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These new totalitarians now want to police what we say around the dinner table. This is Soviet-style denunciation, 2020-style

Frank Furedi
Frank Furedi

is an author and social commentator. He is an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Canterbury. Author of How Fear Works: The Culture of Fear in the 21st Century. Follow him on Twitter @Furedibyte

is an author and social commentator. He is an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Canterbury. Author of How Fear Works: The Culture of Fear in the 21st Century. Follow him on Twitter @Furedibyte

These new totalitarians now want to police what we say around the dinner table. This is Soviet-style denunciation, 2020-style
The Scottish government is planning a new law that allows people who use language deemed to be abusive or hateful in their homes to be prosecuted. This is dangerous & wrong, and will encourage children to snitch on their parents.

It seems that one of the aims of the government run by the Scottish National Party is to eradicate the distinction between people’s private lives and how they behave in public. In true totalitarian fashion, it is determined to ensure that it has the authority to intervene in people’s home life and regulate family affairs.

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill goes way beyond laws on hate crime introduced in other jurisdictions. Its target is not confined to criminalising what people say in public but also punish individuals for what they say around the kitchen table or while they are watching television.

The Bill introduces an offence of stirring-up hatred against people with protected characteristics, including sexual orientation, race, and disability. The SNP justice secretary, Humza Yousaf, believes that it makes no difference whether you insult someone during the course of eating your dinner or on the street or at your place of work. “Are we comfortable giving a defence to somebody whose behaviour is threatening or abusive which is intentionally stirring up hatred against, for example, Muslims?” asks Yousaf, before stating, “Are we saying that that is justified because that is in the home?”

The project of opening up the home to scrutiny of the language police calls into question the sanctity of family life. It also threatens to disrupt family relations. One does not need a Ph.D. in social work to understand that once family members become wary of how they talk to one another, the important spontaneous exchanges that usually bind them together will be compromised. Those relaxed exchanges, family confidences and jokes can now become evidence that the police can use to support the case of the prosecution.

Neither does one need a degree in history to know where all this ends. It is not an exaggeration to note that the motivation for the enactment of this bill echoes the sentiments that inspired totalitarian regimes such as the Soviet Union & Nazi Germany to encourage children to denounce their parents to the authorities.

The promotion of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill follows on from previous attempts to intrude in family life by the SNP government. Recently, it has passed a bill that criminalises parents for smacking their children. Consequently, a light tap on the child’s hand, seen by or reported to the wrong person, could now lead to a parent being arrested. Worse still, the SNP is actively encouraging the public to snoop on parents in case they smack their children and report them to the police. Taking a page out of the totalitarian playbook, the government has also published leaflets targeting children and exhorting them to inform on their parents if they dare smack them.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this bill is not simply about policing private conversation, but also integral to the Scottish government’s totalitarian project of undermining parental authority.

The SNP’s project of usurping parental authority was most strikingly demonstrated in Scotland in 2018, when teachers were informed by the government that they should allow children to change their gender without informing parents. Guidelines endorsed by the government stated that children as young as three “should be supported to explore and express their identity.” 

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These guidelines explicitly presumed that it was the teacher and not the parent who ought to possess the authority to provide the conditions that allow children to transition to another sex. The document, entitled “Supporting Transgender Young People: Guidance For Schools In Scotland,” warned that teachers should not inform parents if their child changes gender in school, unless the child gives permission.

Thankfully, in a rare victory for common sense – after protest and public pressure – the Scottish government was forced to rescind its guidelines.

Unfortunately, it looks as if common sense will not prevail over the SNP’s determination to undermine the privacy of family life by having the power to criminalise people’s dinner table conversation. The policing of people’s public exchanges is bad enough, but when Big Brother is allowed to intrude into your home and punish you for the words you use, it is evident that our society is in big trouble.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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