise be wasting disposable income on political donations.
With Ontario’s legalized betting market among the most competitive in the world— and Alberta making noise in this week’s budget about its about-to-open market— the guardians of decency have weighed in with something called “Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming”. It bans the use of sports stars in advertising for a legalized product. As Steve McAllister of Gaming News Canada reports, “there’ll be no more Gretz, no more Gronk, no more Jamie Foxx/Kevin Hart/Vince Vaughn/Vanessa Hudgens, no more Auston Matthews, and no more Mitch Marner/Leon Draisaitl/Chris Pronger on the Canadian airwaves, billboards, subways and/or social media platforms.”
Sports Interaction, the most prominent betting site on Hockey Night in Canada, deep-sixed their Marner/Draisaitl/Pronger ads on last Saturday’s HNIC game, replacing them with the “Americans-don’t-know-diddly-about-hockey spots”.
That should take care of that! Except that Americans haven’t applied a fatwa on sports stars shilling for casino gambling. So Canadians who want their guilty pleasure of hero worship will still be able to see Gretzky, Gronk and Jerry Rice on their cross-border U.S. channels. Or on websites that cross the border like Venezuelans sneaking into America. Unless the dutiful CRTC tries to substitute Canadian advertising standards on those broadcasts where Gretz has a pulpit. But let’s not give them new ideas for mischief.
None of this would be happening now if Canadian governments hadn’t spent the past decade forgoing wagering revenues that went offshore or into the black market. But it’s such a cash cow the industry can now run competitive sites, distribute money to Gambling addiction sites and still have lots left to give government for their hobby-horse progressive causes.
Which are now being ladled out to gullible students by activist educators or poured into the foreign adventures of people like Agriculture minister Lawrence “I’ll Order Lobster” McAulay. And don’t we all feel better about that? We know you do.
“Johnny? Stop looking out the window and start saluting Mr. Trudeau’s picture!”
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via brucedowbigginbooks.ca.
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