Huffpost Canada ca
Daniel Alexandre Portoraro Headshot

A Brave New Blindness

Posted: Updated:

In its attempt to shut down the C-30 Bill, Protecting Children from Internet Predators, someone using an IP address linked to the House of Commons decided to begin a Twitter entitled Vikileaks30: Its slogan read "Vic wants to know about you, let's get to know about Vic."

Apparently, one of the best ways "to get to know about Vic" is to learn about the man's personal life, i.e., his 2008 divorce.

But therein lies the mistake. We are not learning about Vic's personal life.

In its attempt to safeguard the privacy of others, the detractors of PCIP have in fact thrown not one, not two, but three of their own under the bus. It would be a grave mistake to assume the divorce of a politician is his personal life, it isn't; it is the personal life of his ex-wife, his mistress, and the child as well.

These three are innocent bystanders in the privacy fight. They have nothing to do with the contentious Big Brother bill, which, for all intents and purposes should not be passed; it's something that not only violates the privacy of internet users, but opens the floodgates to the 21st-century equivalent of phone-tapping and future abuse.

Why, then, are so many are falling to the level of tactics that one would expect of this decade's most famed phone-tapping scandal? Why indulge in such heinous smear methods? One cannot buy the argument "that's the point," because the point of C-30 isn't to make your messy personal life (which is already easily accessible by anyone via the courts) widespread across the public domain, not to mention shame those involved.

"Tell Vic Everything" was another form of Twitter protest which had Canadian citizens everywhere cc'ing Vic Toews in all their mundane, everyday e-mails; it made its point in a tasteful, brilliant way, and should be applauded as it was both clever, original, and effective. It flooded Toews' inbox and Twitter feed, and showed, rather than told, what would happen if C-30 were ever to see the light of day.

But @Vikileaks30 isn't only smear -- it's insulting to the very Canadians its creator supposedly intended to protect. Thanks to this person, Ms. Lorraine Kathleen Fehr, Toews' mistress and their love-child have been subjected to a level of embarrassment to which no Canadian should be subjected. Does it demonstrate the level of privacy Bill C-30 might violate? Possibly -- but it came at the cost of people who had nothing to do with it. It sacrificed the privacy of a few and humiliated them for the supposed "greater good." So much for "solidarity." Vikileaks30 and the hacker group Anonymous (wouldn't it make more sense to merely call them "an anonymous hacker group"?) ought to stop being championed as forces for good.

Interestingly, C-30 garnered much more attention than the similar MIT Act of 2005 introduced by Paul Martin's government, or C-30's direct predecessor C-52, which was introduced in last year's parliament. One of the major reasons, if not the reason, for this is that -- as Stephen Maher argues -- Toews opened his big mouth and drew attention by saying critics "can either stand with us or with the child pornographers." Now, no one in the media could ever ignore such a George Bush circa 2001 soundbite, and the quote spread over the Net like news of Whitney Houston's death.

But what if Toews hadn't made such a ludicrous claim? What if he hadn't said something that could be compressed into (gasp!) fewer than 140 characters? What if Toews wasn't such a blind sensationalist? Would anyone really know about C-30, or would it have passed through the media metal detector like a plastic explosive? There is something dangerous about one's rights being put at risk; there is something more dangerous when the public only runs to its battlestations once a soundbite's been made, or a group like Anonymous -- which makes you wonder if freedom really has to be so creepy - posts a gaudy video on YouTube.

In his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman argues that:

"What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. [...] As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny 'failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions.' [...] In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us."

It is much easier to point the finger at a government which seems to be teetering on the edge of Orwell's Oceania, when in fact we have ourselves to blame to for having let it come to this point and, yes, to a certain degree, fulfilled Huxley's prophecy.

If there is something to be taken from the debacle surround Bill C-30, it isn't that Facebook and Twitter will always save the day; it's that next time, when individual freedom is threatened, we may not be so lucky to have a soundbite around which to rally.