Friday, April 05, 2013

The Face of Fascism

The offending instagram post in question
The relationship between the police and society in Canada is an interesting one.  In many ways, we are seen as a progressive country in terms of liberty and the law.  In reality, there is a constant threat of minor fascism here in Canada.  I say "minor" because fascism gets thrown around a lot and often ends up either undermining an argument (by the overzealous progressive) or being used to undermine an argument (by the tactical conservative).  We inherit some of our laws around national security from Britain, most infamously the Official Secrets Act and in theory that makes us in some ways a less free country than the U.S.

There is also a long history of police services behaving far beyond the bounds or their legal role.  At the federal level, the RCMP is often up to privacy-invading shenanigans.  At the local level, there are many incidents of police abuse and murder (the victims often being First Nations people).  I won't go into them all here, but these incidents demonstrate how easily it is for authority in a society to abuse its power.

The recent change in strategy by the SPVM, the Montreal police force, against the student protests here in Montreal is a good example of this.  It's complicated, because there is also an annual anti-police brutality march here that always turns violent and the two groups, while distinct, are also intermingled.  During the height of the protests last year, Jean Charest's liberals (never a friend to freedom) passed Bill 78, which was a major attack on the right of freedom of expression and gave the cops all kinds of license to shut down any protest.  The PQ repealed it (think about that freaked out anglophone liberals), but within that bill was a municipal by-law (P-6) that gives the executive committee of Montreal (basically a gang of fucking criminals who should be pilloried for a month and then exiled to Labrador, and I'm really not exaggerating here) the power to refuse any protest or demonstration.  There is a bunch of other sneaky shit in there as well, that basically lets the police say yes or no to a protest. 

So P-6 is still in effect. Meanwhile, the PQ reversed the tuition hikes and then brought them back, though at a much more reasonable level.  This deflated a lot of the energy of the protests and the cops have clearly taken this as an excuse to amp up their repression.  They have been using "kettling", which was declared unconstitutional to round up protestors and then to take pictures of them and get all their info for future intelligence work.

All that is already pretty disturbing, but where their intel work "paid off" is even more disturbing.  Earlier this week, they arrested a 20-year old protest hipster chick for harrassment.  What had she done?  She had taken a picture of a piece of graffitti art (seen here) that showed the SPVM spokesperson with a bullet through his head and then disemminated it to the internet via instagram.  The law they used to arrest her with is the one that was designed to prevent stalking and to catch potentially violent criminals when they make threats.

The tactic of making the oppressor the victim has been around for decades.

There are three things here that push this move into the realm of fascism.  The first is, as mentioned above, the perversion of the law that was designed to protect an individual to use it to go after an individual who was critiquing a political body.  The second is that it's pretty obvious that they have got someone going through their database and then tracking down individuals online and looking for reasons to go after them.  Finally, the real nasty technique here is the co-opting of the victim status.  This is a classic neo-con and corporate bullying technique.  It serves many purposes. One of the bigger ones is to elicit sympathy from centrist citizens.  In this case, I suspect, it will blow up in their faces.  As we've seen time and time again, if there is one thing that the people are generally united on it is their right to use the internet freely.  There is already a backlash online against this move and I suspect we will see the SPVM back off.  Though you never know.  Organizations like these do tend to "double-down on stupid" so they may amp up this strategy.  We will be watching.

No comments: