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Artillery Row

The state of hate

The radical subjectivism of the Irish hate speech bill

How is it that Ireland can have witnessed a sharp rise in the reporting of hate crime and hate-related incidents just as the Irish Government’s own survey data indicates the country is becoming an increasingly tolerant country, where eight in 10 people feel “very comfortable” living next door to people with different nationalities, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, disabilities, religious beliefs (or lack thereof) and marital statuses? 

As the Irish journalist Ben Scallan points out in an article that caught Elon Musk’s eye this week, a clue lies in the fact that an increase in “reporting” is not the same thing as an increase in actual hatred. 

All that’s required for the Garda to log a reported hate crime (a crime motivated by hatred), or non-crime hate incident (behaviour motivated by hatred), is that the “victim” — or any other person who witnessed the incident — perceives that the “perpetrator” was motivated by hostility or prejudice towards one or more of the victim’s protected characteristics.

The distinction between perceived and actual hatred is deliberately glossed over by the identikit woke graduates with degrees in all sorts of ghastly sounding subjects like “sustainable development”, “social justice and community action” and “global ethics and justice” that now comprise the workforce at the NGOs with links to George Soros’s Open Society Foundation that operate in Ireland. 

In Ben Scallan’s view, these organisations have been manipulating the statistics and waging campaigns to lower the threshold for hate crime reporting in Ireland, while encouraging citizens to report instances of perfectly lawful speech that happen not to align with their doctrinaire ideological worldview as “hate incidents”.

The Garda does at least acknowledge that things may not be quite as they seem, having conceded that a “very low threshold of perception” currently applies to hate crime reporting. Yet methodological sophistication of this kind has been curiously absent from proposals put forward by Ireland’s governing classes that argue for a new and allegedly desperately needed hate crime law that will restrict free speech and open up new pathways for political persecution.

In those proposals, the distinction between perceived and actual hatred has all but collapsed

In those proposals, the distinction between perceived and actual hatred has all but collapsed: “increased reporting” is breezily conflated with “increased hatred” such that for politicians like Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Senator Pauline O’Reilly the need for intensified state censorship of perfectly lawful but dissenting speech that certain sub-sections of Irish society happen to regard as ‘hateful’ now seems completely unarguable.

Nor is this confusion simply to be found in the debating chambers of the Dáil and Seanad Éireann. It constitutes the underlying philosophy of the country’s Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill, where the “communication” of material or speech that might “incite hatred” against people with certain protected characteristics is punishable by up to five years in prison, and where simply to “possess” such material on a computer or a phone is a crime with a maximum tariff of two years.

The proposed legislation contains no definition of “hate”, which means that once the Bill is passed it will effectively be the Garda that determines what constitutes hatred based on its current, capacious definition of a hate crime as “perceived by the victim, or any other person, to have been motivated by prejudice, based on actual or perceived age, disability, race, colour, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender”.

Critics of the Bill are concerned that this perception-based definition will leave the public unaware that in speaking about certain issues in certain ways that may in future unwittingly be committing a crime.

Looked at from the opposite perspective, however, it’s precisely this lack of clarity that will allow every perpetually offended woke scold south of the Irish border to trust to their perceptions and report the “homophobia” of every Christian street preacher proselytising their faith on the streets of Dublin, the “transphobia” of every gender critical feminist arguing the importance of biological sex on social media, the “offensive colonial condescension” of every white male momentarily raising an eyebrow during a workplace team meeting to the Garda. It is after all the stated policy of the country’s national police force that when it comes to hatred, “[t]he perception test is the defining factor, no additional evidence is required at the reporting stage”.

As Ben Scallan points out, under the Garda’s perception-based definition of hate crime, you don’t even have to be the victim of an alleged hate incident to report it: “A random bystander who has nothing to do with the event can say, ‘I think it was based on prejudice,’ and it will be categorised as such.”

Although of course it won’t be “random bystanders” with a priggish manner, flapping ears, and a little too much time on their hands that end up weaponising this definition. The real danger is posed by activist groups and George Soros-funded NGOs bent on criminalising perfectly lawful views that they happen to disapprove of for doctrinaire ideological reasons.

“Will mocking memes be tolerated?” asked independent senator Ronan Mullen during a debate on the proposed legislation in the Senate earlier this year. “Will carrying a placard stating, ‘Men cannot breastfeed’ warrant a hate-speech investigation or up to five years’ imprisonment, a lifelong label as a criminal hater, and all of the stigma and life limitation that goes with that? Nobody actually knows.”

Nobody actually knows, no. But each of Mr Mullen’s hypothetical scenarios could potentially lead to a “hate crime” investigation, which would then feature in the Garda’s annual reporting dataset, which would then perpetuate the myth that Ireland is becoming less tolerant, which would then lead to calls from Soros-backed NGOs for even more draconian hate speech laws, which would then… and so on and so forth, in an endless cycle of intensifying state censorship.

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