Please don’t let atheists fall for the latest conspiracy

by | December 6, 2018

I’m not one to make Christmas wish lists or even New Year’s Resolutions (well, besides the BC Humanist Association’s call for a Secular BC in 2019, which you should all sign and support) but I do have one wish for the coming weeks:

Please don’t let atheists buy into this UN Global Compact on Migration conspiracy theory.

If you haven’t heard this one, Andrew Scheer and the Conservative Party are quick to tell you it will destroy Canadian sovereignty and former Wildrose Party of Alberta leader Danielle Smith says it will erase the Canadian identity.

Yet as Andrew Coyne points out in the National Post, the pact is really an aspirational document with no legal force. And even where its language is the most broad, it still includes caveats like that there be efforts at “reducing the incidence and negative impact of migration.”

Coyne writes,

It seeks, [Smith] claims, “to make immigration a universal human right,” while blurring “the distinction between refugees and migrants.” After all, doesn’t it say right there in the preamble: “Refugees and migrants are entitled to the same universal human rights and fundamental freedoms”?

What could be more Humanist than recognizing the rights and freedoms of other human beings?

Perhaps I’m more cynical these days, particularly following the continued obsession in some corners of atheist movements with motion M-103. That was the equally toothless motion to condemn Islamophobia that Campbell Clark at The Globe and Mail suggests might be the template for the moral panic we can expect to follow this UN Compact.

M-103 has been cited in three separate editorials by Humanist Perspectives editor Madeline Weld. Weld cofounded Canadian Citizens for Charter Rights & Freedoms. Unsurprisingly, the group has picked up the Global Compact as the latest thing to fear.

It’s this tinfoil hat level paranoia that we also find in the most egregious piece in the latest issue of Humanist Perspectives. Written under the uninspired pen-name CA Wordsworth, the article “White Privilege” is Newspeak is a shocking bit of white nationalist propaganda thinly passed off as rational discourse.

Let’s be clear about this article: It effortlessly interchanges “white” and “western” throughout, using whichever one is more convenient. There’s really no honest way to read it that doesn’t boil down to the thesis “It’s okay to be white and also white is best.”

Take the conclusion:

Those who advocate for social justice often do not support the impartial application of justice. Early in 2018, “social justice” warriors erected posters at universities for a “white privilege awareness” campaign. This campaign flies in the face of the reality that there is often a high price to be paid for daring to assert the right of Western civilization to define Western societies or even to exist.

Jumping from a poster about “white privilege” to “Western civilization” is pretty direct. What does one have to do with the other if we’re not just saying “white civilization”? Therefore, the “right of Western civilization to define Western societies” is clearly the least subtle dog whistle for “white nations should define themselves.” And if you don’t read that as white nationalism, then words don’t have meaning anymore.

And that’s to say nothing of the straight up racist and historically ignorant lines in the piece. Consider this bit of anti-indigenous nonsense:

If Europeans had not colonized the Americas, some other civilization would likely have done it. It’s possible that the indigenous people would have found these other conquerors more onerous than the Europeans.

Dude, take five minutes and read an entry level history book. No, not the racist one that confirms your own beliefs (hell, even Wikipedia isn’t a bad starting point). Indigenous people weren’t conquered by “the Europeans” but by rather there were multiple separate colonization efforts by British, French, Spanish and other empires. And even prior to those were the Norse landings centuries earlier. Some of those colonists, like early French settlers, were more willing to work with indigenous peoples while others, like the Spanish, were far more genocidal in their approach.

And that’s to say nothing of the underlying assumption in those two sentences that the indigenous peoples of these lands essentially deserved to be conquered; it was inevitable. Or in other words, indigenous people are inferior to white European people.

Now, I know, Humanists are all about debate and free inquiry, but I did think (partly because it’s written in the Amsterdam Declaration of Humanism on the magazine’s website) that Humanists also stood for human rights and compassion. Or that at very least we weren’t about promoting racism. Nationalism is pretty clearly rejected by the various Humanist Manifestos released over the decades and the universal aspirations of Humanism ought to compel us to rise above such archaic bullshit as worshipping “Western Civilization”.

Maybe I do have good reason to be pessimistic.

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

So my holiday wish is for Humanists to once again be on the vanguard of standing up for an open, progressive society. That we are the ones seen to be supporting the rights of migrants to be free from violence, persecution and war. That we fight as vigorously for the rights of the LGBTQ2+ community as we do for freedom of speech.

And my New Year’s Resolution will be to help drive that change. To write more robust defences of Humanism, secularism and progressive values. To be the change I want to see (to use the old cliché).

But most of all, I just want atheists to stop buying into conspiracy theories.

Ian Bushfield is Executive Director of the BC Humanist Association. These comments are Ian’s personal opinions.

4 thoughts on “Please don’t let atheists fall for the latest conspiracy

  1. Derek Gray

    Hell yes to this!
    Shameful that Humanist Perspectives is screwing with the term ‘Humanist’ in such a way.

  2. Indi

    I haven’t really seen anyone in the wacko community I monitor trumpeting this cause. Conservatives, Bernier, The Rebel and all the usual suspects are certainly trying to make an issue out of it, but it doesn’t look like the mob is biting. At least not yet.

    There does seem to be a lot of fuss over it by UK bigots… not so much Canadian bigots so far. But they’ve been pretty quiet since Faith Goldy got her ass handed to her. I am very much on the lookout for it, though, mostly because I’m morbidly curious to see how they’ll spin this as a threat to actually care about (will they actually buy the Harper “but-but, muh sovereignty!” argument?). They did manage to get tens of thousands of signatures on a petition, sure, but they’re not actually talking about it.

    Amazingly, these people are still harping on M-103… almost two years after its passing! Two years in which literally nothing of what they predicted has come to pass. At this point, I wonder if any of them even remember what they were so pissed off about! I would love to corner one of these anti-M-103 meatheads and challenge them to list their concerns with it, and see if they can remember any of their talking points from early 2017.

  3. Kevin Rzewinski

    The issue I’ve seen people stating about M-103 is that while it itself doesn’t do anything, it can be a gateway to laws with real enforcement, which could lead to criticism of Islam legal offense, at least in some cases.

    1. Indi

      Yes, but that is completely ridiculous, on every level. It’s as idiotic as saying that if Parliament makes a statement that antisemitism is wrong, that’s a “gateway” to Canada being taken over by extreme, militant Orthodox Judaism. “Today the government says bigotry against Jews is bad; thus tomorrow we’ll all be forced to wear payots and get circumcised !!!1!11!”

      The stupidity of that argument is glaringly clear when you use Jews… but Muslims scare people so much that people actually take the same argument seriously when they’re involved. The conspiracy theory mentality is on full display here – hell, has anyone even noticed the M-103 Wikipedia page has been, for months, altered to make an insane allegation that Iqra Khalid is somehow associated with the Muslim Brotherhood?

      I’mma go really deep into this, because continued M-103 hysteria is a pet peeve of mine. I even made M-103 the CA story of the year last year. (That was because I was so astonished that opposition to M-103 not only existed, that it continued to exist for months after the motion passed and absolutely nothing came of it. So I’m even more astonished that the protests continue!)

      So I presume everyone agrees that the “argument” that the government denouncing antisemitism is a slippery slope to domination by radical, fundamentalist Judaism… but some people think the argument makes sense for Islam. Okay, let’s start there.

      Even if Muslims were somehow really that much more sinister – so sinister that there really is a secret global plan in progress to turn Canada, of all places, into a Muslim nation* – then concern about M-103 would still be idiotic. Hell, even if we don’t use the “creeping sharia” narrative a lot of anti-M-103 loonies use, and just restrict ourselves to the “moderate” argument that M-103 could lead “only” to making “criticism” of Islam illegal, the concern is still idiotic. Because in order to actually make any real, substantive changes to Canadian law (and never mind managing to actually change Canadian culture enough to turn criticism of Islam into a social taboo!), there are so many constitutional, statutory, and common law hurdles that would have to be passed – not to mention political hurdles – for that to even begin happening that there are plenty of more reasonable places where real concern could be raised. It’s like being afraid that if the government makes a ceremonial declaration condemning rape, that might lead to laws against consensual sex between informed adults… seriously, if we did start sliding down that slippery slope, there’s so much of room to clue in, be concerned, and take action before things get actually bad that it’s completely ridiculous to start being scared at the original declaration.

      I mean, seriously, how far up your ass does your head have to be to sincerely believe the government is on a path to making criticism of Islam illegal… at the same time that it is in the process of repealing our blasphemy law? And here’s the thing, blasphemy law is completely toothless – it would never stand a Charter challenge, and everyone knows it; that’s why it’s being repealed… and yet… even though it’s a dead law, our government cares so much about respecting freedom of expression that they’re repealing it anyway. How does that in any way square with the conspiracy theory that they’re on track to criminalize blasphemy against Islam? (Or even just “criticism”?)

      And reality bears this out. There are anti-M-103 claims that the criminalization of “criticism” of Islam has already begun, and they point to some high profile cases. But none of those cases hold up under even the slightest scrutiny. Those assholes are not being charged for “criticizing” Islam… they are being charged for threatening people’s lives. One of them (Kevin J. Johnston) put a fucking bounty out on Muslim schoolkids for fuck’s sake! And that’s not even getting started with all the rape threats directed at Iqra Khalid (all recorded, in case you’re thinking these charges are all just “accusations”… these assholes were proud of terrorizing and threatening Muslims!), or all the other violent rhetoric.

      It’s the same thing with C-16, incidentally. The slippery slope arguments people were making about that were just as ridiculous as with M-103. (And, just as with M-103, none have actually been borne out.) There is plenty of space between “the government says bigotry against this thing is bad” and “the government is instituting laws that make criticizing this thing illegal” where we could plant our flag and draw the line; there’s no need to start freaking out and protesting at just the “the government says bigotry is bad” stage. It’s perfectly sensible to find nothing at all wrong with a mostly-routine, ceremonial position statement against bigotry, or the granting of the most basic legal protections (that other groups are already getting!), and only start to be concerned much later when the government starts taking actually substantive actions toward censorship or repression of dissent. In fact, anything else is simply irrational.

      Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you find yourself in the middle of a protest against some government action (both C-16 and M-103 are good examples, and the Global Compact for Migration is another one)… and you look around at the groups protesting with you… and you don’t see any of the major human rights or civil liberty groups that make it their full time business to worry about these things, like the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, or like the Canadian Council for Refugees, or, yes, even like the BC Humanist Association… but you do see groups like La Meute, Storm Alliance, Soldiers of Odin, Three Percenters, and PEGIDA… that’s a screamingly loud warning klaxon to you that should really, very carefully reassess what your “concerns” about the issue really are. Merely hanging around Nazis doesn’t necessarily make one a Nazi… but if someone’s taking political positions and actions alongside Nazis, and there’s basically nobody on their side besides them and the Nazis… then… dude… they’s a fuckin’ Nazi. That’s just how it works.

      * (I’m reminded of an episode of My Name Is Earl that spoofed the 9/11 terrorism panic. The citizens of a nowheresville, USA hick town were in a panic that their little county fair event would be targeted by al Qaeda… the joke being that their town was so unimportant and obscure, and the event so small that an al Qaeda terrorist could probably rack up a higher body count in a traffic accident, that their fears were completely ridiculous. So it goes with fears that the Muslim Brotherhood, or whatever scary Muslim group you prefer to name, is seriously considering the Islamism-izing of Canada as an endeavour worth committing any of their limited resources to.)


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