In his novel 1984, George Orwell envisioned a future that is arguably unfolding before our eyes where government authority was supreme and truth and freedom were not to be found. Perhaps he should have named his novel 2021 because our times seem more like his novel than any in previous history. For Canadians, the examples abound.
In Orwell’s novel, the government established a Ministry of Truth where truth was whatever the government said it was—no dissent allowed. If they said 2 + 2 = 5, that’s what it was. And if they changed their minds later, that was the new “truth.” Dissenters were identified, silenced, punished and indoctrinated so the narrative of the authorities could continue unchallenged.
The COVID-19 narrative provides the most immediate and stark example of the 1984 approach. Whatever the authorities say is for that reason authoritative, and contrary messages are yanked from social media—and sometimes the messenger himself. The Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons across Canada have threatened doctors with investigation and the possible removal of their license if they vocally oppose or question masks, social distancing, lockdowns or COVID vaccines. They turn the Hippocratic Oath into the Hypocritic Oath.
Of course, the perspective of these health authorities has changed repeatedly, making formerly banned opinions the new solely acceptable ones. Edmonton pathologist Roger Hodkinson has dubbed Chief Medical Advisor to the President Dr. Anthony Fauci “Flip-flop Fauci” over his evolving stances on the origin of COVID-19 and the usefulness of masks. These went from no masks, to one mask, to two masks to whatever it might be as you read this.
Orwellian “doublespeak,” inspired terms of positive or euphemistic language that concealed a true meaning that was worse or even opposite. In our current Ministry of Truth, the fact-checkers are more like fact-wreckers. Some Canadian cabinet ministers may have also earned unflattering titles if reality matters.
In 1984, the Thought Police discovered and punished thought crimes through informers and high-tech surveillance. Citizens could not challenge the authority of their rulers and their party and their Big Brother regime. When the Canadian Heritage Minister proposed a requirement for social media companies to take down flagged content within 24 hours, the MP for Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon tweeted, “I never thought I would have to be concerned about a Canadian ‘thought police’ in my lifetime. Even the idea of this Bill makes me worried.”
At worst, this bill would not preserve Canadian heritage at all. Instead, it would impose a political correctness that reclassifies some truths (or at least permissible opinions) as hate. This bill changes Canadian values and practices instead of preserving them, making its author the Heritage Erosion Minister.
The current Minister of Justice was appointed because the previous one would not bring political pressure to bear on prosecutors to not prosecute a company that most observers thought clearly deserved it. That would have made prosecutors Orwellian, and in effect, non-prosecutors. However, it seems her replacement was willing to get there one way or another. The company in question avoided criminal convictions by paying fines under the watch of the Minister of Injustice.
Our Minister of Public Safety banned thousands of kinds of guns owned by law-abiding gun owners without any proof that gun owners commit more crimes than others. This makes previously law-abiding gun owners into criminals if they hide and keep their guns. It also means the criminals for whom illegal possession of a gun was only one more fault in a life of violence and theft will still be at large with the guns they always had. That leaves the common person unable to defend themselves due to the Minister of Public Endangerment.
Governmental leaders of portfolios are called ministers because they are there to serve the people. This is more than a democratic concept, but also part of the Christian heritage acknowledged in our constitution. It was Jesus who said, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them…But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves” (Luke 22:25-26, New International Version).
Our prime minister is supposed to serve the people of Canada, but the Orwellian leader serves his own interests instead, and handed out numerous contracts to his home city, and contracts and public positions to his party’s donors. He claimed to serve the middle class but placed them in servitude under government debts from which the nation might never escape. He has violated ethics guidelines repeatedly, only to receive slaps on the wrist so light they seem unjust: $500 fines.
Then again, in Orwellian times, the Ethics Commissioner himself might lack the character or latitude to do his job, right? Like the Ministry of Truth, Ethics becomes whatever the government says is ethical. Nevertheless, if someone in a primary position of power abandons service, acts unethically and acts against the interests of his people, he has earned the title of Prime Sinister. Sing our new anthem lyrics with me: “Government keep our land inglorious and shackled…”
Lee Harding is a Research Associate with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
Photo by amanda on Unsplash.