Barry Rubin is Director of the Global Research for International Affairs (GLORIA) Center. He is editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.
The Tyranny of Nice is a book that is simultaneously well-written, entertaining, and horrifying.
What is especially important about it is how the book gets to the essence of what’s gone wrong with the world, or at least the Western civilization part of it.
Lucidly and in detail, it describes the cases and workings of the Canadian governmental Human Rights’ Commissions. In Orwellian terms, they are engaged in the destruction of human rights. Concepts like freedom of speech and societal institutions like the free marketplace of ideas are totally alien to these supposedly educated people.
Each of these two points should be considered separately. First, freedom of speech is a right enshrined in all democracies, including Canada. The Commissions believe, and the laws creating them support to some extent their notion, that anything hurtful—or allegedly hurtful—to a “protected” group is a crime. Therefore, expressing a view is a punishable offense. The law explicitly dispenses with the ideas of clear and present danger (that statements must have a real and immediate possibility of inciting violence) and of malice (that they are knowingly false statements made to inflict harm) that simultaneously protect free speech and a reasonable level of social stability. Thus, the system destroys freedom of speech.
At the same time, they subvert the concept so basic to democratic society that people need to hear different viewpoints and make up their own minds. The idea has taken hold that governmental institutions and even the media can pre-censor opinion and even news to “protect” the public from “bad” ideas. There is a word for this: dictatorship.
The Tyranny of Nice is a clear warning that—to refer to Sinclair Lewis’s novel about how a repressive dictatorship could come to America—it can happen here. In many places it is already happening.
But again, the book is not some abstract tome but a colorful presentation of specific cases. If the decline of democracy under the pretence of humanitarianism, goodness, and protection doesn’t scare and anger you, then we should all be scared.